Blog Tour (Review & Guest Post – Why I wrote about the child of an alcoholic in Will You Catch Me?): Will You Catch Me? – Jane Elson

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‘Jane’s writing exudes empathy where history and heart combine to make this story one that you should hold so close to your heart.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: Will You Catch Me?
Author: Jane Elson (@JJELSON35)
Publisher: Hachette (@HachetteKids)
Page count: 336
Date of publication: 9th August 2018
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1444927788

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Heart 💓
2. Drink 🍷
3. History 👑


Most kids want adventures.
I just want normal.

Nell Hobs lives with a tortoise, two guinea pigs, two goldfish, two gerbils, a hamster and an assortment of beasts and bugs living in jam jars on her windowsill. She is proud to be the only naturalist on the Beckham Estate.

Caring for her family of animals is a good distraction from caring for her mum. But Nell knows her chaotic life can’t continue as it is. Nell needs a dad. So she hatches a plan with her best friend Michael: a way to make her dad step forward and catch her. But will she succeed?


Review: 

I have so much to say about this unforgettable, powerful and poignantly-written book. For many who read this book it will provide an insight in to a hidden problem. A hidden problem that children face today in our classrooms, our schools and our lives. But for some, this will be their lives. The life they’ve had to live, they’ve had to endure and for those, I hope this book is a kind of tribute to the suffering they have had to face as it acts as a stark reminder to everyone to be kind, compassionate and thoughtful to each other because sometimes we do not know the battles that other people are fighting.

As we are introduced to Nell Hobs who lives on the Beckham Estate, we discover that she is ever the natural naturalist who can’t help but adopt more animals to her mini-zoo that gets bigger each and every week with a new and additional animal appearing. But not only does she live with her mini-menagerie of animals but she lives with her mother. A mother who at first appears to be wanting to do all she can to please Nell that is until the ‘demon drink’ takes over. She’s an alcoholic. In a life surrounded by her mother’s empty promises, a home life that is way more erratic than anybody could imagine and the ever-present worry of her mother relapsing mean that Nell’s mental health is a constant source of agony and – rarely ever, ecstasy. For, whenever it is a feeling of happiness it’s nearly always short-lived and dripping with false hope.

This is why Nell starts out on her quest of soul-searching. She needs a dad. She needs some kind of stability. Someone to sort this mess out and someone to be her state of normal. But will she find the person that can catch her when she needs it most?

As she tries hard to balance school – of which with her chaotic life, she can’t help but always arrive late to – with bringing herself up, Nell takes some sort of solace in the community around her. Without her extended family, her neighbours and two teachers who are the shining light of Nell’s life, Nell would not be Nell. These people are her life; her crumbs of comfort, her lifeblood and when living with her mother becomes all too much: her escape route.

Then someone else comes in to her life. Unexpectedly at first, yet the more she appears, the more welcome she is. For that person is Nell Gwyn. Introduced at first by her history teacher, Nell’s namesake soon becomes the honorary ancestor and ally that she has been craving. Guiding her through her life, her imaginary historical friend is her inspiration. Can Nell help Nell on her journey to finding her father…? Readers will be in awe of the real-life accounts and pursuits of Nell Gwyn and will be itching to research her life after reading this.

Will You Catch Me? captured my heart in the same way that Nell Gwyn captured Nell Hobs. With heaps of heart and a story of history that also needs to be told, it gets better and more emotionally investing with every chapter. This is frank, real storytelling with perceptive and innocently acute observations that have the power to make you think differently. I don’t think you’ll realise quite how much this book has such an effect on you, it’s a life lesson. Such a carefully-considered concept for a children’s book that could only be delivered with the writing wisdom of Jane. Her writing exudes empathy and she establishes herself as an author that all readers should be aware of. For this is another of Jane’s beautiful books that you should hold close to your heart because like me, your heart will ache with feeling after reading it.

‘Jane’s writing exudes empathy where history and heart combine to make this story one that you should hold so close to your heart.’


