The Eye of the North Blog Tour: Author Interview with Sinéad O’ Hart

Hello everybody!

Today, I’m taking part in the blog tour for the Eye of the North, a fabulous new middle grade which is released this Thursday (you can read my review here) by interviewing it’s lovely author Sinéad. Onto the questions!

1. Can you please describe the Eye of the North in 5 words?

Exciting, friendship, secrets, scary creatures!

2. What inspired the book?

I got the ‘seed’ idea for The Eye of the North when I was about 21 (a.k.a a very long time ago), and I was working in an office job I really did not enjoy. I came up with a story about a girl named Emma Marvell working in an office job she really did not enjoy – that bit didn’t take much imagining – but her job involved the recording and cataloguing of artefacts relating to mysterious, mythical creatures which were sent in from all over the world by a team of roving explorers. (My job wasn’t half so interesting.) In the proto-story, when an explorer sends in a sample with a dodgy covering letter, Emma gets curious as to what he’s hiding and goes on the hunt to find out the truth. The published version is very different, but the core elements – mythical creatures, the North, a plucky girl and a stowaway boy – were there from the beginning. I have always loved mythical creatures and I’ve been fascinated with the polar regions all my life, so this story has been a long time brewing.

3. I saw lots of similarities between Emmeline and I. Which book characters would you say you`re most like?

I think I see bits of me in Arianwyn Gribble from James Nicol’s Apprentice Witch series, mostly in her serious and slightly worried/responsible approach to things, and in Hermione Granger (I am a bit of a swot), though the Potter character I’m most like, I think, is Ron – food-focused, loyal and a bit afraid of most things. I’m clumsy like Mildred Hubble, stubborn like Lyra Silvertongue, and I’m a hobbit all the way down to my toes (though luckily, they’re not as hairy!)

4. I also adored her sidekicks Thing and Meadowmane. Do you have any favourite literary sidekicks?

Siddy from Abi Elphinstone’s Dreamsnatcher trilogy always made me grin. I love all the kids in Katherine Rundell’s The Explorer, though I don’t think any can really be classed as a sidekick! Of course, the brilliant Malkin in Peter Bunzl’s Cogheart books is a sidekick we all need. The best hero/sidekick team in literature , though, is Pidge and Brigit from The Hounds of The Morrigan. I wish I had a Brigit to this day.

5. The adventure in the book is incredible. If you could choose any adventure, real or fictional, to take part in, what would it be?

Because I trained as a medievalist in another life, I feel I must say I wish I could have been a pilgrim on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. I think I would have enjoyed an ale or two with the raucous, brilliant Wife of Bath! I would have loved to take part in a polar expedition, too – perhaps Scott’s, except without the tragedy. And of course I would have loved to see the battle between Iorek Byrnison and Ragnar Sturlusson alongside Lyra and Pan.

6. The book also reads like it would make a fabulous film. If it was ever optioned, do you have a dream cast?

What a brilliant question! I think Ruth Negga would make a fab Sasha, and Oscar Isaac would be my choice for Edgar. I would love Dominic Monaghan for Mr Widget and Sophie Okonedo for Mrs Widget. As for the children – I think finding some new, undiscovered talent would be great!

7. This is your debut novel. What has been the standout moment of your journey to publication, and what are you most excited about after the book comes out?

The standout moment, for sure, was the day my agent phoned to tell me she had sold the book to my UK publisher, Stripes. We had been waiting so long for a UK/Irish deal that I had given up hope of ever getting one, and so that was a true joy. It has been a very long path, and there have been many highlights, but that’s my favourite one. As for what I’m most excited by – I can’t wait to meet readers, interact with people who have read the book, and talk about it with children. It’s such a privilege to write for young readers; they are the best readers. I’m hugely looking forward to learning from them and finding out how I can keep improving as a writer.

8. Finally, before our quickfire questions, can you divulge any secrets about what your second book might be?

The second book I have sold is the story of Tess, who has grown up with no knowledge of her parentage until the day a stranger comes to claim her from the loving home she has always known. She has to uncover who this man is, what he knows about her and her past, and how to get out of his clutches, all before he can use her unique abilities to bring destruction to her world, and many others… (Also, she has a pet tarantula called Violet, who is the real star of the show.)

