Category Archives: Author Q&A

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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Tales Q&A with Rachel Delahaye


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I am super excited to have been asked to feature a post from Rachel Delahaye author of the super funny MG Jim Reaper series published by Piccadilly Press.

Jim Reaper:  Saving Granny Magot is the second book in this fab series and was released on the 14th July 2016 and is illustrated by the brilliant Jamie Littler.

The first in the series, Jim Reaper:  Son Of Grim was released earlier this year.

A huge thank you to Carmen and Rachel for asking me to post this a feature and for sending me a copy of the books to read.

For my post I thought it would be good to find out a little bit more about Jim Reaper so I thought a character Q&A with the boy himself would be perfect…..


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You might have heard how the universe began with the Big Bang? Well, the universe as Jim Wimple knows it is about to end. With a Bazoom! Not only are Bazoom! scooters super fast and deadly cool, but fierce (and swoonsome) older girl Fiona has just started riding hers to and from school, and possibly out of Jim’s life forever. Disaster! Jim Wimple needs a Bazoom!, and fast. So he and his best friend Will devise a clever scheme, which involves having to sneak into Dad’s workplace. But when the boys break into the Mallet & Mullet ‘accountancy’ office they find that the walls are lined with ancient portraits, the staff are highly secretive, and Jim’s dad’s office bears the sign ‘G Reaper’…And then all hell really breaks loose. What would YOU do if you thought your dad might be …Death?! Illustrated with cool art by HAMISH artist Jamie Littler.

You can buy a copy of this book here

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Another fast and fun adventure about life, death and all the hilarity in between . . .

Jim is getting to grips with his father’s rather unusual job at the Dead End Office and is keeping the truth secret as a promise to Dad. But when Jim sees that Will’s grandma is next on the list of Death Dates, he springs into action. Even though Granny Maggot is smelly, mean-spirited and VERY unfriendly, his best friend Will adores her. Jim has to do something!

If the boys can keep Will’s granny safe until midnight, can they save her life?

You can by a copy of this book here


Hi Jim!  Thank you for joining me today!  I’m so thrilled to have you here today!

Firstly a little about your second adventure Jim Reaper: Saving Granny Maggot…..

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Another fast and fun adventure about life, death and all the hilarity in between . . .

Jim is getting to grips with his father’s rather unusual job at the Dead End Office and is keeping the truth secret as a promise to Dad. But when Jim sees that Will’s grandma is next on the list of Death Dates, he springs into action. Even though Granny Maggot is smelly, mean-spirited and VERY unfriendly, his best friend Will adores her. Jim has to do something!

If the boys can keep Will’s granny safe until midnight, can they save her life?

So Jim. How are you?

I’m fine. Just a little bit out of breath, because my sister, Hetty, has been trying to cut my hair again. Believe me, Hetty might call herself a hair-dresser, but she’s more of a hair-messer – with scissors! I’ve been running away from her all morning.

For those of us who don’t know who you are could you tell us a little about yourself?

Well, I’m Jim – hello again. And I guess I’m quite ordinary. There’s nothing much to say. Although I do like Dr Who. He’s cool. But maybe not as cool as Sherlock Holmes. He’s a detective. I’m not saying I’m a detective, but I like finding out stuff. Finding out stuff is what I do. Although it’s probably not best to find out what Mum puts in her muffins. I avoid that at all costs.

Your real name is Jim Wimple so why are you called Jim Reaper?

Sneaky question! I’d like to give you the answer and shout BINGO. But then you wouldn’t have anything to find out, and I don’t want to take that away from you. Tip: if you read my stories you’ll find out pretty quickly.

What does your Dad do for a living?

Most people think he’s a Senior Accountant for Mallet & Mullet Accountants. But he’s not. He watches figures go in and out, though… Oh, I can’t keep it a secret any longer – he’s DEATH!

How did you feel when you found out about your Dad?

I didn’t believe it, even though I worked it all out myself and confronted him. I actually asked him – are you Death. And he said yes. I mean – DEATH? That’s crazy! That’s crazier than Mum’s muffin recipes, crazier than Hetty’s dress sense, crazier than anything Mr Bean would do. It’s even crazier than my best friend, Will, and that’s saying something! But I’ve got used to the idea. Death’s not scary, he’s my Dad.

Can you tell us a little about your best friend Will?

Will is 100% weird. He’s also 100% wonderful. That’s 200% of wacky brilliance right there. His brain isn’t like any I’ve ever met before. Not that I’ve met a brain. But you know what I mean. Will is a great friend, because he cares about stuff. And he always tells the truth.

How did you become friends with Will?

I was sitting in the corner of the playground and break time and suddenly, out of nowhere, this kid comes up and tells me that the largest display of empty crisp packets took place in Germany in 2009. There were 2000 packets. Most people would tell him to go away for being nerdy, but I thought that was kind of cool.

Your second story is about Granny Maggot, Will’s Gran – can you tell us a little about her?

She is BONKERS! And horrible. That’s what you think when you first meet her, but actually, it’s just because her brain has got stuck in ugly thoughts. When she does something new or exciting, she goes back to being a nice old lady again. It’s a bit like a miracle.

Do you think you can save Granny Maggot?

Yes. I think you can do anything when you put your mind to it. Or if you get Will to put his mind to it – because his brain is blessed with meatballs of brilliance. Also, you should never give up.

What do you think about how the illustrator Jamie Littler drew you?  Did he capture the real Jim?

What do you mean? It is me. It’s like a photograph of me, in fact. Apart from the fact that most of the pictures make me look a bit surprised. I want to reassure you that I’m totally in control – all of the time.

Quickfire Questions

Favourite word?

Bingo

Favourite Colour?

Red. And Blue.

Favourite song to sing at Karaoke?

Can’t Touch This. It reminds me of my Dad.

Favourite book or author?

Henry Sugar, by Roald Dahl.

What do you think the future has in store for Jim Reaper?

I think, whether you’ll get to read about them or not, he’ll will be having plenty more adventures. He’s too curious to sit back and let life (and death) happen. You can bet he’ll be investigating and filling his project book for years to come.

If you could give one piece of advice to anyone reading this interview what would it be?

Don’t underestimate kids. Sometimes it’s good to be born yesterday. Or near enough. Kids’ brains are fresh and full of ideas… they haven’t been worn down by life, and lectures about safety and healthy eating.

Thank you so much for answering all my questions Jim.

That’s okay. It was fun.

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You can buy a copy of these books here


About Rachel Delahaye

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After studying linguistics near a town called Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Rachel began a career in print journalism. She has worked in London, Sydney and Melbourne, and now lives in Bath. While she has vowed never to move again (well, not for a little while), her imagination has refused to settle down, and she’s now writing children’s fiction.

Her hilarious Jim Reaper: Son of Grim, is published by Piccadilly Press (Feb 2016), with two sequels following hot on its heels.

Rachel is married with two children and a dog called Rocket.

You can find out more about Rachel on her website – www.racheldelahaye.com

Or why not follow her on twitter – @RachelDelahaye

Quickfire Questions

Favourite word?

Concoction

Favourite Ice Cream?

Ginger

Favourite Colour?

