Monday, 30 May 2022

David Solomons - Author Interview (Q&A) - A Beginner's Guide to Ruling the Galaxy - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books #21


Hello Everybody. I'm delighted to be able to announce that over the next two/three months there's going to be a whole host of exciting and interesting author Q&As. This week we're going to kick off with funnyman David Solomon. Here we find out that there is life after his brilliant series My Brother is a Superhero as he has a new book out on 7th July 2022 (published by Nosy Crow). It's called A Beginner's Guide to Building a Fart Machine - no, really it's A Beginner's Guide to Ruling the Galaxy! 

It is a real pleasure and a privilege to share this first Q&A with you. So, let's begin by finding out more about the author, his writing and, of course, his amazing new book. What's it called again? 
 
  • A Beginner's Guide to Ruling the Galaxy is your new book, please could you sum up this book in the craziest way possible? 

Space opera in the suburbs. It’s that old story of boy meets girl next door. Girl turns out to be heir to the galactic throne who’s on the run and hiding out on earth from… ah. No spoilers.

  • After writing five fantastic books in My Brother is a Superhero series, what challenges did you have starting with this new book? Did fresh ideas flow from the very first page? 

Thank-you for the compliment! I find that ideas flow in much the same way that blood does from an open wound. There’s a lot of them, but it’s a painful process. On the first question, enough time had passed since I’d closed the final chapter on the My Brother series that I didn’t feel those books hovering at my shoulder and peering at what I was doing now. Although, as I write this, I realise that everything I’ve ever written is shelved three feet behind me and could be said to be looming over me judgementally. 

  • Are laughter and humour always going to be David Solomons's key writing ingredients? Do you feel it is important that readers engage through laughter when reading your books? 

I don’t set out to write funny books, it’s just the way they come out. I’m an inveterate noodler when it comes to funny scenes – I find myself going over and over them like some mad scientist – word choice, sentence rhythm, electrodes – in an effort to draw out the maximum lols. I can’t envisage writing a book that doesn’t contain humour; to do so would require a level of self-restraint that I have thus far failed to demonstrate in my life. Though I would say that, in my own mind anyway, I pay as much attention to the other elements. I challenge myself to make the stories funny and exciting, funny and poignant. It’s a tricky balance. For example, putting a snarky line into a character’s mouth at the wrong time can undercut what could and should be a dramatic moment. After years working together my editor, Kirsty Stansfield at Nosy Crow, is very good at reigning in my overenthusiastic tendencies!

  • Most of the characters you write about have a superpower, what is your superpower? 

I can bend time so that deadlines just bounce off me.

  • Everybody loves an evil villain, which villain would you love to have a real-life conversation with and how do you think it would go?

First, one that comes to mind is Darth Vader, but it would be Eddie Izzard’s version of him from the legendary Death Star canteen routine. In which case our conversation would probably end with him killing me. With a tray.  

  • Which of your books would you like to see being turned into a film and why? 

Any of them! And as for the reason, are you hoping for something more meaningful than fame, glory and a thumping great first day principal photography fee? I’ve been endeavouring to get my books into development/production for years, with a modicum of success. Steve Coogan’s company optioned My Brother is a Superhero, and I wrote a script for a proposed TV series, but that went away. I continue, Charlie Brown-like, to put my work in front of producers. In my other career as a screenwriter, I’ve written the screenplays for three films, including a version of Five Children and It, which I’m pleased to say continues to enjoy a life long after its debut.

These days I write screenplays mostly with my wife, Natasha. And they’re mostly adaptations of her books (for grown-ups). So, the other answer to your question is I’d like to have a film made purely to justify all the hard work we’ve put into the process.

  • How important do you think it is to get children to read for enjoyment? 

