BLOG TOUR: Vote for Effie

Hello!

Today I have the absolute joy being on the blog tour for Vote for Effie – the first in a new hilarious series by Laura Wood (author of 2018 YA sensation A Sky Painted Gold) for 9-12 year olds. Inspired by 2017’s Women’s MarchVOTE FOR EFFIE is extremely timely and the perfect antidote to the current political climate; it will inspire young readers to stand up for the issues that matter to them, whatever that may be!

I’m honoured to be on this blog tour as each stop on the tour is written to celebrate a young female activist and/or inspiring girl who is working to change the world; each post will include a short profile on the person written by Laura.

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Mari Copeny

When she was only eight, Mari Copeny wrote a moving letter to President Obama about the Flint water crisis. Not only did Obama reply, but he came to Flint to meet with the people there, and he eventually signed off on $100 million funding to help repair the city’s poisoned water system. Mari is known as ‘Little Miss Flint’ as she continues to fight for her city, and raise money to tackle the problems they are still facing. Now, aged eleven, she is a fierce advocate for change and she uses social media to share her message. 

Mari has said that she’ll be running for president in 2044, but, until then, she wants other kids to know “you’re never to young or to small to change the world.” I think Mari is an enormous inspiration. She hasn’t let being young stop her from being heard. When people weren’t listening, she didn’t give up… she made more noise. I love her confidence, her intelligence and the sense of empathy that drives all of her efforts. I see these qualities so often in the children I meet while visiting schools and it makes me feel so hopeful. These girls really are the leaders of tomorrow.

If you would like to see why Mari is so amazing, and why I think she and Effie would be best friends, you might like to watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ML2dRP9i3FQ

Yes for women and girls who are doing good things! 

Do you have an inspiring woman who you’d like to shout about?

You should definitely go and check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour. There have been some absolutely incredible women highlighted in the posts and it’s certainly been inspiring! Plus, there’s some pretty incredible bloggers on this tour too! Massive thanks to Harriet at Scholastic for inviting me to be on this incredible blog tour! I hope you all enjoyed the post and go and check out Vote for Effie – out now! 

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Speak soon, 

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Jan Eldredge

Hello friends!

Today I have an absolute treat for you. Jan Eldridge, author of the brilliant Witch Girl, is here to talk about weaving inspiration into a story! I hope you enjoy this post, I loved reading it and am very grateful for Jan taking time to write such a brilliant blog post! Hearing there’s a sequel to Witch Girl also made me VERY happy! 

WEAVING INSPIRATION INTO A STORY

By Jan Eldredge

Inspiration is everywhere. It can strike at any time, and often where you aren’t particularly expecting it. It’s when you take that flash of an idea, brainstorm it a little, then merge it with some other interesting ideas, that you generate an exciting new book concept. It’s a bit like weaving a magic spell, and it was this process that brought WITCH GIRL to life.

I’m a huge fan of spooky, magical stories for kids. In fact, I seldom read grownup fiction. My towering stack of books-to-be-read is made up of children’s fantasy adventures. I especially love monsters and ghosts and all such eldritch things that go bump in the night. So much so, that the shelves in my home office are filled with encyclopedias and field guides featuring mythical creatures from around the world.

A few years ago, while I was browsing through a used book store for more supernatural reference books to add to my collection, I came across an old dictionary of superstitions. As I thumbed through its pages, I was instantly captivated. Inspiration struck, and I knew I wanted to write a story incorporating some of those fascinating beliefs.

It went without saying, that this story about superstitions would have to contain ghosts or monsters. Having grown up in Louisiana where belief in the supernatural runs deep, and where strange occurrences are a natural phenomenon, my home state felt like the perfect place to set such a tale. I knew in my gut I had the ingredients for a unique and exciting book. All I needed was an interesting protagonist to add to the mix.

At the time, I’d been reading, and very much enjoying, some middle grade fantasies about young apprentices, but all the apprentices in those books were boys. The idea of making my adventurous, superstitious monster-hunter a girl was another one of those elements that just felt like a perfect fit. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do much character brainstorming. My protagonist, Evangeline, as well as her Gran, quickly formed in my mind, as though they were real people I’d already known. Even Evangeline’s sidekick, Julian Winterbourne, didn’t take much work to develop since he was heavily inspired by my son.