Green

Favourite song to sing at Karaoke?

Twist and Shout.

Favourite book or author?

Under The Mountain, by Maurice Gee.


A huge huge thank you to Rachel for playing along and answering all my questions and to Carmen at Picadilly Press for arranging this interview.!

Have you read any of the Jim Reaper series?  What did you think?  Are you excited for the Granny Maggot?   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!

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Tales Q&A with C J Skuse


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I am over the moon to have the lovely C J Skuse on Tales again today to celebrate the release of her new book The Deviants which is released on the 22nd September published by MIRA Ink.

The Deviants is hands down one of my favourite books of 2016 and will be featuring on my list of 2016 faves at the end of the year.

A story about rekindling friendships, secrets, lies and discovery which kept me enthralled and completely broke me.  I am honestly still not over reading this book and I am sure it’s going to stay with me for a very long time to come.

You can find a previous guest post from CJ about hot boys in her books here

A huge thank you to C J for agreeing to appear on my blog today and to Mira Ink for sending me a proof copy of such a wonderful book.

To CJ talks about the 15 year journey writing The Deviants, it’s characters and the heartbreaking inspiration behind it in this brilliant Q&A.


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THEN

Ella, Max, Corey, Fallon and Zane.

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

NOW

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

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


Hi C J!  Thank you for joining me today!  I’m so thrilled to have you here today!

So lets get started with the first question…..

Can you tell us a little about your fifth YA book, The Deviants?

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 The Deviants centres on a small group of teenagers who knew each other as children but have since grown apart. In the time that’s passed, their lives have taken quite miserable turns and when they’re suddenly thrust back together, they join forces to exact revenge on key individuals who’ve been making their lives hell. It’s being billed as a very dark Famous Five for Young Adults.

Can you tell us a little about your journey with writing The Deviants?

 It’s been love/hate the whole way. I started writing it in 2001, thinking it would just be a mickey-take of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five; a group of teenagers would terrorize a small seaside town and then prove themselves by solving the mystery of a serial killer or something. Then I kept getting bored of writing it and I think that was subconscious telling myself I wasn’t ready to write a book like this yet. I picked it up again last year when I was contracted to write another YA in the same vein as Monster and by this point, I knew what kind of story it had to be.

 How did you come up with the title?  Did it change during the writing or publication process?

 Back in the mists of time it was called Whipped, named after the seafront café from where the body was originally spotted. Then it was called Habit for no apparent reason other than I liked saying the word, then that changed to Volcano Town, then Volcano Girl and finally to The Deviants. My cousin called me a deviant one day (I can’t remember why – I probably said something filthy, knowing me) and I really just liked the sound of the word.

Can you tell us a little about The Fearless Five?

 The Fearless Five was a nickname given to the kids – Max, Ella, Corey, Fallon and Zane – by Max’s elder sister Jessica. They went to primary school together, spent the holidays going on adventures, played idyllic childhood games in idyllic childhood places like the beach near and the island out in the bay. There wasn’t any problem they couldn’t solve together. Then one day, all that came to a shuddering halt when Jessica died and the friendship was broken. They had to grow up individually and suddenly there was fear and danger everywhere and none of them knew how to navigate their way around it. Breaking up is the worst thing they ever did.

 You are quite well known for having at least one hot boy in your books – was their anyone in particular in mind when creating Max?

 Max was originally called Shane and all I knew about him was that he walked with a loping stride, smoked and had dark brown hair. Whenever I am struggling with a character, I change their name and suddenly they open up to me. I couldn’t decide whether to call him River, Ashton or Max so I did a Twitter poll and Max won. At the time I was into 5 Seconds of Summer and for me Max is Ashton Irwin, circa 2013. He’s the same build, has the same shaggy hair, the same butter-wouldn’t-melt smile but he carries some dark secrets. And as always with a character, once you can put a face to them, they come alive and develop new attributes, which Max suddenly did.

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You can find a previous guest post from CJ about hot boys in her books here

 Why is it important to have protagonists like Ella from The Deviants representing the not so perfect protagonist not only in The Deviants but in your books in general?

 I’m bored of perfect protagonists. I don’t want my characters to be fully likeable because no real person is and I want my books to feel real. We all have our little off-putting qualities and I wanted to reflect that in my books. I’ve had some criticism about the character of Zane – that he’s not a positive role model for gay teenagers but I don’t want him to be a positive role model; I want him to be him. He’s the way he is for a reason – thankfully most people get that. Ella too has been through incredible trauma and I don’t see her as coming through that in the positive, life-affirming way society expects her to. I find it a little insufferable that there’s this right way to present characters in YA fiction – they have to be positive, they have to come through their experiences as better people to teach readers that ‘it gets better’. For some kids, it doesn’t. They’re eaten up by what’s happened to them and they’re full of rage, as they have every right to be. The only person at fault is the perpetrator of the crime against them.

What was your favourite scene to write?

 I like any scene where two characters are having a bit of a heart-to-heart. Fallon and Ella by the pool, Zane and Ella on the island, Max and Ella at the garden centre, Corey and Ella at the hospital etc. All these scenes were fun to write because they’re tearing down barriers and getting down to the nitty gritty of who these kids truly are.

 What was the hardest scene to write?

 The ending. That was very tough to write. It’s the first time I’ve ever killed off a character I really liked and it hurt. I hope readers take some positives from it and understand why it ends the way it does though

 Did you know how the book was going to end before you started writing The Deviants?

 I had no idea actually. The body on the beach prologue has always been a constant but who it was has changed with every draft (and there are thousands of drafts!) Then one day I was watching a programme about one of Shakespeare’s plays (can’t tell you which one cos spoilers) and it came to me in a blinding flash. The same thing happened with my Monster. I had no idea who the ‘monster’ of the story actually was until I’d written the penultimate draft. Then I had to go back and seed it all in. Very annoying but ultimately, I think it’s a better book because of this.

Do you see yourself in any of the characters in The Deviants or have you used any of your own experiences in the story?

 I guess there are pockets of adventure that I had with my friends when I was younger which I’ve used in the book but nothing solid. I know what it’s like to be molested by someone and feel too ashamed to talk about it and I know what it’s like to hold onto bad news and let it eat you because you don’t want to make a sick person sicker (in the case of Ella and her dad). I’ve used my home towns, Weston super Mare and Burnham on Sea as prototypes for Brynstan on Sea in the book. There is a hill which I climb all the time with my dog and I used that for Brynstan Hill. Ella definitely has my anger but although I know where it comes from in her, I don’t know how to explain mine!

If you could cast your characters from The Deviants in a big Hollywood film adaptation who would you choose?

 I never see my books as Hollywood movies really (except Pretty Bad Things cos it’s set in the USA). They’re all set in Britain so I see them as British independent movies with all-Brit casts. Ashton is too old to play Max of course, but I think Tilly Keeper who plays Louise Mitchell in EastEnders has an Ella look about her, and Charlie Wernham was in my head in the later stages of drafting Zane’s character so maybe them. All suggestions welcome though!

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 What would you like your reader to take away from reading The Deviants?

