Set in a near-future England where the poorest people in the land are forced to sell their children to a travelling circus – to perform at the mercy of hungry lions, sabotaged high wires and a demonic ringmaster. The ruling class visit the circus as an escape from their structured, high-achieving lives – pure entertainment with a bloodthirsty edge. Ben, the teenage son of a draconian government minister, visits the circus for the first time and falls instantly in love with Hoshiko, a young performer. They come from harshly different worlds – but must join together to escape the circus and put an end to its brutal sport.
Show Stopper by Hayley Barker is a stunning story about unlikely friendship and hope in the face of oppression and adversity. The story inside is just as stunning as the cover, and if you’d like to know more… here is the Goodreads summary:
To celebrate the release month of this wonderful book, I got to do a Q&A with Hayley Barker, herself!
SHOW STOPPER is a story based on oppression, where those less-fortunate are used as a means of entertainment for the ruling class. What inspired this story?
Oppression of people has taken place across the world and throughout history, and is still happening now, in so many places, and in so many ways. Here in England, we sometimes have the attitude that such horrors could never happen in a “civilised” society like ours. I don’t believe that’s necessarily true. I think we have to be really careful not to be complacent and not to let prejudice and marginalisation creep its insidious way into mainstream society. For me, the most horrific thing of all is that there are certain types of people who would probably relish something like the situation I imagine in Show Stopper actually happening. I believe we have to guard against them and never let ourselves be pulled down by hatred and bigotry.
Did you listen to any music while writing SHOW STOPPER? Do you find that listening to music helps you write?
I prefer no music at all when I’m actually sitting down writing. I try to zone out from any background noise and so music, even music I love, would just be an extra distraction. I do listen to music to help me get in the right place for writing the book I’m working on though and certain songs help me focus on the emotions of the characters I’m creating. The lyrics of songs are always the most important aspect to me, and some lyrics really resonate with the way I’m imagining the characters are feeling.
For Show Stopper, it’s these three in particular:
Adele’s Make you Feel my Love, written by Bob Dylan, captures Ben’s intense feelings for Hoshi, especially the lines:
I know you haven’t made your mind up yet, but I would never do you wrong,
I’ve known it from the moment that we met, no doubt in my mind where you belong.
This is such a beautiful love song about selfless, desperate love and it’s how I think Ben feels about Hoshiko.
The song Read all About It, by Emily Sandé, is about someone finding the bravery to speak out against injustice. In the book, Ben summons this courage and this song always reminds me of that:
I wanna sing, I wanna shout, I wanna scream ‘till the words dry out.
So put it in all of the papers, I’m not afraid
They can read all about it, Read all about it.
Finally, there’s a song by Labi Siffre, which was written in 1987 as an outcry against apartheid in South Africa. It’s such an inspiring and powerful song and it sums up the determination and resilience of segregated and ostracised people, like Hoshiko, and the rest of the Dregs.
Brother and sisters, when they insist we’re just not good enough. Well we know better, just look him in his eyes and say
We’re gonna do it anyway. We’re gonna do it anyway.
There’s something inside so strong, I know that I can make it.
Though you’re doing me wrong, so wrong…
What is your favourite (non-spoilery) sentence from SHOW STOPPER?
“So, there we are, lying together in the darkness, waiting for morning and the trouble that’s bound to be coming.”
Are you working on anything new at the moment? Will we be seeing more of Hoshiko and Ben?
I’ve just finished the first draft of the second book. All the characters from the first book (the ones who make it!) are back, with some new friends and lots more circus action! It’s going to be released next summer, I believe.
Last but not least, my trademark question that every author is asked in one of my Q&As… what is your favourite writing snack?
If I’m trying to be good, pasta soup mug shots – low calorie and filling. If I’m lacking will power (most of the time,) chocolate Hob Nobs!
Thank you so much Nazy, for having me on the Blog and for these great questions.
A big thank you to Hayley Barker for taking the time to answer these questions for me, and to the wonderful Olivia over at Scholastic for putting this blog tour together! You can add Show Stopper to your Goodreads and grab yourself a copy at one of the links below!
About the Author
Hayley Barker has a BA (hons) degree from Birmingham University and has taught secondary school English for eighteen years. She is a huge YA fiction fan and says being published is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to her. Hayley was inspired to write Show Stopper by her fears about the growing wave of crime and animosity against minority groups in England. She lives in Essex with her husband and two young sons.
Follow Hayley on Twitter: @HayleyABarker