Great Big Hill of Hope:
Why I wrote about the child of an alcoholic in Will You Catch Me?

In this, the first blog of my tour to mark Children of Alcoholics week, I felt it important to say why I wrote my children’s book, Will You Catch Me?

When I first said that I was going to write a middle grade novel about eleven-year-old Nell Hobs whose mother is an alcoholic people were taken aback. But then the headlines started to hit the media. Every Week there were news stories about the statistic that 2.6 million children in this country are affected by a parent’s drinking.

IMG_4388.JPGJournalist, Camilla Tominey’s Sunday Express headline ‘My Mummy Is Drunk Please Read To Me’ broke my heart, brought back buried memories and made me determined to give a voice to these children. My editor at Hodder Children’s Books, Naomi Greenwood, agent Jodie Hodges and her assistant Emily Talbot gave me their blessing and supported me throughout.

Will You Catch Me? is my oldest story, a little itch in my imagination that just wouldn’t go away. I had a recurring image of a young girl, running home from school and seeing her mother, an alcohol addict, carried out from their flat on a stretcher, people standing around watching and as she ran and ran and tried to reach her mum, everything going into slow motion.  In my mind the 4 Non Blondes song, ‘What’s Up’ was playing. The lyrics ‘Trying to get up that great big hill of hope / for a destination / I realized quickly when I knew I should / that the world was made up of this brotherhood of man’ were so relevant to this scene that looped in my mind.

The words – ‘Brotherhood of Man’ – the community which would be so vital to this little girl. Without which she would have nothing.

Fast forward many years, I switched on the television and Calum Best was talking movingly on the Lorraine show about his father George Best and the charity Nacoa – The National Association For Children Of Alcoholics – of which he is patron.  As the statistics rolled out that one in five children have a parent who drinks too much and that a 100 teenagers a day are made homeless due to having a parent who is alcohol dependent, my childhood came flooding back. My dad was a heavy drinker with a terrible temper. I grew up a very anxious, nervous little girl. One strand of the story was set.

I have always had a fascination with, and felt a connection to Nell Gwyn, the 17th century celebrity actress. In my late teens I worked as an usherette in Drury Lane where 320 years before Nell Gwyn had done the same job – they sold oranges then rather than half melted ice creams, so they were known as the Orange Girls. I discovered that Nell Gwyn’s mother was an alcoholic and that she did not know her father. Nell Gwyn was the perfect guardian angel for my modern day Nell, the protagonist of  Will You Catch Me? – whose mum is also an alcoholic.

Writing Will You Catch Me? was the most extraordinarily immersive experience of my life. In fact, I had an operation half way through writing it, and when I came too from the anaesthetic I woke up in the world of my book and was nattering on about Nell Gwyn. It took the nurses ages to get me fully awake.

As I worked day and night on Will You Catch Me? I visualised myself finishing Nell’s story and contacting Nacoa to tell them about my book. It was my light at the end of the tunnel.

I did not realize what a bright light in my life Nacoa would be. They are a group of truly amazing, passionate and strong people. Hilary Henriques MBE who is the CEO of Nacoa welcomed me with open arms and made me part of the Nacoa family. She is a tower of strength and an inspiration.  When I visited Nacoa’s headquarters in Bristol I was particularly moved by the telephone booths from which they run their children of alcoholics help line. Real children, in similar situations to Nell, or to younger me, can ring Nacoa at any time, in confidence, to get advice or just talk. After that visit I knew that Will You Catch Me? would be the most important story I have ever told.

The National Association For Children Of Alcoholics helpline number is 0800-358-3456. Children of Alcoholics week (10-16 February) aims to raise awareness of the lives of the 2.6 million children in the UK who are growing up affected by parental alcohol problems. For further information, including ways you can help and a downloadable #URNotAlone poster, please visit their website www.coaweek.org.uk or www.nacoa.org.uk

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Jane Elson, author of Will You Catch Me?

