Category Archives: Guest Post

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


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

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

I can’t wait to read it!

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



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

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

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

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


Three Things That Inspired Chloe Snow’s Diary

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

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

1. My own diaries. 

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

2. Bridget Jones, Georgia Nicolson, and Cassandra Mortmain 

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

3. The Sound of Music. 

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

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

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


About Emma Chastain

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

You can follow Emma on twitter – @emmachastain


Blog Tour

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


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

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

Guest Post – #GoodbyeDaysPlaylist – Grief by Jeff Zentner


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now over to Jeff…….


Can a text message destroy your life?

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

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

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

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


#GoodbyeDaysPlaylist – Grief

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

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

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


About Jeff Zentner

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

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

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

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

Or why not follow him on twitter – @jeffzentner


Blog Tour

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


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

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

Happy Reading!

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


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

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

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

Alchemy meets dreamy reality in this new atmospheric adventure!

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


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


Five Books To Inspire Children’s Imaginations

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

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

The If Game by Catherine Storr

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

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

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

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

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

The Wind on the Moon by Eric Linklater

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

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

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

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


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

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

Or why not follow Cathryn on twitter – @kateconstable7 


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

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

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


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

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

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


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


Character Profile:  Ingrid

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

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

Except…

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

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


About Danielle Younge-Ullman

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

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

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

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

You can follow Danielle on twitter – @DanielleYUllman


Blog Tour

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


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

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

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


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

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

And that’s not all!

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

Friendship For Beginners

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

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

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

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

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

I am so excited!  Come and join us!

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

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


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

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

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


Keep Calm and Look at the Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


About Jenny McLachlan

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

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

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

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

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

Or why not follow Jenny on twitter – @JennyMcLachlan1


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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can find out more info or grab your tickets here

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

Guest Post – Japanese Fantasy By Dan Walker


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Japanese Fantasy

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

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

But the thing is, this is only half true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


About Dan Walker

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

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

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

You can follow Dan on twitter – @sky_thieves


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

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

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – Where Do Ideas Come From? By Katy Cannon


I am over the moon to have one of my favourite authors on Tales today with a fab guest post for a brilliant blog tour!

And Then We Ran by Katy Cannon is released on the 6th April 2017 published by Stripes Publishing and is set to be an unforgettable road trip!

I’ve been a huge fan of Katy’s for a few years and I love her writing so much!

So today Katy is sharing a little about ideas and where they sometimes come from in this fab guest post…..


A road-trip story about following your dreams and embracing the unexpected.
Megan knows what she wants out of life and she intends to get it, whatever her parents say.
Elliott has given up on all his plans for the future – but then Megan bursts into his life with a proposal that could change it forever.

Together they embark on a road trip to escape their hometown and chase their dreams. But life is a journey and not even Megan can control where theirs will lead…

Perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen, Rainbow Rowell and Non Pratt.


Where Do Ideas Come From?

There’s a pretty standard list of questions you tend to get asked, once people find out that you’re a writer. After a while, a party full of new acquaintances becomes a bit like a game of Writer’s Life Bingo, as you cross off all the questions and comments you’ve heard a million times before.

Things like:

“Oh, so you’re going to be the next JK Rowling then, huh?”

“Boy, you must be loaded,” or it’s more realistic counterpart, “So what do you do for money?”

“I’ve always wanted to write a book, when I have the time.”

And, my personal favourite:

“I’ve got a great idea for a book. How about we collaborate? I’ll give you the idea, you write the book.”

The fallacy at the heart of this question is the belief that getting the idea is the hard part of writing a book.

In fact, ideas are the easy part. I can have a dozen ideas for books in a single day, if the world around me is particularly inspiring.

That’s also the problem with the other top five question: “Where do you get your ideas from?”

Because the truth is, ideas aren’t something I go shopping for. I don’t have a secret online store I can order them from, £5.99 for two and free shipping. I don’t steal them from other people’s brains with a machine my husband made in the garage (not least because I don’t have a garage). I don’t even breed them in captivity, in an inhumane idea farm.

If I’m lucky, ideas come to me. The basic premise for my latest novel, And Then We Ran, emerged complete in my head when I woke up one morning: two teens elope to Gretna Green, even though they’re not in love.

Other ideas are given as gifts – a comment from a friend, an article in the newspaper that starts me thinking ‘what if?’, a tv show that does something I disagree with, and start thinking of alternative stories I’d have preferred. Or even my agent saying, “You like baking. How about a baking book?” (That one became Love, Lies and Lemon Pies.)