QUICKFIRE

1. Hogwarts house? Ravenpuff? I am mostly Ravenclaw, a bit Hufflepuff!

2. Favourite chocolate bar? Plain and simple, Cadbury Dairy Milk

3. Favourite colour? Purple.

4. Top 3 books of 2017? The Huntress: Sky; The Explorer; A Skinful Of Shadows.

5. 3 random facts about you? I can read Middle English (and Old English, with a bit of practise); I used to work as a trainee butcher and could pick up a pound of mince, almost to the ounce, simply by eye; I have a fear of balloons

Thank you so much for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the interview down in the comments or or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl!

Amy xxx

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Author Interview: Lari Don

Hello everybody! 

Today, I’m really excited to have an author interview with Lari Don, whose books I absolutely loved when I read them last year. Onto the interview!

Hi Lari! Thank you so much for being here!

1. Can you please describe your writing in 5 words?

Magic, monsters, adventure, ambushes, danger…

2. What is your writing routine like? Do you have any unusual writing habits?

I wish I had a regular writing routine, involving nice quiet days typing in my study and going for long walks to think through plot problems. In fact, I do most of my writing on trains and in a shed. I spend a lot of time talking to young readers and writers in schools and libraries, so if I want to keep on top of my deadlines, I have to write while travelling. Then when I am at home, my family are usually there too, being noisy and distracting, so I have to escape to the garden shed to get peace to think and imagine. And the shed isn’t a fancy shed, it’s an old leaky tool shed, with a desk, a box of blankets, and lots of spiders. Therefore, my unusual writing habit is getting someone brave to check the shed for spiders lurking in the corners or above my head before I start to write. 

3. All of your middle grades are mainly fantasies. Was there any reason you chose to write in that genre? Do you have any favourite fantasy books?

Of my 9 novels so far, 8 are fantasy adventures! I write about magic and quests and monsters because that’s what I’ve always loved reading. Also, most of my inspiration comes from reading, researching and telling old myths, legends and folklore. So I write fantasy because I love fantasy, and because most of my ‘what if’ ideas lead to me that way. My favourite fantasy books are the ones I read when I was young, by Diana Wynne Jones (the Chrestomanci books, Howl’s Moving Castle, The Power of Three) but I’ve read some brilliant ones recently too, including the Five Kingdoms series by Vivian French and the Bartimaeus books by Jonathan Stroud.

4. Your books are all set in Scotland, which I loved (It was so nice to understand all the school references for a change!). Did you always plan for that, or did it just seem natural to set the books there when you started? Is there any part of Scotland that you’d like to set a book in that you haven’t yet?

I don’t really plan anything! I just write the stories that won’t leave me alone! My stories generally find themselves happening in Scotland because I know Scotland better than anywhere else in the world, and because the Scottish landscape is fantastic for quests and adventures. Also, location research is easier if it’s a coastline or mountain or castle that I already know or that I can visit in a weekend. However, not all my characters are Scottish (Theo in Spellchasers is from Egypt, for example) and the monsters and magic are inspired by myths and legend from all over the world. Also, I have written a novel (Mind Blind) set mostly in London, so I hope my imagination doesn’t stop at the border! Spellchasers is set in Speyside, where I was brought up, and the Fabled Beasts quested in parts of Scotland that I visit for holidays or to see family: the Borders, the West Highlands, Orkney, Skye, Sutherland… If I want to write about a ‘new’ bit of Scotland, I could consider Dumfries and Galloway, Fife, Glasgow, and various other islands. But I’ll have to see what the next story wants and needs. (I think it might need a port, so perhaps I’ll set it in Leith?) Also, I’m delighted that you enjoy reading books set in Scotland and recognising the references.  When I was young, I only read one (ONE!) adventure novel for kids set in Scotland.  Everything else was English or American. Nowadays, there’s so much more choice for young readers, so much more opportunity to read about their own landscape and culture and history. I know that’s the case in Scotland, I hope it’s the case everywhere else as well! 

