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

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Top Ten Tuesday- My 5 Bookish Resolutions for 2018

Hello everybody! Today I’m taking part in Top Ten Tuesday, which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Given the title, this may be slightly confusing, but for today’s list I’ve decided I only wanted to have 5 I actually intend to attempt rather than 10 I’m writing just for the sake of it . Onto my resolutions!


1) Read 100 books
– I know I’ve said I’m not making myself a goal for how many books I want to read, but I’ve decided to have this very loose and unofficial one. I think I’m just going to write down the name of a book each time I finish it, and then count them all at the end of the year


2) Reread more
– I’ve always been a big rereader, but I did it very little after my blog began. At the end of 2017, I did a few rereads and it was such a joy. Three I’m especially determined to achieve (as they’re lengthier) are the My Sister the Vampire series, the Adventure Island series and the Pony Club Secrets books.


3) Feel even less guilt over DNFing
– I’m admittedly pretty good at this one already, so next year I’d like to just wipe the guilt altogether. I hate the feeling of not enjoying something lots of people did, and feel so guilty about not finishing them/what people will think of that decision, but next year I’m going to attempt to stop worrying about it quite so much.


4) Read some Shakespeare
– since we started doing exams, I no longer get the chance to read Shakespeare at school. Before, we read two (A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Merchant of Venice, the latter of which I fell in love with) and I thought they were fab. I want to read at least 2 or 3  this year, if I can hunt down good editions.


5) KEEP BLOGGING
– is this bookish? My blog has the word books in the title, so I’m counting it, and I have lots of bookish content evem though I’ve branched out to a few other things too (and intend to do so even more in 2018). No matter what happens over the next year, I’d like to remain as a blogger. I honestly love doing it and I’ve met so many amazing people through it too.


Thank you so much for reading! Do you have any resolutions for 2018? I’d love to hear about them in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl!


Amy xxx

Why I Loved Doing Blogmas

Hello everybody!


Today, I’m doing a little bit of reflection on why I enjoyed doing blogmas so much during December. After all the stress was out of the way, I thought it was an incredible experience, and one I personally loved (though I totally respect anyone who doesn’t enjoy it; every blogger is amazing regardless 💜). Unless anything drastically changes over the next year (which is entirely possible), I’m very much hoping to take part again in 2018. Onto the reasons why I decided this!

 Increased Engagement– I’d be a liar if I didn’t own up to liking a boost in my stats, but I mean other things by this too. I thoroughly enjoyed reading other bloggers’ posts and trying to comment on and engage with them.


Creativity
– I got to come up with ideas, both for myself and working with guests to decide on their posts. It was brilliant fun, and I love how differently they’ve all turned out, even when working from similar titles. It was a big challenge, especially considering that I usually post 13 times a month on average, but I’m genuinely thrilled with every idea that made the cut (and some which didn’t, that I’ve added to thoughts for 2018 blogmas)


Getting to Organise Something-
I’m nowhere near near as organised as some people seem to think I am, but I do really quite enjoy it. Blogmas unleashed my inner organiser (blogging does in general, if I’m honest). Spider diagrams of brainstorming sessions and schedules have been in my notebook since July. This was admittedly extreme, but I’m so proud I pulled it off. In the interest of full disclosure, I already have a loose schedule in mind for blogmas 2018, should I take part…


Doing Something a Bit Different
– When my blog first began, I posted exclusively about books. Then I introduced the odd Disney post, and then a lifestyle tag and then films. I really enjoy writing them for a change of pace, and I loved doing festive versions during Blogmas! In the New Year I’m hoping to start talking a little bit about music too, which I’m super excited about. I hope you like these different posts too!


Guest Posts-
As well as hosting some amazing guest posts here, I also contributed posts to several blogs I love. It was so much fun, and I really couldn’t pick a favourite of the ones I got to write!


Thank you so much for reading! Why did you love doing blogmas, if you did it?


Amy xxx

A Q&A : Books, Music and TV

Hello everybody!

A little (a long), while ago on Twitter, I asked for some questions for a Q&A post, so today I’m going to answer them all. I was so pleased with all the questions, and I already can’t wait to do another one of these (especially if anyone enjoyed it; please let me know what you think in the comments!)

Onto the post!  

First and last crush on a fictional character?

The first was Aiden from Pony Club Secrets, last was probably Étienne from Anna and the French Kiss. The two biggest are Nick from Geek Girl and Sirius Black.


Favourite show/musical? And favourite character from it?

My favourite musical is Sunshine on Leith, which is based on the music of the Proclaimers, and I also loved Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat


If you were a Disney character, which one would you be and why?

