Thursday, 17 October 2019

Guest Post: Nick Tomlinson - The Ghouls of Howlfair - How I Became a Horror Writer


Hello everybody. The nights are getting darker and Halloween is getting closer. I hear you all asking, what's new in the scary kid's book world? What book is going to get your heart racing and your spine-tingling? Well, this is the book for you. It's the fantastic debut spooky mystery by Nick Tomlinson (illustrated by Kim Geyer). The Ghouls of Howlfair will be published by Walker Books this October (2019). This might just be the book that you've been looking for. 

Welcome, Nick, to Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books. Thank you for writing this guest post about the book and how you became a Horror writer. I am sure that this post will entice everyone to pick this book up and read it this coming autumn. Bookdepository.com

Firing Jacob and Hiring Molly – How I Became a Horror Writer 
Aeons ago, after my first book (written for grown-ups) got good reviews but only sold four copies, I decided to become a children’s writer. Everyone was going loopy about Harry Potter, and becoming a famous children’s writer struck me as the best way to achieve my artistic dream of selling more than four books. Also, I’d had an amazing idea for a middle-grade fantasy story, and I wanted to write it before someone else got there first. 


In kids’ fantasy books, you tend to get the main character who journeys to a magical world (say, Narnia) from somewhere real (say, Smethwick). Often there’s a reason why the character’s destined to go to that fantasy world. They have credentials - they’ve defeated Voldemort or they’re meant to fulfil an ancient prophecy or something. This is where I tripped myself up: I had a good reason why my character, Jacob, was supposed to journey to my fantasy land (Howlfair, a scary town full of monsters), but it was so flipping complicated that it took me half the book to explain it. Jacob and my book were doomed from the start, but I wrote it anyway, and rewrote it, and rewrote it. 


There was something pure about my early efforts to write the book. Specifically, they were pure rubbish. Every other page saw some soothsayer step from behind a curtain and deliver a speech about a meaningful aspect of Jacob’s backstory. By the final scene, the monsters were so bored with delivering speeches that they wanted to be killed. 


My agent didn’t deal with children’s books, so we parted ways and now I had no agent. I wrote hundreds of drafts and sent them to scores of agents; many liked the opening chapters but spat out their coffee when I told them the final word-count. They’d advise me to cut fifty-thousand words, so I’d chop the manuscript in half and then neaten up the edges by adding some clarifying dialogue about Jacob’s highly significant past, and suddenly presto! The manuscript was even bigger than before. Like a self-renewing monster from Greek myth. 


I carried on hacking down and bulking up my manuscript for fifteen years, always convinced that the next draft would be the one that’d get published. 


My fantasy setting, Howlfair, was a town built over a gateway to Hell. Miners had accidentally opened the gateway, flooding the whole valley with monsters. The townsfolk had organised themselves into special groups to take on the monsters – the Order of Noble Vampire Hunters, the Order of the Silver Bullet, etc. My protagonist, Jacob, accidentally found himself joining a group of wimpy warrior-farmers that everyone else laughed at. But, owing to a three-hundred-page backstory involving a potion Jacob had drunk when he was four, Jacob’s destiny was to lead this rag-tag group in a mission to save Howlfair from a demon. It was a pretty good premise, I thought - but I couldn’t make it work. It wasn’t until I was lounging in a beer-barrel hot-tub on a dog-friendly eco-holiday in Wales, a holiday my wife and I had booked after adopting a dog we’d found outside a petrol station in Birmingham, that I suddenly realised how to save the story. 


What if I stopped trying to write a fantasy book and wrote horror instead? In horror, a character doesn’t go from Smethwick to Narnia. In horror, something malicious comes from Hell to Smethwick. Something evil invades the day-to-day. Your character doesn’t need a reason to go where the action happens, because in horror the action happens right here. 


Unfortunately, this meant that I had to fire poor Jacob. His backstory was a many-tentacled presence in my mind. The thought of him gave me vertigo. I needed a new protagonist, one without baggage. 