Sometimes, ideas float up from my past – a memory, twisted. For instance, I performed in a lot of plays in high school, and later on, working as a production assistant in London, I helped out backstage in a costume department. Those two memories merged into one to become Secrets, Schemes and Sewing Machines.

Some of the best ideas don’t even have a real starting point. They’re the ones where the things you see every day, or hear, or observe, slowly come together in your mind and make something entirely new. And suddenly, from nowhere, you have a new idea.

What you’ll notice in all these cases is that the initial idea is only the very beginning of the book’s journey. It’s where the real work starts. 

That real work – building up the idea, improving it, adding contrast and conflict and characters, finding a way to make it feel new, different to what else is out there; developing the backstories and the plot and the story logic; outlining the scenes, writing them, revising them, revising them again; submitting the book, selling it, editing it, copy editing it, proof reading it, promoting it… and a million other things I’ve probably forgotten – that’s the truth of being a writer. Because while it might start with an idea, unless it’s actually written, then that’s all it will ever be.

Where do I get my ideas? When I hear that question, here’s what I really want to answer:

“Anywhere and everywhere. Same place you can get yours. 

 But you’re starting with the wrong question. Getting ideas isn’t the important part. 

 It’s what you do with them that counts.” 

You can buy a copy of And Then We Ran here or from you local bookshop!

You can find a previous post from Katy on Tales by clicking on the below link….

Much Ado About Shakespeare

Bake Club Christmas Wish Lists

Review – Secrets, Schemes and Sewing Machines


About Katy Cannon

Katy was born in Abu Dhabi, grew up in Wales, went to university in Lancaster, spent a few years splitting her time between London, Hertfordshire, and an assortment of hotels across the world. She now lives in a little market town not far from Cambridge. She has a husband, two children, a goldfish, and far too many notebooks.

Katy likes to write stories about the importance of friends and family, and especially those friends who become family. She considers herself most fortunate to have been blessed with an abundance of all three.

As a teenager, Katy was constantly in trouble for reading when she should have been doing something else. These days, she mostly gets in trouble for dreaming up new stories when she should be writing the ones she’s already working on.

Katy’s debut YA novel, LOVE, LIES & LEMON PIES, has been translated into eight languages. Her next book, AND THEN WE RAN, will be released in April 2017.

Katy is represented by Gemma Cooper of The Bent Agency.  

You can find out more about Katy on her website – www.katycannon.com  

Or why not follow her on twitter – @KatyJoCannon


Blog Tour

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


A huge thank you to Katy for such a wonderful post and to Beth at Stripes Publishing for organising and having me as part of the tour!

Have you read And Then We Ran?  What did you think?  Are you intrigued to go and grab copies?  Have you read any of Katy’s other books?   I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button above or tweet my on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – How Naondel Was Born by Maria Turtschaninoff


I am super excited to have the wonderful Maria Turtschaninoff on Tales!

Maria is the author of last years phenomenal Maresi and her upcoming release Naondel which are part of the Red Abbey Chronicles and have received lots of praise!

‘An unforgettable feminist epic, shot through with hypnotic dark charm’ The Bookseller

‘Walks the knife edge so thrillingly I read it in one sitting. Embed with myth, wonder, and told with a dazzling, compelling ferocity’ Kiran Millwood Hargrave, author of The Girl of Ink and Stars

‘Incredible… if you like Louise O’Neill’s Only Ever Yours, you’ll love this’ Amber Kirk-Ford, The Mile Long Bookshelf

‘A tale of sisterhood, survival and fighting against the odds that will capture the hearts of both teen and adult feminists alike’ Lucy Powrie, Queen of Contemporary

Today Maria is telling us all about how Naondel came to be in this fab guest post…..


In the opulent palace of Ohaddin, women have one purpose – to obey.

Some were brought here as girls, captured and enslaved; some as servant; some as wives. All of them must do what the Master tells them, for he wields a deadly and secret power.

But the women have powers too. One is a healer. One can control dreams. One is a warrior. One can see everything that is coming.

In their golden prison, the women wait. They plan. They write down their stories. They dream of a refuge, a safe place where girls can be free.

And, finally, when the moon glows red, they will have their revenge.


How Naondel Was Born

Naondel is the book I wasn’t going to write.

