I am very excited to welcome Paige Toon to Bookbabblers today, as part of the blog tour for I Knew You Were Trouble.
Please tell us a little about yourself
I grew up mostly in Australia, but would spend half of each year in either America or England. My dad was a racing driver, so it would depend on where he was racing at the time. I didn’t see a winter until I was about twelve when we moved permanently to England. I think my upbringing inspired me to write about different countries in my books. I’ve written nine adult women’s fiction books and they’re set all around the world. The Jessie series is mostly set between Berkshire and LA, the latter of which I researched when I wrote my second book, Johnny Be Good. Now that was a fun holiday…
Please tell us about I Knew You Were Trouble and your inspiration for the book
I Knew You Were Trouble is the sequel to The Accidental Life of Jessie Jefferson, which is about a fifteen-year-old girl who discovers her real dad is a famous rock star. I first wrote about bad boy rock star Johnny Jefferson in Johnny Be Good, and the sequel, Baby Be Mine. In those books, the heroine, Meg, falls pregnant by accident with Johnny’s baby and she wonders whether he has any other children out there that he doesn’t know about. This gave me the idea for Jessie. I love reading YA, so when I was thinking about writing two books a year and my author friend Ali Harris suggested I make one of them YA, I was very excited about the idea.
What are you working on now?
I’m writing my tenth adult novel, which is about identical triplets who, when they were seventeen, all fell in love with the same boy. Now, in their late twenties, one of them is getting married to him. But there are lots of twists and turns…
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Always write what you love, not what you think you should. If you’re not enjoying what you’re writing, chances are your readers will drift and won’t feel connected to it, so skip to a scene you’re excited about and come back to the hard stuff later when you’re more up to it. Also, consider journalism as a way to get into becoming an author. I worked at Heat magazine as reviews editor and it was a lot easier getting a publishing deal when you’re already a working writer. Work experience is a very good way to get into the publishing industry, but you might have more luck making a good impression if you get work experience at a smaller magazine where journalists have a bit more time to pay you attention! I got one week of work experience at Neon film magazine (it closed down soon afterwards, sadly) and asked if I could stay on another week and clean out their video cupboard. Afterwards, the editorial assistant asked me to do holiday cover for her. When I left, having done a month in total, I asked the editor to please think of me if he heard of anything coming up. A few months later I got a call from the editor of teen magazine Big (another one which sadly closed down), and that was my first job in the industry. I started at the bottom and worked my way up to Heat Reviews Editor.
Can you tell us about your typical writing day?
It has always revolved around my children. As of last September, my daughter went to school along with my son, so I have loads of time to crack on. Prior to that, the only book I wrote without it having to be around children’s nap or short nursery stints was Lucy in the Sky, my debut novel, and I wrote that while doing my full time job at Heat. My most recent book, The Sun in Her Eyes, was the easiest book I ever wrote thanks to school! After the kids go to school, I get ready and catch up on social media and any blogs or interviews I have to do before writing, breaking for lunch and then writing some more. Usually I only really get into the swing of it an hour or two before the kids come home, but it works really well on the whole. I’m very lucky.
Thanks, Paige! Look out for our review of I Knew You Were Trouble, which will be up soon.
Everyone loves Barry – he is the most huggable creature ever! The problem is Barry is not happy with this at all and just wants to be left alone.
Barry decides to try and make himself look scary in the hope that the animals might leave him alone, he even puts on an angry face and growls. However, this just makes the animals think he needs a ‘shnuggle-buggle’ to stop him feeling grumpy. So, Barry tries to find another who might want to take his place, but the problem was that he struggled to find an animal who wasn’t spiky or stinky. Just as he is about to give up he spots a big fluffy bear, but will this be enough to stop the animals wanting to cuddle Barry?
No More Cuddles is a fantastic picture book with stunning, brightly coloured illustrations. The image of Barry being cuddled by lots of different animals had us laughing out loud. We highly recommend this latest book by Jane Chapman.
Thank you to Little Tiger Press for sending us a copy to review.
We are very excited to be giving away a copy of No More Cuddles by Jane Chapman. To enter, please follow us on twitter and re-tweet this post. Open to UK entrants only. Giveaway closes 7/08/2015.
