Posts Tagged ‘Author interview’

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
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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
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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
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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
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Author Interview: Emma Barnes

We are delighted to welcome Emma Barnes author of Chloe’s Secret Princess Club( illustrated by Monique Dong ).
Chloe's Secrete Princess ClubChloe never means to get into trouble but sometimes her plans get a little out of control. With her two best friends, she forms a Secret Club dedicated to making their dreams come true – but fantasy and reality don’t always mix!

Where did the idea come from for Chloe’s Secret Princess Club?

There were a few different things that came together. I’d really wanted to write about a very imaginative, dreamy little girl – somebody who tended to get carried away by her own fantasies. So that was Chloe. And so many girls go through a “princess” stage – I thought it would be really fun to see a group of girls trying to act out their princess fantasies in real life and the kind of disasters that could follow on from that!

What was your favourite book to read as a child?

There were so many. One was Harriet the Spy, which was maybe the inspiration for the fact that Chloe and her friends write things down in a secret notebook, just as Harriet did. I also loved the Narnia books, including The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – which Chloe also loves and which leads her into trouble in chapter one.

What is your favourite thing about being a children’s author?

Working in my pyjamas! Coming up with crazy ideas in my head, and trying to get them down on paper in all their craziness. I also love meeting children and seeing how they respond to the books – even when they mistake me for Enid Blyton, which actually happened once.

Are you a planner or a panther?

I do both. Typically I do plan, but then a lot of the story changes when I write (and rewrite) the book.

What are your top three places to write?

Libraries. Trains. And I love cafes – my favourite is the Opposite Cafe in my hometown of Leeds.

What are you currently working on?

That’s a secret! It’s too early to tell anyone – it needs nursing a bit longer.

What is your favourite fairytale?

Cinderella. It’s such a classic.

If you had to describe your book in a tweet (140 characters), what would you say?

Chloe is determined to be a princess – and she isn’t going to let ordinary life get in her way!

Interview questions by Faye

portrait
Emma is the author of several books for children, including JESSICA HAGGERTHWAITE: WITCH DISPATCHER, for which she was nominated for the Branford Boase award, and the WILD THING series. As well as writing, she enjoys spending time working in schools and libraries. You can learn more about Emma and her work by visiting her website (here),Facebook Page (here), or her Twitter account (here)

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Author Interview: Paula Harrison

We are delighted to welcome Paula Harrison, author of Robyn Silver: The Midnight Chimes.
The Midnight ChimesLife was very ordinary for ten-year-old Robyn Silver. The often-ignored middle child in a big family, the most excitement she had was the dash to the dinner table to reach the last slice of pizza. Until… she begins to see creepy creatures around her town – creatures that are invisible to everyone else. And when her school is forced to decamp to mysterious Grimdean House and she meets its equally mysterious owner, Mr Cryptorum, Robyn finds herself catapulted headfirst into an extraordinary adventure – with more excitement than she could possibly have imagined. Be careful what you wish for…

Robyn Silver sounds like a really fun and adventurous character, how did you come up with her and what is your favourite aspect of her personality?

I wanted to write about a girl who thinks she’s nothing special – someone who doesn’t have any particular skills or talents. Then she’s put in an extraordinary situation and she finds out she has tonnes of grit and determination. That’s my favourite thing about her.

Where is your favourite place to write your books?

It would be so awesome to say a little house by the sea! I love the coast but I live nowhere near it. I write at my computer in my dining room. It’s near the kettle which is important.

What is your favourite part of being a Children’s author?

Meeting readers! It’s so much fun to talk about books to children. I used to be a teacher so I did this even before I changed profession. Seeing my story brought to life inside a fantastic book jacket is amazing too.

Do you plot your novels or just see where they take you?

I plot them but once I start writing that plan often goes out the window. That’s OK though. It’s important to listen to where the characters are taking you – as long as the characters are being true to themselves you won’t go wrong.

Why do you think books for children are important?

They’re part of the process of learning about the world and literally growing an imagination. Also, to put my teacher hat back on, research shows that children who read for pleasure do better in all subjects at school including maths. I wish there was even more of a drive to get children reading. I know there’s great work going on but I’d love to see a big government backed drive that would recognise the power of reading to benefit children’s futures.

If you had to face one of the supernatural creatures in Robyn Silver, which would you prefer to face?

Oh tricky! A kobold would be the least dangerous but they look like a goblin crossed with a porcupine and they have a very nasty temper.

Do you possess any of the same personality traits as Robyn Silver?

I’m persistent to the point of being down-right obstinate. I’m not sure how endearing this is! I’ll ask my husband.

