Monday, 30 November 2015

MR RIPLEY'S BOOK COVER WARS GRAND FINAL 2015/16 - PLUS ASTERIX BOOK COMPETITION

Here we go again....
Over the last four weeks, different authors and illustrators have battled for their book covers to be voted into the grand final. As a result, we now have five worthy winners who have the chance to be crowned with the title 'Mr Ripley's Enchanted book cover of the year'. So without any further waiting, let the final battle of Book Cover Wars commence . . . . 

A big thanks to all the authors and illustrators who have got behind their book covers. 

As a voter, not only will you get the chance to choose your final favourite book cover, but you will also be in with the chance to win, Asterix and the Missing Scroll by Jean-Yves Ferri

If you are interested then all you need to do is:
  • Vote for your favourite book cover using the poll - VOTE HERE
  • Leave a comment through this post or poll - VOTE HERE
  • Spread the word on Twitter/Facebook #BOOKCOVERWARS 
  • Sit back, watch the voting develop and wait to hear whether you've won (once the poll has closed). 
  • This poll will end midnight 7th December 2015 
So here are the five book covers to vote for:

Book One - Danny Weston - Mr Sparks - Published by Andersen - 1 Oct. 2015 - Book Cover by James Fraser. VOTE HERE 


Book Two: Alwyn Hamilton - Rebel of the Sands - Published by Viking Books for Young Readers (8 Mar. 2016) - Book Cover art by Will Steele - VOTE HERE


Book Three - Darren Shan - Zom-B - Fugitive (US Cover) - Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - Sept 22. 2015 - Book Cover by Cliff Nielsen VOTE HERE


Book Four: M. G. Leonard/Juila Sarda - Beetle Boy - Published by Chicken House Ltd (3 Mar. 2016) Book Cover by Julia Sarda - VOTE HERE

Book Five: Alexander Gordon Smith - The Devil's Engine: Hellraisers - Published by  Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Byr) (Dec. 2015) - Book Cover Art by Andrew Arnold - VOTE HERE

Happy Voting, may the best book cover win.....



Thursday, 26 November 2015

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Top Five Favourite Christmas Children's Picture Books


Chris Van Allsburg - The Polar Express
Late one Christmas Eve, a boy boards a mysterious train: The Polar Express bound for the North Pole. Once there, Santa offers the boy any gift he desires. The boy asks for one bell from the harness of a reindeer. The bell is lost. On Christmas morning, the boy finds the bell under the tree. The boy's mother admires the bell, but laments that it is broken — for you see, only believers can hear the sound of the bell.



Raymond Briggs - The Snowman 
Everyone's favourite snowman, with a sparkly glitter cover and introduction by Raymond Briggs. One winter's night, a snowman comes to life and an unforgettable adventure begins. Raymond Briggs' favourite classic is a true piece of Christmas magic - narrated entirely through pictures, it captures the wonder and innocence of childhood and is now recognised throughout the world. In 2012 the 30th anniversary of The Snowman was celebrated with a brand new half-hour animation The Snowman and the Snowdog. It introduced a new adorable character, can you guess who? That's right, a lovable snow puppy!




Janet & Allan Ahlberg - The Jolly Christmas Postman 

The Jolly Postman delivers cards and letters to various fairy-tale characters. He has a letter of apology for the three bears from Goldilocks, a postcard from Jack for the giant, a solicitor's letter on behalf of Little Red Riding-Hood for the wolf who ate grandma, and so on. There are six envelopes in the book, each containing letters, cards, etc.

