Category Archives: Historical Fiction

Guest Post – My 8 Favourite Historical Novels by Dawn Farnham


Today I am super happy to be part of the blog tour for a new historical fiction book published by Monsoon Books.

The Red Thread by Dawn Farnham is the first book in The Straits Quartet series and is a brilliant Asian Historical Fiction read.

Today I have the author herself sharing some of her favourite historical fiction books….


Set against the backdrop of 1830s Singapore where piracy, crime, triads, and tigers are commonplace, this historical romance follows the struggle of two lovers Zhen, a Chinese coolie and triad member, and Charlotte, an 18-year-old Scots woman and sister of Singapores Head of Police. Two cultures bound together by the invisible threads of fate yet separated by cultural diversity.


Favourite 8 Historical Fiction Books 

My novels are set in Asia so instead of going through all the usual and more recent suspects (a la Mantel), I would like to offer your readers and bloggers a few perhaps lesser known or older ones set in East and Southeast Asia.

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck 

Perhaps she is somewhat forgotten now but that doesn’t mean she isn’t a great read. It won the Pulitzer in 1932. She won the Nobel in 1938.  All her books set in China are worth re-finding.

The Quiet American by Graham Greene

He’s a marvellous writer. Not strictly historical but he tells the story of foreign meddling in Vietnam and its consequences better than any history book.

Red Sorghum by Mo Yan

A splendid writer, also winner of the Nobel prize.

Shogun by James Clavell

Flawed and probably historical nonsense (so the Japanese say) but he tells a good tale.

Waiting and War Trash by Ha Jin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love almost everything by him.

Roshomon by Ryunosuke Akutagawa

Classic Japanese tale transformed into many movies.

Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad

Conrad set many stories in Southeast Asia where he spent a long time as a sailing man.  Beautiful writing and compelling stories.

You can buy a copy of The Red Thread here

The Red Thread is going to be FREE on Amazon from 17th – 25th September

Or why not add the book to your Goodreads here


About Dawn Farnham

Dawn Farnham is the author of The Straits Quartet (The Red Thread, The Shallow Seas, The Hills of Singapore and The English Concubine), as well as numerous short stories, plays and children’s books. A former long-term resident of Singapore, Dawn now calls Perth, Australia, home. Her new book, Finding Maria is published in October 2017. Learn more about Dawn at www.dawnfarnham.com.

You can also follow Dawn on twitter – @farnhamauthor

Or on Facebook here


Blog Tour

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


A huge big thank you to Faye Rogers for asking me to be part of this fab blog tour and to host this fab piece and to Dawn for writing it.

Have you read The Read Thread?  Did you enjoy?  What did you love about it?  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!

Spotlight – Things A Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls


Today, 7th September 2017, is the publication day of the wonderful Things A Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls and I am over the moon to be kicking of the blog tour for this amazing book with the opening chapter of the book!

Things A Bright Girl Can Do tells the story of three girls, Evelyn, May and Nell, caught up in the Suffragette movement and has had rave reviews already!

So sit back, relax and read this extract from the opening chapter…


Through rallies and marches, in polite drawing rooms and freezing prison cells and the poverty-stricken slums of the East End, three courageous young women join the fight for the vote.

Evelyn is seventeen, and though she is rich and clever, she may never be allowed to follow her older brother to university. Enraged that she is expected to marry her childhood sweetheart rather than be educated, she joins the Suffragettes, and vows to pay the ultimate price for women’s freedom.

May is fifteen, and already sworn to the cause, though she and her fellow Suffragists refuse violence. When she meets Nell, a girl who’s grown up in hardship, she sees a kindred spirit. Together and in love, the two girls start to dream of a world where all kinds of women have their place.

But the fight for freedom will challenge Evelyn, May and Nell more than they ever could believe. As war looms, just how much are they willing to sacrifice?


Extract

You can buy a copy of Things A Bright Girl Can Do here or from your local bookshop!

You can find a previous Q&A with Sally on Tales here


About Sally Nicholls

I was born in Stockton-on-Tees, just after midnight, in a thunderstorm. My father died when I was two, and my brother Ian and I were brought up my mother. I always wanted to write – when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I used to say “I’m going to be a writer” – very definite.

I live in a small house in Oxford with my husband and little boy.

You can find out more about Sally on her website – www.sallynicholls.com

You can follow Sally on twitter – @Sally_Nicholls    


Blog Tour

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

#ThingsABrightGirlCanDo


A huge big thank you to Harriet at Andersen for asking me to be part of and kick off this fab blog tour and to Sally for such a fab book! 

Have you read Things A Bright Girl Can Do?  Did you enjoy?  What do you love about historical fiction?  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!

Guest Post – Magical Mystery Tour by Mark Huckerby


Today I have a fab guest post from one half of an awesome dynamic writing duo of a brilliant MG Fantasy series, Mark Huckerby.