 


Big thanks to Jane, Fritha and all at Hachette for inviting me to take part in the Will You Catch Me? blog tour.

Extra thanks to Jane for writing her incredibly insightful guest post!

Mr E


 

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Be sure to check out the rest of the Will You Catch Me? blog tour with more exclusive guest posts, reviews and giveaways discussing this much-needed issue.

Blog Tour (Review & Resources & Giveaway!): A Pinch of Magic – Michelle Harrison (Illustrated by Melissa Castrillón)

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‘Sumptuously magical… this is like nothing I’ve read before. An exquisitely-enchanting tale in a world weaved with wonder. With hearty heroines who embody the truest sense of sisterhood, prepare to fall under the spell of the story everyone will be wanting to read in 2019.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: A Pinch of Magic
Author: Michelle Harrison (@MHarrison13)
Illustrator (Cover): Melissa Castrillón (@mv_castrillon)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s (@simonkids_UK)
Page count: 368
Date of publication: 7th February 2019
Series status: First in the Widdershins’ adventures
ISBN: 978-1471124297

Perfect for Year 5, Year 6 and Year 7.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Sisters 👭
2. Curse 🗝️
3. Magic ✨


Three sisters trapped by an ancient curse.

Three magical objects with the power to change their fate.

Will they be enough to break the curse?

Or will they lead the sisters even deeper into danger?


Review:

Widdershins. What a word. A surname to describe the misfortune, haplessness and down on one’s luck that the Widdershins sisters often feel and have experienced for generations. Three sisters – Fliss, Betty and Charlie – whose mother is dead, their father’s in prison and who live with their Granny Bunny in her rather rowdy inn. Three sisters who are about to find out for themselves that they will have three bespoke magical items soon in their possession that can achieve so much but for an ancient family curse that leaves them trapped upon the rolling, misty marshes of their island of Crowstone for ever more…

Focusing on middle sister Betty who is craving for more than the island of Crowstone and telling the story through her eyes, this is like nothing I’ve read before and so it is little surprise that this has been recently chosen as Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month for February. As the sisters embark on a journey to try to break this curse and put to use their most magical of items – a scruffy carpet-bag that can make its bearer travel anywhere it wants, a set of dolls that can make you invisible and a mermaid-like mirror that can let its bearer talk to people on other islands, the girls meet mystery, dark magic, betrayal, revenge and a prisoner who may hold all the cards to the sisters’ fate.

Adventure most certainly awaits the audacious in this tale that left me completely enamoured and enraptured. This beautifully-written book doesn’t only just show a pinch of magic but the absolute power of magic where not a word is wasted. Surely one of 2019’s standouts and mixing island legend with incredible world-building that oozes and fizzes with magic, this is a story to devour. As Michelle recently alerted readers to this being the first in the Widdershins’ adventures, I’m on tenterhooks for the next.

Readers of upper-primary and lower secondary will be thrilled, enchanted and awed by its three headstrong, spirited protagonists (even Charlie, the youngest sister whose young age doesn’t dissuade her) in their plight to rid them of this wretched curse that’s plagued them and their island since times gone by.

Luring, mesmerising and sumptuously magical, A Pinch of Magic is an exquisitely-enchanting tale in a world weaved with wonder. With hearty heroines who embody the truest sense of sisterhood, prepare to fall under the spell of the story everyone will be wanting to read in 2019.

‘Sumptuously magical… this is like nothing I’ve read before. An exquisitely-enchanting tale in a world weaved with wonder. With hearty heroines who embody the truest sense of sisterhood, prepare to fall under the spell of the story everyone will be wanting to read in 2019.’


To celebrate the official publication date and launch (Happy Book Birthday!) of A Pinch of Magic, I’m absolutely delighted that author Michelle Harrison joins me on The Reader Teacher to provide fantastic teaching ideas to use in the classroom…

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A Pinch of Magic is the tale of the Widdershins sisters, Betty, Fliss and Charlie, who set out to break a family curse which keeps them trapped on the small island of Crowstone. But the curse isn’t the only unusual thing about the Widdershins. Three magical objects have been passed down their family: a set of wooden nesting dolls, a mirror, and a scruffy carpet bag. Will they be enough to break the curse? Or will the sisters have better luck with the mysterious prisoner who says he can help them . . . for a price?

