I am so excited to welcome Emily Murdoch to Bookbabblers today. Emily’s debut novel ‘If You Find Me’ is one of my favourite books of the year so far.
Please tell us a little about yourself
I’m a writer; a poet; a thinker; a person who feels things deeply. I was born a writer. I’ve known all my life that I’d be here eventually, writing books, and I plan to write until my last breath.
I’m also a person who doesn’t take life for granted, therefore I take my writing very seriously. Each morning brings a whole new chance to write again, and in my mind there’s nothing luckier than to be here, alive and possessing a brain that’s up for the task.
We’re all human (one can only hope!) and share common feelings and experiences. The writer’s job is one of interpreter, entrusted with decoding what others may not be able to capture in words for themselves.
So I see writing as a sacred act, and a gift for the giving.
Please tell us about ‘If You Find Me’ and your inspiration for the book.
I’m learning as I go along that there are so many answers to this question; some I didn’t even know of consciously at the time of writing If You Find Me.
Such as how easy it was to write a portrait of an abused child, having been one, myself. The psychology of fooling myself in order to write dark and deep, and, as I’m seeing, something so necessary to the world as it stands today …
I’m honored if my darkness can shed some light for others. Isn’t that what the darkness is about? Finding the words, and in that, flipping on the light of understanding. As people have been quoting from the novel, “words are weapons”. They can also be weapons of profound and lasting change.
What are you working on now?
Oh, the loaded author question! I’m working on everything! A memoir-ish sort of behind-the-scenes of IF YOU FIND ME tangled with my life and the writerly life; a few YA contemporaries; I have an idea for mainstream fiction, and there’s always a poem or two in there, being written or revised at any given time.
What was your journey to publication like?
Great question. Looking at it one way, it was probably easier than many. It didn’t feel easier to me, though, nor was it easy. It took approximately three years from query to agent offer to publisher’s offer.
I’m the worrying type, so, having such great agents has been a godsend.
Looking at it another way, I’ve been writing for decades; a lifetime. A lifetime of developing the skills of writing, story, voice. Even though my talent was noticed by others when I was young, it wasn’t enough without the practice and the time needed for life’s seasoning.
My advice to aspiring authors (you’re already a writer, you need no one’s permission!) is to keep writing. When the time is right, when the manuscript is right, when the conditions are right and the stars align, when you’ve put in the practice, the heart, the time, you’ll break through if you’re traveling in that direction.
But for that to happen, you need to write. You’ll get better and better, as you do.
What do you like to do outside of writing?
Live life! Sun and wind, flowers and dogs and horses. Riding. Reading. Movies that tug on my heartstrings.
Lending a hand or a shoulder or an ear where I can.
But I’d have to admit that the writing is my centering, my forever north. Whenever I need to seek out the calm in life’s storms, I always return to the page.
Thank you so much for having me today. I’ve truly enjoyed your company!
You can read my review of If You Find Me here: http://bookbabblers.co.uk/2013/05/review-of-if-you-find-me-by-emily-murdoch/
Joe and the Hidden Horseshoe is the latest book from fantastic author Victoria Eveleigh.
It follows Joe and his family as they move from Birmingham to the countryside. Joe thinks he’ll hate living on a farm in the middle of nowhere, especially when he finds out there is not yet an internet connection. Joe doesn’t know how he will cope with his new life, but things start to look up when his mother buys two ponies called Lady and Lightning. At first, he thinks that his mother and sister will take care of the horses, but when his mother is unable to ride Joe has the opportunity to step in and look after the horses.
There are some great characters in this story that are very likeable, from neighbour Caroline and her family to local Romany woman Nellie. I particularly enjoyed the way in which Eveleigh draws aspects of Joe’s city life to his new area, such as when Joe is surprised that he can continue with aikido in one of the local towns.
Victoria Eveleigh has got to be one of the best writers of pony stories around and it was refreshing to read a pony story with a boy as the lead character. Her books are fun to read and are also packed full of knowledgeable information. For example, readers of Joe and the Hidden Horseshoe will read about shoeing and navicular among other things. This is a magical, classic story that I loved reading and highly recommend. I am looking forward to reading the next instalment in this series.
Thank you to Orion for sending me a copy to review.
I am delighted to welcome Victoria Eveleigh to Bookbabblers today. Victoria has written a post about Exmoor ponies, which were prominent in her Katy’s ponies series of books. There is now a new series out with a young boy called Joe as the main character. I’ll be reviewing Joe and the Hidden Horseshoe later on today. You can see Orion the Exmoor pony and some of his friends in the photo attached to this post.
