BLOG TOUR: Proud

This year sees the release of one of my most hotly anticipated books, another brilliant anthology from the wonderful publishers Stripes. This year it’s an anthology to celebrate all things pride… and I’m not going to lie, reading it made me VERY proud.

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Today, I have the absolute honour of hosting one of the authors from the anthology, Michael Lee Richardson, as he talks about his top 5 queer teams. You’re in for an absolutely brilliant blog post, so get yourself a cup of tea and a biscuit! 

‘The Other Team’

Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin talks about biological families and logical families, the idea that we have the families we’re born into, and the families we make of our friends. For me, being queer is as much about our friendships and the people we choose to surround ourselves with as it is our romantic and sexual relationships. 

Queer friendship is one of the themes I wanted to work into ‘The Other Team’, the story I wrote for Juno Dawson’s Proud anthology.

With that in mind, when I was asked to write something for the #ProudBook blog tour, I wanted to focus on my favourite queer teams and my favourite queer teammates – so, without further ado:

Michael Lee Richardson’s Top 5 Queer Teams!

The Crystal Gems

I’m a huge fan of Steven Universe – at this point, figuring out which Crystal Gem someone is most like is basically its own form of zodiac sign – and I love the dynamic between the Crystal Gems: Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl and Steven. The fact that they compliment each other, celebrate each other’s differences, and make room for each others quirks and eccentricities is pretty inspiring, as is the fact that they know how to have a good argument and still be there for each other at the end of the day. In the real world, the fact that the Crewniverse – the team behind Steven Universe – is full of queers is also pretty inspiring!

The Fab Five

When I heard Netflix were remaking Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, I was skeptical – the series had its place in the early 2000s, but it felt like we had moved on by 2017. Relaunching the show as Queer Eye – not all the makeovers are with ‘straight guys’ – was a good starting point, but the team Netflix put together was the key to the show’s success. Jonathan Van Ness is my favourite, obviously (when I wrote Alistair from ‘The Other Team’ flicking his ‘hair’ off his shoulders, I was definitely thinking of Van Ness!), but I love them all, and they all bring something unique to the team – not just in their skills, but in their personalities and personas, and it’s nice to see a diverse bunch of queer men working together (especially when it’s for the benefit of other queers).

House of LaBeija

Nothing speaks to the idea of logical families better than houses, part of the drag and ballroom customs which started in Harlem in New York and have become a staple of queer scenes all over the world. From the language – shade, reading, fierce, realness – to the fashion to the dance, ballroom’s influence on queer and mainstream culture can’t be underestimated. I’m particularly fond of the House of LaBeija – Crystal LaBeija, the founder of the House of LaBeija, is often credited as having started ‘house’ culture, and her successor Pepper LaBeija makes a star turn in the legendary drag documentary Paris is Burning.

Babysitter’s Club

Okay, so they’re not canonically queer – but one of the things Proud has made me revisit is the idea that, before LGBTQI+ YA was a going concern, we had to ‘queer’ our YA for ourselves, and there’s no way you could tell 11 year old me the every single one of these girls (and Logan Bruno, boy babysitter) wasn’t queer! The ‘theory’ checks out, too – Ann M Martin, author of The Babysitter’s Club, is queer, and came out publicly after the series was finished. 

Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh

Slightly cheating, this one, as I said being queer teammates was more about friendships than romantic relationships – and Helen and Kate are both! Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh met playing for the England and Great Britain hockey teams – they married in 2013, three years before becoming the first same-sex couple to win an Olympic medal when Team GB won Gold in the women’s field hockey tournament in 2016.

For me, any blog post that celebrates Team GB, The Fab 5 and drag queens in the same blog post is an ABSOLUTE winner. A massive massive thank you to Michael for taking the time to write a blog post for me! I LOVE it so much. 

My review of Proud is coming in the next week or so, so make sure to keep an eye out for it. I promise you this much though… it is EXCEPTIONAL and I can’t wait to shout about it from the rooftops!! 

Why don’t you go celebrate some other brilliant #Proudbook content by checking out the rest of the stops on the blog tour? I have absolutely loved how this blog tour is celebrating all things pride related. 

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A massive thank you to the people of Stripes for sending me an early copy of the book and for inviting me on the blog tour. It’s been an absolute honour to shout about this book everywhere! I can’t wait for it to be released into the wild so everyone can enjoy its majesty! 

S x 

 

BLOG TOUR: Will You Catch Me?