Armed with a cast of quirky characters, some intriguing story elements, and a strong gut feeling, I set about writing the kind of book I love: a spooky, adventure, mystery with dashes of humor, a story for kids, but one that teens and adults will love to read too.

I’m now in the process of writing the sequel to WITCH GIRL, and I’m keeping my eyes open for the next strike of inspiration that I can weave into Evangeline’s witchy world.

WITCH GIRL by Jan Eldredge out now in paperback (£6.99, Scholastic)

              @JanEldredge  www.janeldredge.com @Scholasticuk

S x

BOOK BLOG: Peter G Bell

Today, I have the utter joy of hosting author Peter G Bell on my blog, talking about the story opening in The Train to Impossible Places. You’ll also get to hear about his wonderful main character, Suzy, and her rationalist beliefs and how these relate to the action of the story and the reader. Hope you enjoy!

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Reason Vs Weird

Most of us would love to discover that magic is real. Imagine if you came downstairs one night to find a trans-dimensional train, crewed by fantastical creatures, waiting to whisk you off to uncharted realms were anything was possible. You’d be thrilled, right?

   This is exactly what happens to Suzy, the main character of The Train To Impossible Places. And she is not thrilled at all.

   On the contrary, she feels positively offended. Because, as an eleven year old rationalist, she knows full well that magic can’t be real, and that trolls can’t exist. The laws of physics are sacrosanct. In short, the train shatters her understanding of the world. How she chooses to deal with that will determine both her fate, and the fate of everyone she meets on her adventure.

   I made Suzy a rationalist because I knew the train and its crew were going to be fairly anarchic and unpredictable, and I wanted a main character who would push back against that. In doing so, Suzy keeps the story grounded, even when she’s out of her depth (which is most of the time) and always asks the questions the reader needs answering.

   When it comes to science, the trolls’ rule of thumb is this: the laws of physics are all well and good, but as soon as they become inconvenient, a dash of magic is needed to help grease the wheels. This is fuzzics (like physics, only fuzzier), and it drives Suzy up the wall. Sometimes literally.

   I’m no sociologist, but I suspect many of our culture’s current problems stem from the conscious uncoupling of reason from the other human faculties; a nasty habit we picked up during the Enlightenment, and which has been indulged to a greater or lesser extent ever since. On the one hand, this culminates in people choosing to dismiss the valid spiritual, philosophical and emotional foundations of so much human experience. On the other, it leads to a suspicion of empirical knowledge, which opens the door to all manner of charlatans eager to present us with “alternative facts”. Neither condition is good for us.

   That’s why, in the midst of all the fantasy elements, I made sure never to undermine Suzy’s belief in science. It is never shown to be untrue – on the contrary, she uses Newton’s Laws of Motion to save herself from danger at one point – but she also discovers that science isn’t the neat and tidy solution to all life’s problems that she thought it was. She is never tempted to reject it, but she does have to expand her thinking beyond it and, to her credit, that’s exactly what she does.

   She makes room in herself for a broader perspective. And that’s what sees her through in the end.

You should definitely check out The Train to Impossible Places! It’s such a great story and the cover is JUST EXCEPTIONAL. 

Massive thanks to Peter for this blog post! I love getting an insight into authors and their characters – authors really do know their characters inside out! 

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Tilly and the Bookwanderers

Today I have the ABSOLUTE JOY of hosting Anna James, author of the incredible Pages and Co on my blog as part of her blog tour. She’s here today to talk about her writing soundtrack. 

Without further ado, I hand you over to Anna and that amazing book of hers!

 

My Writing Soundtrack for Pages & Co

I listen to music whenever I’m drafting, but I cannot listen to music with lyrics of any kind as it instantly distracts me and I can’t concentrate on my own words. Instead I listen to a lot of classical music, especially film soundtracks. Here is some of the music I listened to while writing Pages & Co, and the music that most influenced the book.

Dario Marianelli

Dario Marianelli is my favourite modern composer; he wrote the scores for films including Atonement, the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice, Anna Karenina, and the Mia Wasikowska adaption of Jane Eyre. He writes beautiful, soaring orchestral music that I find instantly get me into the right head space for writing magical adventures. A favourite is Briony’s theme from Atonement as it comes complete with typewriter sounds to really get you in the writing mood.

