Saturday, 18 September 2021

Kate Wilkinson - Edie and the Box of Flits - Interview (Q&A) - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books #6

 


Here on Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books we have another fantastic interview for you to get your fantasy teeth into. We've been given the brilliant opportunity to ask Kate Wilkinson some questions about Edie and the Box Flits. This is an amazing magical debut book which has been illustrated by Joe Berger. The book was published this year by Piccadilly Press (22 July 2021) and will delight both young and old readers - especially those who love brilliant stories like the classic The Borrowers. If this sounds like your kind of book then you can order a copy HERE. 

  • Edie and the Box of Flits is your first children's book. Can you tell us something about it and what inspired you to write it?

It’s about a girl called Edie Winter who lives in London and her dad runs the Lost Property Office for the London Underground. Edie has just started secondary school, but she’s not finding it easy as her old primary school friends have abandoned her and she feels very lonely.

So Edie decides to spend the first half term helping Dad to collect missing items. She finds an abandoned box on the Piccadilly Line and as she picks it up, she feels something fluttering inside. And so begins an adventure that takes her into a thumb-sized world deep in the tunnels under London. 

As a Londoner, I spend a lot of time waiting for trains and buses especially at Highbury and Islington station which is on my route home. There is a family of sooty mice that live on the platform and I often sit on a bench watching them gathering up discarded crumbs and crisps. They gave me the idea of a ‘parallel’ world of small creatures foraging on the Underground. 

  • Part of the story is set on the London Underground. Why did you choose this as a setting?

I have lived in London most of my adult life and so the London Underground has found its way into my DNA. I love the maze of tunnels, the platforms and the whoosh of air as the trains rush into the station. It also runs overground through many of the suburbs so you rattle along in the dark and then suddenly you are out in the daylight often at rooftop level as you pass between the houses.  

When I was researching my book I took a couple of Hidden London tours that the London Transport Museum organises and saw the ghost stations and abandoned passageways that still exist down under London’s pavements.  That’s when I decided to set the scene when the Flits are freed in a ghost station at Wilde Street. 

  • What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel?

Yes there will hopefully next year and the adventure will be set on another great Underground system in a different city! Edie will discover the secret of the eyeglass and meet more Flits, but she will also be approaching her thirteenth birthday and once you are thirteen the Flits become invisible. Will this happen to Edie? 

  • Joe Berger has illustrated elements of the book. What process did you both use and did you see the illustrations as you were writing the book?

Publishers don’t tend to put illustrators and writers in touch with each other as you both work via an art director, but I was sent roughs for all the illustrations and love Joe Berger’s work. I particularly like the drawings he did of the wilderness station and Edie, Benedict and Charlie walking through the deserted Underground tunnels late at night. As we will be working together on a sequel, I did get in touch with Joe and we met in Bristol where he lives and had a lovely chat. 

  • You started out as a children's writer for BBC Radio creating audio stories. What are the main differences in writing a book as opposed to writing an audio story?

I did! It feels like a long time ago, but I wrote two long running series about The Boot Family who lived on a farm and Walter Crumpton who was trusted with looking after all sorts of unruly animals. The stories were for pre-schoolers in a slot called The Listening Corner and the joy of writing for audio is that you can really be playful with the different voices and use lots of music and sound effects to tell the story. The narrators were always brilliant at dialogue and often very funny. My favourite was the voice of a particularly grumpy donkey. 

  • What do you particularly love about writing for or listening to audiobooks?

My day job is producing readings and short stories for the BBC and audiobooks for publishers like Penguin and Bloomsbury, although they all tend to be for adults. As the audiobooks are unabridged, I can be in the studio with an actor for five or six days working our way through a particularly long novel. If the actor reads well, it’s an absolute joy and a privilege just to sit there and listen to a brilliant story unfold.  

  • At what point in your life did you realise you wanted to be a writer?

I’m afraid I was a bit annoying as a child and full of myself and my earliest memories are bouncing up and down on my mother’s bed, dictating stories to her about a walrus that could fly and insisting that she wrote them down. The walrus as you can imagine came to a sticky end! 

  • If you could hold imagination in your hands, what do you think it would look like?

A wardrobe with a hundred tiny doors and drawers. As you pull each one open you are never quite sure what you will find. 

  • How do you relax and switch off from the world?

