BLOG TOUR: Anna Doherty

Hello friends!

Sorry I’ve been MIA this week. This week has been an insanely busy week at work with observations and learning walks and twilights, so on Sunday I had a day off doing lots of work and blogging and spent it with my gorgeous friend. 

However, you are in for a total treat today because I have a Q&A with the amazing Anna Doherty all about her new book Michelle Obama. This book is all about celebrating Black History Month and is part of the incredible Fantastically Feminist series. When I knew I was going to be lucky enough to host a Q&A with the author, I enlisted the help of my class to ask some questions! I narrowed them down the the 8 below, but there were some brilliant questions I didn’t get to ask! 

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1. What made you want to write about Michelle Obama?
A few things. I think she’s got a very interesting life story, but what drew me to her more was her personality. She’s so passionate and caring, and dedicated to EVERYTHING she does,which is so special, and I think those are amazing qualities to have and to tell children about.
2. Why is it important to you to highlight the amazing work that women have done? 
Women have so often been overlooked in history and skipped over, and while that’s getting a lot better now I think it’s still very important to keep highlighting women. On a personal level, I was a huge tomboy when I was little, because in loads of my books it seemed like the boys did all the fun and cool stuff! So I want the next generation of little Annas to realise that girls are also super cool and can do absolutely anything they put their minds to. But these books are not just for girls – I want to show that no matter who or when or where you are, you can make a difference!
3. If you could ask Michelle one question, what would it be? 
I would ask her, how does she have so much energy and positivity all the time!
4. What other amazing women do you want to write about? 
I would love to write about Katie Sandwina, a super stongwomen and suffragette from 1880s Austria. She could lift a canon above her head!
Also, I would love to write about Mary Queen of Scots, who was Queen of Scotland ages ago in the 1500s. She became Queen when she was just six days old!
5. You’re invited to have a dinner with 3 amazing women from history, who would they be and why? 
Such a hard question!
Coretta Scott King (activist – and Martin Luther King Jr.’s wife) because she was a huge activist for race and gender equality and LGBTQIA+ rights. She seemed to be so passionate, and never gave up what she believed in for a second.  She was a singer too, and she just seemed an amazing person all round!
Ada Lovelace (the first computer programmer) because I’ve been obsessed with her for a long time, and I wrote a book about her, so I feel like I know her really well and we’d get on! She was brilliant because she was determined to learn maths and science in a time when not many girls had an education.
Nellie Bly (an undercover reporter) because she was always going on adventures! She because a journalist when not many women were, and she did undercover operations to expose things that she thought were unfair (like bad working conditions, or horrible hospitals). She travelled around the world all on her own, and she seemed so headstrong and independent, and let nothing stand in her way!
6. Do you have any writing rituals? 
I get very distracted if I’m not at my own desk, I have a little studio in a spare bedroom in my flat. I like to listen to podcasts or music and drink lots of black coffee.
7. What’s the best thing about being an author?
I love every part of it, but the absolute best part is when you see your work printed into a book for the first time. Often you finished writing and illustrating months ago, so there are little things you don’t remember, and it’s like seeing a friend you’ve not met in a long time again!
8. What was the last book you read and loved? 
For children: She Made A Monster (written by Lynn Fulton and illustrated by Felicity Sala). It’s about Mary Shelley who wrote Frankenstein, and I think she’s so fascinating, and it’s a bit dark and creepy in time for Halloween! (So maybe so slightly older children, or adults!)  And the illustrations are beautiful.
For adults: My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. It’s just brilliant, I couldn’t put it down!
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OUT NOW! This is the absolutely astonishing, fantastically feminist and, best of all, totally true story of one amazingly inspirational global icon! Meet the marvellous Michelle Obama: A+ student, passionate piano player, and a girl who’s not afraid to dream big. Determined to make the world a better place, the grown up Michelle gets to work in helping the community in whatever way she can. But then she meets and falls in love with Barack Obama, who is equally passionate about changing the world and he tells her he wants to become the first African American President of the United States, Michelle knows it’s time to really find her voice…

A review of this book is coming next week… but trust me, it’s absolutely incredible! I am loving all of the amazing non-fiction that is coming out celebrating incredible women and this one sits very proudly on my shelf of non-fiction!

I’ve kicked off the blog tour, but be sure to check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour in the coming days! There is sure to be a whole host of brilliant content and maybe even a review or two so you know I’m not just telling fibs!