This story is probably best suited to readers aged 8-12, depending on ability. There is plenty of scope for it to be used in a classroom, particularly to inspire imagination and atmospheric writing, as well as the study of folklore, superstition and symbolism. Here are some suggestions:

Pre-reading activities:

  1. Look at the front of the book. What do you think the curse could be, and the worst that could happen? Can you think of any other stories about curses?
  2. Who illustrated the book’s cover? Can you find out the titles of two more books this artist has created the covers for? Are there any in your classroom?
  3. Look at the back of the book and read the blurb (the writing which tells you about the story). Does it make you want to read the story? Why, or why not?
  4. Study the front and back covers. What do you think the three magical objects in the story could be? What do you imagine they do? Make up your own list of three objects, and their magical powers.
  5. Look at the map in the front of the book. Which of the islands do you think will be the most important to the story? Find other words with the same meanings as Lament, Repent, and Torment.

Research: 

  1. Read the author’s note at the start of the book. What does the word ‘widdershins’ mean and what is it linked to? Have you ever heard of this word before? Can you find out a word meaning the opposite?
  2. Research the history of Halloween. Can you find other names for it? Where do the traditions of trick or treat, dressing up, and carving pumpkins come from? Is there any significance to Betty’s birthday falling on this day?
  3. What clues point to the Widdershins being an unlucky family? Are there any numbers, objects or creatures mentioned in chapter one that signal good or bad luck? Research and write down five more superstitions.
  4. Research your local area. Is there any interesting history or folklore? Write down the names of five real places that you could imagine in a story. Think of towns, forests, street names, beaches and even pubs! Give reasons for your choices.
  5. How were people who were suspected of witchcraft treated throughout history? What sort of tests did ‘witchfinders’ do to determine whether someone was a witch? What are your thoughts on this?

Activities:

  1. Design a flyer for the Halloween Fayre in Marshfoot. What kind of words and images might it use to appeal to someone like Betty?
  2. Write a letter from Prisoner 513 to Granny, convincing her to visit him in jail. How would he persuade her to help him?
  3. Rewrite the scene where Betty and Charlie are given their magical objects, but from Charlie’s point of view. Imagine what she is thinking and feeling, as someone who is much younger than her sisters.
  4. Write a secret diary entry for Prudence. What are her feelings towards her sister – and herself? Is she proud of her actions, or sorry?
  5. Write a cautionary poem or verse to warn travellers away from the Misty Marshes. Think of the way the author has written about the marsh mist as a living thing, and add your own descriptions to this. Consider other dangers such as will-o’-the-wisps, and escaped prisoners! It doesn’t have to rhyme.

Other relevant stories:

Snowglobe by Amy Wilson
Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone
Secrets of a Sun King by Emma Carroll
Wood Angel by Erin Bow
The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh


Big thanks to Michelle, Olivia and all at Simon & Schuster Children’s for inviting me to take part in the A Pinch of Magic blog tour on its book birthday!

Extra thanks to Michelle for providing these superb teaching ideas!
I can’t wait to use them myself!

Mr E


Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Simon & Schuster Children’s have kindly given me three finished copies of A Pinch of Magic to give away!

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If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning a stunningly-illustrated copy of this sumptuously magical story, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Copies will be sent to winners when available from Simon & Schuster, as soon as possible.


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Be sure to check out the rest of A Pinch of Magic blog tour this week to see more exclusive guest posts, Q&As, giveaways and reviews!

Cover Reveal & Book Giveaway! Owen and the Soldier: Lisa Thompson (Illustrated by Mike Lowery) – Out 15th June 2019!

I’m absolutely delighted to be able to reveal the cover of Lisa Thompson‘s new novella, Owen and the Soldier (illustrated by Mike Lowery) which will be published on 15th June 2019 by Barrington Stoke.