After Maresi I had plans on writing a gaslight fantasy, set in 19th century alternative history Finland. I even pitched the idea to one of my publishers and got a great response. I started collecting a research library and read up on the time period. But the story itself refused to take flight.

Instead two short mentions of the First Sisters in Maresi kept pulling at me. Who were these seven women who came to Menos in the distant past and made a new life on the island? Where were they from? Why were they together? And what made them flee their old life and everything they knew and loved, never to return?

I started cheating on the gaslight fantasy with the First Sisters, and after a few weeks I had to admit to myself that this was now the story I was writing. I ended up working on Naondel longer than on any other novel, two and a half years. It is my sixth novel and it was published nine years after my debut. It’s my darkest novel to date, and my most grown-up (I myself would no longer call this YA). It spans something like 40 years, has seven or eight first-person narrators and is in every way my most ambitious work. It was probably the hardest to edit, too, and I cursed my stupid ambition many times during the editing process. Seven first person narrators, what sane writer does this to herself?!

That gaslight fantasy is still waiting to be written. Because after Naondel, Maresi once more demanded that I listen to the next story she had to tell: The story of what happens to her after the novel Maresi ends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can buy a copy of Maresi or Naondel here or from your local bookshop!


About Maria Turtschaninoff

Maria Turtschaninoff is a Swedish-speaking Finn who has been writing fairy tales from the age of five. However, there was often a twist: the poor farmer boy and the princess he had just saved from the evil witch did not end up marrying, because they “didn’t feel like it”. Her biggest grief as a child was that no wardrobe led to Narnia.

 After a detour as a journalist for a few years Turtschaninoff debuted in 2007 with a middle-grade portal fantasy and has since published four more novels, all YA fantasy. Pushkin Press has acquired world English rights to Maresi and the subsequent two novels in the Red Abbey Chronicles.

You can find out more about Maria on her website – www.mariaturtschaninoff.com

Or why not follow Maria on twitter – @turtschaninoff


Blog Tour

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


A huge thank you to Maria for such a fab post!  And to Vicki for organising and asking me to be part of the blog tour!

Have you read any of the any of the Red Abbey Chronicles?  What did you think?  Are you intrigued to go and grab copies?   I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button above or tweet my on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – Research For The Bamboo Trilogy by Ann Bennett


I’m super excited to be part of the fab blog tour celebrating the release of Bamboo Road, the last book in a fab adult fiction trilogy!

Bamboo Road was released on the 1st March 2017 published by Monsoon Books.  The first book, Bamboo Heart was released in 2014 followed by Bamboo Island in 2015 and can be read in any order.  The books are a Southeast Asian WWII Trilogy.

For my stop of this fab tour, the author, Ann Bennett tells us a little more about the research that went into the books.


Thailand, 1943: Thomas Ellis, captured by the Japanese at the fall of Singapore, is a prisoner-of-war on the Death Railway. In stifling heat he endures endless days of clearing jungle, breaking stone and lugging wood. He must stay alive, although he is struck down by disease and tortured by Japanese guards, and he must stay strong, although he is starving and exhausted. For Tom has made himself a promise: to return home. Not to the grey streets of London, where he once lived, but to Penang, where he found paradise and love. London, 1986: Laura Ellis, a successful City lawyer, turns her back on her yuppie existence and travels to Southeast Asia. In Thailand and Malaysia she retraces her father’s past and discovers the truths he has refused to tell her. And in the place where her father once suffered and survived, she will finally find out how he got his Bamboo Heart. In a blend of stirring fiction and heart-wrenching history, Ann Bennett narrates the story of a soldier’s strength and survival in the bleakest of times and a daughter’s journey of discovery about her father and herself.

Bamboo Heart is volume one in a Southeast Asian WWII trilogy that includes Bamboo Island and Bamboo Road.

Juliet Crosby has lived a reclusive life on her Malayan rubber plantation since the Second World War robbed her of everyone she loved. However, the sudden appearance of a young woman from Indonesia disrupts her lonely existence and stirs up unsettling memories. Juliet is forced to recollect her prewar marriage, her wartime ordeals in Japanese-occupied Singapore and the loss of those she once held dear.

 Bamboo Island is part of a Southeast Asian WWII trilogy of historical fiction that can be read in any order and includes Bamboo Heart and Bamboo Road.

Thailand 1942: Sirinya and her family are members of the Thai underground, who risk their lives to resist the World War Two Japanese occupation and to and help British prisoners of war building the Thai-Burma railway. The events of those years have repercussions for decades to come. The book tells Sirinya s wartime story and how in the 1970s she returns to Kanchanaburi after a long absence abroad, to settle old scores from the war years.