Dr. Seuss - How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
"The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season! / Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason." Dr. Seuss's small-hearted Grinch ranks right up there with Scrooge when it comes to the crankiest, scowling holiday grumps of all time. For 53 years, the Grinch has lived in a cave on the side of a mountain, looming above the Whos in Whoville. The noisy holiday preparations and infernal singing of the happy little citizens below annoy him to no end. The Grinch decides this frivolous merriment must stop. His "wonderful, awful" idea is to don a Santa outfit, strap heavy antlers on his poor, quivering dog Max, construct a makeshift sleigh, head down to Whoville, and strip the chafingly cheerful Whos of their Yuletide glee once and for all.
Clement C. Moore - The Night Before Christmas
As St. Nick and eight tiny reindeer descend through a brilliant night sky onto the roof of a Victorian house in a snowy New England village, the famous Christmas poem begins. The father of the family narrates the words just as Clement Moore wrote them, and artist Jan Brett captures the spirit in brilliant illustrations that reflect this memorable night. Visually she extends this favourite Christmas story for children, who will delight in watching the two mischievous stowaways from the North Pole enthusiastically exploring the sacks of gifts on the roof while St. Nick, unaware, journeys down the chimney... until the toys spill down onto the lawn and he turns with a jerk!

What's your festive favourite picture books?

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books: Derek Landy - Demon Road - Book Review


I've taken that path down the Demon Road.... 

Do you dare? 


The reader will hurtle along on a five star horror experience across the supernatural highways and the black roads of America with this book. It all kicks off when Amber Lamont's parents tried to kill her. Yep, the first page begins with them wanting to eat her. Derek Landy grabs you and slowly pulls you by the scruff of your literary neck down the path of the deepest and darkest parts of hell. He never lets the tempo fall; it's a gratuitous adult young horror shocker that will punch you in the fantasy gut. 

You will plunge across the brooding dark landscape of America on an epic road-trip that will captivate you. The imaginative story is filled with the baddest things imaginable: killer cars straight out of a Stephen King novel, vampires that have a sense of humour and undead serial killers that will haunt you to the bone. Then there is the ruthless family of DEMONS that have made a deal with the Shining Demon and so much more. You really need to read this jam packed book running over 500 pages long. 


Everything this plot has to offer is very bold in comparison to the Skulduggery Pleasant series. I feel that this book has actually taken the author out of his comfy writer's pants as everything needed to be worked out from scratch. In doing so, this book has put the writer back on the horror fantasy map. It's full of wit, action and, best of all, dagger sharp dialogue that oozes from the pores of the main characters.


The story is told from the perspective of Amber who is sixteen years old, smart and spirited. She’s just a normal American teenager until the lies are torn away and the demons reveal themselves in more ways than one. Amber is forced to go on the run, hurtling from one threat to another as she reveals a tapestry of terror woven into the very fabric of her life. Her only chance rests with her fellow travellers, who are not at all what they appear to be… can they be trusted?


Milo is very mysterious and brings a big dollop of back story with him, which I really loved. Glen is very amusing and brought a light-hearted side to the story. He is very likeable and yet, at the same time, both annoying and very reckless. He made me smile on a number of occasions with his advances towards Amber - they were very laughable. I'm still grinning thinking about some of the moments in the story. This is a side of the story that teenagers will connect to as it brought a sense of realism to a crazy mixed up world.


The idea is very bullish in my opinion. The action scenes are written exquisitely; full of inventive imagination that is sadly missed in a lot of older reads. The only gripe that I have is that it felt a little predictable in places for me but, nevertheless, it's only a small gripe. 


My favourite part of the book was meeting Dacre Shanks who sounds more like a toilet seat then a serial killer. He is so creepy and delicious to read about. The atmosphere surrounding the dolls house and the shrunken people was really eery and chilling. It will hook you like a prize fighter on the ropes.


This is definitely an amazing start to a trilogy. It is a fresh new world for the author to play with. The backyard has been set and the expectations on the next book have rocketed with this opener. This is easily one of my favourite action horror YA reads this year; fantastic stuff Mr Landy, I look forward to much more.....


  

Monday, 23 November 2015

Guest Post: Superman, Batman and er.. Nick O’Teen by Tim Collins (Author of Adventures of a Wimpy Superhero).


