Hello everybody! Today, I’m thrilled to be sharing a guest post from Kim Curran, author of the fantastic Slay books, about her playlist for the book as today’s stop on the blog tour for her new release Slay: On Tour! Onto the post!
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!
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!
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!
Today, for day 7 of blogmas, I have a festive interview with the fabulous Ruth Lauren, author of Prisoner of Ice and Snow, which I loved.
Onto the post!
Hi Ruth! Thank you so much for being here!
Thanks for inviting me!
1. What made you decide to create a wintry world? How did you go about creating that atmosphere? I really just wanted to make the prison in the book the most hostile of places and to utilise the landscape and the conditions to further that. The cold and the ice and snow are used as punishments but I do think there’s beauty alongside the cruelty of winter in Demidova. Writing constant cold you do have to be mindful of how that would feel to the characters and how it would impact on everything they do, so can it can be an impediment, but it can also be a wonderful way of making things more difficult for your characters!
2. Do you ever plan on creating festivals within Demidova? There is actually a Saint’s Day week long celebration in Book 2, Seeker of the Crown! (although it does get overshadowed by a shocking event which I won’t say anything about because spoilers).
3. If you could create a new festival in the real world, what would it be? Which season would it be held in? How would it be celebrated? Well since I already celebrate Christmas in winter, something in the summer would be nice. How about a month long Festival of Books (and maybe cake?) in July? Permanent reading/cake for the entire month. Should I speak to my MP about this?
4. What does Christmas mean to you? What would be your perfect way to spend the day? I spend Christmas with family. I love getting presents for my kids. Just once, I’d really like it to actually snow on Christmas Day. That would be perfect.
5. What`s the best Christmas gift you`ve ever been given? Books! I always ask for books. But I did have a bike, probably in 1986, that was pretty cool too.
6. What are your favouite winter/Christmas pastimes? Last year I went tobogganing and ice skating with my family. That was really fun.
7. Do you have any Christmas traditions? On Christmas Day I will be eating apple and blackberry crumble and drinking Prosecco whilst wearing an extremely nice dress despite the fact that I won’t be leaving the house. Many Quality Street will be eaten.
1. Your favourite Christmas film? Scrooged with Bill Murray.
2. The bookish Christmas you`d most like to be part of? The end of the Long Winter in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
3. Would you rather build a snowman or go sledging? Snowman.
4. Your favourite Christmas song? Winter Wonderland.
5. Your favourite food to eat? Quality Street.
6. Would you rather go on a flight with reindeer or spend the day with elves making toys? Flight!
Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed learing a little more about Ruth! For today in the comments, I’d like to know YOUR answer to the last question. What would you rather do and why?
See you tomorrow,
Welcome to the FIRST day of blogmas! Today, I’m massively excited to welcome Jess Butterworth, whose book Running on the Roof of the World is one of my very favourites of 2017 (and if I had to choose from my top 3, this would be the one I’d pick). Over to Jess, with her beautiful post about her winter memories.
I love winter and the frosty mornings where grass crunches under your feet and silvery spider webs cling to hedgerows.
One of my earliest memories of winter is getting snowed in at my grandma’s house in the Himalayas. There was so much snow my parents had to dig tunnels for me to be able to walk through it. The tunnels were deep and I couldn’t see over the top of them. I was surrounded by glittery white snow and it was magical. That year will always be remembered as the year of The Snowman by Raymond Briggs.
Other stories I adored curling up with in winter months included The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson, The Elves and the Shoemaker by Brothers Grimm and The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde.
From the age of 16, I worked weekends in a vintage furniture and gift shop in a medieval granary building in Bradford-on-Avon, next to a tithe barn. There was no heating and in winter I remember buying a pair of boots 2 sizes too big so that I could fit my thick socks into them. The owner was the key keeper for the tithe barn and some evenings I got to bolt and lock shut the creaky giant wooden doors of the barn, alone by torchlight. Each time, long shadows would creep across the wooden beams and my footsteps would echo off the stones, and I’d leave wanting to read Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.
The shop transformed into The Christmas Shop every November, filled with orange clove candles and cinnamon pinecones; multi-coloured trees and twinkling decorations. Customers would enter as we were setting it up, nailing garlands to the walls and draping fairy lights, and back out quickly, saying, ‘Oh no, it’s too early for Christmas…’
I always understood what they meant, but I loved it anyway; every day I would come home covered in glitter with the urge to write wintry stories about fairies, woodland creatures and magic. During my last year there I discovered The Snow Merchant by Sam Gayton and read it veraciously during my lunch breaks.