Michelle Obama Blog Tour (1)

A massive thank you to the publishers, and to Anna, for allowing me to kick off this blog tour! It’s always an absolute delight!

Who would you write a book about if you could choose any wonderful woman?
What’s your favourite empowering women non-fiction book out there?
What was the last book you read that you want to shout about?

Thanks so much for stopping by! 

S x 

BLOG TOUR: A Pinch of Magic

Hello lovely friends! 

Today I have the ABSOLUTE JOY of hosting a Q&A with author Michelle Harrison – who has written the absolutely incredible A Pinch of Magic. Now, I read this book back in 2018 and guys… it’s PROPERLY stuck with me. I just adored it. It’s one of those that I hope I get to read aloud to my kids one day because I just loved it. EVERYTHING I COULD NEED IN A BOOK: Brilliant characters, magic and charm. WONDERFUL.

Anyway, you’re here for the Q&A, not my rambling on about the story! I asked my kids to help me think of some questions and once they started they didn’t want to stop! 

1. Where did you get the inspiration for the story? 
The idea came from a book called The Lore of the Land, which is all about Britain’s
folklore. I noticed a section on Essex, and read that the village of Canewdon will
supposedly always have six witches there. Whenever one dies, a stone falls out of the church walls. This was the starting point for the curse in A Pinch of Magic. I decided to write about three sisters as I’m the youngest of three.

2. Which character did you enjoy writing the most? 
I loved writing the sections in the past about the mysterious girl in the tower and how the curse all came about, but I don’t want to give too much away here! I also really enjoyed writing about Charlie, she’s a little scamp who brings lightness to the story.

3. Do you think you’d survive in the world you wrote?
No way! It’s damp and miserable in Crowstone ‒ I’d HATE it! I don’t handle the cold
well, and my hair is a lot like Betty’. One bit of damp weather and POOF. Fuzzball.

4. Is there one of the characters you think you’re the most like? 
Well, according to the quiz in the back of the book I’m most like Charlie. I’m fond of
animals and I’m usually thinking about my next meal. But there’s also a touch of Fliss, as I enjoy baking and homely things, although I’m not a disaster in the kitchen like she is. I’ve probably given my heart away too easily in the past, too. 

5. If you could have a magical object, what would you choose and why? 
From the book it would have to be the travelling bag ‒ the potential for adventures
and mischief would be impossible to resist. But if I could choose anything it would be something pretty like a dragonfly pendant or ring which could allow me to fly. I used to have lots of flying dreams when I was younger and they were so much fun I was always sad to wake up!

A massive massive thank you to the publishers (Simon and Schuster) for inviting me to be on this blog tour, and for Michelle for taking time to answer my kids’ questions! 

You should all DEFINITELY go out and buy A Pinch of Magic (if you need any more convincing, it’s also Waterstone’s Children’s Book of the Month) I really really loved it!

Go check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour! I can’t wait to read the rest of the posts! 

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S x

BLOG TOUR: The Hurting

Today I have the absolute joy of hosting Lucy van Smit, author of The Hurting on my blog. I was originally asked to be part of the blog tour with a review, but then I was asked if I’d like to do a Q&A and I was thrilled. I really enjoyed The Hurting… it’s a LOT. My review is coming in the next week or so, so I won’t spoil it too much! 

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Check out my Q&A with Lucy and go out and buy the book (it’s out now!)… it’s a gripping read!

1) Where did the inspiration for The Hurting come from?
The Hurting started with the abduction of the baby originally as an exercise on my Creative Writing MA to show a character through her actions. I love literary Nordic Noir thrillers, but I don’t like violence, and stealing a baby as I’d lost a child myself, was the worst thing I could imagine. A writing friend scoffed, and told me I’d never get the story published, and that made me stubborn and I found a way into the story that was uplifting – a girl finding redemption after being led astray. I dug deep into myself and explored my Catholic childhood, and Nell calls on almost supernatural mystical powers to try and rescue Ulv Pup. Like Nell, I didn’t believed in romantic love as a girl, but fell in love at first sight with my husband. I really wanted to explore that immense emotion, and wonder what it would it take to fight such an infatuation. It’s a challenging story, and I’m lucky I have wonderful publishers. I was nervous in case adults misread the story, but I just got this terrific feedback from a school librarian

“Dear Lucy,  It’s brilliant! Really, really good – and I’m not just saying that.  I finished it last night and was genuinely sad it had come to an end.  It’s very powerful and so vivid;  some authors are good at characterisation, some at setting…you seem to excel at both.  I’m seriously impressed. I’m thrilled actually, as for me the very best YA books (and the ones that I encourage our Year 8s to read) are those which are well-written, powerful reads on often quite dark subjects but which don’t resort to gratuitous sex or violence.  Personally, I think you’ve nailed it.”