Defender Of The Realm: Dark Age was released on the 1st June and is the second book in this brilliant series and I am SO excited to read it!  I was a huge fan of the first book in the series and it left me craving more!

Praise for Defender of the Realm

Defender of the Realm was longlisted for the 2017 Branford Boase Award, and shortlisted for The Brilliant Book Award Nottingham (February 2017) and  Stockton Children’s Book of the Year (March 2017).

Entertaining, gripping and full of action and plot twists”  – Sunday Express 
 
“A thrilling mashup of history and fantasy”  – Kirkus Reviews  
 
“Defender of the Realm is unashamedly fun!”  – Derek Landy, author of Skulduggery Pleasant

You can find my review of Defender Of The Realm here

Praise for Defender of the Realm: Dark Age

“Brilliant sequel to Defender of the Realm a fabulous fantasy for children and adults alike” –

Ravenmaster HM Tower of London @ravenmaster1

So sit back and relax and let Mark share his love of ruins….and some cute baby Mark pictures too……


After the great battle at King Alfie’s coronation, the nation thinks it’s seen the last of the Black Dragon, and Alfie gets busy learning what it means to fill his father’s shoes. But when a band of undead Vikings appears, Alfie, Hayley and the rest of the Yeoman Warders fear that Professor Lock is back to finish what he’s started. 
 
For the epic battle that’s brewing, Alfie will need to enlist help from abroad, as well as from a mysterious new friend who seems to be watching over him…


Magical Mystery Tour

I love a good ruin.

One of my earliest memories is of clambering all over the walls of the 900 year old Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire while my Granddad looked on. A little later, I used to plead with my father to take me to Bodiam Castle in Sussex every weekend; I was convinced that in some forgotten tower I would somehow find a sword that a medieval knight would just have, I don’t know, left lying around. Corfe Castle in Dorset was another favourite and yep, I really thought I might stumble upon a suit of armour tucked away behind the gatehouse as I explored.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s become kind of a cliché to depict kids as groaning with boredom as they’re dragged off around castles, abbeys and stately homes by their parents but I honestly loved it. It simultaneously ignited a passion for history and fired up my imagination. Thinking about it, there’s a direct link from my childhood to the Defender of the Realm series that I’ve written alongside my writing partner, Nick Ostler. It’s allowed me to indulge in my twin loves of history and fantasy and combine them, just like I did when I was young.

When Nick and I write, we often talk about the formula of “something true + something new”. It spawned the central idea of the book:  “what if the kings and queens of Britain were secretly superheroes, sworn to protect Britain from monsters and super villains?” The ‘something true’ part of the formula is of course the real history of Britain and the ‘something new’, well, that’s where dragons and stinking zombie Vikings come in. So in the secret history of Defender of the Realm, the Great Fire of London in 1666 was of course started by a dragon and the Spanish Armada was sunk by a giant squid. Dur, as if you didn’t know.

We’ve also applied the formula to the locations in the book, giving iconic British landmarks an enchanted twist as they’re inducted into our fantasy universe. In the book, the Tower of London is of course the home to the Crown Jewels, well the fake ones for the tourists anyway. It’s below ground in “the Keep”, the Defender’s secret base, that the real magical goodies are kept and guarded by the loyal beefeaters. Buckingham Palace is still the home to the monarch, but we’ve added a magical supersonic state coach that runs through a secret tunnel all the way to the Tower of London and the underground base.  Edinburgh Castle is (really) built on the plug of an extinct volcano that of course isn’t so dormant in the fantasy world of the book.

In Defender of the Realm: Dark Age, the second in the series, we’ve had the pleasure of adding yet more locations as we build up our world. Undead Vikings are the slightly whiffy new villains and, are attracted back to the places their forebears raided a thousand years ago, looking for gold. Two cities with Viking history, York and Cambridge feature heavily. One of my favourite chapters takes place on Lindisfarne. Also known as Holy Island, it sits just off the coast of Northumberland and is the site of a lonely monastery and wind-swept castle. In the book, it’s home to a Roderick “Sultana” Raisin, a semi-retired beefeater, secretly charged with keeping a look out from Britain’s coast for supernatural threats. And let’s just say old Sultana is the first UK citizen for a thousand years to get up close and personal with a Viking…

And there’s a personal connection here, too. When I was little, I visited Lindisfarne abbey and castle with my grandparents. I clambered over the walls and probably hoped I’d stumble upon a knight’s rusty gauntlet or at the very least, a secret room leading to a magical world. And thirty years later, writing this book, I kind of got my wish.

Defender of the Realm: Dark Age by Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler published by Scholastic is out now.

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

You can find my review of the first book in the series, Defender Of The Realm here


About Mark Huckerby & Nick Ostler

Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler are Emmy and BAFTA-nominated screenwriters best known for writing popular TV shows such as Danger Mouse and Thunderbirds Are Go! 

