Theatrical Blog Tour: The Shows I’d Most Like to See and A Deep Dive into the DNA Of Theatrical

Hello everybody!

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for Theatrical, which I really enjoyed last month, by talking about some of the plays/musicals I’d most like to see one day. I also have a list of recommendations of plays that author Maggie Harcourt loved whilst she was working on the book. Onto the post!

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Mirror Magic Blog Tour Guest Post from Claire Fayers: What Would the 17th Century Have Looked Like with Magic?

Hello everybody!

Today, I’m really excited to be hosting a guest post from Claire Fayers, about what the 17th century newspapers may have looked like had magic existed as part of her blog tour for Mirror Magic (which I really enjoyed earlier this month, and shall be reviewing come my June Reviews post!)

Over to Claire!


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Across the Divide Blog Tour: “We Have More in Common than What Divides Us”

Hello everybody!

Today, I’m really excited to be on the blog tour for Anne Booth’s new book Across the Divide, and to share a guest post from Anne, about how we can learn empathy from fiction. Over to Anne!

‘We have more in common’

I love twitter. When I felt lonely and isolated as a carer for elderly parents, twitter was a safe place where I could meet lovely people – writers, illustrators, librarians, teachers, booksellers, publishers, agents – who shared my enthusiasm and passion for children’s books and illustrations. Later, through someone I chatted to about children’s books on twitter, it led to me being published, and getting my wonderful agent. Things I read on twitter every day inspire and inform me and give me ideas for new books. I find it a great ongoing source of support and information and entertainment.

But it has its dark side. When I move away from the world of children’s writing and start reading political tweets, things get much more polarised and divisive and depressing. In the children’s book world, we tend to genuinely behave as if, as Jo Cox said, ‘we have more in common than what divides us’. Because politics is so much more adversarial, nobody seems to feel safe to acknowledge the good in their political opponents, or any badness in their own party. There are so many smears and so much selective reporting, so much finger pointing and generalisations and confusion and unspoken agendas. It is so hard to get to the truth, and yet it is presented as easy to find. If you state a political or religious opinion online you run the risk of being put in a box, and also being seen as someone who puts others in boxes. It doesn’t seem to be acceptable to ask questions about things you don’t understand or change your mind about things, in other words, get educated. There is little forgiveness or giving people the benefit of the doubt or understanding that there is good and bad in everyone. This is not healthy, and against the whole spirit of education and debate, and this approach is also poisoning the world outside twitter in which our children are growing up.

In researching the world of Britain at the time of WW1 I found the same poisonous polarisation. I found, for example, that genuinely brave Emily Pankhurst was, horribly, an enthusiastic giver out of white feathers to men she considered cowards for not going to war, and she and others did not recognise their bravery. I read of families divided, smears and lies and wilfully hateful interpretations of good people’s motives.

Stories can be an antidote to this poison. In the fictional world we have the time and the safe space to explore ambiguities and mixed motives, to let people make mistakes and change opinions. In the fictional world cowards can do brave things, enemies can become friends. We can become educated and learn to empathise – we can be uncertain without being screamed at. We can learn, through fiction, how history informs our present, and I hope that ACROSS THE DIVIDE takes the reader to a beautiful place to explore difficult ideas in safety.

ACROSS THE DIVIDE by Anne Booth is out now in paperback (£6.99, Catnip Publishing). Follow Anne Booth @Bridgeanne and Catnip @catnipbooks for more information

Have you read Across the Divide? Do you plan to add it to your TBR? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl!

Amy xxx

How to Write a Love Story Blog Tour: Katy Cannon’s Top 5 Romance Book

Hello everybody!

Today, I’m super excited to be on the blog tour for Katy Cannons new book How to Write a Love Story, which I really enjoyed, as you’ll know already if you read my latest monthly reviews post a few days ago! Onto Katy’s post, all about her top 5 romance books!

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I love reading romance every bit as much as I love writing it. Narrowing down my favourites to just five is almost impossible, but here a few titles that always pop into my head when someone says ‘romance’.

1. Pride and Prejudice: Jane Austen was one of the first great romance writers (if you ignore the Greeks) and for my money, P&P is one of the best romances ever written. It has everything I love – a hero and heroine working towards understanding each other, a great supporting cast, and a blissfully happy ending. (Plus some fantastic one-liners!) That’s why it actually features in How To Write A Love Story at quite a pivotal moment!

2. Fangirl: Rainbow Rowell has that uncanny ability to make me feel eighteen again, exactly as it felt the first time around. I loved this book so much, mostly because I felt like I might have lived it, rather than just read it.

