Tag Archives: Quercus

Guest Post – Teenage Nightmares by Mark Illis

Today I have a guest post from the wonderful Mark Illis with a fab guest post!

The Impossible, illustrated by Bimpe Alliu, was released on the 27th July published by Quercus and is “a comic-book inspired adventure with a graphic novel twist” that is not to be missed!

Today Mark chats about writing for teenagers and writing his first teenage novel, The Impossible in this fab guest post….

When Hector Coleman and his mates genetically mutate overnight, his life changes in impossible ways.

A comic-book inspired adventure with a graphic novel twist for fans of Joe Cowley, Joe Sugg and Charlie Higson.

Hector Coleman. Just your average angst-ridden teenager, living a normal rubbish life in a normal rubbish town with, let’s face it, a rubbish name. Until his mates start genetically mutating … and everything changes. Apart from his name. And his girl trouble. And his embarrassingly low number of Twitter followers. All those things, unfortunately, stay the same. For now …

Teenage Nightmares

Why does a 54 year old man want to write for teenagers? Because his inner teenager is alive and well, slouching on a bean-bag behind a closed door, smelling of stale sweat, in a bad mood about something, with his head in a book. He used to read The Famous Five, then The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Lord of the Rings, then he moved on to The Wizard of Earthsea, Lord of the Flies, To Kill A Mocking Bird and The Catcher in the Rye. That’s a pretty good reading list and I’d recommend it to anyone. It nourished my imagination, played a big part in turning me into whoever (whatever) I am today, but everything’s changed since then. The range of YA fiction has exploded over the last ten years or so, at roughly the rate of a zombie apocalypse.










One of my children is on her way out of teenager-dom, the other is on his way in, so I’ve read a lot of it in recent years, and I’ve discovered a fantastic new world, one which gives me a thrill of excitement and also a sharp slap of recognition. Somewhere along the way, my inner teenager stirred, lifted his head out of his book, blinked and said ‘Wait, what?’ (Because that’s what teenagers say these days.)

So of course, YA and teen fiction was a pool I wanted to dive into. I wanted to write for my children, I wanted to write for my slouchy, smelly teenage self, and I wanted to explore the preoccupations that have never left me. As an adult I read graphic novels, watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer  and Marvel movies, and read novels like Station 11 and The Underground Railroad, both of which play interesting games with reality. All those influences feed into my writing for teenagers.

Since I crawled out of that bean-bag about 35 years ago, I’ve written four novels and a book of connected short stories, all broadly in the genre of literary fiction. That means that I had most of the tools I needed to write YA, because writing for teenagers requires exactly the same attention to character and language as writing for adults, but I also felt liberated, felt able to introduce a fantasy, science-fiction element. Mutations, aliens!

Writing my first teenage novel, The Impossible, was similar to writing a novel for adults, because it was a precarious journey into invented lives, an attempt to find the unique texture of those lives, to summon up something authentic, to imagine an experience that was never actually experienced. But writing The Impossible also surprised me in two ways.

First, I discovered that I like my teenage characters more than most of my adult ones. I like the challenge of trying to find teenage voices without seeming cringey or weird. I like their enthusiasm and their ennui, their humour and their seriousness (often at the same time), that unguarded, jagged quality which makes them vulnerable. The life buzzing and flickering like electricity in their dialogue.

And secondly, I discovered that writing for teenagers feels at least as personal as writing an adult, literary novel. The Impossible is about teenagers coping with change colliding with their lives. To return to that first question – why am I, a 54 year old bloke, writing about that? Because change collided with my life when I was a teenager. The sort of change that you have to integrate into your life and find a way to use, because the only alternative is to be crushed by it. That’s what I wanted to explore, extrapolate from and – kind of – celebrate.

The garish, weird monsters are metaphors. It’s what makes them effective and familiar and even, in a sense, plausible.