We are thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for My Sister’s Secret by Tracy Buchanan. Here is our review…
My Sister’s Secret is Tracy Buchanan’s second novel and it is a really fabulous compelling read.
The novel is told from the viewpoint of Charity in the 1970s, 80s and 90s and her daughter Willow over twenty years later.
Willow’s parents died when she was only seven and her memories of them are full of wonderful, happy times and a seemingly idyllic life that was cut short when she was taken in by her mother’s elder sister Aunt Hope. When she receives a mysterious invitation to a photography exhibition, she immediately starts asking questions and when Hope will not answer, Willow realises that the photographer must have a link with her parents.
Willow sets out to discover the link and in doing so unravels a family history that she never knew existed. It is a tumultuous journey that takes the reader from the South coast of England to India, Kazakhstan and Austria.
This book kept me guessing until the very end. I absolutely loved it and can’t wait to read more from this author. The submerged forests that feature prominently throughout were fascinating to read about.
I am delighted to welcome Jane Chapman to Bookbabblers today…
Please tell us a little about yourself
Thanks for inviting me to do this interview What can I tell you about me? I live in beautiful Dorset with my husband (Tim Warnes), two boys and a couple of chickens. Now my children are older, I don’t have a house full of nappies and beakers, but my time is still mostly taken up with preparing endless food and doing the washing! Tim and I share all the duties of the house, but it often feels like work is squeezed in around the edges of the domestic. I can’t switch off and relax unless I am creating in some way, so I always have at least one sewing project on the go, and I always have a bit of fraying tapestry in my handbag just in case I get five minutes….
Although my work is full of animals, I am not sentimental about them in real life. I much prefer humans to pets. At the moment we only have chickens which lay intermittently, but we’re under pressure from my youngest son who currently wants a cat.
Please tell us about No More Cuddles and your inspiration for the book
No More Cuddles is about a big, fluffy monster who wants a bit of peace and quiet. He goes about, minding his own business, but is constantly attacked by smaller animals who want to snuggle up to him. He was originally simply called ‘Big Foot’, because that’s what he is, but the publisher felt that a first name would be better for sales. We settled on Barry because he is similar in build to Barry White!
I was inspired to write the book after noticing how often toddlers struggle to be put down when we pick them up for a quick squeeze. It can be really annoying to be interrupted from being busy with your plastic cups or digger or whatever, even when the interruption is kindly meant. I hope that readers will identify with Barry as the recipient of unwanted affection, and with the smaller animals who just want a cuddle. We’ve all been on both sides of the problem!
How long did it take you to write and illustrate No More Cuddles
I think the book took about four months to come together. The words take a long time even though there aren’t very many of them, but the painting wasn’t too bad. It was lovely to paint Barry – he makes a change from the usual bears, mice and rabbits.
What are you working on now?
At the moment I am taking a few months off to try and find some different ways of working. I have painted myself into a corner stylistically and am using smaller and smaller brushes as time goes on, so the challenge is to loosen up. I am using an easel again and some decorating brushes to try and relearn some of the skills I had years ago. I have been experimenting with collage and charcoal too, but I don’t have anything worth seeing yet. I have a few story ideas in my head, but they don’t inspire me to draw, so I’m making images of other things instead like giant cats and polar bears snowboarding.
What was your journey to publication like?
I first got published twenty years ago after touting my portfolio around London. In those days it was normal to send hard copies of your work to a publishing house, and follow up with a visit. I met some publishers who were excited by my work, and came home from my trip with commissions. I have worked with one of those publishers regularly ever since (Little Tiger Press). It is lovely to build up working relationships over a long period of time – a lot of the people I work for are my friends as well.
Tips for aspiring writers?
It is worth asking for feedback on your text if you choose to submit it to a publishing house, and then you can choose whether or not to follow the advice. It feels painful to hear the truth at the beginning, but it can be a very helpful exercise to do what the editor suggests. Most of my writing time is spent deleting words rather than writing them following my editor’s comments!
My other tip is to think very carefully before self-publishing! I know people with hundreds of books stacked up in the garage, but they don’t have the sales and marketing skills to shift them…
Thanks, Jane! Look out for our review of No More Cuddles, which will be up this week.