You can find out more about Mark & Nick on their website www.ostlerandhuckerby.com

Or why not follow them both on twitter using @huckywucky and @nickostler


Blog Tour

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


A huge thank you to Lorraine at Scholastic for having me as part of this fab tour and to Mark for a brilliant guest post!

Have you read Defender Of The Realm: Dark Ages?  What did you think?  Has this review made you want to go grab a copy?  I would love to here 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 and defending the country!

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!

Spotlight – Michelle Toy In Conversation With Jennifer Niven & Lauren James


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Tonight I am doing something very exciting indeed!

It’s no secret that I am a HUGE fan of Jennifer Niven and I am so honoured to have been asked by the lovely Clare Kelly at Penguin to chair an event as part of Jennifer’s UK tour!

I keep pinching myself to check I’m not dreaming.

Of course I agreed and then just to top the icing on the cake I find out it will also be with another of my favourite author, Lauren James, too!

How lucky am I?!

*squeals in excitement*

I’m even on the Waterstones website and everything!

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I’ve been busy prepping questions for this fab event and I thought it would be fun to shine the spotlight on the authors and their books a little and find out a little more about them……


Event Information

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Superstar authors Jennifer Niven and Lauren James join us for an exciting evening of conversation with Tales Of Yesterday Blogger – Michelle Toy!

They’ll be discussing the trials and tribulations of being a teenager of today, as well as first-loves, mental health and time travel!

Expect plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and some serious business, ask your burning questions and get your books signed.

Jennifer Niven is the author behind the tear-jerkers All the Bright Places and Holding Up The Universe.

Lauren James is the author of the time travelling-romance duology, The Next Together and The Last Beginning.

This event is £3.
(ticket price redeemable against a copy of one book)

To book your seat:
Call: 0121 633 4353
Tweet: @waterstonesbham
Email: events.birmingham@waterstones.com
Book online or pop in store and speak to a bookseller.


Jennifer Niven

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Jennifer Niven lives in Los Angeles. Even though she’s always wanted to be a Charlie’s Angel, her true passion is writing. In 2000, she started writing full-time, and has now written eight books. All the Bright Places is Jennifer’s first novel for young adult readers.  As a companion to the book, Jennifer has created Germ, a web magazine for and run by girls (and boys) — that celebrates beginnings, futures, and all the amazing and agonizing moments in between.

       www.jenniferniven.com @jenniferniven

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From the author of the New York Times bestseller All the Bright Places comes a heart-wrenching story about what it means to see someone – and love someone – for who they truly are.

Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed ‘America’s Fattest Teen’. But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to see who she really is. Since her mum’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the art of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his own brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game which lands them in group counseling, Libby and Jack are both angry, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world – theirs and yours.

Jennifer Niven delivers another poignant, exhilarating love story about finding that person who sees you for who you are – and seeing them right back.

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Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the ‘natural wonders’ of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself – a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. How far will Violet go to save the boy she has come to love?

An intense, gripping novel, perfect for fans of John Green, Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, Gayle Forman and Jenny Downham.

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

You can catch a Q&A I did with Jennifer Niven here

Or an All The Bright Places Spotlight featuring some fab bloggers here


Lauren James

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Lauren James is 23, and graduated in 2014 from the University of Nottingham, UK, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. Her first novel The Next Together, a YA reincarnation romance, is out now with Walker Books in the UK and has been translated into over six languages worldwide. The Last Beginning was published in October 2016.

She is an Arts Council grant recipient, and is longlisted for the 2016 Branford Boase Award. She lives in the West Midlands. You can find her on Twitter at @Lauren_E_James or her website laurenejames.co.uk  

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A powerful and epic debut novel about fate and the timelessness of first love. Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again. Each time their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated. How many times can you lose the person you love? For Matthew and Katherine it is again and again, over and over, century after century. But why do they keep coming back? How many times must they die to save the world? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace? Maybe the next together will be different.  

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Winter, 1940: there is a murderer on the loose at Bletchley Park, the headquarters of Britain’s most daring codebreaking operation against the Nazis. Can two young codebreakers Kitty and Matthew catch the killer?

This standalone short story can be enjoyed by new readers and existing fans of Lauren James’s The Next Together series.

tumblr_o7i0m9jotl1qe8zmko1_250-195x300The epic conclusion to Lauren James’ debut The Next Together about true love and reincarnation. Sixteen years ago, after a scandal that rocked the world, teenagers Katherine and Matthew vanished without a trace. Now Clove Sutcliffe is determined to find her long lost relatives. But where do you start looking for a couple who seem to have been reincarnated at every key moment in history? Who were Kate and Matt? Why were they born again and again? And who is the mysterious Ella, who keeps appearing at every turn in Clove’s investigation? For Clove, there is a mystery to solve in the past and a love to find in the future.    

 

 

You can buy Lauren’s books here or at your local bookshop


jen

It would be awesome to see you there!