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

About Mark Illis

Mark was born in London in 1963. He bought comics, watched Star Trek, went to see The Clash and loved reading and writing. He had some short stories published at university, and went on to do an MA in Creative Writing at UEA, where Malcolm Bradbury and Angela Carter were his tutors. That was a good year.

In his twenties Mark had three novels published by Bloomsbury, A CHINESE SUMMER, THE ALCHEMIST and THE FEATHER REPORT. He was also teaching English GCSE part-time, doing research for a charity called Shape, and then working as a Literature Development Worker, ‘raising the profile of literature in Berkshire.’ Exciting times. In 1992 Mark moved to West Yorkshire to be a Centre Director for the Arvon Foundation, after which he started writing for TV and radio. He has written three radio plays and has written for EastEnders, The Bill and Peak Practice. He wrote for Emmerdale for over a decade. He also wrote the award-winning screenplay for Before Dawn, a relationship drama with zombies.

Mark has taught writing in schools, libraries, universities, Reading Prison and Broadmoor Secure Hospital, and has run workshops in Hong Kong and Norway. He has taught more than 30 Arvon courses, has given readings at festivals from Brighton to Edinburgh, Cheltenham to King’s Lynn, and has reviewed for The Times Literary Supplement, The Spectator and Radio 4’s Kaleidoscope. He has recently been working for the charity First Story and for the Royal Literary Fund. He’s married with two children and a kitten and is still living in West Yorkshire.

His fourth book, TENDER, was published in 2009, and his fifth, THE LAST WORD, (shortlisted for The Portico Prize) in 2011, both by Salt.

In July 2017, his first Young Adult novel, THE IMPOSSIBLE, winner of a Northern Writers’ Award in 2015, will be published by Quercus. When teenagers in Gilpin start suffering from strange mutations, someone needs to find out what’s going on. Enter Hector, who’s suffering maybe the strangest mutation of all.

You can find out more about Mark on his website – www.markillis.co.uk

Or why not follow Mark on twitter – @markillis1

A huge big thank you to Emily at Quercus for asking me to host this fab piece and to Mark for writing it.

Have you read The Impossible?  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!

Guest Post – Red Witch Guide to Glastonbury by Anna McKerrow


In 2015 Anna McKerrow’s debut Crow Moon was released and this year we are lucky enough to have the highly anticipated sequel, Red Witch.

Red Witch was released on the 10th March 2016 published by Quercus and from what I have heard so far about this book I am in for and absolute treat!

With summer just around the corner and Glastonbury being a key location in Red Witch the lovely Anna McKerrow has written a brilliant guest post for Tales….

The Red Witch Guide To Glastonbury

*hands over to Anna*


Seventeen, heartbroken, powerful; Demelza Hawthorne has run away from home and the safety of the Greenworld.

In the cities of the Redworld, Melz discovers she’s special, and for the first time in her life, desired. And not just for her magical talents. When Melz meets the young but influential Bran, their attraction is instant and electric. In the Redworld, with Bran by her side, Melz believes she can reach her true potential.

But the world Bran promises Melz is ravaged by war and violence. Fuel is running out, and people will do anything to gain control of the remaining resources. Melz may be more powerful than ever, but power can be a curse in the wrong hands.

Red Witch Guide To Glastonbury

I set most of RED WITCH in the south west England town of Glastonbury, famous for Glastonbury Tor and the ruined Abbey as well as the music festival (which isn’t actually held in Glastonbury, it’s in Pilton, up the road) as well as being a hippie paradise/world spiritual centre. Here are some of my top tips for places to visit:

Glastonbury White Spring

ws22bPicture credit to http://www.whitespring.org.uk/

If you only go to one place in Glastonbury, which would be stupid since you’ve trekked all the way down there and coped with the fact that there’s no nearby train station (Avalon likes to remain a little hidden in the mists even now), then you should visit the White Spring. It inspired much of Bran and his life in RED WITCH and he lives there too (I fictionalised that – you couldn’t live there IRL).

