Wednesday, 27 October 2021
Monday, 25 October 2021
We are coming to the end of our brilliant debut author interview series. I'd like to say a big thank you to all of the authors for the time they gave providing some really insightful answers. This week we are finishing with an amazing interview - it's a great contender for a good Halloween read. Ghostcloud is the debut book by Michael Mann and was recently published by Hodder Children's Books on 7th October 2021. It's a lovely hardback with a fantastic visual appeal. It could be a contender for this year's annual book cover wars, what do you think?
Without further ado, let's find out more about the author and their book in this Q&A. Please support all our debut authors by buying their books. Here is a list of all the other INTERVIEWS we have covered which you can check out HERE. Thanks for reading and enjoy your day!
- How would you promote or explain the story behind your book in just 50 words?
- What are you looking forward to most once your debut book has been published?
Celebrating with all my friends in a park with some bubbly (and, perhaps, taking a break from Twitter!)
- What inspired you to write Ghostcloud?
My grandad was a coal-miner in Yorkshire, called Luke, so that must have been a factor. The kids I teach constantly inspire me. But a big one, I suppose, has to be the sky, I hope that after reading the book kids do look at it a little differently.
This is because a big idea in the book is that when you see a shape in the clouds– whether it’s a horse or skull or whatever – that it might just be watching you back. In the book, Luke visits this ‘Ghostcloud’ world and learns to do the things these ghosts can: he learns to ride the clouds, bend their shape to his will, fire lightning and make it rain. And I hope that’s exciting for kids – that there’s a whole new world, above our heads, waiting to be discovered.
- You won your first writing competition at school-aged ten. What have you learned since then that has helped you to write this book?
Some practical things like cutting back on adverbs. Some subtle things – like how to put a bit more of my heritage into my work. I’ve even had to unlearn some things – it turns out it is allowed (and fun) to start sentences with ‘But’!
Most of all I learned that you must write for yourself and not worry about others. Books are so subjective – what one person loves, another one hates – if you try to please everyone, it’s impossible. Start with enjoying it yourself, then anything else is a bonus.
- How do you encourage aspiring young writers who would like to become published authors in the future?
I know lots of authors who got published on their third or fourth book, so my advice would be keep writing, and write to the end. You learn so much from finishing a story.
I’d also say, while you shouldn’t worry whether everyone will like it, feedback from the right people is definitely useful. I found courses invaluable for building up a network of writers and tutors who I trust, and who gave feedback sensitively and thoughtfully.
- How important is getting children into reading for you?
It’s everything to me. I usually teach 9-year-olds, and some kids are already going off books – and it breaks my heart! But I also believe that it’s never too late: the right book, at the right time, and you can get you back into it.
Books open up worlds. They’ve taught me so much about the human experience. They’re also an escape and a refuge when times are tough. Every child (and every adult) needs that from time to time.
- Who did you share your book with prior to it being published and what kind of feedback did you get?
My first draft I shared with my mum and she didn’t comment, which was clearly a bad sign, because she’s one of those people who is lovely about everything. A course tutor also queried the pace and voice. I didn’t take the hint, though, I thought it was well-written, so I sent it to an editor (at Lighthouse Literary) who gave invaluable specifics on what needed to change.
I then started again, with a completely different tone and plot, while on course at CityLit and then Curtis Brown – and this time it was working. I had feedback from the tutors and coursemates (some who kindly read the whole finished manuscript before submitting) and that was invaluable.
- What is the key message you would like readers to take from your book and how important is that to you?
One is that you don’t have to feel brave, to do brave things. Often all you need to do is keep going, one step at a time. ‘It’s not over till it’s over’ as Ghostcloud’s hero Luke says.
Secondly, there’s a message that it’s ok to be halfway, to be a ‘work in progress’. I’m half-Indian, half-white, and as a kid, I often felt I wasn’t one thing properly. Luke feels the same. But through the course of the book, he and many of the other characters, who don’t fit the categories in some way or another, grow to accept the ‘in-between’ and see it’s strength.
- How many bookshelves do you have in your home and, more importantly, what are your most treasured or favourite books that we would find sitting on them?
My partner hates clutter so I don’t have half as many as I’d like, but at least twice as many as he’d like. My most treasured books, hmm, you’d have all the Roald Dahls, all the TinTins, John Wyndhams, Phillip K Dicks, Neil Gaimans, Jonathan Strouds, David Eddings, Julian Mays, Vikram Seths and at least two copies of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. (And a ton more children’s books – Holes by Louis Sachar, Wolves of Willhoughby Chase by Joan Aiken, and I could go on!)