 If just one person reads The Deviants and feels able to speak up about their own experiences, or if they can help someone else talk about theirs or inform on a culprit, then the last 15 years of rewrites will have been completely and utterly worth it.

 What do you think makes a good story?

 Character, character and character. If the character isn’t interesting to read, chances are the plot won’t be either. I’ve read thousands of books and uncorrected manuscripts in my time and the bad ones are always bad for the same reasons – namely I didn’t care about the characters so I didn’t care about the story.

Can you give us 5 random facts that we don’t know about CJ Skuse?

  1. I love gummy bears but think gummy worms are an abomination
  2. I am an orphan, but Daddy Warbucks ain’t bailed me out yet.
  3. I’ve fictionally killed two people today (this isn’t linked to me being an orphan, by the way)
  4. My favourite Bronte sister is Anne
  5. I think about the actor Taron Egerton approximately every 6.3 seconds during the average day

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

 I wrote to novelist Gillian White when I was 16 and she sent me back two signed books and a letter full of useful advice about getting published. She inspired me a lot in the early days. One of my favourite books of all time is The Madolescents by Chrissie Glazebrook – it taught me about the power of humour in writing fiction. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is my favourite book – I read it in one sitting and it blew me away. The Deviants is my attempt at a ‘Perks.’ I also love Melvyn Burgess and Kevin Brooks – solid, old school YA. I feel that a lot of YA stuff gets watered down these days sadly but Burgess and Brooks always bring the purest and best to the table.

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

 Amy, Chelsea, Stacie, Dee by Mary Thompson is coming out next year with The Chicken House and it’s a recent book which made me want to be a better, cleverer writer because it constantly surprised me. The first Hunger Games novel taught me about the power of propulsive writing and great chapter hooks. Foxlowe by Eleanor Wasserberg I read recently too. Simple, compelling and so affecting.

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Each of your YA books are very different and unique – What have you learnt after writing each one?   

 That I still don’t know what I’m doing really! It gets easier (or rather, quicker) with each novel, but I’ve learnt to expect surprises in the last draft because it never ends the way you think it will. I plan everything but the ending – I just have an idea of it and once I get there, it invariably changes and goes in another direction.

 What are you currently reading?

 I’m reading a lot of books about murderers at present for research on my adult novel Sweetpea (April 2017) and I’m currently looking at Female Serial Killers in Social Context: Criminological Institutionalism and the Case of Mary Ann Cotton by Professors Elizabeth Yardley and David Wilson.

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What is your favourite book of 2016 so far?

 I think probably the new Catherynne Valente book I read and did a report for in my capacity as reader. Valente’s signature beautiful writing style and a heavy dose of the Brontes. Gorgeous.

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

 I’d love to do what Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison did with their novel Lobsters and write a book with a guy. I used to read all of Josie Lloyd and Emlyn Rees’ books and I’d like to do something like that for an older audience. It would be different and a challenge and ultimately I think with each book that’s what I’m after. That’s what keeps me wanting to do this – new challenges to keep things fresh and exciting.

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

It always starts with an A4 hardback notebook and the numbers 1-30 written down one side of a page. Then I sprinkle down some scene ideas, do a bit of a brainstorm on character and what I’m trying to say, then off I go. In the old days it was reams and reams of paper/maps/drawings etc. I don’t have time for the fun bits now, sadly!

 Do you have any strange writing habits?

 If I’m really getting into a scene and just as I’m about to write the pivotal moment, I’ll click out of it and go on Twitter or Facebook or Tumblr, anywhere but the scene. I don’t know if it’s excitement or fear or a heady mixture of both but I just need a moment away from it before I plunge back in. Other than that, I think I’m pretty normal. I sit at a boring old desk in a a boring old office and just get it down on the screen. I also click Save after most sentences, and email it to myself after every session, just in case of disaster.

 Did music have any influence in The Deviants or the characters in The Deviants?  Is there a song or soundtrack that would sum up the book perfectly?

 Yep, definitely. Music is always an important co-writer for me. I think the Imagine Dragons song Demons sums the book up perfectly, as does Army by Ellie Golding. I also find myself listening to Hello by Adele recently and thinking about the ending of the book. It gives me goose bumps. Here’s the full Spotify playlist …

https://open.spotify.com/user/clarice2011/playlist/6OQMtGvuFkJIyfgtmNpNW2

The Deviants is your last YA book for now.  Can you tell us a little about your first adult thriller Sweetpea which is due for release in 2017?

 Yes, it’s being pitched as Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Dexter which is probably the most accurate summation of a book ever! I watched that BBC 3 show Fleabag recently too and there’s definite shades of that in it. My character is your everyday girl-next-door type of woman, trying to hold down a job, a relationship and friendships while simultaneously having an incredible lust for murder. It’s first and foremost a comedy but with dark themes and lots of killings.

 Are there any further exciting plans for CJ Skuse that we don’t know yet?

 Yes, I’m going to eat an entire bag of Maoam Stripes now and god help anyone who tries to stop me…

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You can buy a copy of The Deviants here

You can find a previous guest post from CJ about hot boys in her books here


About C J Skuse

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C.J. SKUSE is the author of the Young Adult novels PRETTY BAD THINGS, ROCKOHOLIC and DEAD ROMANTIC (Chicken House) , MONSTER and THE DEVIANTS (Mira Ink).

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She was born in 1980 in Weston-super-Mare, England. She has First Class degrees in Creative Writing and Writing for Children and, aside from writing novels, works as a freelance children’s fiction consultant and lectures in Writing for Children at Bath Spa University. C.J. is currently working on her second novel for Mira Ink.

C.J. loves Masterchef, Gummy Bears and murder sites. She hates carnivals, hard-boiled eggs and coughing. The movies Titanic, My Best Friend’s Wedding and Ruby Sparks were all probably based on her ideas; she just didn’t get to write them down in time. Before she dies, she would like to go to Japan, try clay-pigeon shooting and have Ryan Gosling present her with the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

You can find C.J. Skuse on Facebook or on Twitter –  @CeejaytheAuthor 

You can buy CJ’s books here


A huge huge thank you to CJ for a brilliant Q&A and answering all of my questions!

Have you read The Deviants or any of CJ’s books?  What did you think? 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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Tales Q&A with Eugene Lambert


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I am super excited to be a part of the #LostandFound Blog Tour and today I have been paired up with the brilliant Eugene Lambert!

Eugene Lambert is the debut author of The Sign Of One which was released on the 7th April 2016 published by Electric Monkey and is a brilliant YA Sci-fi read!

For our stop of the tour I have had the chance to put some questions to Eugene all about his books, writing, evil twins and Sci-fi!

But first a little about the Lost and Found Tour……


About The Lost and Found Tour

What?

5 YA SCBWI debut authors get together for a UK tour.

Who?

Olivia Levez (The Island), Patrice Lawrence (Orangeboy), Kathryn Evans (More of Me), Sue Wallman (Lying About Last Summer), Eugene Lambert (The Sign of One)

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Where?

Birmingham Waterstones for the launch event chaired by me, Chelley Toy!

When?

Saturday, 1st October, 2-4pm

Join us for a discussion of identity, loss, and the darkness inside; of self-discovery, friendship, and hope for a better tomorrow as part of the #LostandFound Book Tour.