One of two distinct and different natural springs that flow out from underneath the Tor, the White Spring (so called because it’s rich in calcium) flows into a dedicated pagan temple. The vaulted stone interior is always dark and candlelit and is tremendously warm and wonderful, and has areas sacred to Greenworld goddess Brighid on one side and Gwyn Ap Nudd, Celtic God of the underworld, on the other.

Chalice Well Gardens


Picture credit to http://www.chalicewell.org.uk/

Just around the corner from the White Spring is the home of the Red Spring in Chalice Well Gardens, a beautiful and tranquil place for meditation and introspection. The Red Spring represents the Mother energy where the White is the Father; the Red Spring water has copper deposits which turn the stones it flows over red. The garden has been landscaped to follow the natural flow of the water and centres around the ancient Chalice Well itself which is deeply and powerfully charged. Fab shop onsite too.

The Tor


Picture credit to http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/glastonbury-tor 

Climb Glastonbury Tor! Pretend you are an ancient Priestess circling the hill of the Goddess! Be prepared that it’s usually windy and a bit of a climb, but the views from the top over the Somerset Levels are amazing. Sit at the top and tune in with the ancient wisdom and heartbeat of the earth in this wonderful British landmark.

Compton Dundon

cropped-IMG_0592-1Picture credit to http://comptondundon.com/

Just outside Glastonbury is Compton Dundon, a tiny village that has great hill walking and a very spiritual, peaceful vibe. Go as far up as you can through magical forest and attune to the lovely energy at the top.

Wearyall Hill

wearyall-hillPicture credit to http://www.pilgrimsbb.co.uk/places-to-visit/glastonbury/

If you want an amazing view of the Tor, climb up Wearyall Hill and hang out with the sheep up there. The Holy Thorn, an ancient tree supposedly planted by Joseph of Arimethea, is also situated up there and even though it was vandalised a year or so ago, it remains a place of pilgrimage for many, as you’ll see from the many ribbons tied to it.

Glastonbury Abbey


Picture Credit to http://www.glastonburyabbey.com/

The Abbey is well worth a visit – beautiful ruins and Brighid, or St Bridget, was worshipped there. Great shop too.

Glastonbury Goddess Conference


Picture credit to http://www.goddessconference.com/ 

Every year the Glastonbury Goddess Temple runs its Conference which is your opportunity to attend all the seminars, circles and talks you can over 9 days. This year the theme is the Goddess of Avalon.

Star Child Apothecary


Picture credit to http://www.starchild.co.uk/

My favourite shop in ALL Glastonbury, Star Child is both beautiful and fascinating, with a traditional apothecary counter dispensing all your herbal requirements from Chamomile to Belladonna and many more. They also make brilliant candles, perfumes, incenses and lots more.

The Mystic Garden Gallery


Picture credit to http://www.lindaravenscroft.com/

The shop of renowned faerie artist Linda Ravenscroft, this is a lovely place for gifts featuring Linda’s art from paintings and prints to clothes, bags, figurines and jewellery.

Labyrinth Books, 24A High Street, Glastonbury

Small but mighty, Labyrinth Books stock new and secondhand new age and occult books and some oracle cards. Very long browsing recommended.

Speaking Tree

speaking tree

Picture credit to https://www.speakingtree.co.uk

A huge and brilliant shop on two floors – make sure you go upstairs – Speaking Tree has discounted books on everything from art and photography to witchcraft, shamanism, tarot, history, geography, politics and much much more. Also a brilliant range of notebooks, cards and tarot and oracle cards on sale.

Dilliway & Dilliway


Picture credit to http://www.dilliway.co.uk/

Lastly, for all your Indian furniture needs is Dilliway & Dilliway, organised over three floors and bulging at the seams with vintage Indian cabinets, beds and furniture of all kinds. I have one of their cabinets and I wish I had more.