I found myself banging a beat to this fabulously funny story-against my sons drum, toy chest and even my kitchen pans No surface was safe.The more we read Hippobottymus together the more our musical side was released.
From Monkey to Warthog, Bird to Mouse they all want the same thing: To make beautiful music. Well, that last sentence is mostly true. For there is one cheeky animal who wants to make sweet song via his bottom. Have you guessed who that might be yet?
This book is an animal music festival of fun, in my mind it should be enjoyed in a group as its lively, rhythmic and uplifting but I also think it is a book that can be appreciated with your little one when you want to mix up play time.
Another sensational book by Steve Smallman, and one that will certainly get children up on their feet. All that’s left to say is: ‘squeak, squeak, bubble, bubble, squeak, squeak, squeak!’
For more info head to @LittleTigerUK http://www.littletigerpress.com/
Reviewed by Caroline.
Thanks to Little Tiger Press for sending us a copy to review.
I am delighted to welcome Ian Johnstone to Bookbabblers today…
Writing a Broken Soul
I have a few questions for you:
What if there is another part of you living, right now, in another world?
What if that part of you is another person entirely, with their own history, present and future?
What might they be like? How might they be similar and how might they be different? Might they be good at the things you are not, confident where you are meek? And what might they tell you about yourself?
And how might this strange rift in us explain our superstitions and beliefs? Could it have something to do with doppelgangers and deja-vu, for instance? And could it have given rise to ancient beliefs, like the Yin and the Yang?
These were some of the questions that I set out to explore in the fantasy trilogy, The Mirror Chronicles. I had the idea when I was still at school, at that pre-teen age when teeth-grating self-consciousness first enters our lives. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought (after an episode of Adrian Mole-like self doubt) to think of a magical reason for those feelings, and to use that as the basis of a story – an exciting story, an ultimately uplifting story? Well, I got as far as that idea and the rudiments of a plot, but no further. The challenges were just too great. It’s not that I was looking to write anything deeply philosophical or psychological – I wanted this to be a tale that would appeal to 10 year-olds as well as as older people – but it was a challenge just deciding how far to take the idea and how to make it feel real. So, I kept my musings buried deep and many years later, I left my work in publishing and began to write.
The first book, The Bell Between Worlds, introduces these questions, but does not answer them. It tells of Sylas Tate, a twelve year-old boy summoned away from his ordinary life by the chime of a gigantic bell, to find a strange new world driven by magic and populated by these bizarre parallel parts of ourselves. And Sylas also finds his calling, because it seems that he is destined to meet the other part of himself, a girl called Naeo. I won’t say too much more for fear of ruining the plot, but Sylas and Naeo embody the paradox at the heart of the trilogy. In them, we will come to see the two parts of a single soul.
Just as the first book discovers the rift in our souls, the second book, Circles of Stone, explores it. Sylas and Naeo to embark on a forked tale, bringing Naeo into this world (which is of course as alien to her as her magical world is to Sylas), and taking Sylas deeper into the Other. But I was always aware that as they are two parts of a whole, their journeys could not just divide, they needed to be a mirror of one another. They had to be separate but linked, and ideally, each journey needed to respond to and build upon the other. But should they share experiences? If so, should they react in the same way to those events, or differently? And what should this tell us about the characters of these two sides of a self? Should they be similar, or opposite? Should they share traits, or be distinct?
There is plenty of freedom here; after all, there is no inherently right way to write two parts of a soul. Like any story, there is only what is engaging, interesting, plausible and exciting. But perhaps there is a wrong way. If the relationship between Sylas and Naeo was too predictable, too rigid, then not only would it lack humanity, but also it might very well remove any dramatic tension from the story. And if their experience is too similar, how could their connection be a constructive one, so that as a whole, they are greater than the two parts? That is why I felt that the two children must be linked, but free to experience events in their own way. I decided that only at moments of emotional or dramatic intensity should there an obvious convergence. So it is that quite frequently, if Sylas is terrified, so is Naeo. If Sylas is filled with wonder, Naeo finds herself amazed. The circumstances may be different, but they happen in the same moment, and they demand a comparable response. By mirroring the fear, joy, or excitement rather than whatever causes them, the stories are freer and more surprising, while there are still, I hope, spine-tingling moments of connection.