My new book Adventures of a Wimpy Superhero is about a boy who loves comics so much he decides to become a masked crime-fighter himself. But he discovers that making the world a better place while wearing tight-fitting Lycra is harder than it looks. 


Comics played a huge part in turning me into a reader, as they did for so many others of my generation. While I associated books with the classroom and learning, comics were part of the colourful world of play. 


My first encounter with superhero comics was very odd. In the early eighties Saatchi and Saatchi produced an anti-smoking campaign featuring Superman and a villain called Nick O’Teen, who gave cigarettes to kids. After viewing a TV ad, I sent away for a free comic in which superman pretty much murdered him for his crime. As far as I was aware, Nick O’Teen could have been the most important baddie of the DC Universe, outranking Lex Luthor and The Joker in the underworld hierarchy. 


Harsh as Superman’s treatment of Nick O’Teen may have been, it did the job. I never took up smoking, though I did get addicted to comics. I’m down to just a couple a day now. 


Batman was the best, of course (Yes, I know Superman could beat him in a fight, but that’s not the point). Away from the giddy camp of the sixties show, still repeating on Saturday morning ITV, the Caped Crusader was becoming the Dark Knight. It helped that my school was very near to Manchester’s best comic shop Odyssey 7. We were reading Frank Miller and Alan Moore while others had to make do with Action Force. 


Batman was no longer cast as the world’s greatest detective, which was just as well, as his detective skills mainly involved dangling henchmen off high buildings until they gave up the whereabouts of a supervillain. Instead he was a brooding, tortured anti-hero. Some of his adventures were even recommended for mature readers, though the middle-aged men who collected them didn’t look very mature to me. 


My love for superhero comics was sealed in 1986 with the launch of Watchmen. At the time, I could hardly have known that the comic I was sneaking out to buy was more complex and challenging than the stuff they wanted me to read in school. 


Though much of it swooshed over my head, Watchmen raises some very disturbing questions about the very idea of superheroes. Why would someone want to take the law into their own hands? What kind of a right-wing psycho would distrust society so much they took to dispensing instant vigilante justice? 


Though my book is light-hearted, I’ve tried to include some of this debunking spirit. At one point the hero Josh wonders if it would be better to let a bank robbery take place than to foil it. There would be a lot less damage to property and risk to civilians if they just let the robbery go ahead and left it to the big insurance companies to pay out. And is it really worth putting on your mask and tights to protect a bank? It’s not as if those institutions have ever done much for us. 


In real life, it can be very difficult to work out who the actual supervillains are.



Tim Collins is originally from Manchester, but now lives near London. At first he wrote non-fiction books for adults, but five years ago he began to publish children's fiction. He has now published over fifty books that have been translated into over forty languages. These include series fiction like Wimpy Vampire, Cosmic Colin, Dorkius Maximus and Monstrous Maud. All his books are very funny; they are exactly what children want. Check out this article What Kids Want in Books.

Tim has also written many stories for reluctant readers such as Troll, Joke Shop, The Locals, Mr Perfect and Dawn of the Daves. He has also won several awards such as Manchester Fiction City, The Lincolnshire Young People's Book Award and The Kalbacher Klapperschlange. 


Author's Website: timcollinsbooks.com

Author's Twitter Page:  

Thursday, 19 November 2015

MR RIPLEY'S BOOK COVER AWARD: HEAT FOUR (Plus a Mystery Book Prize Competition)

Welcome all.....
Mr Ripley's Enchanted Book Cover Award Rules:
There will be four weekly heats with five book covers to vote for. All heat winners will make the grand final. However, one more entry will also be entered into the final - this will be the book cover with the most votes from the other four heats as the runner up. 

Heat One Winner: Darren Shan - Zom-B - Fugitive (US Cover) - 133 Votes. 
Heat Two Winner: M. G. Leonard/Juila Sarda - Beetle Boy - 86 Votes.
Heat Three Winner:  Alwyn Hamilton - Rebel of the Sands - 56 Votes

As a voter, not only will you get the chance to choose your favourite book cover, but you will also be in with the chance to win a different special book each week. Therefore, in order to kick off the competition this week we have an amazing book, which is a mystery book/books. 