2) Did you always know that Lukas would be as sinister a character as he became?

Hm, Lukas sinister? I don’t see Lukas that way. I perceived Lukas as a very beautiful, damaged, wild, passionate boy raised by wolves, who had vowed to save his wolf pack on the Norwegian fjords. Lukas never intended to fall in love with Nell. She was his prey, but he is hugely romantic. A poetic Lorca character with a dark brooding soul, obsessed with death. Technically, it was extremely tricky to write a thriller in the first person, present tense, so I added a few Lukas scenes in his point of view, to rack up the tension and suspense and explain Lukas’s actions are driven by love to save his family.

3) What did you want a reader to take away from this story?

It’s a Sleeping Beauty fable; at the beginning of the novel, Nell says, ‘I’ve thrown away my life like toilet paper, and never noticed.’ She is woken by a kiss, but finds herself through her connection with the baby Ulv Pup who represents Nell’s innocence and pulls Nell back to her true self. I wanted a reader to notice themselves more, their own lives more and how much is wonderful in ourselves and our immediate families. 

4) Your setting is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever read, did you visit any exotic locations for the story?

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Wow!  Thank you so much. I am a painter and used to work in TV. I guess I am a visual writer.  I took my family on a trip to Norway and we visited the Norwegian Fjords, the famous Flam Railway and Bergen and Oslo, and the Pulpit Stone in Stavanger down south, which I ‘moved’ in my story and called Sermon Rock.  I chose Norway because I needed wolves because of Nell’s fear of dogs, but I fell in love with the fjords. It is the most beautiful county. On the trip, we stayed with farmers who had a local wolf problem, where a lone wolf was behaving out of character and killing dogs in the woods and attacking goats in front of people. Norwegians kill a lot of wolves and an alpha left isolated without a pack becomes unpredictable and aggressive. I picked up loads of lore about Norway along the way.

5. There’s a lot of twists and turns in the book, are you a plotter or do you let your plot take you by surprise when you write?

Definitely a plotter when it comes to a thriller. I use a lot of TV tricks, sets up and pay offs. I’d see an image or a clue earlier on, so when the twist comes it feels more plausible. For the more lyrical sections, where Nell tunes into her singing and her response to the landscape and her feelings for the baby, that often sprang out and surprised me.

A massive thank you to Lucy for taking the time to answer my questions! It’s always fascinating learning all about books from the author themselves!

Check out the rest of the people on the blog tour… there’s some cracking posts!

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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

Q&A with Katherine Webber!

Katie Webber is one of my favourite authors, one of those MUST BUYS MUST TRY TO ACQUIRE BOOKS FROM. Wing Jones is one of those just incredible books that comes along and smacks you in the face. When I was asked if I’d like to do a Q&A with Katie as part of the NYA Literature Festival celebrations, I JUMPED AT THE CHANCE
Enjoy guys! 
1. Where did the inspiration for Wing Jones come from?
The idea of writing about a girl runner had been bouncing around in my brain for years. I ran track and cross country in high school  and while I loved parts of it, I also found it very difficult! I used to fantasize about being a naturally talented runner, and it just coming effortlessly. So when I finally sat down to start what would become WING JONES, I had all these questions about this girl runner character. Who was she? Why was she special? Why was she running? Why didn’t she know she was a talented runner? Wing’s brother Marcus came next, and then her grandmothers, and the whole story went out from there. 
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2. What is your writing process? Do you go for a set number of words a day? Or do you just write as and when you can?
It depends if I’m drafting or editing! When I’m drafting I try to just get as much written as I can, but when I’m editing it is a slower process. Sometimes it will take me days to perfect a certain scene, and most of that time I’m just thinking and trying to work it out. I like to write at home in my office or in my living room with writer friends or at the British Library. 

3. There’s an incredible sense of “believe in yourself” in your books, is this a message you want your readers to take from Wing?
Absolutely! My biggest message would be to believe in yourself, and that you are stronger than you think you are. I hope this comes across in my next YA book too. 