But there is a muddling factor. Sylas and Naeo are separate characters. Yes, they share a great deal: they have both experienced the trauma of being separated from a parent, they both seem to like their solitude, and they are both reluctant heroes. But Naeo is more sullen and abrasive than Sylas, and he has a modesty and a wide-eyed innocence that she does not. These differences must be allowed to show themselves. That is why just occasionally they are exposed to similar circumstances in the same moment, so that we can see their opposing responses. It is these moments that allow the characters of Sylas and Naeo to live in their own right, that make their individual selves feel real. And in a way, their jarring reactions are true of us all, in our own muddled humanity. Isn’t it true that we ourselves have shifting traits and personas that alter how we might react to the very same thing at different times?
So for the largest part of the story, Sylas and Naeo experience a shifting, mercurial relationship – one that is slight and difficult to predict, but evident. They remain individuals in their own right, unaware of one another, leaving the reader to witness their shared drama or emotion.
But given that they are so special, isn’t it possible that just occasionally, Sylas and Naeo might sense one another? Isn’t it possible that the two might connect in their dreams, for instance? After all, that is when we explore our subconscious, delving deep into the parts of ourselves that we barely know. And to add potential, the two worlds of The Mirror Chronicles are themselves a mirror of one another, so that daytime in one is the nighttime in the other. This means that there are many occasions when Sylas or Naeo is asleep while the other is awake, and the chance of a connection seems too great to be ignored. So, I decided that as one child sleeps, just such a connection might form, however fleetingly. The results are surprising and, I hope, make for exciting and eerie twists in both stories.
But even as The Mirror Chronicles shows two parts of a soul becoming ever more aware, ever more united, it poses a greater puzzle. If our souls are, as the story suggests, broken, are they to be healed? Is that what Sylas and Naeo are destined to do – heal us all? And if so, what does that mean for us as we are? Do we really need fixing? Can we really believe that there is part of us that is missing, when we are managing to live good and full lives?
These are some of the questions that I have been wrestling with ever since I first had that that peculiar idea at primary school. I hope you will join me and The Mirror Chronicles as I finally find the answers.
Thanks, Ian. Look out for our review of Circles of Stone, which will be up soon.
I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Summer at Tiffany’s by Karen Swan today.
We have one copy of Summer at Tiffany’s to giveaway. To enter, please re-tweet this post. The giveaway is open to UK entrants only and closes 17/07/2015.
I loved Christmas at Tiffany’s which was published a couple of years ago and it was great to be reunited with the characters again. This time the book is set between London, New York (where is begins) and Cornwall.
Henry and Cassie are engaged and Cassie has a big Tiffany ring, but haven’t started planning their wedding yet. In fact, it is Henry who is pushing for the marriage and Cassie who seems to be stalling it. When Henry goes on an exploration, Cassie goes to Cornwall where she must decide how to proceed with life and what she really wants, especially after her disastrous first marriage. Henry’s cousin, Gem, is the complete opposite to Cassie is determined to get married in her local Cornish church as soon as possible. However, her family are set against the marriage and Cassie vows to stop the wedding – but at what consequence.
Swan creates such well-formed characters that it felt like being reunited with old friend. I also loved the settings in the book and this had been one of my favourite parts of Christmas at Tiffany’s. Swan really brings the different locations to life and makes the reader feel that they are there with the characters. Summer at Tiffany’s is quite a long book, but felt effortless to read and I sailed through desperate to find out what would happen.
A perfect book to sit back and enjoy this summer.
Thank you to PanMacmillan for sending us a copy to review.
Last year I read Melissa Bailey’s debut novel The Medici Mirror and loved it, so I was thrilled to be sent a review copy of her latest novel Beyond the Sea.
Set on a fictional island in the Hebrides, Bailey draws the reader to the beautiful yet uncontrollable atmosphere of this part of the world. It is a perfect setting for a book that will take the reader on a sweeping journey of grief, love, despair and hope with some mesmerising mythical tales thrown in too.