If you had to describe your book in a tweet (140 characters) what would you say?

Born on the stroke of midnight, Robyn Silver is drawn into a world of monsters. Luckily she has friends and a hidden talent at sword fighting
Interview questions by Faye

Paula Harrion profile photoPaula Harrison is a best-selling children’s author, with worldwide sales of over one million copies. Her books include The Rescue Princesses series. She wanted to be a writer from a young age but spent many happy years being a primary school teacher first. you can learn more about Paula and her work by visiting her Website (here) or her Twitter account (here).

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Self Published Sunday: Interview with Elida May

Please welcome Elida May as she talks about her book Following Evan
Following EvanThree years on from the sudden death of her husband Matt and a subsequent miscarriage, interior designer Laura is still lost in grief, hiding out in the smart London townhouse that was going to be her family home. On the encouragement of her best friend Carla, she signs up to a dating website and receives a message from a mysterious stranger, imploring her to visit him in New York because he has seen her face in his dreams.
Meanwhile, Laura visits an art gallery and is captivated by a painting of a beautiful woman in a flowing dress. It seems to be speaking directly to her, beckoning her to take a leap of faith.
These seemingly disparate events lead Laura on an epic journey to the bustling streets of the Big Apple and the desert landscape of Wyoming, where the clues to her future happiness are waiting to be discovered…

Tell us a little more about Following Evan, where did the initial inspiration come from?

I was inspired by my own life experience and by my hopes and dreams during two very difficult times in my life. In 1993, when I was 18, my father, whom I considered my Guardian Angel, died from lung cancer. A year later, and still grieving, I got married, but I quickly realized that my husband’s view of life and marriage was the complete opposite of mine. I felt suffocated, but I didn’t have the strength to walk out. After 16 long years he died suddenly. I poured years of accumulated thoughts and feelings into my main character, Laura. She stared to live with my pain and hopes.

Laura starts the book struggling with depression. How did you research this mental illness?

I experienced it. I was born in 1972 in communist Albania. It was a poor, repressed and atheist society, which was ruled by the military. I left the country aged 21 and moved to London, but life for me didn’t improve. I had no one to talk to, I was far away from my family and I was forgetting my mother tongue while not yet knowing how to properly express myself in English. I became more and more withdrawn until I was almost incapable of looking after myself. My recovery was a process that took several years and involved medication and the help of a psychologist.
Following Evan came out of all those experiences and the impact they had on me. Writing became a therapeutic outlet. Starting was the easy part, but finishing the novel was much more difficult. I started it as a distraction, but I completed it as a way of proving to myself that I could accomplish what I had aimed to do.

When you started writing this book, did you have a plan for where it would go or did you just put pen to paper and see where it took you?

I knew the beginning and I knew the end, but I didn’t know the route. As the book emerged, I was surprised to meet so many new personalities and characters.

Where and how do you do most of your writing?

I do most of my work in my bedroom. I like it when the window is open and I can see the white clouds embellishing the deep blue sky. I handwrite everything first, then once a week I type up all my notes on my computer. I prefer to write at night when the noises of day have quieted down and it’s only me, a cup of coffee and a clean sheet of paper. It then that the magic happens for me and the words flow. However, sometimes I do sit and write in my favorite coffee shop, where I can people-watch. I love the hustle and bustle of public spaces and hearing the buzz of conversations going on around me.

Do you have any plans to write more books?

I have been writing short stories and poems since I was 12. I started writing them in Albanian and Italian. When I moved to London I didn’t know any English, so it was a major challenge learning the language in order to express my feelings and write my book. Despite these difficulties, I plan to write novels for the rest of my life.

If you had to describe your book in a Tweet(140 characters),what would you say?

After becoming involved with a mysterious artist, depressed Laura is led to another continent and finds a new reason for living and loving.

Who is your favorite character in your book? (we won’t tell anyone! ;))

These characters are my babies and what mother can admit to having a favourite? Each has their own challenges and attractions, and I love them all – even if they are naughty at times!

What was your favorite thing about writing this book?

Surely every author’s first novel is a process of emptying out the accumulated thoughts and feelings of a lifetime. Writing this book gave me a sense of freedom I hadn’t experienced as a child or during my early adult life. It also gave me the opportunity to find my voice…it was almost like a silent song bursting out.

Interview questions by Faye

ElidaElida May was born in Albania in 1972. Growing up in a Communist country, where access to books was severely restricted, helped to nurture her love of the written word, and she avidly read whatever genre she could get hold of, including a lot of European literature. Today Elida lives in London with her son Elidon. Following Evan is her first novel, and she is currently working on her second, Diary of Michael Vica. TO learn more about Elida and her work check out her social media accounts on Facebook (here), Twitter (here) and Instagram (here).

