Spotlight – Debut Illustrator Of The Month – Emma Shoard


I am so excited to have announced on April 1st that the hugely talented Emma Shoard is our #BritishBooksChallenge17 Debut Illustrator Of The Month for April 17 with her debut illustrated book Pavee and the Buffer Girl by the brilliant Siobhan Dowd!

You can find out more about the #BritishBooksChallenge17 here

This gorgeous illustrated version of Pavee and the Buffer Girl was released on the 2nd March 2017 published by the awesome Barrington Stoke and is beautiful inside and out!

I’m super excited to be shining the spotlight on Emma and her gorgeous illustrations today along with some love from some lovely people.

And remember if you read, review and link up the illustrated Pavee and the Buffer Girl for our #BritishBooksChallenge17 April link up here you will gain an extra entry into the April Prize Pack Draw!

Look out for a special post from Emma herself on Tales in the next couple of days!


About Emma Shoard

Emma Shoard is an illustrator and printmaker who graduated in 2011 from Kingston University’s Illustration & Animation course. She also works part-time as a bookseller. Emma lives in London on a barge on the Thames.

You can find out more about Emma on her website – www.emmashoard.co.uk

Or why not follow Emma on twitter – @EmmaShoard


About Pavee and the Buffer Girl

Jim and his family have halted by Dundray and the education people have been round mouthing the law. In school the Traveller kids suffer at the hands of teachers and other pupils alike, called ‘tinker-stinkers’, ‘dirty gyps’ and worse. Then the punches start. The only friendly face is Kit, a settled girl who takes Jim under her wing and teaches him to read in the great cathedral chamber of the cave below the town. With Kit and the reading, Jim seems to have found a way to exist in Dundray, but everyday prejudice and a shocking act of violence see his life uprooted once again.

You can buy a copy of Pavee and the Buffer Girl here or from your local bookshop!

You can also check out a mini animation po


Praise for Emma Shoard’s Illustration’s In Pavee and the Buffer Girl

I managed to catch some quotes from some lovely people about Emma’s gorgeous illustrations…..


A huge thank you to the lovely Emma Shoard fan’s that provided me with quotes for this post.  The illustrated Pavee and the Buffer Girl and Emma comes highly recommend as our Debut Illustrator Of The Month!

Look out for a special post from Emma herself on Tales in the next couple of days!

And remember if you read, review and link up the illustrated Pavee and the Buffer Girl for our #BritishBooksChallenge17 April link up here you will gain an extra entry into the April Prize Pack Draw!

Have you read Pavee and the Buffer Girl?  What did you think?  What was your favourite part?  What did you think of the gorgeous illustrations?   I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of this review or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Happy Reading!

Spotlight – Cat Clarke: The Backlist – Torn


Cat Clarke is one of my absolute favourite and hugely talented UKYA authors with a backlist of brilliant books under her belt!

Cat’s new book Girlhood is due to be released on the 4th May 2017 and to celebrate the lovely people at Hachette Kids have given Cat’s brilliant back list of books a shiny makeover to coincide with it’s release.

(Photo Credit:  Cat Clarke)

Designed by the super talented Sinem Erkas these new reissues of these brilliant books are simply gorgeous!

Today I am shining the spotlight on one of Cat’s backlist, Torn, and Cat has popped by to share a special song that Cat has picked to go with the book….


They didn’t mean to kill her…now the guilt will tear them apart

Alice King isn’t expecting the holiday of her dreams when she sets off on a trip to the wilderness with her mates. But when her best friend Cass decides to teach mean girl Tara a lesson, Alice finds herself in a nightmare she can’t escape.

Now Alice is the guardian of a secret too horrific to tell; and a secret too terrible to keep. A secret that will change all of their lives for ever…

Real, compulsive and intense: Cat Clarke is the queen of emotional suspense. For fans of Paula Hawkins, Gillian Flynn, Megan Abbott and Jandy Nelson.


Cat Clarke:  The Backlist – Torn

Street Spirit (Fade Out) – Radiohead

A few of my books deal with the concept of guilt, none more so than Torn. For me, this song embodies the all-consuming dread that accompanies true guilt.

You can buy Torn or any of Cat Clarkes wonderful backlist here or from your local bookshop!

Also check out Girlhood, Cat’s new novel, due for release on the 4th May 2017!


About Cat Clarke

Cat Clarke is the bestselling, award-winning author of six YA novels. She was born in Zambia and brought up in Edinburgh and Yorkshire, which has given her an accent that tends to confuse people. Cat lives in Edinburgh with her partner, two ninja cats and two decidedly non-ninja cocker spaniels. She likes cheese A LOT, especially baked camembert.

You can find out more about Cat Clarke on her website – www.catclarke.com

Or why not follow Cat on twitter – @cat_clarke


A huge thank you to the brilliant Nina Douglas for asking me to take part in this and to Cat for providing a glimpse into Torn which sent me down a Radiohead playlist spiral and relive my youth!

Do check out Cat’s fab books and the beautiful reissued covers!

(Photo Credit:  Cat Clarke)

Have you read any of Cat Clarke’s books?  Which one is your favourite?  Are you excited for Girlhood?  I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of this review or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – Three Things That Inspired Chloe Snow’s Diary by Emma Chastain


Today I have a brilliant guest post from the wonderful Emma Chastain author of Chloe Snow’s Diary:  Confessions of a High School Disaster!

Chloe Snow’s Diary:  Confessions of a High School Disaster was released on the 20th April published by the lovely people at Simon & Schuster and is set to be a super fun YA high school contemporary!

I can’t wait to read it!

Today Emma talks about three things that inspired Chloe Snow’s Diary: Confessions of a High School Disaster …….



Basically all I did in junior high was text, straighten my hair, add to my Benedict Cumberbatch shrine, and worry about how to be more popular. Thinking about it makes me cringe.
I want to be different in high school. Like a new person.
And I want to make out with someone. It’s so humiliating that I’m a kissing virgin at this advanced age. The longer I go un-smooched, the more freakish I feel. If I graduate high school without being kissed, I’ll be too embarrassed to kiss anyone during college, and then I’ll most likely die without ever even getting to second base. Something has to change fast. This I vow: I will kiss a guy before New Year’s Eve. (Or maybe it’ll happen ON New Year’s Eve?) OK, this I vow: I will kiss a guy before New Year’s Day. Vow TAKEN.