3. In The Hand of the Goddess: Tamora Pierce is famous for her fantasy YA novels, of which this is one of the best. I couldn’t begin to claim that romance is the main focus of this book, but there’s definitely enough romantic scenes for me to count it! More importantly, this was the first book I read as a teenager where I realized that however great the plot, what interested me most in books was the characters, and the friendships, relationships and romances they experienced with others. (Plus I had a total book crush on Prince Jon.)

4. Saint Anything: Sarah Dessen is a writer who draws me into the worlds and families she creates, until by the last page I’m devastated to have to leave them. She also writes incredible teen romances – true and heartbreaking and hopeful. I love all her books, but I think this is my favourite.

5. Shadow of the Moon: M M Kaye wrote sweeping historical fiction with romance at its heart, set in India and Zanzibar. She also wrote fantastic short crime novels (with a romantic subplot) set in many of the countries she’d lived in or visited, set during the forties and fifties. What I love about her books is the period details and political background she includes – as well as the drama and the romance! I was hard pressed to pick a favourite, and almost went for her most famous novel, The Far Pavilions, but Captain Alex Randall from Shadow of the Moon will always hold my bookish heart.

Thank you so much for reading! What are your favourite romance books? Do you agree with any of Katy’s choices? I’d love to hear from you in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl!

Amy xxx

Blog Tour- Author Interview with Katherine and Elizabeth Corr

Hello everybody!

Today, I’m really excited to welcome the authors of the fantastic Witch’s Kiss trilogy, Kate and Liz Corr for an interview as part of their blog tour for the 3rd and final book The Witch’s Blood. Onto the interview!

Hello! Thank you so much to you both for being here ☺

Hi Amy! Thank you so much for having us and for being part of our blog tour. 🙂

1. To start off, can you please describe the trilogy in 5 words?

Love, betrayal, friendship, siblings, witchcraft.

2. What served as your inspiration for the trilogy? Am I correct in saying that the books are loose retellings of different fairytales?

Kate: You’re right, The Witch’s Kiss was originally inspired by Sleeping Beauty – but it’s a gender-reversed version of that fairytale, with a sleeping prince instead of a princess, who gets rescued (more or less!) by a teenage witch. The Witch’s Tears is part inspired by Rumplestiltskin (such a weird fairytale, and definitely one that deserves more attention)

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Liz: There’s also a bit of Pride and Prejudice in The Witch’s Tears (in terms of Leo and Merry’s relationships with Ronan and Finn). The last book in the series, The Witch’s Blood, is the story that grew out of the first two books, but it also has hints of Rapunzel in there.

3. On that note, what are your favourite fairytales?

Liz: Apart from those mentioned above, we both love Beauty and the Beast (no surprise there) and Snow White (that glass coffin!).

Kate: I always liked Rose White and Rose Red, because for once it’s the brunette who gets the prince.

4. You collaborate on writing. How do you split the writing? Are there any main advantages or disadvantages to writing together?

Kate: We always start with a very detailed plan so we’re both (literally) on the same page, though the plan alters as we write. We start off aiming to write alternate chapters, but this usually falls apart pretty quickly since we a) write at different speeds and b) start fighting about getting to write our favourite parts.

Liz: Yeah, the disadvantage is that you can spend ages writing something then get up the next morning and find your co-writer has red-lined the entire thing and re-written it. *glares at sister* But there are way more advantages: by editing each other’s work we definitely save our editor some pain, plus there’s always someone else around who is keen to talk about our imaginary worlds.

5. Do you either of you have any unusual writing habits?

Kate: I’m not sure whether this is unusual but I have to write in complete silence. My inner (stereotypical) librarian can’t cope if there’s the slightest bit of noise. This usually means Liz and I can’t be in the same room whilst drafting, since she’s a bit… chatty.

Liz: I like to write in my PJs, with my favourite fluffy slipper boots on, for that little extra bit of comfort. But I don’t think that’s unusual. It’s not. Is it?

6. One of my favourite parts of your books are the characters. Who are your favourites, and who are you most like?

Liz: My favourite is Leo. He is the fantasy big brother we’ve always wanted but never had. Who am I most like? I want to say Merry: brave, resilient, underrated, sporty…

Kate: Sporty?? *Nearly dies laughing* I love Merry (obviously), and I have a soft spot for Jack, particularly as he’s such a key character in The Witch’s Kiss, but I’m also big fan of Finn: his character definitely develops through the two books that he’s in. My closest character match… Liz is sitting here suggesting the two most evil characters in the books, but I think (hope) I’m closest to Gran. A bit bossy, a bit judgy, but fundamentally a good person.