I love to escape London and go for a walk in the woods with my dog or go swimming. Cold water doesn’t put me off so I try to swim right through the winter. Plunging into a river in March is a brilliant way to shake off all the wordly grumbles. 

  • Is there anything you wish you'd known sooner as a writer that you would be happy to share with any aspiring authors reading this?

It can take a very long time to find a publisher and for your book to move through the cogs and wheels, but just keep going and you will get there in the end. 




Monday, 13 September 2021

Pam Say - The Hideaway - Book Review - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books


At Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books, this is one of our favourite books for September 2021 - The Hideaway by Pam Smy. It is an eagerly awaited novel since the author's first groundbreaking book - THORNHILL - which was published to great acclaim in 2017. The author and illustrator captured our imagination with the bold tonal black and white drawings which also feature in her new book. However, this is where the similarities stop as the novel is based on a brilliantly original and captivating story that conveys powerful themes which have been expertly incorporated into this middle-grade read. 

The story follows a young boy called Billy who runs away from home and seeks out a place of refuge.  He remembers an overgrown graveyard and hides out in an old disused pillbox (a concrete dug-in guard post that was used in World War 2)The book is powerfully woven using two narratives: one filled with mystery and full of escapism whilst the second conveys a family life filled with domestic abuse and loneliness. This is a book that charters new waters with a huge emotional paddle. It highlights the thought-provoking reality for some families but is told with great understanding and sensitivity.

There is also a lighter side which cuts through the seriousness of the story. Again, this has been expertly and skillfully done through both the narrative and the wonderful illustrations. Whilst Billy McKenna is hiding in the graveyard, he meets a mysterious elderly man who is tending the graves in preparation for a special day. It's All Souls’ Eve in November when something magical is set to happen. This captures brilliant moments and the empathy that Billy has for the gravestones and the dead. It ties the story together and helps cut through the serious situation in the plot that the children and their families are dealing with. 

This is a fantastically compelling story that is told from the heart. It's a book to absorb long after you finish the last page as it's not just a story but a journey. It's a discovery and uncovering that will both touch and tug at your emotions. Yet, the lighter side of the story is a really welcomed and refreshing touch that will let your imagination fly as the supernatural ability brings things together in a black and white illustrated world. This is an important book to seek out and read as it may give some readers, both old and young, some comfort and solace when times are hard. It's our recommendation for this year and beyond. We hope you will take this journey and that it will have an impact on your life like it did ours. 


Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Melissa Welliver - The Undying Tower (The Undying Trilogy) - Interview (Q&A) - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books #5




 
Hello Everybody. It's time to talk YA fiction on Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books with the debut book by Melissa Welliver. The Undying Tower is the first book in an action-packed dystopian trilogy that will be published in October 2021 by Agora Books. In this interview, we get a fantastic insight into the story, the characters, and the author's road to being published. We hope you enjoy this post. 

If you fancy finding out more or you just want to get ahead then please preorder HERE. There is a possibility that you might be able to get a signed copy and some special extras. Enjoy your week. 
  1.   Can you share something with us about the story that isn’t in the blurb?

Great question! I think something major that is in there from the beginning is that Sadie is a Synaesthete – someone who has a particular cross-wiring of her brain so she associates smells and colours with certain emotions. She is an artist, and her synaesthesia informs her art just as much as her other senses. For the most part, the colour match-ups with the emotions are based on my own synaesthesia.

 

2.    Why do you think we should read this book?


If you’re missing the dystopian YA of the 2010s, but want something with a bit of a reboot, then you should absolutely read The Undying Tower! If that doesn’t persuade you, don’t listen to me, listen to Michael Grant, author of the Gone series: “In the spirit of The Hunger Games but deeper, more heartfelt, even profound in its examination of the downsides of eternal life. I loved The Undying Tower. Melissa Welliver has arrived on the scene and attention should be paid.” (I know, I’m still star-struck!)


3.    The book is set in a dystopian world. What does the future look like for the characters in the book? 


The future is bleak, I’m sad to say! The world has been ravaged by nuclear war, climate change disaster, and an over-population crisis. Throw into the mix that 5% of the population will never die from old age, and these issues only get worse. That said, the young heroes of the novel have good intensions and a will to do better than their forefathers, so I’m hopeful that things could get better one day (look out book 3!)


4.    Is there an underlying message you would like readers to take from this story as they read the book?


The major message is that if you have a voice, use it. The book really champions fighting for what’s right, especially when the world is against you.