Fourteen-year-old Chloe Snow is about to start ninth grade when her brilliant, beautiful, artistic mum announces she can’t create great art in suburban Massachusetts, and goes to Mexico to work on her novel. Bewildered at being left behind with only her (socially awkward) dad as company, Chloe throws herself into a series of new pursuits, including auditioning for the school a cappella group, making new friends, and landing the lead in the school musical. In the course of these adventures, she attracts the attention of Mac Brody, the cuter half of THE Senior Couple, and Bernadette Sanz, the school’s Meanest Senior Girl. And then things begin to go pretty seriously wrong.

Can Chloe recover from a gigantic mess of her own creation? And will her mum’s Eat, Pray, Love-fest EVER end?

Told in 365 diary entries, one for each day of the most seminal year of Chloe’s life so far, this laugh-out-loud novel is peppered with texts, lists, emails and tweets, making it a modern take on the classic teen coming-of-age story.


Three Things That Inspired Chloe Snow’s Diary

Meet Chloe Snow! She’s the protagonist of my debut novel, Confessions of a High School Disaster, and she’s shockingly honest, deeply flawed, and often funny (if I do say so myself).  Confessions is told in diary format, with one entry for each day of a year in Chloe’s life. During that year, Chloe must cope with best friend feuds, boy problems, musical theatre meltdowns, and the absence of her mother, who has up and moved to Mexico to “work on her novel.”

When I sat down the write this book, three things inspired me:

1. My own diaries. 

I kept a diary from the time I was old enough to form words. It’s kind of agonizing to look back at these journals—I can hardly bear to see the evidence of my own narcissism and delusion—but instructive, too. Rereading them reminds me that in your own diary, you can safely vent your fury, scheme to bring about your enemies’ downfall, whine about your supposed problems, and rhapsodize about your crush. In short, you can be honest in a way you never could be on social media.

2. Bridget Jones, Georgia Nicolson, and Cassandra Mortmain 

….to name just a few. I like to think of Chloe as a fictional soul sister to the passionate, frank, and hilarious first-person female narrators who have entertained me and comforted me over the years.

3. The Sound of Music. 

And Oklahoma!, and Fiddler on the Roof, and I could go on and on. Chloe falls in love with musical theatre, as I did when I was around her age. It’s the perfect form for teenagers: it deals in oversized emotions, it’s an outlet for melodramatic impulses, and it forces you off your phone and into a room where you’re allowed to sing with other people, which is one of the purest human pleasures there is.

If you ever were, or currently, are a diary-keeper, a musical theatre geek, or a teenager, I think you’ll enjoy Confessions. I hope so!

You can buy a copy of Chloe Snow’s Diary:  Confessions of a High School Disaster!  here or from your local bookshop!


About Emma Chastain

Emma Chastain is a graduate of Barnard College, Columbia University, and the Creative Writing Program at Boston University. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and children.

You can follow Emma on twitter – @emmachastain


Blog Tour

You can catch up or follow the rest of this fab blog tour at the following stops!


A huge thank you to Emma for a fab insight into her inspiration and to Jade at Simon & Schuster for organising and asking me to be part of this fab blog tour!

Have you read Chloe Snow’s Diary:  Confessions of a High School Disaster!?  What did you think?  Are you intrigued to go and grab a copy?  Have you ever kept a diary? I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button above or tweet my on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Guest Post – #GoodbyeDaysPlaylist – Grief by Jeff Zentner


Today I have the brilliant Jeff Zentner on Tales to celebrate the release of his new YA novel, Goodbye Days.

Goodbye Days was released on the 6th April 2017 published by Andersen Press and is a story of grief and friendship.

This is a slightly different blog tour and I have a blog tour post with a musical twist!

I also got asked a question when emailed the content for this post……

“How you would spend your Goodbye Day with a loved one?”

This one single question hit all of my emotions and had quite an effect on my.  I read Jeff’s paragraph and listened to the song he had chosen from his playlist to accompany the piece and basically whilst I am writing this I am a complete emotional wreck with tears falling onto the keyboard.  Without realising it I had been provided with a piece and a question that I really needed to read.

Early this year I found out a work colleague of mine, in his 40’s, had died suddenly, without warning, and it really hit me!  I mean sure we were only work colleagues, but he was the kindest most calm and wonderful man I have ever had the pleasure to work with.  Whilst I’m not sure that grief was the right word for how I have felt since this happened in January it has really made me open my eyes.  Almost like I am seeing the world again with a fresh pair of eyes and appreciate things a lot more than I have been.  I then received and read this most and it’s almost helped fit that missing piece into the jigsaw that maybe I have been grieving in some kind of way.

So, to answer the question, I think for me my Goodbye Day would be spent with my loved ones, laughing and smiling all together, because I’ve learnt every single moment in life should be cherished.

Now over to Jeff…….


Can a text message destroy your life?

Carver Briggs never thought a simple text would cause a fatal crash, killing his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, there could be a criminal investigation into the deaths.

Then Blake’s grandmother asks Carver to remember her grandson with a ‘goodbye day’ together. Carver has his misgivings, but he starts to help the families of his lost friends grieve with their own memorial days, along with Eli’s bereaved girlfriend Jesmyn. But not everyone is willing to forgive. Carver’s own despair and guilt threatens to pull him under into panic and anxiety as he faces punishment for his terrible mistake. Can the goodbye days really help?

‘Gorgeous, heartbreaking, and ultimately life-affirming’ Nicola Yoon

‘Hold on to your heart: this book will wreck you, fix you, and most definitely change you’ Becky Albertalli


#GoodbyeDaysPlaylist – Grief

One thing about grief is that it changes your perspective permanently. It can leave you with a determination to press on in the face of loss and live each day to the fullest. That’s sort of the best you can hope for from grief. That’s what this song sounds like to me: that warm spring day when you go outside and feel the sun and flower-scented wind on your face and you realize that you’re going to die someday too, like the person you lost, and so you might as well enjoy this beautiful world while you’re here.

This is the note I tried to end Goodbye Days on. 

You can buy a copy of Goodbye Days here or from your local bookshop!


About Jeff Zentner

Jeff Zentner is the author of the William C. Morris Award winning and Carnegie Medal longlisted book The Serpent King (2016) as well as Goodbye Days (2017). He lives in Nashville, Tennessee. He came to writing through music, starting his creative life as a guitarist and eventually becoming a songwriter. He’s released five albums and appeared on recordings with Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Thurston Moore, Debbie Harry, Mark Lanegan, and Lydia Lunch, among others.

He became interested in writing for young adults after volunteering at the Tennessee Teen Rock Camp and Southern Girls Rock Camp. As a kid, his parents would take him to the library and drop him off, where he would read until closing time. He worked at various bookstores through high school and college.