Unflinching, clever and honest, our five authors explore what it means to grow up when the cards seem to be constantly stacked against you.

Don’t miss your chance to meet these amazing authors, ask questions, and get your books signed.

Book your tickets here:

https://www.waterstones.com/events/lostandfound-with-kathryn-evans-eugene-lambert-patrice-lawrence-olivia-levez-and-sue-wallman/Birmingham

More Tour Dates

 Catch us at any of the following tour locations

When?

Where?

Sat 1st Oct, 2pm

Birmingham Waterstones

Thurs 6th Oct, 6pm

London Islington Waterstones

Sat 26th Nov

Guildford Waterstones

Thurs 1st Dec

Liverpool Waterstones

Sunday 22nd January

Hampshire Libraries, Petersfield

Sat 4th March

Glasgow Waterstones


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On a dump-world called Wrath, idents are hated and feared.

Only one twin is human,

 the other a monster with ‘twisted’ blood. 

Kyle’s a tough loner, scraping a living from the harsh Barrenlands.

Sky’s an ident rebel, set on avenging her dead sister.

Thrown together, they must set aside their differences and fight for each other.

Survival won’t be easy,

as Wrath’s secrets run deep and dark and nasty.


Hi Eugene!  It’s so wonderful having you here today answering all of my questions!

Can you tell us a little about your debut that was released earlier this year, The Sign Of One?

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Hi Michelle! The Sign of One is a Sci-Fi thriller for young adults (of all ages J) set on a dump-world called Wrath, where ‘idents’ are hated and feared. Why? Because only one twin is human, the other a superhuman monster with ‘twisted’ blood. The main protagonists are Kyle, a tough loner scraping a living out in the harsh Barrenlands, and Sky, a daring windjammer pilot and ident rebel. Thrown together after Kyle stumbles across a cruel truth, they must put aside their differences to survive. But the odds are stacked against them … for Wrath’s secrets run deeper and nastier than either can possibly imagine! It was published in April 2016 on Egmont UK’s Electric Monkey imprint.

What inspired you to create the world of Wrath and the concept of identical twins being feared?

My DNA and a t-shirt. I’m an identical twin myself. My much younger brother (by a whole 15 minutes) is called Martin. For a laugh, I bought us both a t-shirt with the slogan ‘I can’t remember if I’m the good twin or the evil one.’  Especially when we were children, we’d often be jokingly asked which one of us was the ‘evil’ one? I got to thinking … what if there really was a world where identical twins were actually considered evil? And why might that be? The rest, as they say, is history!

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PS – Martin’s the evil one, by the way. Obviously.

How did you come up with the title?  Did it change during the publication process?

Quite early in writing the first draft, I imagined Wrath-dwellers making some sort of sign to ward off the evil they saw in ‘idents.’ Inspired by the English and Welsh archers at Agincourt sticking up two fingers to the French, I imagined my characters making a gesture that celebrated their ‘one-ness,’ and chanting a ‘one is good, two is evil’ mantra. I called this gesture the Sign of One. Shortly afterwards, the penny dropped that it might make an enigmatic title. And I still think it does, but – amusingly – it has caused a few trilogy issues. We can’t exactly refer to the sequel as The Sign of One #2 L So, if anybody can think of a cracking trilogy name then I’m all ears (as is my editor, the lovely Stella Paskins). Seriously.

Can you tell us a little about the main characters in The Sign Of One, Kyle and Sky?

Kyle’s a bit of a loner growing up out in the remote Barrenlands with just his mother, Rona, for company. He’s handy, good at fixing stuff and pretty self-reliant. Sometime he wonders who his father was, and why Rona never likes to stay any place for very long. As for idents, he knows they’re evil, but he feels sorry for them more than anything.

Sky’s a ‘scab,’ Wrath-slang for the human or ‘pureblood’ ident. Her life has been hell: seized from her despairing parents at four, she’s grown up in an ident concentration camp; lost most of the use of her left leg in an accident, and watched her ‘twist’ sister die. But Sky’s tough, fierce and a survivor. Fighting for the ident resistance now, she’s a daring and skilful windjammer pilot. Bottom line – nobody messes with Sky, not if they know what’s good for them!

Why Sci-fi?

I’ve always been an SF fan, ever since I can remember. For the younger me, Star Wars, Alien, Mad Max, Terminator and Bladerunner were all massive. For example, I remember Martin and I walking to the bus-stop on our way to our A-levels humming the theme tune to Star Wars. I always preferred that downbeat and battered version of the future, the so-called ‘Used Future’ trope, which is the gritty end of the Sliding Scale of Shiny versus Gritty J. This felt way more real than (say) Star Trek, with shiny spaceships and clingy uniforms. Firefly was a more recent inspiration, but in the same deliciously shabby vein. I also love the whole steampunk vibe. So, should Mr. Whedon read this and come calling, that’s how I would like The Sign of One filmed. Okay? Please. 

What was your favourite scene to write?

Hmmm … tough question without dropping a spoiler. But one favourite was when Kyle and Sky bail out from the windjammer they’ve stowed away on. I’ve done a few parachute jumps, so I know just how scary it is to throw yourself out of a perfectly serviceable aircraft. I enjoyed dropping them into a swamp full of creepy crawlies too. Us authors can be very mean …

Do you see yourself in any of the characters in The Sign Of One or have you used any of your own experiences in the story?

Guilty as charged. I think there’s a fair bit of me in Kyle. He’s a reluctant hero (I’d be a VERY reluctant hero!) More than anything, I wanted him to come across as believable, not some one-dimensional kick-ass Hollywood stereotype. So Kyle feels fear and anxiety, and he makes mistakes. We all do. Sky’s perhaps a bit more fierce and extreme, but that reflects her background. As for my experiences, I’m a keen glider pilot, and the windjammer flying scenes borrow from that.

If you could cast your characters from The Sign Of One in a big Hollywood film adaptation who would you choose?

Ooh, yes please, but a tough one because Hollywood always casts actors that are unreasonably good looking! But how about a younger Daisy Ridley as Sky, a resurrected Anton Yelchin from Terminator Salvation as Kyle, and Luke Evans from the Hobbit movies as their mercenary ally, Murdo Dern. And Sigourney Weaver because … well, just because.

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What would you like your reader to take from The Sign Of One?

The Sign of One is primarily an adventure story, so first of all I hope the reader gets a kick out of that. However, it’s also about identity, the evils of and prejudice and discrimination, what it is that makes us ‘human’ and where courage comes from.

What do you think makes a good story?

Personally, I like stories that start out enigmatic so I’m not sure what’s going on. I like wondering, and I like surprises. I also love the ah-hah moments, when I finally figure things out. Characters I can relate to are important. Fundamentally though, even if its SF or Fantasy, the best stories have to make sense and the characters’ motivations have to be believable. A good story leaves you yearning for more. A good example, Man In The High Castle by Philip K. Dick. Genius, pure and simple.

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As a debut author what is the biggest challenge you have faced?

Swatting the self-doubt and keeping going.

The Sign Of One is the start of a trilogy – can you tell us a little about the sequel?

