Posts Tagged ‘Author interview’

One?

Jennifer L. Cahill

It’s London in the mid-noughties before Facebook, iPhones and ubiquitous wifi, and One? follows the highs and lows of a group of twenty-somethings living in leafy SW4.
Zara has just moved to London for her first real job and struggles to find her feet in a big city with no instruction manual.
Penelope works night and day in an investment bank with little or no time for love. At 28 she is positively ancient as far as her mother is concerned and the pressure is on for her to settle down as the big 3-0 is looming.
Charlie spends night and day with his band who are constantly teetering on the verge of greatness.
Richard has relocated to London from his castle in Scotland in search of the one, and Alyx is barely in one place long enough to hold down a relationship let alone think about the future.


What is your favourite thing about writing books?
I love forming new characters, they didn’t exist before I created them. I love the fact that, hopefully, people will enjoy my books and learn a little. I love the actual creative process, when inspiration strikes and the words start flying onto the page. When I started writing it felt like life turned into an adventure, as all of a sudden everything thwas potentially inspiration.

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
I couldn’t possibly answer this without ruining the plot unfortunately!

What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?
Simply Water, or sometimes juice mixed with coconut water, soda water and coconut kefir.

Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
I’m not sure, I just go completely into the zone, so I’m unaware of any bad habits that I might have.

How do you research your books?
I am naturally curious and lead a busy life, and I find that life itself and the people that I meet along the way inspire me. I write first, and then verify (through research) later. Writers often find that their lives err on the side of the dramatic, and I have definitely found that to be the case with me. Drama is not always good, so with negative experiences I try to learn from them and then I include a few pearls of wisdom in my books if I think that will help people and if it fits in with the story.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I would say I’m a ‘planster’ – a mixture of both 

If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
Camelot because it’s got that mixture of love, chivalry, romance, royalty, history and magic.

If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
I would pick Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones, as long as she would let me play with her dragons. I love the fact that she’s extremely feminine, very beautiful but strong and commanding at the same time. I also do like the fact that she seems a bit magical and has dragons. What’s not to love! She’s by far one of the strongest characters in Game of Thrones.

About the Author

Living in Notting Hill, Jennifer L Cahill works with both individuals and blue chip clients to help them navigate and master change and transformation. She has over seventeen years’ experience in consulting specialising in change, communications, business transformation and personal development. She has a graduate degree in International Commerce and Spanish and a Masters in Business Studies. In her spare time she loves embracing her more creative side. For more information please visit www.JenniferLCahill.com or follow her @JLCAuthor

Publisher: Little Bang Publishing
Publication Date: March 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 77
Genre: Spiritual
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy

Into The Summerland

Julian Cundy

The eternal question – what happens when we die? Is there a consequence from how we lived? Is there a reckoning?
Henry Ashton’s turbulent life is at an end. As he moves on from this world, he discovers how elusive the final peace can be.
With a spirit companion by his side, Henry learns there can be no peace without reconciliation, no rest without acceptance. He must walk his own path to absolution.
“For some souls the transition from mortal life to eternal peace is an easy one, soon completed. For others, who have been troubled in their life or who cannot reconcile the events and their part in them, the journey is longer…and harder. But every soul will find its rest.”


What is your favourite thing about writing books? Who is your favourite character in your book and why? What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?
My favourite thing when writing books is that moment when you hit the synergy. You’ve got the idea, you’ve figured out how you are going to express it and – finally – you’ve got the right words to set down. I have been sitting chuckling away to myself, sometimes with tears, sometimes with electricity crackling in my veins at that moment when it all comes together.
That’s when you don’t care if it’s a best seller or just one that your Mum likes. It’s the moment that you validate yourself as a writer and enjoy the achievement.
In a wider sense, the great thing about writing books is that you have time and space to develop your ideas, opinions and present them in a measured way. In the heat of discussion, debate, argument and confrontation it is often hard to remain focused. At the desk, you can take your time, articulate your thoughts and let the words flow.
My favourite character in my new novella Into the Summerland is the main protagonist Henry. He has all attributes we admire and find frustrating in the war baby generation: Stoic and principled, stubborn and prejudiced. His development and eventual reclamation, whilst keeping his dignity intact is what I’d wish for to all those souls.
My favourite writing drink is tea (of course!) Steaming hot, strong with a little sugar to taste.
If I’m wanting to relax my mind into the nocturnal zone, I will quaff some Southern Comfort with Coke.

Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
Since I quit smoking (5 years and counting!) I’ve been on the look-out for a new bad habit.
Since most of my downtime waiting for the next burst of inspiration involves walking miles and miles along the Essex coast, I don’t really suffer from indulging in any foodie treats.
I guess the worst thing that those around would say is that when I’m in the writing mindset, I get real tunnel vision to the point that the house could be on fire and I’d keep typing. But they’re all pretty considerate and I do take everyone out to dinner to celebrate once it’s all done!

