Posts Tagged ‘Reviewer- Faye’

My Name is Not Refugee

Kate Milner

A young boy discusses the journey he is about to make with his mother. They will leave their town, she explains, and it will be sad but also a little bit exciting. They will have to say goodbye to friends and loved ones, and that will be difficult. They will have to walk and walk and walk, and although they will see many new and interesting things, it will be difficult at times too. A powerful and moving exploration that draws the young reader into each stage of the journey, inviting the chance to imagine the decisions he or she would make.

There is something very powerful about picture books. They can sometimes be some of the first books that your child or even you, yourself, will remember reading. I know that I recall strongly my favourite picture book. So it is really wonderful when picture books also start educating children – not about Maths or English or other school subjects – but about different parts of society. If it teaches children that while there are many different walks of life, we’re all human despite our differences in our skin colour, body shape, social background and sexuality, then it’s going to give them a good start to life.

Thus I always love stumbling across picture books that manage this. So when I heard about My Name is Not Refugee by Kate Milner, I knew that I had to get my hands on it. I needed to read it and see what the book is all about. And it is everything I love about picture books.

It’s entertaining, informative, and full of imagination too. The book follows a child who has to leave home behind and then learn a new language and a new culture and learn not to be terrified of the experience. It asks the reader questions along the way, such as: “What would you pack in your backpack of possessions?” This allows the reader to understand what the other child may be going through. Would they choose their favourite book or their favourite teddy bear if they can’t pack both?

On top of that, Kate hasn’t identified where the child has come from or where they’ve ended up. So it’s a way for refugees of any culture to identify themselves in the book which is absolutely fantastic and is exactly what makes this book so very powerful. It’s inclusive – just as every book should be.

All in all, this is a very powerful, imaginative, and relevant book that is a must read for adults and children alike to understand society further.

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: The Bucket List
Publication Date: May 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture Book
Age: Under 5s
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Provided by publisher
Posted on:

The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat

Coral Rumble

Two children and their imaginations set sail from their living room on a voyage around the world! Read along as they spy an extraordinary array of characters doing even more extraordinary things…? With bright, fresh illustrations and a playful style, this rhyming book, based on the classic Edward Lear poem The Owl and the Pussycat, is a wonderfully quirky adventure.?

There can be something so magical about a picture book. It has the ability to really capture a child’s imagination and keep them entertained as they hear the words, see the pictures and put two and two together. But it’s not that easy to create a book that does this. Writing good picture books is a lot more difficult than it sounds but sometimes an author just manages to do exactly what we all want from a picture book. This is what has happened with The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat. Inspired by the original poem, this book follows a boy and a girl as they sit in a cupboard box and imagine what they would come across if they were the owl and the pussycat in a ship. It is imaginative and inspirational.

While I sadly did not get a chance to test this book out on my niece, I am certain that she would have absolutely loved it. At the moment she is completely obsessed with Finding Nemo and so I am positive that this sea-faring adventure book would have been well-received. But I also believe that she would have loved it because it contains an exciting plot. It is about another girl and boy having imaginative play – something that she absolutely loves doing herself. It is a book that simply celebrates being a child.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, this book is also covered in absolutely stunning illustrations. Charlotte Cooke has done a fantastic job of bringing this story to life with vibrant and colourful images that every child will love looking at. In each one there is an owl and a pussycat watching either from afar or from up close and I can imagine that it will be a lot of fun for the child reader to work out where they are and what exactly they are up to! This extra addition to this picture book is really what brings it into it’s own and makes it such a wonderfully magic book to read.

This book gets my thumbs up and I am very much looking forward to sharing it with my niece in the coming days!

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Wacky Bee Books
Publication Date: May 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture Book
Age: 2+
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
Posted on:

Dougal Daley; It’s Not My Fault!

Jackie Marchant

I, Dougal Daley, am dead! Ok I m not actually dead. But if I m not careful I soon will be.

In this first book, football-loving Dougal Daley finds himself at risk from the mysterious creature living in the garden shed. Nobody believes him but as a precaution, he sets upon writing his will – rewarding those who help him and disinheriting those who get on his bad side. Meanwhile, as limbs and windows alike are broken by rogue footballs and unhinged canines, Dougal finds himself in all sorts of trouble. . .and NONE of it is his fault!