Volume  two, Into The No-Zone, will be published in April 2017 and here’s an early draft blurb:

So much for being a rebel hero,

Kyle’s on the run again.

Only this time everyone is after him,

even his own kind.

And the only place left to hide?

The lair of the Reaper.

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

  1. Nerd alert: I log every book or short story that I read.
  2. I have double-jointed thumbs. So does Martin!
  3. My grandfather, also Eugene, was imprisoned by the British during the Irish Civil War. A small misunderstanding involving explosives and a bridge!
  4. I can’t stand eggs, unless they’re in cakes J.
  5. I’m a big fan of motorcycle racing and Valentino Rossi.

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

Ever since I can remember I was the classic bookworm, and I enjoyed writing stories in English class in school (although I’m sure they were awful). I only really started writing when I was living and working in the States in the late 80s, but I can’t really remember a specific book as inspiration. I think it was a case of ‘I love books, so let’s have a go at writing one!’

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

Honestly, too many to list in terms of works I admire (but see next question for some standouts). And it’s not so much ‘books I wish I’d written’ as ‘I wish I could write like X does’ where X is Alan Garner, Neil Gaiman, Margo Lanagan, Patrick Ness, etc.

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Any Sci-Fi book recs that you would highly recommend?

Hmmm, let me think. Well, for younger readers, I don’t think you can do better than Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines series. Mobile cities chasing smaller prey cities across a wasted post-apocalyptic landscape … what a vision! Then there’s the modern classics of the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and  Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness, both of which showed me what was possible in contemporary YA fiction. Going back a few years, I am Legend by Richard Matheson,  Neuromancer by William Gibson and pretty much anything by the visionary that was Philip K. Dick, are all definitely worth a read.

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What are you currently reading?

*Blushes* Actually, I’ve just finished reading ‘No Easy Day,’ a first-hand account of the SEAL Team 6 mission to take out Osama Bin Laden. Fascinating stuff about the modern military machine and better written than I’d expected, thanks to the co-author. Now, I’m about halfway through – and thoroughly enjoying – Olivia Levez’s YA debut novel, The Island. It’s a sort-of modern take on the Robinson Crusoe story and a superb story. The standard of YA books today is astonishing.

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What is your favourite book of 2016 so far?

Wait, let me check my log … that’d be The Hobbit, which I re-read a month ago as a treat. If you mean a book published in 2016, it would be all the books by my fellow #LostandFounders, which are all so different yet so brilliantly written!

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

Sincerely, my brother Martin. He self-published a novel (available on Amazon) and it’s good. it would be great to write a book  together, because I know how imaginative he is from when we used to make up stories together as kids.  In terms of big-cheese-established-writers, it’d have to be Neil Gaiman!

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

Hah. It looks like my doing a lot of sighing, staring out of windows and going for long walks. A lot of notes, more sighing, perhaps even a few curses thrown in. Paper being scrunched up and thrown away. And then, after a final (and completely essential) flurry of prevarication, the writing begins …

Do you have any strange writing habits?

Define strange 🙂 No, I don’t think so. When I start, I start at the beginning and write linearly. I’m not a massive planner, so I plan as much as I can and then dive in, relying upon everything to sort itself out during the writing. I edit as I go along.

I asked some lovely authors their thoughts about does music influence their books or their characters.  Did music have any influence the story of  The Sign Of One?

Nope. Can’t think of any musical influence. Wrath’s not a musical kind of place. As Kyle says one time, music’s nice, but you can’t eat it.  But if you want to know what growing up as a twin is like, then listen to Disembodied Voices by the Finn Brothers (ex Crowded House). Seriously, it’s so spot on it almost makes me cry every time I listen to it.

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

Well, I’ve just received my first edits for Into the No-Zone, so that’s exciting. I’ve also made a start on the final instalment, working title The Long Forever. Other than writing, I’m off on holiday to visit Japan later this year, fulfilling a long-held ambition of mine. A cliché I know, but I can’t wait!

Can you tell us a little about you and the #LostandFound Tour?  How did the tour come about?

Our #LostandFound tour was Olivia Levez’s idea originally. I have to admit that I just got super-lucky and was invited to join the crew, which is such a privilege. Since then we’ve tried to work as a team to make the tour happen. It’s not long now until our first Waterstones gig, and we can’t wait!

And finally how is your character in The Sign Of One “found”?

Tricky to answer without spoilers, but suffice it to say that Kyle goes on a quest to find out what he his, and who he is. It’s a physical journey, but also an emotional one. He’s just a kid, not some Hollywood superhero. To find salvation, he must first ‘find’ the courage to quit running, turn and fight …

51j1rjbtptl-_sx324_bo1204203200_You can buy The Sign Of One here or from your local bookshop!


About Eugene Lambert

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Eugene Lambert grew up in Wolverhampton, a fate worse than cliché. A refugee from the worlds of academia, science and engineering, he graduated from Bath Spa University with an MA in Writing For Young People in late 2013. When not scribbling in his cabin, he flies gliders and goes for long walks in the Cotswolds. Rumours of his being an identical twin are … true. Eugene’s debut SF novel, The Sign of One, was shortlisted for the 2014 Bath Novel Award. The list of writers who have influenced and inspired him is a long one, but Alan Garner and Patrick Ness would both be near the top of it!

Website: http://www.eugenelambert.com/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/eugene_lambert


 Blog Tour

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

LOST VERTICAL


A huge thank you to Eugene for being fab and answering all of my questions!

Also a huge thank you to all the Lost and Founders for having me on the tour and asking me to host the Birmingham event!

See you there!

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Tales Q&A with Kerr Thomson


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I am super excited to be a part of the UKYACX Extravaganza Blog Tour again and today I have been paired up with the brilliant Kerr Thomson winner of the Times Children’s Fiction Prize 2014!

This time around the UKYACX Extravaganza is taking place in Newcastle on the 17th September 2016 and is featuring all of these amazing authors and illustrators!

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Today I have been lucky enough to have put some questions to Kerr and he was kind enough to answer them all…..


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Three children are spending their summer on a wild Scottish island. Fraser is desperate for adventure; Hayley is fed up she’s even there; while Dunny spends his days staring out to sea. He hasn’t said a word in years. But everything changes with the discovery of two bodies on the beach: a whale and a man. Fraser and Hayley see a mystery-adventure to be solved, but Dunny is inconsolable. And in the end, it will take someone who listens to the sea to put it right.

You can read an extract from the book here


Hi Kerr.  It’s so wonderful to have you here today!

Can you tell us a little about your debut that was released last year, The Sound of Whales?

The Sound of Whales is an adventure story set on the Scottish island of Nin. Fraser and Dunny are island brothers, the younger one Dunny doesn’t speak. On to their island comes Hayley, an American girl who at first despises everything to do with the place, especially Fraser. Together they discover dead bodies and castaways in caves and whales and the special gift that only Dunny possesses.

You won the Times Children’s Fiction Prize 2014?  How was that?

That was amazing! I entered with no expectation of winning and it was the first place I ever sent The Sound of Whales. There is no large pile of rejection letters from agents and publishers and I am very aware of how lucky I am. That is the wonder of the competition – unknown writers like myself are given the most fantastic opportunity to be published. And it can happen to anyone!