He speaks fluent Portuguese, having lived in the Amazon region of Brazil for two years.

You can find out more about Jeff on his website – www.jeffzentnerbooks.com

Or why not follow him on twitter – @jeffzentner


Blog Tour

You can catch up with this fab blog tour and see the whole playlist at the following stops!


A huge thank you to Jeff for a fab post which held so much emotion in one paragraph it made me cry and to Harriet at Andersen for asking me to host, having me part of this wonderful tour and without realising gave me the post that I really needed to read!

Have you read Goodbye Days?  What did you think?  How you would spend your Goodbye Day with a loved one?   I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of this review or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Happy Reading!

Spotlight – Author Of The Month – C J Skuse


I am so excited to have announced on the 1st of April that the awesome C J Skuse is our #BritishBooksChallenge17 Author Of The Month for April 17!

You can find out more about the #BritishBooksChallenge17 here

I am a huge HUGE fan of CJ and her books are the best of the best that will leave you craving more.  CJ Skuse is a HUGE UKYA talent and I am so excited to shine the spotlight on her and her wonderful books as Author Of The Month!

And remember if you read, review and link up any of CJ’s books for our #BritishBooksChallenge17 April link up here you will gain an extra entries into the April Prize Pack Draw!

Today is also a celebration of CJ’s first adult thriller the delicious SweatPea!

Happy Book Birthday CJ!

Also look out for a fab guest post early next week from the lady herself!


About CJ Skuse

C.J. Skuse was born in 1980 in Weston-super-Mare, England. She has First Class degrees in Creative Writing and Writing for Children and, aside from writing novels, works as a freelance children’s fiction consultant and lectures in Writing for Children at Bath Spa University. Sweetpea is CJ’s first adult novel.

You can follow CJ on twitter – CeejaytheAuthor

You can find previous posts from CJ on my blog or by clicking on the links below …

Hot Boys In My Books!

Hidden Easter Eggs In Books

I also love this article by CJ of 10 Things I’s Like My Readers To Know here


The Books And Why We Love C J Skuse

SIXTEEN-YEAR OLD TWINS IN CANDY-STORE CRIME SPREE Twins, Paisley and Beau Argent are in the headlines again. Last time, they were the ‘wonder twins’, when as six-year-olds they were found alive in woods after three days missing following their mother’s death -three days spent looking for their dad. Now at sixteen, life’s not so wonderful. Out-cast and exploited by their money-grabbing grandmother they’re still clueless about their dad’s whereabouts. Until they discover an old letter from him. That’s when they decide to hit the road – and make headlines again. Holding up fast-food joints in Las Vegas might seem extreme but if they can get on the news, and tell their dad they need him, they might get the dream reunion they never thought could happen.

‘It’s so good, I’d recommend it to people I don’t like’ – Kevin Brooks on Pretty Bad Things

Jody loves Jackson Gatlin. At his only UK rock concert, she’s right at the front. But when she’s caught in the crush and carried back stage she has more than concussion to contend with. Throw in a menacing manager, a super-wired super-star, and a curly-wurly, and she finds herself taking home more than just a poster. It’s the accidental kidnapping of the decade. But what happens if you’ve a rock-god in your garage who doesn’t want to leave? Jody’s stuck between a rock-idol and a hard place! From the pen of C.J. Skuse, author of 2010’s super cool debut Pretty Bad Things, comes a tale of rock star obsession gone nuts.

‘A rip roaring story’ – Julia Eccleshare, The Guardian on Rockoholic

‘sharp, funny and knowing…’ – The Telegraph on Rockoholic

Camille wants to find the perfect boy, with an athlete’s body and a poet’s brain. But when she’s mocked at a college party, she knows there isn’t a boy alive who’ll ever measure up. Enter Zoe, her brilliant but strange best friend, who takes biology homework to a whole new level. She can create Camille’s dream boy, Frankenstein-stylee. But can she make him love her?

‘The tension and the comedy crack along with a heart-warming hilarity that is impossible to resist.’- Amanda Craig, The Times on Dead Romantic

At sixteen Nash thought that the fight to become Head Girl of prestigious boarding school Bathory would be the biggest battle she’d face. Until her brother’s disappearance leads to Nash being trapped at the school over Christmas with Bathory’s assorted misfits.

As a blizzard rages outside, strange things are afoot in the school’s hallways, and legends of the mysterious Beast of Bathory – a big cat rumoured to room the moors outside the school – run wild.

Yet when the girls’ Matron goes missing it’s clear that something altogether darker is to blame – and that they’ll have to stick together if they hope to survive.

‘Monster is another rollicking adventure … but you might not want to read the final chapter alone in the house . . . or while you’re eating . . . as you find out the truth about the Beast of Bathory. Great fun.’ – Martin Chilton, Telegraph’s Best YA Books 2015

‘CJ does it again, with a boarding school story packed with tension…Nobody captures the darkness of teenage nightmares quite like CJ Skuse.’ – Sophia Bennett, author of The Look

‘This book is a skillfully crafted rollercoaster of excitement, fear and shocks’
Reading Zone

‘The book has one of the best endings I’ve read.’ – 4.5 stars
The Bookbag

‘Fiendishly dark, with a sense of humour. CJ Skuse always inspires deep author envy’ – Keren David, YA Book Prize Nominee on Monster

‘It’s an absolute page-turner! I gobbled it up in one sitting, and it kept me guessing right till the end. A deliciously creepy horror story, served up with CJ’s trademark humour.’ – Cat Clarke

Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves

THEN
Ella, Max, Corey, Fallon and Zane.

The Fearless Five, inseparable as children growing up in a sleepy English seaside town. But when Max’s older sister is killed, the friendship seems to die with her.

NOW

Only Max and Ella are in touch, still best friends and a couple since they were thirteen. But Ella is hiding things – like why she’s afraid to take their relationship to the next level. And when underdog Corey is bullied, the Fearless Five are brought back together again, teaming up to wreak havoc and revenge on those who have wronged them.

But when the secrets they are keeping can no longer be kept quiet, will their fearlessness be enough to save them from themselves?

‘A tale of revenge, righteousness and recovery with a heart-stopping twist – The Guardian

’Electrifying, bold, brilliant’ Amanda Craig

The last person who called me ‘Sweetpea’ ended up dead…

I haven’t killed anyone for three years and I thought that when it happened again I’d feel bad. Like an alcholic taking a sip of whisky. But no. Nothing. I had a blissful night’s sleep. Didn’t wake up at all. And for once, no bad dream either. This morning I feel balanced. Almost sane, for once.