The Planet Earth Scores by Hans Zimmer

This is along similar lines to Marianelli; the music for these TV series is epic and inspiring, and if I’m ever struggling to focus and to get immersed in the world of Pages & Co I use music like this to stir my emotions and remind me of the power of good art. It helps make the outside world melt away, and encourages you to try and create something worthwhile.

Rabbit & Rogue by Danny Elfman

The first book that Tilly bookwanders into is Alice in Wonderland, when Alice takes her to the Mad Hatter’s tea party, and she visits the Queen of Hearts croquet game later, as well. When I was looking for music to write these scenes too I stumbled across the score from an Alice in Wonderland ballet that had been created, and scored by Danny Elfman that I’d never heard of before. The quirky but lovely music is absolutely perfect to write Alice’s brand of nonsense to.

Soundtracks for existing adaptations

In Pages & Co, Tilly visits several well known children’s classics, and the useful thing about classics is that they’ve often been made into multiple screen adaptation which means there are multiple soundtracks out there. Not all of them are quite right, but I listened to the scores for the recent Alice in Wonderland films, some of the music from the Anne of Green Gables TV series, and even some of the songs from the Muppet version of Treasure Island while I was writing scenes from those books.

The Maze Runner

One of the specific pieces of music that I associate with writing Pages & Co is the finale music from the first Maze Runner film. It’s an urgent, heroic, and beautiful piece of music with real pace and tension and I listened to it on repeat while I was writing some of the scenes towards the end of the book where stakes are high, and Tilly ends up in a dangerous situation in a book she’s wandered inside. I rarely listen to soundtracks all the way through, because they shift and change too much tonally, but I pick and choose tracks to create playlists for different beats; quieter emotional moments, tense action scenes, or cosy bookshop scenes to help me get in the right frame of mind.   

A massive thank you to Anna for such an amazing blog post! I’m off to listen to some of these myself! I love the idea of a writing playlist. 

If you want to see my review of Tilly and the Bookwanderers, check it out here

If you’d like to go and buy this amazing book (you really should, because it is exceptional), it’s out now! 
Amazon
Waterstones

S x

Q&A: David Owen

Hello my friends! 

Today I have an absolute treat for you – a Q&A with one of my favourite twitter author people, David Owen. His new book All The Lonely People is coming out next year and I managed to corner him (figuratively, obviously) to ask him a few questions about his new book! I have a sampler ready to read and I’m looking forward to it immensely. Check out the end of this post for more details about the book!

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Can you tell us a little about the main characters?
All the Lonely People has two main characters – Kat Waldgrave and Wesley Graham.

Kat has always struggled to make friends and feel accepted, and she believes the only place she can really be herself is online. She’s a big geek, loves developing her own video games, bingeing TV shows, and so on. So she’s got really involved in the online communities that inevitably spring up around things like that. She has made what she considers friends, people like her, who like her, and she values that so much.

In many ways, Wesley is very similar. He also struggles to make friends and doesn’t feel like he belongs anywhere. To try and assuage his detachment and loneliness he too has turned to the internet, but has ended up falling in with a less desirable crowd – the kind of that takes advantage of disillusioned young men to serve their own agenda. This ultimately means Kat becomes a target for him, which brings their lives together.

If you had to describe this book in 5 words, what would they be?
All. The. Lonely. People. Book?
I. Really. Hope. It’s Good?

No, um, I don’t know! Maybe ‘Kindness and Empathy Defeat Hatred‘? It is far too full of pretentious nonsense for me to describe succinctly!

‘All The Lonely People’ is an interesting title for the book, where did it come from? Was it alway titled that?
The title is shamelessly nicked from the chorus of the Beatles song ‘Eleanor Rigby’. It’s a great song, and one that I have always found particularly melancholy, evocative of loneliness. Lines like ‘Eleanor Rigy died in a church/And was buried along with her name/Nobody came.’ It’s just really sad, and fit the book really well.

For a long time the book was called ‘The Lonely People (Are Getting Lonelier)’, which is also nicked from a song of the same name by an ambient band called Stars of the Lid. But that wasn’t quite as snappy!