Today, I have the pleasure of hosting author Jane Elson on my blog as part of the blog tour for Will You Catch Me? 

Will You Catch Me Cover Image

“Nell Hobs lives with a tortoise called Bob Marley, guinea pigs Asbo and Chaos, goldfish Beyoncé and Destiny, gerbils Fizz and Tyrone, Aunty Lou the Hamster … and her mum, who drinks too much. Nell does everything she can to be a good daughter so that her mum will stop. But when things get really hard, Nell stands on her head. Everything looks better upside down, don’t you know?

Nell wishes she knew who her dad was. When new teacher Mr Samuels makes history come alive and tells the class the story of Nell Gwynn, the Orange Girl who became one of the first actresses on the London stage, Nell is captivated and is determined to dress up as an Orange Girl for the Costume Parade. She hatches a plan with her best friend Michael: a way to make her dad step forward and claim her. Will she succeed?”

With a Little Help From My Friends: The highs and lows of friendship for the child of alcoholic

Oh, the complexities of schoolgirl friendships! Especially Years 4-7, it’s such a complex thing, often invisible to the adult world.

For children who have an alcohol dependent parent making friends in school can be nearly impossible. How can you have a sleepover or even have someone home to tea when mum or dad might be drunk?

Nell Hobs in my book Will You Catch Me? has a mother who is alcohol dependent and she has fallen out with best friend, Chantal Smith before the story even begins.

‘Chantal and I used to be friends, only she kept wanting to come round to my flat and I just couldn’t have her there, not with my mum the way she is. Chantal kept on and on about coming round, so I started ignoring her and now she hates me.’

Nell’s new best friend is Michael, a looked after child, who lives next door to Nell on the Beckham Estate with Aunty Lou. His mother has had a nervous breakdown and is being taken care of by relatives in Jamaica. His father is a busy business man who rarely sees him. These two vulnerable children stick together like glue. He is the perfect friend because he knows and understands the situation with Nell’s mum.

I had a lot of fun creating Michael. He is a genius and wants to be an inventor when he grows up. He is constantly taking things to pieces for his inventions and causing havoc! His wardrobe, the lock on the bathroom door, his school chair and so on. Michael is flamboyant in his dress preferring waistcoats, bright spotty patterned shirts and bow ties to trainers and tracksuits. This makes him stand out and he is bullied by the Beckham Street Boyz, the gang on his estate and the T Crew from the neighbouring Tarkey House Estate. Then one day he invents a remote control for the school clock and they get out of maths 45 minutes early. Michael, becomes a hero! He has earned respect and is nick named Prof M. Nell and Michael can now walk about the estate freely.

The complexities of school life are hard as fitting in seems to be the way to survive. Anyone who is different and stands out from the crowd has a rocky ride at some stage in their lives but often go on to achieve great things.

Nell and Michael’s friendship is strong, beautiful and I hope touching to my readers. Nell is not perfect; she is so driven by her desire to fix her mum and find out who her dad is that she fails to notice how much Michael is missing his mum.

She is also bossy and tells Michael what to do which leads to a dramatic climax to the story but I won’t spoil the ending of Will You Catch Me?. I loved writing about Nell and Michael’s friendship. They became my friends as I wrote the book and now that it is finished and out in the world I miss them dearly.

I believe that every child has the right to see themselves reflected in a book. I feel Will You Catch Me? is the most important story I have ever written. Not every one of the 2.6 million children who have a parent who drinks too much, like Nell does, is lucky enough to have a friend like Michael.

Nacoa- the National Association of children of Alcoholics- has a message. You are not alone. This week is COA Week- Children Of Alcoholics Week to raise awareness for children like Nell in Will you catch Me? If you are reading this and are one of those children, please phone The National Association For Children Of Alcoholics helpline number is 0800-358-3456 to talk to someone in confidence.

The National Association For Children Of Alcoholics (Nacoa) has a message for children like Nell. It is ‘You are not alone’. Their helpline number is 0800-358-3456. Children of Alcoholics week (10-16 February) aims to raise awareness of the lives of the 2.6 million children in the UK who are growing up affected by parental alcohol problems. For further information, including ways you can help and a downloadable #URNotAlone poster, please visit their website www.coaweek.org.uk or www.nacoa.org.uk

A massive thank you to Jane for writing this post and an equally big thank you to Fritha for asking me to be part of this blog tour!

Check out the rest of the blog tour, I know there promises to be some more brilliant posts coming up!