Rhiannon is your average girl next door, settled with her boyfriend and little dog…but she’s got a killer secret.

Although her childhood was haunted by a famous crime, Rhinannon’s life is normal now that her celebrity has dwindled. By day her job as an editorial assistant is demeaning and unsatisfying. By evening she dutifully listens to her friend’s plans for marriage and babies whilst secretly making a list.

A kill list.

From the man on the Lidl checkout who always mishandles her apples, to the driver who cuts her off on her way to work, to the people who have got it coming, Rhiannon’s ready to get her revenge.

Because the girl everyone overlooks might be able to get away with murder…

‘This isn’t a book for the squeamish or the faint-hearted … think Bridget Jones meets American Psycho’ – Red

You can buy any of C J Skuse’s books here or from your local bookshop!


A huge thank you to the wonderful C J Skuse fan’s that provided me with quotes for this post.  I highly recommend all of these books with all of my heart and soul from our April Author Of The Month!

And remember if you read, review and link up any of CJ’s  books for our #BritishBooksChallenge17 April link up here you will gain an extra entries into the April Prize Pack Draw!

Are you a C J Skuse Fan?  Do you have a favourite book?  Are you new to C J Skuse?   I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of this review or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – Five Books To Inspire Children’s Imaginations By Cathryn Constable


I’m super happy to have a brilliant guest post from the wonderful Cathryn Constable today!

Cathryn is the author of the brilliant The Wolf Princess, one of the bestselling debuts of 2012. It swept the board with gorgeous reviews and was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the Specsavers National Book Awards.

Cathryn’s second book The White Tower was released on the 5th January 2017 published by Chicken House and is a wonderful middle grade read.

Alchemy meets dreamy reality in this new atmospheric adventure!

Today Cathryn talks about books to inspire children’s imaginations…..


When Livy’s accepted at Temple College, a school for the very brightest, no one is more surprised than her, though she has always felt different. Recently, Livy’s been drawn to the roof, where, among its towering stone angels, she has the strangest desire to fly. But her behaviour is noticed by others, for whom the ability to defy gravity is a possible reality … one that they’ll stop at nothing to use for their own ends.


Five Books To Inspire Children’s Imaginations

Everyone likes to bang on about how reading books (as opposed to text books or just texts) is soooo important for children but they can’t always say why. … My sense is that children who have consumed certain sorts of imaginative books have an adult life that is less grey and featureless and much more subversive as a child who has been allowed to create an intensely personal internal landscape hits adulthood with a sense of possibility and ‘what if?’ They’ve learned how to imagine things differently from how they are currently arranged or presented. There’s a very good reason why totalitarian regimes burn books.

Five books or even writers can’t be enough, though, to build a vivid internal landscape. E. Nesbit should be on any list along with Alan Garner. I would also add Catherine Fisher and Susan Cooper. My son adored Walter Moers… Really, the list is endless… But for those short on time, here are five of the best.

The If Game by Catherine Storr

Of course, I read Marianne Dreams as a child but did not discover this, or the equally unsettling The Mirror Image Ghost until I read them to my children. Storr is such an excellent writer, taking something so small and insignificant as a boy finding some keys which open secret doors into a world he doesn’t recognize but which forces him to confront the truth about his family.

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

I can still remember opening this book and reading that first sentence aloud to my son. ‘It was a dark, blustery afternoon in Spring and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried-out bed of the old North Sea.’ I had a sensation akin to vertigo because it was so surprising and so good. And the book just got better.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

The only American writer to make the list. This is the sort of book that stays with you; a lucid exploration of time and death and the consequences of immortality.

The Wind on the Moon by Eric Linklater

Batty but anarchic. Dora and Dorinda behave very badly indeed but it’s all very funny.

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

Totally thrilling, unputdownable and frankly very frightening. Part one of His Dark Materials trilogy, these books chart a child’s necessary and compelling journey from innocence to experience.

You can buy a copy of The White Tower here or from your local bookshop!


After reading Theology at Cambridge University, Cathryn Constable went on to work in magazine journalism, writing for Vogue, W, Elle, The Independent, Tatler and The Sunday Times, before realising her dream of writing stories for children. Cathryn is married with three children and lives in London.

You can find out more about Cathryn on her website – www.cathrynconstable.net

Or why not follow Cathryn on twitter – @kateconstable7 


A huge thank you to Cathryn for such a fab post and to Chicken House and Maura for organising!

Have you read The White Tower?  What did you think?  Are you intrigued to go and grab a copy?  I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button above or tweet my on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Tales Post – An Alternative “Easter Egg”


Happy Easter to all those that celebrate!

If you are stuffed full of chocolate already I have the perfect alternative “Easter Egg” treat for you all today.

Firstly………

Definition Of An Easter Egg

  1. An artificial chocolate egg or decorated hard-boiled egg given at Easter.
  2. An unexpected or undocumented feature in a piece of computer software or on a DVD, included as a joke or a bonus.

An Easter egg is an intentional inside joke, a hidden message, or a secret feature of an interactive work. The name is used to evoke the idea of a traditional Easter egg hunt.  The term was coined to describe a hidden message in the Atari video game Adventure that led Atari to encourage further hidden messages in later games, treating them as Easter eggs for players to find.

And guess what?!

Some authors put Easter Eggs in books too!

It may just be me but it kinda blows my mind when I am lucky enough to find a little Easter Egg in a book that I’m reading.  It always feels kind of special in some way.  But sometimes they are very hard to spot.  It may be a link that runs through a particular book series or a reoccurring character from the authors previous book that pops up for a cameo or it may be something else entirely.

This got me thinking…..

Do authors put Easter Eggs in books that could only mean something to a specific person?  Or maybe a secret message of some kind?  Or even a joke in the hopes an eagle eyed reader will spot it?

I asked some fab authors just that……..


Non Pratt

All my books are littered with references to my favourite things – Star Wars, Harry Potter, Galaxy Quest, Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice, but the real Easter Eggs relate to books.

In Trouble, in the first paragraph of page 240, Aaron walks into the graphic novel section of a comic shop and opens one at his favourite part. The only clue is that it’s about dreams. This ‘egg’ is a present for my friend Freddie – he knew exactly which part of The Sandman it referred to when he read it, because it’s the story he showed me at university.

In Remix, page 72, Kaz says of her friend Ruby “Tell her she can’t do something and Ruby will rush right in.” She then lists the things Ruby’s done – and the second point mentions something Ruby did because she read about it in a book… any UKYA fan will know the second they read this, that the book I’m referring to is Say Her Name by the inimitable Juno Dawson.