10. If you could ask one successful author three questions about their writing/writing process, or books what would they be?
I ask Piers Torday questions all the time – he’s been so wise and helpful to me on the process – as have many other authors, like Vashti Hardy, Ross Montgomery.
But hmm, perhaps, I’d ask Roald Dahl about the Witches – it’s such a fun, terrifying, strange book, with these huge stretches of mesmerising monologues from the grandma about witches, all building up to that epic scene with the Grand High Witch. I love it, but don’t know how he did it.
Then I’d probably ask Tolstoy how he gets his characters are so real, and somehow (at least for me) to capture the whole human experience. Even a drop of that and I’d be happy.
Then I just finished The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne by Jonathan Stroud – and it transported me away – and was plotted ever so perfectly. So I’d just ask him if he wanted to go for a coffee, so I could tell him how much I loved it.
Thursday, 21 October 2021
Lenny Henry (Author), Keenon Ferrell (Illustrator) - The Boy With Wings - Book Review - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books
Sunday, 17 October 2021
Anne Ursu - The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy - Published by
From the acclaimed author of The Real Boy and The Lost Girl comes a wondrous and provocative fantasy about a kingdom beset by monsters, a mysterious school, and a girl caught in between them.
If no one notices Marya Lupu, is likely because of her brother, Luka. And that’s because of what everyone knows: that Luka is destined to become a sorcerer.
The Lupus might be from a small village far from the capital city of Illyria, but that doesn’t matter. Every young boy born in in the kingdom holds the potential for the rare ability to wield magic, to protect the country from the terrifying force known only as the Dread.
For all the hopes the family has for Luka, no one has any for Marya, who can never seem to do anything right. But even so, no one is prepared for the day that the sorcerers finally arrive to test Luka for magical ability, and Marya makes a terrible mistake. Nor the day after, when the Lupus receive a letter from a place called Dragomir Academy—a mysterious school for wayward young girls. Girls like Marya.
Soon she is a hundred miles from home, in a strange and unfamiliar place, surrounded by girls she’s never met. Dragomir Academy promises Marya and her classmates a chance to make something of themselves in service to one of the country’s powerful sorcerers. But as they learn how to fit into a world with no place for them, they begin to discover things about the magic the men of their country wield, as well as the Dread itself—things that threaten the precarious balance upon which Illyria is built. Visit Anne online at www.anneursu.com
This moving story about a magical bookstore explores the way war can shape a family and is perfect for book lovers everywhere, especially fans of Pages & Co., Pax, and Wolf Hollow.
It’s 1944 Sutton, NY, and Poppy’s family owns and runs, Rhyme and Reason, a magical bookshop that caters to people from all different places and time periods. Though her world is ravaged by World War II, customers hail from the past and the future, infusing the shop with a delightful mix of ideas and experiences.
Poppy dreams of someday becoming shopkeeper like her father, though her older brother, Al, is technically next in line for the job. She knows all of the rules handed down from one generation of Bookseller to the next, especially their most important one: shopkeepers must never use the magic for themselves.
But then Al’s best friend is killed in the war and her brother wants to use the magic of the shop to save him. With her father in the hospital suffering from a mysterious illness, the only one standing between Al and the bookstore is Poppy. Caught between her love for her brother and loyalty to her family, she knows her brother’s actions could have devastating consequences that reach far beyond the bookshop as an insidious, growing Darkness looms. This decision is bigger than Poppy ever dreamed, and the fate of the bookshops hangs in the balance.
Lori R. Snyder - The Circus at the End of the Sea - Published by HarperCollins (October 19, 2021) -
A vibrant and enchanting debut novel about an orphan girl who discovers a magical circus, perfect for fans of Kelly Barnhill and Rebecca Stead!
Maddy Adriana knows that magic is real. All her life, her heart has pulled her towards things too perfect to be ordinary. One day, that tug leads her to a magical street circus, hidden in plain sight among the canals and boardwalks of Venice Beach.
For the first time in Maddy’s life, she finally feels like she belongs. But the circus is in grave danger. Maddy will need to confront the frightening side of magic, as well as her own deepest fears, if she’s to have any hope of saving the place she dreams of calling home.
This unforgettable debut shows readers the magic of following your heart and finding where you belong. Visit Lori online at www.lorirsnyderauthor.com
Thursday, 14 October 2021
WELCOME to the Mansion of the Macabre. In the spirit of Halloween, we have a fantastic interview with Amy McCaw the author of the brilliant book Mina and the Undead. This is a fantastic YA read that has found many a fan since it was published in April 2021 by UCLan Publishing. If you like a good old scare and an intelligent read this is definitely the book for your Halloween treat. We hope this interview will inspire you to purchase a copy so check it out below and try to visit the author's website HERE.Readers of your book (Mina and the Undead) can expect a paranormal thriller. What else can they expect to find in the book?
