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Event round-up: Northern YA LitFest – The Supernatural and Fantastical in YA


NYA Literature Festival 

You may remember how much I enjoyed the first Northern YA Literary Festival back in March. Lots of other people did too, so much that the organisers held a spin-off event. The Supernatural and Fantastical in YA was held on Saturday 21st July 2018 at 53 degrees in Preston. 

The day was centered around two panels, with a merchandise stall, book stall, face painter and book-swap to keep everyone entertained. There were author signings following each panel and everyone in the queue got their books signed. 

Author Panels 


Fantasy: Melinda Salisbury (chair), Sally Green, Taran Matharu and Alexandra Christo. 

The first panel discussed fantasy-fiction – worldbuilding and infleunces and the place of fantasy YA in the publishing industry. 

The authors the importance of real-world themes in fantasy fiction. Stories are about issues and experiences from the real world whatever their setting. There was also some discussion abut how to keep a setting believable.  Melinda Salisbury suggested that even the most fantastical world should have real-world ‘touchstones’ and rules to remain believable. She used the example of a polar-bear in a jungle to suggest breaking certani rules would make a story difficult to beleive. Alexandra Christo reminded the audience that authors create stories, not worlds. The world exists to serve the story. 

Fantasy YA may be a bestselling genre, but consensus was it is seen as something lesser by the publishing industry. Melinda Salisbury suggested that people sometimes forget to take the real-world themes away from a fantasy story. 

The authors talked about their forthcoming work and current writng projects. Taran Matharu is working on a series with dinosaurs and Sally Green wants to write contemporary fiction. 

I have read Alexandra Christo’s novel and two of Melinda Salisbury’s series, and wait straight to the bookstall for my first taste of Sally Green and Taran Matharu’s works. Taran Matharu likened his series to a cross between Pokemon and Harry Potter. Sold, sold and sold. 



Supernatural: David Owen (chair), AJ Hartley, Melvin Burgess and Sally Green (standing in for Marcus Sedgwick.) 

What is the difference between fantasy and supernatural? Melvin Burgess summarised it very succinctly – fantasy is about worlds outside our own while the supernatural is about things from outside a world coming in. As in the first panel, the authors thought it was important for a story to feel as realistic as possible. AJ Hartley spoke about anchoring aimg_6576 story in reality. The more ordinary it feels, the more a reader is prepared to believe. 

Melvin Burgess and Sally Green spoke about exposition – revealing information which is relevant to the story without overloading it with irrelevant facts. 

David Owen asked possibly the most interesting question of all time -do zombies exist in the same world as ghosts? The reason this rarely happens is that both answer the question of what happens when we die. 


A big thanks to the organisers, University of Central Lancishire and all the authors who took part in the event. A large number of book events take place in London, and are out of reach to many people. Getting authors up North important and exciting. 

I can’t wait to the next NYA Literature Festival in March 2019. Rumour has it some stellar authors have already signed up and the publishing swag stall will be back. See you there? 

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