There’s another on page 79 of my forthcoming book, Truth or Dare, where Claire and Kam are deciding what book to read. Kam chooses one “with a silhouette of someone looking up at a colourful sky packed with stars”. It’s the book I bought my friend Lora for Christmas and someone has already realised what book it is…

C J Skuse

Jackson Gatlin appears in some form in three of my YA novels!

Pretty Bad Things – (p174)

‘On our way out of the back entrance to the hotel, we bumped right into this shock-headed rock dude in shades. I dropped one of the candy bags. ‘Sorry,’ he said, scratching his head behind his ear. I thought I recognized him. I think he was famous. He had on a sleeveless vest, and there was a really neat tattoo of a burning rose on his shoulder. It reminded me of the rose tattoo mom had on her ankle.’

This shock-headed rock dude is Jackson Gatlin, who features as one of the main characters in my second novel ‘Rockoholic.’

Rockoholic – (p24)

‘Two emo versions of the spooky twins from The Shining clamber out the back. They both have purple and pink extensions in their long black hair, and are wearing black leather skirts, striped tights, Tippexed black DMs and matching t-shirts. I realize they’ve come as the conjoined twins from the “Freaktasia” video, where Jackson plays a ringmaster and he’s luring all these freaks into his circus tent like some mad Pied Piper. One of the twins carries a small rucksack with loads of badges pinned to it. One of the badges says “Mrs. Jackson Gatlin.” I want it.’

The Shining Twins are actually Camille and Zoe who are the main characters in my third novel ‘Dead Romantic.’

The Deviants – (p18)

‘I opened the envelope. Inside was an oversized card, covered in pictures of us. He must have spent ages sticking them down, shaking on glitter. There were pictures of us on swings. Our school Nativity, with me as Mary, with a cushion up my dress and Max as the innkeeper, with a scribbly black beard. Selfies in Starbucks. Selfies outside the arena in Cardiff waiting to see The Regulators.’

The Regulators are the group fronted by Jackson Gatlin who appear in ‘Rockoholic’ and are mentioned here briefly in my fifth and final YA novel, ‘The Deviants.’

Jay Kristoff

Here’s a couple from Illuminae!

The Copernicus casualty list (page 52 – 59) included a bunch of our author friends, including Leigh Bardugo and Ryan Graudin. We also killed George RR Martin (he deserved it for the Red Wedding), our agents and ourselves when that ship blew up.

If you look at the subject of the medical experiment on page 155, you’ll notice it’s Laini Taylor. Poor Laini!

The movie poster on page 190 feature the names of our editor, senior staff at Random House, and tow of our earliest readers, the amazing Beth Revis and Marie Lu.

And the cousin Kady mentions in her interview on page 2, Asha, is the main character in OBSIDIO!

Sophie Cleverly


 

 

 

 

 

 

House Names

The names of the school houses at Rookwood School are all secret references. Richmond, the house that Scarlet and Ivy are in, was one of the houses at my primary school, although strangely it isn’t the one I was in. I was considering using all of them, but they were all named after parts of my city and I thought people would recognise it!

So the other houses ended up being named Evergreen and Mayhew. Evergreen is named after Evergreen Terrace, where The Simpsons famously live. Mayhew is named after Richard Mayhew, who is the main character in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere – one of my favourite books. And that one is a double reference, because Richard Mayhew is named after Henry Mayhew, the Victorian journalist who wrote London Labour and the London Poor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Character Names

I also like to put references in my character names. While most of the main characters have original names, a lot of the side characters have names that link to real people or characters. Miss Simons, the teacher with the long red hair from The Dance in the Dark, is a reference to Simone Simons from the band Epica. And local man Bob Owens in The Lights Under The Lake is another that got his name from a Neil Gaiman character – Bod Owens from The Graveyard Book. That’s a double reference too, because Bod’s full name is Nobody Owens, taken from the Gaimanized version of the old rhyme:

“Rattle his bones

Over the stones

It’s only a pauper

Who Nobody owns.”

The rhyme is fitting for Bod’s story, and I felt that was fitting for Bob’s story, too.

Perhaps the one that fewest people would spot is Madame Boulanger. One of my best friends insisted that he had to be a character in my books, and I joked that I would put him in, but he had to be the French teacher. That is why Madame Boulanger (French for Baker, his surname) is not actually very good at French, and sometimes sounds a bit Welsh.

Nicole Burstein


 

 

 

 

 

 

Both Othergirl and Wonderboy are stuffed with comic book Easter eggs, some of which even I’ve forgotten!

The biggies are Louise, the protagonist’s, last name, which is Kirby, after one of the fathers of superhero comics, Jack Kirby. Also, the other main character, Erica Elland, has an alliterative name, which is super common among the famous superheroes! In Wonderboy I name a company ‘Ditko’ after another of comic book’s great creators.

The other big Easter egg is in Othergirl, which has a few references to one of my favourite films: Heathers.

Jay is named after Christian Slater’s character JD, and in my head he looks entirely like him. I even have Jay say ‘greetings and salutations’ at one point, which is a direct quote from the film!

David Owen

In the opening chapter of The Fallen Children, on page 14, halfway down the page, there’s a reference to Aliens – the TV snaps back on and we hear the line ‘They mostly come at night. Mostly.’ It’s a bit of a cheeky wink given what’s happening in the story!

Otherwise there are several callbacks to The Midwich Cuckoos!

Martin Stewart

My love of Easter Eggs goes back to the early days of DVD. I would diligently watch all the extras on my favourite films and listen to the directors’ commentaries, soaking in the titbits of process and creation (I’m still a huge process nut). My favourite moments were when they identified an allusion or intertext―a little nod to a book or film or painting that had been an inspiration―and these added a new layer of enjoyment for me. I still love the wee flash in my brain when I spot an Easter Egg in a book or film today. And if it’s a nod to something that’s inspired me too, it’s as though the writer has leaned out of the page and given me a conspiratorial wink. So writing Riverkeep naturally meant I’d bury some Eggs of my own!

And there are lots, there really are.  Plenty to Frankenstein, Moby Dick, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, the Naked Gun films (check the map!) and more. Here are a couple of examples…

The town of Canna Bay, page 10, is a facsimile of Amity, the place terrorised by the shark in Jaws. Its name is also a reference to John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, the best piece of briny shore-writing I’ve yet found; ‘canna’ is Scots Gaelic for ‘can’, as in tin can.

Gilt Murdagh’s whaling vessel, the Hellsong on page 57, is a derivation of Dracula’s nemesis’ surname ―Abraham Van Helsing. This was perfect for a ship designed to hunt the unhuntable, and allowed me to nod towards another favourite book.