4. You’ve written for children and young adults, how were the two processes different?

It was a completely different process! I really enjoyed doing something so collaborative. Working with my husband Kevin was a lot of fun, and I think for this particular project I couldn’t have written it on my own, so it was great to have a partner.  The whole process is very different from how I write YA, and I think it was good for my brain to work a different way. It is definitely difficult at times co-writing it, but worth it in the end! 

YA is where my heart is, but I loved writing for a different age range. And it was really great to work on something so collaborative. And I LOVE having a book with illustrations.

The planning process is very different. Writing collaboratively requires a lot more structure. Kevin and I spend a lot of time brainstorming and then we write a very structured outline that we don’t deviate too much from. For my YA novels, I rarely have an outline, and when I write a first draft, I tend to see where it takes me. I’m writing to find the story.  After my first draft, sometimes I’ll make an outline or write a synopsis that I can use as a reference while editing. My YA books require more rounds of edits, and SAM WU requires more planning and outlining. 

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5. How has your debut year been?

I’ve had the best debut year! I’m so grateful to my wonderful publisher Walker books, to all the readers who have supported the book, to all the authors who have been so welcoming and wonderful! And of course to all the amazing bloggers who shouted about the book and got behind it–it makes a huge difference to a debut author. I’m so grateful to be an author and try to enjoy every part of the experience. 

6. What’s next?
My next YA novel is out this August with Walker books. The title is ONLY LOVE CAN BREAK YOUR HEART and it is set in the Palm Springs desert. It’s about a beautiful, popular girl named Reiko Smith-Mori who has secrets and cracks in her heart, the boy who thinks she’s perfect, and what happens when they both want something the other one can’t give them. It’s about family, friendship, and finding yourself. 
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As a reader of all of these 3 books, I can say that they are all wonderful in their own ways. I would recommend them HIGHLY. The kids at school are loving Sam Wu, and I know so many of my blogger pals are a fan of Wing Jones. I can’t wait for them all to meet Reiko!
Northern YA Lit Fest

Northern YA Literary Festival

University of Central Lancashire, in association with their new BA in Publishing, are hosting The Northern Young Adult Literature Festival on Saturday 24th March 2018 at 53 Degrees in Preston. Doors open at 10am, with the events staggered throughout the day. Best of all, it’s free!

S x

Author spotlight: Laura Steven

Hello, today I have the absolute pleasure of introducing you to Laura Steven, author of the incredible The Exact Opposite of Okay. If you’ve not picked it up yet, please do.It’s absolutely incredible. Laura is here answering 3 quick questions about her book… so I should leave you to it really!

Where did the inspiration for TEOOO come from?

In terms of inspiration, this book was SO different to everything else I’ve ever written (I’d written four full manuscripts before TEOOO).
While my novel ideas usually come to me through plot or world first, Izzy’s voice just popped into my head one morning. Seriously, the hilarious voice of a snarky teenage girl just started chirping away in my head. I felt like I might require an exorcism. So all I had to do was come up with a story for her, and the rest is history.

The plot itself is inspired by a few different things that have happened to me since leaving high school – namely a friend-zoned guy who turned aggressive, a former boss who sexually harrassed me in the workplace. I wanted to explore some of the issues facing teenage girls – slut-shaming, friend-zoning, body image, victim-blaming – but also do with humour and sass. Because life is just more fun – and more bearable – if you can laugh when everything is going to shit.

What is your favourite thing about Izzy?

The way she’s so completely, unapologetically herself. When I was that age, I knew who I wanted to be but I was too scared to be that person. Confident, funny, wise in my own way. So in a sense, I relived my teenage years vicariously through Izzy. She doesn’t care what the world thinks of her as long as she’s true to herself. She also holds her hands up when she makes a mistake and dos whatever it takes to make amends. I adore that in her too – I think when we’ve messed up, it’s human nature to go on the defensive and refuse to admit you were wrong. But Izzy readily admits she acted like a royal twat to someone she loves. That’s kinda cool of her.

What do you want people to take from TEOOO?
 

Well first of all, I really hope people learn never to touch their foofer after chopping chilis. In all seriousness though, I really want to inspire teenagers to speak up and fight back against the never-ending stream of misogyny diarrhea they have to face on a daily basis. I believe we’re living in a time of huge change, with the Silence Breakers being named TIME’s Person of the Year, the #MeToo campaign gathering so much steam, and powerful men beginning to be held accountable for their sexual harassment. It feels like the tide is finally turning, and I’m so proud to be joining the fight with this book. 

