Wednesday, 29 September 2021

James Harris - The Unbelievable Biscuit Factory - Interview (Q&A) - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books #8

Are you ready to both laugh and scream? Well, you can do both of these whilst reading our interview with James Harris. His debut book, The Unbelievable Biscuit Factory, was published in April 2021 by Hodder Children's Books. 
The book has been wonderfully illustrated by Loretta Schauer. It's a laugh-out read packed full of orange monsters and an exploding toilet! Okay, I lied about the exploding toilet. So, sit down and treat yourself to a biscuit (not a Fig roll though) and enjoy this interview. 

As a special treat, you can find a link to the first chapter to get more of a feel of the book HERE. You can also BUY a copy HERE. Thanks for reading and have a great orange fluffy monster day! 

There are so many biscuits and so many stories to choose from (both of which I love!). Why should we choose to read your book 'The Unbelievable Biscuit Factory'?

You should only choose the Unbelievable Biscuit Factory if you like big laughs, big monsters, big rabbits and big biscuits. Caution: although it says Biscuit on the front, do not try to dunk it in your tea.

What types of biscuits were harmed/eaten during the production of this book?

I wrote this book off and on over four years, so I would probably say ALL the biscuits were eaten at one time or another, apart from Fig Rolls because they are NOT biscuits, they are a damp pastry packet of disappointment. Gosh I don’t like Fig Rolls.

What do you think are the main ingredients to create a really funny book and do you believe laughter is important, particularly for children?

Laughter is very important! It’s the best thing! I used to do a bit of stand up comedy and there is no feeling in the world like making people laugh. It’s seriously addictive. As for the ingredients… eesh, it’s hard to say. You’d assume “jokes” would be the answer, but I don’t think it is. It’s like a lovely bourbon biscuit – you don’t really know how it’s made but you know it when you taste it. 

You claim to be a wizard and an exaggerator. What is your biggest exaggeration to date?

Probably the wizard thing if I’m honest, although I do have a wizard’s hat. They say you should dress for the job you want rather than the job you have so I wear a wizard’s hat and occasionally shout bits of latin just in case I can suddenly do magic but it hasn’t worked so far. INUTILIS! Darn, still nothing.

What are the processes involved in developing and creating believable and unique monsters?

I don’t know! Luckily my monsters are totally unbelievable, and when you’re creating an unbelievable monster there are no rules!

Did you enjoy reading as a child?

I loved reading. Books, comics, the back of the cornflakes packet. I grew up in a house full of books, and we had a second hand bookshop nearby so I would buy Narnia books, photonovels, Monty Python books, Mad Magazine paperbacks, Molesworth, sci-fi, Famous Five, Snoopy, Garfield, Beano and Batman annuals. Just stuff I loved, and it’s all in my brain now, slooshing around and leaking all over the page when I come to write my own stuff.

How do you use social media as an author? 

I use it to try out jokes, to keep in touch with what other authors are up to, to keep in touch with bookshops, to waste time when I should be writing… the usual, I guess.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing?

Writing is rewriting. The first draft of anything is absolutely supposed to be terrible! But you need to write it so you can start rewriting, chipping away at it, making it better, making it funnier. You can get it wrong loads of times, because you only need to get it right once and it’s right forever.

Do you have a favourite biscuit joke you could share with us?

Well the fig roll is definitely some kind of sick joke if that’s what you mean?

Will you be writing another book and, if so, is there anything that you would do differently next time?

I am! I’ve nearly finished it and this time instead of biscuits it’s got a lot of ice cream in it. And aliens. Lots of aliens. And no rabbits. So it’s very different to the first one I think. Still bonkers though, I hope.

Monday, 27 September 2021

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books - Children's Book Picks September 2021 - ( US Published Post)


Katherine Applegate - Willodeen - Published by Feiwel & Friends (September 7, 2021) - Hardback - ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1250147400

    A singular middle-grade novel about a girl who risks everything to help a handmade creature who comes to life.

    The earth is old and we are not, and that is all you must remember . . .

    Eleven-year-old Willodeen adores creatures of all kinds, but her favorites are the most unlovable beasts in the land: strange beasts known as “screechers.” The villagers of Perchance call them pests, even monsters, but Willodeen believes the animals serve a vital role in the complicated web of nature.

    Lately, though, nature has seemed angry indeed. Perchance has been cursed with fires and mudslides, droughts and fevers, and even the annual migration of hummingbears, a source of local pride and income, has dwindled. For as long as anyone can remember, the tiny animals have overwintered in shimmering bubble nests perched atop blue willow trees, drawing tourists from far and wide. This year, however, not a single hummingbear has returned to Perchance, and no one knows why.