5.    The Undying Tower is the first book of a trilogy. Do you know how the story is going to develop across the other two books?


While books 2 and 3 are yet to be written, I do have a plot outline for each, plus one for the overall arc of the trilogy as a whole. I’m learning a lot about myself as a writer throughout the publishing process, and those lessons are bound to affect those outlines a little! But on the whole, I know where the story ultimately needs to end up.


6.    Do you have a favourite character in the book? If so, who is it and what makes them so special to you?


I really want to be best friends with Rivers. She is the feisty right-hand-woman of our main character, Sadie, and she totally kicks butt. She also has a softer side that we see the edges of in book 1 and that I want to explore further in other books. Rivers always has your back, plus she’s pretty handy with a knife, so I definitely want her on my survival team!


7.    If your book was to be made into a movie, which celebrities would you like to star in it?


A film deal – the dream! The Undying Tower is set in the UK, so I’d love to see some British stalwarts like Patterson Joseph or Benedict Cumberbatch in there, perhaps as members of the resistance. That said, the Avalonia Zone (the new name for the British Isles) does own some overseas colonies, so there’s certainly room for some wonderful American or European actors. I’d like the younger roles to go to younger actors, perhaps even to an as-yet-unknown person – to give someone a big break like Agora Books has given me would be another dream come true!


8.    Please could you tell us a little about yourself and how you became a writer?

I’m Melissa and I live in the North of England. Like most writers, I’ve always wanted to write, but wasn’t sure how to go about it. The publishing industry can be very opaque and that can make it difficult for new writers. In the end, I did a fair few courses for creative writing and slowly the idea for The Undying Tower came together. It’s been nine years of perseverance, rejections, ups and downs, but I’m finally here. Never give up!


9.    If you had a soundtrack for this book, what would it be and why?

I listened to a lot of film soundtracks when writing The Undying Tower, funnily enough. I think a big, dramatic score by John Williams is a perfect accompaniment to the story’s punchy themes and action scenes.


10. What do you think is the main thing you have to get right when writing a book for Young Adults?

Voice. With any age group this is important, but especially so with YA. We’re competing against video games, TikTok, Netflix – a whole array of distractions that seem bigger and better than reading. If you don’t nail that voice, your teen audience won’t want to follow your character for 300 pages on their adventure. Voice helps any story come alive.

Monday, 6 September 2021

The Best New Children's Book Picks - September 2021 - Post One - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books

 

Clare Povey - The Unexpected Tale of Bastien Bonlivre - Published by Usborne Publishing Ltd (2 Sept. 2021) - Paperback 

The open door felt like an invitation, or a trap. Bastien wasn't sure which, but with no other choice, he stepped inside...and hoped he'd make it out again alive.

Bastien Bonlivre is a boy with a big imagination, determined to finish the story his parents started, left to him in a red notebook. On the other side of Paris, bestselling author Olivier Odieux is struggling to complete his latest novel. Along with his villainous brothers, he is masterminding his greatest plot yet...one that will spread fear throughout the city and beyond.

What connects these two stories is a dangerous secret, a hidden mystery and an unexpected race across Paris for the truth. Can Bastien and his friends Alice, Theo and Sami be brave enough to stop Olivier from stealing the ending they deserve?

Yvette Fielding - The House in the Woods (The Ghost Hunter Chronicles, 1) - Published by Andersen Press (30 Sept. 2021) - Paperback 
Stranger Things meets Point Horror in the first of a brilliant new series for readers aged 11+ from Yvette Fielding, British television's first lady of the paranormal and presenter of Most Haunted.

When Clovis, Eve and Tom decide to play with a ouija board in an old abandoned house on Halloween, none of them foresees the horrors they’re about to unleash. What starts out as a bit of fun, soon transcends into something far more terrifying when a distressed and determined spirit follows them home. Before long the friends are caught up in a series of events beyond their wildest imaginings and their journey as ghost hunters begins . . .



Ian Mark (Author), Louis Ghibault (Illustrator) - Monster Hunting For Beginners - Published by 
Farshore (2 Sept. 2021) - Hardback 

A monstrously funny new adventure series. Readers of 8+ and fans of Mega Monster and Shrek will adore the first in the brand new fantasy series from Irish debut author, Ian Mark

Every hero has to start somewhere . . .