Five Facts About Exmoor Ponies That Appear In Katy’s Wild Foal
by Victoria Eveleigh
1. The book Moorland Mousie (which Granfer gives to Katy for her birthday) is a book in real life. A lady called Muriel Wace, whose pen name was Golden Gorse, wrote Moorland Mousie in 1929 and Older Mousie soon afterwards. The books tell the story of an Exmoor pony, in a similar style to Black Beauty, and they became so popular in the 1930s that they created a surge in demand for the breed. Original copies of the books can still be found on the internet and in second hand bookshops, and Moorland Mousie was republished by The Moorland Mousie Trust in 2011.
Author’s note: I first read Moorland Mousie when, at the age of eight, I went to stay with my grandmother on her Exmoor hill farm (the farm where I live now). It became my favourite book, and Grandma always put it on my bedside table when I visited her. Needless to say, I think it’s a huge compliment when people say that my Katy’s Ponies Trilogy is like a modern-day Moorland Mousie.
2. In Katy’s Wild Foal, Granfer tells Katy that her great grandfather was a founding member of the Exmoor Pony Society. The Society was formed in 1921, following a meeting of Exmoor pony breeders in the Lion Inn in Dulverton. They wanted to ensure that the purity of the breed was maintained despite the fashion of the time to ‘improve’ native breeds by crossing them with finer ponies such as Arabs. Exmoor ponies are particularly special because they have the same characteristics as the original British hill pony that came to the British Isles about 130,000 years ago. Evidence for this has been found through genetic testing. All Exmoors have a similar primitive colouring: brown with black points, a mealy muzzle and no white hairs anywhere.
Author’s note: It’s interesting that nature tends to select for similarities (badgers all look remarkably similar, for instance) whereas man tends to select for differences (if there’s a litter of black puppies and one rare golden one, people will usually want the rare golden one!).
3. In order to keep Exmoor ponies genetically pure, every newly weaned foal has to undergo an inspection before it can be registered. This inspection can involve genetic testing as well, to identify its parents. Only fully registered mares and stallions can have registered offspring. Imperfections like poor conformation or white hairs can mean that a pony can’t be registered. In Katy’s Wild Foal, Katy’s father says she can only keep the filly foal she wants so desperately if the pony passes her inspection and becomes a registered Exmoor pony.
Author’s note: You’ll have to read the book to find out whether Katy’s foal passes or not!
Since writing this book, the rules about the branding of Exmoor ponies have changed. Registered Exmoors have to be microchipped unless they are going to spend all their lives within the confines of the National Park. Microchipped ponies don’t have to be branded but, if they are, only the rump is marked now. New ways of identifying ponies from a distance are being researched, so it’s likely that in time branding will be phased out altogether.
4. Katy’s Granfer has a ‘free-living’ herd of Exmoor ponies on the
moorland above Barton Farm. Although a lot of Exmoor ponies are now bred in a domesticated situation – in stables and fields away from open moorland – there are still several ‘free-living’ herds on Exmoor. These ponies are not wild in the true sense of the word because they are owned and managed by somebody – usually a farmer who has grazing rights over a specific area of moorland. The ponies roam freely and fend for themselves, with minimal interference from people for most of the year, but every autumn they are rounded up, the foals are inspected and any old or thin ponies that may not survive the winter are kept back before the herd is turned out onto the moorland again. Stallions are usually swapped every two or three years to prevent inbreeding.
Author’s note: We have a herd of free-living ponies on the moorland above our farm. Last year we sold most of our mares and we didn’t keep a stallion because it was difficult to find good homes for the foals we bred. The majority of our ponies are geldings now. We thought we wouldn’t have any foals this year, but a neighbouring stallion came visiting . . . and last week we found out we’d got a foal after all!
5. Every autumn a lot of free-living Exmoor ‘suckers’ (newly weaned foals) come up for sale. Giving an unhandled pony a loving home and helping it to overcome its natural fear of humans is an incredibly rewarding experience, but all too often people buy these youngsters on impulse and end up having serious problems. (Katy in the story was lucky that her impulsive behaviour didn’t end in disaster!)
Author’s note: The Moorland Mousie Trust runs an Exmoor pony adoption scheme, which is the next best thing to owning a pony. See the website www.exmoorponycentre.org.uk for details. The Exmoor Pony Society also has a very good website with lots of information on it. See www.exmoorponysociety.co.uk
Victoria Eveleigh lives with her husband Chris (who illustrates her books) on an Exmoor hill farm near Lynmouth. They have sheep, cattle and Exmoor ponies. Victoria was so delighted when Orion Children’s Books took her on in 2011 that she called one of her Exmoor foals Orion. You can follow Orion’s progress and find out more about Victoria’s books on her website www.victoriaeveleigh.co.uk
This year she has a new trilogy for readers to enjoy: a pony story with a boy as the central character for a change. The first book Joe and the Hidden Horseshoe has just been published. Joe and the Lightning Pony and Joe and the Race to Rescue will follow shortly.
