Category Archives: YA

Guest Post – Where It All Started…. by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison


I am super excited to have the super funny Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison on the blog today to celebrate the release of their new book Freshers.

Freshers was published 3rd August by the lovelies at Chicken House and it set to make you laugh your little socks off!

So today Tom and Lucy are taking another trip down memory lane and telling us where their writing partnership began…..


Uni beckons. Phoebe can’t wait to be a fresher – especially since her crush from school will be there too. She’ll be totally different at Uni: cooler, prettier, smarter … the perfect potential girlfriend. She’ll reinvent herself completely. But Luke’s oblivious, still reeling from the fallout of the break-up with his ex. Thrown head first into a world of new friends, parties and social media disasters – can Phoebe and Luke survive the year, let alone find each other?


Where It All Started…..

It’s not a strictly a university memory, this one, but we thought we’d share a little memory of the origins of our writing partnership. Because this not-very-impressive-looking piece of pink paper marks the first time that we ever did anything creative together.
 
 It was in the sixth form at school – a play called ‘In The Name Of Love’ which was co-written by Tom, and starred Lucy. It was an absolutely shameless rip-off of a very good comedy play called ‘Noises Off’, and it was about the final episode of a trashy American soap opera. Tom played a slightly insane elderly British actor, and Lucy played a high-pitched, screaming Valley Girl. 
We had only met a few months back and were just starting to become mates – but we got together, and started going out, at the after-cast party for this play. 
During this, and the other plays we were in together at school, we realised how much fun it was working together, coming up with silly, funny stuff. We both went off to York Uni afterwards and we didn’t really do anything particularly creative during our time there, but we always planned to. And then, after graduating, we started trying to come up with ideas for stuff we could write. We first experimented with writing (half a) sitcom script about a boy and a girl in their early twenties, but it was fairly awful. And then Lucy had the idea to try and write a dual narrative YA book, and now, five years and three books later, here we are! But it was this little scrap of pink paper that started it all… There’s actually a DVD of the play somewhere, although I think it would be too excruciatingly embarrassing (for us) to ever watch…
You can buy a copy of Freshers here or from your local bookshop!
You can see a previous post about Tom & Lucy’s favourite funny books here

About Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison

Lucy Ivison, lives in London and is a school librarian who runs an online teen magazine, Whatever After, as well as teaching in girls’ schools across London specialising in building confidence and creativity.

Tom, currently living in Paris, is a journalist and has written for ShortList, Time Out, Vice, talkSPORT, ESPN and Viz.

You can follow Lucy on twitter – @lucyivison


Blog Tour

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


Another huge thank you to Tom & Lucy for a brilliant guest post!

Also a huge thank you to Nina Douglas and Chicken House for asking me to feature this and for sending me the book for review!

Have you read Freshers?  What were your thoughts?  Are you intrigued to read this book after reading this post?  I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment by using the reply button at the top of the page or tweet me on twitter using @ChelleyToy

Happy Reading!

Cover Reveal – The Last Days Of Archie Maxwell by Annabel Pitcher


 

I am over the moon to have been asked by the lovely Nina Douglas to reveal the gorgeous cover for The Last Days Of Archie Maxwell by the brilliant Annabel Pitcher.

Annabel is the International Award Winning Author of My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece, Ketchup Clouds and Silence Is Goldfish and this time she has teamed up with the lovelies at Barrington Stoke to bring us The Last Days Of Archie Maxwell.

I am super excited to read this and of course reveal this truly stunning cover!  I also have a little gorgeous intro from the lady herself, Annabel…..


The Blurb

The Last Days Of Archie Maxwell

Dads leave home all the time. It’s not that unusual, really. Leon’s dad walked out. So did Mo’s. But Archie’s? Well, that’s a different story – a story that Archie must keep secret at all cost. Archie knows he should accept Dad for who he is, so he hides his turmoil until he can stand it no longer. With nowhere else to turn, he finds himself at the railway track. The track has been calling to him, promising escape, release. The only problem is, it’s been calling to someone else too…

Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant and dyslexic readers aged 13+


About Annabel Pitcher

I was born in a small village in West Yorkshire where there were more sheep than people. No traffic, one shop, two pubs and lots of fields to play in – perfect. I love the country and, though I’ve enjoyed living in cities, I am definitely happiest in the middle of nowhere surrounded by hills.