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Blurb

Aspiring comedian Izzy O’Neill never expected to be eighteen and internationally reviled. But when photos involving her, a politician’s son and a garden bench emerge, the trolls set out to take her apart. Armed with best friend Ajita and a metric ton of nachos, she must figure out who’s behind the vicious website – while keeping her sanity intact. Izzy is about to find out that the way the world treats girls is not okay. It’s the Exact Opposite of Okay.

This is a book for anyone who’s ever called themselves a feminist . . . and anyone who hasn’t.  

Bio

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Laura Steven is an author and journalist from the northernmost town in England. Her writing has appeared in The i Paper, The Guardian and Buzzfeed, and The Exact Opposite of Okay, her YA debut, will be published by Egmont in March 2018. By day, Laura works for Mslexia, a non-profit organisation supporting women writers. She has a BA in Journalism and an MA in Creative Writing, and her TV pilot Clickbait reached the final eight in British Comedy’s 2016 Sitcom Mission. Laura is represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary and Media Inc.

If you’d like to follow Laura (which you should because she’s WONDERFUL) check out her social links… there’s SO MANY places to follow her.

Q&A

Hello! 

I put a call out a few weeks ago on Twitter to say I was going to do a Q&A, and today I am answering the questions I received! If you have a question, leave it in the comments and I will answer it!

Favourite chocolate? (@GoldenBooksGirl)
My favourite chocolate is probably white chocolate, although I’m not going to lie Guylian shells are the absolute best chocolates in the world.

Why are you so awesome though? (@charlotteswhere)
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA as if. But thank you! I do try!

Most feelsworthy book? (@olivia_gacka)
The books recently which have made me cry most were Countless – Karen Gregory, Paper Butterflies – Lisa Heathfield and Me Before You – Jojo Moyes. However, if we’re talking like FEELS… The Scarecrow Queen by Melinda Salisbury made me feel THINGS. (Get on The Sin Eater’s Daughter trilogy guys!)

Favourite ice cream flavour? (@GoldenBooksGirl)
I love mint choc chip ice cream, or raspberry ripple! I don’t eat ice cream that often though!

What was your favourite book as a child and have you reread it as an adult? (@charlotteswhere)
Matilda, obv. I also loved Charlotte’s Web and The Secret Garden. I have since read all 3 as an adult and will keep reading them for as long as I can read. I have much love for those books!

Favourite genre? (@olivia_gacka)
Oh man. Magic. Anything with magic in is GOOD WITH ME. I love a bit of Fantasy too. I will be all over those books, no lies.

First book I ever read? (@GoldenBooksGirl)
I genuinely have no idea! The first book I read which had a massive impact on me however was Charlotte’s Web. That books is incredible. And Matilda obviously!

If I had to live in a bookish world, which would it be and why? (@olivia_gacka)
Oh god. They all have their ups and downs. Like would I choose to live in Harry Potter? NO. Dementors would terrify me. I think I would go with living with Matilda and Miss Honey, so I could help to overthrow Miss Trunchbull, or some magical land.

First character I had a crush on. Last one to do so (@notsotweets)
Oh gosh, I don’t think I remember the FIRST character I had a crush on. However, more recently I have a massive crush on Jin from Alwyn Hamilton’s Rebel of the Sands trilogy. He is a babe. So crush worthy.

Name one thing on your bucket list, and tell us why its there (@2020hines_sight)
I don’t know that I actually have a bucket list? Maybe I should make one! Having my own classroom is definitely on there though. Teaching has been the thing I have ALWAYS wanted to do. (I know, I know. You probably wanted something way more exciting like skydiving or abseiling…)

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments or tweet me and I’ll answer them! I may do another blog post like this one day, if I get any more questions in! 

S x

BLOG TOUR: The Snake Who Baked A Cake

Second post today! How lucky are you all!

This time round, I’m sharing a Q&A with the lovely authors of ‘The Snake Who Baked A Cake’! How exciting!

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1. What’s your favourite thing about writing for children?
We love seeing children’s reaction to our story, as this really brings the written words to life. We also value the discussions that story-writing provokes and allows us to understand how children relate to their environment.  
 