Do tweet @WaterstonesBham for your ticket!

Have you read any of these books or met any of these fab authors before? What questions would you ask if you were chairing the panel?  I would love to here from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of the page or tweet me on twitter using @ChelleyToy !

Wish me luck!

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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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Guest Post – The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall – 5 stories behind the story… by Karen McCombie


The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall

I am super excited to have been asked to be part of the blog tour for this wonderful historical MG fantasy, The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall by Karen McCombie.

The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall was released on the 2nd June 2016 published in paperback by Scholastic.

A huge thank you to Faye Rogers and Scholastic for having me on this wonderful tour.

For my stop on the blog tour I have a wonderful guest post from the lovely author herself, Karen McCombie with five stories behind The W.


The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall

Ellis is losing track of time…

After leaving her friends to move to a crumbling Scottish mansion, Ellis is overcome by anxiety and loneliness. Then she hears whispers in the walls…and finds herself whisked back in time to 1912. 

At first, she feels like she’s finally home. But the past may not be as perfect as it seems – and is there more to hope for in the present than she first thought?


The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall – 5 stories behind the story…

1) I was fearsomely shy as a child

We moved a lot – I went to five primary schools, including one in Australia – and I just wasn’t resilient enough to handle that without wobbling. Every move felt like an uphill battle to start again, negotiating new classmates, trying to suss out who’d be nice and who’d be horrible. I channelled some of that ‘moving’ dread when I wrote the character of Ellis, whose mother’s new husband whisks them from bustling London to the wilds of the Scottish Highlands.

2) OK, sometimes it was a little WORSE that just shy wobbles

I had some of the best times and the best of friends in my teens, but occasionally, anxiety would roll right in out of nowhere and bowl me over. It’s happening now for my own teen daughter, and when I was writing ‘The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall’, I really felt I wanted to reflect what anxiety feels like, since it’s a reality for so many teens. But also, I wanted it to be just part of Ellis’s reality. For the teen me, for my lovely daughter, for so many teenagers out there, it’s important to remember that while you have to acknowledge it and understand it, anxiety doesn’t define you.

3) I grew up on the 14th floor of a high-rise block of flats

My surroundings might have been very modern, but as a child, my heart was lost to history. I’d sit in my bedroom in Aberdeen, Scotland, with views of the North Sea and oil rigs outside, while inside, my head was full of Victorian ghost stories (‘The Amazing Mr Blunden’ by Antonia Barber), Georgian mysteries (‘The Strange Affair of Adelaide Harris’ by Leon Garfield) and pioneering life in the USA of the 1800s (‘The Little House on the Prairie’ series by Laura Ingalls Wilder). I was SO much of a history nut that it surprises me now to think I haven’t written historical novels till fairly recently, with last year’s WII evacuee story ‘Catching Falling Stars’ my first.

4) Stealing people’s lives is an occupational hazard

It’s tricky being an author’s friend or family member; we pinch bits of your lives all over the place! And in ‘The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall’, Ellis’s mum Sadie is loosely based on my lovely friend Emily, who is a hair and make-up artist. I’ve loved the stories she’s told me of the glamorous shoots she’s been on, working with famous actors, musicians and models (and wow, can some of them be AWFUL, naming no names). But I’ve loved her tales of working on less-glamorous jobs too, like the time she had to paint 20 actors totally orange for a Tango commercial! Come to think of it, I owe Emily a copy of ‘The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall’ and a big thank you…

5) The house that haunts me still…

In my twenties, a film student friend asked me to help with a film project. It sounded fun, so I said yes, of course. Fast-forward, and we’re in the wilds of the countryside, INSIDE a long-deserted, decaying Victorian manor house that my friend had discovered and wanted use as a location. Technically, we were trespassing – which made me feel extremely uncomfortable, but I am SO glad that I bent the rules (if not quite broke the law) and wandered around the faded grandeur of the sadly vandalised building. It felt like such a privilege to have seen it, and to imagine it in all its glory. The house, naturally, has become Wilderwood Hall in my novel. I’d love to revisit it, but in the years since, when I’ve been back in the area and driven around, I’ve never been able to rediscover it. And somehow I think it’s better to leave it that way…

The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall

You can buy a copy of this book here or why not visit your local bookshop

Or why not add it to Goodreads here


About Karen McCombie

Karen McCombie

Karen McCombie is from Aberdeen but now lives in North London with her husband, daughter and one big ginger cat. 

Before Karen became a full-time writer she worked for several teen magazines such as Just Seventeen, Bliss and Sugar in a variety roles – everything from Fashion Editor to Features Editor – all very exciting and glam!

Karen has sold over one million books in the UK alone and has been translated into 15 languages.

Find out more at www.karenmccombie.co.uk and take the opportunity to join Karen’s Club!