You can find our more about Annabel on her website – www.annabelpitcher.com

Or why not follow Annabel on twitter – @APitcherAuthor    


Cover Reveal

And now the moment you have all been waiting for, but first lets hand you over to Annabel…..

IT’S HERE AT LAST!

I am SO thrilled to share with you the gorgeous, moody cover of my latest novel, The Last Days of Archie Maxwell. This book wrote itself. Well, it didn’t, in that I spent a huge amount of time at my desk, typing away, but the words came very easily (which isn’t always the case!). The idea popped into my head one rainy day in West Yorkshire as I was walking my dog by a railway track. Our path took us across the track itself. It wasn’t fenced off. There wasn’t even a sign telling us to be careful. The track was just…. there. Easily accessible. It ran directly past the gardens of a row of terraces, visible from their kitchens and bedrooms. As I stood on the track, staring down it, a train appeared in the distance. No alarm sounded to tell me to be careful. A guard didn’t appear to shove me off the track. There was just me and the train, the train and me. I stood for a few seconds longer than I should have done, and at that point, the idea for the story came to me. I can’t wait to share it with you.

Annabel

Isn’t it gorgeous!!!

You can buy a copy of The Last Days Of Archie Maxwell here

(Please note that this book is not due for release until 15th November 2017)


A huge thank you to Annabel for the wonderful intro and insight into her new book and to Nina Douglas for asking me to feature this fab cover reveal!

What do you think of the cover for The Last Days Of Archie Maxwell?  Are you intrigued? Have you read any of Annabel’s other books?  I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of this post or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy !

Happy Reading

Guest Post – Chris Russell’s Guide To Being “With The Band” by Chris Russell


I am so so excited to have the wonderful and awesome Chris Russell on the blog today to celebrate the release of his second book in his fab Songs About A Girl Trilogy, Songs About Us.

Songs About Us was released on the 13th July 2017 published by Hodder Children’s Books and is set to be a phenomenal read that will set your heart racing!

A modern love story for fans of Zoella – and for anyone who has ever dreamed of being ‘with the band’.

I’ve met Chris a few times now and I know he is in a brilliant band called The Lightyears so when Chris got in touch about a post I jumped straight in and asked him for his top tips on “Being With The Band”…..


A modern love story for fans of Zoella – and for anyone who has ever dreamed of being ‘with the band’.

Two months on from the explosive finale to book one, Charlie’s life is almost back to normal again: rebuilding her relationship with her father, hanging out with best mate Melissa, and worrying about GCSEs. All the while, Gabe’s revelations about her mother are never far from her mind. And neither is Gabe.

It’s not long before Charlie is pulled back into the world of Fire&Lights – but the band seem different this time. But then again, so is she…

Meanwhile, tensions between Gabe and Olly continue to run high, leading to more turmoil between the band members and press than ever before. But when Gabriel and Charlie stumble upon yet another startling truth that links them together – everything they have stands to implode in front of them.


Chris Russell’s Guide To Being “With The Band”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can buy both Songs About A Girl and Songs About Us here or from your local bookshop!


About Chris Russell

When I was thirteen, my best friend and I went to a Bon Jovi concert at Wembley Stadium. We thought it looked like fun, so we started our own band – a band that, ten years later, would become The Lightyears. Since then, we’ve been lucky enough to tour all over the world, from Cape Town to South Korea, playing at Glastonbury Festival and O2 Arena and supporting members of legendary rock bands such as Queen, Journey and The Who. And though we never made it anywhere near as big as Bon Jovi, we did get to play Wembley Stadium, four times, to crowds of over 45,000 people.

Music aside, writing was my first love. In 2014, I published a novel called MOCKSTARS, which was inspired by my tour diaries for The Lightyears. Shortly afterwards, following a three-month stint ghostwriting for a One Direction fan club, I came up with the idea of a YA novel that combined an intense teenage romance with the electrifying universe of a chart-topping boyband. That idea became the trilogy SONGS ABOUT A GIRL, which was signed up by Hodder Children’s in 2015, and has sold in multiple territories worldwide.

