Category Archives: Author Q&A

Tales Q&A with Gary D. Schmidt


Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt was one of my favourite books that I read last year.  In fact it featured on my Best Books Read in 2016 list here

Published by Andersen Press Orbiting Jupiter completely took me by surprise and simply mived me to tears.

It may be a short contemporary YA read, but it certainly hit me with all the feels all at once which have stayed with me for quite some time.  Orbiting Jupiter is a story about love, family and friendship and a message of never giving up on what you believe in no matter what.  I smiled, I shed tears and I felt so much love for these characters.  In fact thinking about it now is making me emotional all over again.  The ending in the book broke me completely.  Orbiting Jupiter is just as simplistic and beautiful as it is sad and heart-breaking.  Friendship, family, unconditional love and hope.  It will make you smile, it will make you angry, it will make you cry, but most of all it will leave you with the feeling that no matter what some things are worth fighting for.

You can find my full review here

I was over the moon to find out that Orbiting Jupiter has been picked for the Zoella and Friends 2017 book club (#ZoellaBookClub) by the lovely Jennifer Niven!

You can find out why Jennifer picked Orbiting Jupiter for the Book Club here

As you can tell Jennifer and I are huge fans of this book!

I am so honoured today to have the brilliant Gary D. Schmidt on Tales with a brilliant Q&A about Orbiting Jupiter and more….


A heartbreaking story, narrated by twelve-year-old Jack, whose family is caring for fourteen-year-old Joseph. Joseph is misunderstood. He was incarcerated for trying to kill a teacher. Or so the rumours say. But Jack and his family see something others in town don’t want to.
What’s more, Joseph has a daughter he’s never seen. The two boys go on a journey through the bitter Maine winter to help Joseph find his baby – no matter the cost.

You can buy the #ZoellaBookClub edition of this book here or from your local WH Smiths

You can find my full review of Orbiting Jupiter here


Hi Gary!  Thank you so much for taking the time to be here today to chat about Orbiting Jupiter!

How would you describe Orbiting Jupiter to someone who hasn’t read it?

 Orbiting Jupiter is the story of two boys, close to each other in terms of age, but infinitely far apart in terms of experience.  Jack’s journey is to understand a kid who has been in prison, who has a daughter, and who has lost the only one he ever loved; Joseph’s journey is to allow Jack to take that journey.

The character of Joseph is so life-like and multi-layered, how did you develop him, was he based on someone you had met?

Though this is not their story, both Joseph and Jack are based on real boys I’ve met in juvenile detention homes.  I wanted Joseph to be complex, though he hardly ever speaks in this novel.  He’s the kid we judge too quickly, the kid we blame, the kid we don’t think is ever going to amount to anything but trouble, and who we dismiss without even giving him a chance to be his best and largest self.  Those are the very kids to whom we need to give more attention–more grace.

The setting feels so much part of the novel, winter on the farm with the dairy cows, what was it that felt like the home for your book?

The setting is based on a real farm in East Sumner, Maine, where I have brought my own students and where the owners take in foster children.  It’s an organic dairy farm, and sits in a bowl within the northern Appalachians; it embodies so much of what I love in New England:  resourcefulness, independence, an embrace of winter’s beauties and challenges.  It does sort of feel like home a bit.

There is a real sense of brotherhood and family in the book – was that based on anything you’d experienced or seen yourself?

I’m glad that sense of brotherhood and family comes through in the book.  The two models for Jack and Joseph had been in the facility in which I met them for a year, and neither had seen any family member.  Years ago, I also knew a couple that took in foster kids–which I thought was wonderfully noble–until I learned that they mostly did this for the income the state provided. That was thirty-five years ago, but I have never forgotten my distaste for someone who would see these kids as a source of cash–and back then, I imagined the opposite:  a noble and altruistic family who would use any income toward a college fund–which of course wouldn’t pay for all of college, but would send a profound message of hope and confidence toward these kids.  

Orbiting Jupiter packs such an emotional punch, especially the ending – without spoilers, was that always intentional? 

Well, avoiding spoilers:  The ending was intentional.  I don’t particularly like Hallmark card endings, where everything comes out fine, as neatly tied up as a twenty-one minute sit-com.  Those books have their place, of course, but they’re not the books I want to write.  It seems to me that we need to offer honesty to young readers, and it is honest to say that sometimes, things don’t always work out all right.  Sometimes it’s okay to ask, “Where the hell are the angels?”  If we don’t say that, then what happens to a young reader when things really don’t turn out well in life?  If we send the message that that’s unusual, we are messaging a lie.

How do you write – do you plan the whole thing meticulously, or is it more free-flowing?

I wish I could say that I plan things out meticulously before I write.  Maybe when I grow up, I’ll be that writer.  You cannot believe how many times I’ve been in a school auditorium, and a student asks, “Do you use an outline?” and every teacher in the auditorium is looking at me with eyes that are saying, “Tell them you do!  Tell them you do!”  But in truth, I don’t.  Part of writing is discovery, and that means not pre-planning everything to the point that there is nothing left to discover.  When I finish a page, I really do not know what is going to happen next, and that feels right to me:  it puts me in the same place as the reader, who also doesn’t know what happens on the next page.  It helps to be in that same posture.

What books would you recommend to someone who enjoyed this book?

If you enjoyed Orbiting Jupiter, you might also like Gary Paulsen’s The Tent, about a father and son who go on the revival circuit–no kidding. 

Others might be Anne Fine’s Flour Babies, Katherine Paterson’s The Great Gilly Hopkins or her Jacob Have I Loved. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In some ways, Jack is modelled a bit upon Simon in The Nargun and the Stars–one of my very favourite books in the world.  

If you’re in high school, I’d also recommend Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, though this is a harrowing read, not at all for the faint of heart.

Which authors or writers inspire you?

What author’s inspire me?  I always begin with Henry David Thoreau, though he is much out of favor these days–but that voice!  By contrast, Giovanni Guareschi’s wit and spare storytelling amazes me; I just the other day bought a first edition of his The Little World of Don Camillo, since the copy I have on my desk is falling apart.  For language skills, Robert Frost, followed closely by the poet Jane Kenyon, though they are very, very different.  For character, Avi; for plot, Dickens every time; for setting, Jill Paton Walsh; for tonality, Susan Cooper–no one can touch her; for sheer brilliance, M. T. Anderson.

For young people going through something similar to Joseph, or Jack, what advise would you give them?

For those going through what Joseph is going through, advice seems very cheap and easy.  It’s hard to believe anyone understands who is not right there.  So here’s the advice, set in a Hasidic story:  There is a rabbi who lives, who knows where.  He has one job to do each day:  He must rise, and then pray this prayer:  “Lord, let the world go on for one more day.”  He must do this every day.  If, for whatever reason, the rabbi fails to perform this prayer, then the world will cease to exist–it’s that important.  So, here’s the advice:  Today, let the world go on for one more day.  Tomorrow, let the world go on for one more day.  And the next day, and the next, and the next–let the world go on for one more day.

What’s next for you, are you writing more?

I’ve been doing some short stories, since it’s a form I would like to learn to do better.  But the next novel will be done soon.  It’s about a butler who comes to a suburban American family to teach them about cricket–and about much more.

Thank you so much for answering all my questions Gary.  It’s honour to have you on Tales.

You can buy the #ZoellaBookClub edition of this book here or from your local WH Smiths

You can find my full review of Orbiting Jupiter here


About Gary D. Schmidt

Gary Schmidt is a professor of English at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He received both a Newbery Honor and a Printz Honor for Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and a Newbery Honor for The Wednesday Wars. He lives with his family on a 150-year-old farm in Alto, Michigan, where he splits wood, plants gardens, writes, and feeds the wild cats that drop by.

You can find out more about Gary D. Schmidt on his website here


A huge thank you to Gary for a fab Q&A and to the wonderful Harriet at Andersen Press for asking me to feature this brilliant Q&A.

Have you read  Orbiting Jupiter?  What did you think?  Has this Q&A convinced you to pick up a copy and read?  I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment by clicking the reply button at the top of this page or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy

Happy Reading!

Tales Q&A with Lisa Drakeford


Today I am super excited to be kicking of a fab blog tour for a brilliant YA contemporary!

The Crash by Lisa Drakeford is due for release on the 6th July 2017 published by the lovlies at Chicken House.

I’ve read this book already and LOVED it and like Lisa’s first book, The Baby, multiple points of view in the narrative and a twisting storyline will keep you gripped until the very last page!

So today I am lucky enough to have been able to put some questions to Lisa all about The Crash, it’s characters and writing that second novel…..


Best friends Sophie and Tye are watching TV when a car crashes through the living room wall. The driver and passenger are twins, Harry and Gemma. Next door neighbour, eleven-year-old Issy, witnesses the accident. In the aftermath, Tye is thrown into a coma, Gemma’s dark past begins to haunt the present, and Sophie starts to fall for Harry – but how can she, when he was the driver who nearly killed her best friend? And Issy, meanwhile, hides a terrible secret …


Hi Lisa!  Thanks so much for being here today!  I LOVED The Crash so much so it’s an honour to have you on Tales!

Can you tell us a little about your new YA book The Crash?

It begins with a car, crashing into a house where two best friends are watching TV. The rest of the book is about the relationships which develop between the people in the car and the people in the house. They all have secrets, some of them darker than others, and there’s a young next door neighbour who maybe has the darkest.

Can you tell us a little about the main characters, Sophie, Tye, Harry and Gemma?

Sophie’s a brilliant best friend but riddled with guilt. She’s had a few knocks in life, but just gets on with it.