What were your initial thoughts on the book?
I read this book in one sitting. It was funny, addictive and emotional too. I really felt for Dougal throughout the story. The whole narrative worked really well and I am one hundred percent sure that any kid who reads this book will also agree. From parents and sisters who don’t listen to you and blame you, to friends who get caught in the middle of things, this book is full of real-life situations surrounding a very hilarious thing. I loved the ending of the book too. This whole book is full of personality and I cannot wait to read the next one!

Who was your favourite character and why?
The best character is actually one that I can’t really talk about without completely and utterly ruining the story – I know, right? – So instead I will talk about my second favourite character; Dougal. He’s a really interesting character to read about. A true klutz who has a great voice too. I am definitely intrigued to see what happens to him in future books!

Would you recommend this book?
Definitely! Especially to any kid aged between 6 to 10 as they’ll really enjoy everything that happens. The book is written in a diary format with a few chapters that are notes from other characters all intermingled with amazing illustrations which really helps to make this book readable, addictive and fun – everything that books for children should be! If you or your child is looking for a fun and funny book that is similar to the Wimpy Kid books, make sure you give this book a try!

One Sentence Summary (verdict)
A really fun and kid friendly book that has a brilliant main character and a story that is full of personality and creativity.

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Wacky Bee Books
Publication Date: April 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 180
Genre: Comedy
Age: MG
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
Posted on:

The Deviants

C. J. Skuse

When you set out for revenge, dig two graves.

Growing up in the sleepy English seaside town of Brynston, the fearless five – Ella, Max, Corey, Fallon and Zane – were always inseparable. Living up to their nickname, they were the adventurous, rowdy kids who lived for ghost stories and exploring the nearby islands off the coast. But when Max’s beloved older sister Jessica is killed, the friendship seems to die with her.

Now years later, only Max and Ella are in touch; still best friends and a couple since they were thirteen. Their lives are so intertwined Max’s dad even sponsors Ella’s training for the Commonwealth Games. But Ella is hiding things. Like why she hates going to Max’s house for Sunday dinner, and flinches whenever his family are near. Or the real reason she’s afraid to take their relationship to the next level.

When underdog Corey is bullied, the fearless five are brought back together again, teaming up to wreak havoc and revenge on those who have wronged them. But when the secrets they are keeping can no longer be kept quiet, will their fearlessness be enough to save them from themselves?

What were your initial thoughts on the book?
I had been meaning to read a book by C J Skuse for a very long time but other books kept getting put into my hands instead. However, after a lot of book pushing by some close friends, I finally picked this book up and I am so glad I did. At the time, I had been in the mood to read gritty thrillers which was perfect because that sums this book up well. There is a difference between an adult thriller and a YA thriller but in this instance, this YA thriller was just as strong as an adult one. I found myself getting addicted to the characters and was very intrigued as to where it would all end up – and I did not see that ending coming. This was an addictive read that I couldn’t put down.

Who was your favourite character and why?
In this book, there are five main characters and I have to admit that I took a liking to them all for a variety of reasons but my favourite character was definitely Ella. As our main protagonist, I just connected with her and her words so much. I was drawn to her character and her story and I wanted everything to work out for her. My second favourite character was definitely Fallon. I loved her spirit and her uniqueness a lot. I thought she was a really strong and wonderful character. What I really loved though was that every single character in this story went on their own individual journey and became better versions of themselves by the end of it all.

Would you recommend this book?
In a heartbeat. It may not be a book for everyone as it does get a bit dark and it does deal with some sensitive topics that may trigger some people but overall this book is addictive, thrilling and ultimately shocking. It is intense, emotional and will also, by the end, hopefully fill you with warmth too. It has a strong theme of friendship throughout as well which I thought was a great addition and helped to make it that much more entertaining to read. If you’re looking for a book that will grip you, you definitely need to give this book a read – but you’ve been warned, there are deviants lurking inside.

One sentence summary (Verdict)
An addictive, gripping and intense thriller book that will make you laugh, clench and cry, among other emotions. It is a truly terrific book that you should not want to miss.

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Mira Ink
Publication Date: September 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Genre: Thriller
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Bought
Challenge: British book
Posted on:

Bamboo Road

Ann Bennett

Thailand 1942: Sirinya and her family are members of the Thai underground, who risk their lives to resist the World War Two Japanese occupation and to and help British prisoners of war building the Thai-Burma railway. The events of those years have repercussions for decades to come. The book tells Sirinya s wartime story and how in the 1970s she returns to Kanchanaburi after a long absence abroad, to settle old scores from the war years.
Bamboo Road is volume three in a Southeast Asian WWII trilogy that includes Bamboo Heart and Bamboo Island (the books may be read in any order).