How do you research your books?
With Into the Summerland there were many references to faiths both old and new. Not overtly, I wanted to keep them subtle! But it’s critical if you are going to stray into areas that are special to people that you get it right. The old religions as well as new ones, along with general philosophies and modern life coaching tips have more in common than their followers would admit, but woe betide you for a misplaced edict! My collection of online bookmarks and library of reference books grew quite a lot during that period.
If I’m writing in the ‘real’ world then I spend a lot of time checking timetables for planes, trains and ferries. Time zones, languages and currencies all have to be right if you want to be taken seriously when writing an international thriller.
It’s also always good fun to go out and meet the experts where you can. I walked into Chelmsford Police station a few years ago to check the exact wording of a caution, much to the desk sergeant’s bemusement. Maybe I should have reflected that “You do not have to say anything…”
On a very practical level, when I’m reviewing the manuscript, I’ll make sure the story is hanging together, whilst drawing big blue crosses next to the entries where something needs to be checked. It’s important to get things right, but not as important as making sure you’ve written a great story!

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
When I get the first sketch of an idea, I figure out how it’s going to start and end. What the key plot slices are and which characters need to end up where. Then it’s just a case of how they all get there.
Which I guess makes me the classic Planster. I need the signposts, but I need freedom so the story can be flexible.
I can’t imagine having everything worked out in advance. That would be too restrictive. But I can’t imagine an open-ended writing odyssey without even the slightest notion of a destination.
When writing a previous book, things were really not working out right. I’d completed the manuscript but wasn’t happy. So I changed the ending, removed a couple of chapters and gave one of the main characters a wife.
All of which needed new back stories and a new plot line to get the now-married character to the critical part of the story. As well as a forensic line-by-line re-examination for impacts.
It was at times tortuous, but I came out with a much better book. Upshot being I guess that I need to work on my inner panster!

If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
As my Steampunk style would suggest, something within the 19th century, where the worlds of Charles Dickens and HG Wells would come together in a cacophony of social rectitude and dazzling, anarchic adventure!
I’d revel in the exchanges of social niceties, knowing the underlying tensions that crackle under the surface. I’d join the mad inventors, reaching to the skies and beyond in challenging all known laws of physics, time and gravity.
I’d pick from the finest collection of gentleman’s attire and walk out along the fine streets of London, then donate the rest to the desperately poor that even to this day still live among us.
I’d attend the presentations of the most overblown, sumptuous launches, toasting the lunatics pledging to venture to the moon and back before the smoky chimes of Big Ben call all good subjects to their beds.
There must be fun, or life has no meaning. And there must be compassion or life has no purpose.

If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities. A tragic hero. A waster who falls in love with Lucie Manette, already pledged and then married to Charles Darnay.
Sydney has no time for social niceties and apparently has no concern over how he is perceived. His careless manner belies the relentless drive – initially we believe catapulting him towards an early demise.
Whatever Dickens plugged into to bring this fascinating character to life, I recognise and understand totally. In a world that requires conformity, the rebel shall find mischief, mirth but a long road to peace.
His triumph – and final valediction is by laying down his life for the man who makes his true love happy. He has no affection for Darnay, but complete devotion to his unattainable wife.
I’m sure that Sydney would be highly suspicious, if not highly amused by my interest in him. But he would be splendid company. And spending an evening with a bowl of punch in a tavern with him would be wonderful!

About the Author

Living in Westcliff-on-Sea Essex, Julian Cundy is a British adventurer, dedicated day dreamer, wordsmith and observer of life and all its absurdities. He is a recognisable character in his home town thanks to his eye-catching outfits comprising fine hats, cravats, tails and spats.

Publisher: Little Bang Publishing
Publication Date: March 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 77
Genre: Spiritual
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy

Double Felix

Sally Harris

He skips every second step when he takes the stairs, taps door handles twice and positions objects in pairs. The problem has become so bad that Felix is on the verge of being expelled from school because the principal has had enough of trying to run the school around his very specific rules. Then Charlie Pye arrives and turns his world upside down. She s grown up with very few rules. She eats cereal for lunch, calls a boat home, and has a very loose interpretation of school uniform. The question is, can Felix ever learn to be wrong when he is so obsessed with being right?


What is your favourite thing about writing books?
My favourite part of being a writer is that I get to make things up and get paid for it! I also love the challenge of trying to be relentlessly entertaining in the way that I tell a story and getting to create characters to take on adventures. The hardest part about being a writer for me is creating characters that I really like and then having to give them problems. In my ideal world, everyone would be happy all of the time, but that would make for some very boring stories!

What is your favourite thing about being a MG author?
My favourite thing about being an author for Middle Grade readers is that they are discerning. As a writer you’ve got to respect them as readers or they won’t go along with the journey you have planned for them. There is no talking down to them or trying to pull the wool over their eyes and this really tests you as a writer. Once you have them hooked, however, you can take Middle Grade readers along for the ride to anywhere and they will come along with you. I also love that MG readers enjoy a good laugh and a rip-roaring adventure, yet they are mature enough to tackle some big issues too.

Why did you choose to write a character with OCD traits?
I think that it is really important for readers to be able to see themselves in the characters of the books they are reading. There are lots of children who struggle with various mental illnesses like OCD and I think that they are unrepresented in stories. I wanted to share Felix’s story as a way of showing readers that they are not alone and as a way of helping other students to empathise with their peers. I’m hoping that once someone has read Double Felix, it will help them to understand people around them who are different to themselves and help them to connect in a really positive, inclusive way.