Bamboo Road is volume three in a Southeast Asian WWII trilogy that includes Bamboo Heart and Bamboo Island (the books may be read in any order).


Research For The Bamboo Trilogy

I began researching the Second World War in South East Asia and the Thai-Burma railway well before the idea of writing books about it took root. The stories grew organically out of the research I did to find out about my father’s wartime experience. He died when I was seven, weakened by his three and a half years as a POW and I began to get interested in his experience when I was in my early twenties. My mother had two pre-printed postcards that Dad had sent home during his years as a POW which showed that he was interned in Thailand No.1 camp. I went to the Imperial War Museum and discovered that the camp was in Kanchanaburi but there were no consistent records there about prisoners of the Japanese.

My desire to find out more, first took me to Kanchanaburi in 1988 with my mother. There was only one museum there at the time; called the JEATH museum run by a Thai monk. It is a fascinating and unique place, but again holds no information about individual prisoners.

A few years later, I returned to the Imperial War Museum and found they held many first-hand accounts written by soldiers enslaved on the death railway. These are the most harrowing of reads and showed me more about what my father must have suffered, but nothing about where he had been or what had happened to him personally. By the time I returned to Kanchanaburi in 2005 with my husband and sons, I thought I knew as much as I was ever going to know.

In 2010 I came across the Far East Prisoners of War Community (FEPOW) on the internet. Through that community I discovered that in 1944 Dad had been transported from Singapore aboard the hell-ship Hofuku Maru which was torpedoed off Luzon in the Philippines by US aircraft. Out of around 1300 men aboard he was one of 221 survivors. He was put on another ship, the Hokusen Maru which ended up in Taiwan. Dad stayed on in Taiwan and was liberated from Shirikawa camp. The FEPOW community encouraged me to visit the National Archives in Kew to look for Dad’s liberation questionnaire and Japanese record card. To my amazement, both were there. It was an amazing moment when I first saw those records; written in his flowing handwriting in pencil, they answered so many questions I would have liked to ask. He had listed all the camps he had been in on the railway, and had written in detail about some of the horrors he had witnessed.

The information in Dad’s Liberation Questionnaire sowed the seeds for the plot of Bamboo Heart. To write the book though I did a great deal more research into the Malaya campaign and the plight of prisoners. I read several factual history books, including Surviving the Sword, The Fall of Singapore, etc. I also read as widely as I could about the war in South East Asia, although I found there wasn’t much fiction out there. I think […] must have been writing the Narrow Road to the Deep North at around the same time! I also did a great deal of internet research too including watching numerous documentaries on Youtube. Looking back at old diaries and photographs from my own trips were the inspiration for Laura’s journey in Bamboo Heart.

My research for Bamboo Heart taught me so much more about the war in the Far East than I had expected. I had not previously known how civilians suffered; about starvation and massacres, about bravery and sacrifice. It inspired me to explore those events from other angles and through other peoples’ stories. Bamboo Island is written from the point of view of an ordinary British woman who’d settled in Malaya but was caught up in the fall of Singapore. I was particularly moved by the sinking of the Vyner Brooke and the subsequent massacre of Australian nurses, which was the starting point for Juliet’s story. I read as much as I could about the civilian experience of living through the Japanese occupation. In particular Sheila Allen’s moving diary ‘Girl in Changi,’ made a great impression on me as did novels such as the Singapore Grip, and Amber Road (another Monsoon title).

Bamboo Road was inspired by the story of Boon Pong, a Thai merchant who took great risks to help prisoners of war building the death railway. I wanted to explore how the war and the Japanese occupation affected ordinary Thai people living in the area where the Death Railway was built. The great influx of Japanese soldiers and prisoners and the brutality and suffering must have had a devastating effect on their previously peaceful lives. I found out as much as I could about what it was like to live in the prosperous, peaceful community of Kanchanaburi before the railway came. I also researched Boon Pong’s own story, and visited his shophouse in Kanchanaburi whilst I was finalizing the draft. There isn’t a great deal written about him, but all the accounts, in ‘The Real Colonel of Tamarkan’ by Julie Summers, ‘Surviving the Sword’ and Beyond the Bamboo Screen, describe him as a very brave man with great humanity. I also read as much as I could about Thai culture and Buddhism, to understand my characters and what had influenced their outlook on life. I must have been to Thailand fifteen times since my first visit in 1985, so I have absorbed a great deal about the country and its culture during those visits which has found its way into the book. I should add that I have been trying to learn Thai for about five years now. It’s a difficult language to crack because of the different tones, the alphabet and the complex grammatical rules, but I’m sure that through that exercise I’ve absorbed a great deal about the country and its people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can buy a copy of these books here