Monster Hunting isn’t as easy as it looks. And Jack should know. Because an ogre has just appeared in his garden and tried to EAT HIS AUNT. (She was the winner of the World’s Worst Aunt competition, but that’s Not The Point).

After (sort of accidentally) defeating the ogre, Jack finds himself apprenticed to a grumpy, 200-year-old monster hunter called Stoop and heading off to Cornwall, where more ogres are causing havoc.

All he has are his wits, his catapult and a magical – sometimes unreliable – book called Monster Hunting for Beginners.
Jack’s a bit worried he might not be the hero everyone’s waiting for. But then again, how many terrifying, bloodthirsty monsters can there really be?

(Answer: ABSOLUTELY LOADS. And a bear called Humbert).

A hilarious and accessible story, packed full of illustrations – that gives a twist to all your favourite fairytales and will change everything you thought you knew about monsters! Perfect for apprentice monster hunters aged 8 to 800.


David Farr - The Book of Stolen Dreams - Published by Usborne Publishing Ltd (30 Sept. 2021) Hardback 


An exhilarating, awe-inspiring debut from a master storyteller writing for children for the first time, perfect for fans of Philip Pullman, Katherine Rundell and Eva Ibbotson.

When Rachel and Robert are passed a stolen book by their librarian father, they have to go on the run and protect it at all costs. With their father captured and everyone hunting for the Book, they must uncover its secrets and track down the final, missing page.
But the cruel and calculating Charles Malstain is on their trail. When the children discover the astonishing, magical truth about the Book, they resolve to do everything in their power to stop it falling into his hands. For if it does, he could rule forever.


Step inside the pages of an immortal adventure and discover a truly unforgettable journey of wonder, courage and magic...



Thursday, 2 September 2021

Gattaldo - Fearless: The Story of Daphne Caruana Galizia - Interview (Q&A) - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books #4


I'm delighted to welcome you to an interview with the debut author and illustrator Gattaldo. The book is based on a true-life story that is both brilliantly written and compassionately illustrated as a picture book. The author has brought the story to life so that children and adults will be inspired by it and completely absorb the storyline. It's a story about a female investigative journalist called Daphne Caruana Galizia who discovers the truth against all odds. The book was published by Otter-Barry Books last year (October 2020). 

We hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as we enjoyed asking the questions. You can BUY the book HERE. You will not be disappointed as this is a great book to both read and discuss with others. 

  • Fearless: The Story of Daphne Caruana Galizia. What is the book actually about? Is it based on a true story?
It’s the life story of a European investigative journalist who took on the mafia. She uncovered wrongdoing and she did it on her own, with little or no help, a “one-woman WikiLeaks”. The book takes us from Daphne’s childhood with her parents who taught her the importance of always doing what’s right, through her teens where she understood the meaning of protest, her early years as a journalist where she flourished in a largely male-dominated field, to her fight for justice and against corruption. It’s about the courage of ones convictions, about the quest for truth.   
  • What inspired you to tell this story and why?
Daphne’s assassination in 2017 left a big hole in the hearts of many Maltese who valued her investigative journalism. To me, Daphne was also a personal friend and I found it extremely difficult to deal with her absence. My 7-year-old niece wanted to know more about Daphne, so I decided to turn my grief into something positive and share Daphne’s life and the importance of journalism with children through a picture book.  
  • What emotions do you want the reader to feel once they have finished reading the book?
The book is a celebration of its protagonist, but it’s also an appreciation of journalism, a message to not be afraid of going against the grain, to fight for your convictions. Daphne Caruana Galizia was often alone in her quest. We’ve spoken at times about this and how it made her feel. It took nerve to continue uncovering wrongdoing after some of the attacks on her person and her family.  