The ‘suire’, mentioned in the encyclopaedia extract on page 71, is a reference to Buggy Swires, the first gnome in the Ankh Morpork City Watch. It’s a close call between Granny Weatherwax and Sam Vimes for me, but the Watch books probably just edge it as my favourite Pratchetts!

And finally, there’s a wee nod on page 147 to another favourite film (or, to be strictly accurate, its sequel). But I’m not saying exactly what it is, because I’ve already put the same reference in my second book―The Sacrifice Box, January 2018―and I’m planning to bury that particular Egg in every book I write… happy hunting!

Keris Stainton

Jessie Hearts NYC, page 14 there is a Sesame St mention.

Emma Hearts LA, page 45 Emma is wearing Elmo pyjama bottoms.

Starring Kitty, page 105 Dylan is wearing a Cookie Monster t-shirt.

And finally Spotlight On Sunny, page 204, a man on the train has a Big Bird tattoo.

Susie Day

All my books contain a Doctor Who reference!

Usually they happen quite naturally; when I was writing The Secrets of Sam & Sam, about the Paget-Skidelsky twins, it would’ve been almost rude not to throw in a passing mention of The Twin Dilemma.

Some are pretty easy to spot – like Pea’s school librarian, the lovely (if Blyton-hating) Miss Pond. But a few are a teensy bit more obscure.

If you’re a completist, you might like to know that on page 240 of Pea’s Book of Big Dreams, you’ll find the home planet of the Tractators from the splendid Fifth Doctor story Frontios. But I bet you knew that already, right?

Sara Barnard

One of the best things about writing is being able to put little flags in for your close friends and family, so it’s definitely something I do with every book.

There are two in particular in Beautiful Broken Things.

The first is the paraphrasing of a song I love called Bluetonic by an old band, The Bluetones. The actual lyric is this:

There’s no heart you can’t melt

With a certain little smile

And no challenge should be faced

Without a little charm and a lot of style

And it’s one I love because it sums up Suzanne for me, so it felt like a neat trick to be able to give her a line of dialogue in the book that referenced it. She’s asked how she got away with something and she replies, “A little charm, a lot of style.” It won’t have meant anything to anyone but me and it makes me smile each time. That happens on page 208.

The second is more of a personal one. The adolescent in-patient unit that Suzanne is referred to at the end of the book is fictional, but it needed a name. I decided to call it Gwillim House because Gwillim was my Nan’s maiden name. She died a long time before she could see my writing dream become a reality, so it felt nice to be able to put a tiny part of her in the book. The first reference to it is on page 307.

Miranda Dickinson

I hide an Eric in every one of my books after an editor changed a character name in my debut novel, Fairytale of New York, because she didn’t like the name.

Also there are repeated mentions of a fictional village Stone Yardley (my debut protagonist’s childhood home).

And in my third novel, It Started With a Kiss, the main character receives comments on her blog from characters in my first two books.


So there you have it!  A lovely bunch of Easter Eggs for you to sink your teeth into!  And I’m sure there’s lots more….it’s just finding them!

A huge thank you to all of the authors that got in touch when I popped a twitter call out or replied to my DM and were happy to share their little Easter Eggs with me especially at such short notice too!

Happy Hunting!

Have you ever found an Easter Egg in a book?  If so which book?  Do you like it when you find them?  I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button above or tweet my on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Guest Post – Character Profile: Ingrid by Danielle Younge-Ullman


I received this gorgeous books recently and I simply cannot wait to read it!

Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined was released on the 6th April 2017 published by Scholastic and is set to be a fab contemporary YA read.

And today I have the author herself on Tales chatting about her main character, Ingrid, in this awesome guest post!


Ingrid has made a deal with her mother: she gets to go to the school of her choice as long as she completes a three-week wilderness programme. But when Ingrid arrives, she quickly realizes there has been a terrible mistake: there will be no marshmallows or cabins here. Instead, her group will embark on a torturous trek, with almost no guidance from the two counsellors and supplied with only the things they can carry. On top of this, the other teen participants are “at risk youth”, a motley crew of screw-ups, lunatics and delinquents. But as the laborious days go by, and as memories of her complicated past come flooding back, Ingrid must confront the question of whether she shares more in common with these troubled teens than she’s willing to admit.


Character Profile:  Ingrid

Meet Ingrid, the protagonist of my new novel, EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IS NOT RUINED. Ingrid is smart, deep, funny, sarcastic, and a super talented singer. The talent shouldn’t be a surprise, since her mother, Margot-Sophia, used to be an opera star. Ingrid may be emotionally wounded, and have a bit of a complicated relationship with her mother, but she’s not admitting any weaknesses. She can’t afford to. She has big plans for her senior year…she only has to get through a three-week wilderness camp in order to get her mother on-side.

But the camp…oh, the camp turns out to be wretched. Gruelling hikes, bugs for dinner, obnoxious tentmates, and the “teens with leadership potential” Ingrid expected to meet are nowhere in sight. This bunch of kids is seriously messed up, and Ingrid really doesn’t belong.

Except…

Ingrid’s life is not as perfect as it seems, and the longer the trip goes on, the less Ingrid is able to fake it. She is falling apart, breaking down, and only time will tell whether she’ll be able to face her demons, rebuild herself, survive the rest of the trip, and earn the chance to spend her senior year studying music.

You can buy a copy of Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined here or from your local bookshop


About Danielle Younge-Ullman

As a teenager I was sent, against my will, on a wilderness adventure very similar to the one that is portrayed in EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IS NOT RUINED. The reasons were different, as were the characters on the trip, but I was as unprepared as Ingrid is, and had a wretched time. Of course, the physical and psychological hardships caused me to toughen up and learn survival skills, but not before having a complete breakdown…while out in the middle of nowhere…and surrounded by people I’d just met.

That trip was the inspiration for this book, but I also drew from other personal experiences. Like Ingrid, I was cast as Dorothy in my high school’s production of The Wizard of Oz, and fell in love with the theatre. (Unlike Ingrid, I am only a passable singer.) I spent my twenties and early thirties working as an actor, but eventually turned my focus to writing. I never missed the business side of being an actor, but leaving the theatre was a heartbreak. I had found my identity, my people, and my purpose in life there, and to lose all of that was painful. I poured this—the love, the frustration, the heartbreak, the shadow that loss can cast—into Ingrid’s story, and into the character of her mother, Margot-Sophia.