2. Where did the idea for Snake Who Baked a Cake come from?
We wanted the story to present an interactive activity, applicable to everyday life.  An adult-led activity, such as baking, does this with an educational aspect attached to it.  It exposes the child to literacy and numeracy.
Picturing and visualising how a limbless reptile, such as a snake, could handle objects/ingredients and make a scrumptious cake was not only amusing but also a fun challenge when thinking about how we wanted the book to be illustrated. 
 
3. What’s the most fun part of being an author?
Being able to create and be creative with no limits, then seeing the story come to life.
 
4. What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?
The whole experience has been surreal, we still look at the finished product and can’t quite believe it!
 
5. Who would be your dream cake party guests?
A dream guest would be Road Dahl, a writer who influenced our very on childhood imagination.  A party themed in a way to bring his world back to life for a day.
 
6. Finally, what is your favourite cake? If you were the snake who baked, what would you bake?
Carrot cake has always been our favourite.
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Thank you so much to Authoright for inviting me onto this blog tour! I can’t wait to share The Snake Who Baked A Cake with the kids at school!

S x

Q&A-mas! feat Sarah Govett!

Woohoo!! Following on from my amazing gift of books and my review of Sarah’s books from a few days ago, Sarah and I thought it would be a brilliant idea to do a Q&A and I have to say I am so honoured that she agreed! 

  1. How did you get the idea for your book?
    People always say write about what you know, so I wrote about the horrific stress of exams, the elevation of maths and science above more creative subjects and the focus on regurgitation of fact rather than application of knowledge. Having worked very closely with teenagers approaching exams over the last 9 years, I have seen how unfair the system is in Britain as success is as much dependent on type of school and quality of teaching as it is on natural ability. I wanted to take this stress and unfairness and heighten it to a life-or-death situation. However, I hope that the book isn’t totally devoid of humour. I felt that the teenagers in it, even (or maybe especially) teenagers facing probable death, would still joke, do stupid things, worry about looking cool and be mortified by their parents.
  1. Which character do you think you’re most like? Are your characters based on real people?
    Oh I’m not sure about this one. I think I have elements of all of the characters in me – I’m a bit arty like Jack, quite determined like Noa, slightly superficial like Daisy, occasionally overly rational like Raf! My characters aren’t based on real people but maybe elements of their personalities are drawn from people I know.
  1. Which scene was the hardest for you to write?
    The scene that was most emotional for me was when Noa has a show down with her Mum (I won’t tell you what about as that’d be a massive spoiler!) and her Mum says that ever since she held Noa in her arms she knew she’d kill for her. This is based on the very raw, protective maternal feelings I experienced holding my girls for the first time. I think one of the most interesting questions you can ask yourself is how far you’d go to protect the ones you love.
  1. What is your writing process like? Do you have a special routine?
    Time has always been a controlling factor. Originally I wrote when my babies were asleep. Now, the younger one is at nursery in the mornings so that’s my golden time. My routine is that I go to my local Café Nero (so I can’t see the piles of washing building up around me) and type away manically for an hour, blocking out the rest of the world.
  1. What is your favourite book? Why is this special to you?Image result for the chrysalids
    My favourite book is probably The Crysalids by John Wyndham – dystopia before they were using the term. I read it aged 12, 14, 16 and 26. It’s a powerful and unsettling coming of age story set in a post-nuclear community where intolerance and religious conservatism reign. Difference, in the form of genetic mutation, is seen as deviation from God’s creation, and hounded and stamped out. A brilliant, brilliant study of bigotry and humanity. Two words – Sophie’s foot.  I cry every time. 
  1. If you couldn’t be an author, what would you be?
    I would probably still be a tutor. Working one to one with children, particularly teenagers is fascinating and a real privilege.
  1. What comes first the character or the story?
    For me it was the story – I wanted to write about the environment and our education system. But that’s not to belittle character. In Noa, I sought to create a believable heroine who was strong but also suffered self-doubt, was fun, danced like she was electrocuted and really, really, wanted to survive.
  1. What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
    Don’t worry so much about what other people think. 
  1. Do you have a favourite word or phrase?
    Gregarious. And belligerent. I think they just sound awesome.

So there you have it! It has been an absolute pleasure to do this Q&A with Sarah, to read her books, to meet her and to have a drink with her during YAShot! The book community is so incredible and it’s amazing when bloggers, little old bloggers like me get to make links with amazing authors like Sarah. I hope we get to work together again in the future!!

