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Live chat with author Saci Lloyd
Author of the Carbon Diaries, Saci Lloyd, answered your questions on the challenge of writing about climate change, her inspiration and further education.
Jim V: How did you become a published author? What was the process like?
Saci: You have to start writing because you love writing and then start a gradual process of showing it to people and building it up. Then you really need to get an agent, which is the most crucial bit. If you're just starting out it's a good idea to start writing short stories and enter competitions. When you have a solid piece of writing, the agent takes your stuff to publishers. That can really be a heartbreaking process and you have to be prepared to get a lot of rejections, but every no gets you closer to a yes. There's a lot of really good writing out there and so many excellent books go unpublished, but you just have to stick at it and persevere.
Franki: How do you make yourself keep writing when you go through dry spells? And how do you find your inspiration?
Saci: Thanks, Franki. I tend to do something else, it's why I've stayed being a teacher, because I think it's a bit weird sitting in front of a screen all day, so I go out into the real world and do real things. I might also create some images or do some research. I'm in awe of disciplined writers who sit at their desks for 12 hours a day, but I'm not really like that. I write when I want to write.
If I'm not writing it doesn't mean I do nothing, it means I do something else like go for a walk. The chaos at work is good and makes my brain jump two degrees to the left and get creative again. There are some great stories on my doorstep about politics and climate change and global justice - the great battles of our age are raging just outside.
Franki: So you don't write to deadlines? That's what I would be afraid of, being forced to write something in a set time, because when I do it's usually garbage.
Saci: I do write to deadlines and I know when they are, but I try and make myself forget completely. What I do is communicate with my editor and if I don't think Ill meet a deadline, I tell them. I'd never hand in rubbish just to meet a deadline. I'm lucky - I have a very understanding editor.
Franki: That's good. I see authors like Jodi Picoult who seem to be churn out books like there's no tomorrow and wonder how on earth she does it. Thank you for your help.
Jim V: We'll move on now to a question that came in via email. Do your own politics and experiences play a big part in what you write?
Saci: Completely. I think I've become much more politicised through Laura Brown (the main character in Carbon Diaries) I think she's dragged me forward really. The political author Naomi Klein says if you want to change the future then you have to play with it first, so that's what I'm doing, I'm playing with all these great ideas.
Emma: What do you say to people when they tell you climate change is a myth?
Saci: People once said the earth being round was a myth! I'm not saying scepticism doesn't have its place, but the overwhelming evidence is that climate change is happening. I'd also question the motives of people who deny it's happening; for me it's very similar to the tobacco industry where people denied the link between cancer and smoking. A huge debate raged and what came out in those arguments has a substantial similarity with climate change denial.
Jim V: You're widely reported as turning down an offer from Johnny Depps company to adapt The Carbon Diaries and instead it's being filmed for the BBC by the company behind Skins and Shameless. Can you tell us a little about that decision?
Saci: Johnny's Johnny so obviously I was really flattered. I wanted to make a British TV programme to begin with, so I thought it was better to go with the BBC company as they have a real track record for making gritty, character-driven dramas. I haven't said no to Johnny altogether, just for now, so there's still a chance it will get made in the States. It was a wrench though! If it was someone awful like Tom Cruise, it would have been easier to turn down. It was a difficult decision, but I really want to make something that has British flesh and blood and is something we can identify with and be proud of. The message is universal, but it has a very London context.
Jim V: You work at a sixth form college, any advice for people thinking about whether or not to go university?
Saci: It's really up to the person. I went to university and dropped out after a year and only went back briefly much later. It's really expensive now, so sometimes there's a lot of pressure to go after school and I think once you've been studying for a long time it can actually be good to do something else. Foundation degrees are great because they're shorter and have good industry links. I did an HND and loved it. It's important to do a course that really suits you - something you really love - and the rest will probably follow. Ultimately, if you do go to university then be a proper student and be politically active. Have passion and ideas about changing the world.
Jim V: Another question now from one of our users that couldn't be here tonight. Who are some of your favourite authors or books? Is there anything that's particularly inspired you?
"I imagined that I was 18 and on the brink of the Second World War. What must teenagers have felt then?"
Saci: Loads. Dickens was one of my early loves. I also really loved The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy as I love using comedy as a way to talk about society - hopefully that comes out in Carbon Diaries. I like Sue Townsend and Helen Fieldings Bridget Jones Diary. The film was weird, but she's really clever in the books. I also love Russian novelists such as Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, as I like people who grapple with big things. I love Mark Twain; Huckleberry Finn has been read and re-read. He was a very political writer who covers issues with humour. At the beginning he says: "Anyone who attempts to find a moral will be shot." But of course its all one great moral.
Jim V: You mentioned the difference between Bridget Jones Diary on film and in print, any worries about how the adaptation of your work might change it?
Saci: Yes, it's scary because I'm not going to be part of that writing process. The writer worked on Shameless and has an excellent pedigree so I just have to hope for the best, but it can really go wrong. When Adrian Mole was televised it didn't quite work - I had such a clear idea of him and on the TV show he was a twit. You just have to let it go though.
Jim V: You previously worked as a script editor, what's the biggest film you worked on and what was the experience like?
Saci: I worked on a film called Amy Foster, but I didn't script edit it. I came onboard towards the end. I did quite a lot of script editing for things in development, but then the company closed. It was one of a long series of apprenticeships, but the great thing I learned was this - if it's not working then stop. A lot of scripts go through the process, but don't have enough sparks. I think I have a good eye for what works now.
Saci: Well I had to do a lot of research for 2015, because I really didn't know a lot at that point and had to give myself a huge course on the climate. The challenge was to make it funny and to be about people's lives and not about some distant glacier, which is usually how climate change is perceived.
2017 is more about politics. I was really thinking about what happens when society gets polarised. The great party is over and the hangover sets in and there are two ways to go - one is to take what's ours at all cost and the other is to share. I had to do a lot of political research for all of that and then make politics come alive in teenagers. I imagined that I was 18 and on the brink of the Second World War. What must teenagers have felt then? Even if you weren't involved in politics you would have been dragged in, so it's this challenge to make it really alive.
Jim V: What are the differences you've found between working in film, in education and in the literary world?
Saci: I've found all these areas quite similar because I have a playful attitude wherever I am. I teach media, graphics and design in an industry way with real projects that would fit into a professional setting and have deadlines, so there's quite a lot of crossover. The students are the most grown-up out of all three industries!
I have a website www.carbondiaries.com which is a social networking website with a future diary where people are invited to upload videos, diary entries, photos or whatever they want on any number of issues. It's an idea of playing with the future and making it real for ourselves.
Jim V: What do you think the iPad and the growing popularity of e-readers means for the future of traditional book publishing?
Saci: We're on the edge of a big change. If you go into writing to make loads of money then you'll be dismayed, but if you go into it as a means to reach a wider audience then it's a great thing. What worries me most is that people won't have books on their shelves to show off. How are people going to be able to show off how incredible they are on a first date?
Pad: One of the issues with climate change is that it's expressed in stats and science. Do you think fiction can play a role in helping people relate to these issues?
Saci: Completely. Fiction is almost the place, alongside drama and storytelling. People don't get swayed that much by rational argument. People are far more swayed by the people expressing the argument and if you've got a bunch of super-stylish interesting people battling something then it really works. Lets be honest, scientists aren't the most glamorous figures, so the narratives for becoming compassionate global citizens need to be dramatised.
Jim V: OK, were going to have to end there. Thanks for loads for all the answers Saci, it's been fascinating!
Saci: Thanks for all the questions, cheerio.