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S x

An Amazing Blog Tour

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Today I have the ABSOLUTE joy of being part of the Amazing blog tour. I was so incredibly lucky to be asked to host a Q&A with the incredibly brilliant Steve Antony – author and illustrator extraordinare.

As soon as I knew I was doing a Q&A, it was inevitable that I had to get my kids involved, so they helped me write the questions (there were SO many they had, so I had to whittle it down!)

Check out the questions and some brilliant responses from the man himself! 

What’s your favourite thing about going to schools?

Apart from chomping biscuits and nattering with teachers in the staff room, I always enjoy seeing all the artwork that classes have created. Whether it be acrylic self-portraits, cardboard dioramas, character pumpkins or even something as simple as paper snowflakes, I really do believe that art brings a school to life.

Funniest memory of visiting schools?

The funniest moments come during Q&A. Children don’t have filters, do they? The younger the audience the odder the questions. Is the Queen your granny? Are you Ed Sheeran? Why don’t you comb your hair?

Also, being greeted by over 200 children (and teachers) dressed as pandas on World Book Day was something I will never forget.

What memories do you have of reading as a child?

Most of my earliest and clearest memories of reading take me back to my school library. I remember that feeling of being surrounded by hundreds of stories just waiting to be discovered. I was never a fast reader and I preferred books with pictures, I still do, but there was something empowering about just being in my school library. Sadly, many children may never know that feeling, which is why the #GreatSchoolLibraries campaign is so important. The campaign aims to bring school libraries and librarians back to every school in the UK, because every child deserves a great library. You can find out more about the Great School Libraries campaign at: http://www.greatschoollibraries.edublogs.org

I also have fond memories of our public library. That’s where I discovered some of my favourite authors and Illustrators.

Do you remember the first book you read as a child that made you want to write?

Even as a very young child I loved to draw. But it was picture books like Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and The Munch Bunch (created by Barrie and Elizabeth Henderson and illustrated by Angela Mitson) that inspired me to imagine my own characters and tell stories with drawings.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I believe that inspiration is everywhere, but you have to tune in to it. I like to prove this theory in my story-building workshops. By the end of each workshop almost everybody has an idea for a story, and some even have synopses!

Books are a fantastic source of inspiration, which is why the library is the perfect place to feel inspired. Many of my stories were inspired by something I’d seen in a book, magazine or newspaper.

What is your typical writing routine? From first draft to final draft?

People often think I spend all day writing and drawing, but there’s so much involved in being an author and illustrator. In fact, last week I only spent around 5 hours working on my next picture book because the rest of my time was spent on emails, events, my website, blogs, taxes and marketing. As part of this blog tour, I wrote a ‘Day in the Life’ guest post for Acorn Books, which you might find interesting. https://acornbooksblog.wordpress.com

It takes about 4-5 months to start and finish a picture book. Normally my publisher will select a couple of ideas from my sketchbook for me to develop (this usually happens when I’m at the tail- end stages of finishing another picture book). In order to develop ideas into stories I do need plenty of time and space to breath because I find it hard to tap into my imagination during busy spells. I normally get a gut feeling if a story is working or not. As a general rule it has to feel easy, and if ever I feel like I’m rowing upstream, I let go of the oars. Once I’m happy with my story concept, I move on to character development, pacing and paginating. This can take weeks or months. The very last stage involves drawing the final artwork and tweaking the text, which can take anywhere up to three months.

What’s next for you?

Magic Light Pictures are currently developing the Mr Panda cartoon series, which is incredibly exciting. I’ve got more books in the pipeline, including a brand-new character that I’ve yet to create! The next Mr Panda book, We Love You, Mr Panda, comes out later in the year. I’ll soon be meeting with Swindon Libraries to discuss the next borough-wide art completion (I hold at least one art contest with them per year). Also, I hope to start writing a chapter book soon, but not even my publisher knows that yet! But before any of that happens, I’m going on my honeymoon, because I just got married!

It’s only day 3 of this blog tour and it has already been amazing (no pun intended!). Go check out the other blog posts so far, and watch out for the rest of the posts coming in the next few days! I am so incredibly excited for this book.

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Massive massive thank you to the brilliant people of Hachette Kids for asking me to be on this blog tour and Steve Antony for answering our questions! My kids and I had such a blast, and it’s been a pleasure reading Steve’s answers. I’ll be sharing them with my kids at some point today! 

S x 

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