This is SO hard. I asked my mum who she thought I’d be, and she said Belle as I’m almost always reading! I’d say Rapunzel, but I don’t think I’m optimistic enough in all honesty. In a dream world, I’d like to be Olaf.


How do you plan/write your reviews?

Badly 😂. I try and write notes on as many as possible throughout the month, then sit down at the end and write them all up (and usually put it off till the night before I want the post to go up).  If I forget to write notes, I wing it.

 If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?

I’d love to be a dog (probably either a cocker spaniel or a golden retriever, though really any breed as I adore them all).


Peter Pan or Tinkerbell?

Tinkerbell. Peter Pan is FAR too whiny for my taste.


What’s your favourite guilty pleasure snack?

I try not to be guilty about treats, but I do indulge in quite a bit of chocolate…

 Do you think words have the power to change us and if so do you think this is a good thing?

Absolutely, and yes. Words shape who I am, and my knowledge.


What book have you had on your TBR forever, that you still haven’t read yet?

Loads! Based on the person who asked me this (hey Aimee, if you’re reading) I’ll say Abi Ephinstone’s books. I read the Dreamsnatcher and enjoyed it, but have still never got round to books 2 or 3.


If you could only read one author or genre for the rest of your life who/what would you choose?

I’d read mysteries, because you can find a mystery in most books and could therefore read almost everything!

 What was your first favourite book?

A picture book called Second Best.
What are your pet bookish peeves/things you can’t stand?

I’m not keen on selfish or whiny main characters (or those I perceive to be those things, anyway), unless it’s clear it’s been done on purpose. For example, I really rooted for Olivia in Close Your Pretty Eyes by Sally Nicholls as she’s not conventionally likeable but we can see why. I’m 50/50 with animal deaths, and I detest any poor treatment of animals. 

 What do you really love to see in a book?

I personally quite like instalove if done well, but I also like slow-burn romances. I love characters who are so brave but don’t really know it, if that makes sense. I love seeing a foreign country, or fantasy worldbuilding. I love a good mystery, of course. And a really nice friendship!.

Three elements for a perfect story?

A middle grade mystery, with fab friendships and an exciting, excellent plot.

What’s your fave mythical creature?

I love a good dragon, and also unicorns.

If you could live in one bookish world, which one would you choose?

Stoneybrook in the Babysitters Club. I’ll be nice and safe, be able to look after lovely children and go on fun adventures to places like New York.

What got you started with blogging?

I had wanted to for ages, and decided in June that I might as well give it a shot.

Most underrated book?

Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho-Yen, which will most likely not come as a surprise. I’m planning a whole new feature this year about other books I love which are underrated and why I think everyone should read them. The first will be my favourite Enid Blyton series…

Most underrated Disney film?

I think I’ll go for Oliver and Company! I also bareky ever see love for Zootropolis, which I adore SO much.


Favourite t.v. show?

I love lots, but Suits is probably my all time favourite. There is literally nothing I dislike about it.


Best thing to binge watch on Netflix?

I have only ever binged the Good Wife on Netflix, which I adored. On DVD, I got through Suits, Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and the Mentalist VERY quickly.


Your ideal cosy night in?

A nice film or boxset, Maltesers and Counters, mint choc chip ice cream, crisps, a blanket, pillows and dog cuddles please.


Favourite genre to read
?

Mysteries!


Who are your top 5 singers?

George Ezra and Into the Ark are my joint absolute favourites then Tom Odell, Taylor Swift, Shawn Mendes and Coldplay.


Who are your top 3 favourite Grey’s Anatomy characters?

Meredith, Christina and Alex.

 What underrated book do you wish everyone would read?

Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho-Yen, or the 39 Clues series.


What classics do you plan to read in 2018?

I have a few I want to read, but I’d especially love to get to Anne of Green Gables, A Little Princess and the Wolves of Willoughby Chase.  I’d also like to give some Jane Austen a go!

What is your daemon? 

Ive never read Northern Lights, so I’m not really sure. According to the quiz I just took, a terrier. 

What was the last book you DNF?

I think it was Things a Bright Girl Can Do. 

What’s your favourite and least favourite genre?

MG- Mystery and fantasy, YA- contemporary for favourites. Not big on horror or dystopia at all, and I’m not that into sci-fi.

If you were a book character, what type of book would you be most likely to end up in? (Mystery, adventure, etc)?

I’d like to feature in a mystery, seeing they’re my favourites. Realistically it’d probably be very dull! My life would not make a good book.


