Leesburg, VA (Nov. 30, 2015) – Patrick Ness, the critically acclaimed author of “A Monster Calls,” entertained the students of Riverside High School on Thursday, November 19th, with tales of his literary life.
Riverside students engaged with his work in a variety of ways, including reading and acting out the narrative parts in dramatic performances of sections of “A Monster Calls” as part of their English curriculum.
“If you want to be a writer, you can’t have somebody tell you how to write,” Ness told an assembly of Riverside’s student body. “They can only tell you how they write.”
He was asked why one of his characters had to die.
“I didn’t kill her personally. Sometimes really good people die. Not to do so would be a lie.”
“A Monster Calls” is being made into a movie starring Liam Neeson, which will be released October 2016. (The story chronicles a boy seeking the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mother’s terminal illness.) Students asked Ness what Neeson was like.
“About 6-5 and he’s a really good guy.” Ness said it’s been his experience that people like Neeson, who is at the top of “A List,” tend to be very nice. It’s the people who are trying to reach that stature who tend to be obnoxious.
As a special bonus, Ness showed students the first trailer for “A Monster Calls” (albeit in Spanish).
Asked if he preferred writing novels or screenplays, Ness had a diplomatic answer. “Novels because novels are mine…A movie is shared.”
He declined to name which of his works is his favorite; falling back on the line parents of multiple children use. “We all love our children equally. That’s a lie. They always have a favorite.”
Pressed, he admitted he had an affinity for his first book, even though it didn’t sell well. “It sold in the dozens to friends and family.”
Ness also had some practical advice for writers. “If you’re writing a comedy and you’re not laughing, somethings wrong. If you’re writing a thriller and you’re not thrilled, it’s arrogant.”
Of course, reading is a key to good writing. Ness had some thoughts on this as well.”
“Don’t be a snob when you read. Don’t think you have to read only things you think are serious. Where’s the fun in that? …
“Reading is personal. Your response to a book is right because it’s your response.”
Ness said writing allows one to create their own path in life.
“Make your own path. You don’t need anybody to drive you on it.”
Riverside High School Librarian Lauren McBride, and Loudoun County Public Library Youth Programming Coordinator April Shroeder are working together to help students become writers beyond the classroom walls. They are submitting their short stories to the Loudoun County Public Library’s It’s All Write Contest, which will launch in January 2016. Additionally, students from the National English Honor Society documented Ness’ visit through video and pictures and are working on creating a video to share publicly. This is part of a One to the World initiative from Loudoun County Public Schools. (LCPS).
Ness’ visit was made possible through Loudoun County Public Library’s 1 Book 1 Community Program. This year, through the generosity of the Irwin Uran Gift Fund, Loudoun County Public Library selected “A Monster Calls” as the 1 Book 1 Community book and purchased 13,000 copies to distribute to the community through the public and school libraries.