If you are interested then all you need to do is:
  • Vote for your favourite book cover using the poll - VOTE HERE
  • Leave a comment through this post or poll - VOTE HERE
  • Spread the word on Twitter/Facebook #BOOKCOVERWARS 
  • Sit back, watch the voting develop and wait to hear whether you've won (once the poll has closed). Please note that this competition is open to the UK only.
  • This poll will close 25th November 2015 (midnight UK time.) 
So here are the five book covers to vote for this week:



Book One: Danny Wallace - Hamish and the Neverpeople - Published by Simon & Schuster Children's Books (1 Mar. 2016) - Book Cover Art by Jamie Littler - VOTE HERE 


Book Two: Alexander Gordon Smith - The Devil's Engine: Hellraisers - Published by  Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Byr) (Dec. 2015) - Book Cover Art by Andrew Arnold - VOTE HERE


Book Three: Lu Hersey - Deep Water - Published by Usborne Publishing Ltd (1 July 2015) - Book Cover Art by Will Steele - VOTE HERE


Book Four: Jim Carrington - Boy 23 - Published by Bloomsbury Children's (19 Nov. 2015) - Book Cover Art by Levente Szabo - VOTE HERE



Book Five: Andy Briggs - Villain.Net: Collision Course - Published by WhiteGlove Agency (Amazon) (1. Jan 2015) - Book Cover Art by Alex Thompson - Vote Here. 

Happy voting all.....







Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Children's/Teen Book Picks - December 2015 - US Post


Victoria Schwab - Broken Ground (Spirit Animals: Fall of the Beasts, Book 2) - Published by Scholastic Inc. (December 22, 2015)
Something ancient and evil has awoken from beneath the world of Erdas. Shrouded in shadow and older than memory, just a sliver of its power can destroy with a touch. Even the spirit animal bond, the sacred link between humans and animals that keeps Erdas in balance, is under threat.

Four young heroes, Conor, Abeke, Meilin, and Rollan, are determined to stop it. Together with their spirit animals, they embark on a desperate journey that takes them deep underground and to the far corners of the world. As friends and allies fall around them, the four have no choice but to push forward and confront this darkness. If they stop to look back, they'll see the truth: Evil already has them surrounded.

Alexander Gordon Smith - The Devil's Engine: Hellraisers - Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (December 1, 2015) 
When a sixteen-year-old troublemaker named Marlow Green is trapped in a surreal firefight against nightmarish creatures in the middle of his New York City neighborhood, he unwittingly finds himself amid a squad of secret soldiers dedicated to battling the legions of the devil himself. Powering this army of young misfits is an ancient machine from the darkest parts of history. Known as the devil's engine, it can make any wish come true-as long as you are willing to put your life on the line. Promised powers beyond belief, and facing monstrous apparitions straight out of the netherworld, Marlow must decide if he's going to submit to a demonic deal with the infernal machine that will enable him to join the crusade-if it doesn't kill him first.
From the author of the Escape from Furnace series, here is the opening salvo in an explosive new horror trilogy about an ordinary American kid caught up in an invisible war against the very worst enemy imaginable.