Which characteristics in a protagonist really make you connect with them?

I love really brave characters that have to work hard to be so, e.g. Hazel from Murder Most Unladylike or Ade from Boy in the Tower. And those who love animals are always lovely too!
 Which fictional character would you most like to marry?

In what may come as no shock whatsoever at this stage, Nick from Geek Girl. Or maybe Airen from Pony Club Secrets. Outwith books, it’s even harder. Patrick Jane from the Mentalist, Harvey Spectre from Suits and Caleb Rivers from Pretty Little Liars (and also Jackson or Derek or Mark from Grey’s Anatomy). And film wise, Duckie from my all time favourite Pretty in Pink or Andrew from the Proposal, a new fave from this year.Thank you so much for reading! Do we share any answers? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl

Amy xxx 

The Ringing in the New Year Book Tag

Happy New Year everybody!


To kick off 2018, I thought it would be fun to do the Ringing in the New Year Book Tag, which I found on 
Tiny Obsessions 


Onto the post!


BEST
BOOK/SERIES THAT YOU’VE READ IN 2017.

I think my overall favourite was Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth, which is a contemporary adventure set in the Himalayas which I shout about constantly.


AUTHORS THAT YOU’VE RECENTLY FOUND AND WOULD LIKE TO READ MORE OF IN THE NEW YEAR

I will be tracking down more of Lari Don’s books. Can’t think of anyone else!


MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK TURNED MOVIE?

Love, Simon (even though I still don’t like that title at all! I shall be calling it Simon Vs forevermore)

NAME A CHARACTER THAT YOU WOULDN’T MIND SHARING A KISS WITH AT MIDNIGHT (IF THERE IS ONE
)

Nick from Geek Girl. 💜 him. Or maybe Sirius from Harry Potter.


WHAT’S ON YOUR TBR FOR 2017? (TOP 5 WILL SUFFICE IF IT’S AN EXTREMELY LONG LIST!)

Mine has over 100 Books on it. I really want to get to the Northern Lights trilogy especially, and all the review books I have, and classics, and… I could go on forever (and ever and ever)


HOW MANY BOOKS DO YOU HOPE TO READ IN 2017?

Around 100, though I don’t plan to count them!


WILL YOU PARTICIPATE IN THE GOODREADS READING CHALLENGE (OR ANY OTHERS)?

Nope! I don’t really like putting pressure on myself to read a certain number of books by x time any more. It just made me feel awful about how much slower I’ve become since I was younger And had much more time)


Thank you so much for reading! Do we share any answers? What would you have said for some of these? I’d love to to hear from you down in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl!


Amy xxx

My 5 Favourite Christmas Films

Hello everybody, and welcome to day 12 of blogmas!


Today, I’m going to be chatting about my favourite Christmas films. Onto the post!

 

Miracle on 34th Street (1994)-
this is my very, very favourite Christmas film. Everything about it is magical and it never fails to make me feel more Christmassy afterwards. Mara Wilson is just exceptional in it, and Richard Attenborough pulls off the real Santa vibe perfectly. If you don’t know what this film is about, it’s the story of a little girl called Susan as she tries to convince her department store organiser mum that the Santa she’s hired is the real deal, and also them saving the store from closure.


The Snowman/The Snowman and the Snowdog
– I used to find these incredibly dull when I was younger but I adore them now. They have a really classic, cosy sort of feel to them,they capture a very special idea of winter magic and the endings never fail to make me cry. The characters never speak, but I’m still incredibly invested in them and their story.


Elf
– I think this is on a lot of lists with this title, and it is well deserved. It’s a lot sillier humour than I’d usually go for in some scenes but I think Will Ferrell pulls off Buddy’s hyper, super sweet character off well and I love the focus on finding your family and yourself.


Arthur Christmas
– this is one I have to be in a particular mood for, but I love the modern take on the Santa story, and Arthur is a lovely character who I really rooted for. It’s about Santa’s younger son, who is a bit of a black sheep in his family, as he sets off to deliver a present left behind in the North Pole to a little girl called Gwen.


Frozen
– is Frozen a Christmas film? I’m not sure, but I’m counting it because a) it’s set in Winter and b) I went to see it just after Christmas in 2013 (HOW CAN THIS FILM BE 4 YEARS OLD ALREADY?!). I love the music, I love the characters (especially Olaf, who I adore with my whole heart) and I love the animation work itself, which is stunning. I own the singalong addition for added fun too 😁


Thank you so much for reading! What are your favourite Christmas films? Do we share any choices? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

Amy xxx