5. One of the main elements of Spellchasers is shapeshifting, as that is the thing the main character Molly has been cursed with. What 3 animals would you most like to shapeshift into, and why?

A hare – because I spent so much time researching hares, that I’d love to know whether what I imagined and described every time Molly ran as a hare is really how it feels. Also, I’d love to run that fast!

A hawk  – because who doesn’t want to fly? And I’d love to hover above the landscape, watching all the stories happening below me.

 A cat – after all that sprinting and running, I’d probably want to turn into a pet cat, so I could curl up beside a fire and have a snooze!  

(Then, of course, I’d want to become human again, because I don’t fancy eating grass or rodents for my tea!) 

6. I`m going to be a bit mean now. Who is your favourite Spellchaser, and Fabled Beast? Mine are Beth/Atacama and Sapphire, if you’re interested.

I should struggle to answer this, because I should love all my characters equally, but if I’m honest I already know my favourites. Yann the centaur in Fabled Beasts and Innes the kelpie in Spellchasers.  (And my favourite baddies are the Faery Queen in Wolf Notes and Nan in The Shapeshifter’s Guide to Running Away.  There are probably common themes in both of those pairs of favourites, which possibly reveal far too much about me…)   

7. This one should be a bit easier! What’s your favourite thing about being an author?

That’s not easier, because I love so many things about being an author! I love the moment an idea arrives, the ‘what if’ and ‘I wonder’, and especially when several smaller ideas crash together and sparks fly and I can feel I have a new novel coming to life.  But I also love the process of discovering the story, the long journey to find the answers to the initial questions. And I am excited any time a character does something unexpected, especially those wonderful and rare moments when a character takes control of the story and runs off with it (that happened in Rocking Horse War, my only standalone fantasy, and it seriously improved the plot!) And I love editing (yes, really. I know that’s unusual, but I love seeing the story get stronger as I slice away the extra words that I needed to find the story but that the readers don’t need to enjoy it.) And I love the moment a new book arrives, all shiny and real. AND I love talking to young readers and inspiring them to come up with stories of their own. Despite the late nights and long train journeys and spider-filled sheds, I love everything about being a writer! 

8. Finally, before the quickfire questions, can you let us in on any secrets about what you`ll be releasing next? *crosses fingers for more fabulous MG*

I hope there will be more ‘fabulous MG’ (thank you!) sometime soon, but the next book is actually a picture book. It’s called The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster, and it’s quite dark and dangerous, but also magical and mysterious, with amazing illustrations by Nataša Ilinčić. And after that – who knows? I needed a creative break after writing the Spellchasers trilogy (a trilogy takes a long time and a lot of complicated story-weaving) so I am having fun with several possible novel ideas right now. But all the ideas I am playing with involve magic, betrayals and danger, so I hope you’ll enjoy the next novel, whatever it is! 

QUICKFIRE

Hogwarts house? – Ravenclaw 

Favourite sweet treat? – Orange or mint chocolate, in the middle of the night, to keep me awake when I’m editing

Favourite season? -winter

Your 3 favourite reads of 2017? – The Empty Grave (Lockwood and Co) by Jonathan Stroud 

Within the Sanctuary of Wings (the Memoirs of Lady Trent) by Marie Brennan

Lost Words by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris 

(and I got a pile of intriguing books for Christmas which I’m really looking forward to working my way through) 

3 random facts about you- 

• I’m terrified of spiders, but don’t have any problems with wasps, bees, moths, birds, snakes or dragons; 

• I am learning British Sign Language; 

• My current favourite vegetable is cauliflower. 

Thanks for asking such wonderful questions! 

Thank you for answering so wonderfully!

I hope you enjoyed Lari’s answers as much as I did. Do you love Lari’s books? Are they on your TBR? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl!