Massive thanks from the bottom of my heart to Sarah for giving up her time and for sending me her amazing books! It means a lot! I can’t wait to see what happens in The Territory in the 3rd book and I will be sure to share with you guys what occurs!

If this Q&A has you wanting to follow Sarah then she’s @sarahgovett on Twitter! Her books are available through Amazon and Waterstones. Check them out! You won’t regret it!

S xx

UKYACX blog tour: Sara Grant

So I was lucky enough to be invited to do a blog post with not only one author, but 2! Here is my blog post with the amazing Sara Grant. We had a lot of fun doing this author/blogger Q&A. Questions 1-5 were answered by Sara Grant. Questions 6-10 were answered by me! 

1. Which book have you read that inspired you most? What was it about that book that inspired you?
To Kill a Mocking-Bird by Harper Lee

The story is captivating and honest. Its message of equality rings as true today – and is as important – as when it was written in 1960. It’s one of those rare, layered books that combines a compelling story with important themes. It lingers with you long after you’ve read the final page and challenges the way you look at the world.

2. Did you always want to be an author? Why?
I always wanted to be a writer. When I was really young, I told stories to my imaginary friends – Jolly and Eck. As a young child, I spent hours playing with my Barbie dolls. I’d create these epic tales that would last days and even months. I’d disappear into my room and be lost in a story of my own creation for hours at a time. So I guess I’ve always been a storyteller.

I wrote my first story when I was eight years old. It had a beginning, middle and end as well as a title page and dedication. It was called “A Dream I Wish Was True”. The story was about how eight-year-old me was able to meet my favourite movie star. As I was writing this first story and every time I read it, I controlled how the world worked – not something an eight-year-old gets to do. After that I was hooked!

What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t an author?
I worked for seventeen years in public relations for big foundations and small non-profit organizations. My forte was strategy and planning. After I earned a master’s in creative and life writing from Goldsmiths, I switched careers and worked for several years as an editor at Working Partners, a company that creates series fiction for children. I loved creating stories collaboratively with a team of editors and writers. I imagine I’d still be engaged in children’s publishing in some way.

3. Which of your own characters do you love the most? Do you have one?
I think you have to love all your characters – even the baddies – to be able to write about them convincingly. You spend months – and sometimes years – dreaming them into life. They become part of you.

My new Chasing Danger series stars Chase Armstrong, a feisty, athletic 14-year-old American. Because I’m currently immersed in writing adventures through her eyes, she’s probably my favourite at the moment.

Is there a literary character you wish you’d written and why?
There are so many literary characters I admire: the characters in To Kill a Mocking-Bird, particularly Scout and Atticus, for example. It’s less that I wish I’d written those characters

and more that I want to learn from epic writers, like Lee, and discover how they created compelling characters that endure.

4. If the world was coming to an end and you could only save 3 books (your books were safe!), which would they be and why?
This is a tough question. There are so many books I cherish. If the world was ending and I could only take three books in a bunker with me, I’d want one ‘meaning of life’ book, one to make me laugh and one for pure reading pleasure.

1. To Kill a Mocking-Bird by Harper Lee. I’ve sorted of answer this question in my YA novel Half Lives. To Kill a Mocking-Bird was the only novel that survived in my post-apocalyptic tale. The future I imagined is laced with winks to Lee’s book.

2. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. I first listened to it as an audiobook, and I frequently burst out laughing. (Which got me loads of strange looks, especially while riding the Tube.)

3. The complete collection of Agatha Christie. I love mysteries. There’s something cosy and comforting about settling in with an Agatha Christie story. Murder on the Orient Express. And Then There Were None. Murder is Easy. I know most of these stories already but am willing to read them again and again.

5. What’s your favourite Disney film?
The Little Mermaid. I have fond memories of watching it with my nieces. I could probably still sing most of the songs by heart.

Do you prefer goodies or baddies?
All my books have strong female protagonist, unlikely rebels and heroes, so I prefer the goodies. But you need fascinating baddie to make the goodies great.

6. What is the first book you remember reading on your own? What’s the book you’ve just finished reading?
I’ve always read, as long as I can remember I’ve loved reading. I would say the first book I remember reading, finishing and it having an impact was Charlotte’s Web. I loved that it was all about friendship and the things we have to do for our friends. I’ve just finished Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Bernard. Coincidentally it was another book about friendship – the trials and tribulations of being a teenager and having best friends. I really enjoyed it! 