I’m also super happy because the very lovely people at Barrington Stoke have given me three proof copies of Owen and the Soldier to give away! Find out more below!


Owen and the Soldier – Lisa Thompson
(Cover illustration: Mike Lowery)

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Owen and his mum are struggling. It’s just the two of them now and they’re finding it difficult to ask for the help they need.

When Owen discovers a crumbling stone soldier in a memorial garden in the local park, it feels like he finally has someone he can talk to. But the town council can’t see how important the soldier is and they want to remove him.

Owen’s so scared that he’ll be left on his own again, but can he find the courage he needs to save the soldier before it’s too late?


  • Written with sensitivity and honesty, this title deals with various important subjects including depression, loss, young carers and anxiety, within a package that is approachable for younger readers.

  • Lisa Thompson has quickly become a staple of bookshops and a high-pro le name in the industry with her critically acclaimed and bestselling novels The Goldfish Boy and The Light Jar.
  • Featuring cover artwork from illustration star Mike Lowery, Owen and the Soldier is designed with commercial appeal and to complement Lisa’s other novels.
  • Barrington Stoke’s biggest ever proof mailing to capitalise on the author’s massive popularity and reputation.

Publisher: Barrington Stoke Ltd
ISBN: 9781781128657
Number of pages: 96


From Lisa Thompson:

“It has been an absolute joy to work with Barrington Stoke on Owen and the Soldier. I’m incredibly proud of this novella and I can’t wait to share it with readers and hear their thoughts!”


From Ailsa Bathgate, Barrington Stoke Editorial Director:

“Lisa Thompson’s work is captivating and compelling. She writes wonderfully empathetic stories about ordinary children who are going through a tough time and makes you care deeply about what happens to them. She has brought all her compassion and insight to Owen and the Soldier, and I feel excited and proud to bring her voice to our readers.”


Lisa Thompson

Lisa Thompson is the bestselling author of The Goldfish Boy, The Light Jar and The Day I Was Erased. The Goldfish Boy was a Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month and was nominated for the Carnegie Medal, the Branford Boase Award and the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. Before becoming a novelist, Lisa worked as a broadcast assistant for BBC Radio 2 and CPL Productions, where she says she made tea for lots of famous people. Lisa lives in Suffolk with her family and a very large rabbit called Teddy.

You can find out more about Lisa on her website or by following her on Twitter: @lthompsonwrites.


Mike Lowery

(Image 1 credit: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/kids/doodle-adventures-author-mike-lowery-on-using-comics-to-reach-reluctant-readers/)
(Image 2 credit: https://www.instagram.com/mikelowerystudio/?hl=en)

 

Mike Lowery is an author and artist living in Atlanta, Georgia with a beautiful German lady named Katrin and his incredibly genius daughter, Allister. Mike’s work has been seen on everything from greetings cards to dozens of children’s books to gallery walls all over the world. 

Mike has had the enormous pleasure to work on a TON of books, including the New York Time’s best selling series “Mac B, Kid Spy” written by Mac Barnett.  You can check out his other books here:  MIKE LOWERY’S BOOKS

His illustration clients include: Scholastic, Dial Books for Young Readers, workman publishing, hallmark, simon and schuster, random house, walker books for young readers, Nick Jr magazine, gallison/mudpuppy, GP Putnam and Sons, Viking, macmillan, georgia pacific, American Greetings, Disney, Kids Can Press, as well as many Graphic Design and Advertising Agencies.  He now travels nationally giving talks about art and books to schools, universities and bookstores.

He has been featured/interviewed in the Washington Post, Creative Loafing, the Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, the Washington City Paper and many others and a few years back he showed 16 of his tiny drawings in a show in Beijing.

 

You can find out more about Mike on his website or by following him on Instagram: @mikelowerystudio.

 


Pre-order: Owen and the Soldier is available to pre-order online at Waterstones or from any good independent bookshop.