Amy xxx

A Festive Q&A with Katy Cannon 

Hello everybody, and welcome to the 18th day of blogmas. Today, I have a Q and A with Katy Cannon, author of Love, Lies and Lemon Pies (among other great books too, but I like to mention LLALP as much as possible since I love it so much 😉). 

Onto the post!

Hi Katy! Thank you so much for being here!

1. Love, Lies and Lemon Pies was your first YA book. Was there any particular inspiration behind it?

I was actually eating cake with my agent, Gemma, in a local coffee shop, talking about ideas for a new book. I wanted something that resonated with my own interests, and I was doing a lot of baking with my daughter at the time (it was at the height of the Great British Bake Off’s popularity) so Gemma suggested a school Bake Club. We started brainstorming around that, and suddenly I had a whole book’s worth of ideas!

2. The book balances a more serious side and fun so well. Was it difficult to get this just right?

There’s always a balancing act in all books, and I never get it right the first time! As with all things in writing, it takes a lot of revising and editing to get the balance right. But it’s always worth it in the end, when the book works. 

3. I`m going to be very mean, seeing how hard I`d find it to answer this! Who`s your favourite member of Bake Club?

I think my favourite is Jasper, because he reminds me of my youngest brother. 

4. This is another tough one. What`s your favourite scene of the book, and why?

That one is tough – especially since I haven’t read it for a long time! But I think probably the scene with Mac and Lottie outside on the trampoline at Grace’s party.

5. Was it fun to return to these characters for Secrets, Schemes and Sewing Machines? Would you ever write more stories in the Bake Club world? 

It was so much fun! And I loved seeing the world through Grace’s eyes for a change, too. I also loved going back to write Jasper’s Christmas short story – Love, Lies and Mince Pies. As for any more stories in the Bake Club world… well, I’m off to Paris next week, so maybe there’ll be a short story of Lottie and Mac in Paris yet!

6. Before the quickfire round, can you say a little bit about your story in I`ll Be Home for Christmas and why you wrote it? 

My story, Christmas, Take Two, is about Heather, who is spending her first Christmas at her Dad’s new house with his new girlfriend and her family. For me, home always means family, but families come in so many forms that I wanted to explore a little bit how we can make any family home – biological, adoptive, step or half family, or just the family that we choose. As long as we have people on our side whoever they are, we have a home. 

CHRISTMAS QUICKFIRE

Hogwarts house? (they have amazing Christmas scenes, plus I love asking people this!) 

Ravenclaw

Favourite food to eat?

Risotto. It’s my ultimate comfort food.

Would you rather meet a penguin or a polar bear?

Penguin. 

Favourite Christmas film?

The Muppets’ Christmas Carol. 

Favourite Christmas song?

Carol of the Bells (note: this is my fave one too! And no one has ever heard of it, so I love that this is Katy’s too!)

Your Christmas traditions?

Too many to name in a Quickfire round! But my favourite is Boat Sunday – the day my whole extended family go out for dinner before Christmas, and then we all sing Christmas songs together. 

Thank you so much for reading! Are you a Katy Cannon fan too? Do you like Carol of the Bells? 😉. Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl, I’d love to hear from you!

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Cathy Hopkins 

​Hello everybody!


Today I couldn`t be any more thrilled to welcome a very special author for an interview.  Cathy`s books were some of my favourites when I was young, and after reading and loving them, I got in touch and still chat regularly via Skype and email . Her book, A Home for Shimmer, is based on my dog Shimmer and book Shimmer has many traits of the real one, which was incredible to read! I`m definitely planning to dip into Cathy`s new book for adults, Kicking the Bucket List, at some point.

Let`s get onto the interview!
1. Can you describe Kicking the Bucket List in 5 words? 

Funny, sad, tale of sisters.


2. What is your writing process like? Do you have any unusual or quirky habits as a writer?

I don’t write on one place, I do have an office but I often change rooms depending on
where feels right that day.

3. Kicking the Bucket List is about a mum leaving behind a `bucket list` full of tasks for her daughters to complete. Do you have a bucket list? What are the items you`d most like to complete from it?

