Teenagers, Tough Times and Telling the Story: In Conversation with Sita Brahmachari

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Hello! And welcome back to This Northern Gal!

I am so excited for today’s post as it is my stop on the blog tour for Sita Brahmachari’s newest book, When Shadows Fall. A beautiful book on teenagers, friendship and community, this book is an absolute gem. Plus, it is literally beautiful thanks to the illustrations of Natalie Sirett.

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When Shadows Fall is the story of Kai, Orla and Zak. They all grew up together, exploring their city. They are bonded by friendship and dream of what comes next. They think they have it all figured out until family loss throws them into exploring the impact of grief. Told through verse, prose and illustrations, readers follow the friends through a time of great vulnerability and change in their lives.

Recently, I was lucky enough to attend an event where I got to chat with Sita Brahmachari about her book. It was a delight to hear about how her desire to explore the young characters in this book was the true driving force of the story. As she was telling the story, she discovered that each of her characters had their own voice and their own unique way of using that voice which helped shape the version of When Shadows Fall that we all get to enjoy. While it might have meant that the book took years and years to write, it also means that it is a very special story. What really stuck with me is that Sita described this book as ‘passing the pen’ to the teenagers in today’s world and encouraging them to tell their story, in whichever way works for them.

Ultimately, this is a book about agency and disenfranchisement for the young people in our society, a theme which utterly fascinates me. As such, I decided to ask Sita a few questions about the draw of teenagers in her work.

When asked why teenagers, Sita told me that she had always worked with teenagers. Her first job as a community theatre worker encouraged her to work with teenagers in an attempt to get them into drama and storytelling. Doing so brought Sita into contact with vulnerable teenagers, including one young lady from West London who has influenced the character of Kai. It was clear that she was so passionate about teenagers and about helping them to navigate the world around them, especially through the arts. I could have listened to her speak about this all day!

After such a fascinating conversation on how storytelling can help teenagers, especially those who are becoming disenfranchised or struggling to connect with those around them, I couldn’t help but ask another question.

What is the best piece of advice that you can give teenage writers?

Sita’s advice? Write for yourself first, just like Kai does. For this writer, it didn’t matter who saw your writing – you don’t always have to show it others. Instead it is about trying to make the mark on your own page, first and foremost. How wonderful is that?!

After all, reading and writing for pleasure are very interconnected so we need to find the book that we can’t stop reading and begin to tell the story you need to tell. While this is good advice in general, I think it’s particularly relevant in When Shadows Fall. It is by taking the ownership of their story and ‘making their mark’ that Kai, Orla and Zak can make sense of the world around them. Ultimately, this is the crux of When Shadows Fall: sometimes you just need to tell your own story, in the best way for you.

While there are some tough topics within When Shadows Fall, I think it is a beautiful, beautiful book that is going to grace my shelves for years to come. Will it grace yours?

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour – they’re really rather fab!

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Kelly x

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