Romina Russell - Wandering Star: A Zodiac Novel - Published by Razorbill (December 8, 2015)
Orphaned, disgraced, and stripped of her title, Rho is ready to live life quietly, as an aid worker in the Cancrian refugee camp on House Capricorn. 
But news has spread that the Marad--an unbalanced terrorist group determined to overturn harmony in the Galaxy--could strike any House at any moment.
Then, unwelcome nightmare that he is, Ochus appears to Rho, bearing a cryptic message that leaves her with no choice but to fight.     
Now Rho must embark on a high-stakes journey through an all-new set of Houses, where she discovers that there's much more to her Galaxy--and to herself--than she could have ever imagined. 
Eve Bunting - Forbidden - Published by Clarion Books (December 1, 2015)
In early-nineteenth century Scotland, sixteen-year-old Josie, an orphan, is sent to live with an aunt and uncle on the rocky, stormy northwest coast. Everything and everyone in her new surroundings, including her relatives, is sinister, threatening, and mysterious. She's told that Eli, the young man she's attracted to, is forbidden to her, but not why. Spirited, curious, and determined, Josie sets out to learn the village's secrets and discovers evil, fueled by heartless greed, as well as a ghostly presence eager for revenge. An author's note gives the historical inspiration for this story.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands - Book Review


Follow the clues. Crack the code. Stay alive.
Potions, puzzles and the occasional explosion are all in a day's work for young apothecary Christopher Rowe. Murder is another matter.
It's a dangerous time to be the apprentice of Benedict Blackthorn. A wave of mysterious murders has sent shockwaves through London, and soon Christopher finds himself on the run. His only allies are his best friend, Tom, courageous Molly, and a loyal feathered friend, Bridget. His only clues are a coded message about his master's most dangerous project, and a cryptic warning - 'Tell no one!'
The race is on for Christopher: crack the code and uncover its secret, or become the next victim . . .

It's time to set the course of your fantasy compass to this epic middle grade adventure written by Kevin Sands. This is a global debut novel that every imaginative young boy/girl will love to read. It is a book born out of pure dreaming; a fantastic page turner set among the apothecaries and secret alchemists of London in 1665. The hero of the day is Christopher Rowe, a clever young boy with a mischievous heart, who is apprenticed as an apothecary to Master Benedict Blackthorn. 


The story is highly interactive with codes to crack and secret doors to open or perhaps even close. You will find yourself hurtling through this high octane fuelled plot as you uncover and foil some nasty conspiracies. The historical touch feels period and is believable of the time. In my opinion, it has all been very well researched and thought out. It's an insight into a little time capsule of an era that has changed dramatically in comparison to now.  It's really engaging and easy to read with a a narrative that will sweep you off your fantasy feet. 


The story has a fantastic blend of mystery, violence and danger. You will find yourself prowling through the dangerous streets of London in search of whispers and hidden truths. The author has a great flair and an original way of disposing of some of the characters, which makes it engaging with a no nonsense attitude. I really liked this - it is a strong point of the book! However, parts of the story are very descriptive and slightly graphic, so use caution if you're a parent buying this book for a child as it might be too graphic for them to handle. 


The only negative element that I have to mention relates to the main characters. It might have added a new dimension and additional depth if one the characters had been an action female. 

This book ticks a lot of boxes that will leave everyone with a good feeling about this book. It's magical, full of action, pranks and has a playful heart. It also explores themes of astronomy, botany and most of all chemistry. It's very exciting; the setting is very engrossing and encapsulates this time period very well.The characters feel real, fun and very likeable which is a massive achievement. I would definitely give this book a solid recommendation for anyone who loves a well plotted adventure that will transport you into a world of secrets, which is full of conspiracy and action. 