You can find out more about Chris in his website –www.chrisrussellwrites.com

Or why not follow Chris on Twitter – @chrisrusselluk


Blog Tour

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


A huge thank you to Chris for asking me to be part of his fab blog tour and for going along with my insane idea for a video!  Also a huge thank you to Hachette for sending me a copy of the book.

Have you read Songs About A Girl and/or Songs About Us?  What did you think?  Do you love Boy Band Lit??  I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment by clicking the reply button at the top of this page or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy

Happy Reading!

Tales Q&A with Gary D. Schmidt


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

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

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

You can find my full review here

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

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

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

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


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

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

You can find my full review of Orbiting Jupiter here


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Which authors or writers inspire you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can find my full review of Orbiting Jupiter here


About Gary D. Schmidt

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

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


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

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

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – End Times by Joss Stirling


I was super excited to have received a set of the brilliant Young Detective Agency series by Joss Stirling to celebrate the recent release of the final book in the series Scorched.

Scorched was published on the 6th April 2017 by the lovely people at OUP and I literally cannot wait to jump into this series.

So I asked Joss Stirling if she would like to feature on Tales to discuss endings and how it felt to write and ending.  Do things ever really end…..


Love is a fire. But who will get burned?

Ember Lord is facing charges for the murder of her father. She was found at the scene of the crime, holding the murder weapon, and refuses to explain herself.

Joe Masters is tasked with getting under Ember’s skin, and breaking through her stony facade; to gain her trust and find out what her plans are now her father’s legally-questionable business is under her control.

But as the two get closer, Joe begins to break down the wall that Ember has built around herself, and gets a glimpse of the truth behind. Is he really falling for a cold-hearted killer? Or is there more to the murder than meets the eye?

The incredible final instalment of Joss Stirling’s Young Detective Agency series, a companion novel to Stung, Shaken, and the award-winning Struck. Romantic thrillers that will make your heart skip a beat.

Check out the other books in this fab series….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


End Times

“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”

Frank Herbert

That’s how most writers feel when they get to the end of a series. I’ve just waved off Scorched to your bookshelves, the last in the Struck series. This was always planned as four books (Struck, Stung, Shaken and Scorched) so I knew I was on the last lap. My young detectives had gone undercover in a boarding school, been on a chase from Jakarta to London, rocked New York and now…well they had to break out of prison, naturally!

Yet there was also the matter of the bigger patterns in the story stretching across all the books. I had settled some things, found partners for my young detectives, but I also needed to discover what would be a suitable stopping point. I knew some things in advance:

–    I wasn’t going to do a Hamlet (i.e. all the main characters die)

–    It was going to be upbeat, a little euphoric. On this I usually side with Bilbo, here talking to Frodo as his nephew sets out on his quest:

“Have you thought of an ending?”

“Yes, several, and all are dark and unpleasant.”

“Oh, that won’t do! Books ought to have good endings. How would this do: and they all settled down and lived together happily ever after?”

There is enough darkness in the world without adding to it in a series that, though it covers serious themes, is mainly there for your reading pleasure.

–    There ought to be a sense of what life might be like in the future for the characters, allowing of course for the ups and downs we all experience. Perhaps a little bitterness mixed in with the sweet so that it feels more like the mixed-bag-that-is-life?

–    Everyone should be there. In a series, a reader invests time in all the characters so it’s only fair the reader gets to see them all again, something like the curtain call at the end of a show.

So, without giving any more away, that was what I was trying to do for the boys from the YDA, Joe, Damien, Nathan and Kieran.

Yet, as Herbert says, there is no real ending. I know I will get messages from readers wanting more – that is like asking for the film to start up again after the credits role. I’m sure that is why J K Rowling added that scene at the railway station at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. She was trying to get ahead of the fans. But, of course, that turns out not to be the end either. She went back to it in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It is so difficult to leave your story alone.

Do you have a favourite ending? Thinking about this blog post, I was wondering if there had ever been a poll on this. I found a list on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/574.Best_Ending) which includes a some of my favourites. The Great Gatsby gets my vote for sheer poetry. 1984 for bleakness. A Tale of Two Cities must be one of the most heroic and poignant. The Lord of the Rings also wins for its message that sometimes the heroes don’t get the reward, but it is left to those that they save. Pride and Prejudice is perhaps the happiest.