For a long time, a character called Molly Thompson had been patiently haunting my imagination. I’d never considered her for this story because she wasn’t a feisty brave hero like you nearly always get in kids’ fantasy books. She was a shy bookworm, based on the shy bookworms I’d taught in a Birmingham girls’ school, girls who described themselves as weird and clumsy and socially awkward. I’d hoped to write a book one day in which these girls could meet a character like themselves, a character who was shy and awkward but 
unstoppable, and Molly would be the star of that book. But the more I thought about it, the more I felt as though Molly wanted to be in my Howlfair story. 


I turned Howlfair from a fantasy world into a corny tourist town with lots of silly old legends about monsters, legends nobody believes in. Nobody, that is, except a shy, unstoppable amateur historian named Molly Thompson, who lives in the creepy Excelsior Guesthouse. Molly knows the old legends better than anyone else, and she certainly knows them well enough to spot when one of them – the legend of the Ghouls of Loonchance Manor – is starting to come true… 


How does Molly fare? Well, she’s definitely not your usual brave adventurer. But, though I feel bad for Jacob, I hope readers will agree that once the scary old stories of Howlfair begin coming to life and someone needs to stop them, Molly turned out to be the right person for the job.

Twitter: @Tomlinsonio
Website: https://www.nicktomlinson.com

Monday, 14 October 2019

P.G Bell (Author), Flavia Sorrentino (Illustrator) - The Great Brain Robbery (The Train to Impossible Places BK 2) - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books - Book Review


Here we are being whisked away on another fantasy adventure all aboard the Impossible Postal Express. The Great Brain Robbery is the second book by P.G Bell and will hit the bookshops this month (October, 2019) with a fanfare of smoke and whistles. It has been published by Usborne Children's Books in amazing hardback goodness. The book cover has been superbly illustrated, once again, by the talented Flavia Sorrentino. Remove the holographic dust jacket and it will reveal an illustrative treasure; a marvel of design and colour that fully captures the reader's attention. Whilst inside, the book has twelve brilliant illustrations to complement the story.

In this book, we are treated to another all-out adventure which has clearly stretched the author's imagination. The inventiveness and playfulness is a really strong feature of the story; it makes a fantastic reading experience. You will easily find your self immersed in a quirky race for time in an unpredictable plot that will have your pulse and brain buzzing with energy and excitement.

We return to the Union of Impossible Places with Postal Operative Suzy. The magic shimmers from the very first page, as we slide back into a sparkling universe that will make your dreams sing and your heart pulse with eager expectations. The town of Trolliville is in danger - cracks begin to appear as tremors shake the foundations but what exactly is afoot? The crew of the Impossible Postal Express has a mystery and a puzzle on their hands. However, Suzy, Wilmot and friends soon uncover a dastardly plan that might derail their postal duties and bring Trolliville crashing down.  

Delivering the post has never been so deadly. However, "A good Postal Operative is not only courteous and efficient but embodies the ideals of honesty, courage, and trust" (Book of Knowledge - Postal Operative Handbook). With this in mind, you'll be rampaging across the amazing landscape in seven-league boots. Flying across the sky in a fold-away hot air balloon called Bertha and visiting secret caverns. Life has never felt so impossible in this thrilling narrative both above and below Trolliville.

This is another treasured book with a fantastic story to match. It's full of great ideas, humour, adrenalin and mild emotion that will be loved by everyone. Strap yourself in for a narrative full of mayhem and madness that will have you eating the pages up in no time at all. The story has a great ending to whip up a memorable fast-paced fantasy storm that will leave you wanting so much more. This is an excellent book so buy it or borrow it but you definitely have to read it; it is a great armchair reading experience.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books: US Kids/Young Adult Book Picks - October 2019

Cassie Beasley - The Bootlace Magician - Published by Dial Books (October 1, 2019) - Hardback - ISBN-13: 978-0525552635 - Age: 9+

Welcome back to Circus Mirandus . . . a place with magic so wondrous, you need to believe it to see it. Micah Tuttle--magician in training--lives and works at Circus Mirandus alongside his guardian, the ancient and powerful Lightbender. The circus is a place filled with dazzling fire shows, stubborn unicorns, and magicians from every corner of the world. And Micah is doing everything he can to prove he belongs there. When a dangerous enemy from the past threatens his new home, Micah will have to untangle the mystery of his own potent magic, and he'll have to do it fast. With trouble this deadly on its way, every magician will need to be ready to fight. Even the youngest.