    When a handmade birthday gift brings unexpected magic to Willodeen and her new friend, Connor, she’s determined to speak up for the animals she loves, and perhaps even uncover the answer to the mystery of the missing hummingbears.

    A timely and timeless tale about our fragile earth, and one girl’s fierce determination to make a difference.

    Mary Downing Hahn - The Thirteenth Cat - Published - by Clarion Books (September 7, 2021) - Hardback - ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0358394082

    From the master of middle-grade horror Mary Downing Hahn, a new thriller about bravery, unexpected friendship, and sinister cats that will captivate readers with its chilling mix of mystery and magic.

    Zoey loves spending the summer with her Aunt Alice, and her aunt's new house is the perfect place to cozy up with a good book. But she's unnerved by the overgrown forest next door, which is creepy even in the daytime and full of eerie sounds at night. Worse, there are rumors in town of a dark force in those woods. And Zoey can't deny that the wild black cats who live there seem to be watching her.

    When she encounters a mean old woman who claims to be their owner, Zoey realizes there's more to the cats than meets the eye. But little does she know that the closer she comes to discovering their secret, the more danger she's in...

    Alex London - City of Thieves (Battle Dragons) -  Published by Scholastic  (September 21, 2021) - Hardback - ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1338716542

    In a modern mega-city built around dragons, one boy gets caught up in the world of underground dragon battles and a high-stakes gang war that could tear his family apart.

    Once, dragons nearly drove themselves to extinction. But in the city of Drakopolis, humans domesticated them centuries ago. Now dragons haul the city’s cargo, taxi its bustling people between skyscrapers, and advertise its wares in bright, neon displays. Most famously of all, the dragons battle. Different breeds take to the skies in nighttime bouts between the infamous kins―criminal gangs who rule through violence and intimidation.

    Abel has always loved dragons, but after a disastrous showing in his dragon rider’s exam, he's destined never to fly one himself. All that changes the night his sister appears at his window, entrusting him with a secret...and a stolen dragon.

    Turns out, his big sister is a dragon thief! Too bad his older brother is a rising star in Drakopolis law enforcement...

    To protect his friends and his family, Abel must partner with the stolen beast, riding in kin battles and keeping more secrets than a dragon has scales.

    When everyone wants him fighting on their side, can Abel figure out what's worth fighting for?

    Shanthi Sekaran  - The Samosa Rebellion - Published by Katherine Tegen Books (September 21, 2021) - Hardback - ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0063051539

    Shanthi Sekaran makes her middle-grade debut with this timely and stunning novel in which a young boy and his friends must rescue his grandmother from a relocation camp after their country’s descent into xenophobia. Perfect for fans of The Night Diary and Front Desk.

    Before his grandmother moved from India to the island of Mariposa, Muki Krishnan’s life was good. But now? He has to share his bedroom with Paati, his grandmother, who snores like a bulldozer and wakes him up at dawn to do yoga.

    Paati’s arrival coincides with even bigger changes in Mariposa. The president divides citizens into Butterflies—families who have lived in Mariposa for three generations—and Moths, who, like Muki’s family, are more recent immigrants. The changes are small at first. But then Muki and his friends find a camp being built to imprison Moths before sending them away. Soon after, his Paati is captured and taken there.

    While devising Paati’s escape, Muki discovers that a secret rebellion is underway, and as he digs deeper, he realizes that rescuing Paati will be the fight of his life.

    Thursday, 23 September 2021

    Daisy May Johnson - How to Be Brave - Interview (Q&A) - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books #7


    It's time for another lovely interview with local debut author Daisy May Johnson. How to Be Brave was published back in July 2021 by Puskin Children's Books and has one of my favourite book covers of the year. This loveable mystery should appeal to both mystery seekers and action armchair lovers. 

    We carefully put some questions together, under the flicker of glorious candlelight, with the hope to reveal more about the book and the author. So sit down with a cup of Yorkshire tea (possibly a slice of cake) and enjoy the interview. If you would like to support the author by reading a copy of the book then you can purchase it right HERE 
    • What keywords best describe your debut book, How to Be Brave?
    I would go for: buns, nuns, ducks, friendship, boarding school, and adventure (and I think my narrator would ask for Victoria Sponge to be added as a keyword...!)
    • I understand that you love libraries and particularly visiting them. With the restrictions over the last year, do you feel this has hindered your writing and creative flow?
    Libraries are very important to me. I'll never get over how amazing they are. I think the fact that we have spaces where people can better themselves - for free! - is one of our greatest achievements. The restrictions over COVID have proven challenging, for sure, not just for my reading of comic books and taking out reference material for book two, but also for those times when I wanted to work in the café and listen to the world around me. As a writer, I love that noise and vibrancy and I'm incredibly grateful to all of the medical personnel and the scientists who developed the vaccine because they gave it back to me. 