I’d like to go and see meerkats. Visit Sicily. Learn how to cook Italian food. Paint
portraits of some of the people I know.

4. My favourite series of yours has to be Mates, Dates. The characters all so vibrant and also huge fun! What do you think they`d be up to now? 
They’d still be friends. I reckon TJ and Nesta would be university, Lucy doing a 
fashion design course, Izzie at art college. Perhaps they’d share a flat, if not they’d still be in touch and having a great life and would always meet up in the college holidays.

5. Another series I loved, which I barely ever see mentioned, was Zodiac Girls. What gave you the idea for the series? Which of the star sign guardians would you most want to help you, if you got to choose? Do you wish you`d been able to write a book for all 12 star signs?

I was asked to come up with a series about the Zodiac and I thought it would be fun to envisage a world where the planets were all present here on earth in human form. I’d like Jupiter to give a helping hand as it is the planet of expansion and generosity. I reckon Venus would be fun to meet as it is the planet of love and beauty. And Uranus is the planet of surprises and always brings about the unexpected. Yes, it would have been good to write the books for the star signs I didn’t do. I had ideas for them but the publishers changed hands and the new team didn’t commission the last 4 books in the series.

5. Million Dollar Mates is a really fun idea too, where Jess gets to go and live among celebrities. Which 3 celebrities would you most like to live next door to?

David Attenborough because I think he’s an inspiration and has done so much to bring about an awareness of how wonderful nature is into our homes. Colin Farrell so I could look at him out the window. Joanna Lumley because I think she’d be fun and a considerate neighbour.

6. If you could choose any of your books/series to become a TV show or movie, which would you choose and why?

The Kicking the Bucket List because there are 6 great roles for older actresses and I think it would make a very entertaining, feel good film.

7. Finally before the quickfire round, what`s been your favourite moment (or top 3) in your career as author?

Meeting my agents. I’ve been very lucky to find two people who are so encouraging and also great fun to spend time with. Meeting my editors Brenda Gardner then later Kate Bradley. They are both very supportive and are great communicators. Brenda pretty well changed my life as she commissioned the first Mates Dates books and got my career as a teenage fiction writer started. More recently, Kate contracted for my first adult book and so a new chapter of my career has begun. Reading some of the reviews for books and hearing that people are reading and enjoying what I’ve written. 

QUICKFIRE

Favourite season of the year? Summer.

Favourite cake flavour? Coffee and walnut (though am not a cake person, I prefer savoury)

Hogwarts house? Hufflepuff.

Favourite couple on Strictly this year? Susan Calman & Kevin Clifton. Doubt if they’ll win but I like her.

Favourite 3 books of 2017?– Anatomy of a Soldier by Harry Parker. How Hard Can it be Allison Pearson. A Scandalous Affair, the Biography of Jane Digby by Mary.S. Lovell. 

Huge thanks again to Cathy for this interview! Which of Cathy’s books are your favourites? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

See you soon with a new post

Amy xxx

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Karen McCombie

Hello everybody!

Today, Im absolutely thrilled to welcome Karen McCombie, who wrote some fo my favourite series of all time (such as Ally’s World and Stella Etc) and whose books I still love today. Huge thanks to to Kirstin from Barrington Stoke for setting this up.

Let’s get started!


Hi Karen! Welcome to Golden Books Girl!

Hi there, Amy! I haven’t been to the Edinburgh Book Festival in a while, so we haven’t had a chance to meet up in real life for AGES, have we? But it’s lovely to hook up in the world of book blogging at least!

1. Can you describe your latest release, The Mystery of Me, in 5 words or less for anyone who hasn`t read it?

School story – with a twist!

2. What inspired you to write The Mystery of Me? 

I LOVE teenagers. I WAS one (obvz), and I’ve currently GOT one (my darling Milly, age 15). But teenage years can be tricky… some people can be pretty mean to others without thinking of the consequences of their actions, how deep words can wound. This was the starting point of the story, and everything else just slotted in around it really quickly, once that spark took hold. 