Tye’s delightful. He’s funny and good looking but dealing with a secret.

Harry is artistic and the best brother you could ever want. He’s madly in love but has to face a few things before he can enjoy it.

Gemma’s damaged and prickly and hard to love, but actually, strangely loving.

Like your first novel, The Baby, The Crash is told from different points of view with flashbacks. How do you find writing each narrative voice ? Whow was your favourite to write?

I’m a bit obsessed with seeing things from different points of view, so I love writing in this way. All five characters have their own stories to tell, so it sometimes feels difficult pulling all their stories together, I guess it’s a bit like a jigsaw.

It’s eleven year old Issy who I enjoyed writing about the most. Hers was the darkest story, but strangely the most straightforward.

If you could describe The Crash in 5 words what would it be?

Secrets have to be revealed!

How did you find writing your second book compared to the first ? Did your writing process change at all?

I wrote The Crash before The Baby was published, so there was no real pressure there. The difficult bit came with the re-writes and edits. By then, The Baby had been accepted and that’s when I felt the pressure. I had nothing to lose with The Baby; I have everything to lose with The Crash. I learnt so much with The Baby and I hope I’ve now put that experience to good use. I think by book three I’ll have finally got it sussed.

My writing process has definitely changed now. I still write what I want, but I have my mentors’ and editors’ words of caution and advice ringing in my ears as I do.

We would love to know a little bit more about you! Can you give us 5 random facts we might not know about yourself?

I’m probably one of the most boring people on earth, but I’ll have a go…..

1. My real name isn’t Lisa or Drakeford.

2. I once toasted a mouse by accident. (It didn’t smell very good)

3. I’ve saved my younger brother’s life twice. He’s 48 now and he’s still not thanked me!

4.I’ve never played Monoploy or watched an episode of The Simpsons.

5 My mantra goes something like this: There is always room for pudding.

What’s next?

More writing. I can’t get enough. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t. Book three is written and the send button has been pressed. I’m actually incredibly proud of it. As I said earlier, I’ve learnt such a lot since submitting The Baby to Chicken House. All that’s left now is to sit, twiddling my thumbs, waiting to see if anyone likes it. In the meantime I’ll just carry on writing…

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


About Lisa Drakeford

Now a children’s tutor, Lisa Drakeford used to be a library assistant and became inspired to write by the brilliant young adult novels filling the shelves.

She started writing seriously four years ago, attending a number of writing courses and winning a place on the Writing East Midlands Mentoring Scheme. Her debut novel, The Baby, was shortlisted for the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition 2014. Her newest novel, The Crash, will publish in July 2017. 

You can follow Lisa of twitter – @LisaDrakeford


Blog Tour

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


A huge thank you to Lisa for answering all of my questions and to Jazz at Chicken House for organising and asking me to be part of the blog tour!

Have you read The Crash?  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!

Happy Reading!

Tales Q&A with Aaron Starmer


Today is the UK release day of an explosive new YA, Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer!

‘Truly the smartest and funniest book about spontaneous combustion you will ever read’ JOHN GREEN, #1 bestselling author of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

Happy UK book birthday Aaron!

Spontaneous is a fab YA full of humour and fun!

I am super excited to have been able to pop some questions to the author himself about the book and beyond in this brilliant Q&A…..


Mara’s senior year is proving to be a lot less exciting than she’d hoped, until the day – KABAM! – Katelyn Ogden explodes during third period. Katelyn is the first, but she won’t be the last senior to explode without warning or explanation. The body count grows and the search is on for a reason, while the students continue to pop like balloons. But if bombs or terrorists or a government conspiracy aren’t to blame, what is?

With the help of her oldest friend, her new boyfriend, a power ballad and a homemade disco ball, will Mara make it to graduation in one piece? It’s going to be one hell of a year, where the only test is how to stay alive and where falling in love might be the worst thing you can do . . .


Hi Aaron!  Thanks so much for being here today to answer some questions about your explosive new YA book, Spontaneous!

Can you tell us a little about your new explosive new YA novel Spontaneous?

I’d love to! The concept is pretty simple actually. It’s about spontaneous human combustion. That is, people suddenly going up in flames (or, in this case, exploding!). There’s a high school and during the first week of the school year, one of the seniors randomly explodes. No explanation. Just POP! Then a few weeks later it happens to another senior. Then another, and another, until the world realizes there’s something wrong with this particular class of students. A lot of people speculate about what caused it (drugs, sexuality, etc.), but the story is ultimately about how it affects these kids, and the main character in particular.

 Can you tell us a little more about the main character Mara?

The best way I can describe her is to say that she’s straightforward. She says what she’s feeling and thinking, which isn’t always nice. She makes jokes at inappropriate times. Some people find her hilarious, while others might think she’s callous. At times, I guess she’s likably unlikable (if that’s a thing). But as the story goes along, I hope most readers see that there’s more to her than brutal honesty and sarcasm. She’s just trying to survive in the only ways she knows how. And she does care…a lot. You see that when she falls for a guy named Dylan and when she struggles to hold onto her best friend, Tess.

 What inspired you to write about teenagers who could blow up without warning or explanation?

It just seemed to fit. When you’re a teen, every event, every emotion, everything about life feels, for lack of a better word, combustible. Or at least it did for me. Like it could all end in an instant. And sometimes it does. Some of my first experiences with loss were when I was a teen. And I wanted to explore that in the bloodiest, funniest, most dramatic and literal way possible.

 On a serious note Spontaneous explores friendship and goodbyes how important was it to get this balance right between humour, honesty and tugging on our heart strings?

The trick is to ground as many things as you can in reality. The premise is absolutely absurd and that’s where the humor comes in, but you can’t make the reactions or plot twists absurd as well or else readers won’t connect with the characters. So I constantly had to think about honest, human reactions. Which means there’s a lot of confusion and vacillating emotions in the book. Also a fair bit of apathy (these are teenagers, after all). I treated it as if it were the story about a contagious virus. How would the world react to that? How would individuals?

 I hear Spontaneous is in development to become a film!  Who would be your dream cast?

I haven’t really thought about that, because I don’t want to get too excited about something that’s still a long shot (and I have no power over casting decisions). A very talented writer is working on the screenplay, so I’m just excited to see that when it’s finished. If it does actually go into production, I’d love it if they could cast actual teens rather than twenty-somethings playing teens. Actual teens would bring the awkwardness and insecurities that I think are essential for a story like this.  I’d love to hear suggestions, though!

 If you had to live in Mara’s hometown how would you make sure you survived?

There’s a character that’s mentioned briefly who builds a suit of armour out of duct tape to try to protect himself. It doesn’t work…obviously. That’d be me. A bit paranoid and willing to try anything to survive.

In five words – what should people expect if they picked up Spontaneous?

Blood. Laughs. Questions. Tears. Community

We would love to know a little bit more about you!  Can you give us 5 random facts we might not know about yourself?

  1. I have been attacked by multiple animals, including, but not limited to, a stingray, a magpie and a poisonous snake. The poisonous snake missed, the other two did not.
  2. I think that black liquorice, cilantro, olives, kimchi, and lots of other divisive foods are delicious. In fact, if it’s divisive, I probably like it (except Marmite/Vegemite)
  3. I didn’t wear jeans for about 4 years straight in my late teens/early twenties. Not once. Now I wear them almost every day. I don’t have an explanation.
  4. My great-grandfather was born in the 1842. To put that in perspective, Abraham Lincoln was 33 in 1842.
  5. I’m not very good at coming up with random facts about myself, but I am very good at movie trivia.

If Spontaneous had a sound track what would it be?

There’s actually a lot of songs already referenced in the book. Leonard Cohen’s “That’s No Way to Say Goodbye,” Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” and Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own,” being the three big ones. But there’s also a playlist called DRIVER F*&#ER DRIVE that Mara and Tess always listen to in their car, which is full of upbeat songs, mainly by women, and featuring some well-incorporated swears. I was imagining they were listening to a variety of styles and genres. Nicki Minaj, Tegan and Sara, Jenny Lewis, Haim, Kacey Musgraves, and a bunch of stuff that an old dude like me wouldn’t know about.

What are you working on next?  Any new exciting projects you can tell us about?

My next novel is called Meme and it’s a dark thriller/comedy about, you guessed it, internet memes. It’s in the editorial stages. I’ve got a few other projects that are just getting started, but it’s too early to talk about those. Thanks for hosting me and hopefully you can have me back when I can talk about those!

Of course!  Thanks so much for answering all of my questions.  Spontaneous sounds like all kinds of fun!

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


About Aaron Starmer

Aaron Starmer was born in northern California and raised in the suburbs of Syracuse, New York. Before pursuing writing full-time, he worked in New York City for over ten years as an editor for a travel bookseller and as an operations director for an African safari company. His middle grade and young adult novels have been translated into multiple foreign languages and have appeared on best of the year lists from Time, The Wall Street Journal, New York Public Library, YALSA, Bank Street College of Education, Chicago Public Library and School Library Journal. His latest book, Spontaneous, is in development as a film. He currently lives in northern Vermont with wife and daughter.

You can find out more about Adam on his website – www.aaronstarmer.com

Or why not follow him on twitter – @aaronstarmer


Blog Tour

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


A huge thank you to Aaron for some brilliant answers and to Claire at Canongate for organising and asking me to be part of the tour!

Have you read Spontaneous?  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!

Happy Reading!

Tales Q&A With Sarah Carroll


A few months ago I received an email from the lovely Hannah at Simon & Schuster about a really intriguing debut YA, The Girl In Between by Sarah Carroll.