Mina and the Undead definitely draws influences from different genres. At its heart, it’s a story about two estranged sisters who rebuild their relationship in unsettling circumstances. The book is set in New Orleans, so there are plenty of local myths and creepy settings. There’s also quite a bit of murder…
How would 17-year-old Mina (the main character in the book) describe herself?
That’s an interesting question! She’d probably describe herself as a lover of all things spooky, from serial killer stories and horror movies to graveyards and haunted locations. Mina has a difficult relationship with her family, and at the beginning she doesn’t feel like she belongs anywhere. She’s insatiably curious and can’t let something go if she thinks a wrong has been committed.
How do you process and use the ideas you have in the development and writing of this book?
I got most of my initial ideas from visiting New Orleans in 2012. I knew I wanted to include the local myths and amazing locations that I learned about during my visit. It was then a case of figuring out my plot, characters and the time period I would set it in. The story really came together when I figured out that the book would be set in the 90s. That gave me a whole decade of pop culture to draw on and set into motion a lot of plot points that have a 90s feel.
I tend to record ideas on a mind map initially. At first, it’s just a messy sprawl of thoughts. I then start organising the ideas that fit together into groups. Once I have enough elements of the story, I start plotting using bullet points. As soon as I’m too excited to put off writing any longer, I know it’s time to plunge into drafting.
Did any of the characters take you on a journey that you were not expecting?
Definitely! From very early on, I had an idea of the basic plot and I knew who all of the characters were. As I started writing, I realised that some characters had the potential to be red herrings, some would be wrapped up in the murder mystery, some would help Mina and some would get in her way. Some of those characters definitely surprised me and felt like they were taking on a life of their own.
How did you decide on the setting for the book?
From the moment I visited New Orleans, I knew I’d set a book there. This book was always set in New Orleans because it is so steeped in the city’s myths and locations. Mina is a Yorkshire girl (like me) who is fascinated with the city.
Is there anything that didn't make the final cut in the book? What was this and how did you work through the edits?
The main plot and structure of the book is quite similar to my early drafts. I had a clear sense of where it was going and future edits were about tightening and shaping the plot. The main scenes I’ve lost along the way weren’t particularly noteworthy, and that’s why I cut them. If they didn’t develop characters or move the plot on, they had to go. Sometimes, I need to write my way through a scene that I know will get cut, but I need it at the time to help me figure something out.
I tend to keep notes of future edits I want to make as I write. I do this in the comments on a Word document and I start lists of ideas and things I need to improve. On each round of edits, I work through these lists quite methodically, tackling one big thing at a time.
I understand that you love travelling. What is the most inspiring place you have visited and why?
I love visiting places with a rich history – that’s one of the things that drew me to New Orleans. Some of my favourite locations are castles, movie filming locations, catacombs and bookshops, so I enjoy places that have these features. Cities I would visit over and over again include New Orleans, Paris, Orlando, Los Angeles, Edinburgh and Lisbon.
I love reading books that scare me. What does your reading diet consist of?
I read mostly YA books, often with elements of horror, thrillers or mysteries. I also enjoy contemporary and historical YA when I’m in the right mood. I read some adult books (mostly horror and thrillers), Middle Grade, Manga and graphic novels too. I have very varied reading tastes, but I tend to gravitate towards spooky subjects.
What do you think is the most important element to get right when writing a YA horror book?
There are so many elements of YA horror, and my favourite books do different things really well.
I think atmosphere is really important. If you read books by authors like Kat Ellis and Dawn Kurtagich, their books simmer with a creepy atmosphere that builds to chilling scares.
I also think characters shouldn’t be neglected in horror. My favourite horror titles, like IT by Stephen King, have characters that you will cheer for and weep over.
Do you think films or books have particularly shaped your writing and the ideas within this book?
I’m definitely influenced by things I’ve read and watched. A lot of people describe Mina and the Undead as a love story to horror, and that’s definitely what I was going for. I found it really useful to know the tropes of YA mysteries and horror, so I could have fun leaning into them or turning them on their heads. I’ve been particularly influenced by 90s slasher movies, vampire movies and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Wednesday, 13 October 2021
Orion Children's Books (14 Oct. 2021) -
Leo and his best friend Sangeeta are the odd ones out in their school. But as Leo's dad is always telling him, it's because they're special. Only thing is, if they're so special, how come they never see anyone who looks like them in their school history books?