I can’t possibly try to match the brilliance of these examples but I hope you enjoy what I did in Scorched with my own sense of things coming to an end. However, I should warn you, I’m going to give my last word to the novelist, Graham Greene, who wrote in a book aptly named The End of the Affair:

‘Chemists tell you matter is never completely destroyed, and mathematicians tell you that if you halve each pace in crossing a room, you will never reach the opposite wall, so what an optimist I would be if I thought that this story ended here.’

You can buy a copy of Scorched or any of the fab Young Detective Agency series here or from your local bookshop!


About Joss Stirling

Joss Stirling is the winner of the Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2015 for STRUCK (first published as Storm and Stone) – the first time the award has been given to a teen book. You can find a book trailer on this page, where young detectives take a turn to star. The sequels are called STUNG and SHAKEN.

She is also the author of the internationally successful FINDING SKY, STEALING PHOENIX and SEEKING CRYSTAL, the first three books about the Benedict brothers, a family with extraordinary gifts. The stories combine her love for romance, mystery and travel – oh, yes and some seriously attractive heroes.

Readers demanded to know what happens to the remaining brothers so the next in the savant series, MISTY FALLS. Find out which Benedict brother meets his match! The story continues in ANGEL DARES – meet Joss’ most outrageous heroine yet! The series concludes with SUMMER SHADOWS.

Joss lives in Oxford, UK, is married with three children.

You can find out more and speak to Joss at www.jossstirling.co.uk.

Or why not follow Joss on twitter using – @jossstirling

I previously spotlight Joss Stirling’s Benedict Brothers series here


A huge huge thank you to Joss for such a fab post and to OUP for sending me the books and asking me to host!

Have you read Scorched or any of the Young Detective Agency series ?  What did you think?  What are you favourite types of endings?  I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of this post or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy!

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – Get Ahead As An Author—Get A Dog! by Nikki Sheehan


Today I am over the moon to be hosting a post from the lovely Nikki Sheehan to celebrate the release of Goodnight, Boy!

Goodnight,Boy is due for release on the 6th July 2017 published by the fab Rock The Boat.

I’ve read this book already and LOVED it so much!  Its gorgeous inside and out!

So today Nikki tells us about how to get ahead as an author……


A tale of two very different worlds, both shattered by the loss of loved ones. Tragic, comic and full of hope, thanks to a dog called Boy.

The kennel has been JC’s home ever since his new adoptive father locked him inside. For hours on end, JC sits and tells his dog Boy how he came to this country: his family, the orphanage and the Haitian earthquake that swept everything away.

When his adoptive mother Melanie rescues him, life starts to feel normal again. Until JC does something bad, something that upset his new father so much that he and Boy are banished to the kennel. But as his new father gets sicker, JC realizes they have to find a way out. And so begins a stunning story of a boy, a dog and their journey to freedom.


Get Ahead As An Author—Get A Dog!

Dogs make the very best muses. I know because I wrote a book about a boy and a dog, with two of my own fur babies constantly by my side. Goodnight, Boy is written to and about a dog, and it explores how, even in the very worst circumstances, a dog will keep you going. Any authors reading this will know that I’m only exaggerating slightly when I say that the badlands of 20,000 words into a first draft is a pretty bad place to find yourself. As is sitting down to the smell of freshly-sent editorial notes.

So here is a rundown of why, if you want to get ahead in publishing, you should most definitely get a dog.

Basics

The only indispensable rule I know for writing is that you must have your bum on a seat, and your fingers on the keyboard to produce anything. So, if, as a dog owner, you’re forced to spend more time at home, this is a good start. If you also have a dog keeping your toes warm (as Edith Wharton put it, ‘a heartbeat at my feet’), it really does discourage you from wandering off and doing housework.

Distractions

Talking of housework, once you’re a dog owner, I can guarantee you’ll spend less time on housework, redecorating and the general maintenance of what is normally seen as an acceptable standard of hygiene because keeping up with the mess dogs create is pretty much futile. One of my dogs sheds like a dandelion clock mid blow, 24 hours a day. This may sound like a negative, but actually time spent not hoovering can be diverted into words, paragraphs, chapters, and head stroking.