If Wesley and Kat had to have fictional best friends from other books, who would they be?
It says a lot about the characters that I can think of loads for Kat and none for Wesley! I think Kat would get on really well with anybody who is fairly unabashed about being their nerdy selves. So maybe Frances and Aled from Alice Oseman’s ‘Radio Silence’, Cath from Rainbow Rowell’s ‘Fangirl’, or Claire from Non Pratt’s ‘Truth or Dare’. I think she’d get on with a lot of people!

Wesley is a lot more difficult. In many ways, he is thoroughly unlikeable, and tremendously adept at falling in with the wrong crowd. As he is at the beginning of the book, he’s more likely to be friends with any of the dickhead male bully characters you see in YA – I can’t think of any specific people! By the end of the book, he might have a better chance of making real friends…

What emotions is this going to make the reader feel?
I hope a lot of different ones! I feel like this is my most emotionally honest book in many ways – I have a natural cynicism about me which in the past I think has made it difficult to be completely honest and open with emotional stuff for fear of it being a bit cheesy. I really tried to put that aside with this book. So I hope people will feel sad, excited, and angry at that various points of the book. I also hope they’ll find it funny and a bit weird. More than anything, I really hope it resonates with people who are prone to feeling loneliness – which I think is more people than will ever admit it.

What inspired you to write a book that focuses so heavily on a person‘s online presence?
Partly because it’s just such a huge part of our lives now, particularly for young people. Almost every day there are fascinating/uplifting/unusual/horrifying stories about how the internet has affected people’s lives. A lot of people – usually slightly older people who didn’t grow up with the internet – still think of it as separate to the ‘real world’. But it is now a fundamental part of everyday life. Whether that’s young people competing for Instagram likes with their classmates, or the right-wing propaganda movements that have influenced elections. That influence needs to feature more prominently in YA stories, and needs to be examined.

So this books aims to look at the positives and negatives of young people being so involved online. How it can prevent young people from being lonely by connecting them with like-minded friends, but also make them feel more lonely because it seems like everybody in your social media feeds is leading a better life than you are. How you can find a place to belong, but also how that vulnerability can be used against you. This wasn’t something I had really seen in YA before.

If you had the chance to escape, quit, disappear, could you do it?
Probably not for very long! I spend an inordinate amount of my time on Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit. In many ways it’s made a hugely positive impact on my life – I’ve made some really close friends ‘in real life’ through Twitter, and becoming a part of the book/UKYA community has been brilliant, because it’s full of brilliant people. But I also end up feeling like people on there are doing so much better than me – going out more and doing amazing things, having more successful careers, and so on. Refreshing Twitter has become a bit of compulsion when I’m watching TV or something fairly inactive. But I would definitely miss it if it were to disappear. Last year I went to Australia and was in the Outback for five days with no signal or internet. It was kind of glorious not feeling like I had to show off what I was doing, keep up with everybody, and also being away from the constant newsfeed of dread and despair. But when I got back it was lovely to check in with everybody. At the moment I think the positives outweigh the negatives for me. 

What should people expect to find on your social media?
Mostly nonsense, moaning, and pictures of my cats. I can never put enough pictures of my cats online. (As a fond follower of David’s twitter, I can confirm there is an exceptional thread of pictures of his cats).

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All The Lonely People – David Owen
Released: 10.1.19
Published by: Atom Books

“Everyone tells Kat that her online personality – confident, funny, opinionated – isn’t her true self. Kat knows otherwise. The internet is her only way to cope with a bad day, chat with friends who get all her references, make someone laugh. But when she becomes the target of an alt-right trolling campaign, she feels she has no option but to Escape, Delete, Disappear.
With her social media shut down, her website erased, her entire online identity void, Kat feels she has cut away her very core: without her virtual self, who is she?
She brought it on herself. Or so Wesley keeps telling himself as he dismantles Kat’s world. It’s different, seeing one of his victims in real life and not inside a computer screen – but he’s in too far to back out now.
As soon as Kat disappears from the online world, her physical body begins to fade and while everybody else forgets that she exists, Wesley realises he is the only one left who remembers her. Overcome by remorse for what he has done, Wesley resolves to stop her disappearing completely. It might just be the only way to save himself.
All the Lonely People is a timely story about online culture – both good and bad – that explores the experience of loneliness in a connected world, and the power of kindness and empathy over hatred.”