This year I’m spending Christmas somewhere completely new, in Acadiana in Louisiana. Christmas pudding will be replaced with pecan pie and I’ll be reading the Cajun Night Before Christmas by Trosclair and James Rice, where Father Christmas is dressed in muskrat pelts and pulled along in a boat by alligators.
I’ll also have wintry reads from some of my favourite authors keeping me company, including Emma Carroll’s The Snow Sister, Mimi Thebo’s Dreaming the Bear and Winter Magic curated by Abi Elphinstone.
Thank you so much to Jess for writing this post. I can personally recommend both the Emma Carroll and Winter Magic; and I may be rereading both too! What are your favourite winter memories? I’d love to hear from you in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl
Today, I‘m 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 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!
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,
Today, I’m reviewing the first half of the wonderful Mystery and Mayhem anthology, written by a collection of UK authors and published by Egmont. I reviewed the second part of this collection on Book Murmuration a few weeks ago and Louise reviewed this half here last week.
Onto the reviews!
God’s Eye by Frances Hardinge
While I found this quite different in tone, and much darker, than the other stories within the anthology, I still enjoyed it. It tells the story of Ben; who is assistant to one of two pernickety painters tasked with painting the ‘God’s Eye’ view of London, and what happens when one of them is fatally poisoned. I liked Ben as a character and his unselfish motive for solving for solving the mystery, as well as how the mystery itself unfolds.
The Mystery of the Pineapple Plot by Helen Moss
This is a sublime story set in the Georgian era, which shows that Helen Moss can write an expertly researched page turner regardless of length or the historical era it’s set in. It focues on a seemingly-rich family who are hosting a dinner to impress their elder daughter’s suitor, until he’s poisoned by their prize pineapple! Their servant Quality Fruit and younger daughter Catherine set about investigating. I absolutely adored them as a detective duo, and I thought the mystery was really intriguing. The historical setting was one I’d never seen before, but it felt realistic and the world was well built. The writing style is easy to read and hugely enjoyable; the last line especially made laugh. Finally, I loved the reveal of the culprit as I definetly didn’t expect the story to go in that direction.
The Murder of Monsieur Pierre by Harriet Whitehorn
The last story in the Poison Plots section tells the tale of shop girl turned detective Angelica as she becomes embroiled in solving the murder of her former boss: hairdresser Monsieur Pierre. Angelica is a gloriously clever heroine, and I also liked that we got told she becomes a famous detective later in life. This is super fun to read as it’s such a melodramatic, madcap mystery (I guessed culprit, but I still had a lot of fun following along till the end). I’m not sure why, but it reminded me of watching Death in Paradise, excpet with child detectives! This has made me want to pick up the Violet books at some point in the future.
Safe–Keeping by Sally Nicholls
As a huge fan of most of Sally Nicholls’s books, I found it interesting to see her turn her hand to the mystery genre. This is a Boys’ Own style story which feautures three office boys trying to solve the mystery of a necklace which has disappeared from the office safe. The narrator is great and has a very distinctive voice. The dialogue and tone appeared realistic for the time, and I also enjoyed the friendship between the three boys. I found the solution of the msytery quite obvious, but I did like the way the detectives came to the comclusion.
The Mystery of the Purloined Pearls by Katherine Woodfine
In this offshoot from the Sinclair’s Mysteries, we see one member of the gang solve a mystery in a theatre. I love a good theatre mystery (especially the Mystery of the Pantomime Cat by Enid Blyton!) and this one was no exception. Woodfine’s prose is as flawless as ever, and I enjoyed seeing things from Lil’s perspective as we tend to follow Sophie during the main series. Finally, I didn’t guess who stole the pearls, and this has really whet my appetite for the 4th and final Sinclair’s book, which came out last week.
The Mystery of Room 12 by Robin Stevens
In Stevens’s first foray into a contemporary setting, she proves that she’s just as excellent at creating a modern tone and setting as she is historical. She also manages to retain the Agatha Christie/Enid Blyton vibes that are so prominent in her Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries. This story is about Jamie, whose family own a hotel, as he tries to work out where the woman who checked in while he was manning reception alone, has disappeared to without a trace and why. Jamie was super endearing (I also adored his dog) and I thought he was a fabulous detective. Finally, I love how clever and complex the solution to this pacy, exciting mystery is, and I’d actually love to see more stories, or even books, in this setting.
Thank you so much for reading! What’s your favourite of these stories? Do you like any of these authors’ standalones? Are you a fan of mysteries in general?
See you soon with a new post,