The Girl In Between is due to be released on the 4th May 2017 and is a story about a little girl who is homeless in Dublin and sheltering in an abandoned mill with her mother – and it has an unexpected twist at the end.

Naturally I needed to know more so I put some questions to the lovely author, Sarah Carroll…..


I know the mill has a story cos there’s something strange going on. I heard something. I’ve decided that I’m going to find out what it is later today when Ma leaves. Cos even if it is scary, we live here and we’re never leaving. So if there’s something going on, I need to know.

In an old, abandoned mill, a girl and her ma take shelter from their memories of life on the streets. To the girl it’s home, her safe place, the Castle. But as her ma spins out of control and the Authorities move ever closer, the girl finds herself trapped – stuck in the crumbling mill with only the ghosts of the past for company.

Can she move on before it’s too late?


Hi Sarah!  Thanks so much for appearing on Tales Of Yesterday today – I’m so over the moon to have you here!

Can you tell us a little about your debut The Girl In Between?

The Girl In Between is told by a young homeless girl who lives with her Ma in an abandoned mill in the heart of a city’s business district (it’s Dublin, though never explicitly stated). The girl calls it her Castle, a refuge from their life on the streets. She never wants to leave. But the mill is earmarked for development and the girl has noticed that there is something strange going on inside. With her safe place threatened and her own past haunting her, the girl must find a way to move on from the mill before it’s too late.

What inspired you to write this story?

The mill is based on Boland’s Mill, a stained granite building in Grand Canal Dock, Dublin, which is currently being developed into business and living units. The old mill provided shelter to a homeless man who set up camp in it is shadow for a brief period. But both the mill and the man were largely invisible to those that passed by on their way to work everyday.

To me, the mill represented a crumbling past being replaced by an uncaring digital future. It was an embodiment of the unseen past. This inspired the themes of homelessness, grief, and moving on.

Can you tell us a little about the main character?

The main character is a young girl who has known, and lost, the security of a home. She survives the brutality of living on the streets by retreating inside her imagination, and when she finally finds in the mill a places that she can call home, it is this imagination that allows her to find beauty in the banal. But she recognises in her Ma the signs of descent into addiction. She loves her Ma fiercely and fears returning to the streets. She does everything she can to stop this from happening. She is naïve and optimistic, but ultimately brave and forgiving.

Can you tell us a little about your writing process for The Girl In Between?  Was there much research involved?

Not a lot of research, no. I spent a day or two looking up how old flour mills work, but after that, I relied on memory of my interactions with various homeless people (Caretaker is an amalgamation of three homeless men I have come across) and the girl’s imagination (to build on exaggerated almost magical world).

The story came to me fully formed. I knew the first and last lines of the book from the first day. That day, I wrote the first chapter and then set it aside as I was actually working on another novel at the time.) For three months, The Girl In Between stewed away in my subconscious and then two days after finishing the other novel, I returned to The Girl In Between. From that point, it took five weeks to complete the first draft of the novel. I would wake and take exercise, during which time I would write the day’s chapter in my head. After breakfast I would get it down on paper and, later that day, edit the previous days’ chapter. Usually, I wouldn’t break for six hours or so. That was pretty much my routine for five weeks. After that, I edited it for a few weeks. I had literally finished the first full edit two days before being contacted by my (now) agent, Claire Wilson, for the first time. That was the beginning of six months of professional edits with my publishers (the back and forth takes weeks, if not months!)

How important was it to get the themes of family and homelessness right?

Crucial. I wanted to study the meaning of home when you don’t have one, of family when it’s just two of you.

Setting out, I wondered what it would be like to be a young girl growing up without a physical place to provide the safety, comfort and belonging we all need. And when she found something that she could call home, as the girl does with the Castle, I wondered what lengths she would go to to stop it from being torn away.

I also knew from the get-go that the opening line would be I’m invisible because the most vulnerable so often are. I wanted to step over the stereotypes and see what was going on behind the begging cup, and tell I story that we as a society, and I myself, tend to ignore.

In five words – what should people expect if they picked up The Girl In Between?

Homelessness, love, grief, optimism, imagination.

We would love to know a little bit more about you!  Can you give us 5 random facts we might not know about yourself?

I love skiing and white water kayaking.

I only began writing novels aged twenty nine.

I speak Swahili.

English was my worst subject in school.

I’ve climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.

Can you tell us a little more about your volunteering works?

In 2006 I naively went on one of those pay-to-volunteer holidays and soon realised that they are, for the most part, little more than money making schemes that exploit the idea of the poor as incapable and childlike, and, in turn, encourage the formation of projects in the host town that exploit the volunteer.

I initially set up a volunteer hostel in Tanzania so that others could avoid paying exorbitant volunteering charges and donate that money directly to a project. Over time, I began to work with local projects to assist with their long term development and to help them to find volunteers with the appropriate skill set to be of benefit to the day to day running the project (eg placing an accountant with a women’s group in need of advice on financial management, or teachers in teaching positions.)

If The Girl In Between had a sound track what would it be?

It would be a mixture of traditional and modern Irish music, with lyrics in both Irish and English, written and preformed by Enda Reilly.

What would you like people to take away from reading The Girl In Between?

That letting go and moving on can be the ultimate freedom.

And finally what are you working on next?  Any new exciting projects you can tell us about?

Some that I can, some that I can’t!

Last Friday, I finished the first draft of the book that will be released this time next year. It is also based in Dublin and deals with bullying and the power of words. So I’ll be editing that just as soon as my editors get back with their massive dossier on suggested changes.

Thank you so much for answering all my questions Sarah!  The Girl In Between sounds wonderful!

You can buy a copy of The Girl In Between here or from your local bookshop!


About Sarah Carroll

Sarah currently splits her time between a houseboat in Dublin and travel abroad. She recently returned from five years in Tanzania where she founded and ran a hostel while working to support local community projects. She continues to promote ethical overseas volunteering through her blogs and films on www.theethicalvolunteer.com, while planning her next book.


Giveaway

With thanks to the lovely people at Simon & Schuster I have one copy of this fab book to giveaway to one lucky winner!

You can enter via twitter by Following and RT – here

UK Only

Ends 9th May 2017

Good Luck!


A huge thank you to Sarah for answering all of my questions!  And to Hannah at Simon and Schuster for organising and asking me to host this Q&A and giveaway!

Have you read The Girl In Between?  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!

Happy Reading!

Tales Q&A with Stefan Mohamed


Today I am over the moon to be part of the fab blog tour for Stanly’s Ghost by Stefan Mohamed.

Stanly’s Ghost is the third book in the fantastic Bitter Sixteen Trilogy and was published on the 15th March 2017 by Salt Publishing.

If you like Sci-Fi, Superheros and evil villans you need these books in your life!

For my stop on this fab tour I have had the honour to put some questions to the author himself Stefan Mohamed about the trilogy, superheros and writing!


Winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize for new writers A Times Children’s Book of the Week A Guardian Top Teen Read of 2015 “Happy birthday, Stanly. We hope you like your present…” Cynical, solitary Stanly Bird is a fairly typical teenager – unless you count the fact that his best friend is a talking beagle named Daryl, and that he gained the powers of flight and telekinesis when he turned sixteen. Unfortunately, his rural Welsh home town is not exactly crying out for its very own superhero. London is calling – but what Stanly finds there is a good deal weirder and more terrifying than anything he could have imagined. Perhaps he should have stayed in Wales …

Stanly is frustrated. Having set himself up as London’s protector, he’s finding that the everyday practicalities of superheroism are challenging at best, and downright tedious at worst. So it’s almost a relief when an attempt is made on his life and Stanly finds himself rushing headlong into a twisted adventure, with enemies new and old coming out of the woodwork. However, even with his friends and his ever-increasing power behind him, he may have bitten off more than he can chew this time. The monsters are coming …and nothing will ever be the same!

Cynical, solitary Stanly Bird used to be a fairly typical teenager – unless you count the fact that his best friend was a talking beagle named Daryl. Then came the superpowers. And the superpowered allies. And the mysterious enemies. And the terrifying monsters. And the stunning revelations. And the apocalypse. Now he’s not sure what he is. Or where he is. Or how exactly one is supposed to proceed after saving the world.

All he knows is that his story isn’t finished.

Not quite yet …


Hi Stefan!  Thanks for joining me today on Tales!  I am super excited to have you here and to read the third book in the Bitter Sixteen Trilogy Stanly’s Ghost!

Can you tell us a little bit about your main character Stanly Bird?

 Stanly is a slightly socially dysfunctional, hot-headed, sarcastic pop culture junkie from a small rural Welsh town. He also happens to have the powers of flight and telekinesis. He is trying his very best to be a superhero but things keep getting in the way – things like his own foibles, and basic practicality. He was sixteen in the first book of the trilogy, and as of the beginning of the final instalment, Stanly’s Ghost, he is eighteen (or thereabouts).

 What inspired you to write The Bitter Sixteen Trilogy?

I wrote the very first draft of the first book when I was sixteen, and at that point I was just writing away, trying to finish something – I was pretty guileless, never having written anything longer than about a thousand words, so I didn’t really know what I was doing! I was just attempting to tell a story. In terms of other media, inspirations would include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Donnie Darko and the work of Neil Gaiman and Philip Pullman.

Can you tell us a little bit about Stanly’s Ghost, the third book in the trilogy?

Hard to say anything specific while still avoiding spoilers – let’s just say that the shit continues to hit the fan for Stanly. But while flying towards the fan, the shit is also becoming exponentially weirder and more stressful. And he’s not necessarily getting better at dealing with it.