Preorder links – Waterstones / Amazon / Book Depository 

A massive thanks to David for taking time to answer my questions! Please go preorder this book! I’m very excited for it! 

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions you have for David or tweet him @davidowenauthor and I’m sure he’ll be happy to answer them!

S x

BLOG TOUR: Candy

Hello!

Today I have the absolute joy of introducing you all to Lavie Tidhar, author of the amazing ‘Candy’ released a few weeks ago (7th June) from Scholastic. Lavie is here today to talk about his brilliant novel Candy and the inspirations from film noir. I hope you all enjoy his post and go check out the rest of the posts on the blog tour! 

On Candy and Film Noir

A few years ago I watched the movie Brick, written and directed by Rian Johnson. What Johnson did that was so clever was to take the hardboiled formula – the hard-bitten detective, the femme fatale, informers and cops, corruption and mystery – and transpose it into a high school. It wasn’t played for laughs – it was perfectly straight-faced and very noir, and I thought it was great!

I love the hardboiled formula. It has certain quirks and ticks that you expect, certain beats to hit, but at the same time the fun is in somehow subverting the expectations, of using the skeleton frame to tell a story not necessarily concerned much with the plot. The point of it, as Raymond Chandler once said, is that you can read the story even if the last eight pages are missing. In other words, it really isn’t about the solving of the mystery (like in the old Golden Age English detective stories) but about the people and the place they live in.

In my adult books, I often use noir and hardboiled motifs in one form or another. The truth is, I find great delight in parodying the style. I love starting a book on a variation of the “femme fatale walks into the detective’s office”. In Candy, the detective is 12-year old Nelle Faulkner, and the client is Eddie de Menthe, a cynical candy bootlegger of the same age. Already, the expectations from the scene are turned. And I love writing hardboiled dialogue. As Nelle says early on: “The truth was I was out of pocket money again, I was behind on my luck, my hat was older than I was and I needed a job even worse than I needed a caramel fudge.” There’s a certain rhythm to the prose even – especially when – you parody it. And there’s actually a lot of humour in Chandler, too. It’s impossible to do it like Chandler did, of course, but at his best the lines simply sing.

Candy takes these adult tropes and throws them into the world of children. It’s funny – but not to the kids themselves. For them the game’s the game – to quote The Wire. For them it’s serious and real. The stakes are high. And just like in the best noir novels, the adult world is revealed as compromised.

“Growing up was serious business,” Nelle reflects at some point, “and so was candy.”

I think the very best children’s writers know this. They know the darkness that lies just out of sight, there on the edge of vision. Growing up isn’t easy. And becoming an adult means compromise. What I love about the hardboiled detective is what I love about Nelle Faulkner. She believes in doing the right thing. Whatever the cost. She believes in fairness, she believes in justice. She wants to make the world a better place.

And I had a ridiculous amount of fun packing in as many classic references as I could get away with! Not just Raymond Chandler – whom Mayor Thornton is named after (Thornton was Chandler’s middle name) – but at various points you might spot a hidden reference to The Godfather, Goodfellas, Justified, The Big Lebowski (itself a brilliant parody of Chandler, of course) and numerous others (even I forget which!). And there’s a pie fight – there should always be a pie fight!

So my hope, too, is that the book works both ways. That it works for kids, but will have an extra dimension for their parents, too. It certainly does seem to be an unusual take, or so I’m told.

But you know what? Ultimately, I just had so much fun writing it, that if nothing else I hope that’s what comes across.

Check out the rest of the posts on the blog tour! Watch this space for my review of Candy coming! Spoiler alert: I loved it!

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S x

Empathy Day 2018

Empathy Roundel18 Final OutlinedToday, I feature on the Empathy Lab’s blog tour featuring all kinds of wonderful authors sharing their thoughts on empathy and the power of using stories to teach kids empathy. The blog tour so far has been incredible with some amazing authors sharing their thoughts! Check out the blog tour for more details and go check out their posts. Today I’m hosting Margi McAllister, author of 15 Things Not To Do With Granny, which is featured in Empathy Lab’s 2018 Read for Empathy Guide.