What is your favourite moment in Double Felix? (Without any spoilers!)
That’s such a hard question to answer! I have lots of favourite moments in Double Felix, so I’ve narrowed it down to my favourite three scenes to write:

1. Chapter Two when we meet Felix ‘improving’ Mrs Lovejoy’s Office – because who wouldn’t enjoy messing up their Principal’s Office!

2. I loved writing the scene where Felix and Charlie visit her ‘home’ as I’ve always wanted to live somewhere like that myself.

3. I really enjoyed writing the scene where Felix wants to get into the Library but the door is locked. The image of his bottom wiggling in the air as he tries to squeeze through the window will never leave me!

Where is your favourite place to write?

If I am writing at home, I love to be cosy. Right now it is winter here in Australia, so I’m under a woolly blanket with my dog at my feet acting like a fluffy hot water bottle and my computer on my lap. I also love to get out of the house and write when I can. Taking my laptop to a local cafe for an hour with a cup of coffee is a great way for me to get some words onto the page. Bonus points if I can avoid connecting to the Internet while I’m there and extra extra bonus points if the cafe is in a bookshop!

About the Author


Sally Harris grew up in rural Australia and after graduating from Cambridge with a degree in Children’s Literature, Sally has been busy writing and working as a primary teacher, in both Australia and the UK. Her first book, Diary of a Penguin-Napper, sold over 10 000 copies and her second book, Ruby Marvelous, has inspired children all over the world to try their hand at cooking exploding finger buns! Sally loves animals, including penguins, and, as she can’t have one of those as a pet, she has found that a dog is definitely the next best thing.

Website. Twitter.

Publisher: Wacky Bee Books
Publication Date: May 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 192
Genre: MG Contemporary
Age: MG
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy

The Awakened

Julian Cheek

My name is Sam. I am nothing special but apparently if I don’t wake up, both this world and that other one will be destroyed. Nice One! All I wanted was to disappear into my own world and be left alone. But, No! Even THAT was taken away from me.
Well just wait. You want me to fight? I’ll show you “fight.”
You took the most important thing in my life away from me, and now I am coming for you.
Hidden away in your mountain stronghold, even the rocks around you will not stop me getting to you.
You started this war.
I am going to finish it!
Seventeen year old Sam just wants to be left alone!
He has enough to cope with in his invisible, suburban, existence without having some fantastic and, frankly, unasked-for, alternate reality drop into his life asserting that he has powers beyond his wildest dreams. And that unless he does something, both his world, and that of Muanga-Atua, will come to a horrible end.
A terrifying episode one blustery night may be enough to start to erode the impregnable shell he thought he had built up around himself. A shell, not to keep others out, but to keep the rage in. Could he afford, as was the norm now, just to do nothing?


What is your favourite thing about writing books?
For me, my favourite things is the wrestling, trying to find the right/best way to describe a scene such that the reader is instantly transported into that environment, regardless as to whether they have ever experienced the same for themselves or not. And when there, for them to then associate with the scene, experience or event unfolding, and this, star to associate with the story as a whole

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
Alice! I loved playing with the fact that she is a total enigma to Sam. He doesn’t know whether to blush, curse, get frustrated or run away, but there is something about Alice that gets under his skin, so he is almost powerless to keep away from her. Without giving too much of the story away, Alice is also key to Muanga-Atua, the alternative world Sam discovers. The reader is slowly introduced to her, and hopefully, is kept guessing till the very end.

What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?
Part of the reason for writing this trilogy, (of which “The Awakened” is book one) is because when my partner and I went to New Zealand on sabbatical, we were so amazed with the place, in terms of the scenery, culture, grandeur… and coffee, that we wrote a blog (http://www.hobbitsandseals.wordpress.com) about our experiences, and interestingly, an awful lot of coffee is consumed. So, coffee, which I find comforting, or a G&T, which is of course, the best cold drink, ever

Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
Of course not! Although I am sure my partner, Mitch, would easily be able to rattle off numerous habits, which, whilst not bad in themselves, annoy her! I will leave it for her to come to my rescue. Probably looking out the window and day-dreaming, rather than concentrating on the subject at hand…. And waffling, I am very good at just rambling on and on and…. Hmmm. Enough said.

How do you research your books?
I do a lot of reading and go online frequently during research periods. Another aspect, for example, when describing the scene in Paris (and, no, I will not be writing any spoiler alerts here!) is that we travel a lot and soak up the culture and landscapes as much as possible. We both write, and this comes naturally to us, so we are not describing areas or places which are unrealistic.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I take my writing seriously and so I would describe myself generally as a plotter. The story needs to have some structure from which to build itself. However, once I have refined this “skeleton” I would rather that certain aspects are allowed to wander into the “pantser” home, rip off the curtains and turn up the music till the windows crack. Both feed off each other.

If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
In Piers Anthony’s Adept Series, he paints a fantastic world called “Phaze”. If one could combine the world of Phaze with that of Lord of the Rings, that is where I would like to live. I love wide open scenery with huge mountains that break the skyline, and then disappear into the forests where mankind becomes so small in relation to the ageless trees, earth and nature.