Then, on a class trip to a nearby cathedral, Leo's attention is drawn to a large marble slab high above the doors of the hall. Right there, bang in the middle of a list of war heroes, Leo finds himself staring at something incredible: his own name.
Desperate to know who this other Leo was, the two friends embark on a search. And together, they begin to uncover missing stories from the past, ones which they are determined to put back into their rightful place in the pages of history.
Touching on themes of historical racism, The Lion Above the Door shines a light on the stories our history books have yet to contain and the power of friendships that can last through generations.
The first edition of this book also contains a special collection of historical photos and stories of real life forgotten heroes from World War Two.
A brilliantly-conceived and hugely imaginative 'sequel' to Mary Shelley's masterpiece, Following Frankenstein is a hugely exciting and beautifully-written historical adventure, perfect for 9-12 year olds.
Sometimes I was jealous of the monster of Frankenstein. I grew up believing my father cared more for him than he did for me. And was I wrong?
Maggie Walton's father has dedicated his life to a single pursuit: hunting down the monster created by Victor Frankenstein. It has cost Maggie and her family everything - and now her father is staking everything on one last voyage to the Arctic, with Maggie secretly in tow, where he hopes to find the monster at last.
But there they make a shocking discovery: Frankenstein's monster has a son...
A breath-taking, epic adventure, spanning the icy wastes of the Arctic Tundra to the vaudeville circus of New York, from the award-winning author of No Ballet Shoes in Syria and Another Twist in the Tale.
A thrilling magical adventure, perfect for animal lovers!
The debut novel from real-life vet Luke Gamble, as seen on Sky TV.
'An irresistible, magical adventure' Vashti Hardy, author of Wildspark
When Edith Wight is sent to spend the summer with her eccentric uncle, she has no idea what is in store.
Her uncle, the Doctor, runs a vet practice in a remote part of the New Forest, shrouded in secrecy. The reason for the mystery surrounding it, Edith discovers, is none other than the protection of some of the Earth's most unusual animals - creatures that most believe only exist in folklore.
Then the Doctor receives a summons from the Himalayas to help a family of yetis and Edith finds herself on the voyage of a lifetime.
But Edith and the Doctor are not the only ones taking an interest in the yetis... The Doctor's old enemies, the Syndicate are on a mission to hunt down every last mythical creature on Earth.
- As seen on prime-time Sky TV shows Vet Adventure and World Wide Vet, vet Luke Gamble is committed to the protection of animals worldwide.
- Classic storytelling combined with a passionate message about the protection of endangered species.
- The stunning first book in a new series for fans of Dr Doolittle, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and The Polar Bear Explorers' Club.
Nicola Davies - The Song that Sings Us - Published by
When animals talk, it's time humans listened: Harlon has been raised to protect her younger siblings, twins Ash and Xeno, and their outlawed power of communicating with animals. But when the sinister Automators attack their mountain home they must flee for their lives. Xeno is kidnapped and Harlon and Ash are separated.
In a thrilling and dangerous adventure they must all journey alone through the ice fields, forests and oceans of Rumyc to try to rescue each other and fulfil a mysterious promise about a lost island made to their mother.
A stunning environmental epic with cover and chapter illustrations by award-winning illustrator, Jackie Morris.
Monday, 11 October 2021
Are you looking for a Halloween read? Well, we recommend the latest installment by the cheeky author and man of mystery, Danny Weston. A Hunter's Moon was published by UCLan Publishing on 2 Sept. 2021. The reason for recommending this book is that it has none of the classical cliché monsters such as ghosts and vampires or monsters lurking under the bed. The author has something a little different to offer the reader; a nostalgic supernatural mystery that will make your toes curl.
Wednesday, 6 October 2021
Richard Pickard - The Peculiar Tale of the Tentacle Boy - Interview (Q&A) - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books #9
- How would you summarise your debut book, The Peculiar Tale of the Tentacle Boy, to new readers?
The Peculiar Tale of the Tentacle Boy is a quirky seaside adventure set in a strange town where seventeen fishmongers line the seafront, and everyone is obsessed with fish. Everyone except for Marina Minnow, a young girl who loves to tell stories. One day she sets out to prove that she can have a real-life adventure by rowing across to the haunted pier and inside, she meets an amazing boy named William – who has crab claws for hands and tentacles for hair. He has been waiting there for years, for the fisherman who rescued him from the sea to return. So, together with Marina, these unlikely new friends set out to unravel the mystery of his past. It is surreal, funny, a little bit dark but absolutely full of heart at its core.