Can you tell us a little about the main characters in The Sound of Whales, Fraser, Hayley & Dunny?

Fraser is an island boy looking for adventure and not realising he is living it every day.  Dunny is his younger brother who is autistic and mysterious and remarkable in many ways. Hayley is an American girl dragged by her mom to the island and determined to hate every minute of the experience. None of them can resist the adventures that come their way and the friendships that develop.

How important was the setting to you?  Why did you choose the setting of a Wild Scottish Island?

The island is almost a character in itself. Certainly the landscape plays a very important role in the story. There is something inherently dramatic and enigmatic about that place where the ocean meets the shore. And of course, the best and worst thing about an island is, you can’t get off!

What was your favourite scene to write?

The second last chapter began life as the last chapter and I always had that scene in my head. It is an ending of sorts though I don’t want to spoil it for anyone yet to read the book (You know who you are!). Writing it, having brought the story all the way there, was such a satisfying feeling. It ended as I had hoped it would end. That may seem a strange thing to say as its writer, but sometimes the words take on a life of their own and head in a different direction from anticipated and so I was glad the story finished as I hoped it would!

Do you see yourself in any of the characters in The Sound of Whales or have you used any of your own experiences in the story?

They do say every author writes themselves into their first book so I suppose there is a wee bit of me in every character….although maybe not the orcas – don’t have that killer instinct!

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As for using my own experiences in the story, well I’ve never swam with whales or sailed a boat or discovered a dead body but I have been frightened and I have been excited and I have been lonely and I have been angry and I have been brave and I have been flabbergasted and I have experienced all these important feelings that the young people in the book experience. So I guess that counts.

If you could cast your characters from The Sound of Whales in a big Hollywood film adaptation who would you choose?

If I told you that then readers would have that image in their head and I would rather people created their own visual image of the characters as they read. So no mention of Ewan McGregor and Idris Elba…ah, darn!

What would you like your reader to take from The Sound of Whales?

I would like young people to believe in the possibility of adventure. I fear that no-one goes exploring anymore. Young people of today have this fantastic resource to enrich their lives which is sadly completely neglected. It’s called ‘outside’!

What do you think makes a good story?

It’s a simple formula – believable characters doing exciting things in an interesting place. Works every time.

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

No-one who answers this question ever gives random facts. They carefully craft five pieces of highly exaggerated if not downright fanciful snippets that make the person seem incredibly interesting, slightly mysterious but also modest and charming! I’m dull. I’ll pass.

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

Well Ben would take me for a boat trip to find whales and then we would have to fight our way through a storm to get back to harbour so that sounds like a day to remember.

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

Reading is the thing that inspired me to write. Every writer of books starts off as a reader of books. The earliest books that I loved were the Hardy Boys and Willard Price’s Adventure books. American kids foiling spy rings and wrestling crocodiles and flying biplanes. I doubt the books have aged well but at the time I devoured them and craved adventures of my own. Eventually I started writing the adventures instead of just imagining them.

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

Every time I read a good book I wish I had written it. Wizards, vampires, survival in dystopian worlds…..every sub-genre that arises you say to yourself, why didn’t I think of that?!

What are you currently reading?

Strangely I am reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. My eight year old son, Samuel, has just discovered the joys of Hogwarts and now wants intricate conversations about the minutiae of wizardry. I can’t remember any of it so I am starting again.

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What is your favourite book of 2016 so far?

It is not a new book. A reviewer likened The Sound of Whales to something written by Eva Ibbotson and I hadn’t read any of her books so I thought I would. I really enjoyed Journey to the River Sea.

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

I have never tried it but I am not sure how a collaboration would work. I’m a bit of a lone wolf when it comes to writing.

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

I sketch out a rough plan of a story but all pretty vague and then I just start writing. I usually have a detailed ending worked out, the ending is the most important bit of a book, but I don’t like to be too fixed in the story. New ideas will inevitably come as the plot develops.

Do you have any strange writing habits?

I really don’t. I sit in front of my laptop and press the keys. I would love to have a Dahlesque shed but I just sit in the dining room with the door shut. I do get some of my best ideas when I am out running.

Recently I asked some lovely authors their thoughts about does music influence their books or their characters.  Did music have any influence the story of The Sound of Whales?

I like to have a movie soundtrack or smooth classics on Classic FM playing in the background but not too intrusive. Mood music I suppose. How much influence it has on my writing is probably minimal.

Are there any exciting plans for the rest of 2016 or 2017 I saw you’re writing your second novel The Rise of Wolves?  Can you tell us a little about it?

The Rise of Wolves is set on the same island of Nin but a different group of young people having an adventure of their own. No whales this time but there are wolves. Wolves on a Scottish island? Unlikely, I hear you cry. Ah, but now you’re intrigued!

Also in 2017 the American version of The Sound of Whales is published. Change of title, however. I believe it is now going to be called Washed Ashore. It’s a little strange to have a different title but apparently it is not unusual. I am not going to be precious about it.

And finally…are you excited about the UKYACX Extravaganza?

Anything that is an Extravaganza must be exciting! It will be so cool to hang out with all these authors and meet all the readers and book lovers who attend. Slightly intimidating as well. I keep thinking I am going to be found out!

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You can buy a copy of The Sound Of Whales here


About Kerr Thomson

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Kerr Thomson is a teacher of geography at Cathkin High School in Glasgow, and is the father of a six-year-old son and three-year-old daughter.

After studying geography at universities in Glasgow and Arkansas he worked at various jobs in various places including hospitals, sports centres and country parks, but eventually could resist no longer and entered the teaching profession, which is something of a family business. He has taught in several schools in Manchester and the west of Scotland.

He enjoys cycling and runs an occasional half-marathon. In every place and at every time he has always written stories.

You can follow Kerr on twitter – @kerrthomson


Blog Tour

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

And don’t forget to buy tickets for this fab event!

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You can find out more about the UKYACX Extravaganza in Newcastle on the website here

Or follow them on twitter using @UKYACX

Or find out what we got up to at the Birmingham UKYA Extravaganza here

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A huge thank you to Kerr for being fab and answering all of my questions!

Also a huge thank you to Kerry Drewery and Emma Pass for organising the UKYACX Extravaganza and having me on the blog tour!

See you there!

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Tales Q&A with Laura Wood


Poppy Pym and the Double Jinx

I am super excited to have been asked to be part of the blog tour for this fabulous MG mystery Poppy Pym and the Double Jinx by Laura Wood.

Poppy Pym and the Double Jinx is the second book in this fab mystery series and was released on the 1st September 2016 published in by Scholastic.

The first in the series, Poppy Pym and the Pharaoh’s Curse was released last year.

You can find out about the world of Poppy Pym in this previous guest post – here

A huge thank you to Faye Rogers, Laura Wood and Scholastic for having me on this wonderful tour and to Scholastic for sending me a copy of the book to read.

For my stop on the blog tour I have been lucky enough to put some questions to the lovely author herself Laura Wood!