Thursday, 12 November 2015

PUBLICATION DAY: Anne Booth & Sam Usher - Refuge - Nosy Crow


Nosy Crow publishes Refuge on 12th November. It is a book I dearly hope you will all support.
Like you, I suppose, all of us at Nosy Crow have watched the ongoing refugee crisis on the news – the terrible stories, the appalling pictures, the daily suffering and tragedies – and have wanted desperately to do something. Not just to raise money, but to help parents with young children asking difficult questions about the pictures they see of boys and girls their own age in unimaginable circumstances. But we did not know what we could do.
And then, just five weeks ago, Anne Booth, a picture book author on the Nosy Crow list, sent in a beautiful, careful, succinct text that we read. It made some of us cry with the beauty of the writing and the way it took a story that is already familiar and moving for many of us and cast it in a completely new light. We knew that this could be a book that helps. We matched Anne’s words with the hugely evocative and engaging illustrations of Sam Usher – who had recently visited the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp and met refugees for himself – and we had the book we will publish in just a few days’ time on November 12: Refuge.
Nosy Crow won’t make any money at all from Refuge. By absorbing everything other than our print costs, and through the generosity of all involved in producing, distributing and selling it (the list is on the copyright page of the book), we will be able to give £5 for every copy of this £7.99 book sold to our partner charity, War Child, to help care for Syrian refugee children and their families in camps and host communities in Jordan and Northern Iraq and other children displaced, orphaned and suffering as a result of war too. It’s a small, focussed charity, and they are delighted to be involved.
The Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell, has called Refuge “an important Christmas book.” He says it is “a book to share with a lump in your throat and an ache in your heart until the beauty and hope of the very last page.”
I agree, and I hope you will too.
Buy Copies here please: http://nosycrow.com/product/refuge/

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

MR RIPLEY'S BOOK COVER AWARD: HEAT THREE: Plus win a copy Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School


For any follower of this site this is the chance for you to become part of the weekly book cover wars. I am going to select five book covers for you to vote for. The winner of each heat will then go forward to the final round and get a chance to be crowned as 'Mr Ripley's Enchanted Book Cover Winner 2015/16'.

Heat One Winner: Darren Shan - Zom-B - Fugitive (US Cover) - 133 Votes. 
Heat Two Winner: M. G. Leonard/Juila Sarda - Beetle Boy - 86 Votes.

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Book Cover War Rules:
There will be four weekly heats with five book covers to vote for. All heat winners will make the grand final. However, one more entry will also be entered into the final - this will be the book cover with the most votes from the other four heats as the runner up. 

As a voter, not only will you get the chance to choose your favourite book cover, but you will also be in with the chance to win a different special book each week. Therefore, in order to kick off the competition this week we have an amazing book, which is a hardback copy of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School by Jeff Kinney.

If you are interested then all you need to do is:
  • Vote for your favourite book cover using the poll - VOTE HERE
  • Leave a comment through this post or poll - VOTE HERE
  • Spread the word on Twitter/Facebook #BOOKCOVERWARS 
  • Sit back, watch the voting develop and wait to hear whether you've won (once the poll has closed). Please note that this competition is open to the UK only.
  • This poll will close 17th November 2015 (midnight UK time.) 
So here are the five book covers to vote for this week:


Book One: Alwyn Hamilton - Rebel of the Sands - Published by Viking Books for Young Readers (8 Mar. 2016) - Book Cover art by Will Steele - VOTE HERE


Book Two: Huw Powell - Spacejackers: The Lost Sword - Published by Bloomsbury Children's (2 July 2015) - Book Cover art by Alex Fuentes -  VOTE HERE


Book Three: Abi Elphinstone - The Dream Snatcher - Published by Simon & Schuster Ltd (26 Feb. 2015) - Book Cover art by Thomas Flintham - VOTE HERE


Book Four: Nicholas Gannon - The Doldrums - Published by HarperCollins Children's Books (8 Oct. 2015) - Book Cover art by Nicholas Gannon/Paul Zakris - VOTE HERE



Book Five: Jon Mayhew - The Venom of the Scorpion (Monster Odyssey 4) published by Bloomsbury Children's (14 Jan. 2016) Book Cover art by Justin Goby Fields - VOTE HERE



Happy voting, please leave a comment on the post/poll, you might win that book! 