Following Evan is available to buy now from Amazon (here)

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Author Interview: Karen McCombie

We are delighted to welcome Karen McCombie to Big Book Little Book as she talks about her latest novel, The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall.
The Whispers of Wilderwood HallEllis is losing track of time…
After leaving her friends to move to a crumbling Scottish mansion, Ellis is overcome by anxiety and loneliness. Then she hears whispers in the walls…and finds herself whisked back in time to 1912.
At first, she feels like she’s finally home. But the past may not be as perfect as it seems – and is there more to hope for in the present than she first thought?

Wilderwood Hall is just one of many of your books, but can you tell us what your favourite book has been to write?
Erk! That’s a bit like asking me to choose my favourite child*! But okay, since you’re holding a gun to my head (sort of), I’ll say last year’s evacuee novel ‘Catching Falling Stars’, because it was my first historical book and fascinating to research. Though I did love writing ‘Life According to Alice B. Lovely’… the weird and wonderful Alice B. still feels spookily real to me. Oh, and my younger ‘You, Me and Thing’ series was SO much fun to write, and I adored the illustrations Alex T. Smith did for it. And– [large hook appears and pulls Karen away from the keyboard…]

Here at Big Book Little Book, we would love to know how you first got into writing?
I worked as a teen magazine journalist, occasionally writing short stories for the mags. Reviewing books wasn’t part of my job, but I loved flicking through the novels that publishers sent in. The great ones inspired me to have a go myself. The not-so-great ones inspired me too, just in a different way!

Over your time writing you have written both series and standalone books, what is your favourite kind to write and why?
I’m lucky enough to write not only standalones and series, but books for different ages and genres too. I even write for a dyslexia-friendly/struggling reader-friendly publisher, and that’s pretty interesting because you have to think about complex phrasing etc that can trip up less confident readers. And the truth is, I enjoy all these different styles of books. Going back and forth between a long-form novel and then a short early reader, for example, is really great; the change of pace keeps you fresh.

Do you have any odd writing habits? (i.e. having to listen to music?)
Oh, I’d LOVE to listen to music! I’m so envious of authors who talk about the playlists they devised as a background mood for their work in progress… But it’s fatal for me; I just end up tuning into the words instead of my work. Even instrumental music doesn’t help; I start daydreaming and staring out of the window.

Where is your favourite place to write?
I am such a fidget, especially in the mornings; like a dog, I need to go out for a walk. So most mornings, I pack my laptop and head out to work in a café or library, which makes me more settled and focussed for writing in my wee back bedroom office in the afternoons. But my favourite place to write is the local garden centre café. It’s so light and bright, and perfumed by plants…it’s just fab. And most importantly, it has cake.

What is your favourite thing about being an author?
Ooh, there’s a lot of good stuff: dreaming up a new idea; having an editor love it; finding a way to solve something you’re stuck on; the thrill of finishing your novel; going out to schools for events… But my favourite? Well, nothing beats seeing your ACTUAL book in an ACTUAL shop. That’s always a total buzz.

If you had to describe Wilderwood Hall in a tweet (140 characters), what would you say?
I just practised on Twitter! So, here it is…
Ellis struggles with loneliness when she and Mum move to a dilapidated mansion in Scotland. That’s till she hears the whispers in the walls…

Who is your favourite character in Wilderwood Hall?
Ellis; when she struggles with waves of anxiety I want to wrap my arms around her and tell her it’ll be okay. I’d like to tell my 13-year-old self the same, sometimes. (I tell my daughter sometimes too.)

If you could live in any fictional world, which one would you choose?
Could I just visit? I’d love to spend time with author Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family in her autobiographical world of ‘Little House of the Prairie’. To see the prairies and buffalo and unspoilt world of 19th century America… it would be truly amazing. But then I’d like to come back to my sofa and eat crisps and watch ‘Friends’ with my daughter.

What is your next book going to be about? If you’re allowed to let us know!
I’m writing more historical and more funny books (not at the same time, or in the same books!). I’m not sure yet which is going to be published when, so if I say which novel is coming next, I’ll probably get it wrong and look stupid. But hey, looking stupid doesn’t usually stop me doing anything!

* Milly. Phew that was hard**.

** Alright, alright, she’s my ONLY child, so it wasn’t that difficult, I suppose!
Interview questions by Faye
Karen McCombieKaren McCombie is from Aberdeen but now lives in North London with her husband, daughter and one big ginger cat.
Before Karen became a full-time writer she worked for several teen magazines such as Just Seventeen, Bliss and Sugar in a variety roles – everything from Fashion Editor to Features Editor – all very exciting and glam!
Karen has sold over one million books in the UK alone and has been translated into 15 languages.
Find out more at www.karenmccombie.co.uk and take the opportunity to join Karen’s Club!