3. What`s your writing process like? Do you have any unusual habits or quirks?

I have a little writing office at home that’s very cute but about the size of a big cupboard. The thing is, I do get restless being stuck in there ALL day, so most mornings I walk through the park and go to the nearby garden centre, where I work on my laptop in their cafe. It’s a brilliant spot… I write, drink tea, smell the flowers and – as it’s a dog-friendly caff – I get to meet lovely pooches too! (Don’t tell my cat, who likes keeping me company in the writing cupboard…)

4. Does anything about your process change when you`re writing for Barrington Stoke as opposed to other publishers? Does it pose any challenges when writing in this format?

In general, I really enjoy writing in different styles – the change of pace from book to book is brilliant fun and challenging too. Barrington Stoke specialize in super-readable books that everyone can enjoy, whether they’re confident readers or dyslexic, so working for them is a fascinating process. You have to write a short-length book with a punchy, appealing story, while always being mindful of the sorts of spellings and complex sentences that might trip up struggling readers. 

5. What are your favourite things about writing?

I LOVE coming up with a new book idea. And I LOVE writing the last chapter of every book, when you pull the whole story together. The big bit in the middle can be kind of tricky and hard sometimes, like climbing up a mountain and never getting closer to the top!

6. In the past few years, you`ve mainly written historical/timeslip novels. What inspired you to make that change? Do you prefer writing in historical or contemporary settings?

It all started a few years ago with my then editor Helen asking if I fancied trying my hand at writing a novel about evacuees… I think she was slightly nervous suggesting it to me, since my books were all contemporary, but I’m a bit of a history nut on the side, so I said “ooh-yes-please!” very quickly. That was ‘Catching Falling Stars’, and since then I’ve written timeslips ‘The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall’ and ‘The Pearl in the Attic’. Like I say, I’m more than happy to try my hand at any and all styles – I’ve got a potential new project on the go at the moment that’s COMPLETELY different from anything I’ve done before!

7. I think my favourites of your books have to be the Ally`s World and Stella Etc series. What do you think those characters would be getting up to now? Would you ever return to their worlds

Someone once said to me, wouldn’t it be fun to write a book where Ally and Stella meet up and become friends when they’re older? I’ve never done anything about it, but I still noodle around with the idea now and then!

8. Finally, before the quickfire round, can you tell us anything about what you`re working on at the moment?

I’m currently writing the fourth in my younger, funny series, ‘St Grizzle’s’, which is based in a bonkers boarding school. I’ve also written another historical book, this time set on a Scottish island. That should be coming out early summer next year, I think. As Lola from ‘Charlie and Lola’ would say, this new book is my favourite and my best, so I hope you’ll like it too! 

QUICKFIRE

Hogwarts house? Collywobbles. Yes, I just made that up. Yes, I am ashamed to say I am one of the two people in the world who haven’t ever read ‘Harry Potter’. I KNOW!! #shame  

Favourite bar of chocolate? Anything with nuts in. #nuts #nom. 

Which animal would you most want to turn into for a day? Anything with nuts in. #nuts #nom.

Your 3 favourite reads of 2017?

• ‘Little Bits of Sky’ – S.E. Durrant (so sweet, so moving, so uplifting)

• ‘Instructions for a Second-Hand Heart’ – Tamsyn Murray (heart-wrenching story, and what a title!)

• ‘Alphonse, That is Not OK To Do’ – Daisy Hurst (I LOVE picturebooks and this one is brilliantly funny)

What are you most excited about for winter? Please, oh please, oh PLEASE let there be snow this year. I live right beside Alexandra Palace in North London, which has a huge park with excellent slopes for sledging. Everyone is out, slithering down the hill, drinking hot chocolate from the café, having the best time. And I love seeing all the dogs in the park go mad too, boinging through the snow like they’re on springs!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this interview! What are your favourite Karen McCombie books? Are there any on your TBR? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

See you soon with a new post, 

Amy xxx


TWO WAY AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Sita Brahmachari Interview 

​Hi everyone!