If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
Thomas Covenant, from the Stephen Donaldson series, would probably be the one fictional character I would love to try to befriend. It would be fascinating to sit with him and learn all about wisdom carved from adversary. But, like most best friends, it would be bloody difficult to stop myself thumping him at times for his sheer bloody-mindedness. Sorry, am I allowed to say, “bloody”? No? Bugger!

About the Author

Living in Petersfield, Hampshire, Julian Cheek has worked for over thirty years as an architect working on several major projects including Mercedes World, a competition for Battersea Power Station, NikeTown and most recently a high rise, Versace branded residential building in London. When not designing he is embracing his other creative interests, writing. His first book, You should not wake a hibernating Puff-Adder (2011) was a series of short stories inspired by his childhood growing up in South Africa.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: June 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 306
Genre: Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy

The Past is Present

Kathleen Webb

After the untimely death of her mother and father, twenty-four year old Catherine Morgan leaves the Cambridge home where she has spent the better part of her life, to move to Cornwall. She takes a job as a teacher, working in an old rambling school which has been converted from a domestic home, perched high up on a hilltop, overlooking the beautiful Cornish coastline.
Out of the blue a letter arrives from a bank in Switzerland, advising Catherine that she is the sole heir to a fortune of over thirty million dollars. With no living relatives, save for a great aunt in the USA, Catherine sets out to uncover the source of this staggering inheritance, and to unravel the mystery that lies behind it.
With the help of her great aunt, Catherine begins to dig deep into long forgotten family secrets. Strange dreams begin to plague her. She is haunted by the eerie feeling that someone from her family’s past is trying to help her. Catherine must work to make sense of the past while defending herself, and her fortune, from someone in the present who will stop at nothing to secure the money for themselves.
The Past is Present is the debut novel by Kathleen Webb.


My favourite thing about writing books
I think my favourite aspect of writing is plotting the story line. All the twist and turns gradually come together and the characters come to life!

My favourite character in my book
My favourite character in my book is Great Aunt Izzy. She is quirky and a little eccentric. At the age of 83 she wears long Laura Ashley floral frocks, floppy hats and trainers, but she is highly intelligent and quite canny!

My favourite drink while writing
My favourite drink when I write is a nice cup of tea, several in fact, together with a slice of homemade cake!

Bad habits whilst writing
The only bad habit I think I have is ‘grazing’. I tend to graze on nuts, chopped fruit, dates etc. It helps me concentrate on the plot and keeps my energy levels up. Not good for the waistline!!

How do I research
I research nearly all information on line. I do have a set of encyclopaedias which I refer to from time to time.

Am I a plotter or a pantser
I am definitely a plotter. I devise the beginning and the end and fill in the body of the story as I go along.

Which fictional world would I live in?
I would live in the world of St. Mary Meade; the village in which Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple lives. This period of history is fascinating and the village looks beautiful.

Which fictional character would I befriend?
This would definitely be Miss Marple. She is such an interesting clever character. She comes across as unassuming, but has a wonderful knack of solving all the mysteries.

About the Author

Living in Hertfordshire, Kathleen Webb has always held a passion for writing and since retiring she’s finally found the time to realise her dream and complete her first novel. When not writing she can be found spending quality time with her grandchildren and children and baking delicious decorative cakes.

Publisher: ClinkStreet Publishing
Publication Date: June 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 256
Genre: Contemporary Horror
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy

Author Interview: Olaf Falafel

We are delighted to welcome Olaf Falafel as he talks about the inspiration behind his book Old MacDonald Heard a Parp
“Old Macdonald heard a parp…E-I-E-I-O!”
There are some VERY rude noises coming from Old Macdonald’s farm – who could be responsible?! Sing along to this side-splitting picture book adaptation of everyone’s favourite nursery rhyme.
Old Macdonald’s busy day on the farm keeps getting interrupted by some VERY rude noises … but who could they be coming from?! A hilarious and irreverent take on the classic nursery song from debut author/illustrator, Olaf Falafel, with helpful do-it-yourself instructions so you can parp along to your heart’s content!

What inspired you to write a children’s book?

The idea for Old MacDonald heard a Parp came to me when I was trying to coming up with ideas for child friendly stand up (I quite often gig for Comedy Club 4 Kids). I started singing it to my kids on the way to school and we did all the different noises, before long it had spread round the playground. When the dinner ladies started telling the kids off for singing it I knew it had potential.

You had a pretty whirlwind experience when it came to getting published – how did it all happen and what was the most surreal moment looking back?

Basically, I’m an illustrator during the day and a comedian in the evenings. I had some spare time due to an illustration job falling through at the last minute so I saw it as the ideal opportunity to draw some of Old MacDonald.

I drew a front cover and the first three or four pages of the book and then it got to the point where I started thinking about what I was going to do with the book when it was finished.

This was when I put out the tweet asking if any publishers were interested along with the drawings that I’d already done to give an idea of what the book would look like. Then twitter went a bit crazy for 24 hours, there were loads of great people who retweeted the idea, loads who private messaged me contacts in the publishing world and loads who wrote lovely comments saying they’d buy the book if it ever got made.