9781784291303You can buy Red Witch here or why not visit your local independent book shop for a copy!

About Anna McKerrow

1657119Anna McKerrow works on arts projects for the reading charity Book Trust, which is where she became interested in Young Adult fiction. (It wasn’t around when she was 15; she went straight from Judy Blume to Jackie Collins). She has also published four volumes of poetry and taught creative writing in adult education for 7 years. She also provides school workshop and book event consultancy to writers and publishers.

Anna is a Pagan, reads the tarot, is a Reiki practitioner, and is a little bit obsessed with stone circles. She believes passionately, like Alan Moore, that creative activities such as writing are a kind of magic in themselves.

To find out more about Anna McKerrow visit her website http://www.annamckerrow.com/

You can also find Anna on Twitter on @AnnaMcKerrow, see her witchy tumblr here, and the Pinterest board for CROW MOON here.

She also has a Facebook author page.

A huge thank you to Anna for a brilliant guest post!

Have you read Crow Moon or Red Witch?  What did you think?  Do you have any favourite places in Glastonbury that we must visit?  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!


Tales Q&A with Mike Revell


I am super excited to be a part of the UKYA Extravaganza Blog Tour again and today I have been paired up with the wonderful Mike Revell!

This time around the UKYA Extravaganza is taking place in Nottingham on the 10th October 2015 and is featuring all of these amazing authors!


So I got to put some questions to Mike all about his debut Stonebird and writing!

**Warning this Q&A may feature mentions of Taylor Swift….I think Mike is a fan**


When ten-year-old Liam moves house to be closer to his dementia-suffering grandma, he’s thrown into an unfamiliar place, with a family that seems to be falling apart. Liam doesn’t remember what his grandma was like before she became ill. He only knows the witch-like old woman who snaps and snarls and eats her birthday cards. He wants to fix it, but he can’t. Walking his dog one day, Liam discovers an old stone gargoyle in a rundown church, and his life changes in impossible ways. The gargoyle is alive. It moves unseen in the night, acting out Liam’s stories. And stories can be dangerous things…Seeking revenge against the bullies at his new school, Liam tells a story about the gargoyle attacking them. When one of them ends up in hospital, a regretful Liam vows never to go near the gargoyle again. But his grandma’s illness is getting worse, his mum isn’t coping, and his sister is skipping school…What if the gargoyle is the only thing that can save Liam’s family?

Hi Mike!

Welcome to Tales Of Yesterday.  I am so happy and honoured to have you here today!

Can you tell us a little about Stonebird?


Stonebird is about a boy struggling to deal with his grandma’s dementia – until he finds a mysterious gargoyle that changes his life in impossible ways. Everything’s falling apart for Liam; his mum is drinking a lot, his sister is skipping school, and he doesn’t remember what his grandma was like before the disease stole all her memories. But the gargoyle? It’s alive, and Liam soon discovers that it can protect more than just old buildings…

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

 Liam is in a strange place at the start of the book. He’s just moved house, so he’s miles away from his friends, and he’s finding it difficult starting at his new school. On top of that, he feels guilty for not remembering his grandma like everyone else does. But when he finds his grandma’s old diary, it rekindles his love of storytelling – a magical, dangerous thing, because it’s through these stories that he can control the gargoyle.

 How important are names to you? Did you pick any of the characters names in Stonebird for a reason?

 I love when authors drop hints and clues about a character through a carefully selected, perfectly chosen name. One of my favourite things about Harry Potter is that you can write entire essays just on the meaning of names! But for Stonebird, I wanted to ground it in reality as much as possible, so there’s nothing too clever about the name choices – it’s really just that they all felt right for the characters I had in my head at the time. The only one that took a while to find was Mrs Culpepper, Liam’s teacher. I wanted her name to be memorable and slightly unusual, with a hint of magic.

 What was your favourite scene to write?