You can also follow Karen on twitter – @karenmccombie

Or Facebook here


Blog Tour

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

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Monday 6th June

Powered By Reading

Library Girl and Book Boy

Tuesday 7th June

So Many Books, So Little Time

A Daydreamer’s Thoughts

Wednesday 8th June

Kirstyes

Big Book Little Book

Thursday 9th June

Tales of Yesterday

An Awfully Big Adventure

Friday 10th June

YA Yeah Yeah

Snuggling on the Sofa

Saturday 11th June

Luna’s Little Library

Sunday 12th June

Bookish Outsider

 

 

 


A huge huge thank you to Karen for such a fab guest post and to Faye Rogers and Schlastic for organising!

Have you read The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall?  What did you think?  Have read any of Karen’s other books?  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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Spotlight – #ThisIsWhoIAm Tour – Birmingham


IMG_1193On the 8th June 2016 Waterstones Birmingham have a fab event with an awesome author line up!

I had reserved my ticket and was all set and ready to attend and then Waterstones contacted me and asked me a question….

tiwiatThat’s right!  The people at Waterstones Birmingham are letting me loose in these fab authors!

With thanks to Waterstones (and persuasion from my hubby and friends Jim Dean and Faye Rogers – thanks guys) I will be chairing this fab panel at this fab event!

I am a little nervous I have to admit but I am also hugely excited!

Do tweet @WaterstonesBham for a free ticket!

So whilst I am busy reading these fab authors books (or the ones I’ve not yet read yet) and prepping questions I thought it would be fun to shine the spotlight on them a little and find out a little more about them……

You can also check out what I would put in my time capsule here


Eve Ainsworth

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Eve Ainsworth is a writer of Adult and YA fiction. She also loves tea (lots of it), 80’s music and most things relating to The Beatles.

Seven Days, Eve’s Young Adult debut, was published by Scholastic Uk in Feb 2015. The Blog of Maisy Malone is a adult comedy novel that has received pleasing reviews on Amazon.
Crush, also published by Scholastic will be published in March 2016.

Eve has had short stories published in magazines such as Writers’ Forum and Prima.

She is now working on her third YA novel for Scholastic.

Please check out her website www.eveainsworth.com or follow her on Twitter @EveAinsworth        

7 days

 

School should be a safe place for Jess, but at the moment it’s everything she dreads. Jess’s life is difficult enough without Kez picking on her. Kez’s life isn’t any sweeter. She has plenty of problems too but she finds comfort in knowing she is better off than Jess – or so she thinks… Told from the point of view of the bullied and the bully, this is a taut, powerful story of two girls locked in battle with each other and themselves, spiralling towards a shocking conclusion.    

 

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Love hurts … but should it hurt this much? Reeling from her mum’s sudden departure, Anna finds the comfort she needs in her blossoming relationship with Will. He’s handsome and loving, everything Anna has always dreamt of. He’s also moody and unpredictable, pushing her away from her friends, her music. He wants her to be his and his alone. He wants her to be perfect. Anna’s world is closing in. But threatening everything is a dark secret that not even Will can control… Eve Ainsworth’s gripping second novel is a pitch-perfect exploration of love at its most powerful, addictive and destructive. 

 

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

Check out my review of 7 Days here or Crush here

Also check out this fab character Q&A with Lyn from 7 Day’s here


Harriet Reuter Hapgood 

harriet_reuter_hapgoodHarriet Reuter Hapgood is a freelance journalist who has worked with Marie Claire, ELLE and InStyle in the UK. The Square Root of Summer was inspired by her German mathematician grandfather and her lifelong obsession with YA romance, which includes an MA thesis on Dawson’s Creek from London College of Fashion and a dissertation on romantic comedies at Newcastle University. She lives in Brighton.  

You can find out more about Harriet on her website – http://harrietreuterhapgood.com/ or follow her on twitter – @hapgoodness 

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My heart is a kaleidoscope, and when we kiss it makes my world unravel . . .

Last summer, Gottie’s life fell apart. Her beloved grandfather Grey died and Jason, the boy to whom she lost her heart wouldn’t even hold her hand at the funeral. This summer, still reeling from twin heartbreaks, Gottie is lost and alone and burying herself in equations. Until, after five years absence, Thomas comes home: former boy next door. Former best friend. Former everything. And as life turns upside down again she starts to experience strange blips in time – back to last summer, back to what she should have seen then . . .

During one long, hazy summer, Gottie navigates grief, world-stopping kisses and rips in the space-time continuum, as she tries to reconcile her first heartbreak with her last.

The Square Root of Summer is an astounding and moving debut from Harriet Reuter Hapgood.

You can buy The Square Root Of Summer here or from your local bookshop.


Lauren James  

71cXRJuzSVL._UX250_Lauren James is 23, and graduated in 2014 from the University of Nottingham, UK, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. Her first novel The Next Together, a YA reincarnation romance, is out now with Walker Books in the UK and has been translated into over six languages worldwide. The Last Beginning will be published in October 2016.