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Empathy Lab is one of the most important developments in education today.  For years we’ve educated children to learn facts, to reach targets, to do things that we can measure on a chart and put on the league tables.  Did anyone put a priority on educating hearts and minds?  Have we assumed that the whole process of learning about yourself and how you relate to the rest of the world will happen by accident?  At last we have an Empathy Day.  One day isn’t enough, I know.  Empathy is something children – and adults – need to be aware of every day.  But here’s a day when we can celebrate it.

 It’s simple.  The question is – what does it feel like?  How did I feel when I was ill and missed a party, when my best friend wasn’t my best friend any more, when the dog died?  How did I feel when I won the race, when I made a cake all by myself, when my teacher read out my poem to the class?  And if I feel like that, how do other people feel?  What is it like to be them?  If we want a healthy, happy society we need to know how to react to each other wisely and compassionately.

 The Fifteen Things series – Fifteen Things Not To Do With A Baby/Granny/Puppy began as a light-hearted idea and turned into a warm, funny way of looking at caring.  What does Granny really want?  She might not be too keen on a crocodile for her birthday or squashed jelly beans on toast for breakfast.  She needs a bit of time out so she can read, sleep, or practice her karate.

 When I wrote The Summer Lion, I began with a community rather than a heroine.  I had Granny Annie, Daffodil Thumping-Jolly, Billy Will-Do and the Snapdragon family.  The village of Twidings thrives on co-operation, and fights back together against the crafty new landowner who’s only out for money and power.  By the end of the book he would happily ban all lions, grannies, and children, especially Drina Snapdragon.

 Something I love in a book is a ‘no, no, don’t!’ moment.  One of my favourite authors is Eva Ibbotson.  She writes warm, empathetic heroines that make you root for them.  Time and again I find myself thinking, ‘Don’t listen to her!’ ‘Come back!’ ‘Get her away from there!’.  And the heroines can’t do it all themselves.  They need the friends, the allies, the community to do their bit.  Empathy is never all about one person.  It’s about each other.

 It’s about each other.  That seems like a good place to finish.

 What are your favourite books for empathy?

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What is Empathy Day?
Empathy Day was founded in 2017 by EmpathyLab. With hate crimes at their highest level since records began, it uses stories to help us understand each other better, and highlights empathy’s power in our divided world. (https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/hate-crime-statistics). Empathy Day 2018 is on 12 June.

Empathy Day’s calls to action
READ – because reading in itself can make us more empathetic
SHARE – because sharing perspectives through books can connect us in new ways
DO – put empathy into action and make a difference in your community

How to join in  

  • Share ideas for empathy-boosting books using #ReadForEmpathy @EmpathyLabUK
  • Use the free Read For Empathy Guide to 30 children’s books – at www.empathylab.uk
  • Follow this blog tour to hear the powerful voices of the authors and illustrators involved
  • Hundreds of schools and libraries are already taking part. Gt a free toolkit from info@empathylab.uk
  • Use the ideas and free downloadable resources at  http://www.empathylab.uk/empathy-day-resources

Blog Tour 7

BLOG TOUR: My Dad, The Earth Warrior

Hello!

Today is a very exciting day. Today you get another brilliant author guest post! Today, Gary Haq, author of the brilliant ‘My Dad, The Earth Warrior’ is featured on my blog. Gary has a passion for engaging children in talking about and learning about the environment. As a teacher, this is REALLY important to me, so I hope you enjoy Gary’s post!

On Writing

As an environmental researcher, I have written scientific papers and reports, non-fiction books and Op-Eds for the regional and national press but never fiction.

But that all changed when my mother died. Clearing out the family home I came across my Nana’s large well-worn black patent leather handbag. We had kept it for years in the back of the wardrobe, and for some reason,  the bag became a repository for all the important family documents.

Inside there were death and birth certificates of grandparents and relatives, a telegram from the Ministry of Defence informing that my grandfather was lost at sea in the Second World War, a letter of from King George honouring his service to the nation, and my primary school reports in a battered brown envelope.

In my old school report, there was a statement from my primary school teacher that said  how much I enjoyed writing stories.

As an academic researcher my career has been all about facts and referencing evidence. I had totally  forgotten the joy of making up stories.