Today we have Ann Bennett on the blog talking about Penang and how it is important to her Bamboo Trilogy.

The beautiful, exotic island of Penang in Malaysia, known in colonial times as the Pearl of the Orient, inspired scenes in both Bamboo Heart and Bamboo Island. When I wrote the books I had only visited the island once, for four days, in1985.
It made a huge impression on me, enough to stay with me for decades. It was the place I wanted Tom to dream of from his prisoner of war camp. It was also where Juliet and Rose had their first experience of Malaya in Bamboo Island, fresh off the boat, spending evenings in the Club, and days exploring.


Penang from the Butterworth Ferry

I took a sleeper train down from Bangkok, just as Laura does in Bamboo Heart. At Butterworth we boarded the ferry to Georgetown. I remember crossing the straits at sunset, standing out on deck in the warm evening, and watching the red sky and the mountains behind the town coming closer.


Cathay Hotel

We took rickshaws to the Cathay Hotel, a shabby old Portuguese Villa. The rooms were huge, and it was unbelievably cheap, but oozing old world charm. It seemed to obvious place for Laura to stay when she comes to Penang in search of the elusive Joy de Silva. Penang Hill with its views across the shimmering straits towards the mainland inspired scenes in that book, as did the jungle covered hills of the interior and the powder-white beaches of the north and east of the island.


Batu Ferrinhgi

Written by Ann Bennett

Publisher: Monsoon Books
Publication Date: March 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 336
Genre: Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
Posted on:

Harper and the Night Forest

Cerrie Burnell

Total fantasy bliss! Magical birds, dark forests and fairytale cities: there’s no better book to get lost in. Harper is on a mission! Rumours tell of the mysterious Ice Raven who lives among the ebony trees, singing a magical song that can melt hardened hearts. Now the Wild Conductor wants to capture this mythical bird and create the greatest orchestra ever known. So Harper and her friends set off to find the bird. Their journey takes them from the mysterious Night Forest to the City of Singing Clocks. But soon Harper realises she faces a dilemma. Should a wild, free creature like the Ice Raven ever be tied down?

What were your initial thoughts on the book?
This book is one of those lovely, cute and entertaining reads that I absolutely wish that I had as a child. Harper and the Night Forest is the third book in the Harper series but it was by far my favourite one. Cerrie Burnell’s imagination knows no bounds and I really loved reading about Harper and her friends on their journey into the Night Forest. It was not what I was expecting and I found that to make the book even more interesting to read. I loved the fairy tale aspect and how it all came together in the end. Along with the wonderful story, came the beautiful illustrations by Laura Ellen Anderson. These really brought the story to life in a magnificent way. A truly perfect match between words and pictures.

Who was your favourite character and why?
While I am sure most people would probably choose Harper, I think that my favourite character is actually Nate. He is such a fascinating character and I think it is wonderful to find someone with a sight impairment in a children’s book. Nate can only see shadows and because of it he has a companion wolf who helps to guide him. It means that he can never see the expressions on his friends faces but he can feel when they’re happy or sad. He knows who is near by how they walk and he is excellent at leading his friends when it is dark as it is always dark for him. I really, really loved him as a character and would love to read more.

But really one of the best things about these books are that all of the characters are so vibrant and all work together as a team. Including the “villain” of the books. By the end of each adventure he is always shown why his ideas aren’t so great after all. I think that Cerrie has down a smashing job of creating realistic and likeable characters in all of the Harper books.

Would you recommend this book?
Definitely. These books are magical, and quite literally full of magic. They’re lovely stories. They have heart and emotion and a wondrous childish feel to them. I am certain that both adults and children alike will be blown away by both the adventures that the children go on and also the characters and how they all react. Cerrie has truly created an interesting world for these books to take place in and I just cannot recommend them all highly enough. If you haven’t yet read these books, what are you waiting for?

Summarize the book in one sentence. (Verdict)
Harper and the Night Forest is a splendid book that will steal your heart and fill you with hope all at the same time. It is magical, cute and full of adventure and fun too.