I want my readers to appreciate that there is no free choice without information. Journalism is one of the most important if not the most important component of democracy. I want children to be inspired by Daphne. Journalists like her are our heroes. They are role models we should emulate if we are to build a better world.  
  • How do you try and balance the writing with the images?
This was my first picture book. Pictures and words must work together, complimenting rather than mirroring each other. I started writing while at the same time searching for the character’s appearance. It’s important to work with rough sketches while writing. Only once you’re happy with the way visuals and words work together, should you start to work up the illustration. Even then, you can expect the book to go through various modifications. In film, each scene is drawn in rudimentary sketches on loose cards so their order can be changed. It’s a good practice to use with picture books as well.   
  • Do you think it is important for an illustrator to have their own unique style?
I certainly see advantages marketing-wise with having a unique style that’s unchanging, like a brand, so that readers familiar with your first book feel immediately at home with your second offering. There are however benefits to having a flexible hand, a style that fits each of the stories you animate. My publisher requested that I keep to the same style in my next books and it makes sense because they should feel like part of the same series. I don’t think that means they have to be absolutely identical though. I think each book benefits from having its own identity while still fitting in with the series.  
  • How much research did you do before you started the project? Did you find any surprises along the way?
Although I knew my subject on a personal level, I knew very little about Daphne’s childhood. Her early years weren’t something I could research online or in libraries so the only way was to Interview family and friends. This required great sensitivity. Interviewing people who are grieving can be difficult and awkward. It was a journey that led to a closer relationship with Daphne’s family. I can’t think of having come across any surprises as such, but I do feel I got to know her better. I could see what made Daphne the strong person she was.  
  • What author/illustrator do you wish could be your mentor and why?
My mentor for Fearless was the journalist and children’s author Juliet Rix (Travels With My Granny - Otter Barry Books) who was very generous with her time and advice. We’re currently collaborating on another children’s book. As a wish list, there are a couple of illustrators I would love to have as mentors. My first would be M. Sasek, but of course he died in 1980 so perhaps, French illustrator Thomas Baas would be a more feasible choice.  
  • What is the best way to use social media and illustration to create increased awareness?
Every book is different and its promotion has to be tailor-made. Daphne’s story is real and still current and raw so I couldn’t promote it in the same way you’d do for another book. Amnesty and Reporters Without Borders’ endorsement was a great boost for the book. Regardless of whether Fearless was worthy of Daphne’s story, activists and people who hold Daphne and journalism to heart, were eager to promote the book on social media. But I also had to contend with a small amount of trolling, something I guess most children’s authors wouldn’t face. 

I think most children’s authors realise very soon that publishers have very little time or money to do much for their book so they must work hard at it themselves. I found Twitter introduced me to reviewers, bookshop owners and journalists. Like any conversation it can’t be just about promoting the book though. 

I’m not sure Facebook was much use. As to Instagram, I think I missed a trick by not making use of it. 


When promoting the book online, an author must offer something useful rather than to simply repeat the the book’s USPs. My book’s website 
fearlessdaphne.com was also a vehicle to get children and their educators interested in journalism through informative articles aimed at children. I also wrote and designed a supplement which was taken up and published by a local newspaper. I’d love to develop the latter into a regular feature, but as with everything, I’d need to find the time and the finance for it. 
  • What other projects are you working on at the moment?
When I first presented Fearless to publishers, the proposal was to have a series of similar non-fiction books, so I’m working on the next two. I’m also planning on writing something completely different - a children’s book that is funny and playful. That would give me the opportunity to experiment with a different style of illustration. Now that the Covid-19 restrictions are slowly lifting, Im also preparing for school visits and also looking forward to the publication of Fearless by Candlewick in the US in September. 
  • Do you prefer to write or illustrate?
My background is in fine arts and illustration but I’ve discovered writing can be great fun too. I love the control that comes with doing both. I’ve still got a lot to learn in both idioms, and I’m not confident I’ve yet found my definitive style. I’ve started writing for children rather late in life and I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to get my work published.  


Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Emma Mylrea - Curse of the Dearmad - Interview (Q&A) - Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books #3


Hello everybody. Welcome to the third interview as part of our debut author series. If you haven't already then please support these by checking out all of the others that have been shared to date. 

One of the middle-grade books to watch out for this August (2021) is this book by Emma Mylrea. Curse of the Dearmad is published by a small publishing company (Tiny Tree). The book is illustrated by Hannah Jesse and looks like a sure-fire winner to me. We've recently had the opportunity to ask Emma some questions about the book as well as finding out more about the author. We hope you enjoy this post and if you would like to purchase a copy then you can HERE. Equally, if you have any questions that you would like answering then please get in touch. 
 