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Mr Ripley's Interview with Alexander Gordon Smith - Author of the Escape from Furnace Series


Welcome to Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books. Today, I’m very lucky to be interviewing one of my favourite writers Alexander Gordon Smith, who is the author, of a number of great books, The Inventors series, and the Escape from Furnace series. Thank you for agreeing to this interview - it's wonderful to have you on the blog today. Some of the questions, put to you are courtesy of the nice people on social media, thank you all for that!
That genre of books do you like to read? do you limit yourself to only the genre that you write yourself? 
I love to read just about anything! I definitely prefer books with an element of horror or fantasy (it helps me escape!), but I think one of the most important things about being a writer is reading as much and as widely as possible. It's just part of your job, and you can learn so much by reading outside of your genre. Saying that, life is too short to read books you don't enjoy, so I've become pretty impatient – if I'm not enjoying a book after the first twenty pages I'll probably give up on it. That's pretty bad! But yes, I read mainly YA and horror, plus a bit of fantasy. Right now I've just finished Anything That Isn't This, by Chris Priestly (which was amazing!), and am part-way through several things including Scott Smith's The Ruins (terrifying!), and Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series (beautiful!). 

What scares you?
Everything! It's why I write horror. I love horror, it's an incredibly powerful genre because it can help you overcome your fears and worries. Writing about something you are afraid of gives you ownership of it, it gives you control. It's remarkably empowering, and that's why I always recommend it to anyone. It's where I get most of my ideas from, by sitting down and writing a list of my worst fears, then adding 'what ifs' to those fears in order to explore and develop them. The Escape From Furnace series came from my fear of getting into serious trouble as a teenager (I was a bit of a hellraiser), my new series, The Devil's Engine, was inspired by my asthma, and the terror of not being able to breathe. Fears change as you go through life, and right now I guess my worst ones include something happening to my kids, plus forgetting how to write! I'm also terrified of slugs and porcelain dolls...

Have you ever used contemporary events or stories “ripped from the headlines” in your work? 

Not really. I write horror stories, and I see them as a kind of escapism – not just for the reader, but for me too. The headlines are a real-life horror story every single day, and it can get a bit too much. Horror is about being scared, yes, it's about that thrill. But horror, especially YA horror, is also about hope. I think that's at the heart of all good horror stories. Hope, humanity, and heroism. It's why the genre is so popular with younger readers, and it's certainly why I love it. So I don't really look to the outside world for inspiration in this way. Besides, I hate research, and real world stories need so much of it. I'm too lazy!

How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
I don't develop plots at all, but I do spend a lot of time developing characters. Characters are the heart and soul of any story, they need the most work. And characters are plot. If you can create realistic, believable characters that have a life story of their own, that have fears and dreams and loves and hopes, then their response to external events becomes the story. It isn't a case of you herding your characters from plot point A to plot point B and so on, it's more about you throwing them into the story and then trying to keep up with them as they negotiate their changing world. The idea of your characters writing the story for you is a bit of a cliche, but it's a cliche for a reason – it's true. So I'll spend days asking the characters questions, probing their psyches, exploring their histories. It takes a long time, but it's a fantastic investment because once you know the characters, the books do kind of write themselves. Google Proust's Questionnaire and start asking your characters some of those questions – you'll see how easy it is to turn them from vague outlines into (almost!) living, breathing people.

Did your books turn out the way you expect them too? (Question by G.A. Taylor.)
No! Well, sometimes. It's hard to say, because as I said before I don't really plan, and I certainly don't know what the end will be. I'm two books into a trilogy right now with The Devil's Engine, and I have literally no idea what is going to happen in the third and final part. None whatsoever. Which can be a bit worrying because the first two are already pretty much at the printers. I don't worry, though. I had the same thing with Furnace and that worked out fine! I am a huge believer in the power of the human brain to tell stories. I may not consciously know what's going to happen in a book, but I've spent so long living inside the world of the story, I've spent so much time with these characters, that I know my unconscious is working on solving the problems. The same way, I guess, that it helps solve problems in your actual life when you're asleep, by dreaming. That part of your brain doesn't necessarily know that the fictional problems aren't real (or maybe they are real, because the imagination is incredibly convincing), so it works just as hard to solve them. I know that when I start writing, the book will guide me. That sounds remarkably pretentious, but I don't know how else to say it!