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: March 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 240
Genre: Fantasy
Age: MG
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
Posted on:

Pilot Jane and the Runaway Plane

Caroline Baxter

Join Pilot Jane, a fun and fearless airline captain, as she travels the world with her best friend Rose, a high-speed passenger jet. Together Jane and Rose have exciting adventures and form a perfect team, delivering their passengers safely to destinations as far afield as Alaska and Australia. But when disaster strikes and Rose falls ill, Jane is paired with ‘lean, mean flying machine’ Mighty Mitch. Can she still get the Queen to her party on time? Featuring a clever and courageous heroine, this action-packed rhyming story celebrates ‘Girl Power’ and shows what you can achieve if you work together. Fasten your seatbelt and get ready for take-off!

As someone who works in a library, I am often reading picture books to young children and know that some books work well and some just do not. Fortunately, upon reading Pilot Jane and the Runaway Plane, I knew instantly that this was a book that would go down well with children. With colourful pictures to keep their attention, wonderful rhymes to keep them entertained and a brilliantly powerful story full of friendship, girl power and fun.

What first drew me to this book was the bright pink plane on the cover and I know that this will also attract the attention of young girls as well. But what I absolutely loved about this book was that it really shows how powerful and effective teamwork is, as well as showing how much strength and intelligence girls can have. It’s a wonderful book to share with children because of this.

Pilot Jane is a really fun, entertaining and ultimately educational read that I really enjoyed and guarantee that it will be enjoyed by children and adults alike. It reads well and slides off the tongue with all of its rhymes too. It’s colourful and full of adventure – and even the queen pops up during the story which was a fab addition. I am certain that this is a book that will touch the hearts of many while it gets read again and again!

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Big Sunshine Books
Publication Date: March 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture Book
Age: 2-4
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
Posted on:

Never Forget

Richard Davis

Saul Marshall is on the run.
As a wave of seemingly random assassinations engulfs California, Marshall finds himself drawn into a situation spiralling out of control.
He soon discovers some of the webs’ most secure protocols have been compromised by a rogue team of former Chinese agents. When Marshall realises what they plan, the stakes are raised…
And that’s before the Secretary of State gets involved. Can Marshall unravel the deceit and tricks before it’s too late? Can he stop the carnage, or will he become part of it? One thing is for certain: either way his enemies will never forget.

If you had to explain your book in a tweet (140 characters), how would you describe it?
Bodies are turning up in California. The Dark Net, a disturbing corner of the internet, has something to do with it. Saul must find out what

Where on earth do you write your books?
I do most of my writing at home – a tiny flat in North London. However, because I understand that it’s good for my immune system to sometimes expose myself to other human beings, I occasionally work in the West End: either from the University College London library or a coffee shop.

Do you have any bad habits while you write?
Loads. Probably my worst is the fact that I compulsively chew things as I write – pens, pencils, phone cases, cutlery – and by the end of the day, my desk is scattered with shards of plastic. I’m sure there’s probably something quite Freudian about this, but I try not to over think it.

What is your favourite part about being published?
The amount of pride it brings my grandparents.

If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
Godot from Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Hell, it would be good just to meet him, let alone befriend him – after all, he must be the most elusive character in literature. And imagine the bragging rights if I actually managed to track him down!

If you could live in any fictional world, which world would you choose and why?
I’d quite like to live in the world evoked in the Shrek series of films. I really love how its writers appropriate fairy-tales and fables and redeploy them in clever, comedic ways – it’s a thoroughly postmodern piece of cinema. I think inhabiting that world – with its talking animals, fantastical creatures, and irreverent humour – would be pretty good fun.

What is favourite thing about writing crime books?
The plotting is definitely the most rewarding (and difficult) aspect of writing in this genre. I always plan the entire novel before starting, and this involves me dreaming up a number of complicated situations – which amount to complex riddles – then spending many, many long hours figuring out how to resolve them. It’s frustrating as hell, but really good fun.

If you had to give some advice to aspiring authors, what would you say?
Make sure you plan things thoroughly. At least, that’s what works for me. I personally find it far easier to see a project through when I know exactly where I’m going.

Questions by Faye


Richard Davis graduated from University College London in 2011 and Cambridge University in 2012. The Saul Marshall series was born from Davis’s extensive travels around the United States and his long-standing obsession with thriller fiction. He lives in North London, UK, with his girlfriend.

Publisher: Canelo
Publication Date: February 2017
Format: Ebook
Pages: 364
Genre: Crime
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
Posted on:

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
Posted on:

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
Posted on: