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

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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

Bloomsbury Spring YA Tour: Author Interview with Jenny McLachlan

Hello everybody!

Today, I’m really excited to have an author interview with Jenny McLachlan, to celebrate the release of her latest YA book Truly Wildly Deeply (which shall be in my March Reviews post this Saturday!). Onto the post!

Continue reading “Bloomsbury Spring YA Tour: Author Interview with Jenny McLachlan”

#ArtieonTour : Author Interview with Robert J Harris.

Hello everybody!

Today, I’m taking part in the blog tour for Artie Conan Doyle and the Vanishing Dragon, the second book in the series. I enjoyed the first last month, so I’m looking forward to getting to this, hopefully in the next few weeks or so. Onto the interview!


Continue reading “#ArtieonTour : Author Interview with Robert J Harris.”

YA Shot Blog Tour: Travel and Writing

Hello everybody!

Today, I’m really excited to welcome the absolutely lovely Jess Butterworth to the blog for a guest post, as part of the YA Shot Blog Tour. Onto the post!


As a child I often imagined I was on adventures in the wilderness without my parents in tow. My grandparents were avid David Attenborough fans and I used to watch wildlife documentaries with them before acting the scenes out: pretending I was climbing to the top of a rainforest; rescuing a pelican from a cliff or swimming with pink dolphins in an alpine lake. I wanted to inhabit an outside world: interacting with nature and experiencing my environment.
The literature I surrounded myself with reflected this desire and books such as Michael Morpurgo’s Kensuke’s Kingdom; The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and Jamila Gavin’s Wheel of Surya trilogy, swept me away to faraway lands or on adventures in new settings. My other favourites included Louis Sachar’s Holes and The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford. As I got older I turned to narrative nonfiction and travel writing. All of these stories allowed me to experience being in the wilderness from the safety of my home. These are also the things I consider in my own stories: what are the places I want to spend time in when I write and the type of landscapes I want to create for my characters to interact with? I also soon realised that the stories I loved writing were ones that were fictional but grounded in real places and events.
My reading journey planted the seeds for a desire to go on my own adventures and as soon as I was old enough, I worked as much as I could and saved up for train, bus or plane tickets before setting off, armed with a notebook and a pen. And as I travelled, I noticed that my strongest story ideas developed when I was on buses or trains. There’s nothing better than being tucked into a corner of a train, knees up or legs crossed, with nothing to do but think, people watch and ponder for hours as the scenery whizzes past. In my head I’d ask questions about characters’ motivations: why are they doing this and what will they do next? Sometimes, the passing view outside or the events around me were enough to spark whole book ideas.
I’ve wondered if I find writing on public transport inspiring because in a world where we’re surrounded by the buzz of social media distractions, epic to-do lists, and long working days, it offers the freedom to think and be present without the pressure of sitting at a desk and having to come up with an idea; your only goal is to reach the destination.
But there’s also something magical in writing about a setting as you’re in it. I’ve learnt the hard way that it’s all too easy to forget the little details, the tastes, sounds and smells of a place, when you’re far away from it. Now each idea gets its own notebook filled with photos, notes, maps and clippings from its setting that almost acts as a portal back to the place, when I flick through it. This also gives me something tangible to show students during school visits.


About Jess- Having spent her childhood between the UK and India, Jess’ debut novel ‘Running On The Roof Of The World’ was inspired by the stories she heard about the Himalayas from her grandmother. She begun writing it in 2013 when she was living in the Indian Himalayas and trekked into the mountains as part of her research. You can follow her on Twitter @J_T_Butterworth.


What settings do you enjoy creating/reading about? Are you a fan of Jess’s books? 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.

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