I am super excited to be a part of the UKYA Extravaganza Blog Tour again and today I have been paired up with the wonderful Mike Revell!
This time around the UKYA Extravaganza is taking place in Nottingham on the 10th October 2015 and is featuring all of these amazing authors!
So I got to put some questions to Mike all about his debut Stonebird and writing!
**Warning this Q&A may feature mentions of Taylor Swift….I think Mike is a fan**
When ten-year-old Liam moves house to be closer to his dementia-suffering grandma, he’s thrown into an unfamiliar place, with a family that seems to be falling apart. Liam doesn’t remember what his grandma was like before she became ill. He only knows the witch-like old woman who snaps and snarls and eats her birthday cards. He wants to fix it, but he can’t. Walking his dog one day, Liam discovers an old stone gargoyle in a rundown church, and his life changes in impossible ways. The gargoyle is alive. It moves unseen in the night, acting out Liam’s stories. And stories can be dangerous things…Seeking revenge against the bullies at his new school, Liam tells a story about the gargoyle attacking them. When one of them ends up in hospital, a regretful Liam vows never to go near the gargoyle again. But his grandma’s illness is getting worse, his mum isn’t coping, and his sister is skipping school…What if the gargoyle is the only thing that can save Liam’s family?
Welcome to Tales Of Yesterday. I am so happy and honoured to have you here today!
Can you tell us a little about Stonebird?
Stonebird is about a boy struggling to deal with his grandma’s dementia – until he finds a mysterious gargoyle that changes his life in impossible ways. Everything’s falling apart for Liam; his mum is drinking a lot, his sister is skipping school, and he doesn’t remember what his grandma was like before the disease stole all her memories. But the gargoyle? It’s alive, and Liam soon discovers that it can protect more than just old buildings…
Can you tell us a little about the main character Liam?
Liam is in a strange place at the start of the book. He’s just moved house, so he’s miles away from his friends, and he’s finding it difficult starting at his new school. On top of that, he feels guilty for not remembering his grandma like everyone else does. But when he finds his grandma’s old diary, it rekindles his love of storytelling – a magical, dangerous thing, because it’s through these stories that he can control the gargoyle.
How important are names to you? Did you pick any of the characters names in Stonebird for a reason?
I love when authors drop hints and clues about a character through a carefully selected, perfectly chosen name. One of my favourite things about Harry Potter is that you can write entire essays just on the meaning of names! But for Stonebird, I wanted to ground it in reality as much as possible, so there’s nothing too clever about the name choices – it’s really just that they all felt right for the characters I had in my head at the time. The only one that took a while to find was Mrs Culpepper, Liam’s teacher. I wanted her name to be memorable and slightly unusual, with a hint of magic.
What was your favourite scene to write?
There’s a scene involving Liam’s grandma towards the end of the book that was great fun to write, but I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll go for one early on in the book where we see the gargoyle for the first time. It’s my favourite one to read out loud too – I always start school visits with that chapter!
Do you see yourself in any of the characters in Stonebird or have you used any of your own experiences in the story?
I think there’s a bit of me in all the characters in the book, although the amount varies from character to character. But a lot of the story is based on real life. Mrs Culpepper gets the students telling stories by passing around a marble egg to inspire them, and that’s stolen straight from real life – I had a brilliant teacher in Year Five who did just that. But Liam’s grandma is the character most influenced by real life. My gran had severe dementia for years, and my own experiences of that inspired a lot of Stonebird.
Did you use any resources to imagine the gargoyle and how he would look?
The main resource was the old Gargoyles cartoon they used to show when I was at school. In that, these huge gargoyles were brought from Scotland to New York and they cracked apart and burst into life on skyscrapers under the glow of the moon. That show has stuck with me, because it’s such a powerful image, and I knew I wanted my gargoyle to be massive, like Goliath. Other than that, it was a case of studying animals and seeing what it was about their prowl or their glare that made them so striking.
If you could cast your characters from Stonebird in a big Hollywood film adaptation who would you choose?
That’s tough! Maggie Smith is one of my favourite actresses, and I think she’d do a great job of playing Liam’s grandma. As for Liam himself – maybe someone like Asa Butterfield. And if someone was going to bring the gargoyle to life, I couldn’t imagine a better voice than Benedict Cumberbatch or Andy Serkis.
What would you like your reader to take from Stonebird?
I just hope that they remember it; that it lingers in their mind when they finish reading. I hope it helps them to deal with dementia or any other issue that is hard to talk about that they may have going on in their own life.
What do you think makes a good story?
Ooh, interesting question. Everyone will answer this differently, but for me, a good story has to grab you from the very first page and burn its way into you from the last.
If a story doesn’t grip me from the beginning, I probably won’t read it. And if I get to the end, I want to remember it. The space between the first page and the last should be filled with interesting, living, breathing characters brought to life by the most important factor of all – a great voice.
We would love to know a little bit more about you! Can you give us 5 random facts we don’t know about Mike Revell?
- My earliest memory is watching an old Superman movie, and from about the age of three onwards my greatest desire was to grow up to be a superhero.
