This week, the incredible debut novel from Michael Mann, Ghostcloud, was released and I am SO honoured to host Michael on my blog today as part of the blog tour!
I adored this book when I read it and a handful of my kids have ALREADY worked their way through it! I implore you all to get out there and buy it, read it and support it!
Twelve-year-old Luke Smith-Sharma shovels coal under a half-bombed, blackened power station. With his best friend Ravi he keeps his head down, hoping to one day earn his freedom and return to his family, while avoiding the wrath of the evil Tabatha Margate. When he tries to help new girl Jess, Luke is punished and sent to clean the sewers of the haunted East Wing, a place from which few return. Whilst serving his punishment, Luke realises he can see things others can’t in the power station: ghostly things. He befriends a ghost-girl called Alma, who can ride clouds through the night sky and bend their shape to her will. But when Luke discovers the terrible truth of why Tabatha Margate is kidnapping children and forcing them to work in the power station, Alma agrees to help him and his friends escape. Will Alma convince the ghost council to help their cause? And can Luke find his voice, while trying to find a way home?
Where did you come up with the idea for Ghostcloud?
I’ve always loved the sky – the shapes in the cloud, how it’s constantly changing – there’s a whole world up there. But I think the ‘ghost’ aspect started when my grandad died, when I was about 7. I remember wondering if he was up there, watching over me. It might sound creepy, but for me it was a joyful, magical thought – and I hope some of that joy comes across in the sky scenes in the book.
That same grandad was called Luke, and a coalminer, so perhaps he responsible for the Battersea setting too!
If you had to describe Ghostcloud in fewer than 10 words, what would you choose?
Soaring adventure through the furnaces and skies of reimagined London!
What do you want people to take away from your story?
I’d love people to look at the sky differently – to remember to look up!
I’d love kids who are mixed-race, like me – or any kid who feels in-between in some way – to see themselves represented, to see they can be a hero and save the world too.
I’d also like people to take some great memories and big smile on their face – ultimately it’s an adventure and want people to enjoy it!
Which character was your favourite to write?
Agh, it’s like choosing a favourite child! It’s not allowed.. but, if pushed, it’s a toss-up between Tabatha, the villain, who is deliciously evil and Alma, the ghost-girl.
I’ll go with Alma. She’s sassy and brave, but she’s also brittle, and she just says what she thinks, so has some of the best lines! She has this fresh perspective on thinks, as she’s from this ghostly world, where everything is in-between and always changing. And she can bend the clouds to her will, fly and fire lightning – who doesn’t want to do that?!
Was there a particular scene you loved writing?
So many. The sky scenes are so fun and liberating as a writer. The furnace scenes, so dark and atmospheric. But I do remember loving writing this one scene, with Luke and Jess, when they try to escape through the ventilation shafts… but end up stuck right above Tabatha in a corridor.
At first, they try desperately hard to stay quiet, but then Tabatha hears the shaft creak, and it all escalates very quick! There are nails like screwdrivers, a knife and a gun, and even a black cat called Stealth has a role to play! It’s super tense and I loved every minute of it.
What was the writing/editing/publishing process like for you?
Writing is the best and the worse. Sometimes when you’re in the flow, the words just pour out, and you see whole worlds and people unfold before you. It’s a real buzz, real magic, there’s nothing quite like it. Other times, however, it can be a slog, and you hate everything you write! But like so many things, you’ve just got to keep going, and try to keep perspective.
One thing I loved (and has surprised me) about the publishing process, is that suddenly you’re connected with other like-minded people, who are passionate about books, writing and even your work – from agents, to editors, and even other authors. This is wonderful because at times writing can be a bit isolated.
What’s the most fun bit of the writing process for you?
I love description and world-building, and when an idea comes to you for a twist, but most fun of all, I think, is when characters surprises you by saying or doing something you didn’t expect. This can send the novel off in surprising directions, or add new themes or layers to the text, and there’s real joy and sense of discovery when that happens.
What kind of books do you like to read? What have you read recently that you’d recommend?
I love all sorts. Children’s and YA books I’ve loved recently have been Jonathan Stroud’s The Outlaws Scarlett & Brown, Piers Torday’s The Wild Before & Liz Hyder’s Bearmouth. Adult-wise, I loved Tall Bones by Anna Bailey, Circe by Madeleine Miller and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. More generally, authors I love include Road Dahl, Tolstoy, Vikram Seth, John Wyndham and so many more!
A massive thank you and congratulations to Michael! Ghostcloud is an incredible book and I can’t wait for you all to read it! Remember to check out the rest of the blog tour (details below)!