 Can you tell us about Stanly’s best friend Daryl?

 Daryl is a talking beagle with a sharp tongue and a love for films (his favourite is Casablanca – he always cries at the end, like any self-respecting living creature with a heart). He is incredibly loyal and very quick-witted, and you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of him because he punches (and bites) well above his weight.

 Have you used any of your own experiences to tell Stanly’s story?

 A lot of it is based on my struggles with my own superpowers, mastering their infinite complexity, fitting in with non-superpowered types, trying to set up a superhero business in a flat-lining economy. And Stanly’s early days in Wales are very much based on my childhood and teenage years – his town is basically the town where I grew up, just with the names changed! I also spent a lot of my teenage years up in my room watching films, or sitting at the back of the school bus hating everyone around me. You know, fun teen stuff.

 In five words – what should people expect if they picked up this trilogy?

 Humour… action… darkness… talking beagle.

 Who is the best superhero ever?

 I think it has to be Superman. Apart from having the best skillset, his attitude to superheroism is the best. No angst, no moral greyness. Just a decent guy trying to do good.

You have won the Dylan Thomas Prize for new writers, and been made a Times Children’s Book of the Week and a Guardian Top Teen Read of 2015 since releasing this trilogy – was this something you ever expected to happen?

 Absolutely not! It’s still kind of mind-blowing that people enjoy reading the books, let alone feel compelled to give them awards and titles and stuff like that. It’s an amazing feeling. Totally bizarre.

 We would love to know a little bit more about you!  Can you give us 5 random facts we don’t know about Stefan Mohamed?

 Hmm.

I really like carrots, like a lot.

I once played Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, except it came after writing about Stanly playing Romeo in Bitter Sixteen.

I can’t iron, I just can’t get my head around it, it’s very frustrating.

Colin Murray off the radio once told me to f**k off.

And when I was at sixth form – which was part of my secondary school – I ran for Head Boy using ‘Vote For Stefan If You Like Cats’ as my campaign slogan. That was basically the whole campaign, that slogan, and I didn’t win, but I was made Deputy Head Boy, which was actually better because it came with a small amount of power and zero responsibility.

 Any sci-fi / superhero book (or TV/film) recs that you would highly recommend?

 My favourite recent SF books were All The Birds In The Sky by Charlie Jane Anders – wonderful, inventive, lyrical story about a friendship between a witch and a scientist, and the wackiness that ensues – and The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers – brilliant low-key sort of blue-collar space opera with definite Firefly vibes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Film-wise, this year has been pretty good so far – Logan was fantastic and I really liked Kong Skull Island, good smashy monster fun.

TV-wise, Legion for superheroes and Westworld for SF.

Is this last we have seen from Stanly Bird?

 For the moment, yes. I could happily write more about him but I think I need to leave him alone for a bit, try my hand at some characters who aren’t adolescent superheroes. However, I’m hoping that a few shorter spin-off stories set in his world will appear at some point in the not too distant future.

 What are you working on next?  Any exciting new projects you can tell us about?

 I have a couple of other novel projects on the go, a standalone piece that’s more adult orientated, and the beginning of another YA series. No solid news on either, but I’m cautiously optimistic (I think – depends on what day it is!).

Thanks so much for joining us today and answering all my questions Stefan!

You can buy a copy of this fab trilogy here or from your local book shop!


About Stefan Mohamed

Stefan Mohamed is an author, performing poet and sometime journalist. He graduated from Kingston University in 2010 with a first class degree in creative writing and film studies, and later that year won the inaugural Sony Reader Award, a category of the Dylan Thomas Prize, for his novel Bitter Sixteen. Bitter Sixteen is out now from Salt Publishing. Stefan is also the author of a novella, STUFF, part of Salt’s Modern Dreams series. He lives in Bristol.

You can find out more about Stefan on his website – www.stefmo.co.uk

Or why not follow him on twitter – @stefmowords


Blog Tour

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


A huge thank you to Stefan for answering all of my questions!  And to Salt Publishing for organising and asking me to be part of the blog tour!

Have you read any of the Bitter Sixteen Trilogy?  What did you think?  Are you intrigued to go and grab copies?  Who are your favourite superheros?   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!

Tales Q&A with Isaac Marion


I am SO excited to have had the chance to put some questions to the wonderful Isaac Marion author of the Warm Bodies Series which started with the first book, Warm Bodies, it’s prequel, The New Hunger and the exciting new sequel The Burning World!

The Burning World was released on the 9th February published by Vintage and Isaac Marion expands the scope of a powerfully simple story: a dead man’s search for life in all its bloody rawness.  If you like Zombie books with a twist this series is for you!

The Guardian called Warm Bodies ‘the zombie novel with a heart’; Audrey Niffenegger said ‘Warm Bodies is an unexpected treat’, and Stephenie Meyer eagerly looked forward to the next book.

Following the books release in 2010, Warm Bodies was made into a movie in 2013 starring Nicholas Hoult as it’s main character R.  A funny twist on a classic love story, Warm Bodies is a  tale about the power of human connection.  The sequel has been high up on my anticipated list ever since!

So join us to find out more and what’s next…..


‘R’ is a zombie. He has no name, no memories, and no pulse, but he has dreams. He is a little different from his fellow Dead.

Amongst the ruins of an abandoned city, R meets a girl. Her name is Julie and she is the opposite of everything he knows – warm and bright and very much alive, she is a blast of colour in a dreary grey landscape. For reasons he can’t understand, R chooses to save Julie instead of eating her, and a tense yet strangely tender relationship begins.

This has never happened before. It breaks the rules and defies logic, but R is no longer content with life in the grave. He wants to breathe again, he wants to live, and Julie wants to help him. But their grim, rotting world won’t be changed without a fight…

Here it is: the prequel to Warm Bodies, released to coincide with the major film adaptation from the producers of Twilight, starring Teresa Palmer and Nicholas Hoult.

Julie Grigio drives with her parents through the crumbling wastelands of America – a nightmarish family road trip in search of a new home.

A few hundred miles away, Nora Greene finds herself the reluctant, terrified guardian of her younger brother when her parents abandon them in the not-quite-empty ruins of Seattle.

In the darkness of a forest, a dead man in a red tie opens his eyes. With no memory of who or what he is, he must unravel the grim mystery of his existence – right after he learns how to think, how to walk, and how to satisfy the monster howling in his belly…

Two warped families and a lonely monster. Unknown to any of them, their paths are set to cross in a startling encounter that will change the course of their lives – or deaths – forever.

R is recovering from death. He’s learning how to read, how to speak, maybe even how to love. He can almost imagine a future with Julie, this girl who restarted his heart – building a new world from the ashes of the old one.

And then helicopters appear on the horizon. A mysterious army is coming to restore order, to bring back the good old days of stability and control and the strong eating the weak. These grinning strangers are more than they seem. The plague has many hosts, and some are far more terrifying than the Dead.

With their home in the grip of madmen, R and Julie plunge into the wastelands of America in search of answers. But there are some answers R doesn’t want to find. A past life, an old shadow, crawling up from the basement.

In this long-anticipated new chapter of the Warm Bodies series, Isaac Marion expands the scope of a powerfully simple story: a dead man’s search for life in all its bloody rawness.


Hi Isaac!

 Welcome to Tales Of Yesterday.  I’m so so happy to have you here!  Let’s kick off with the first question shall we?

Can you tell us a little about The Burning World?

 Warm Bodies ends at the beginning of R’s new life. He’s taken the first step toward humanity, but he still has a long way to go. It’s one thing to be alive, but how do you navigate human relationships? How do you find your place in a society that doesn’t have a place for you? And can you really be a person without a past, or do you have to find some way to reconcile the person you were with the person you want to become? So R is dealing with all those problems, but there’s an even bigger question on the horizon which is how does the rest of the world react to a sudden shift in the status quo? What forces will try to fill the power vacuum? R’s personal problems quickly get sucked into a much bigger conflict.

 It’s been 7 years since Warm Bodies was first released – What made you go back to the character of R and The Warm Bodies Series?

 Well, at the time I that actually made that decision, it had only been about TWO years, so it was still pretty fresh. I’ve been working on The Burning World and the final book The Living, for nearly five years! I was always interested in where R’s story would go from the point where I ended Warm Bodies; I had a broad outline in my head, but it took some time for the vision to really take shape. There were a few epiphany moments when I realized where the story would go and what it would ultimately be about and once that spark was ignited, I couldn’t get it out of my head. From a career perspective, the timing and strategy of it all was terrible, but I had to do what I had to do and give it as much time as it needed.

 Did you find it easy to jump back into the world you created in Warm Bodies?

 I never really left it. The two years between were mostly filled with movie buzz and writing the prequel novella, The New Hunger. I dabbled in a few minor side projects, short stories and movie scripts, but Warm Bodies continued to be my central focus even during that lull.

 For those who don’t know who R is – can you tell us a little bit more about him?

 “R” is the first letter of his name; that’s all he remembers. He’s a former zombie who managed to will himself out of that dark state of being and bring himself “back to life,” which became a catalyst for the rest of the undead population. He’s an awkward guy in life or death. He thinks too much and has trouble expressing himself. He’s pretty relatable.

 Can you tell us a little about some of the other characters in The Burning World?