7. Since you`re now at the end of your first trilogy, what have been your best moments of author life so far?

Kate: Seeing our books in bookshops is always an amazing rush! The first time we saw one of our books in a window display was really special. I’ve enjoyed the events we’ve done too – having the opportunity to talk about your work is a joy.

Liz: Getting an agent was hugely exciting – it was the start of what’s turning out to be an incredible journey. And getting our first piece of fan mail through our website from a young reader was unbelievable. We’ve also been lucky enough to receive some fan art – it’s brilliant to see your characters through someone else’s eyes.

8. Can you give any hints about what you`ll be writing next?

Kate: We have a number of things on the go right now. Could be a middle grade in there somewhere, could be a high fantasy YA….

Liz: Definitely something involving magic. And given Kate’s tendencies, bad things happening to nice people!

QUICKFIRE

1. Hogwarts house?

Kate: Ravenclaw
Liz: Gryffindor

2. Cats or dogs?

Both: Cats!

3. Favourite film?

Liz: The Goonies – I always wanted to be part of their gang, discovering pirates and ‘rich stuff’ with them!
Kate: The Lord of the Rings (yes, the whole trilogy. Because Aragorn, elves, Boromir, Eowyn, etc etc.)

4. Disney character you`re most like?

Liz: Cinderella (before the Prince turns up, sadly. I spend way too much time picking up after two small children and two cats and desperately need a holiday).

Kate: Maleficent. (I’m thinking of the Angelina Jolie version, but Liz says I’m more like the original cartoon version. Excuse me while I put a curse on her…)

5. Favourite ice cream flavour?

Kate: Chocolate, or something which is mostly chocolate. NEVER vanilla.
Liz: Cookie dough. I love the extra lumps of sugary goodness. Ordinary ice cream is just not sweet enough.

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

I Swapped My Brother on the Internet Blog Tour- Jo Simmons on Funny Fiction 

Hello everybody!

Today, I have a guest post from Jo Simmons all about funny books as part of her blog tour for her own VERY funny book which I really enjoyed (and will be reviewing in my January Reviews!)

I’m not often sure what I think about anything. Age has not brought wisdom, just a sense of bafflement and a love of early bed times. But I do know what I think about funny fiction for kids – I think it’s a really, really good thing.

Not all kids are hardwired to read, but most kids are hardwired to laugh. They laugh so much more than adults – 300 to 400 times a day apparently, while grownups manage about 15 times. This makes children a willing audience for funny fiction. In fact, I’d argue that they positively deserve it!

I remember devouring Spike Milligan, Ogden Nash poems and PG Wodehouse as I went into my teenage years. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy dazzled with its cast of curious intergalactic characters and the hilarious fictional small ads in the copies of Viz my brother passed me were just brilliant. That and the Fat Slags, of course.

Once I had my own two boys, I was impressed by their ability to laugh their way through a day and unimpressed by the unutterably dull books I sometimes found myself reading to them at bedtime. So when I sat down to write my first children’s book in 2010, I wasn’t sure what to write, but I knew anything I did write had to be funny.

Funny fiction does so much more than simply entertain. Humour can tempt even a reluctant reader to try another chapter and every time an author makes a child laugh, it’s a little victory for reading. They’re communicating the message that reading funny books is fun, therefore reading must be fun. 

So it’s annoying that funny fiction sometimes gets overshadowed by those heavy books that tackle issues and win prizes, as if a witty story cannot also have meaning or relevance. Writing funny does not mean compromising on narrative ambition. A good funny story is still just that – a story – and can deliver all the truths and meaningful moments a serious tale does. 

My books contain plenty of bonkers scenarios and freaky folk, but also touch on issues relevant to children: friendship problems, anxiety about change, fear of the dark, loss of a loved one and, in my latest, I Swapped My Brother on the Internet the frustration of being inferior in age and privileges to an older brother. Serious stuff, for sure, but all wrapped up in a thick coating of silliness and escapism, ghosts, merboys and doppelgangers, and some seriously grotty pants. Maybe not great art, but hopefully great fun. 

You can follow Jo on Twitter @joanna_simmons and the book’s illustrator Nathan @nathanreed_illo.

Thank you so much for reading! What are your favourite funny books? Did you love this one? I’d love to hear from you down in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl!

Amy xxx