Today, I’m very pleased to welcome Sita Brahmachari for a two-way interview themed around her latest release Worry Angels , where we ask each other some questions. To try and make things as clear and non-comfusing as possible, I’ve put my questions in bold, Sita’s in italics, and both of our answers in plain text. Huge thanks to Kirstin at Barrington Stoke for asking me to host this 😊😊

Hi Sita. Welcome to Golden Books Girl!

1. What were the inspirations behind Worry Angels? Have you wanted to write something like this for a while, or is it a newer idea?

In the dedication I write that ‘Worry Angels’ is inspired by three wonderful people. One of them was a teacher at my children’s school. Her name was Margaret and she used to make papier Mache angels for the children. She is a truly creative and kind teacher who has touched the lives of generations of people and I wanted to write a story in homage to her. 

The second person who inspired me was a Sand Play Therapist called Maggie. Playing in the sand isn’t only good for children and young people. I experience Sand Play Therapy while doing some research on a play, and I found it to be the most wonderful way to free up the stories, worries and anxieties that all people, young and old must learn to cope with as part of life. That’s why I set the story at ‘ The Sandcastle Support Centre.’

The third inspiration is actually called Grace, like my character. She is a young artist who I met a few years ago when I worked on my novel ‘Kite Spirit,’ which also focuses on the pressures that young people face in our society. Real life Grace has made the beautiful animation for ‘ Worry Angels’ and although she is just setting out on her career I imagine her to be much like my character Grace might have been when she was young.

Two of these inspirations I met over sixteen years ago and Grace I met five years ago. Stories very often have long fuses, they can burn for a long time in the imagination of the author. ‘Worry Angels’ has always been alight in me, waiting for its moment to be told as there is a growing awareness of anxiety in younger children.  

1B – Have you had inspirational ‘ Angels’ in your life that you think will sustain you in the future? Can you see any qualities in my characters that your Angels share with mine!

I would have to say my mum, who’s got me through so many dark days, especially with my illness. I think our angels share the quality of kindness.

2. This book is for Barrington Stoke, who specialise in novels for reluctant readers and making reading easier. Did your writing process change at all as you were writing a novella, instead of a novel? What sort of things did you have to adapt?

Writing a novella is what I focus on when I set out to write a Barrington Stoke Book.  Obviously you are aware from the start that the story is shorter and therefore that you have less space and time to create your character’s world. This means that every brush stroke must count and that when a character is introduced you must ensure that they live in full 3D technicolour in the reader’s imagination without burdening them with lengthy description. It’s an excellent skill for a writer to hone. It makes you really dig deep and explore what is vital and what can be stripped away. So much of writing is about giving just enough to create the imaginative space for readers to inhabit. This is the challenge I love in writing Barrington Stoke Stories and short stories in general.   

I write these stories just as I would write any shorter stories. There is no difference in my approach.

2b) I believe that Barrington Stoke stories can be read by readers of all abilities. They’re just great stories.  Recently I met a young student who said ‘ I’m a really good reader so my parents say I should only read classics, and even though I would like to read those books my parents would think that they are too easy for me’ . What would you say to persuade her that reading a BS book would be a good idea?

First of all, I absolutely agree with your sentiments. A book is a book is a book, if you ask me, and what age range/reading ability it’s intended for has no bearing whatsoever on it’s quality, and I like to think I’ll be reading MG and YA till I’m old and grey. If you aren’t reading Barrington Stoke books, you’re missing out on some absolutely incredible characters and stories.

3. Are the characters based on you/people you know? How did you come up with them all? I loved Amy May and Grace especially.

I have spoken about the two Margaret’s who inspired me to write Grace but in many ways I have also been inspired by teachers from my own school years. When I wrote my first novel ‘ Artichoke Hearts’ I was at a school event and an elderly lady came up to me to ask if I would sign. She was a teacher who had known me when I was ten years old she asked if I remembered her…. I did and in many ways she has stayed  with me  over the years – one of my Grace angels, encouraging me, giving me confidence. Just as Amy May’s father never forgets Grace…. I haven’t forgotten the teachers who helped me find the confidence  to be a writer either.