Hobbies

Forget hobbies. Writing takes time; for thinking, drafting, editing, and Twitter stalking writers more successful than yourself. So the last thing you need is an interesting pastime, such as badminton or medieval battle enactment. It won’t matter though, because, as a writer you get to experience any number of strange locations and events in your head. And, if you’re ever asked at a publishing party what else you do, just say you have a dog because a dog is a hobby, and I’ll fight anyone who disagrees.

Health and fitness

There’s a syndrome, coined by the incomparable author Pip Jones, known as SAAD: Spreading Author Arse Disorder. Sedentary hours make SAAD pretty much inevitable, so you’re going to have to get some exercise in somehow. Dogs like walks even though they don’t have Fitbit buddies to impress. The longer and more frequent the better, and in absolutely any weather (unless they’re like one of mine, who is half cat, and won’t go out if showers are forecast). On walkies your dog will meet up with their mates and you’ll make friends with their owners too (think, park scene in 101 Dalmations, but, in my experience, less romantic). If you’re lucky, these humans will be the sort who don’t mind you bouncing book ideas off them or moaning about writing. Even if they do, they’re a lot more polite about it than your family are. And when you’re not exploiting the personal generosity of strangers, you get to spend time walking alone listening to music and audio books (consuming other people’s books is part of the job) or just walking in silence, which sometimes allows you hear those really shy, difficult voices that lurk at the back of your brain.

Mental health

Being a writer can be wonderful but, contrary to popular belief, it’s probably not the way to

everlasting happiness. Granted, writing can be cathartic at times, but once you’ve catharted you have to live with the fact that other people, thousands of them, will be reading, judging, maybe even hurling across the room in disgust, the product of said catharsis. Fortunately, dogs probably can’t read – though, as the first draft of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men was eaten by his dog, Max, you have to wonder. Generally speaking, however, your dog will not mind how bad your first draft is. They equally won’t care about reviews, prizes, foreign rights sales, or if you’re even any good or hopelessly derivative and commercially out of kilter. Dogs are all about here and now. And, as writers, if we can try to be more dog, and concentrate on the process rather than the product, I have a feeling that we’d not only be a lot happier, but better writers too.

Love

People worry about being lonely if they work from home, but I never feel alone. I work with fantastic colleagues who can’t talk to me. This means they can’t discuss the project they’re working on, ask what’s for dinner, or chat about school. They never disagree with me, or storm off to their bedroom, and they don’t judge me when I get in a strop because Scrivener is stupid. (It is – fact). Dogs take tolerance and unconditional love to saintly levels, and like nothing better than to soothe the furrowed brow of the needy writer with a lick, a well-placed head on the lap, or a paw in the hand. They’re philosophers, therapists, personal trainers, and friends. And that’s why authors need dogs.

One last historical note; George Eliot’s publisher sent her a pug as part payment for one of her novels. A practice that, I hope my publisher will agree, should definitely be revived for 2017.

Mother and daughter Labradoodles, Tinker (left) and Coco

Nikki and Tinker

Coco and Tinker playing with their friend, Snowy, at Brighton Beach

You can buy a copy of Goodnight, Boy here or from your local bookshop!


About Nikki Sheehan

Nikki Sheehan is the youngest daughter of a rocket scientist. She went to a convent school in Cambridge where she was taught by real nuns in long black habits. After university Nikki’s first job was subtitling the Simpsons. She then studied psychology, retrained as a journalist, and wrote features for parenting magazines and the national press. She now writes mainly about education and property and is co-founder of an award-winning property blog. She is married and lives in Brighton with her husband, three children, two dogs, a cat, and an ever-fluctuating numbers of hamsters.

You can find out more about Nikki on her website – www.nikkisheehan.co.uk

Or why not follow Nikki on twitter – @NicoletteShhh


Blog Tour

You can catch the rest of this fab blog tour by checking out the hashtag #GoodNightBoyTour


A huge thank you to Nikki for such a fab guest post and to Cailin at Rock The Boat for organising and asking me to be part of the blog tour!

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

Happy Reading!

Tales Q&A with Lisa Drakeford


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secrets have to be revealed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s next?