7. If you were a comic book character, would you more likely be the evil mastermind or the superhero? Why?
Oh this is a really tough one. But I think anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a goodie in life. So I would have to be the superhero. I would love to be a evil mastermind but it’s not me! I think to be portrayed as negative to me would destroy my soul ha!

8. Growing up did you have posters on your wall? If so, who featured during your tween years? If you were a tween today who would be on your posters today?
Oh yeah, I was a poster girl. Westlife/Boyzone featured VERY heavily on my walls. I was such a fan of them. But any boy bands were good with me. I remember buying Smash Hits and Top of the Pops magazine and loving when they had lyrics pages in and the posters you could rip out! I was also (I still am now) a fan of a quote – whether it’s book quotes, film quotes, inspirational quotes… I love them all. I would buy postcards which would have little quotes on from the shops and they’d be up there! David Beckham featured on my walls often growing up. He’s such a handsome man.

If I were a tween today? My word I don’t even want to contemplate that! But I think my walls would be plastered with probably 1D. Or Little Mix. I really don’t know. I mean I have calendars of Michael Buble and Cheryl and that’s enough wall decoration for me! David Beckham. Yes. That’s who. He’s been one of my number 1 crushes FOREVER. 

9. I don’t want to ask for your favourite book because I’m assuming, like me, you have many favourites. So what’s a significant book to you and why?
Matilda. Hands down one of the most significant books I’ve ever read and to this day continue to read at least once a year. To the people who don’t know me very well, Matilda is the reason I am getting into teaching. I remember reading Matilda as quite a young child and thinking ‘I want to be Miss Honey’. As an adult now she is still the one inspiration for me. That’s what teacher should be: caring, compassionate. There are other teachers in fiction who inspired me too but Miss Honey will always hold a special place in my heart. I connected so much with Matilda because I was Matilda. I was the little girl who loved reading. Unlike Matilda, I have an incredible family. But I was the girl who got more pleasure out of reading. We recently took a class to London and we got to see Matilda the Musical and I cried throughout the whole thing. It was amazing. Seeing someone so beautifully portray my favourite story of all time just made my heart so happy. 

10. You read and review loads of books. What makes a book great? What’s takes a book you enjoyed to a book that you are dying to talk about and share?
I don’t believe for me that there is a magic spell or recipe to make a book great. It’s about the way a book makes you feel in that moment. It’s about what it does to you, how it moves you, how it makes you think. It’s about having a connection to it. Either through the story, the emotion, one of the characters or just about it making you feel something: be it happy, sad, funny. For me that’s what makes a great book: it makes you feel something. A book that I come out of reading going “meh, that was alright” isn’t one I’d talk about. For example one of the books I talk about most is Gone Girl; I have SUCH a love/hate relationship with that book. I wouldn’t read it again. It drove me mad. But I ask everyone I know if they’ve read it.

Books, stories, characters should evoke an emotion or response from me. That’s what I want.

Thank you so much for taking the time out to answer my questions Sara! It was an absolute pleasure hosting you on my blog! 

About Chasing Danger

“I couldn’t shake the feeling that this vacation might actually kill me.”

When fourteen-year-old Chase Armstrong is sent to visit her grandmother at a remote tropical resort, she’s looking forward to sunbathing, swimming and snorkelling. The last thing she expects is danger. But she’s in for some surprises. She discovers another girl hiding out on the island and uncovers a devastating secret about the mum she’s never known. When modern-day pirates attack the island, it’s up to Chase to outrun, out-think and outfight the pirates . . . before it’s too late!

About Sara Grant

Sara Grant has inspired, written or edited nearly 100 books for children. Her newest book – Chasing Danger – is an action-adventure series for tweens. Sara teaches Goldsmiths University’s master’s class on writing for children/teens. She co-created Undiscovered Voices – which has launched the writing careers of thirty-two authors. She loves visiting schools and sharing her passion for writing and reading. She also leads writing workshops for adults in the US, UK and Europe as part of Book Bound (www.bookboundretreat.com). Website: http://www.sara-grant.com Twitter: @authorsaragrant

If you fancy coming along to UKYACX tickets are available here: (or from Seven Stories!) http://www.sevenstories.org.uk/whats-on/events/122825/ukya-extravaganza-afternoon-event-ya-panel-talks

Wanna keep up to date with all the UKYACX fun? FOllow them on Twitter @UKYACX

S x