Amy May grew straight out of my imagination and an awareness of how many children need to make the adjustments to changes in their families that they don’t have any power over. In Amy May I wanted to create a character who has experienced a relatable story that many children do experience, or know people who have experienced. Rima’s family experience of having to leave her country and wider family in Syria is so extreme and different to Amy May’s but their friendship also allows the two girls to explore how what they have in common is a search for security.   

A beautiful Jane Ray illustration from Worry Angels

3b. What did you love about Amy May and Grace? What do you think the characters learn from each other in the story? 

They just seemed very real, and I empathised hugely with Amy-May and Rima. I loved watching them learn about one another and become friends. Grace is someone I’d love to know. She was so reassuring and calming.

4. A big part of Worry Angels are the crafts Amy May and Rima do with Grace. Do you enjoy arts and crafts? What have some of your favourite projects been, if yes?

I am a very crafty author!  I create words and stories and then I make things… or work with people who make things. My collaboration with the artist Grace who made the animation for ‘Worry Angels’ and also ‘Red Leaves’ as well as a walk in installation for ‘ Kite Spirit’ is all about exploring the stories through visual projects. I even have a patchwork storytelling quilt that I take around schools with me to explore the place in all of us where creative writing comes from. Like Grace I am a collector of small objects that I place in my quilt and use to help me talk about my stories.
I love graphic novels and illustrated novels and I am so honoured that the wonderful Jane Ray’s drawings grace the pages of ‘Worry Angels.’ We work together at Islinton Centre for Refugees and Migrants… and I think Jane has created the art room that she dreams of working in too. If I could step into her art room right now I would.

4b. How about you Amy? Do you like crafts and art? If so what do you get out of them? Would you like to visit Grace’s art room? If so what, of the activities Grace offers would be your preferred activity? Baking/ sandplay/ papier mache/ gardening/ art?

I’m afraid I’m the least artistic person in the world! (Seriously, even my stick men are deformed). I do enjoy it though when I’m not under any pressure to produce something good, so I’d love to do some art and crafts and baking with Grace. I’d love to plant pretty flowers in the garden too.

5. Amy`s mum seems to struggle with the idea of Grace`s school, which teaches mainly through art and holistic methods. What are your thoughts on schools like this?

Sometimes one dreams up the worlds that we would like to exist. The truth is that there are more and more children suffering from school anxiety and anxiety in general.  I think it’s an area that needs proper attention and funding as if young people’s anxieties are not cared for they can become much more serious as they grow into teenagers and young adults. I wish that there could be a Grace and an Iman and a sandcastle support centre attached to every school in the country….and even though that is unlikely to happen in the current funding climate perhaps something of the quality of Grace’s centre might filter through into schools. 

The magic of writing is that you can wave your pen-wand and make something true in a story…. I’ll keep waving! 

5b) What do you think of these kind of holistic schools? In my story The Sandcastle Support Centre is for children with anxiety? What aspect of the centre do you think would be good to integrate into schools in general? How would this benefit young people? 

I think these schools are fabulous, and I’d love to see them imtroduced into every school, so that children struggling for some reason could 

Cheeky bonus question- Would you ever revisit these characters? I really want to know what`ll happen next!

Well strangely enough. I have been invited by Scoop Magazine to write a little off shoot story of ‘Worry Angels’ and I chose to write a story about Grace’s retirement day when everyone at the centre sets out on a day trip to….

I haven’t thought about a ‘Worry Angels’ story beyond that… but you never know… one of the characters may tap me on the shoulder at some point in the future and ask me to write their story forward from ‘Worry Angels!’

6b At what age would you like to see these characters again? 

I’m not sure what age, but I’d love to see Amy-May and Rima help another child the way Grace and Iman help them in Worry Angels.

You find Sita on Twitter @sitabrahmachari and on her website here.

Thank you so much for reading? What did you think of Worry Angels? Are you a fan of Barrington Stoke? What activity would you choose in Grace’s art room?

See you soon with a new post 

Amy xxx