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

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


About Lisa Drakeford

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

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

You can follow Lisa of twitter – @LisaDrakeford


Blog Tour

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


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

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

Happy Reading!

Guest Post – Blurring the Line Between Science Fact and Fiction by Sarah Govett


Today I have a fab guest post from the lovely Sarah Govett, author of the brilliant YA dystopian The Territory trilogy!

The Territory and The Territory:  Escape were released in 2015 and 2016 published by Firefly Press and with the third book in this fab trilogy due very soon I thought it would be perfect to showcase these fab books on my blog!

Today Sarah chats about blurring the lines between science fact and science fiction in this fab guest post….


Noa Blake is just another normal 15 year old with exams looming. Except in The Territory normal isn’t normal. The richest children have a node on the back of their necks and can download information, bypassing the need to study. In a flooded world of dwindling resources, Noa and the other ‘Norms’ have their work cut out even to compete. And competing is everything – because anybody who fails the exams will be shipped off to the Wetlands, which means a life of misery, if not certain death. But how to focus when your heart is being torn in two directions at once? One of The Telegraph’s best YA books of 2015

The year is 2059. Fifteen-year-old Noa Blake has passed the exam to stay in The Territory but her childhood friend Jack has been shipped off to the disease-ridden Wetlands, a death sentence in all but name. Noa and Raf have vowed to rescue him, but how? With an electric fence, gun towers and a police state monitoring their every move, getting into the Wetlands looks impossible, let alone getting home again. Second in The Territory trilogy, The Territory, Escape follows Noa, Raf and Jack as they battle through a world of raiders, mosquito swarms and psychopathic prisoners. Noa faces her own battle too is it just friendship that drives her and if not, is Jack still even hers to claim?


Blurring the Line Between Science Fact and Fiction

Today, on the 1st July I’m going to be at Bradford Literature Festival discussing ‘The Reality Behind Dystopian Futures’ and it’s got me thinking again about the world of The Territory (my dystopian trilogy) and whether it could ever come into being. Officially categorised as ‘fantasy’ (on the cover) or ‘science fiction’ (on Amazon), the more I read and research, the more I think that a better descriptor might be ‘speculative fiction’ in the Margaret Atwood sense of a future that could really happen.

In The Territory half of Britain is underwater as a result of flooding caused by unchecked global warming. OK, so I admit, this is unlikely to be the case in 2059, the year the series is set, but I would posit that it is an exaggeration rather than a mere flight of fancy. Research group Climate Change has predicted that a 4C temperature increase (the most likely scenario given the current rate of increase) would result in a sea level rise that would submerge land currently home to 470 to 760 million people worldwide. Closer to home this would mean in London areas including Battersea, Chiswick and the entire borough of Lambeth would be submerged, vast parts of Edinburgh, Liverpool and Belfast would disappear and almost all of Cardiff and Dublin could be underwater.

It would be nigh impossible to fit and feed the current population in a dramatically reduced land mass so very difficult decisions would have to be taken. In The Territory the new authoritarian government, the Ministry, has introduced an exam everyone has to sit aged 15. Pass and you get to stay on the dry land, the Territory, fail and you’re shipped off to the malarial wetlands for a life of misery if not certain death. The Minister claims that the system is fair as it applied to everyone regardless of colour, class or creed, but the reality is very different. Exams prioritise logical subjects at the expense of more creative ones and the richest people in society can pay for a procedure on their kids whereby they can upload information from computers directly into their brains, virtually bypassing the need to study.

So could this happen?

Well, again it’s probably not as far a stretch of the imagination as it might at first seem. Elements already exist. We currently examine teenagers within an inch of their lives. I’ve worked as a private tutor for the past 13 years and I’ve seen first hand how much pressure our education system places on young people. Some kids, including very bright ones, fall to pieces in exams – exams which are going to determine their future. Indeed in 2015/16 alone Childline conducted 3077 counseling sessions on coping with exam stress. Moreover, our education system does elevate logical subjects – Maths beats History, Science tramples over Art. And Students who are ill-prepared by their schools have to compete against peers who have been spoon-fed the answers by their teachers or family members and private tutors.

As for the more sci-fi element – the Childes who can upload – well, in the summer of 2015 the Director of Engineering at Google predicted that by 2030 people would be able to connect their brains to the internet via DNA nanotubes and thereby be able to artificially enhance their own intelligence. So we’re not a million miles away.

