Ink by Alice Broadway
In a world where people’s lives are etched on their skin for all to see, it is the people who stay blank and unreadable that are seen as the true threat.
When Leora’s father dies she doesn’t question that he will be found worthy at the Weighing of the Souls ceremony and the book of his skin, his life story, will be returned to her family. She knows how good a man he was, how loved and admired he was by his friends and family.
Soon after his death she is walking through town and follows a crowd to discover a ceremony where a criminal is publicly shamed with a tattoo of a crow. This branding was a symbol to show that the man would be forgotten after his death, that no book would be made from his skin and his story would never be remembered. Seen as the harshest of punishments, Leora wonders how the man could bear to continue living with the knowledge that it would be for nothing. Then she remembers, she’s seen the symbol of the crow somewhere before. Years ago, as a small child, she saw the crow on her own father.
Eager to discover the truth about her father and desperate to make sure he is properly remembered she’s soon breaking rules that she’s never even questioned before. But as she starts to separate the facts from the lies, every pillar of truth she’s ever believed in comes tumbling down.
It’s hard to know where to start with the compliments I have for Ink. Set in a fascinating world with a history of uncertain facts and fable-like fiction, with a leading lady that blooms from studious face in the crowd to a powerful statement in her own right (just wait for the last few pages and you’ll know exactly what I mean), I loved it all. As a woman with over thirty hours worth of tattoos myself, the idea of this being the majority instead of the minority hugely appealed. To be inked with your age, family tree, criminal record, skills, jobs and values may seem sinister on one hand, yet strangely believable when you start to consider the information we share about each other online on a daily basis.
One of the areas where Alice Broadway’s writing shines is during her descriptions of loss. At one point she mentions the tip-toe conversations Leora and her mother have after her father dies. They want to remember and reminisce together but the fear that you might cause the ones closest to you pain if they’re not ready to remember yet. It’s the tender touches such as this that take Ink from a good fun read to something truly brilliant that I can’t wait for more of. It’s YA like this that has made the genre so strong in the last few years and Alice Broadway is certainly added to my list of ‘must-read’ authors.
Alice Broadway’s Tattoo Inspirations
Thanks to the lovely people at Scholastic, author Alice Broadway has gifted me with an incredible guest post that answers all the questions I had a had about where her tattoo based ideas had come from and if she was someone who had been under the needle.
It is so lovely to be a guest – and it feels serendipitous that Ink should be lucky enough to be on The Tattooed Book.
What’s an uncool, not remotely edgy, totally non-tattooed person doing writing about tattooing? I’ve asked myself that question so many times! When the idea for Ink came to me, one of my reservations was that I knew nothing about tattoos, except that I loved them. Plus, I had no clue what it took to be a great tattoo artist. The research process has been one of my favourite things.
I began by asking friends with tattoos to tell me the stories behind their tattoos and it was clear that for every person their relationship to their tattoos was really different. Some got them to make a statement, some chose tattoos that had huge personal significance, many picked designs just because they liked them. While a few admitted they regretted designs they’d gone for, not one regretted being tattooed.
A close friend put me in touch with an incredible artist, Emma Kierzek from Aurora Tattoo in Lancaster [www.auroratattoostudio.co.uk]. Emma kindly agreed to me coming to see the studio and interview her. The experience of chatting to Emma while she added outlining to a work in progress was incredible: I loved seeing her cheerfully talking about her craft while busily and beautifully tattooing a customer (who had given permission for me to be there!). It was particularly great to meet a woman who has won multiple awards and who spoke passionately about the work she does because I wanted to capture some of that spirit in my main character Leora, who has always wanted to be an ‘inker’.
There is a strong tattoo community and culture and one of the key people in helping me access and understand it better was Beccy Rimmer from Inkluded [http://inkluded.co.uk]. Beccy is a great writer and is evangelical in her desire for the tattoo community to be open to all, offering excellence both in care and in creativity. Her own tattoos are beautiful and her writing ranges from poetic to practical. I love what she and Inkluded are doing and she really inspires me.
At the beginning of researching Ink, I was pretty sure I would get a tattoo, and yet here I am with a book in hand and my skin is still empty. I think my experience of research has increased my adoration of tattoos and admiration for the artists who create beautiful work, but it’s also made me respect the decision to get a tattoo all the more. I am now so enamoured by so many artists; so intrigued by the designs people choose that I just daren’t make that first mark. It’s like a new notebook – I want to fill it with beautiful things, but the pressure means I never do anything! So who knows, but maybe by the time book two in the Skin-Book trilogy is out I might have made a start.
Buy your copy of Skin from Amazon here.