I therefore decided to revisit the imagination I had as a child. Once I had opened that door in my mind, I was flooded ideas for a children’s book. Then one day, I was dancing around the living room being silly trying to calm my baby daughter, and thought how embarrassing she would find this if she were older.  It was then, I had the idea for a story about a boy who has an embarrassing father

Someone said that writing is about 10% putting words on paper and 90% editing – it’s true! It took me six months to write my first draft and six years editing it!

Since I have a busy home and work life, I try to find pockets of time to write and edit throughout my day. I do try to write at home but this has become increasingly difficult as my daughter grown older.  But here are a few places where I do manage to put pen to paper.

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ON THE BUS

Being temporarily based in Italy at a European research Centre, my workday begins by taking the bus to work, where I try and write and edit. 

 

 

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AT THE CAFFE’

In Italy you can’t start the day without your morning coffee. I visit a café before work to have my morning café macchiato, write a little and watch the array of characters that passby.

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IN THE CANTEEN

At lunch time, when fellow colleagues go to the canteen to eat together, I go alone so I can use the time to work on my book  although, my view is not always a concrete pillar!

What a brilliant post! Thank you so much to Gary to writing a blog post! It’s brilliant. Check out the rest of the blog tour below!

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You can also check out My Dad, The Earth Warrior out now!

S x

BLOG TOUR: Company of Eight

Today, I have the absolute pleasure of hosting Harriet Whitehorn, author of The Company of Eight, on my blog. She’s here to talk about something I was SUPER curious about when I was invited onto the blog tour: 

My Top Three Female Led Fantasy Stories

Little Red Riding Hood

Fairy tales are almost always about girls, and I presume, historically were used as a method to indoctrinate young ladies in how they should behave – for example, if they did a lot of housework without moaning they might end up with a handsome prince.   Most of the heroines are drippy beyond words but I have always had a soft spot for Little Red Riding Hood in her attention seeking red cloak, who wants a little bit more out of life and strays of the path in search of adventure and excitement with the Big Bad Wolf. 

Alice in Wonderland 

Alice is another girl in search of adventure, and what a time she has of it with the array of amazing creatures she comes across in Wonderland- the sinister Cheshire Cat and the tyrannical Queen of Hearts are my personal favourites .  And what I love about Alice is the practical and no-nonsense attitude she retains in the face of the chaos of CS Lewis’s crazy world.   

Lila in The Firework Maker’s Daughter by Philip Pullman

Pullman’s best known heroine is Lyra in the Northern Lights, but I rather like Lila in his earlier story, and she is every bit as brave and tenacious as her more famous counterpart.    Despite being told by her father that being a firework maker it is an unsuitable job for a woman, Lila is determined to be pursue her dream, and goes on a quest to prove it, ending up winning both The Firework Festival and her father’s approval of her career choice.  

Thank you so much Harriet for your brilliant post! Massive thanks to Stripes for inviting me to be part of the blog tour too!

Everyone should go check out The Company of Eight – I read it a while back and absolutely adored it!

Image result for the company of eight

When Ravellous’s Circus Ship comes to Minaris, Cass is determined to audition despite her guardian Mrs Potts’s disapproval. But when her chance is snatched away from her, Cass refuses to give up. She sets out to follow the Circus Ship and the journey leads her into dangers that challenge even her adventurous spirit. Will she succeed in following her dream, or is her destiny something altogether different? 

I am Day 1 of the blog tour! I can’t wait to see the rest of the posts on the tour, check out the banner below to see who else is on the tour and check out their posts when they go live!

The Company of Eight BLOG TOUR BANNER

Happy reading!

S x

BLOG TOUR: The House With Chicken Legs

Today I have the absolute joy of hosting the brilliant Sophie Anderson, author of the gorgeous The House with Chicken Legs, on my blog. She’s here to talk all about one of her favourite Russian fairy tales and what it means to her. 

House with Chicken Legs jacket

The House with Chicken Legs is BRILLIANT. My review will follow in the coming days, but I can not wait for you all to read it because it’s an incredible story which kids and adults alike can adore. Can we also appreciate that cover please?!

Fifteen Russian Fairy Tales and What They Mean to Me

The Cat Who Became Head-Forester (on the dangers of a single narrative)

‘If you drop Vladimir by mistake, you know he always falls on his feet …’

In this Russian fairy tale, retold and published by Arthur Ransome in 1916, Vladimir is a tomcat who is always fighting. He has lost an ear in a fight and is ‘not very pretty to look at’. His owner decides to get rid of him, bundles him into a sack, and abandons him deep in the forest.