Finally, like Ingrid, and like many young people on the cusp of adulthood, I have struggled with fears that being my truest self and pursuing the career(s) I felt most driven to pursue would hurt, disappoint, or alienate those I love most. I have also found reliable ways through to the other side of that struggle…and ways to laugh, and love, even when things are at their most dire.

I hope Ingrid’s story will do the same for you.

You can follow Danielle on twitter – @DanielleYUllman


Blog Tour

You can catch up or follow the rest of this fab blog tour at the following stops!


A huge thank you to Danielle for such a fab post and to Olivia at Scholastic for organising and asking me to part of the blog tour!

Have you read Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined?  What did you think?  Are you intrigued to go and grab a copy?  I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button above or tweet my on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Guest Post – Keep Calm And Look At The Stars by Jenny McLachlan


I’m super happy to have one of my absolute fave YA authors, Jenny McLachlan, on Tales today to celebrate the release of her brilliant new shiny dazzling book, Stargazing For Beginners!

Stargazing For Beginners was released on the 6th April published by Bloomsbury and is simply a must read!

And that’s not all!

I am over the moon to be chatting to the lady herself along with Katy Birchall and Perdita and Honor Cargill at Waterstones Birmingham on the 3rd May at 6:30pm!

Friendship For Beginners

Join us for an exciting evening with Jenny McLachlan, Katy Birchall and Honor and Perdita Cargill in conversation with award-winning blogger Chelley Toy.

Our authors will not only be discussing their inspiring books but also friendship, life and their own personal laugh-out-loud moments that remind us all that we’re only human after all!

Jenny McLachlan writes the best kind of real life fiction, with big themes and irresistible characters. If you haven’t yet discovered her, you are in for a treat. Get ready to fall in love with Meg, Elsa, Annie and the rest of the biscuit club in Stargazing for Beginners.

IT Girl, Katy Birchall, is the author of the incredible series of the same name focusing on lighthearted teen heroine, Anna and the awkward and funny moments that make up her life. Katy is mildly obsessed with Jane Austen and World War II spy biographies. She currently lives in Brixton with her much cooler and funnier housemate.

Mother and daughter writing team, Honor and Perdita Cargill are the authors of the hilarious Waiting for Callback series. Honor, who is currently studying at Oxford, has dipped her toe into the world of acting as a child, giving them some unforgettable experiences to draw on for their novels together which follow 15-year-old Elektra James as she attempts to make it as an actress.

I am so excited!  Come and join us!

To book your FREE ticket:
Call: 0121 633 4353, click here or
Tweet: @bhamwaterstones
Email: events.birmingham@waterstones.com
Pop in store and speak to a bookseller.

So today in double celebration Jenny is chatting about looking at the stars in this gorgeous guest post….


Science geek Meg is left to look after her little sister for ten days after her free-spirited mum leaves suddenly to follow up yet another of her Big Important Causes. But while Meg may understand how the universe was formed, baby Elsa is a complete mystery to her.

And Mum’s disappearance has come at the worst time: Meg is desperate to win a competition to get the chance to visit NASA headquarters, but to do this she has to beat close rival Ed. Can Meg pull off this double life of caring for Elsa and following her own dreams? She’ll need a miracle of cosmic proportions .

Fans fell in love with the warmth, wit, romance and fierce friendships in Flirty Dancing, Love Bomb, Sunkissed and Star Struck, and Stargazing for Beginners has all that and galaxies more. This is the best kind of real-life fiction – with big themes and irresistible characters, it goes straight to your heart.


Keep Calm and Look at the Stars

When I knew that I wanted to write a book about a girl who loved astronomy, I started to look up. Before I wrote ‘Stargazing for Beginners’, I had taken the cosmos pretty much for granted. Like most writers, I gobbled up the detail of what was going on around me like a kleptomaniac, but I drew the line at what was beyond the sky. The stars, the moon and the sun were beautiful, but to me they were complex and unknown. Best to stay focussed on what I understood: teenagers, schools, families and matters of the heart.

But as Meg, the narrator of Stargazing for Beginners, understands the cosmos far better than she understands worldly things, I had no choice but to look up and get stuck in. How do you undo 39 years of astronomical ignorance in a short space of time? I watched documentaries, read books, trawled the internet, visited the physics department at a university and went to stargazing events at Herstmonceux Observatory.

And gradually, I started to recognise stars and constellations, and the vast distances between stars took on some meaning. One night at Herstmonceux, I saw the Orion Nebula, a massive stellar nursery. I saw it through binoculars, but it’s actually possible to observe it with the naked eye which is pretty incredible when you consider that it’s 1,344 ± 20 light years away (that’s 8.8 trillion miles to you and me).

Around this time, I started to notice that stargazing was incredibly relaxing. The more I learnt about the vastness of the universe, both in terms of its size and age, the calmer I felt. I discovered that sitting in a deckchair in my back garden, wrapped in a duvet, staring through binoculars was the perfect antidote to modern life. Yes, I might need to edit a book, start another one, do the washing, make the packed lunches, worry about my children, clean the rats out, etc, etc….But when you’re staring into space, these worries seem rather insignificant.

Stargazing stops me from feeling like I’m the centre of the universe and reminds me that I’m just a tiny part of the universe. A speck. A blip. If you’ve never done it before, I’d urge you to give it a go. Even with small binoculars you can see as much in the night sky as Galileo saw looking through a telescope – craters on the moon, Venus, the moons of Jupiter – and with the naked eye it’s possible to see the Andromeda Galaxy which is around two and a half million light years away. Just go outside, look up, and give it time. It takes around twenty to thirty minutes for our eyes to adjust to the darkness and for the wonders of the universe to be revealed.

Then sit back and enjoy the wonderful sensation of feeling insignificant.

You can buy a copy of Stargazing For Beginners here or from your local bookshop!


About Jenny McLachlan

I have always loved reading and I studied English at university just so that I could read a bit more.  Next I found my way into secondary teaching and discovered that I loved it too: I got to read more books, show off and hang out with very funny teenagers.  What a great job!

Teaching English also encouraged me to write.  Soon I had planned and started lots of different stories, but they were all abandoned and shoved to the back of a drawer.  Then, one day, the plot for Flirty Dancing came together; Bea’s story was so alive it was like a film running in my head and I knew it was a story I would finish.

Over the next few years, various exciting events distracted me from Flirty Dancing: I got married, travelled the world, was chased by an angry elephant (and a pack of dogs) and I had two babies.  While I was sitting on trains, swimming in the Outback and raising two crazy girls, I kept thinking about Bea, and her friends, Betty, Kat and Pearl, until I realised I had planned three more books.