Or why not add to your Goodreads here


About Ann Bennett

Ann Bennett was born and raised in a small village in Northamptonshire, UK. She read Law at Cambridge and qualified and practised as a solicitor. During a career break, to have children, she started to write. Her father had been a prisoner of war on the Thailand– Burma Railway and the idea for a Southeast Asian WWII trilogy came from researching his wartime experiences. The research took her back to Asia, a place she loves and has returned to many times. She lives in Surrey with her husband and three sons and works in London as a lawyer.

You can find out more about Ann on her website – www.bambooheart.co.uk

Or Ann’s blog here

Or why not follow Ann on twitter – @annbennett71

Or Facebook here


Blog Tour

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


A huge thank you to Ann for such a brilliant guest post!  And to Faye Rogers for organising and asking me to be part of the blog tour!

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

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – Writing Harper by Cerrie Burnell


I am so excited to have the wonderful Cerrie Burnell on Tales to celebrate the release of another brilliant book in the Harper series, Harper and the Night Circus!

Harper and the Night Circus is a middle grade adventure and was released on the 2nd March 2017 published by Scholastic UK and is gorgeously illustrated by the super talented Laura Ellen Anderson.

Other Harper adventures include….


 

 

 

 

 

 

So today I welcome Cerrie to the blog with a brilliant guest post all about Writing Harper.


Total fantasy bliss! Magical birds, dark forests and fairytale cities: there’s no better book to get lost in. Harper is on a mission! Rumours tell of the mysterious Ice Raven who lives among the ebony trees, singing a magical song that can melt hardened hearts. Now the Wild Conductor wants to capture this mythical bird and create the greatest orchestra ever known. So Harper and her friends set off to find the bird. Their journey takes them from the mysterious Night Forest to the City of Singing Clocks. But soon Harper realises she faces a dilemma. Should a wild, free creature like the Ice Raven ever be tied down?


Writing Harper

My Favourite Five Fun facts about Harper are

1.

When Harper arrived on the rooftop of the Tall Apartment Block, she came only with the Scarlet Umbrella and a note pinned to it by the feather of a dove.

2.

Midnight her cat arrived the very same night at the stroke of 12- the name seemed perfect! To this day no one knows where exactly Midnight came from.

3.

Until she was eight, Harper had no idea the Scarlet Umbrella could fly, as it was inside a bird in her Great Aunt Sassy’s bathroom.

4.

Nate is the first person Harper shares the umbrella’s magic with, he doesn’t doubt her for a moment and they become firm friends.

5.

Even though the Wild Conductor did a terrible thing in taking her cat, Harper forgives him as she can see he’s just a man trying to follow his dreams.

Harper and the Night Forest by Cerrie Burnell, illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson is published by Scholastic.
Available where all books are sold.

You can buy a copy of this book here

Or why not add it to your Goodreads here


About Cerrie Burnell

Cerrie Burnell is a much-loved presenter on Cbeebies. She was named in the Observer’s top ten children’s presenters and also featured in the Guardian’s 2011 list of 100 most inspirational women where she received praise for tackling disability head on. Cerrie divides her time between London and Manchester. Her bestselling picture books Snowflakes and Mermaid, illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson, have won critical acclaim. Magical adventure Harper and the Scarlet Umbrella was her first novel for young readers.

You can follow Cerrie on twitter – @cerrieburnell

About Laura Ellen Anderson

When she’s not trying to take over the world or fighting sock-stealing monsters, Laura Ellen Anderson is a professional children’s book author & illustrator, with an increasing addiction to coffee. She spends every waking hour creating & drawing and would quite like to live on the Moon when humans finally make it possible. 

You can find out more about Laura on her website – lauraellenanderson.tumblr.com

Or why not follow Laura on twitter – @Lillustrator


Blog Tour

Why not follow or catch up on the rest of this fab blog tour at the following stops!


A huge thank you to Cerrie for such a brilliant guest post and a bit more about Harper!  And to Faye Rogers for organising and asking me to be part of the blog tour!

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

Happy Reading!

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