Vladimir tears his way out of the sack and sets off to explore the forest. He was head-cat in the village he came from and decides he shall be head of the forest too, so walks along like ‘the Tsar himself’. He finds an abandoned forester’s hut and moves in. When hungry, he catches birds and mice in the forest, and when tired he sleeps in the hay loft. But he is not content, as he must catch all his own food and do all the work for himself.

One day, Vladimir meets a pretty young vixen and tells her his name is Cat Ivanovitch and that he has been sent from the far forests of Siberia to be Head-forester over all. The vixen is impressed and invites Vladimir to her earth, where she feeds him tasty game. She asks to be his wife, and spends each day catching game for her grand husband.

While hunting, the vixen meets her old friend Wolf and tells him about her new husband, the Great Cat Ivanovitch, Head-forester over all. Wolf wants to pay his respects, so the vixen tells him to leave a sheep near their earth. Next, the vixen meets Bear and tells him to leave an ox as an offering to her husband, the Great Cat Ivanovitch.

Wolf and Bear leave their offerings near the earth and decide to hide nearby, hoping to get a glimpse of the Great Cat Ivanovitch. Wolf hides amongst dead leaves beneath a bush, and Bear climbs to the top of a fir tree.

Vladimir emerges from the earth and begins eating the ox, purring as he does so. Wolf moves his head, attempting to get a better look, and the leaves around him rustle. Vladamir stops eating and listens. Thinking the rustling is a mouse, Vladamir leaps onto Wolf’s nose with claws extended.

Wolf yelps and Vladimir, startled, darts up the fir tree. Bear, at the top of tree, thinks the Great Cat Ivanovitch is attacking him and jumps down, breaking branches and bones along the way. Wolf and Bear run off, terrified and …

‘Ever since then all the wild beasts have been afraid of the cat, and the cat and the fox live merrily together, and eat fresh meat all the year round, which the other animals kill for them and leave a little way off.’

When I first heard this tale, I wasn’t quite sure what to think. I started off feeling sorry for poor Vladimir, abandoned in the forest. But he lands on his feet, and by the end of the story is head of all the forest. I wondered if I was meant to admire his tenacity and resourcefulness; his ability to turn his luck around.

But how he achieves success is morally questionable. He lies to the vixen, and is lazy, making her do all the hunting. By the end of the story I felt sorry for the vixen, the wolf and the bear, who had all been lied to and tricked into hunting for Vladimir. However, I also felt they were partially responsible; for believing Vladimir without question, and for wanting to ingratiate themselves with the Great Cat Ivanovitch. I felt particularly cross with the vixen, as she offered to marry Vladimir simply because he was Head-forester, and she perpetuated his lies. 

It seemed to me they might all be in the wrong; Vladimir for lying, and the others for believing him. But then again, it didn’t seem fair to blame the others for simply being trusting. After all, I don’t think it would be good to assume everyone we meet is lying to us. The story made me think about trust versus suspicion, and at what point it is important to do some fact checking.

Certainly, before you marry someone, or work for them, or repeat what they have told you as fact, I think it is a good idea to be sure they are being honest. The vixen, the wolf, and the bear, only ever hear Vladimir’s story – that he is Head-forester – and accept that as fact. But if they had checked his story, done a little research, listened to the thoughts and opinions of others, perhaps they wouldn’t have been fooled so easily.

As I have grown older, this lesson has become only more relevant. The internet has appeared and grown to unbelievable proportions. Endless information is out there, easily accessible, yet still people are fooled by cats like Vladimir. Still people share information without fact checking, like the vixen. And still people rise to power through morally questionable actions.

Perhaps if we all sought out and listened to more than one side of every story, then cats like Vladimir (or Trump) wouldn’t have so much power.

The Cat Who Became Head-Forester can be found in Old Peter’s Russian Tales, written by Arthur Ransome, published by Puffin.

Sophie Anderson - new author pic

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson publishes in paperback, 3 May, £6.99 from Usborne.

 

 

Go check out the rest of the blog tour, there are sure to be more incredible stories like this one to be shared! 

Chicken Legs Tour Graphic

S x