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,