 There’s a scene involving Liam’s grandma towards the end of the book that was great fun to write, but I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll go for one early on in the book where we see the gargoyle for the first time. It’s my favourite one to read out loud too – I always start school visits with that chapter!

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

 I think there’s a bit of me in all the characters in the book, although the amount varies from character to character. But a lot of the story is based on real life. Mrs Culpepper gets the students telling stories by passing around a marble egg to inspire them, and that’s stolen straight from real life – I had a brilliant teacher in Year Five who did just that. But Liam’s grandma is the character most influenced by real life. My gran had severe dementia for years, and my own experiences of that inspired a lot of Stonebird.

 Did you use any resources to imagine the gargoyle and how he would look?

 The main resource was the old Gargoyles cartoon they used to show when I was at school. In that, these huge gargoyles were brought from Scotland to New York and they cracked apart and burst into life on skyscrapers under the glow of the moon. That show has stuck with me, because it’s such a powerful image, and I knew I wanted my gargoyle to be massive, like Goliath. Other than that, it was a case of studying animals and seeing what it was about their prowl or their glare that made them so striking.


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

 That’s tough! Maggie Smith is one of my favourite actresses, and I think she’d do a great job of playing Liam’s grandma. As for Liam himself – maybe someone like Asa Butterfield. And if someone was going to bring the gargoyle to life, I couldn’t imagine a better voice than Benedict Cumberbatch or Andy Serkis.

Smith, Maggie

Press Conference for Ender's Gameandy-serkis-uk-premiere-the-hobbit-an-unexpected-journey-01







What would you like your reader to take from Stonebird?

 I just hope that they remember it; that it lingers in their mind when they finish reading. I hope it helps them to deal with dementia or any other issue that is hard to talk about that they may have going on in their own life.

 What do you think makes a good story?

 Ooh, interesting question. Everyone will answer this differently, but for me, a good story has to grab you from the very first page and burn its way into you from the last.

If a story doesn’t grip me from the beginning, I probably won’t read it. And if I get to the end, I want to remember it. The space between the first page and the last should be filled with interesting, living, breathing characters brought to life by the most important factor of all – a great voice.

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

  1. My earliest memory is watching an old Superman movie, and from about the age of three onwards my greatest desire was to grow up to be a superhero.
  2. I’m secretly a massive fan of Taylor Swift.
  3. One day I’d love to try pizza with ice cream on top, because the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles ate it, and they know their pizza.
  4. The little finger of my right hand looks like a witch’s walking stick because of an old American football injury.
  5. I live right next to a castle, inside ancient city walls, which makes it pretty easy to find inspiration for stories!

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

 It would totally have to be Liam’s grandma. In my experience, elderly people are full of the best kinds of stories, and I think we should treasure every nugget of wisdom.

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

 I was a very, very reluctant reader when I was a kid. In fact, I pretty much hated books until I was 11, when I read Harry Potter. Reading those books changed my life, because if I never found them I would probably never have become a reader, and without being a reader you can’t be a writer. J. K. Rowling opened the door to other inspirational authors, like Neil Gaiman and David Almond, and their fingerprints are definitely all over my own writing.


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

 Totally! I wish I wrote The Graveyard Book, which is about as perfect as a book can be, in my opinion. And I think the How to Train Your Dragon books are brilliant. I’d totally take a time machine back to steal the Mr Gum idea from Andy Stanton – they’re fantastic books.










 What are you currently reading?

 I’ve just started reading The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell. I love the way she writes; her books are like sitting beside a crackling fire when it’s raining outside.


 What is your favourite book of 2015 so far?

 Such a tough question… I’ll have to go with The Dreamsnatcher by Abi Elphinstone, because it was packed with the best kind of magic and written in such a beautiful way.


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

 Oh, totally. The obvious ones are J. K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman, so I’ll get those out of the way now. It would be a joy to work with Chris Riddell or Sarah McIntyre. If I could wave a magic wand and work with David Almond, that would be pretty special too.