I have a nine-year-old and a six-year-old. For them there isn’t any other kind of reading. By which I mean they’ll only read if the experience is enjoyable. Our eldest is going through an interesting reading phase. I’m in the fortunate position that I’m aware of what’s brand new in the world of children’s fiction. It used to be I could put anything in front of him and he’d read it, but from hoovering up every kind of book, reading three or four a week, he’s slowing down. Still reading and enjoying, but I get the sense that he’s starting to form his own likes and dislikes. He’s happy to reject dad’s suggestions! The six-year-old is just finding her reading feet, but she already has strong opinions, especially when it comes to line readings. At bedtime, when Natasha or I are reading to her, she’ll make us stop if she thinks we’ve flubbed a line. Then she’ll read it the way it ought to be performed. 

To go back to the original question, it makes my heartache. Our whole industry ultimately relies on enough of these little people wanting to pick up a book. It’s why I get so angry when some publishers foist substandard fiction on them. Kid reads average book with huge marketing budget and shrugs: I’ll go back to YouTube thanks. Yes, publisher gets immediate sales, but what about the long-term? Is that kid going to turn into a lifelong reader if her early exposure to books is so flawed? I know it’s not as simple as that, but it doesn’t help.

  • What question were you hoping to be asked in this Q&A and why? 

Is the author who appears in ‘My Cousin is a Time Traveller’ based on you? 


So, in the last of the Superhero series our heroes get an author visit at school, a dismal presentation from a sweating, under-rehearsed children’s writer. I was quite emotional, writing the last of this series, and I knew I was saying goodbye to characters who’d had transformative effect on my life. So I wrote myself into the story in order to say goodbye to them ‘in person’. However, since I pantsed much of that novel (i.e. made it up as I went along) my character turned out to have a bigger role than I’d intended. Thanks for asking.

Monday, 23 May 2022

The Best Children's/Kids Book Picks May 2022 - US - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books

 

Katherine Arden - Dark Waters (Small Spaces Quartet) - Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (May 10, 2022) - ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎978-0593109175 - Paperback - Age: 10+

Filled with chills and spooks galore, New York Times bestselling author Katherine Arden’s latest installment in the creep-tastic Small Spaces Quartet is sure to haunt. Now in paperback.

Until next time. That was the chilling promise the smiling man-made to Ollie, Coco, and Brian after they last outsmarted him. And as the trio knows, the smiling man always keeps his promises. So when the lights flicker and a knock sounds at the door, there can only be one explanation: he’s back and a frightening new game is afoot.
 
But before the three friends can unravel the smiling man’s latest nightmarish scheme, they set sail on Lake Champlain, where it’s said Vermont’s very own Loch Ness monster lives. Brian is thrilled. He hasn’t sailed since visiting family in Jamaica, and even the looming threat of the smiling man can’t put a damper on what is guaranteed to finally be a day of fun—even if it is awkward being stuck on a boat with his former best friend, Phil, and his new best friends, Coco and Ollie. But when this crew find themselves shipwrecked on a deserted island and hunted by a monster on both land and sea, fun becomes the last thing on their minds. The sm
iling man has at long last set the stage for a perilous rematch. But this time, Brian is ready to play.

Lynette Noni - The Prisoner Healer - Published by Clarion Books (May 10, 2022) -  ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎978-0358669432 - Paperback - Age: 11+

Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan has spent the last ten years fighting for survival in the notorious death prison, Zalindov, working as the prison healer.

When the Rebel Queen is captured, Kiva is charged with keeping the terminally ill woman alive long enough for her to undergo the Trial by Ordeal: a series of elemental challenges against the torments of air, fire, water, and earth, assigned to only the most dangerous of criminals.

Then a coded message from Kiva’s family arrives, containing a single order: “Don’t let her die. We are coming.” Aware that the Trials will kill the sickly queen, Kiva risks her own life to volunteer in her place. If she succeeds, both she and the queen will be granted their freedom.

But no one has ever survived.

With an incurable plague sweeping Zalindov, a mysterious new inmate fighting for Kiva’s heart, and a prison rebellion brewing, Kiva can’t escape the terrible feeling that her trials have only just begun.


Juliana Brandt - Monsters in the Mist - Published by Sourcebooks Young Readers (May 3, 2022) - ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎978-1728245447 - Hardback - Age: 8+ 

When 13-year-old Glennon McCue, his mom, and his fragile sister are left with their uncle at his lighthouse on Isle Philippeaux, Glennon desperately wants leave the desolate isle and return home. But his father is away, so Glennon is forced to spend his break surrounded by fog, rats, and chilling myths. Nothing seems quite right... with the island or with his family.