  • Curse of the Dearmad is your debut book, what can we expect from the story?
The book follows the story of Percy and Nell Shearwater, who live in a world where some people, called 'gillies', can live underwater for long periods. They look like everyone else, but have small circles on their neck which set them apart. However, the world is not a safe place for gillies any more, as they rely on a perfect equilibrium with nature and the environment in order to survive. This kind of unity and balance with the environment is becoming more and more difficult to achieve due to the damage being done by humankind.
  • What is particularly special about the two main characters, Percy and Nell Shearwater?
Nell and Percy are twins. Percy was born a gillie, but his sister was not. Nell is jealous of her brother's gift, but as the story unfolds she will discover that she has a gift too, which she will need to learn how to use and control. 
  • It looks like there are a number of illustrations as part of the story, what do you think these bring and how do they add to the narrative?
Working with Hannah Jesse was wonderful. She picked up the tiniest, most subtle details from the text, and fed them into her drawings beautifully. Each chapter begins with a small illustration which sets the tone for the chapter. It was incredibly important to me that my writing should build a world for children to believe in and lose themselves in, and I think Hannah's illustrations are a jumping off point for the imagination. Of course, some readers will build their own picture of how things should look, particularly the characters, and that is the wonderful thing about writing a book, it takes on a life of its own when it winds its way into the imaginations of readers.
  • What emotions did the characters in your book take you on? Do they talk to you?
They certainly do! I really do feel that the characters in Dearmad have taken on a life of their own. Even though they are entirely fictional, I feel proud of the children in Curse of the Dearmad; they are the heroes of the story in every sense of the word. I wanted to write a book where children were empowered to take action in a world where adults are flawed and don't have all the answers. Percy, Nell and Connor take control of their lives and try to do the best for the people they love. They encounter challenges and make mistakes, but they are strong and I hope young readers will recognise themselves in Percy, Nell and Connor. 
  • How do you process your ideas into the story? 
I try to get a complete draft done, focussing on world building, and I resist the urge to edit (something I'm not good at - I find it so tempting to polish and dig down into the minutiae in that first draft). I then go back to the start and make sure the structure is plotted out properly, with pace and enough jeopardy to keep the momentum going through the book. Then I edit, edit and edit some more. 
  • The book is published by Tiny Tree Books. What can you tell us about the publisher and where can we buy your book from?
Tiny Tree is a small, independent publisher. Working with them has been such an honour. They don't publish a huge number of books each year, and have historically published picture books rather than middle grade, so for them to choose my book felt very special. They are always at the end of the phone, are really communicative and generous with their time. Tiny Tree chose to appoint a freelance editor, Emma Roberts, to work with me and it was the perfect fit; she was incredible and working with her was a complete joy. Working with Tiny Tree, and having Hannah Jesse on board, made it feel like a real team project. I don't have an agent, so knowing that I had such a great relationship with my publisher really helped me when I had moments of worry along the way. You can order direct from Tiny Tree, or from Waterstones, Foyles, Amazon, bookshop.org or your local bookshop.

  • You are a member of the Golden Egg Academy. How better do you think your story is for attending their writing courses? What support did they give you?
I wrote Dearmad before I started the Golden Egg Academy course. I chose to apply to GEA to help me get to grips with the mechanics of storytelling for the benefit of my next project, and it's been brilliant. I don't think I'll ever stop wanting to learn about the craft of writing and taking time to hone my skills. I have found that a lot of the things my editor supported me with when we were editing Dearmad are things that GEA teach too. In terms of support, my tutor is incredible; it never ceases to amaze me how perfectly she can get to the nub of an issue that has tied me up in knots for weeks! She can spy a spark of wonder and a fatal flaw in your story a mile off. 
  • What surprised you the most about the story once you'd finished writing the book?
Curse of the Dearmad is fundamentally a story about family and friendship, which is something I didn't plan or see coming at all! I saw it as being a pure fantasy-adventure story. There are parts that still make me cry, and those are the parts that wrote themselves once the characters became real in my mind and started to take on a life of their own.
  • Describe your perfect book hero or heroine.
I like reading characters who aren't the finished article and who have some growing and learning to do. When you begin to love a character, despite their flaws (or even because of their flaws), they start to feel real and that's the best kind of reading experience. Heroes who you believe in, despite how much they doubt themselves, are the kind I can get behind.
  • Which authors do you enjoy reading when you have time to relax?
I read a lot of middle-grade fiction, and have read some amazing debuts this year. I return to Katherine Rundell, Frank Cotrell-Boyce and Ros Welford over and over and am starting to read them with my children too, which is a real treat. I always have a non-children's book on the go and I'd say the common feature of these books is that they have to be character driven for me to lose myself in them. I particularly enjoyed The Falconer by Dana Czapnik and Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenburg-Jephcott this year.