I had eight different agents contact me asking to meet up and I ended up getting direct interest from several publishers, including Harper Collins.

Within four days, I had a literary agent (the wonderful Jo Unwin) and a deal with Harper Collins to produce Old MacDonald plus two follow up books. The whole thing felt surreal.

Which books do you remember most fondly from your own childhood?
I read a lot of comics as a child, I really liked The Beano, most of the characters were naughty kids which appealed to me. I later graduated onto Viz comic which isn’t at all child friendly but it must have had an influence on me as Old MacDonald Heard A Fart was describe as ‘Viz for toddlers’ by one of the first standups who saw it.

Who is your favourite literary character and why?
I’ve always had a soft spot for Winnie The Pooh – it sounds completely out of character for me but that tubby bear made a lot of sense.

How important do you think comedy is for children, and can you ever be too young for a good joke?
For me it’s the other way around – children are important for comedy. My two are a constant source of inspiration for funny thoughts that I have turned into stand up comedy. A lot of the stuff they come out with doesn’t make a lot of sense but can be ridiculously funny.

I understand that you do stand-up for children – how do they differ as an audience from adults?
They have no ‘socially acceptable behaviour filter’ so they quite often say whatever they are thinking whenever they feel like saying it. In a lot of ways, performing to kids is a lot like performing to drunk adults (including the likelihood of being vomited on)

What does the future have in store for Old MacDonald and his parping menagerie?

I’m currently working on the second book, Father Christmas Heard A Parp, which is going to be even better than the first book with some great new characters, new ways of making parp noises plus a great new twist at the end. I’ve also got an idea for the third instalment of the ‘parp trilogy’ currently percolating through my brain – fun farty times ahead!

Picture book sensation and stand-up comedian Olaf Falafel burst onto the scene in 2017 when he posted a call-out to publish his his hilarious debut, Old Macdonald Heard a Parp, on Twitter.
Olaf lives and works in London with his wife and two children, who are his biggest fans.

The Everything Machine

Ally Kennen

Eleven year old Olly has a very special delivery – a 3D printing machine, stamped with PROPERTY OF M.O.D and BRITISH SPACE AGENCY. WARNING. DO NOT TAMPER, which has magical powers… It has a name, it speaks, and it can print ANYTHING Olly asks it to – the coolest new toy, a room full of chocolate cake – but what Olly really wants is… his dad.

If you had to describe your book on twitter (140 characters), how would you?
Kids get access to super billion pound 3D printer. They print sweets and a swimming pool then a replica of their Dad. Things go very wrong!

What gave you the inspiration for this book?
I was reading a science magazine article about 3D printers. I was thinking about all the amazing things we can make now, from musical instruments to food to car parts. I started thinking about what we will be printing in ten or twenty years time, and so invented a machine that could print Anything and Everything.

Do you have any habits when you write? (i.e. have to have coffee/listen to music)
I just need to become invisible, for an hour or two so that my family don’t require my services! (I have 4 children) and maybe not too much howling in the background. I write on my laptop anywhere they can’t see me!

What would you create if you could create anything?
I LIKE this question. I’ll create an invisibility machine ha ha, and then a hovering machine, so I can fly around, but not too high because I’m not wild about heights. I’d create a slug-singer, which lures slugs away from my realm. I’d create a portable light beam-machine, which, when you switch on, it colours the wi-fi and mobile signal hotspots, and makes them visible so you could step into them (and out of them) and communicate as needed. (In my rural home phone signals and wi-fi are like rare wildlife. You know they are there but they are intermittent) I could be here all day on this question so will stop here…

What is your favourite children’s book?
You can’t ask me that! I don’t have one, I have many. And my favourite children’s books now are different to when I was a child, or teen. But when I was little I loved Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl and Susan Cooper (The Dark is Rising) I loved The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, When I was a bit older I loved Margaret Mahy’s The Changeover, now I am reading to my own children I love ‘The Pencil’ by Allan Ahlberg, and I remember being blown away by Skellig by David Almond, in my twenties. There are so many brilliant children’s books around now it is impossible to choose.

Who is your favourite author ever?
Again, I don’t have one. Some days a favourite just won’t do and someone completely different is the winner. I love the twisted, dark and crazed imaginative world of the Gormenghast books by Melvyn Peake, I am also a die-hard fan of Jilly Cooper. I love Robert Harris’s thrillers. I also just read ‘Elizabeth and her German Garden,’ by Elizabeth von Arnim, which was a breath of fresh air even though it was first published over a hundred years ago. I also just read ‘Skinny Dip’ by Carl Hiaasen, which was irreverent, wicked, rude and funny. I must try and read some more of his books.

What would you say to a child who wants to be an author when they grow up?
Read, read, read, fill your mind with words and stories. Read comics and newspapers and cereal packets as well as books. If you find reading difficult, listen to audiobooks. Nag your parents to buy you books and comics. Join the library and use it. Be nosey about people. Notice interesting things about them, be it the way they spit when they say ’Thank-you,’ or the shaved eyebrows, or the eye-watering perfume, or the skull earrings, or the deep etched frown-wrinkles. Look for the story in people. Boredom is also very important if you want to be creative. Give yourself time between activities to get so bored you start inventing things. Boredom is a portal to creativity.