    It's also worthwhile paying tribute here to all of the remarkable library staff who - the moment that COVID hit - pivoted their services to deliveries, kerbside collections, lucky dips, distanced browsing, enhanced electronic delivery, zoom book clubs and so more. Librarians come into contact with all parts of society - some of them incredibly vulnerable and/or isolated - and the power of their work has never been more impressive. 

    • There seem to be a lot of authors (including celebrities) deciding to write for children at the moment. What were your reasons for selecting children as your audience?
    I've never wanted to write for anybody else but children. I used to work in a public library and honestly, the Summer Reading Challenge was one of the best times ever. There's nothing better than young readers who are giddy with excitement over a book that they love. Why would anybody not want to be part of that? And with regards to the other part of this conversation, I think there's some nuance to be had about the position of celebrity authors. I have all the time for them if they understand where they are, what they're doing and do it well, and I think something like Nadiya's Bake Me A Story does this excellently. There are others though, that I have a lot of issues with! 
    • How do you go about writing realistic characters and can (or do) they take you to places you have no control over?
    I think the idea of realistic characters in fiction is something really interesting because it's an inherently artificial space, right? A book is a created and crafted thing, so there's always going to be that edge of the unreal about anybody who lives within it. What I think you need to do is to find the legitimacy - you have to find justification for what your characters do and make it feel legitimate. If readers believe why something happens and what the rationale behind it is, then that something will work. One of the things I wanted to do with How To Be Brave was to do and feature a lot of things that didn't normally appear in children's fiction but I didn't want to be tokenistic about it. I had to have it all work within the rules of that world. I had to have the story earn the things that I wanted it to do. 
    • How would you describe the music soundtrack to your book?
    Oh this is interesting! Okay so for me when writing it, I listened to a lot of 90s pop and also an enormous amount of Ben Platt, 1930s music, Nicki Minaj, and movie soundtracks. I suppose in a way that eclecticism would carry over to the soundtrack of the book itself - the big, scopey sounds of the Lord of the Rings soundtrack would overlap some Noel Coward before Siobhán Donaghy would cut in and we'd finish off with Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal doing "What You Own" from Rent. A little bit of everything, really, but all of it full of heart and feeling. 
    • How would you define brave and do you think our concept of this has changed in literature over the years?
    I think sometimes bravery can be characterised as a very big thing. I read a lot of late nineteenth century and early twentieth century fiction and sometimes it's quite startling what these stories give to the reader. I picked up a batch of Boy's Own annuals from this period recently and every other boy was either nobly sacrificing himself for King and Country, going to the end of the world as part of the Empire, or doing remarkable acts of bravery for his friends on the battlefield. It was eye-opening stuff.

    For me, I found interest in the small and quiet acts of bravery in the world. I wanted to explore the very intimate and personal side of what it meant to exist and to make sacrifices for the people that you love - all those little acts of bravery that perhaps nobody ever knows about but happen every day. People are complicated. Adults, children, all of us. And we do a lot for the people that we love. It's kind of cool to explore that. 
    • Would you have read your book as a child?
    Yes! I would have read it for sure - and would happily read it now :) I was always able to roam throughout the library and would just pick books from wherever looked interesting. Obviously, some choices worked better than others, but that sense of empowerment was really important to me. 
    • You have received some lovely quotes from readers on the internet. What has been your favourite comment and why?
    I was very touched by the lovely review from Sophie (aged 9) at the Book Nook ( because it came with art! The first ever! (I'm still not over how amazing it is). 

    Monday, 20 September 2021

    Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books - Best Illustrated Children's Books - Sep/Oct 2021


    We have picked five fantastic illustrated marvels that also have a great story to go alongside each one. They are all creative and very special with so much imagination inside them that you will instantly escape into each one. We hope you like our choices for September/October 2021. 

    Author/Illustrator: Tom Gauld  

    Title: The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess  

    Published: Templar Publishing (2 Sept. 2021) 

    Hardback: ISBN-13  978-178741917

    Purchase HERE

      A whimsical modern fairy tale from internationally renowned cartoonist, Tom Gauld.