 Well, there’s Julie of course, the girl who helped pull R out of his fog. She’s kind of his opposite in many ways: enthusiastic, outspoken, quick-tempered, and passionate about everything. But she’s not all quirky fun. She has a very traumatic past—as do most people growing up in the apocalypse—and it brings out a dark side in her sometimes. She holds herself together with hope optimism and when anyone threatens that, she can become very dangerous.

 Julie’s friend Nora also plays a big role in The Burning World and the final book, The Living, as her history with M and lost family members—as described in The New Hunger—comes back to haunt her. Her little brother Addis becomes a unique figure in the story, a kind of ambassador between humanity and a mysterious intelligence that is observing the events of the story and pushing humanity forward…um…yeah, it’s complicated.

What was your favourite scene to write in The Burning Word?

 I would have to say the final sequence of scenes summing up the end of R’s first life was the most affecting for me. I’m always very moved by depictions of death in fiction—not violent, sudden deaths but deaths where the character has time to understand that his life is ending, all the feelings that go with that, the regret and acceptance, or in R’s case, a refusal…that’s intense stuff. And especially in this case, where R is realizing that he owes a debt to the world for the terrible things he’s done, that little glimmer of hope, the will to keep fighting against overwhelming circumstances…that really hit me hard. I think I actually cried a little while writing that scene.

 What was the hardest scene to write?

 I’d like to say it was one of the big emotional scenes, but those are actually a joy for me to write, even when they’re sad. It’s the more complex, narratively technical scenes that I struggle with, so one of the hardest was probably the ending. Setting the stage for the next leg of their journey, getting all the pieces to line up so that we understand what’s been resolved and what still remains to be done…scenes like that are always hard, just the pacing and mental logistics of it all. There’s a lot going on in this story and keeping all the threads bundled tight was challenging.

 If you could sum up The Burning World in 5 words what would you choose?

 Epic journey outward and inward.

 Can you give us 5 random facts about yourself that we should know about Isaac Marion?

 

I also make music and have recorded a couple albums but it’s been a long time and I don’t know how well they’ve aged. You can download them both for free on my Bandcamp.

I am sinister (left-handed) do not trust me.

The house my family lived in when I was 14 (a modified motorcycle garage) was condemned and burned down by the city. That was the year I started writing.

I have enjoyed the company of all the following animal friends: dog, cat, rat, mouse, gerbil, guinea pig, grasshopper, rabbit, turtle, frog, snake, iguana, horse, goat, fish, snail, slug, salamander, and unknown lamprey-like creature discovered in the mud of the Skagit River.

I have lived in RVs for a surprisingly large portion of my life.

 Do you have a favourite ever Zombie?  The zombie to beat all zombies?

 I’m not sure I know what that means—like a zombie champion to beat other zombies in a fight? Hard to picture that, so I’ll assume you mean a personal favourite from fiction. It’s still a hard question because there aren’t many zombie individuals to choose from, but I might have to say Bub from Day of the Dead, because he was the first zombie in fiction to show a personality and emotions. He even likes music! Very much an ancestor of R.

 Ultimate zombie movie?

 I’m no good at picking favourites, so I may just have to default to the original classic, Night of the Living Dead. I appreciate the stark simplicity of it, the purity of its ideas. And the performances hold up surprisingly well.

I actually just finished writing a short story from the perspective of the dying daughter that will appear in an upcoming anthology edited by George Romero, called Nights of the Living Dead. Plug plug plug.

Do you have any strange writing habits?

 One unusual tactic I’ve been testing out lately is taking my characters to a real life therapist in order to understand them more deeply. I basically do a therapy session in-character. It helps make them more real to me and sometimes produces unexpected insights into their behaviour. Even though I write fantastical stories, I want the people and emotions to be grounded in psychological realism. Sometimes I have to seek professional help!

 Growing up who inspired you into writing?  Are there any Authors or books that inspired you?

 Honestly I don’t really remember what inspired me. I first started writing seriously at age 14 and at that time a lot of my narrative influence came from fantasy novels like Tolkien and Robert Jordan but also unexpected sources like story-driven Japanese role playing games—Final Fantasy, etc. As I grew up this shifted toward more grounded fantasy in the vein of Stephen King and Kurt Vonnegut, then later the more literary stuff like Dave Eggers, Cormac McCarthy, Douglas Coupland, Audrey Niffenegger, etc. Charlie Kauffman writes movies, not books, but he’s a huge influence. If I had to pick specific inspirations for Warm Bodies itself, I might say it’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets The Road.”

 Could you tell us a little bit about what you’re writing next?

 Well first, I’m finishing the Warm Bodies Series. The final book, The Living, is written and just needs to be edited, so that’s my current project. I’m hoping to finish it in the next few months and possibly release it later this year, so you won’t have a terribly long wait to find out how it all ends. After that? I’m still trying to figure out what my post-Warm Bodies life is going to be. I have four big novel ideas floating around in my head and I just need to decide which one is calling to me the loudest. I can tell you none of them involve zombies or any other established genre staple. Very eager to write something that doesn’t come with all that cultural baggage. Fresh start, open range, freedom.

Thanks so much for answering all my questions Isaac!

You can buy a copy of The Burning World or any of the Warm Bodies Series here or from your local bookshop!


About Isaac Marion

Isaac Marion grew up in the mossy depths of the Pacific Northwest, where he worked as a heating installer, a security guard, and a visitation supervisor for foster children before publishing his debut novel in 2010. Warm Bodies became a New York Times bestseller and inspired a major film adaptation. It has been translated into twenty-five languages. Isaac lives in Seattle with his cat, Watson, writing fiction and music and taking pictures of everything.

You can find out more about Isaac on his website – isaacmarion.com

Or why not follow Isaac on twitter – @isaacinspace


A huge thank you to Isaac for answering so many of my questions and to Helen at Penguin Random House for organising.

Have you read any of the Warm Bodies Series?  What did you think?  Are you excited for this sequel The Burning World??  What do you like about it? Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of the page or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy !

Happy Reading!

Tales Q&A with Juno Dawson


I am super excited to have our British Books Challenge author of the month for January, Juno Dawson on Tales today with a brilliant Q&A to celebrate the release of Margot & Me.

Margot & Me was released on the 26th January 2017 published by Hot Key and is set to be a brilliant read set in both war time and the 90’s.

Juno is also #BritishBooksChallenge17 author of the month for January 2017!

Check out the #BritishBooksChallenge17 Spotlight on Juno, her books and find out why people are loving her so much – here

You can find out more about the #BritishBooksChallenge17 here

And that’s not all!

With thanks to Hot Key I have a spare copy of Margot & Me to giveaway on twitter – here


About Margot & Me

Fliss’s mum needs peace and quiet to recuperate from a long illness, so they both move to the countryside to live with Margot, Fliss’s stern and bullying grandmother. Life on the farm is tough and life at school is even tougher, so when Fliss unearths Margot’s wartime diary, she sees an opportunity to get her own back.

But Fliss soon discovers Margot’s life during the evacuation was full of adventure, mystery . . . and even passion. What’s more, she learns a terrible secret that could tear her whole family apart . . .


Welcome to Tales Of Yesterday Juno.  I’m so so happy to have you here!  I’m super excited for Margot & Me which was released on the 26th January 2017 so I’m over the moon to get to chat to you all about it.

 Can you tell us a little about Margot & Me?

It’s about the relationship between a modern girl, Fliss, and her overbearing grandmother, Margot. When Fliss discovers Margot’s wartime diary, she unearths a massive family scandal that changes everything.

 Can you tell us a little about the main character Fliss?

I wanted to write a character who was a little less ‘together’ than some of my previous characters. She can seem a little spoiled, a bit of a princess, but you learn she’s basically spent a lot of her teens caring for her mum, and she’s NOT impressed at having to leave her life behind to move to rural Wales.

 Can you tell us about some of the other characters in Margot & Me?

Margot is as much of a main character as Fliss. Her diaries reveal a very different side to her and you come to understand why she’s such a tyrant in the present! It’s a story about two teenage girls separated by fifty years.

 Both girls have a #squad and, as you’d expect from a Juno Dawson novel, a diverse #squad at that.

 What made you want to write a story that was set in both the present and the past?

I used to teach Year 5 history lessons about the evacuation and there’s something very evocative about that time. It’s a theme much explored in children’s fiction. It’s a way to get rid of parents for one thing and quite allegorical for being evacuated from childhood and into adulthood too.

 How does the story flow in the book?  Do we see the diary as entries or is it written as Margot’s story?

Margot’s sections are diary entries, Fliss’s are not. There are a lot of parallels – both girls are growing up in challenging times.

 As the diary of Margot is set during The Blitz in the 1940’s how did you find writing historical fiction?  Was there much research involved?

There was, although there’s nothing more boring that authors showing off about how much research they’ve done by putting it all in the novel. Why would a character living IN the 40s wax lyrical about how delightfully vintage and antique their surroundings are? It’s a story, not a non-fiction account of life in the war.

 What was your favourite scene to write in Margot & Me?

It’s a real weepy and I had to make myself have a lovely cry or why would anyone else? There’s something very cathartic about having a cry when reading. I can’t say much about it, spoilers, but the very last one is my favourite scene.

 What was the most difficult scene to write in Margot & Me?

The first page! This book has had more opening paragraphs that I’ve had hot meals.

 If you could sum up Margot & Me in 5 words what would you choose?

Moving, heartbreaking, cosy, witty and bittersweet.

 You have had some wonderful quotes from brilliant authors already ….will we need a big pack of tissues whilst reading?

Yes, for both crying and masturbation.

 This is your sixth fiction book (plus two non fiction) – what have you learnt, with regards to your writing, along the way?