Poppy Pym and the Pharaoh's CurseWinner of the Scholastic Montegrappa Prize for New Children’s Writing. Poppy Pym has grown up in the circus, eating candy floss for breakfast and learning about lion taming … until her circus family decides she needs a more traditional education, and they send her to boarding school. At first, Poppy has trouble fitting in at St Smithen’s, a school that is very different from the circus. But when an ancient Egyptian ruby comes to the school and dangerous accidents start occurring, it’s up to Poppy to save her new home and solve the mystery of the Pharaoh’s curse!

Poppy Pym and the Double Jinx

From the Winner of the Scholastic Montegrappa Prize for New Children’s Writing It’s Halloween at Saint Smithen’s. When the Brimwell town hall burns down, the amateur production of Macbeth is moved to the school and it’s all hands on deck. But when the play is struck by a series of mysterious attacks, it’s up to Poppy, her friends and her circus family to save the play and unmask the culprit. 


Hi Laura!  Thank you for joining me today!  I’m so thrilled to have you here today!

So lets get started with the first question…..

Who is Poppy Pym?

 Poppy Pym is an eleven-year-old girl with a passion for sleuthing. As a baby she was abandoned at a travelling circus where she was raised by an eccentric family of performers before being sent off to fancy boarding school, Saint Smithen’s.

 Can you tell us a little about the second Poppy Pym story Poppy Pym and the Double Jinx?

The second book is set at Halloween and after a mysterious fire leaves a local amateur production of Macbeth without a venue, the performance is moved to Saint Smithen’s. Was the fire really an accident, or is something more sinister at work? Poppy and her pals are hot on the case when a second mystery comes along. But can Poppy find the culprit behind the fire and track down the lost gold of Phineas Scrimshaw, or has she bitten off more than she can chew?

What is a Double Jinx?

The double jinx refers to the two mysteries that Poppy finds herself investigating. The curse of ‘The Scottish Play’ is pretty well-known and offers lots of comedy potential, and I really liked the idea of a doomed production of Macbeth sitting at the centre of the story. The treasure hunt that Poppy and her friends find themselves on also carries a rumoured jinx, so Poppy’s feeling overwhelmed by lots of bad luck. I found myself coming back to the three witches’ lines from the play: “Double, double toil and trouble…”  and the fact that with this double mystery, Poppy really does find herself in double the amount of trouble. Also, I loved that double jinx brings to mind the game of jinx that we all used to play. Can someone please say Laura Clare Wood three times?!

 Have you ever experienced anything that you felt was jinxed?

 I don’t think so, although I can be quite superstitious. I always greet single magpies very politely.

 What inspired you to write Poppy’s story?

 I wrote the first book as an entry for the Montegrappa Scholastic competition for New Children’s Writing, which I was lucky enough to win in 2014. I had the idea for a long time before that but I was too scared to do anything with it. When I read about the competition I remember that one of the judges specifically said, if you’ve been too nervous to submit something in the past, give it a go, we’re so excited to read it! I don’t know why, but that gave me the push to get it down on paper. I wonder now if maybe the thought of entering a competition made me feel less vulnerable, somehow. I’m not really sure what it was but I nearly didn’t enter and I think about that quite often now, how taking a chance and having a go at something scary changed my life so dramatically.

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

Good Question! I think Fanella would be good comedy value.

 What was your favourite scene to write?

 I loved expanding Poppy’s world a bit in this book so my favourite scene to write was the one where Poppy goes into the town of Brimwell for the first time. It was total wish fulfilment, writing about excellent tea shops and bookshops and more eccentric, loveable characters.

 If Poppy had a theme song what would it be?

Oh, definitely something of her own composition! I’m 99% sure she already has one worked out!

Will we be getting any more Poppy adventures?

Yes! I’m so excited! I can’t say much at the moment, but I’ve just finished the first draft of book three and I love it.

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

  • I’m a pretty fluent speaker of igpay atinlay
  • When I was 18 I travelled around the world by myself, with a backpack almost the same size as me.
  • I have a little brother who is now much much taller than me. His REAL name is Thomas but for his whole life he’s been called Harry. You’d have to ask my mum why.
  • When I was little I drew inspiration from Matilda and used to punish my brother if I felt he had annoyed me by squirting liquid soap on his toothbrush. (Sorry, Harry! I love you!)
  • One Christmas my boyfriend and I decided to make each other Christmas presents. I made him a book called Ho Ho Ho Beantown! and a papier-mâché peanut. We never did this again.

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

 So many! I read all sorts, but I would say that Enid Blyton is maybe the biggest inspiration behind the Poppy books. I loved the Famous Five and Secret Seven, but also Malory Towers, and Poppy brings bits of all of those together. I didn’t read them growing up because they didn’t exist,  but I also love the madcap antics in Andy Stanton’s Mr Gum books, so there’s a bit of that in there too.

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

Again, lots. I recently read the first Alfie Bloom book by Gabrielle Kent and had a serious case of author envy… what a great book! I can’t wait to read the second one.

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 What are you currently reading?

My to-read pile is massive, but I’ve just started The Invitation by Lucy Foley.

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What is your favourite book of 2016 so far?

I don’t tend to read things when they first come out, but I really loved The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman. If a book is pitched as Buffy meets Georgette Heyer then I’m definitely in.

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

I am obsessed with picture books. I love them and would love to write one but I am truly terrible at art, so there are lots of illustrators I dream about working with. Top of my list would be Emma Yarlett – I love her books.

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

It doesn’t look very interesting! I spend a lot of time mulling things over before I put anything on paper. I really live with it for months (or years!) adding little details and thinking about the story, even repeating lines of dialogue to myself until they’re stored away. Eventually I will write a one-page synopsis and go from there. Because I’ve let the story tick away in my brain for such a long time the actual writing is usually very quick.

Do you have any strange writing habits?

 I like to write by hand as much as possible and then type things up afterwards. I find a computer screen can be a bit daunting. I also have a pair of blue leggings covered in foxes and if I need to get a lot of work done then those seem to have the magic in them!

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

Loads but I’m not allowed to tell you about them yet!

How exciting!

A huge thank to Laura for being here today and answering all of my questions!

Poppy Pym and the Pharaoh's CursePoppy Pym and the Double Jinx

You can buy a copy of Poppy Pym and the Double Jinx here or from your local bookshop!

Or why not add it to your Goodreads wish list here

Also check out this previous guest post with Laura Wood about the world of Poppy Pym – here


About Laura Wood

Laura Wood

Laura Wood is the winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing. She has just completed her PhD at the University of Warwick studying the figure of the reader in nineteenth century literature. POPPY PYM AND THE PHARAOH’S CURSE was her first novel.

You can find our more about Laura Wood on her website – www.lauraclarewood.com

Or why not follow Laura on twitter – @lauraclarewood

Laura is also on Instagram – lauracwood and Facebook – laurawoodauthor


Blog Tour

Catch up or follow the rest of this fab blog tour at the following stops!