Jake Burt - The Tornado: A Novel - Published by Feiwel & Friends (October 1, 2019) -  Hardback - ISBN-13: 978-1250168641 - Age: 10+

 

Bell Kirby is an expert at systems, whether he’s designing the world’s most elaborate habitat for his pet chinchilla, re-creating Leonardo da Vinci’s greatest inventions in his garage, or avoiding Parker Hellickson, the most diabolical bully Village Green Elementary has ever seen.
Since third grade, Parker has tormented Bell, who’s spent two long years devising a finely tuned system that keeps him out of Parker’s way. Sure, it means that Bell can’t get a drink when he wants to, can’t play with his best friend on the playground, and can’t tell his parents about his day, but at least he’s safe.
Until Daelynn Gower touches down in his classroom like a tornado.
Bell’s not sure why the new girl, with her rainbow hair, wild clothes, and strange habits, is drawn to him, but he knows one thing--she means trouble. It’s bad enough that she disrupts Bell’s secret system, but when Daelynn becomes the bully’s new target, Bell is forced to make an impossible decision: Finally stand up to Parker. . . 
Or join him.

Liesl Shurtliff - Time Castaways #2: The Obsidian Compass - Published by Katherine Tegen Books (October 15, 2019) -  Hardback - ISBN-13: 978-0062568182 - Age: 8+

Mateo, Ruby, and Corey Hudson have lost their friend Jia to the villainous Captain Vincent’s clutches, and now they’re determined to bring her back to safety. But the Hudson kids don’t have a way to time-travel without the Obsidian Compass, until Mateo figures out the secret component to get his own homemade compass working. 
Soon the whole family—plus their wacky neighbor, Chuck, and his rusty orange bus, Blossom—are swept up in another epic journey. 
With their own time-traveling vehicle and some help from history’s most famous young markswoman, Annie Oakley, the Hudsons think they’re prepared to sneak onto the Vermillion. Unbeknownst to them, Captain Vincent already knows they’re coming. In fact, he’s counting on it…

Peter Lerangis - Throwback - Published by HarperCollins (October 1, 2019) - Hardback - ISBN-13: 978-0062406385 - Age: 7+

Corey Fletcher has an active imagination. He sees things no one else does. Cracks jokes no one else gets. And goes places few would ever dare go. Like the past.
All he needs is a metal artifact from a point in time, and Corey can go there. Although hundreds of time travelers live in secret throughout the world, including Corey's own grandfather, none has the ability to change past events.
But when Corey accidentally saves a life while time traveling, he realizes that he is the first-ever “Throwback,” with the power to alter life as we know it. Which means his own life is now in all sorts of danger.
This is the first book in a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat adventure series from New York Times bestselling author Peter Lerangis, whose books have sold over five and a half million copies worldwide.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Jamie Smart - Flember: The Secret Book - Book Review - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books


Get ready to visit the bookshops this October (2019) for the rip-roaring release of the first book in the world of Flember. The Secret Book is written and brilliantly illustrated by Jamie Smart and published by David Fickling Books. The fabulous illustrations make it a brilliantly visual adventure. They not only show images of the characters and the setting but also have diagrams of Dev's wacky inventions. There are also entire pages from the mysterious secret book highlighting the plot in creative detail. All of the illustrations pull the reader along a magical path that totally immerses them.



The main character is Dev, a young inventor whose creations go spectacularly wrong. In fact they often leave a cheesy taste in the reader's mouth. Here, in the little sleepy village of Eden, Dev finds his flying wings with his latest invention. However, the surreal aviation lesson leads to a heavy landing and a chain of spectacularly madcap disasters. 

The village has banned all books and the power they contain. However, one day Dev discovers THE SECRET BOOK and the magical power called FLEMBER. This leads to EVEN more chaos as Dev builds a GIANT RED ROBOT BEAR called BOJA. What could possibly go wrong? I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear that the consequences and events that ensue are both chaotic and spectacular.

The story is both fantastic and painful to read - it is very creatively written with fantastically memorable characters and settings. It will have you laughing and crying in equal measure. There really is a great community spirit at the heart of the story. It's a great family read that will fill you with wonder. The quirkiness will lead you into the mysteries of the plot and towards a climactic ending that will make you want more. This is a fantastic new series with (hopefully) more great adventures to come.