Finally malaria – could this come to Britain? When I wrote book 1, I’d kind of assumed that this wouldn’t happen, well not within my lifetime. But then, when I’d finished, I did some research and found that climate model scientists have predicted that by 2030, mosquitoes carrying the malarial plasmodium will be able to breed in Southern England  for up to 3 months of the year. 2030 is the year to watch out for.

In summary, I would hate the world of The Territory to come into being, but maybe, on the current path we’re on, certain elements are inevitable. The important thing then, is to change that path.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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


About Sarah Govett

I read law at Trinity College, Oxford. After qualifying as a solicitor, I set up my own tutoring agency, Govett Tutors, which specialises in helping children from all backgrounds.

I have also written for children’s television. I have two young children, and live in London with my stand-up comedian husband.

You can find our more about Sarah on her website – www.sarahgovett.com

Or why not follow Sarah on twitter – @sarahgovett


A huge thank you to Sarah for such a fan and thought provoking blog post and to Karolina Davison for organising.

Have you read The Territory or The Territory:  Escape?  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!

Spotlight – The Salvation Project by Stewart Ross


Today, 20th June 2017, is the release day of a new YA Thriller published by Kindle Press, The Salvation Project by Stewart Ross the third book in The Soterion Mission!

The Salvation Project is a fab new dystopian YA that is not to be missed!

To celebrate The Salvation Project release I wanted to shine the spotlight on the book and it’s author.  There will also be a fab blog tour which starts tomorrow with a tour wide giveaway!


Humanity’s hope of salvation lies within a single laptop…

A mutation in human DNA means no one lives beyond nineteen. Scientists working to reverse this pandemic died before their Salvation Project was complete, leaving behind the results of their research in a sealed vault – the Soterion.

122 years have passed. The civilisation of the ‘Long Dead’ is almost forgotten, the Soterion has been burned to ashes, and communities of Constants are tormented by brutal tribes of Zeds. Cyrus, Miouda and Sammy flee their burning city with a laptop rescued from the inferno. They believe it contains the key to the Salvation Project. But its batteries are dead, there is no electricity to power it, and murderous Zeds will stop at nothing to get it back…

You can buy a copy of The Salvation Project here

Or why not add the book to your Goodreads list here


About Stewart Ross

Stewart was born in Buckinghamshire and educated in Oxford, Berkhamsted, Exeter, Bristol, and Orlando, Florida. He taught at a variety of institutions in Sri Lanka, the Middle East, the USA, and Britain before becoming a full-time writer in 1989.

With over 300 published titles to his credit, he is now one of Britain’s most popular and versatile authors. His output includes prize-winning books for younger readers, novels, plays, three librettos, a musical, and many widely acclaimed works on history and sport. Several of his books are illustrated with his own photographs.

Stewart also lectures in France and the UK, gives talks, runs workshops, and visits schools. He is an occasional journalist and broadcaster. His brother, Charlie Ross, is the celebrated auctioneer.

In his spare time Stewart enjoys travel, restaurants, sport, theatre, photography, art and music. He lives near Canterbury with his wife Lucy, and – occasionally – his four children and two grandchildren. Each morning he commutes 10 metres to work in a large hut in the garden.

You can find out more about Stewart on his website – www.stewartross.com

Or why not follow Stewart on twitter – @Booksmyth

Or Facebook here

And also You Tube here


Goodreads Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Salvation Project by Stewart Ross

The Salvation Project

by Stewart Ross

Giveaway ends June 30, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 


Blog Tour

You can follow the fab blog tour for this book at the following stops!


A huge thank you to Faye Rogers for asking me to host the spotlight and having me as part of the fab blog tour!

Have you read The Salvation Project?  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 – Refugee Children Are My Children by Sita Brahmachari


Today I have a fab guest post from the lovely Sita Brahmachari to celebrate the release of her new YA book, Tender Earth.

Tender Earth was released on the 1st June 2017 published by Macmillan Children’s and is endorsed by Amnesty International UK.

‘A coming of age story for young protesters everywhere.’

 Tender Earth is endorsed by Amnesty International UK because it illuminates the importance of equality, friendship and solidarity, and upholds our right to protest against injustice.’