- I’m secretly a massive fan of Taylor Swift.
- One day I’d love to try pizza with ice cream on top, because the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles ate it, and they know their pizza.
- The little finger of my right hand looks like a witch’s walking stick because of an old American football injury.
- I live right next to a castle, inside ancient city walls, which makes it pretty easy to find inspiration for stories!
Which of your characters would you most like to spend the day with?
It would totally have to be Liam’s grandma. In my experience, elderly people are full of the best kinds of stories, and I think we should treasure every nugget of wisdom.
Growing up who inspired you into writing? Are there any Authors or books that inspired you?
I was a very, very reluctant reader when I was a kid. In fact, I pretty much hated books until I was 11, when I read Harry Potter. Reading those books changed my life, because if I never found them I would probably never have become a reader, and without being a reader you can’t be a writer. J. K. Rowling opened the door to other inspirational authors, like Neil Gaiman and David Almond, and their fingerprints are definitely all over my own writing.
Are there any recent works or authors that you admire or books you wish you had written?
Totally! I wish I wrote The Graveyard Book, which is about as perfect as a book can be, in my opinion. And I think the How to Train Your Dragon books are brilliant. I’d totally take a time machine back to steal the Mr Gum idea from Andy Stanton – they’re fantastic books.
What are you currently reading?
I’ve just started reading The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell. I love the way she writes; her books are like sitting beside a crackling fire when it’s raining outside.
What is your favourite book of 2015 so far?
Such a tough question… I’ll have to go with The Dreamsnatcher by Abi Elphinstone, because it was packed with the best kind of magic and written in such a beautiful way.
Are there any authors you would like to collaborate with? Who?
Oh, totally. The obvious ones are J. K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman, so I’ll get those out of the way now. It would be a joy to work with Chris Riddell or Sarah McIntyre. If I could wave a magic wand and work with David Almond, that would be pretty special too.
When starting a new book or idea what does your writing process look like?
It starts in my notebook – a line, or an image, a brief snippet of an idea. As it bumps into other ideas, I scribble around it, building it out, testing things. Then when it catches fire I splurge out all my thoughts into a document on my computer. I don’t like to plan in too much detail, because then I lose interest. I like finding out what happens as I write. I try to figure out the main character and their world and the problem they’re facing, and then I dive in, exploring as I go. When I’ve written my way in a bit, it feels more real, and that’s when I plan in a bit more detail – setting out scenes on cards so I can move them about and see the shape of the story. This helps to give me more of a clear direction as I work my way through the rest of the idea.
Do you have any strange writing habits?
Nothing too strange… I like to get 1,000 words written a day when a project’s in full swing, and I break that down into two blocks. Around 500 words before lunch, and around 500 later in the day. I normally write better at night, so sometimes I stay up late to finish the word count.
Recently I asked some lovely authors their thoughts about does music influence their books or their characters. Did music have any influence the story of Stonebird?
Music is so powerful, I love listening to it when I write. Normally this is instrumental stuff – movie soundtracks, that kind of thing. Naturally a bit of Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” is a great song to wake up to, but when I sit down to work, I love James Horner’s music. Hans Zimmer too. I can play their soundtracks and close my eyes and the story builds around me. It was especially useful listening to this kind of thing while writing the graveyard scenes in Stonebird.
Are there any exciting plans for the rest of 2015 or 2016?
The rest of this year is all about school visits, which is one of the best things about being an author. Then next year, my second book is coming out. I’ve just got back from Edinburgh Book Festival, which was one of my favourite experiences ever, and I can’t wait to go to more festivals in 2016.
And finally…are you excited about the UKYA Extravaganza?
Very much! I was so happy to be invited, and I can’t wait to meet everyone, both authors and readers. It’s such a good idea for an event, and I haven’t been to Nottingham for years. The magic of stories in the home of Robin Hood – what more could you want?
About Mike Revell
Mike Revell used to be one of those kids who didn’t like reading. He was more inclined to run home and play video games than dive into a book.
Then Harry Potter came along. The series didn’t just make him a reader, it made him want to be an author too; he wanted to give to people the same feelings of wonder and enjoyment that J.K. Rowling gave to him as a young boy.
Stonebird is Mike’s first novel and is influenced by the real experiences of seeing his grandmother suffer from dementia, as well as his love of myths.
To find out more about Mike visit is website here
You can follow Mike on twitter using @RevellWriting
You can buy Stonebird here or from your local bookshop!
You can follow the rest of the blog tour below or why not check out my UKYA Extravaganza Blog Tour post here detailing all posts on the tour and authors attending the event!
You can find out more about the UKYA Extravaganza in Nottingham on the website here
Or follow them on twitter using @UKYAX
Or find out what we got up to at the Birmingham UKYA Extravaganza here
You can find out more about the Birmingham UKYA Extravaganza authors and the blog tour that took place here
Or why not catch up on the Nottingham UKYA Extravaganza Blog Tour posts and authors here
A huge thank you to Mike for being fab and answering all of my questions !
Also a huge thank you to Kerry Drewery and Emma Pass for organising the UKYA Extravaganza and having me on the blog tour!
See you there!