The lovely people at Scholastic have provided us with one copy of Karen McCombie‘s The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall for one lucy Big Book Little Book reader.

IF you could travel in time, when would you travel to and why?

To enter the giveaway, simply let us know, in the comments below, when you would like to travel to and why.

One commentor will be randomly selected to receive one book.

UK and IRL only

Comments made after the 24th of June will no longer be counted as entries.

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Author Interview: Sylvia Bishop

We are delighted to host an interview with debut author Syliva Bishop as she talks about Erica’s Elephant
erica's elephantWhen Erica Perkins wakes up on the morning of her tenth birthday, the last thing she expects is to find a very confused elephant sitting on her doorstep. So begins an unlikely friendship. But can a small girl and a rather large elephant learn to live together in a tiny terraced house? And when the dastardly owner of the local zoo plots to steal the elephant, will Erica be able to outsmart him?

Erica’s Elephant is such an adorable and charming story, how did the idea for the story come to you?

Thank you! The initial idea came from a friend texting me to say thanks for something-or-other, and promising to send an ‘elephant festooned with tea’. The idea of an elephant turning up on my narrow residential road made me laugh, and that was that. Some later ideas came from facts I later read about elephants, like their amazing long-distance communication. For the most part though, it was a matter of curating ideas I’ve accumulated over Life In General. For example, I’ve always been obsessed with ants, and Miss Pritchett’s ant collection wasn’t so much a new idea as a well-worn dream.

When writing, do you have any particular habits that you do? (i.e. sitting in the dark, listening to music, etc)

Ideally, I will work sit and Think in my favourite armchair first thing in the morning, with tea and porridge, and write my first pages for the day; then turn on the anglepoise lamp on my desk last thing in the evening, and write some more there. But the rest of my life has a bad habit of getting in the way. I wrote a lot of Erica on the bus between Oxford and London: it’s hard to cultivate any habits that are bus-friendly.

Before you wrote the book, did you do a lot of research into Elephants?

I did it as I went along, really, as I was only ever a chapter or two ahead of myself in terms of figuring out the plot. Researching elephants gave me some crucial breakthroughs. It showed me how to get the Elephant into trouble, and how to get him back out again.

Are Elephants your favourite animal? And if they’re not, what is?

Actually, my favourite animal has always been the Noble Rhinoceros. But books and documents about rhinos by themselves are hard to come by: they are always the support act to elephants. So as a child I ended up learning about elephants, whether or not I wanted to!

What advice would you give to a child who wants a pet Elephant?

When I wanted a rhino, I adopted one that was being looked after in a sanctuary. They sent me a video (mostly featuring elephants), a soft toy, a certificate and regular letters. That was really great.

Or maybe you could attach the nozzle of your hoover to a cat.

(Don’t do that).

When it comes to writing, do you plan your books in advance or just pen to paper and see where it takes you?

With Erica, I was generally sketching out plans a chapter or two ahead of my writing. In general I like to know what the ‘problem’ will be, and find out as I go how it will escalate and resolve.

If you had to describe your book in a tweet (140 characters) how would you do it?
Girl gets elephant, or he gets her.

Do you have any plans for another book?

My second book will be coming out with Scholastic in 2017 (hurray!). I have a couple more ideas simmering along – I find it helpful to have more than one, so that one can brew a bit for a while I’m writing some of the other.
Information about the Book

SYLVIA PHOTOSylvia Bishop is 23 years old and has recently graduated from Oxford. She is one half of the brilliant improvised comedy duo Peablossom Cabaret (www.peablossomcabaret.com). ERICA’S ELEPHANT is her first book, and she intends it to be the first of many quirky stories for young readers.You can learn more about Sylvia and her work by visiting her website (here), her Instagram account (here), or on Twitter

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Blog Tour: The Inventory: Iron Fist

Today we have the pleasure of hosting Andy Briggs as he answers some of our burning questions about his latest novel, The Inventory: Iron Fist.
Iron FistThe Rules: if you find a secret inventory of utterly deadly battle tech.
1) Do not try it.
2) Do not tell anyone.
3) Do NOT let thieves in behind you.
What’s more secret than top-secret? The Inventory. Home to the deadliest inventions the world isn’t ready for. Invisible camouflage. HoverBoots. Indestructible metals. Plus a giant creature of chaos: war robot Iron Fist. No one has ever broken past the state-of-the-art AI security system. (Seriously, most bad guys have no idea this stuff is even there.)
Problem 1: the security robot wasn’t ready for a gang of kids wandering in.
Problem 2: they’ve ONLY brought the ruthless Shadow Helix gang in behind them. Seriously dumb, but it’s a bit late for ‘sorry’.
Say hello to trouble: the Iron Fist is in the wrong hands!