A storm rocks the island and a ship crashes near the lighthouse, leaving behind a group of sailors. Something is off about the survivors, who seem more monster than human. Soon it becomes clear that there won't be boats to take anyone home, and Glennon and his family are trapped.

It will take all Glennon's courage to save his family from the curse of the isle and the real monster in his life.


Sylvia Douyé (Author), Paola Antista (Illustrator) - Sorceline -  Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing (May 17, 2022) - ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1524871314 - Paperback - Age: 8+

Welcome to the Island of Vorn, where mythical creatures roam free and only the brightest students are invited to study them. In Book 1 of this riveting new middle-grade graphic novel series, a gifted young cryptozoologist-in-training must learn to tame powerful beasts—including her own inner demons.

For as long as she can remember, Sorceline has had a knack for the study of mythical creatures. Now a student at Professor Archibald Balzar’s prestigious school of cryptozoology, she’s eager to test her skills and earn a spot as one of Balzar’s apprentices.

But for all her knowledge of gorgons, vampires, and griffins, Sorceline is mystified by her fellow humans. While she excels in her studies, she quickly clashes with her classmates, revealing her fiery temper.

When one of her rivals suddenly disappears, Sorceline must set aside her anger and join the quest to find her. But the mystery only deepens, leading Sorceline on a journey far darker and more personal than she expected . . .



Thursday, 12 May 2022

The Best Children's/Kids Book Picks May 2022 - UK - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books

 

Hannah Durkan - Zeina Starborn and the Sky Whale - Published by  Orion Children's Books (12 May 2022) - ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1510109599 - Paperback - Age: 8+ 

    'A thrilling tale of intrigue and adventure in the clouds, full of wonderful creatures, mind-boggling gadgets, bravery, kindness and hope' Thomas Taylor, author of Malamander

    When Zeina Starborn's dream of exploring the skies becomes a reality, she finds herself in a daring adventure beyond her wildest imagination. Meet explorers, inventors, and mighty sky whales in this richly inventive fantasy, perfect for 9+ fans of BRIGHTSTORM and ORPHANS OF THE TIDE.

    Zeina Starborn spends her days dreaming of adventure in the sky and escaping the smog-filled city of Ravenport.

    So, when she wins the chance to visit the famous Willoughby Whale Hotel - a ginormous structure built on the back of a flying whale - Zeina grabs it. Even clashing with Jackson, spoiled heir to the Willoughby fortune, can't dampen her excitement.

    But a series of clues makes her question what she's been told about this dazzling world of inventors, explorers and mighty sky whales. Zeina and Jackson must put aside their differences to uncover the secret plot around them as they embark on the journey of a lifetime.

    Ross MacKenzie - The Colour of Hope - Published by Andersen Press (5 May 2022) - ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1839132025 - Paperback - Age: 10+ 

    Years ago, the Emperor used dark magic to steal all the colour from the world. Now he keeps it for himself, enjoying its life-giving power while everyone else must exist in cold shades of grey. That is, until a miracle baby is born – everything she touches turns to colour. But the child’s life is in danger from her very first breath. Soon the Emperor’s murderous Ripper Dogs and Black Coats come hunting. Can the girl and her adopted father survive in the forest – and what will it take to return colour and hope to the world?

    Caryl Lewis (Author), George Ermos (Illustrator) - SEED - Published by Macmillan Children's Books (12 May 2022) -  ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1529077667 - Paperback - Age: 8+

    'Some books are about magic. Some books ARE magic. Seed will cast a spell on you' – Frank Cottrell-Boyce

    Seed is a funny, big-hearted story by award-winner Caryl Lewis about the power of hope and imagination when you believe in the impossible. Perfect for readers of 8-12. Illustrated in black and white throughout by George Ermos.

    The heart of Wonder meets the humour of The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates.