In 2013, after attending the Winchester Writers’ Festival, I plucked up the courage to send Flirty Dancing to Julia Churchill, a brilliant children’s fiction agent at A.M. Heath.  With dazzling speed I was then signed by Bloomsbury to write the four books in the series.

You can find out more about Jenny on her website – www.jennymclachlan.com

Or why not follow Jenny on twitter – @JennyMcLachlan1


A huge thank you to Jenny for such a wonderful post that’s made us all want to go stargazing and to Emma at Bloomsbury for organising and asking me to host!

Don’t forget to join us at Waterstones Birmingham on the 3rd May 18:30pm for a brilliant panel with these fab authors!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can find out more info or grab your tickets here

Have you read Stargazing For Beginners?  What did you think?  Are you intrigued to go and grab a copy?  Have you read any of Jenny’s other books?   I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button above or tweet my on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Guest Post – Japanese Fantasy By Dan Walker


Love Pirates of the Caribbean? Then prepared to be swept away by this new swashbuckling adventure series.

Sky Thieves by Dan Walker is released today on the 6th April published by OUP and set to be full of swashbuckling adventure with book two being released later this year.

I’m over the moon to have the author himself on Tales today!

This book looks all the awesome!  Check out this fab book trailer below….

Today Dan chats about inspiration and Japenese Fantasy that inspired Sky Thieves in this fab guest post…


Love Pirates of the Caribbean? Then prepared to be swept away by this new swashbuckling adventure series.

Talented debut author, Dan Walker, creates an imaginative world where thieves sail the skies in flying galleons-an action-packed adventure of epic scale.

Zoya DeLarose has no idea her life is about to change forever when a band of sky thieves ‘steal’ her away from her orphanage, landing up in the clouds, on board The Dragonfly’s deck. There, Zoya discovers a world of meteorite storms, sword fights, midnight raids, floating islands, and long lost treasure. But with a deadly enemy closing in, will Zoya find the strength to face her fears and unlock the key to her destiny, or will she fall from the skies with no one left to break her fall?


Japanese Fantasy

One question asked of every writer at some point is where we get our ideas. There are a few ways, I think. Sometimes, stories pop up like toast from a toaster. The idea for The Hobbit came to J.R.R. Tolkien when he was grading exam papers and came across a blank sheet. Tolkien wrote down the first words that came to his head, (“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit,”) and an entire world was born. Sometimes, stories come in dreams. At 16, C.S. Lewis dreamed of a half-man, half-goat creature scurrying through a snow-dusted forest carrying an umbrella and some parcels. Sometimes, stories are based on real-life. Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn was a childhood friend in all but name.

I got the idea for my first book, Sky Thieves, whilst sitting at my writing desk on a summer’s day, gazing up at the blue sky and wondering to myself ‘what would it be like if there were giant airships flying around?’

But the thing is, this is only half true.

In reality, the genesis for this story came decades earlier, back when I was running around in Bermuda shorts, taking books off my local library shelf, devouring them and going back for more. The genesis came later too, I suppose, when I’d go to the bookshelf in my cousin’s room and steal enough of his science-fiction books to last me the few weeks until I’d see him again. It came from all the films I watched, and the plays and pantomimes I saw, and the video games I played.

For me, computer games have always been a huge influence. Specifically, Japanese games. I can pinpoint the exact date of the start of this love affair. It was early 1998 and I’d hit that age where when my parents asked me what I wanted for Christmas I said ‘money!’ Because of this, I had £40 to spend on a game for the Sony Playstation system I’d bought the year before. The big game of the time was Tomb Raider, the second of which had been released a few months before. Tomb Raider was made by Core Design, a company based in my hometown. Naturally, I planned to buy this. But a chance conversation with a friend at school opened my eyes to another game, one that has come to mean an enormous amount to an enormous number of people since. Final Fantasy VII. My friend’s passion for the game was so intense, particularly with regards to its story, that he won me over. I took my £40, marched to the nearest Woolworths and bought my copy.

This remains one of the best decision I’ve ever made, in that it revealed to me an entire avenue of storytelling I’d likely have missed had I not made the purchase. For those uninitiated, Final Fantasy VII is a role-playing-game, or an RPG, in which the player takes on the role of a character. Specifically, FFVII is a Japanese RPG. JRPGs normally take place in fantasy worlds. But these are not the fantasy worlds of the west – the elves and the dwarves, the trolls and the faeries. These are Japanese fantasy worlds, with exotic environments, strange mechanical weapons, huge mechanoid creatures and airships prowling the skies. The characters in JRPGs are normally young and naïve, tasked with saving the world without the skills to do so. Over the course of the story, they must develop these skills, and obtain the magic boon needed to face the final challenge.

If all this sounds familiar, it’s because it probably is. Indeed, with their young characters and richly-drawn fantasy worlds, JRPGs resemble modern kids stories. Phillip Pullman with his His Dark Materials trilogy springs to mind. But JRPGs have also influenced adult storytelling – with movies like the modern Star Wars films, Pacific Rim, Avatar and the Marvel movies all taking cues from Japan.

Of course, Japanese fantasy stories stretch beyond the confines of video games. Japan has its own fairy tales, its manga books and its colourful anime. It even has its own Disney in the shape of the academy-award-winning Studio Ghibli. I would encourage everyone reading this to explore the Japanese realm of fantasy storytelling.

You never know, in twenty years’ time you might find yourself staring up at the sky, dreaming of those stories you read two decades before, when an idea for a book pops into your head, and a new writer is born.

You can buy a copy of this book here or from your local bookshop!


About Dan Walker

Dan lives smack-bang in the centre of the UK, just outside of a city called Nottingham, with his lovely, patient and supportive wife Dominika.

​Dan spent his childhood being dragged up and down the hills of the Peak District, frantically hammering away at computer games and raiding his cousin’s bookshelf for anything with a colourful cover. He later tricked the University of Derby into allowing him admission, before graduating with a degree in English. Since then, he has worked with a procession of wonderful people in bookshops, libraries and schools. He currently helps to run a specialist Autism centre.

​On the rare occasion you find Dan away from the computer, he can normally be found trying to tease a melodious sound out of his guitar, re-reading his favourite books for the eighty-eighth time or fighting off everyone nearby for the last blueberry in the pack.

You can follow Dan on twitter – @sky_thieves


A huge thank you to Dan for such an awesome post and to Hannah at OUP for organising and asking me to host!

Have you read Sky Thieves?  What did you think?  Are you intrigued to go and grab copies?  Do you like fantasy computer games?   I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button above or tweet my on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Happy Reading!

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