Freya has returned to her island home after the tragic death of her husband and son who drowned at sea. It is not a happy homecoming as Freya must fight her grief and anger to try to make peace and move on. One stormy night, she spots a boat in trouble from the lighthouse and with the help of her sister Marta who is visiting they rescue Daniel from his boat.
Daniel and Freya soon strike up a friendship, but there is something that slightly unnerves her and soon Daniel seems to be everywhere she looks. This coupled with some strange dreams put Freya on edge again and make her wonder if there could be any truth in the myths that she has heard.
This was a captivating and beautifully written book that I did not want to put down. I look forward to reading more from Melissa Bailey and highly recommend Beyond the Sea.
Thank you to Arrow Publishing for sending us a copy to review.
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I am delighted to welcome Melissa Bailey to Bookbabblers today as part of the blog tour for Beyond the Sea.
Please tell us a little about yourself
I grew up in Lancashire and from being a small child I was always writing stories. I did an English Literature degree at Oxford, then moved to London and qualified as a lawyer. I specialised in media law advising a lot of writers and artists and perhaps that’s what gave me the focus and courage to finally listen to that voice in my head that had been saying for so long ‘you should write that novel you want to write.’ So, finally, I went part-time and started writing in earnest. The Medici Mirror, my first novel, was the end result.
Please tell us about Beyond the Sea and your inspiration for the book?
It’s my second novel and centres on Freya, a year after the death of her husband and son, and her journey through grief as she returns to a remote Hebridean island where she and her family lived. The ocean dominates the landscape and Scottish myths of the sea pervade. There’s also a historical thread – the discovery of letters written by a Cromwellian sailor despatched to battle in the Hebrides in 1653, his own sense of isolation and alienation mirroring Freya’s.
The book grew out of a single image that had taken root in my mind – a woman with white hair, standing on a tiny island, alone, a lighthouse in the near distance behind her. After lots of research, and having indulged my obsession with myths and fairy tales, a novel emerged. If you’re a fan of spooky mysteries with plenty of twists, turns and thrills, it might be one for you.
Beyond the Sea is set on a Hebridean Island. Did you travel there to research the book?
I did. It’s a wild, remote part of the world that I love and I’ve been there many times. But I made two specific journeys for this novel. The first was to Mull for research. Beyond the Sea is set on a tiny (fictional) island off the coast of Mull so I wanted to inhabit the landscape of my characters so that I could reproduce it as faithfully as possible. The second trip was to Skye, specifically to work on the novel. It’s a stunningly beautiful island. Sea lochs meet sky meet jagged mountain ranges (the famous brooding Cuillins are found there). So it was an incredibly atmospheric place to write. While I was there, I visited Neist Point lighthouse, perhaps one of the most dramatic settings for a lighthouse that I’ve ever seen. It’s located in a very isolated spot in the north-west corner of Skye and was the inspiration for the lighthouse in Beyond the Sea.
What are you working on now?
My third novel. You might have gathered that I like to explore dark topics – betrayal and black magic in The Medici Mirror, grief in Beyond the Sea. I can’t say much about the third book but I will tell you that it’s about madness.
What was your journey to publication like?
About seven years ago I finally got started on that novel I’d been talking about for ever! It was a long and challenging road from first putting pen to paper on The Medici Mirror to getting it published. But I think that’s a story common to a lot of writers – publication doesn’t necessarily come quickly or easily. I’m part of a wonderfully supportive and inspirational collective of writers – The Prime Writers – who all published their first novels when they were 40+ (www.theprimewriters.com)
For me, a crucial part of the process was getting an agent and, after I sent out my finished first draft, I was lucky enough to receive an offer of representation from London based, Luigi Bonomi at LBA. After we had worked together on improvements to the novel, he sent it out to publishers in 2012. I was delighted that Random House (Arrow) liked the book and on the back of it offered me a two book deal. The Medici Mirror came out in 2013 and Beyond the Sea is out on 16 July.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Write. Write. Write some more. The more you write the better it gets (in theory at least!). And read lots. I’ve learnt so much simply from seeing how other people write. Most importantly keep at it. Don’t give up. It’s a very challenging time for writers at the moment in a highly populated market. But don’t get disillusioned. Keep going. That book deal that you long for is very definitely within reach.
Thanks, Melissa. Look out for our review, which is coming up later today.