Let’s start off with the basics, what made you decide to write The Inventory: Iron Fist?
The Inventory was a place I had thought about for a long time. It came from old comic books, or rather the classified ads they had at the back (which they sadly no longer do) offering x-ray specs for sale or mind reading caps or instant muscles. They were fabulous devices that always prized my pocket money out of my hand, and inevitably what arrived in the post was often a sad piece of cardboard that didn’t work. Of course, I knew the real reason I wasn’t receiving the gadget was because of a massive government conspiracy that placed these amazing devices in an underground vault to keep them out of the hands of the likes of me. Thus the concept of The Inventory was born. What if…? which is one of the best questions a writer can start with.

So far, what book have you enjoyed writing the most?
Ooh, that is such a loaded question. Of course I MUST say it’s this one! But that’s not entirely true because everything you write gives you something different. I’m lucky that I get to write TV shows, screenplays and comics too, so I have the opportunity to write across a massive range of genres and formats.
Last year I wrote my first non-fiction book, HOW TO BE AN INTERNATIONAL SPY (Lonely Planet), which was amazing fun, and a completely different experience to writing The Inventory. When I wrote the rebooted TARZAN series it was a joy to swing through the jungle, ride elephants and explore the savannah – both on the page and for research – giving me rich experiences I would never otherwise have had. Thinking about it now, The Inventory is the polar opposite of Tarzan – high-technology, set mostly underground, and not a parrot or chimp in sight. That in itself gave me a thrill as I was exploring new territory, this one set in the world of science.

If you could live in any one of your books, which book would you choose?
I am a self-confessed geek, and I love gadgets and gizmos. For me, living in The Inventory would be like Christmas day every day… if I was allowed to play with all the tech. But, like the hero of the book, Dev, I would probably grow very frustrated if I was told it’s all hands off. In that case, I would love the opportunity to jump books and live in the tropical paradises that form the rainforests of Africa…

If you could live in any book in print, which book would you choose?
If you had any doubts of me being a nerd, then I will erase them right now: The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Why? Because I would have the chance to explore an entire universe carrying only an eBook, a towel and a fish in my ear. So, okay, the earth may have been destroyed, but there is plenty more fun to be had out there…

What is your writing space like? Is it your desk? A library? A café?
I have a home office that is bedecked with toys, action figures, comics and other items designed to occupy my time when I am supposed to be writing. However, over the years I have discovered that when I have the onset of writer’s block, a change of location always helps. I have a small library space at home with a fish tank that provides yet more hours of distraction, and I tend to get more done there. I can’t work with other people about, so cafés are out of bounds for me if I want to get any work done. I prefer to have relative peace, a movie soundtrack blasting out to inspire me, and a pint of tea by my side.

What is the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received?
“Don’t run over the dog,” was a rather terrific piece of advice given to me on my first driving test. I failed the test, but the dog escaped (it was a textbook emergency stop). I also remember working on a movie with my brother in which we were told “This story is so great, we’ll use it as a sequel!” – unfortunately the first movie was terrible and flopped. But the very best piece of advice was given to me by my amazing English teacher, Mrs. Cross, while I was in Junior school: “That was a very imaginative story, you should write another one.”

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
It’s an old tried and tested piece of advice: don’t give up, finish it. I don’t simply mean write a book then spend the rest of your life trying to sell it – that’s unlikely to ever happen. I mean write a book, then another, then another… maybe write a TV show or something else to change your pace. Find something you feel comfortable with. You may want to write a book, but it maybe, frankly, awful. However, you could have had huge success if you’d only taken the idea and developed it as a screenplay. I tour around the country quite a lot and one of the most common phrases I hear is “I’ve started writing a book,” – you seldom ever meet somebody who has finished writing the book. And, if it is your first book, I recommend shoving it in a dusty drawer and writing another because that one will be better in every way. You can always go back to book one and rewrite it!

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Andy Briggs is a screenwriter, producer and author of the Hero.com, Villain.net and Tarzan series. Andy has worked on film development for Paramount and Warner Bros, as well as working with Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee and producer Robert Evans. With a strong social media following, Andy tours the UK regularly, doing festival, school and library events. To learn more about Andy and his work visit his website here alternatively you can converse with him on Twitter (here)

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