Today Sita talks about child refugees in this fab guest post….


Laila Levenson has always been the baby of the family, but now with her older siblings, Mira and Krish, leaving home just as she starts secondary school, everything feels like it’s changing… can the reappearance of Nana Josie’s Protest Book and the spirit it releases in Laila, her friends and her local community, help her find her own voice and discover what she truly believes in?
A powerful chime rings through Laila’s mind, guiding her to walk the footsteps of the past on her way to discover her own future.


Refugee Children Are My Children

Who has not been in the situation of listening to the news or reading the paper, looking at a photo of a child refugee and feeling helpless at being witness to the plight of child refugees travelling unaccompanied throughout the world?

While writing Tender Earth I thought a lot about how people get on with their own lives while knowing that there are children right at this moment whose human rights are being violated because they have been displaced by conflict and war… and so many of these children are alone.

In this scene in Tender Earth my heroine, Laila Levenson, is sitting with her adopted grandmother listening to the news. Laila’s ‘Bubbe’ herself arrived as a refugee in this country from Germany just before World War Two as part of the Kindertransport.

In Tender Earth my young and older characters ask the question, how will history judge us for our treatment of child refugees today?

I work as writer in Residence at The Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants. When you know people personally, listen to their stories and witness their bravery, they are no longer statistics and the reality of the situation comes home to you. In Tender Earth, Laila’s friendship with a girl in her tutor group, Pari Pashaei, the child of Iraqi refugees, makes Laila hear and experience the news in a different way. It makes her want to stand up and use her voice to make a difference.

   ‘Listen to the language they use! Quotas, swarms… as if people are insects – or vermin!’ Bubbe holds onto the delicate gold necklace that she always wears as she listens. The presenter is now interviewing a boy called Amit, his voice sounds so sweet and young:

 ‘I am ten years old. I make this journey on my own. My feet always hurting from walking so far. Nothing in my home is left. All is destroyed with shelling. I don’t know, where is my mother, where is my father, my sisters… We have no clean water, not enough food, and here are some not good people, you know? Please, give us some safety. Make your hearts open. How can you close your borders to us? We are only children. If you turn your backs from us, we will die. Once already I have died to lose my family. Now we die a second time.’

Do you ever ask the questions that Laila Levenson and her friends ask in Tender Earth? If you do, take a look at these links that I explored in my research… convert thought into action and, as soon as you are legally able, VOTE for what you believe in.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2012/nov/07/class-young-people-political-activis

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/may/17/traffickers-smugglers-exploit-record-rise-unaccompanied-child-refugees-migrants-unicef-report?CMP=twt_a

http://www.islingtoncentre.co.uk

http://youngroots.org.uk

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/resources/amnesty-youth-groups-action-february-2017-keep-refugee-families-togethe

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/dec/10/diary-16-year-old-afghan-refugee

https://www.amnestyusa.org/about-us/who-we-are/local-groups/

You can buy a copy of Tender Earth here or from your local bookshop


About Sita Brahmachari

I write in community and education settings, theatre, YA novels and short stories. I have an MA in Arts Education. Novels published by Macmillan Children’s Books are: ‘Artichoke Hearts’ – Waterstones Children’s Book Prize (2011) and nominated for the Carnegie Prize. Subsequent novels: ‘Jasmine Skies’ (2013) and ‘Red Leaves’ (2015) were nominated for the Carnegie Prize. ‘Red Leaves’ is endorsed by Amnesty International UK. ‘Kite Spirit’ (2013) was nominated for UKLA Book Award and is a Reading Agency ‘Book on Prescription.’For Barrington Stoke Publishers: ‘Brace Mouth, False Teeth’ and ‘Car Wash Wish.’ I was Online Writer in Residence for Book Trust (2015) and am Writer In Residence at Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants. ‘Tender Earth’ for Macmillan Children’s books, endorsed by Amnesty International UK is published in June 2017.

You can find out more about Sita on her website – www.sitabrahmachari.blogspot.co.uk

Or why not follow Sita on Twitter – @sitabrahmachari


A huge thank you to Sita for such a fab guest post and to Nina Douglas for asking me to host!

Have you read the Tender Earth?  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!

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