Big thanks to Lisa, Kirstin and all at Barrington Stoke for giving me the wonderful opportunity to reveal this beautiful cover! I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

Mr E



Giveaway!

The very lovely people at Barrington Stoke have kindly given me three proof copies of Owen and the Soldier to give away!

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If you’d like to be in with a chance of being one of the first people to read this superb-sounding story, simply retweet (RT) this tweet!

Proof copies will be sent to winners when available from Barrington Stoke, as soon as possible.

Blog Tour (Review & Author Q&A): The Star-Spun Web – Sinead O’Hart (Illustrated by Sara Mulvanny)

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‘A fantastic fusion of exciting, excellent and effervescent fiction that’s out-of-this-world! This is science-inspired storytelling at its stellar, supercharged best.’

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Title: The Star-Spun Web
Author: Sinéad O’Hart (@SJOHart)
Illustrator (Cover): Sara Mulvanny (@saramulvanny)
Publisher: Stripes (@StripesBooks)
Page count: 384
Date of publication: 7th February 2019
Series status: N/A
ISBN: 978-1788950220

Perfect for Year 5 and Year 6.

#3Words3Emojis:
1. Science 🔬
2. Reality ✨
3. Violet 🕷️


Tess de Sousa is no ordinary orphan. When a wealthy stranger appears at Ackerbee’s Home for Lost and Foundlings claiming to be her relative, she embarks on a new life with him. She take nothing more than her pet tarantula Violet and a strange device that she was left as a baby.

But far from providing answers to Tess’s mysterious past, it becomes clear that her guardian’s interest in her is part of a terrible plan. With the future of more than one world at stake, it’s up to Tess to stop him…


Review: As a wealthy man turns up on the very doorstep that Tess de Sousa turned up on herself as a baby, she has little idea of how much her life is going to change. Going by the name of a certain Mr Cleat and claiming guardianship of her, Tess knows that this could be her last chance to find out how she came to end up living at the orphanage home of Ackerbee’s Lost and Foundlings once and for all. But all is not quite as it seems…

Imaginative and inventive – although a little anarchic and with a pet arachnid for company – Tess sets off with this stranger, spanning across a web of parallel worlds and dimensions for a multi-layered and multi-universe mystery that is the adventure of all adventures.

Every element of this tale is cleverly written: in terms of its pulsating plot; the cast of its characters: their relationships; their interactions and their interconnectedness; and the dual (sometimes tri-) narratives occurring in concurrent chapters. With a stunningly-illustrated cover by Sara Mulvanny to match, this book can do no wrong and I can predict it already garnering praise aplenty and appearing in nearly all end-of-year celebratory lists.

As the gripping suspense of this story sucks you in to the web that Tess soon finds herself tangled up in, every turn of its page makes time truly fly by with the sensation that you can travel through time yourself.

With The Star-Spun Web, Sinéad establishes herself fully on the MG stage spinning gossamer threads of alternate realities that collide with fragments of fantasy and overcoming the precarious and notoriously difficult ‘second novel syndrome’ with apparent ease. It’s as if she has story writing down to a science.

Out-of-this-world. This is science-inspired storytelling at its stellar, supercharged best. A book that is a pleasure to read and a book that can’t help but encourage reading for pleasure. Like the very best of science discoveries, I think this could be a momentous and ground-breaking read for children (and adults!) who crave a fantastic fusion of exciting, excellent and effervescent fiction.