I think you have to write for yourself. Don’t try to second-guess your readers or the industry. That way madness lies.

 Could you tell us a little bit about what you’re writing next?

I’m still working on my memoir, The Gender Games, which will be about in July!

 Thanks so much for answering all of my questions Juno! x

You can buy a copy of Margot & Me here or from your local bookshop

 


About Juno Dawson

Queen of Teen 2014 Juno Dawson is the multi award-winning author of six novels for young adults. In 2016, she authored the best-selling World Book Day title: SPOT THE DIFFERENCE.

Her next novel is the beautiful and emotive MARGOT & ME (Jan 2017) which will be followed by her adult debut, the memoir THE GENDER GAMES (Jul 17).

Juno also wrote the bestselling non-fiction guide to life for young LGBT people, THIS BOOK IS GAY. In 2016 a follow-up, MIND YOUR HEAD, featured everything a young person needs to know about mental health.

Juno is a regular contributor to Attitude Magazine, Glamour Magazine and The Guardian and has contributed to news items on BBC Women’s Hour, Front Row, ITV News, Channel 5 News, This Morning and Newsnight concerning sexuality, identity, literature and education.

Juno’s titles have received rave reviews and have been translated into more than ten languages around the world.

Juno grew up in West Yorkshire, writing imaginary episodes of Doctor Who. She later turned her talent to journalism, interviewing luminaries such as Steps and Atomic Kitten before writing a weekly serial in a Brighton newspaper. In 2015, Juno announced her intention to undergo gender transition and live as a woman.

Juno writes full time and lives in Brighton. In her spare time, she STILL loves Doctor Who and is a keen follower of horror films and connoisseur of pop music. In 2014 Juno became a School Role Model for the charity STONEWALL.

You can find out more about Juno on her website – www.junodawson.com

Or why not follow Juno on twitter using @junodawson


Giveaway

Don’t forget with thanks to Hot Key I have a spare copy of Margot & Me to giveaway on twitter – here


A huge thank you to Juno and also Tina at Hot Key for organising this post, embracing the #BritishBooksChallenge17 and providing a copy of the book for a giveaway!

Have you read Margot & Me?  What did you think?  What was your favourite part?  If you have not read it yet have we tempted you to go and grab a copy?   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!

Tales Q&A with Sara Barnard


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Following a brilliant #MKBParty weekend a couple of weeks ago I was thrilled to find that Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard was one of the featured books in the party packs that were sent out all around the country.

You can find out more about #MKBParty here

I absolutely adored Beautiful Broken Things and it’s been brilliant to see how much the book has grown since it’s release in February 2016 and following the book being part of the first ever #ZoellaBookClub this year too!

I have been lucky enough to have put some questions to the lovely Sara Barnard about Beautiful Broken Things, writing and her next book A Quiet Kind Of Thunder…..


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Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns sixteen Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie – confident, funny and interesting. Then Suzanne comes into their lives: beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realizes, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.


Hi Sara!

Welcome to Tales Of Yesterday.  I’m so happy to have you here! I hosted a brilliant #MKBParty last week and I was so happy that Beautiful Broken Things was one of the books featured. I’m a huge fan.

For those who don’t know can you tell us a little about Beautiful Broken Things?

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 It’s a story about teenage girls, friendship and emotional trauma. It’s a love story without a romance, and it’s about how other people can surprise you, and how you can surprise yourself.

 Can you tell us a little about the main characters in Beautiful Broken Things?

 The story is told from the point of view of Caddy, who is a 16-year-old girl who goes to private school and is kind of just plodding along, waiting for her life to start happening. She’s quite insecure about herself and what she has to offer. Rosie is her long-time best friend who goes to a different school and has a bit more life experience. She can be quite blunt and snarky but she’s very loyal and would do anything for her friends, especially Caddy. Suzanne is the new girl in Brighton and she brings with her lots of secrets and emotional baggage. She’s exciting and fun, but she’s struggling to deal with things that have happened in her past and it makes her a bit wild and self-destructive. 

 Beautiful Broken Things is about friendship was it important to you to represent friendship in all shapes and sizes?

 I wanted to represent the friendship between these three girls specifically rather than try and show what all kinds of different friendships are like. Every friendship is unique because we all bring different things to them, which is why it’s particularly interesting to explore the dynamics of three. I wanted to show how intense friendship is during the teenage years, and how fiercely loyal teenage girls are. The three girls are flawed, and sometimes they aren’t all that nice to each other, but they love each other so much. 

 A few people have said to me that Beautiful Broken Things would be a very different story told from anyone else point of view other than Caddy’s – why did you pick Caddy’s voice to tell the story?

 I wanted to explore the aftermath of trauma from a distance and how it affects young people who are still learning who they are. Caddy is essentially the reader meeting Suzanne and getting to know her, but everything she learns about her is filtered, and that’s how it is in life. We only ever see what people want or allow us to see. Suzanne made a lot of choices about how she wanted to be viewed in her new life, so it was much more interesting for me to explore that from Caddy’s naïve and trusting perspective than to give all the answers by being inside Suzanne’s head. 

 Also, Suzanne’s head is a pretty dark place for a lot of this particular timeline – it would have been a very dark book, and that’s not the tone I wanted for the story I wanted to tell. It needed Caddy’s perspective and optimism. 

 Did you experiment with any of the other characters point of view / voice?

 Sometimes I’d write or imagine a scene from another character’s POV if I was having trouble writing it, as a shift in perspective can often unlock something. But it was always Caddy’s story.

 What made you set the story in Brighton?

 The most honest answer is that I needed to set the story in a place where there was somewhere for Caddy and Suzanne to go on their midnight walkabouts. I moved to Brighton not long before I started writing it and a lot of things fell into place when I realised that it would be the perfect setting. There are so many interesting places for the characters to go, like the beach and the Pavillion.

 Beautiful Broken Things was picked as one of the first #ZoellaBookClubBooks and again for the #MKBParty – was this is exciting? How did you feel when you heard the news?

 Yes, it was very exciting! I was over the moon when I heard the news.

 What was your favourite scene to write in Beautiful Broken Things?

 I wouldn’t say I ever have a favourite scene to write because writing always throws up a challenge, even if it’s a scene I’d been looking forward to getting to. But my favourite scene to read back is when Suzanne turns up at Caddy’s windows with cookies. That whole section is such a turning point in their friendship and it’s all so vivid to me. 

 What was the most difficult scene to write in Beautiful Broken Things?

 The roof scene was tough because it had to be perfect! There was so much going on that was important and it still needed to be tense throughout, and then enough of a shock when The Thing That Happens happens. 

 Can you tell us a little about your new book out in January 2017, A Quiet Kind Of Thunder?

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 It’s about a girl called Steffi who’s been a selective mute for most of her life and what happens when she meets and falls in love with a deaf boy called Rhys.

 If you could sum up A Quiet Kind Of Thunder in 5 words what would you choose?

 It’s a silent love story 🙂

 Beautiful Broken Things was your debut and A Quiet Kind Of Thunder your second book – did the writing process change at all from first to second book?

 It did in the sense that I had less time to write the book, and also that I didn’t have a full-time job. I wrote a lot of BBT during my lunch breaks and on my commute, so it felt very different to be able to write all day in my own office – and not always in a good way! 

 What have you learnt about yourself since becoming a published author?

 That the more time I have to be productive, the less productive I am. 

 What would you like your readers to take away from reading your books?

 If they come away feeling something, that is good enough for me!

 I know you’re in the throws of writing again at the moment could you tell us a little bit about what you’re writing next?

I can’t I’m afraid! It’s all seekrit 😉

Well I’m sure we all can wait a little longer 😉

 Thanks so much for answering all of my questions Sara!  Beautiful Broken Things was a stunning debut and I simply cannot wait to read A Quiet Kind Of Thunder!

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You can buy Sara’s books here or from your local bookshop


About Sara Barnard

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Sara lives in Brighton and does all her best writing on trains. She loves books, book people and book things. She has been writing ever since she was too small to reach the “on” switch on the family Amstrad computer. She gets her love of words from her dad, who made sure she always had books to read and introduced her to the wonders of secondhand book shops at a young age.

Sara is trying to visit every country in Europe, and has managed to reach 13 with her best friend. She has also lived in Canada and worked in India.

Sara is inspired by what-ifs and people. She thinks sad books are good for the soul and happy books lift the heart. She hopes to write lots of books that do both. BEAUTIFUL BROKEN THINGS is her first book and a dream come true.

You can find out more about Sara on her website – www.sarabarnardofficial.com

Or you can follow Sara on twitter – @saramegan


A huge thank you to Sara for answering so many of my questions and to Bea at My Kinda Book for organising for me.

Have you read Beautiful Broken Things?  What did you think?  Are you excited for A Quiet Kind Of Thunder?  What do you like about it? Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of the page or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy !

Happy Reading!

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Tales Q&A with Ally Sherrick


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Today I am over the moon to have the wonderful author Ally Sherrick chatting about her debut book, Black Powder.

Black Powder was released on the 4th August in paperback published by Chicken House and is a brilliant historical YA fiction!

So today Ally chats about Black Powder, writing and being a debut author in this fab Q&A…..


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England, 1605. 12-year-old Tom must save his father from hanging. He falls in with a mysterious stranger – the Falcon – who promises to help him in exchange for his service. But on the long journey to London, Tom discovers the Falcon’s true mission – and a plot to blow up Parliament with barrels of black powder. Tom faces a terrible decision: secure his father’s release, or stop the assassination of the king … 


Hi Ally

 Welcome to Tales Of Yesterday.  I’m so happy to have you here!  The Gunpowder Plot is one of my favourite points in history!  I attended your historical panel at YA Shot and found it thoroughly fascinating.