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Thursday 1st September

Rachel Bustin

An Awfully Big Adventure

Friday 2nd September

Bookish Outsider

Library Girl and Book Boy

Saturday 3rd September

Fiction Fascination

Sunday 4th September

Tales of Yesterday

Monday 5th September

Book Lover Jo

Big Book Little Book

Tuesday 6th September

Luna’s Little Library

So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday 7th September

Heather Reviews

Wonderfully Bookish

 

 


 


A huge huge thank you to Laura for answering all my questions and to Faye Rogers for organising and having me on this fab blog tour!

Have you read any of the Poppy Pym series?  What did you think?  Are you excited for the Double Jinx?   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!

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Tales Q&A With Sarah Forbes


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I am super excited to have the super lovely Sarah Forbes on Tales today!

Sarah Forbes is the author of the brilliant Elspeth Hart series published by Stripes Publishing.  With stunning illustrations by illustrator James Brown Elspeth’s adventures to find the truth out about her parents is a must read for children and MG fans alike.

“A fast-paced and funny story from a fresh new voice in children’s fiction, Elspeth Hart’s quirky adventures will delight fans of David Walliams, Lemony Snicket and Roald Dahl.”

A huge thank you to Beth at Stripes for asking me if I would like to feature Sarah on Tales and for going along with my idea.

Today I am lucky enough to have Elspeth (yes you heard me right) on Tales in this fab character Q&A!


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Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-offs is the first adventure featuring the fabulous Elspeth Hart, a modern heroine with doodles on her trainers and unstoppable determination. Can you imagine never being allowed to play outside, dear reader? How about sleeping in a wardrobe every night? That’s what life is like for Elspeth Hart. Ever since her parents were tragically washed away in a flood, poor Elspeth has been forced to live with her disgusting aunt, Miss Crabb, in the attic of the Pandora Pants School for Show-offs. Elspeth spends her days sweeping up mouse droppings, washing filthy pots and dodging Tatiana Firensky, the most horrible show-off of all. But what Elspeth doesn’t know is that things are about to change…

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Elspeth Hart and the Perilous Voyage is the second adventure featuring the fabulous Elspeth Hart, a modern heroine with doodles on her Converse trainers and unstoppable determination. Now she’s finally free of the School for Show-offs, Elspeth is on a desperate mission to find her parents. She knows that Miss Crabb will have answers – but where can she find the vile woman? When Elspeth spots her on the news as a staff member on a luxury cruise ship, the chase is on. Elspeth is determined to get the answers she needs and she’ll stop at nothing. Sneaking aboard the ship is easy enough, but setting sail was never part of the plan! All at sea, unable to find Crabb and still no closer to a reunion with her parents, things aren’t looking good for Elspeth…

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Elspeth has escaped the clutches of the dastardly Miss Crabb and her sidekick Gladys Goulash and now she’s determined to find her parents. After the dim-witted Gladys let slip that they’d been sent to Australia, Elspeth sets off on their trail, with the help of her best friend Rory and his snooty butler, Mr Tunnock. But Elspeth needs her wits about her as she ventures through the rainforest – there’s something whiffy in the air. Could it be that Elspeth hasn’t seen the last of her enemies?


Hi Elspeth!  Welcome to Tales Of Yesterday!  I am so excited to have you here!

Thanks for being here today and agreeing to this Q&A.  How are you?

I’m really good, thank you, except I couldn’t get my hair to cooperate this morning, so it’s all sticking up at funny angles.

For those of us who don’t know who you are could you tell us a little about yourself?

Of course! Hello everyone. I’m Elspeth, I’m ten years old and I have a best friend called Rory. I lived for a whole year in an awful boarding school called the Pandora Pants School for Show-offs.

You have a very unusual name – does it mean anything in particular?

It’s a Scottish name and you pronounce it EL-speth. I think it might be the Scottish version of Elizabeth, but I’m not sure!

Can you tell us a little about how your story started?

It all started when I went to sleep one night as normal, then when I woke up I was in the School for Show-offs, and my aunt Miss Crabb was telling me I had to live with her from now on…

What happened to your parents?

Miss Crabb told me they were washed away in a flood, but I always suspected there might be more to it than that…

Can you tell us a little about your Aunt, Mrs Crabb?

Miss Crabb is tall and skinny and always picking her nose. She is a very nasty character indeed. She hates children, and she especially hates me. She made me sleep in a wardrobe and do lots of horrible chores around the school instead of going to lessons!

Who is Gladys Goulash?

Gladys is Miss Crabb’s sidekick. She worked as her assistant in the School for Show-offs, where the two of them made the most disgusting school dinners in the world. I can’t begin to tell you how awful she smells. She only has a bath once a year, you see.

I hear your third adventure looking for your parents took you to a rain forest!  How was that?

My third adventure, Elspeth Hart and the Magnificent Rescue, was my biggest adventure yet – I ended up in Australia trying to track down my parents, with the help of my best friend Rory. Let’s just say it involved following mysterious clues, being kidnapped and almost getting trapped in a pit of bitey spiders!

Do you think you will ever find your parents?

If you read Elspeth Hart and the Magnificent Rescue, you’ll find out! I don’t want to give it away … shhh!

I hear you love Converse trainers – do you have a favourite pair?

Ooh, I always wear my favourite purple and white ones. But I’ve seen some people decorating their own trainers which looks amazing!

What do you think about how the illustrator James Brown  drew you?  Did he capture the real Elspeth?

James Brown is such a talented chap. He drew me PERFECTLY, every detail looked just like me!

Quickfire Questions

Favourite word?

Freedom!

Favourite Ice Cream?

Mint choc chip

Favourite Colour?

Purple, of course!

Favourite song to sing at Karaoke?

I’m a terrible singer, but I could definitely sing anything by Taylor Swift.

Favourite book or author?

Roald Dahl’s Matilda.

What do you think the future has in store for Elspeth Hart?

Hopefully I’ll be entertaining readers for a while with my three adventures! The future will be happy so long as I don’t have to spend any time with awful Miss Crabb and Gladys Goulash!

If you could give one piece of advice to anyone reading this interview what would it be?

Don’t give up on your dreams, no matter how impossible they might seem.

Thank you so much for answering all my questions Elspeth.

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You can buy the Elspeth Hart books here


About Sarah Forbes

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Sarah is the author of Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-Offs, Elspeth Hart and the Perilous Voyage and Elspeth Hart and the Magnificent Rescue (Stripes).

Previously, Sarah was Senior Editor at Floris Books and Fiction Editor at Scholastic Children’s Books, where she worked with high-profile authors such as Liz Pichon, Karen McCombie and Dan Freedman.

Sarah also spent ten years as a journalist and magazine editor, writing for a wide range of publications, from The Guardian to Mizz magazine.

Why not follow Sarah on twitter – @SFSsong


About Illustrator James Brown

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James Brown filled in an important careers questionnaire when he was 13 and it told him he was definitely going to be a teacher and an illustrator. And it was right! James studied Creative Writing at St Andrews (where he kept writing for children and drawing all over everything). He lives in Nottingham and draws in front of a mirror.

See more of James’ work in the Featured Illustrator Gallery

Or why not follow James on Twitter –  @jb_illustrates


A huge huge thank you to Elspeth for answering all my questions and of course to Sarah and to Beth at Stripes Publishing for putting us in touch!

Have you read any of the Elspeth Hart series?  What did you think?   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!

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