She is an Arts Council grant recipient, and is longlisted for the 2016 Branford Boase Award. She lives in the West Midlands. You can find her on Twitter at @Lauren_E_James or her website laurenejames.co.uk  

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A powerful and epic debut novel about fate and the timelessness of first love. Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again. Each time their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated. How many times can you lose the person you love? For Matthew and Katherine it is again and again, over and over, century after century. But why do they keep coming back? How many times must they die to save the world? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace? Maybe the next together will be different.  

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The epic conclusion to Lauren James’ debut The Next Together about true love and reincarnation. Sixteen years ago, after a scandal that rocked the world, teenagers Katherine and Matthew vanished without a trace. Now Clove Sutcliffe is determined to find her long lost relatives. But where do you start looking for a couple who seem to have been reincarnated at every key moment in history? Who were Kate and Matt? Why were they born again and again? And who is the mysterious Ella, who keeps appearing at every turn in Clove’s investigation? For Clove, there is a mystery to solve in the past and a love to find in the future.    

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Winter, 1940: there is a murderer on the loose at Bletchley Park, the headquarters of Britain’s most daring codebreaking operation against the Nazis. Can two young codebreakers Kitty and Matthew catch the killer?

This standalone short story can be enjoyed by new readers and existing fans of Lauren James’s The Next Together series.

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

NB – The Last Beginning is due to be released on the 6th October2016 and the e-short Another Together on the 2nd June 2016


Leila Sales   

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I was born in 1984, and I grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts, with my parents and our cat. When I was little, I wanted to grow up to be a writer, actress, or singer. The writing part turned out to be easiest to accomplish, since it turns out I can’t really carry a tune, though I can do a pretty compelling karaoke rendition of “Hey Mickey.”

I wrote and illustrated approximately one million picture books when I was in elementary school, all of them about unicorns or cats or princesses, or princess unicorns who were best friends with princess cats. When I was seven, I wrote a longer story about quintuplets named Marissa, Larissa, Clarissa, Melissa, and Alyssa. The quintuplets were not princesses, but they did get invited to a royal ball.

During middle school and high school, I wrote five unpublished YA novels. I also acted in plays, competed in gymnastics meets and debate tournaments, babysat, and did an awful lot of schoolwork. My favorite school subject was math, and my worst subject was either science or Spanish.

I went to college at the University of Chicago, where I majored in psychology. I also performed in Off-Off Campus (an improvisational and sketch comedy troupe), competed in debate tournaments all over the world, helped judge the world’s largest scavenger hunt, and wrote a humor column for the school paper. And I wrote another unpublished YA novel, for which I was awarded the Olga and Paul Menn Foundation Prize for Fiction Writing.

After graduating, I got a job at a children’s book publishing company in New York City, where I remain to this day. My first novel was published in 2010, and since then, I’ve just kept working on more. During the daytime I read other people’s books, and during the nighttime I write my own. What more could I need?

Learn more about me by following me on Twitter or befriending me on Facebook.

You can also find out more about Leila on her website – http://leilasales.com/

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All her life, Elise Dembowski has been an outsider. Starting a new school, she dreams of fitting in at last – but when her best attempts at popularity fail, she almost gives up. In a cry for help, she self-harms, and when news of that gets around school, things get even worse for Elise.

But then she stumbles upon a secret warehouse party. There, at night, Elise can be a different person, making real friends, falling in love for the first time, and finding her true passion – DJing.

But when her real and secret lives collide, she has to make a decision once and for all: just who is the real Elise?

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Seventeen-year-old Arden Huntley is recklessly loyal. Taking care of her loved ones is what gives Arden purpose: it makes her feel like she matters. But she’s tired of being loyal to people who don’t appreciate her – including her needy best friend and her absent mum.

Arden stumbles upon a blog called ‘Tonight the Streets Are Ours’, the musings of a young New York City writer named Peter, and it feels like she’s finally found a kindred spirit. When Peter is dumped by the girlfriend he blogs about, Arden decides to take a road trip to see him.

During one crazy night in NYC filled with parties, dancing and music – the type of night when anything can happen, and nearly everything does – Arden discovers that Peter isn’t exactly who she thought he was. And maybe she isn’t exactly who she thought she was either.

You can buy Leila’s books here or at your local bookshop


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It would be awesome to see you there!

Do tweet @WaterstonesBham for a free ticket!

You can also check out what I would put in my time capsule here

Have you read any of these books or met any of these fab authors before? What questions would you ask if you were chairing the panel?  I would love to here from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of the page or tweet me on twitter using @ChelleyToy !

Wish me luck!

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Tales Events – #BrumHist Waterstones Birmingham April 2016


IMG_0785On the 2nd April 2016 I attended this brilliant Historical Fiction In YA and MG event at Waterstones Birmingham with five awesome authors!