Delighted to be here! Thanks so much for asking me. And so glad you enjoyed the YA Shot panel event. It was brilliant to be able to talk all things Tudor and Stuart with fellow history geeks, the lovely Jane Hardstaff (The Executioner’s Daughter) and Andrew Prentice and Jonathan Weil (Black Arts), and all in front of such a great audience too…

Can you tell us a little about Black Powder?

Of course! I’d love to! Black Powder is the story of 12-year-old Tom Garnett, whose father is arrested and thrown into prison for sheltering a Catholic priest. Tom sets out to try and save him and meets up with a mysterious stranger – the Falcon – who promises to help in exchange for his service. But on the long journey to London, Tom discovers the Falcon’s true mission – and a plot to blow up Parliament with barrels of black powder.

Tom is then faced with a terrible decision: secure his father’s release, or stop the assassination of the king …

What made you want to write a story centred on/around the Gunpowder Plot?

Well, first of all, the real-life plot itself is such a great story. It’s full of larger-than-life characters like Guy Fawkes and the leader of the plotters, the charismatic Robert Catesby; atmospheric settings such as the dark, dingy streets of London and the smelly, ink-black River Thames running through the city; and a twisty-turny plot which you really couldn’t make up if you tried.

But my story spark was the ruined Tudor mansion of Cowdray House deep in the Sussex countryside. On a visit to it, I discovered that a certain Mister Guy Fawkes had worked there as a young gentleman footman serving the rich and powerful Catholic Lord Montague. I was intrigued and pretty soon my head was buzzing with lots of what-ifs? What if a young boy on a desperate mission to save his father comes to Cowdray. And what if while there he meets a mysterious stranger bound for London who promises to help him…

Can you tell us a little about the main character Tom?

At the start of Black Powder, Tom Garnett is a young Catholic boy, living on the south coast of England with his mum and dad and baby brother, Edward. He’s looking forward to celebrating his 13th birthday in a few days’ time, but when his father rescues a Catholic priest and brings him home – which is against the law – Tom’s world is thrown into chaos and confusion. Though he loves his family very much and would do anything to protect them, he is also a little selfish and a bit impetuous too.  But by the end of the story, after the many adventures he has, I hope the reader will agree that it is his courage, resourcefulness and belief in the importance of doing the right thing that shine through.

Can you tell us a little about the mysterious Falcon?

Oooh, yes! But I’ll have to be careful not to give too much away. The Falcon’s true identity is one he keeps closely hidden. Tom thinks he’s a smuggler when he first meets him. And he doesn’t give Tom his real name, but instead encourages him to call him the Falcon, because of a bird-headed ring he wears on his little finger. But though he’s very much a man of mystery, he is also brave, strong and single-minded – though not always to the good as the reader and Tom will find out. Oh, and he has a sense of humour too…

Do any characters represent real historical figures from that time or have you used actual historical figures in the book?

My hero, Tom and my heroine, Cressida Montague, are characters I have made up – as are a number of others, like Tom’s family and neighbours. But there are plenty of characters I’ve based on real-life people, including Cressida’s great-grandmother, the Viscountess Montague. And although a number of the characters Tom meets later in the story have false names, they are based on real individuals living at the time of the plot too.  But I’ll say no more in case I give too much away!  For anyone who reads the book though, I spill the beans about who is who in a special section on the history behind the story at the end…

What was your favourite scene to write?

That’s a tricky one – there were so many! But I suppose if you pushed me, I’d have to say the scene where Tom first meets the Falcon in a secret tunnel under Cowdray House.

What was the hardest scene to write?

The hardest scene to write was probably the one when Tom is trying to escape from Cowdray after he’s been locked in his room by the old Viscountess. I wanted him to climb out of his window and shin down a nearby drainpipe – but as I’ve never done something like that myself (!!), I was having real difficulty trying to work out how he’d do it without falling: it’s quite a long way down. In the end I had to act it out in the room I was writing in to be sure he didn’t tie himself in knots

The good news was, no one saw me!

How much research was involved in writing this book?  Did you already know a lot about the subject or did you discover new things along the way?

I think all historical fiction requires a fair bit of research if you’re going to try and get the broad facts right and create as authentic a feel as possible for the period you’re writing. Like most writers of this type of fiction, I used a mix of sources including books on the topic of the Gunpowder Plot and life in Jacobean England and historical documents from the time – some of which are now available online. And I also visited places associated with my story. Cowdray of course, which was my original inspiration. But also other houses associated with the Gunpowder Plotters such as Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire. I also trod the route that Tom and the Falcon took when they arrived in London – crossing London Bridge (no heads on spikes above it these days!) and walking along Fleet Street and down the Strand to the Palace of Westminster – the scene of the crime and near Guy Fawkes’ place of execution too.

I knew a fair bit about the plot already, having read a fascinating account of it by the novelist and historian, Antonia Fraser (The Gunpowder Plot: Terror and Faith in 1605). But there are always things to find out along the way, which is what makes writing historical fiction such fun! And some things, like the ‘ruffler’ – a type of 17th century conman – even made it into the story. Though you have to be careful not to overload what you’re writing with too many facts or it can end up reading like a history text book instead.

What was your favourite or most intriguing historical fact you discovered whilst researching for Black Powder?

Gosh, that’s a tricky one! There was so much I learned on the way. But one thing in particular I found mind-boggling, which was that in the day, because of the way it was built, London Bridge had a set of rapids flowing beneath it. And young men of the daring/foolhardy kind liked nothing better than to ride them in small boats. A sort of early form of white-water rafting I guess. Though apparently quite a few of them drowned in the process and ended up at the bottom of the River Thames – something I have the Falcon tell Tom when they cross the bridge into London.

That is really fascinating!  I have an obsession with the Tower myself!

We would love to know a little bit more about you!  Can you give us 5 random facts we don’t know about Ally Sherrick?

  1. I wanted to be an Egyptologist and dig up mummies when I was at primary school. Hmmm. Come to think of it, maybe I should write a story about that…
  2. My first cat was called Cindy – she was black and white and a bit of a scratcher, but I still loved her (I think!!)
  3. Before I went to university, I was an au-pair for a few months. I lived with a family in the Ardennes mountains in southern Belgium where one of my duties was to feed the family hen, a large, mean-eyed bird called Duchesse, who also had a very sharp beak.
  4. My favourite type of sweet is liquorice – particularly liquorice ‘Catherine wheels’ and pipes.
  5. My favourite book of all time is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. My favourite children’s books are Skellig by David Almond and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.

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What is your favourite part of history?

Well besides the Ancient Egyptians, I’m rather partial to the Anglo-Saxons…

Did you always want to write historical fiction?

I thought I might quite like to. But actually, my first full length story – not yet published (never say never!) – was a science fiction one all about a boy and his young brother who live above the last seed bank on earth…

Who is your favourite historical figure?

Hmmm. A tricky one! *Scratches head* I’ve always been rather drawn to Captain Scott of the Antarctic – though now I know more about that other great explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton, I might be tempted to say him instead. At any rate they were both extremely brave, though some may call them heroic failures…

Do you have any strange writing habits?

Nothing terribly strange, other than a lot of fiddling around with other things (the internet, filing, looking out of the window) before getting on with the actual business of writing. But from what I can make out, talking to other writers, that’s quite a common complaint…

What have you learnt from being a debut author?

That if you want to get published, it’s all about the three ‘p’s. Persistence, perseverance and perspiration. Oh, and a smidgeon of luck too… And then, if you are lucky enough to get a publishing deal, that the hard work continues, but that you can draw lots of comfort from the fact that your publisher is right there alongside you because, like you, they want your story to be the best it can be.

Growing up who inspired you into writing?  Are there any Authors or books that inspired you?

I had several very encouraging and inspirational teachers who believed in me and told me I was a good writer too. And like most writers, I was a real bookworm and read all sorts. Joan Aiken was a particular favourite author of mine. I loved the blend of fantasy and history in stories like her The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. And there was also plenty of dark menace too. You can’t beat a bit of dark menace!

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What historical fiction would you recommend?

There’s not been a huge amount of it about for quite a few years, which I think is a real shame. However, just recently a number of stories with a historical setting are starting to come through again, so perhaps things are starting to change? I hope so! History makes such brilliant stories. Of course a number of the great classic tales are still very much available. The likes of Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden and Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian for example. And for slightly older readers, Tanya Landman’s more recent and brilliant Buffalo Soldier about a young runaway slave girl in the American West who joins a regiment of African-American soldiers and goes off to fight in the so-called Indian wars.

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Could you tell us a little about what you’re writing next?

Yes. My next story is another historical one, but this time it’s set during the Second World War and follows the fortunes of George Penny, a young evacuee who is sent to live in the Suffolk countryside with a mean relative. It’s a tale of buried treasure, Nazi spies and a plucky hero and heroine doing their best to save the country from disaster. Oh, and there’s an Anglo-Saxon ghost in it too… But if you want to know more, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until Chicken House publish it in spring 2018!

Thank you so much for being here today Ally and answering all of my questions!  Black Powder sounds amazing and your passion for historical fiction had made me smile lots!

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Black Powder by Ally Sherrick is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com

You can buy a copy of Black Powder here or from your local book shop


About Ally Sherrick

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Ally Sherrick loves exploring ruined castles and decaying mansions and imagining what it must have been like to live in them without electricity and hot and cold running water – although she’s quite glad she doesn’t have to herself!