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I’m utterly delighted to have Sinéad O’Hart, author of The Star-Spun Web, join us on The Reader Teacher today on publication week with this extra-special interview where she shares her experiences of writing, her inspirations and the best and worst things about being an author…sinead-ohart.png

  1. What was your favourite book when you were 8?
    Alan Garner’s Elidor – and it’s still my favourite book now.
  2. What are the three main things a reader will find in your books?
    Clever, determined girls; brave, ingenious boys; mortal peril!
  3. When did you start to tell stories?
    I wrote my first ‘book’ at 7, a sequel to The Little Prince complete with my own drawings, but sadly I’ve lost it. My parents said I always had a strong imagination and liked to tell stories to myself, drawing pictures to go with them, from as soon as I could talk and hold a crayon. I’ve been pleased to see my own little girl doing exactly the same!
  4. Did you always want to be a writer? Have you had different jobs before you were an author? Do you think a variety of work experiences has helped you to write?
    I always wanted to have a creative life, but I wasn’t sure for a long time exactly how I’d go about it. From the age of seven or eight, when I began to think about the sort of life I wanted to have, I knew I wanted to do something unusual, something where I could use my interest in creativity (and daydream a lot, because daydreaming is very important), but to me that could have been anything from being a visual artist to a scientist – I wanted to be a marine biologist for a long time. It wasn’t until I was a few years older, perhaps halfway through secondary school, that I realised my love for books, reading, stories and art could be made into something cohesive, and it was then I began to dream of being a writer. I’ve had lots of jobs; I’ve worked in a clothes shop, as a tourism adviser, in many different offices including a printers’ and a health centre, in a supermarket, as a trainee butcher, as a researcher, as a tutor and lecturer of English language and literature at a university, as a records manager for an English department at the same university, as a bookseller, and as a freelance proofreader. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few! And yes, of course every job I’ve done has helped me to be a writer. Everything you do in life – everything you read, see, hear, watch, and observe – can go toward helping you to be a writer. The more jobs you’ve done, the more experiences you’ve had, the more things you’ve felt and seen and heard, all help you to describe things in your stories and make them feel real. Of course this doesn’t mean you have to wait until you’re a certain age, or until you’ve done a particular amount of ‘things’, before you can write – if you want to write you can start anytime, and the earlier the better. You’re never too young to switch on your observation skills, and then you’re already well on the way. Reading books, learning from them, and using your imagination are all vital tools in a writer’s kit, and there’s no age or experience limit on those.
  5. Where do you get your ideas from, and how do you store them?
    Ideas are all around, just waiting to be plucked out of the air. I’m inspired through observation of the world around me, and I have an insatiable curiosity. I’m constantly on the lookout for strange and interesting words; sometimes I find them in newspaper articles or books, or in overheard conversations, or on signs. For me, words – particularly if they’re misspelled, or if they’re used as a pun, or if they’re unfamiliar to me – are wonderful idea-seeds. Mostly my ideas seem like tiny fragments of something bigger; I get a scene, or a character name, or a place-name, or a funny line of dialogue, and I don’t have any idea where they go or what sort of story they’ll grow into. They need careful handling until they’ve had a chance to germinate and sprout, so it’s important to have a notebook on your person all the time to keep your idea-seeds safe. However, I usually store my ideas on scraps of paper and my phone, as I never have my notebook handy when I need it!
  6. Every writer creates a story in their own unique way. Roald Dahl had an armchair in his shed, Lewis Carroll liked a standing desk and to write in purple ink. Do you have any unconventional methods, habits or superstitions when it comes to writing?
    I tend to write standing up, but not because of superstition – it’s mostly out of necessity as I have a busy little girl. I don’t have unconventional methods because I need to write in any second I can! I feel very boring now. Perhaps I should invent some strange habits, like writing with a rubber chicken tied to my head. Bok bok!