Are you working on another book? If you are, can you tell us anything about it?
Two of my sons have become obsessed with football. The eldest, who is nine, most of all. I have had to immerse myself in this world. It has been a steep learning curve. Usually when I think a lot about something I end up writing about it, and so, I have nearly finished the first draft of a football book, about a kid’s team. My son is my test reader and keeps me in check with correct terminology and makes sure I don’t veer away too much from the action. It’s called ‘The Flyers.’


Ally Kennen has been an archaeologist, museum guard and singer-songwriter. Her dark and thrilling teen novels have been nominated for over eleven literary awards. She lives in Somerset with her husband and four children.

Questions By Faye

Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: February 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 355
Genre: Contemporary
Age: MG
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Provided by publisher

The Elisenda Domenech Investigation Series

Chris Lloyd

An intense and brilliantly realised crime thriller set in the myth-soaked streets of Girona
A killer is targeting hate figures in the Catalan city of Girona – a loan shark, a corrupt priest, four thugs who have blighted the streets of the old quarter – leaving clues about his next victim through mysterious effigies left hung on a statue. Each corpse is posed in a way whose meaning no one can fathom. Which is precisely the point the murderer is trying to make.
Elisenda Domènech, the solitary and haunted head of the city’s newly-formed Serious Crime Unit, is determined to do all she can to stop the attacks. She believes the attacker is drawing on the city’s legends to choose his targets, but her colleagues aren’t convinced and her investigation is blocked at every turn.
Battling against the increasing sympathy towards the killer displayed by the press, the public and even some of the police, she finds herself forced to question her own values. But when the attacks start to include less deserving victims, the pressure is suddenly on Elisenda to stop him. The question is: how?

1. Where did you get the ideas from these books?
The whole idea for the first book began when I was researching for a travel guide. I was in the city archives in Girona when I came across a whole load of legends about the city. The more I looked, the more myths and stories I discovered – it was tremendously exciting. One of the stories was of a statue of the Virgin Mary that stood over one of the medieval city gates. She was called the Virgin of Good Death, and she was there to give a final blessing to condemned prisoners as they were led outside the city walls to be executed. The gate was not far from the archive, so I went to find the statue and it was there in a niche above the archway. It was seeing the statue and the idea of the legends that sowed the seed of someone using Girona’s history and myths to bring what they thought was justice to the city, announcing their attacks using the statue – a blessing for the condemned.

2. Do you have any writing habits? (i.e. you have to drink coffee/can only write in a cafe)
That probably comes down to rock music and cups of tea. I always start a writing session listening to music through headphones to immerse myself. I associate every character with a song or piece of music, so if I’m going to write about a specific character, I listen to their song to get me into the zone. For Elisenda, I’ve got about half a dozen songs – most of them by her favourite Catalan rock band, Sopa de Cabra – and I listen to a song or two depending on the mood I want for the scene I’m starting with.
Another of my rituals is to leave a handwritten note the previous session that roughly tells me what the first line I’m writing the next day has to say. Having that to hand makes it easier to get the first words on screen – always the hardest moment for me.
And the final ritual is tea. Getting up from my desk to go downstairs and make a cup of tea is a great moment for gathering my thoughts and thinking of the next scene while the kettle’s boiling. The problem is I nearly always let the tea go cold when I start writing again!

3. Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Ha, I reckon I’m probably somewhere between the two. EL Doctorow said that writing was like driving at night – you know where you’re going, but you can only ever see as far as the end of your headlights at any one time. And that’s probably true for me – it often feels like having a road map with pages missing and tea stains on the important bits! I roughly know how things are going to end up, although that changes more often than I’d like to think, but I don’t always know what’s going to happen along the way. I try to map out the key scenes (knowing full well they’re never written in stone), then make a few notes on how I think the story might get to those points and what has to be included and which characters should do and say what, and then I just start writing. As the story develops, other strands and characters present themselves, but the milestone I’m heading for usually stays pretty much the same. Then once I reach that, it’s onto the next milestone and so on until the first draft is finished.

4. If you could be any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
As a kid, I always wanted to be William from the Richmal Crompton books. He was always well-meaning, but still got into scrapes and adventures – when I was a child, it always struck me as being a pretty neat way of going about things!
As an adult, it might seem strange (and I dread to think what it says about me), but I’d quite like to be Bernie Gunther from the Philip Kerr books about a German detective during WWII. Almost like a much more radical William, he’s an ordinary man trying to be good in bad times. An iconoclast and anti-Nazi, he has to work with the bad guys to work against them. He’s constantly trying to set things right as far as he can in a world going horribly wrong, and he’s often thwarted but still keeps going. I’d love to have his steadfastness and courage, and the front to stand up to scary authority figures the way he does.