She has a BA in medieval history and French from Newcastle University and an MA in Writing for Children at the University of Winchester.

She is married and lives with her husband and assorted garden wildlife in Farnham, Surrey. Black Powder is her first novel.

You can find out more about Ally on her website – www.allysherrick.com

Or why not follow her on twitter – @ally_sherrick


A huge thank you to Ally for answering so many of my questions and to Laura at Chicken House for organising.

Have you read Black Powder?  What did you think?  Do you love the Gunpowder Plot?  What do you like about it? Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of the page or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy !

Happy Reading!

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Tales Q&A with Lou Kuenzler


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I am over the moon to have the lovely Lou Kuenzler on Tales today to celebrate the release of her new book Finding Black Beauty which was released on the 6th October published by Scholastic.

Finding Black Beauty tells the other side of the classic horse story Black Beauty by Anna Sewell which Scholastic have also re-jacketed as part of their Scholastic Classics.

51r84uyrfml-_sx324_bo1204203200_ A huge thank you to Olivia at Scholastic for asking me to be part of this fab blog tour and for sending me copies of both beautiful books.

Today Lou talks about rewriting a classic, inspirations and writing in this brilliant Q&A.


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Told from the point of view of a young girl who masquerades as a boy in order to become a groom, this is the other side of the classic horse story BLACK BEAUTY. Aspiring groom Jo comes to love Beauty and when they are separated she travels to London to find him – on the way solving the mystery of her long-lost mother. A sweeping tale of a young girl and her love for a horse, and the circumstances that divide them.


Hi Lou

Welcome to Tales Of Yesterday.  I’m so happy to have you here!  Thank you for returning to a treasured classic of mine!

Thank you for having me, Tales of Yesterday. I always find it really interesting to answer questions about the thinking behind writing my books.  It often makes me realise things I had not consciously known.

Can you tell us a little about Finding Black Beauty?

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Finding Black Beauty revisits Anna Sewell’s classic animal adventure and explores the untold story of some of the characters.  Above all, I hope it offers a cracking read for middle grade children with plenty of drama and pace (and maybe even a few tears) along the way.

What made you want to write a retelling of Black Beauty?

I loved Black Beauty as a child and read it many times. I think what drew me in was the sheer drama of it – the life and death struggle of the horse at the centre of the story.  I wanted to recapture some of that for modern readers, paying homage to Anna Sewell’s brilliance but also creating an original story of my own.

Can you tell us a little about the main character Josie?

I loved writing Josie.  She is based on the young stable lad Joe Green who only appears very briefly (but at two crucial moments) in the original Black Beauty story.  Almost at once, I decided Joe would really be Josie, a girl in disguise, as she is desperate to be allowed to work with horses.  Once that decision was made, everything else fell in to place.  I knew to take a risk like that in Victorian Britain, Josie would have to be the sort of child who is used to getting her own way – perhaps too much so – but who is also brave, inventive and full of imagination. It was really interesting to have the chance to explore Victorian ideas of class and gender through the framework of this character, and to reflect some of those questions and assumptions back on our own times for contemporary readers too, I hope.

And is Beauty the same black horse we know from the original classic or did you change him in any way?

He is as close to the original as I could make him.  The magnificent horse is the heart and soul of Anna Sewell’s story.  Without giving respect to that, I think I would have lost any integrity in the project.  We get to meet the adorable pony Merrylegs and the tricky-natured Ginger too, of course.

 What was your favourite scene to write?

I have to say, I loved it all. This is the most fun I have ever had writing a book – perhaps because it was such a direct link back to my own childhood love of reading and the first secret ambitions to be a writer (scribbled in the back of exercise books) which began at around the same time.  But ,if I had to pick one scene, it would be when Josie’s horrible aunt shuts up the stables and sends her away from home. The baddies are always the most fun to write!

 What was the hardest scene to write?

This would have to be the scene where Ginger dies.  It always made me cry in the original and, to make things worse, we had just had to have our much-loved family dog put down in the same week that I needed to get those chapters written.  There were a lot of tears! At the same time; though, I had to try and keep perspective and check I wasn’t overdoing the sentiment too much.

Who was your favourite character from Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty?

I think it would have to be Black Beauty himself.  I defy any child who has ever loved horses not to dream that Black Beauty could be their own.

Do you see yourself in any of the characters in Finding Black Beauty or have you used any of your own experiences in the story?

I did not use any direct experiences but I was lucky enough to grow up on a farm and have a pony of my own. I used my knowledge of riding (not something I get to do very often anymore) and my sense memory of being around horses a great deal.  I would love to say I am like Josie (I certainly like to get my own way and can be quite stubborn) but I know she is much braver than I am.

If you could cast your characters from Finding Black Beauty in a big Hollywood film adaptation who would you choose?

I would love Emma Thompson to play the horrible aunt, Miriam Margolies to play Josie’s nanny and Maggie Smith to play Lady Hexham (now wouldn’t that be a trio!!).

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Zac Efron would make a great handsome and moody James (the brooding groom who makes Josie’s life especially tough) and it would be great if we could tempt Emma Watson to be Josie. Quick someone, call their agents …

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We would love to know a little bit more about you!  Can you give us 5 random facts we don’t know about Lou Kuenzler?

The last time I rode a horse, I fell off.

I am afraid of rats.

I am quite superstitious about magpies.

I have two cats and a dog.

My screensaver is a walrus.

Can you tell us a bit about some of your other books?

I write picture books and younger fiction too.   My latest picture book, Eat Your People, is the grisly tale of what a monster has on his dinner plate. 

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Meanwhile, my most recent chapter book for younger readers, Bella Broomstick: Halloween Havoc, comes out on the same day as Finding Black Beauty.  This story is the third adventure in a really fun series about a big-hearted young witch who has come to live in the human world and causes magical chaos wherever she goes – often aided and abetted by her naughty kitten, Rascal.

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You can find a review of the first Bella Broomstick here

Which of your characters from any of your books would you most like to spend the day with?

I’d love to hang out with Shrinking Violet (my fish-finger sized girl) but only if I could get to shrink and scuttle about spying on people along with her.  One of my favourite moments in the Shrinking Violet books is when she slides down a giraffe’s neck like a helter-skelter.  I’d love to have a go at that!

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Growing up who inspired you into writing?  Are there any Authors or books that inspired you?

I am dyslexic and the person who inspired me most was my secondary school English teacher, Mrs Moore.  She told me that she always loved reading my stories (even if the spelling was atrocious). That made all the difference. Thank you.

Genuinely, the book I read most in my childhood was Black Beauty. Reading wasn’t easy and I loved the way it was in short, manageable episodes with bold characters and heartfelt emotion.

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Are there any recent works or authors that you admire or books you wish you had written?

Oh, so many! In particular, I do wish I had written Any Stanton’s Mr Gum books just for the sheer, laugh-out-loud, jelly-wobbling silliness. Inspired!

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Are there any authors you would like to collaborate with?  Who?

I would love to do a picture book collaboration with Redhouse winner Andrew Weale (Spooky Spooky House, Newt In A Suit, Nora etc.) – I think his joyous use of rhyme is fantastic.

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When starting a new book or idea what does your writing process look like?

Lots and lots of walking, talking out loud – the very first thing I tend to do is write down a few snatches of dialogue (these, almost without exception, end up in the final book).  Once the voices start, I know I have something to build on. Then it is just down to the tricky little matter of plot …

Do you have any strange writing habits?

Biscuits. Biscuits. And (you guessed it) … more biscuits!

Did music influence your books or your characters.  Did music have any influence the story of Finding Black Beauty?

I am married to a music journalist who plays his music full blast just upstairs from where I write.  So the theme tune to my writing is always the heavy base from a song I can’t quite catch.  I don’t play music myself while I write as I find lyrics too distracting and the fast or slow tempo of orchestral pieces tends to influence me too much.  Again, I do lots of talking out loud while I write.  I like to hear the sound of the words – I think this is especially important in children’s books.

 Are there any exciting plans for the rest of 2016 or 2017?

That would be telling – but I am definitely thinking about animals and history again for older readers. I have a new pre-school picture book, My Digger Is Bigger, with gorgeous bright, funny illustrations by Dan Taylor coming out with Scholastic next year. I have just seen the final proofs and am over the moon.

Thanks so much for answering all of my questions today Lou!

 Thank you again for inviting me to share my thoughts.  It has been great fun. Lou

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You can buy a copy of Finding Black Beauty here or from your local book shop!

You can find a review of the first Bella Broomstick here


About Lou Kuenzler

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Lou Kuenzler’s popular SHRINKING VIOLET, PRINCESS DISGRACE and BELLA BROOMSTICK books offer fun, fast-paved adventure stories for newly-fluent readers.

For older – more confident – readers, FINDING BLACK BEAUTY is a re-imagining of Anna Sewell’s classic story with plenty of Victorian interest and exciting twists.

Lou also writes picture book for much younger children. If you’ve got a fussy eater, try EAT YOUR PEOPLE for a hilarious new look at how to leave nothing on a plate!

Lou loves doing festivals/school visits and is always happy to talk to groups of children.

To find out more about Lou visit her website – www.loukuenzler.com

Or why not follow her on twitter – @LouKuenzler  


Blog Tour

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

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A huge huge thank you to Lou for a brilliant Q&A and answering all of my questions and to Olivia at Scholastic for organising!

Have you read Finding Black Beauty?  What did you think?  If you could re write a classic which would you choose? I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of the post or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy !

Happy Reading

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