Burn for Burn is a fast-moving story about three very different girls out for revenge. Lillia has always been a pretty, popular girl with no boy troubles. But when one goes too far, Lillia will never let the same thing happen to her little sister who seems determined to live Lillia’s life. Kat has had the insults, rumours and jokes for a long time. And all because of one person – her ex best friend. Mary left the island because of a boy but now she’s not the same girl anymore and she can finally prove it.
All three girls are drawn together by a mutual desire for revenge. They were hurt and they want to hurt those people right back.
Burn for Burn started off a little on the slow side for me but once it picked up, wow! I could barely put it down. It was intriguing, funny, painful and emotional to read. Very reminiscent of Mean Girls but with more of an edge. And sadly, no Karen.
I felt for each and every one of these girls and was sorry for what happened to them. This story is full of drama and action, and I for one can’t wait for the sequel.
Review by Pamela.
Thanks Pamela and thank you to Simon and Schuster for sending us a copy to review.
The Bone Dragon is an outstanding debut novel by Alexia Casale.
It is a dark, magical story about fourteen year old Evie who has to undergo major surgery and have a rib removed. There is a strong sense of mystery surrounding this book, which is prominent from the very beginning with the circumstances leading to Evie’s operation. Evie’s lovely Uncle Ben carves the rib bone that has been removed into a dragon for her to keep. At night, the dragon awakens and whispers messages that will help Evie regain her confidence. We know that something bad has happened to Evie in her past and this is something that she must recover from as well as the operation. It is not until later in the novel that you begin to get an idea of what Evie really went through.
As Evie slowly recovers, she finds herself spending more and more time with the dragon and going on adventures. It is an absorbing plot that blurs reality and fantasy, I was completely hooked. Friendship is also an important aspect of the novel and the relationship between Evie and her two close friends Phee and Lynne is prominent throughout the book.
This is a beautifully written book that is full of mystery, suspense, friendship and hope. It is a powerful read that is like a modern day coming of age story. I did not want to put it down and can’t stop thinking about it now that I have finished.
I loved the cover of this book, it’s one of my favourite covers of the year so far.
Thank you to Faber for sending me a copy to review.
I am delighted to welcome Alexia Casale to Bookbabblers today, as part of The Bone Dragon blog tour. I loved The Bone Dragon, it is a magical and hypnotic read. My review will be up later today. Here is the guest post from Alexia…
Should characters always be consistent?
One of the basic tenets of characterisation is that characters should be consistent. This derives from a rather puzzling assumption that people are broadly consistent. But are they? People have good days and bad days. Days when they feel generally confident or anxious. Days when someone has said something lovely and days when someone’s upset them. All those things will have an impact on how they behave, as will their context: I’m very out-going in small groups, but tend to be shy by nature at parties.
If people aren’t consistent across different times, places and contexts, does making characters consistent really make them more believable? The simple answer is that there’s a delicate balance to be struck.
Even over a whole series of books, characters are lucky if they get a thousand pages of life: a whole lot less than a real person, even a child, when you think about all the things we see, hear and feel over the course of a single hour. So characters are, by nature, less complex than real people. This is one of the things that makes it easier to get to know them. However, because characters are so much simpler and we have less information about them, it’s harder to put apparent inconsistencies into perspective in order to understand why, for example, extroverted Lexi, who’d push into a one-sided fight between strangers in the street, might have to do her poetry reading with her eyes shut.
If you can make readers understand why apparent inconsistencies aren’t really inconsistent at all, suddenly you’ll have a character with real depth: a character who isn’t just an extrovert, but someone who, like a real person, will have times and places and situations in which they’re undone by shyness. If you can make this believable to the reader, your characters will feel like real people. The tricky bit is showing that what seems like inconsistent behaviour is actually entirely consistent given the time, place or context; in other words, the character’s behaviour needs to be ‘internally consistent’ given his/her personality, history and the situation involved.
Inconsistency is especially important when it comes to YA fiction. Being a teenager is all about that process of transition where you’re not-quite-an-adult and not-quite-a-child. As a result, teens are often very grown up in one way and very immature in another. It’s true of adults too, but the YA years are the worst. Given that this is a big part of what being a teenager is, it’s important for at least some YA literature to try to capture it.
Many of the characters in The Bone Dragon are inconsistent, but none more so than the protagonist, Evie. In fact, this is probably the most important aspect of her character: For Evie, the normal teenage issues of inconsistent maturity are complicated by her traumatic past. As a result, one minute she’s more grown up than a lot of the adult characters then, the next, it becomes clear that she’s far more childish than her peers. Trauma often stunts development and, for me as a writer, one of the most interesting things about Evie is that she’s wise and backwards by turns. Hopefully, this comes across in the telling not only as believable but psychologically inevitable. It’s one of my favourite aspects of the book, though I can see why it might be challenging at the same time.
