I am super excited to be kicking of the Poppy Pym blog tour today with a fab guest post from Laura Wood!
Winner of the Scholastic Montegrappa Prize for New Children’s Writing. Poppy Pym has grown up in the circus, eating candy floss for breakfast and learning about lion taming … until her circus family decides she needs a more traditional education, and they send her to boarding school. At first, Poppy has trouble fitting in at St Smithen’s, a school that is very different from the circus. But when an ancient Egyptian ruby comes to the school and dangerous accidents start occurring, it’s up to Poppy to save her new home and solve the mystery of the Pharaoh’s curse!
I have recently been sent a copy of Poppy Pym by the lovely people at Scholastic and I simply cannot wait to jump into Poppy’s world! I am sure lots of fun awaits me! A huge thank you to Scholastic for sending me a copy.
With this in mind the wonderful Laura Wood is here today to tell us more about the world of Poppy Pym….
*Hand over to Laura*
Welcome To The World Of Poppy Pym
Hi everyone! It’s such a nice way to kick of my blog tour, writing about the world of Poppy Pym, because it’s a world that I love to spend time in. I had the idea for the book a long time ago but I was really nervous about writing it down precisely because I didn’t know if I could do justice to the vibrant, magical world that Poppy and her family exist in inside my imagination. I think we all have those places, those stories we retreat into, especially (although certainly not exclusively) as children. When I sat down to write the book I really wanted it to be one of those places, somewhere that a reader wanted to spend time, somewhere warm and inviting – a friendly place that welcomes you in.
In a lot of ways Poppy’s world is created by the characters inside it. Abandoned as a baby at Madame Pym’s spectacular travelling circus Poppy is raised by an eccentric and loveable cast of circus performers. Writing about them is the most fun part of the process for me.
(Picture by the incredible Beatrice Bencivenni)
There’s Madame Pym herself of course: ringleader, fortune-teller, and daring trapeze artist. But there’s also The Magnificent Marvin, magician extraordinaire, and his wife and assistant Doris (who is also a top scientist and inventor of many a mind-boggling magic trick); Chuckles, the sad clown; BoBo, the happy clown; Tina and Tawna, the horse-riding gymnasts who like to finish each others sentences; Luigi, the lion tamer, whose real name is Lord Reginald Felix Anthony Sylvester Lucas, fourteenth Earl of Burnshire ; Sharp-Eye Sheila, the knife thrower; and Boris Von Jurgen, the muscly strongman. If I had to pick, I’d say my favourite character to write is Fanella, the glamorous Italian fire-eater, she’s like a force of nature. Including the circus so prominently in the book meant that straight away I had all these big, colourful characters in my mind. Their voices are so strong that often when I’m writing conversations between them I’ll have no idea where things are going and I’ll be laughing away over my keyboard as I hear them all talking to each other. (That sounds a bit mad doesn’t it, but it’s a lovely way to write!)
Having the circus as such a big part of Poppy’s life also means that her world is inevitably infused with a little bit of magic, something that makes her life unusual. I like to think of her circus skills as sort of super powers. She can do things that most children (or grown ups!) can’t, but she has to work out how to fit these extraordinary abilities into a world that doesn’t always celebrate what makes us different.
That idea was really important when I was thinking about Saint Smithen’s, the boarding school that Poppy attends. I wanted to hang on to the feeling of whimsy and the warmth of Poppy’s home life so I created the boarding school of my dreams, the one that I so desperately wanted my loving parents to ship me off to as a Mallory-Towers obsessed child! The school couldn’t be perfect, though, there needed to be conflict there, whether it was through teachers she didn’t get on with, or the class bully, or just feeling a bit lost and lonely at times. Something that was interesting to me was the idea that Poppy’s life up to this point had, in a lot of ways, been a really sheltered one. She doesn’t understand that not everyone wants to be her friend, or why there are so many rules she needs to follow.
This was something that really came out in the editing process as my brilliant agent and editor helped me to think a bit more about these tensions, and I really love the way that Poppy has developed as a character since my first draft. I guess the big lesson I have learnt is that you shouldn’t be afraid to start writing that story that’s hanging around in your head. The first draft will never be perfect, in fact, no draft will ever be perfect, but getting to share your imaginary world with others is an amazing gift. I love my perfectly imperfect book, and I really hope that you will too.
You can find a Q&A with Laura Wood here
Or the Poppy Pym and the Double Jinx cover reveal here
About Laura Wood
Originally from the Midlands, I moved to Canterbury to attend the University of Kent where I studied English and American Literature (with a brief sojourn in Tennessee – the start of a serious love affair with southern accents, southern manners, porches, country music, biscuits, and the word y’all). I then remained at the University of Kent to do my MA in English Literature, with a dissertation on Walter Pater and reading. Unwilling to leave the world of academia and a subject I wanted to be more than friends with, I was fortunate enough to secure funding for a PhD at the University of Warwick. My research is on the figure of the reader in nineteenth century literature.
I now also teach honours level undergraduate seminars within the English department at Warwick – this year on EN201: The European Novel, and EN328: English Literature and Feminisms 1790-1899. I was recently fortunate enough to win the Warwick Postgraduate Award for Teaching Excellence, an honour made all the more meaningful because my lovely students nominated me for the award and gave me such incredible feedback. I love teaching, and I don’t really think there’s anything better than the opportunity it provides to share my passion for literature and reading.
My first book, Poppy Pym and the Pharaoh’s Curse, recently won the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing. Needless to say, I am absolutely over the moon. My work in this department represents the fulfilment of a life-long dream (I have the stories by five year old me to prove it!)
I love Georgette Heyer novels, Fred Astaire films, travelling to far flung places, recipe books, gin, trashy television shows about witches/hospitals/cakes, poetry, cosy woollen jumpers, Edith Nesbit, crisp autumn leaves, new stationery, sensation fiction, salted caramel, feminism, anything that involves Tina Fey and/or Amy Poehler, Rufus Sewell’s cheek-bones, dogs, and lashings of ginger beer.
You can find out more about Laura on her website www.lauraclarewood.com
Or why not follow Laura on twitter using @lauraclarewood
You can buy a copy of Poppy Pym and the Pharaoh’s Curse here or why not order it in at your local book shop 🙂
A huge thank you Laura for a fab guest post and letting us take a sneak peak into Poppy’s world!
Another huge thank you to Scholastic for having me on the tour!
You can follow the rest of the blog tour at the stops below!
You can find the cover reveal for the next book in the Poppy Pym series, Poppy Pym and the Double Jinx here
Have you read Poppy Pym? Did you enjoy it? If not will you be grabbing a copy? I would love to hear from you! Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of this post or tweet me on twitter using @ChelleyToy !