5. If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
There are plenty of fictional worlds I’d love to visit, but I’m not sure I’d want to live in any of them – that sounds far too scary. The obvious one here is Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. I’d be fascinated by Unseen University and sentient furniture, but I know I really wouldn’t want to hang around somewhere as terrifying as Ankh-Morpork too long. I’d want to know that I could get out of there any time I wanted.
The same is probably true for the alternative Swindon of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next novels. In these, Thursday is a literary detective chasing fictional characters who escape from the books they’re supposed to be in. She has a pet dodo called Pickwick and she gets to meet all the greatest characters in literature when they decide to go AWOL. It would be great to meet Jay Gatsby and Jane Eyre, but then imagine being stuck in a world where Moriarty and Hannibal Lecter live just around the corner.
I’d also want to visit the Aberystwyth of Malcolm Pryce’s hugely imaginative Louie Knight stories, about a 1930’s-style gumshoe in a parallel Wales where beautiful Welsh spies dance the tango and druids run speakeasies. But even that’s too frightening a prospect. So, instead of living in any of them, if anyone could arrange a short holiday to these worlds, I’d be at the front of the queue. Just don’t ask me to stay there forever.

6. If you had to give advice to aspiring authors, what would you say?
That’s a really hard question, as we’re all motivated in different ways. One of the pieces of advice you often hear is to write what you know. I’d say that more than that, you should write what you feel. I got my first book deal because I was so incensed by a travel guide unfairly denigrating a part of the world I loved that in a wave of self-confidence I’ve never felt before or since, I wrote to them and told them I could do better… and they called my bluff. I ended up writing four travel guides about Catalonia for them.
The same goes for the Elisenda series. I have a passion for Catalonia and for the many things about the country that I love and that I admire, especially the way they maintain their traditions while embracing change. When there is something like that – it can be a place, a person, a cause, a historical period, anything – it’s so much easier to harness that passion and let it come across in your writing. You also can’t always know everything, but you can feel it or empathise with it. No matter how much I research, there are always going to be aspects of Elisenda’s life and her work that I can’t know, but by using what I feel and my own similar experiences and by transposing that onto her situation, I can put myself in her place and (I hope) convey her world in my writing. The secret is to know your passions and let them take you somewhere you might not have thought you’d go.

7. When you’re not writing, what do you do all day?
That’s easy… thinking about writing.
I also work as a freelance translator from Catalan and Spanish into English. Ideally, I try to translate all morning, leaving the afternoon and evening free to write, although sometimes that doesn’t always go to plan as a rush translation will come in and I have to drop what I’m writing and get it done before the deadline. Even when I’m translating, though, ideas come – especially as the stories are set in Catalonia and the texts I translate are in Catalan – so I keep a notebook next to me all the time to jot anything down. It’s surprising how much the day job can send you off on a train of thought when you least expect it.
When I’m not doing either of those, my life is a hectic social whirl of sitting at home reading, watching TV or listening to music… I also love walking – the Brecon Beacons are half an hour one way and the Gower is half an hour the other, so we’re spoilt for choice – and going to live music or stand-up in Cardiff. My wife’s a painter, so we often go to gallery opening nights and exhibitions, which are great fun – artists are a pretty cool crowd! And, of course, I’m forever planning my next trip to Girona.

8.​ Do you have any more books that you’re working on?
I have a few Elisenda stories swirling around inside my head, but right now I’m working on a new idea that I’m finding really exciting. It’s another police procedural, but very different, both in terms of time and place. The story is set in Paris in 1940 in the early days of the Nazi Occupation. It’s a period that’s always fascinated me, and at the moment, I’m devouring newsreels, films and books from the time to immerse myself in the atmosphere.

Lastly, thank you for hosting me on Big Book Little Book today.

Chris was born in an ambulance racing through a town he’s only returned to once and that’s probably what did it. Soon after that, when he was about two months old, he moved with his family to West Africa, which pretty much sealed his expectation that life was one big exotic setting. He later studied Spanish and French at university, and straight after graduating, he hopped on a bus from Cardiff to Catalonia where he stayed for the next twenty-four years, falling in love with the people, the country, the language and Barcelona Football Club, probably in that order. Besides Catalonia, he’s also lived in Grenoble, the Basque Country and Madrid, teaching English, travel writing for Rough Guides and translating. He now lives in South Wales, where he works as a writer and a Catalan and Spanish translator, returning to Catalonia as often as he can.
He writes the Elisenda Domènech series, featuring a police officer with the newly-devolved Catalan police force in the beautiful city of Girona. The third book in the series, City of Drowned Souls, is published on 6 February 2017.

Interviewed by Faye

Publisher: Canelo
Publication Date: July 2015
Format: Ebook
Pages: 318
Genre: Crime
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye

Blog Tour: Shadow Magic

Joshua Khan

Thorn, an outlaw’s son, wasn’t supposed to be a slave. He’s been sold to Tyburn, an executioner, and they’re headed to Castle Gloom in Gehenna, the land of undead, where Thorn will probably be fed to a vampire.
Lilith Shadow wasn’t supposed to be ruler of Gehenna. But following the murder of her family, young Lily became the last surviving member of House Shadow, a long line of dark sorcerers. Her country is surrounded by enemies and the only way she can save it is by embracing her heritage and practicing the magic of the undead. But how can she when, as a girl, magic is forbidden to her?
Just when it looks like Lily will have to leave her home forever, Thorn arrives at Castle Gloom. A sudden death brings them together, inspires them to break the rules, and leads them to soar to new heights in this fantasy with all the sparkle and luster of a starry night sky.