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It was brilliant afternoon full of interesting facts and writing historical fiction tips!

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There was the awesome Emma Carroll….

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The lovely Katherine Woodfine….

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The brilliant Lauren James

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The fabulous Helen Maslin

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And the wonderful Rhian Ivory who was the chair of the event….

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We were encouraged to live tweet using the #BrumHist from the event.  A few of us did this and I think it really captured the conversations and the event so I have storified it!

As you can see the panel was brilliant!

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After the event it was time for a signing!

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And of course time for a mingle with the authors and meet internet friends in real life!

brumhist16brumhist15A huge thank you to Waterstones Birmingham for hosting such a fab event and to all the authors for being absolutely brilliant!

Happy Reading!

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Tales Q&A with Michael Grant


 

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Today, 28th January 2016, marks the release of the brilliant Front Lines by the awesome Michael Grant!

Happy Book Birthday Michael!

I am lucky enough to have received a copy from the lovely people at Electric Monkey and judging from what I have been hearing about this book I cannot wait to read it!

Today I am so over the moon to have the awesome Michael Grant on Tales with a fab Q&A!

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Hi Michael!  Welcome to Tale Of Yesterday!  I am so excited to have you here!

Firstly a little about the wonderful Front Lines…

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It’s WWII, but not as you remember it from history lessons! This time the girls aren’t stitching socks for the brave boys at the front. Meet Rio Richlin and her friends Frangie Marr and Rainy Schulterman, three of the newest recruits in the US Armed Forces. They stand shoulder to shoulder with the boys from home as they take on Hitler’s army.

In the face of reluctant colonels and sceptical sergeants, the soldier girls must prove their guts, strength, and resourcefulness as soldiers. Rio has grown up in a world where men don’t cry and girls are supposed to care only about ‘money and looks’. But she has always known that there is something wrong with this system and something else in her. Far from home and in the battlefields, Rio discovers exactly who she is and what she can accomplish.

Can you tell us a little about Front Lines?

FRONT LINES is an alternate history of the American experience of World War 2 in Europe. I make one big change: I imagine a Supreme Court decision has made women eligible for the draft and service in combat.  From there I follow three young women – girls, really – who enlist.  Rio Richlin becomes a combat soldier, Frangie Marr is a medic, and Rainy Schulterman joins Army intelligence.

What inspired you to write about an alternate World War II where young women are called up to fight alongside men?

 Basically I thought it would be a fun way for me to take the history everyone thinks they know and look at it through a very different lens.

 Can you tell us a little about the main character Rio Richlin?

 Rio is inspired in part by Audie Murphy, a little guy, just 5’5”, who no one thought should be in combat, but who went on to become the most decorated American soldier in the whole war. Rio is under age, she’s a girl from a small town, her father runs a feed store, and her mother has a small dairy operation.  She’s not special or secretly a wizard and she has no powers.  She’s a typical small town girl who gets swept up in the biggest war in human history.

 How important are names to you? Did you pick any of the characters names in Front Lines (or any of your books) for a reason?

 I’ve learned a trick over time: use names that are easy to Google, unique names.

 What was your favourite scene to write?

 Oh, I love action scenes. Those are always my favourite things to write. 

 Do you see yourself in any of the characters in Front Lines (or any of your books) or have you used any of your own experiences in any stories?

 I mostly avoid putting myself or anyone I know into any book. So none of the characters are me.

 If rumours are true we may be seeing Front Lines on the big screen? If you could cast your characters from Front Lines in a big Hollywood film adaptation who would you choose?

 I have no information on a movie deal, I’m afraid. I’d love to see it happen, but Hollywood sadly does not take orders from me.  As for casting, I don’t really know any actors.  I mean, would I love to see Chloe Grace Moretz doing a GI version of Hit Girl?  Uh, yeah, who wouldn’t?

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What would you like your reader to take from Front Lines?

 I don’t think along those lines much. I’m basically an entertainer, I’m not a teacher.  So if my stories entertain you, cool, my work is done.

 What do you think makes a good story?

 Someone you care about has to do interesting things, and have interesting things done to them.

 I was shocked (in a OMG….my childhood….I can’t believe it way) to hear at a recent event that you ghost wrote some of the Sweet Valley High books! Dum dum duuuuummmm! I did not know this!  Therefore we would love to know a little bit more about you!  Can you give us 5 random facts we don’t know about Michael Grant?

 1) I was a high school drop-out.

2) I moved in with my wife 24 hours after seeing her through a window.

3) Ialso wrote a series called Barf-O-Rama, under a pseudonym.

4) I quite like being bald, I wouldn’t change it.

5) I would move to London in a heartbeat if I thought I could survive the overcast skies.

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

 Astrid from the GONE series. She’s smart, she’s manipulative, she’s a little bitchy, she’s blond. . . In short, she reminds me of my wife.  And I like my wife.