    Marty doesn't have much. Unlike his mum, who has billions of things: newspapers, holey shoes, rusty lawnmowers, broken picture frames – she keeps EVERYTHING! It's hard to leave the house. Marty does his best to look after her and wonders if anything will ever change. 

    But on Marty's birthday, Grandad, with a glint in his eye, gifts Marty a very special seed. Grandad hasn't been this excited since he invented the bum scratcher 2000 or thought he'd brewed wonder fuel from rhubarb
    leaves! The seed grows bigger and bigger, and launches Grandad, Marty and his best friend Gracie on an impossible, wondrous plan fuelled by love, hopes and dreams.

    Peter Bunzl - Magicborn - Published by Usborne Publishing (26 May 2022) - ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1474964395 - Paperback - Age: 7+

    The Curse is changed. You'll never know. The truth is lost. The lie will grow. 

    The year is 1726 and the Royal Sorcerer of England is on the hunt for those who are magicborn. When Tempest is captured after accidentally unleashing a power she didn't know she had, she is taken to Kensington Palace alongside a boy like her, Thomas.

    Trapped, Tempest and Thomas find their magic flickering to life - and with it, long-buried memories. For they are the lost prince and princess of Fairyland, bound by a deadly curse...and now the fairies are coming to get them. A battle is building - one only they can end. But who will survive?

    Jasmine Richards - The Unmorrow Curse - Published by UCLan Publishing (5 May 2022) -  ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1912979882 - Paperback - Age: 8+

    Two friends awaken a world of myth and magic in this epic middle-grade fantasy perfect for fans of Rick Riordan. It's not every day that you find a famous weather woman bound by magic to a tree deep in the woods. Or discover that the weatherwoman is in fact Sunna, the Norse Goddess of the Sun, and one of the seven day guardians who keep time in order. But that's just what happens to new friends Buzz and Mari--and it's only the start of their adventure. Now, as humanity are forced into a lockdown called the Unmorrow Curse and are forced to repeat the same Saturday over and over again, Buzz and Mari must journey to collect the Runes of Valhalla and awaken the other day guardians, before vengeful god Loki can get to them first.

    Sunday, 8 May 2022

    Hana Tooke (Author), Ayesha L. Rubio (Illustrator) - THE MIDNIGHTERS - Book Review - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books

     


    The best stories feel like dreams... This is the second middle-grade book by Hana Tooke. THE MIDNIGHTERS has the power to transport you in your dreams to one of the best places in the world; the world of fantasy and make-believe. This book really is magnificent - you only need to hold and see the proof copy to know that it is going to be a great read. The book will be published on 23rd June 2022 by Puffin Books; the cover has been illustrated by Ayesha L. Rubio. I'm really looking forward to seeing the final hardback copy once it's been published. 

    Streetlamps looked like fallen stars is one of the first lines in the book. As soon as you read these words, the magic and the power instantly transport you into a world of awe and wonder. This is a gothic story full of magic, invention, and intrigue. The dark and unsettling nature is so delicious to read and savour, it really is spellbinding stuff. The reader follows in the footsteps of the leading character happily wandering the streets and alleyways.

    Ema Vaškov is the twelfth child to be born into an extraordinary family in extraordinary circumstances. She has the gift to predict events before they happen. However, will the bad omens come TRUE? Set in Prague in December 1877, the story uncovers secret midnight adventures with a mystery girl called Silvie. Unfortunately, she suddenly goes missing providing the opportunity to uncover the secrets of her disappearance and her identity. This story will really take your breath away; it'll steal your heartbeat as you cycle on one of Josef's handmade boneshaker bikes. It's full of places that will make your imagination explode and dazzle whilst the plot is so thick with possibilities you will not what to miss this adventure. 

    This book is a true delight and one of the best reads of the year. It's a story full of adventure, friendship, facing fears, and finding out who you really are. It's time for you to find the secret society and go behind the four different doors: The Dreamer, The Illusionist, The Bone Sculptor, and The Astronomer. Each place contains a pinch of magic, a splash of the macabre, a dollop of invention, and a world full of wonder. You will not be disappointed - this is a truly enchanting read that is up there with the very best. 


    You can buy the book HERE.