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

 It starts in my notebook – a line, or an image, a brief snippet of an idea. As it bumps into other ideas, I scribble around it, building it out, testing things. Then when it catches fire I splurge out all my thoughts into a document on my computer. I don’t like to plan in too much detail, because then I lose interest. I like finding out what happens as I write. I try to figure out the main character and their world and the problem they’re facing, and then I dive in, exploring as I go. When I’ve written my way in a bit, it feels more real, and that’s when I plan in a bit more detail – setting out scenes on cards so I can move them about and see the shape of the story. This helps to give me more of a clear direction as I work my way through the rest of the idea.

 Do you have any strange writing habits?

 Nothing too strange… I like to get 1,000 words written a day when a project’s in full swing, and I break that down into two blocks. Around 500 words before lunch, and around 500 later in the day. I normally write better at night, so sometimes I stay up late to finish the word count.

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

 Music is so powerful, I love listening to it when I write. Normally this is instrumental stuff – movie soundtracks, that kind of thing. Naturally a bit of Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” is a great song to wake up to, but when I sit down to work, I love James Horner’s music. Hans Zimmer too. I can play their soundtracks and close my eyes and the story builds around me. It was especially useful listening to this kind of thing while writing the graveyard scenes in Stonebird.

 Are there any exciting plans for the rest of 2015 or 2016?

 The rest of this year is all about school visits, which is one of the best things about being an author. Then next year, my second book is coming out. I’ve just got back from Edinburgh Book Festival, which was one of my favourite experiences ever, and I can’t wait to go to more festivals in 2016.

 And finally…are you excited about the UKYA Extravaganza?

 Very much! I was so happy to be invited, and I can’t wait to meet everyone, both authors and readers. It’s such a good idea for an event, and I haven’t been to Nottingham for years. The magic of stories in the home of Robin Hood – what more could you want?


About Mike Revell


Mike Revell used to be one of those kids who didn’t like reading. He was more inclined to run home and play video games than dive into a book.

Then Harry Potter came along. The series didn’t just make him a reader, it made him want to be an author too; he wanted to give to people the same feelings of wonder and enjoyment that J.K. Rowling gave to him as a young boy.

Stonebird is Mike’s first novel and is influenced by the real experiences of seeing his grandmother suffer from dementia, as well as his love of myths.

To find out more about Mike visit is website here

You can follow Mike on twitter using @RevellWriting

You can buy Stonebird here or from your local bookshop!

Blog Tour

You can follow the rest of the blog tour below or why not check out my UKYA Extravaganza Blog Tour post here detailing all posts on the tour and authors attending the event!

UKYAX October Blog Tour Banner FINAL

You can find out more about the UKYA Extravaganza in Nottingham on the website here

Or follow them on twitter using @UKYAX

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

You can find out more about the Birmingham UKYA Extravaganza authors and the blog tour that took place here

Or why not catch up on the Nottingham UKYA Extravaganza Blog Tour posts and authors here

UKYA logo new

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

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

See you there!




Tales Post – Thank You Quercus Books












This week my sons school had some very happy children!

Following Piers Torday winning the Guardians Children’s Prize 2014 the wonderful Lauren at  Quercus Books offered to send a book bundle of Piers’ books to my sons school!  This bundle included The Last Wild, The Dark Wild and also a new book due our next year called Stonebird by Mike Revell.  I was also lucky enough to receive copies also which my son Corey has quickly confiscated off me!


I had the absolute pleasure of taking these books into the school and giving them to the head teacher who proudly presented these to the lovely school librarians who’s parents were kind enough to let me have a picture for the Tales Of Yesterday blog.  Thank you so much.

books donation

A big thank you to Quercus Books and Lauren from myself, the head teacher and all of the children at my sons school who cannot wait to enjoy reading these fab books!

Thank You



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