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

 I didn’t want to be a writer growing up, I didn’t start until I was in my 30’s. I knew I could write, which sounds arrogant, but I knew it.  I just didn’t want to, because I wanted to be the hero, not just write about the hero.  It took me a while to get over that.

 Do you have any favourite world war II reads?

 Rick Atkinson’s Liberation Trilogy is what got me thinking about writing about WW2.

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And Elizabeth Wein’s brilliant Code Name Verity set the bar pretty high and I was challenged to clear it.

51kbSh5l6JL__SX323_BO1,204,203,200_ Are there any recent works or authors that you admire or books you wish you had written?

 Zebulon Finch, by Dan Kraus. What a great book, what great characters.

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What are you currently reading?

 I’m actually re-reading the Flashman series by George MacDonald Fraser. He uses sex and humour to paint genuinely moving portraits of great historical events and figures. The guy was brilliant.  The whole series is a work of genius.

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What is your favourite book of 2015?

 It’s my wife’s book, Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate, of course.

519bewOfQIL__SX325_BO1,204,203,200_ After seeing you and Andrew Smith together at an event this year I think you should write a book together!

 Oh, Andrew and I would commit mutual murder if we wrote together. He’s a planner, I’m an improviser.  He’s meticulous, I’m all about momentum.  He’s an artist, I’m just a storyteller.

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

I start with what I call a Series Bible. This is a document that is part sales pitch for my editor, part overview of the project.  It forces me to think through the concept, though not the story.  In my series bible I’ll have an elevator pitch, thoughts on marketing, thoughts about the psychology and philosophy of the book, character descriptions with photos I pull off the web, locations, etc…

 I use that series bible to convince my editor I have a general idea what I’m doing. Then she signs me up, and I start work.  I start at the beginning, usually with no idea at all what’s happening next, let alone how it will end. 

 Do you have any strange writing habits?

 I have developed this need to write out of doors. Normally I sit in a rocking chair on my deck, which looks out over San Francisco Bay.  If it’s too cold or wet I drive to the Marin Headlands and work in my car.  I drink a whole lot of coffee, smoke a cigar, sometimes write while I have punk or reggae in my ear buds. 

  Did music have any influence the story of Front Lines or any of your books?

 I don’t so much enjoy music, or get inspired by it, as use it.  It’s a tool. I use it to get myself fired up.  It’s my musical cattle prod. 

I know Front Lines is a planned trilogy. Are there any exciting plans for 2016?

 I have already finished Book 2: Silver Stars. January 26, 2016 is Book One, and the next book drops a year later.

 And finally when I are you coming to England again?!

As soon as Egmont wants me there. I love the UK.  Do you know what my current TV viewing consists of?  Downloads of British panel shows like QI, 8 out of 10 Cats, and my favourite, Would I Lie To You?  I am a huge fan of David Mitchell, Lee Mack, Stephen Fry, Jimmy Carr and more.  And of course my addiction to The Great British Bake-Off is well known, especially since in the last series I picked three bakers right at the start who became the final three.  I feel I should have gotten at least a cupcake or a petit four for that feat of prophecy. 

Or maybe you could be on The Great British Bake Off!

Thank you so much for answering all of my questions Michael it’s been brilliant to have you here!

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You can buy Front Lines by Michael Grant here or why not visit your local independent bookshop for a copy.

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About Michael Grant

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Michael Grant has always been fast-paced. He’s lived in almost 50 different homes in 14 US states, and moved in with his wife, Katherine Applegate, after knowing her for less than 24 hours. His long list of previous occupations includes: law librarian, cartoonist, bowling alley mechanic, restaurant reviewer, waiter, documentary film producer and political media consultant.

Grant and Applegate have co-authored more than 100 books, including the massive hit series Animorphs. Grant went on to write The New York Times and international bestselling series, GONE. His BZRK series takes participants on a roller-coaster ride across print and digital venues. His latest series, MESSENGER OF FEAR, is a morality tale, though since it’s written by Michael, the morality may be quite muddy at times. Front Lines, his latest thriller, will leave you turning pages far into the night. It is a reimagining of World War II

Sony and the creative team behind multi award-winning Breaking Bad optioned the TV rights for GONE in August 2013.

Michael, Katherine and their two children live in the San Francisco Bay Area, not far from Silicon Valley. He can be contacted via Twitter @MichaelGrantBks, and www.facebook.com/authormichaelgrant.

It’s hard to come up with a tagline for such a man. We like ‘Michael Grant is the evil genius of YA fiction‘ but Michael came up with a couple of ideas of his own.

Check out Michael’s Website here

You can buy Front Lines by Michael Grant here


 Another huge huge thank you to Michael for agreeing to a Q&A and to Alice and Egmont for organising!

Are you a Michael Grant fan?  Have you read Front Lines?  What did you think?  Has this Q&A intrigued you?  I would love to hear from you!  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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