      When the log princess goes missing, her brother, the little wooden robot, sets out on an epic adventure to find her. He will encounter goblins, magic puddings, a mushroom queen and a very intimidating woodpile as he seeks to bring his sister home.

      The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess is an exquisitely illustrated modern fairytale about sibling love. Tom Gauld brings all of his wit, draghtsmanship and narrative craft to a funny, moving tale that proves that woodlice can be heroes too.

      Author/Illustrator: William Grill  

      Bandoola: The Great Elephant Rescue

      Published: Flying Eye Books (1 Oct. 2021)
      Hardback: ISBN-13 ‏  978-1838740238
      Pre-Order Here

      When a world war comes to Myanmar (Burma), one special elephant becomes a hero. As people are forced to leave their home in the Burmese jungle, Bandoola, his keeper Po Toke, and war veteran James Howard Williams (Aka Elephant Bill), undertake a journey that will test their courage, taking trust, understanding and bravery to the very limit. Together, they lead a group of 53 elephants and over 200 refugees to safety, scaling 6000ft mountains as they trek from Myanmar to northern India.

      In this moving tale based on a true story, award-winning William Grill’s stunning illustrations show the majesty of Myanmar’s forests and mountains, the backdrop to a heart-warming tale about empathy between humans and animals, and the strength that can arise from working together when the world is full of danger.

      Author/Illustrator: Jakob Wegelius (Translated by Peter Graves)

      Title: The False Rose

      Published: Pushkin Children's Books (7 Oct. 2021) 

      Hardback: ISBN-13  978-1782693215

      Pre-Order Here

      When Sally Jones and The Chief discover a curious rose-shaped necklace hidden onboard their beloved Hudson Queen, it’s the start of another perilous adventure for the seafaring gorilla and her faithful friend. Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, they set sail for Glasgow, but there fall into the clutches of one of the city’s most ruthless gangs, commanded by a fearsome smuggler queen who will stop at nothing to snatch the necklace for herself.

      Held prisoner hundreds of miles from friendship and safety, Sally Jones must use all her strength, determination and compassion to escape and unravel the mysterious story of the False Rose – a twisting tale leading all the way from Lisbon to Shetland and the South Seas.

      Author/Illustrator: Pam Smy

      Title: The Hideaway

      Published: Pavilion Children's (9 Sept. 2021)

      Hardback: ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1843654797 - Book Review HERE

      Purchase HERE 

      The wonderful long-awaited second novel from Pam Smy celebrated author and illustrator of Thornhill.

      The Hideaway tells the story of a boy, Billy McKenna, who runs away from a difficult situation at home and takes refuge in an overgrown graveyard. While hiding there he meets an elderly man who is tending the graves in preparation for a day in November when something magical is set to happen.

      The book is written in two alternating narratives, both different aspects of the same story. One thread tells of Billy’s experience of hiding away in the graveyard, his mixed-up feelings and emotions, and the supernatural events he eventually witnesses. The other tells of his mother’s situation at home and the police search for Billy. Covering themes of family, childhood, separation and reunion, domestic violence and doing the right thing, this is an important and beautiful book for middle-grade readers right up to adults.

      Billy’s story is illustrated throughout with tonal and textured black and white drawings, until the event on All Souls’ Eve, when the text gives way to a series of double-page images of the supernatural happening.

      The Hideaway is a compelling, exciting and emotional story that will stay with you long after you finish the last page.

      Author/Illustrator|: James Mayhew
      Title: Once Upon a Tune 
      Published: Otter-Barry Books (9 Sept. 2021)
      Hardback: ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1913074036
      Purchase Here

      Six wonderful stories that inspired world-famous music, accompanied by brilliant illustrations.

      Once Upon a Tune brings you six wonderful stories from many lands - all of which inspired great music. You can battle trolls with Peer Gynt in 'The Hall of the Mountain King'; grapple with a magic broom in 'The Sorcerer’s Apprentice'; meet the evil Witch of the North in 'The Swan of Tuonela'; sail the seven seas with Sinbad the Sailor in 'Scheherazade'; be a prince disguised as a bee in 'The Flight of the Bumblebee'; and become a fearless hero in 'William Tell'.
      The stories are excitingly told and stunningly illustrated by James Mayhew, who is famous for bringing live classical music, art, and storytelling to families across the UK. There is also a Musical Notes feature, where you can find out more about the stories and music, plus discover James’ recommended recordings - which can be downloaded too.

      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.