How much involvement have you had with the graphic content of your books? 
I've been pretty lucky with my editors in that they haven't objected to much at all. I think I've only ever had them ask for one scene to be removed! Horror can be horrible, and yes there is gore in my books, but a reader's imagination is far more adept at creating horrors than a writer's, so it's always best to leave the work to them. I like to set the scene, sprinkle a few details, and then let them do the rest! 

What do you think makes a good story?
Wow, that's a tough question. There are so many elements that make up a good story, but it goes beyond that, a good story is more than just the sum of its parts. It's almost impossible to define a good story, but as a reader I need to fall in love with the character first and foremost. If I can do that, then I will follow them anywhere, I'll go through hell and back with them, just to find out what happens at their end of their story. If the characters are right, then it almost doesn't matter about the plot – like I said before, the characters are the plot. Again, as a reader, I want a story that picks me up and doesn't put me down until the end. It's why I love horror, because you have to keep reading, you have to find out what happens. I don't want to be able to breathe until I've turned that last page. It's what I try to do in my books too. Oh, and have fun! You can usually tell a good story by whether the author has had fun writing it – I mean, it's hard work, don't get me wrong, but an author should love the story, they should want to know what happens next. If I'm not feeling that way about a story, I won't be able to finish it. 

What do you think has the most impact on your reader - opening line or closing chapter/line? (Question by 
Bea Collyer)  
The closing line, for sure. The opening line is important, don't get me wrong, it's the hook that pulls people into the book. But it's just an introduction, it's the first step on that adventure, quickly forgotten. The last line is how we leave you, it's how we say goodbye. The last line is the one that will be going around and around in your head for days, hopefully. It might be there forever. There is something incredibly powerful, and poignant, about that last line. It's always bittersweet, because even if the book ends happily it's still a goodbye. It might be the last we ever hear from these characters. So yes, that closing line has so much impact, it's very important – and very, very hard to write.

What's the best word your editor has advised you to take out? (Question by Jim Carrington)
So many! Each book of mine always seems to have a word that I use again and again. With one, I remember, it was 'realised'. I was saying it on every page. He realised, she realised. I hadn't even noticed I was doing it. Adverbs always go, of course. Not all of them, but most. They are clumsy words, but I can't seem to stop myself using them. In my latest book I was overusing 'okay', the characters were constantly asking each other if they were okay. They were being chased by demons and monsters and enemy soldiers for most of the book, though, so it seemed like a good thing to be asking! The most valuable thing I have been asked to take out… Probably unnecessary actions. Things like 'He turned, then walked to the door.' 'He walked to the door' is so much quicker, and so much better. People always seem to be turning in books. Stop turning, people!

Are you currently involved in any writing projects?
I'm always writing something. I love writing, it's where I feel completely relaxed and happy. Starting a new book is like opening the door on a brand new adventure, not knowing where it will lead, or who I'll meet there. It's an incredible feeling, addictive. Right now I've got four books on the go, all in early stages. I tend to start quite a few projects at once, then see which one has got the most pull, which one I'm most interested in. I'll be starting the last book in the Devil's Trilogy soon, but there's a new one I have just started, a YA sci-fi, and I'm planning to finish that for Nanowrimo – whether I do or not is another matter! It's something a bit new for me, but I'm really enjoying it. I finished my first adult thriller / horror this year and my agent is currently sending it out, which is exciting! I'm trying to start a new adult horror as well, so I have something else in the pipeline. Maybe fifty percent of books I start never make it past 10,000 words, but hopefully these ones will! 



Will you ever win Mr Ripley's Book Cover Wars?
I hope so!! I love the cover wars, and I am determined to win one day. Just so long as I'm not in the final again Thomas Taylor again...

Where can I buy your books? (Question by Tom Easton)

Everywhere! Most book shops will have them, or will order them, and they're everywhere online too.