  7. How much of Sinéad O’Hart is reflected in your characters?
    Quite a lot, I think – and I reckon the same is true of any writer. I think my girl characters reflect some of my own awkwardness and social anxiety; I was a very introverted and thoughtful child, who liked to work things out in my own way, and I found, as a girl, that there weren’t many girls like me in books. I try to remedy that a bit with my stories. Some of my girl characters are deep thinkers with a strong sense of justice, girls who like to observe, and I see my child-self in those characters. In my boy characters I put my heart and vulnerability, and that’s something which comes naturally but it’s also a conscious choice, in part. I think it’s important to create boy characters with emotion and depth, and who show true bravery – which to me means doing what you need to do, even though it frightens you.
  8. You are in a library with a 10 year-old who claims that they don’t like reading… Which 3 books would you reach for to try to change their mind?
    I think I’d be there all day, offering them a new trio of books every five minutes, but at the moment: Dave Rudden’s Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy, which is the grippiest, most engaging, most fun and most absorbing children’s trilogy I’ve read in a long time; Peter Bunzl’s Cogheart books, which feature a wonderful heroine and a complex, layered hero, along with a clankingly good cast of mechanimals and mechanicals alike; and Jennifer Bell’s Uncommoners books, which are fast-paced and twisty, edge-of-your-seat action coupled with a brilliant, detailed world and mythology. (Yes, I know that’s technically nine books!) But ask me again in half an hour and I’ll say Sky Song, the Rose Raventhorpe books and Brightstorm… Don’t make me choose!
  9. What’s the best and worst things about being an author?
    There are loads of good things about being an author but the best is: having a job that, for the most part, fits around my child’s life, and also meeting and hearing from readers. I love getting messages from teachers, librarians and mums and dads telling me about the kids who’ve loved my stories, and I really enjoy meeting readers at school and library events. The worst is pretty bad: writing books for a living is a stressful thing sometimes, and I worry constantly that I’m not good enough, or that I’ll never get another contract. But the good things definitely outweigh the bad.
  10. Do you have any advice for budding writers?
    The first thing you need to be a writer is to remember this ABC – Always Be Curious. Pay thoughtful attention to everything you see and hear in the world around you; listen to snippets of conversation, keep your eyes peeled for the interesting and unique things you see every day, ask yourself questions and make up the answers about the people and places you come across. Then: read, read, read; read anything and everything and immerse yourself in words and stories as often as you possibly can. After that: when you start to write your own stories, write what you love; write what interests you, write the kind of books and stories you’d like to read. But the most important thing is this: never give up. Hopefully you’ll be lucky enough to have parents, siblings, and teachers who’ll support you, but sometimes you won’t. Try not to let anyone put you off writing. Do your best to protect the things you love and the things you’re interested in as much as you can. If there’s something in you which loves to read, or write, or draw, or do anything at all, then guard it and nurture it and never lose that love. You never know when it will suddenly bloom into life and bring joy to you and all around you. If you’d like to write as a career, do know this: it can take a long time, and the most important thing you can bring to it is sticking power. Don’t ever stop writing, improving, and trying your hardest!

QUICKFIRE

  1. 3 words that describe you: Confused. Curious. Reading.
  2. Favourite time of the day? I’m a night owl – evening time!
  3. 3 random facts about you: I once chopped up hearts for a living (don’t panic, they were beef hearts); I have a PhD in medieval English; I really hate balloons.
  4. Go-to snack? Rich Tea biscuits!
  5. The best advice you ever got: Love many, trust few, and always paddle your own canoe.
  6. Complete the sentence: “If I was one of the Seven Dwarves, I’d be…” all of them at once! But mostly Dopey.
  7. Superhero power of choice: The ability to hold the entirety of human knowledge in my head, like a walking library.
  8. Go-to outfit? Whatever fits and isn’t covered in last night’s dinner… Usually jeans, DM boots, and a big shirt.
  9. Your dream place to curl up with a book? Anywhere with a view of the mountains or the sea, at sunset, in a cosy well-lit window seat, with a steaming mug of tea close by. Bliss!
  10. The 3 books you’d like to get for your next birthday: The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave; The Clockwork Crow by Catherine Fisher; and The Girl, the Cat and The Navigator by Matilda Woods.

Big thanks to Sinéad, Leilah and all at Stripes for inviting me to kick off The Star-Spun Web blog tour and share my thoughts and for giving me the wonderful opportunity to do its amazing cover reveal and giveaway!

Extra thanks to Sinéad for her brilliant interview!

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Be sure to check out the rest of The Star-Spun Web blog tour this week to see more exclusive guest posts and reviews!

 Mr E