First up, can you tell us something unique about you?
I have no birth certificate.

What was your favourite part about writing Shadow Magic?
The scenes in Castle Gloom. It was great to create the spookiest haunted house ever, but one where people lived in, and loved. I loved writing about the characters who lived there, all the way from lily who rules it down to the old servants who moan and groan but you know, deep down, would never wish to be anywhere else. And of course the ghosts who’ve been there longest of all…

Where is your favourite place in the world?
Oh, that changes all the time. This year it was a balcony in Croatia, at night, watching the lights of the boats on the sea.

If you could have one fictional character as a best friend, who would you choose and why?
Superman. He’s my favourite superhero and I’d like to know how he remains good in such a world. It must be nigh-impossible.

Who is your favourite character in Shadow Magic?
Gabriel. He’s horrible, selfish, nasty and completely useless. But by the end you sort of feel sorry of him.

When you’re in the writing zone, do you have any peculiar habits? (i.e. writing in a dark room, drinking bizarre drinks).
I like writing in cafes. I write better when there’s some background activity. Ok, it’s not that odd. The study at home is south-facing, so sometimes during the summer I write with my trousers off. Is that better?

What was your favourite book as a child?
The Hobbit. It’s still my favourite book.

If you had to describe Shadow Magic in a tweet (140 characters) what would you say?
Take one princess of darkness. Add an outlaw boy. Shake in some giant vampire bat. Then give them the job of saving the kingdom of undead!

Questions by Faye

Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: October 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 336
Genre: Fantasy
Age: Upper MG
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book

Blog Tour: The Elders

Inbali Iserles
FOXCRAFT THE ELDERS Isla’s search for her missing brother, Pirie, has brought her to the vast Wildlands. The forest is a treacherous place for a fox cub, but Isla is talented in foxcraft — ancient arts of cunning known only to her kind.
Skilled though she is, Isla’s grasp of foxcraft is still new. And she’s not alone… A cruel and mysterious fox stalks the forest, with the power to enslave others to his will. In order to survive, Isla must learn to trust in the rustic Wildlands foxes.
But there are tales of others — a council of Elders who are masters of foxcraft, and who warily guard its most potent secrets. If Isla wishes to master her gifts and find her brother, then the Elders may be her only hope.

First things first, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Perhaps something not many people know?
Hello! Hmm, let me think… I was born in Jerusalem but if you go back far enough, the Iserles family was Spanish – and interestingly, that’s where most people guess I’m from on the basis of looks.

What else? Not a lot of people know that while I love aubergines in almost every form, I’m scared to touch them because I burned my hand on one as a child.

And finally… Although I have an incredibly sweet dog, a Japanese Spitz called Michi, I would never define myself as a “dog person” or a “cat person”. I’m an animal lover and it’s in my DNA. As a child, I appalled my grandmothers by feeding stray cats and nagged my parents for pets of every kind (including hamsters, gerbils, rabbits, cats and a guinea pig). I love all animals really… Yes, even rats. Even snakes. This doesn’t mean I’d invite either into my bed!

How different was it writing a sequel?
In some ways, writing a sequel is easier as you have already established the parameters of the world – something that requires careful handling in fantasy. One of the challenges is how to recap on the previous book without bogging down the action. I prefer a light touch where possible, with gentle clues and reminders buried in plot-driven sequences.

What is your favourite aspect of writing?
I absolutely love thinking up stories. The thrill of new landscapes, of magic and fantasy worlds… The shaping of characters… This is what I live for. I’m less of a natural editor as by the time I’m editing the manuscript, I already know what happens, and I’m excited to get to the next thing. To edit, one needs patience – a quality I possibly don’t have in abundance…

Where is your favourite place to write?
I usually write in my study. I love the idea of writing in cafes but I’m far too easily distracted. I download playlists for each book but I don’t listen to music while I actually write. I’m a fan of writing retreats when these are feasible, and my favourite bolt hole is a lovely little place on the Suffolk coast, nestled between marshes, woodland and sea.

Can you tell us anything exciting about your main protagonist?
The series is told in first person through the eyes of Isla, a young fox. She returns to her den to discover that her family has disappeared and strange foxes are circling. The den itself smells of cinders. The foxes turn on her and she flees into the night. That is how the adventure begins…

I found it thrilling to narrate a story through a fox’s perspective. Isla is brave, loyal and stubborn. True to her kind, she is inquisitive – sometimes at her own expense. She takes risks.

If you could live in any fictional world, where would you choose to live?
Hobbiton in Middle Earth, but only after Sauron has been vanquished!

What was your favourite book to read as a child?
As a young child, I was a fan of Mog, Judith Kerr’s famously forgetful cat. I then became enchanted by Tove Jansson’s Moomin adventures. I still adore all things Moomin! Moving into my teens, my favourite book was Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Such characters, such a sense of time, of mood. Of jeopardy and hope!

Can you describe your book in a tweet? (140 characters)
Foxcraft: The Elders

Isla’s quest continues. The mysterious Elder Foxes hide deep in the Wildlands. Can they unlock the secret of her brother’s disappearance?

Questions by Faye

Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: October 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 304
Genre: Fantasy
Age: MG
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book