- This is a great name for a book, is this the original title or did it start life with another version?
My working title was ‘Something Fishy’, which was just a placeholder literally meaning “I will come up with a fishy sounding title eventually”. After a while, it actually started to grow on me as I enjoyed the double meaning. I always knew it would probably change, and the team at Chicken House felt it was a bit too flippant for a book that also has some weight to it. I came up with a new list of suggestions, and after much discussion we all agreed ‘The Peculiar Tale of the Tentacle Boy’ was the winner. I really think it sets the tone perfectly, especially when paired with the incredible cover by Maxine Lee-Mackie.
- Marina is one of the central characters of the book. Can you explain to us what she is actually looking for?
Marina is a storyteller. It’s something she grew up doing, telling stories with her dad who has since gone missing at sea. Now she tells stories for herself, in order to keep her hope for his safe return alive after everyone else has given up on him ever coming back. She writes her own fantastical tales to explain his disappearance and to stay positive. But lots of people in the town think that she’s a troublemaker and a liar, so she sets out prove that she can also have a real-life adventure – and that’s when she meets William…
- Do you have an underlying moral or message for us to take away from this story?
Something I’m delighted to see readers are taking away is a message of tolerance and acceptance. What I hope Marina and William have proved by the end of the novel is that friendship and family can really be found in any place, if only we can embrace each other’s differences and see people for who they are in their hearts.
- Do you believe that your visits to the seaside have inspired parts of the story and, if so, which aspects in particular?
Absolutely! In terms of the setting, Merlington is a real mix of many different seaside towns including West Bay in Dorset, Lyme Regis in Devon, and Whitstable in Kent which is famous for its oysters and shellfish. Brighton’s dilapidated West Pier, one of my favourite UK landmarks, was also the starting point for William’s crumbling shack. That was one of the earliest seeds for the story – imagining what kind of character might live in such an inhospitable place, cut off from the land… A boy with crab claws for hands, obviously!
- I understand that two of your greatest childhood influences were Roald Dahl and Tim Burton. Are there any characteristics or features from their writing that you have developed or been inspired by to write your story?
With regards to Tim Burton, I’ve always loved his weird and wonderful characters. Especially those who find themselves living in a community of people who are often even stranger! Edward Scissorhands is of course a huge favourite, but more specifically it is Burton’s ability to blend the whimsical with the gloomy and frightful that has always excited and fascinated me. Equally Roald Dahl never shied away from taking his stories in a darkly funny direction. I really think kids love that kind of stuff. When I thought about the kind of town that a boy who is part-fish might be living in, the most deliciously dark idea was of course a town obsessed with eating fish! I think Dahl would’ve loved that, too.
- Would you have read your book when you were a child?
Absolutely. As we’ve discussed, I was a huge fan of Burton and Dahl growing up and I think the novel was written in the spirit of their work. I loved anything that was slightly odd or unusual as a kid, and I would have instantly been drawn to Maxine’s amazing cover illustration. I wrote the book hoping that it would find its way into the hands of readers who are similar to how I was at the same age – kids who like it when their adventure stories skirt the edge of darkness in a humorous way.
- How do you go about writing interesting and realistic characters and can (or do) they take you to places you have no control over?
My earliest characters are informed by the setting, which seems to come first for me. The abandoned pier cut off from land created William, and then his presence informed the kind of people who populated Merlington – hungry fishmongers, for the most part.
From there, without wanting to sound too pretentious, it definitely feels like the characters need to tell me who they are for themselves. For example, I never intended for Marina’s talent for storytelling to be so vital to the plot, but the entire structure would now crumble without it. That’s why my first draft has to be written by hand, as I need to let it spill out on the page which is impossible if I’m staring at a blank computer screen. When it’s ink and paper, I don’t feel the pressure to make it perfect.
- What has been the best/most surprising experience working with Chicken House books?
Chicken House had always been my dream publisher, so I was quite nervous before the real work started. I had no idea whether I would be able to make the novel any better having already put so much time and energy into it. In reality, I absolutely loved the whole editing process from start to finish. It was incredible to have a team of people so invested in my barmy story which had been private for such a long time. There were so many fantastic ideas and suggestions flying about – not least from my brilliant editor, Kesia – and I can’t believe how far it has come from that very first draft. I really surprised myself.
- Can you tell us about any new projects or plans that might be in the pipeline?
I’m just coming to the end of the first draft of my second novel for Chicken House, with the deadline just around the corner! This one is a full-blown summertime adventure. Much less fish, but a lot more sun and sea, plus another very odd family mystery…