If you’re a writer struggling with the issue, my advice is to be wary while recognising that inconsistency can be a powerful tool for creating believable characters. However, if you need a character to do something that’s seems out of character because that’s what the plot dictates, then you have a problem. This type of inconsistency is going to make your character less rather than more believable because the impetus for the behaviour is external to the character and the situation: it’s all about your intentions as a writer. It’s important to be honest with yourself about why your character is being inconsistent: is it coming from the character or from you, the writer?
Characters, like real people, are internally consistent even when their behaviour seems incomprehensible. If your YA character is going to be mature one moment, then childish the next, make sure you know what aspect of his/her personality, history or context is driving the switch between grown up to infantile: there should always be a reason and the reader should have enough information to understand it. But don’t shy away from giving readers a challenge. That’s part of the joy of reading.
You can find out more about Alexiaand The Bone Dragon on her website: http://www.thebonedragon.com/
Magic Trix – The Witching Hour is the first in a delightful new series for young readers by talented author Sara Grant.
On her tenth birthday, Trix learns that she is going to be in training to become a witch and ultimately a fairy godmother. The training is carried out in secret in an after school club. It is a very select group of five girls including three from The Enchanted Grove School, a nearby school. The hardest thing for Trix is that she must keep this a secret from everyone, including her best friend Holly. This becomes even harder when Stella from The Enchanted Grove School starts to be nasty.
This is a lovely and beautifully illustrated story, which delicately deals with some important issues including friendship and bullying. My favourite aspect of the book was seeing the familiars link up with their young witches – I completely fell in love with Jinx the little kitten. I can’t wait to read the next instalment in this series.
You can find out more about Sara Grant and the Magic Trix series on her website: http://www.sara-grant.com/magic-trix-2/
Thank you to Orion for sending me a copy to review.
Poppy Cat Birthday Treasure and The Mystery Trail are part of a collection of books about Poppy Cat. There is also a TV series on Nick JR and Poppy Cat can be found at http://www.poppycat.com/
Birthday Treasure finds Poppy Cat on her birthday where she is given lots of lovely presents by her friends including a treasure map that takes her on an adventure in a hot air balloon into the mystery jungle.
The Mystery Trails find Poppy Cat and her friends on the mystery of Owl’s disappearing book complete with their own detective kit. The adventure takes them on a trail to the purple pine forest.
Poppy Cat is illustrated with bold bright colours with the characters drawn in a simple way and Poppy Cat herself has a lovely beaming smile. My 2 children love watching Poppy Cat on the television so were very excited when these books arrived and they read them straight away. As the books are simply written they are ideal for reading aloud with your children as well as early reader books.
Reviewed by Wendy.
Thanks Wendy and thank you to Macmillan for sending us a copy to review.
Holly Webb is a fantastic author and I was excited to read that she had a new detective story out set in Victorian London.
Maisie lives with her grandmother in a London boarding house (there is a lovely illustration of the house and various rooms at the start of the book). When she finds an abandoned puppy, she knows that she must take it home but is not quite sure how to persuade her grandmother to let her keep it. She is determined to be a detective and the puppy becomes her first mystery, after all who would abandon such a cute creature? It is the puppy who then leads Maisie to her first real case, tracking down a thief at the local butcher’s who has framed one of the young boys working there.
I loved Maisie’s character, she comes across as very brave and full of energy. I really enjoyed the setting of Victorian London, as it lends an edge of mystery to the plot.
Beautifully illustrated, this is a wonderful book for younger readers especially any budding detectives out there. I am pleased to see that there are more books to come in this delightful series.
Thank you to Stripes Publishing for sending us a copy to review.
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I am a huge fan of Mary Hooper and couldn’t wait to read her latest novel ‘The Disgrace of Kitty Grey’.
The story begins in Devon where Kitty works as a dairy maid at Bridgeford Hall. She clearly loves her job and speaks affectionately of her cows and dairy. She looks up to the young ladies of the household and is eager to please them. She is also in love with Will the local river keeper and is sure that he will propose to her. However, one day Will disappears and Kitty is certain that he has gone to London to try and earn more money. She is shocked and upset that he would desert her and jumps at the chance to go to London on behalf of her mistress to fetch a new book from a publishing house, in the hope that she can also track Will down. London, however, is not at all what Kitty imagined and she soon finds herself trapped in a ruthless city with little money. Will she find Will and manage to make it back to Devon?
Kitty is a wonderful heroine and tries her best in every situation, I felt so sorry for her at times as everything seems to go wrong. Mary Hooper is brilliant writer and the descriptions of early nineteenth century London are vividly brought to life complete with all of the sights, sounds and smells. There are also a number of issues covered which were prominent at the time, such as the justice system and prisons. I found this book addictive to read and finished it in one sitting.
I loved this novel and would recommend it for fans of historical fiction. I also thought that the cover is beautiful.
Thank you to Bloomsbury for sending me a copy to review.