Monday, 27 June 2022

David Solomons - Author Interview (Q&A) - A Beginner's Guide to Ruling the Galaxy - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books #27


It's time to explore another interview with you today; an epic interview with funny man author David Solomons. His new book, A Beginner's Guide to Ruling the Galaxy, is just about to be launched into orbit on the 7th July 2022 with Nosy Crow Books. It's all about handing in your homework on time or maybe NOT?  

I have really enjoyed reading the responses to the questions posed. I particularly agree with the last part of question seven and would like to know your thoughts after reading this interview. You can share on Twitter with us @Enchantedbooks and with David Solomons @DavidSolomons2 if you have anything to say on this topic. Look forward to hearing from you and enjoy the post. 

  1. 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.

  1. 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. 

  1. 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!

  1. 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.

  1. 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.  

  1. 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.

  1. 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 heart ache. 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 sale, 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.

 8. 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. You can buy HERE. 

Thursday, 23 June 2022

The Best Children's US Book Picks June 2022 - Picked by Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books


Kiersten White - Wretched Waterpark (The Sinister Summer Series) - Published by ‎ Delacorte Press (June 7, 2022) - ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0593379042 - Hardback - Age: 7+

A brand-new middle-grade mystery series that's spooky, creepy, and filled with gothic twists! Meet the Sinister-Winterbottom twins, who solve mysteries at increasingly bizarre summer vacation destinations in the hopes of being reunited with their parents—or at the very least finally finding a good churro.

Meet the Sinister-Winterbottoms: brave Theo, her timid twin, Alexander, and their older sister, Wil. They’re stuck for the summer with their Aunt Saffronia, who doesn’t know how often children need to eat and can’t use a smartphone, and whose feet never quite seem to touch the floor when she glides—er—walks. 

When Aunt Saffronia suggests a week pass to the Fathoms of Fun Waterpark, they hastily agree. But the park is even stranger than Aunt Saffronia. The waterslides look like gray gargoyle tongues. The employees wear creepy black dresses and deliver ominous messages. An impossible figure is at the top of the slide tower, people are disappearing, and suspicious goo is seeping into the wave pool. 

Something mysterious is happening at Fathoms of Fun, and it’s up to the twins to get to the bottom of it. The mystery, that is. NOT the wave pool. Definitely NOT the wave pool. But are Theo and Alexander out of their depth?

Lora Senf - The Clackity - Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers (June 28, 2022) - ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1665902670 - Hardback - Age: 9+
Reminiscent of Doll Bones, this deliciously eerie middle-grade novel tells the story of a girl who must enter a world of ghosts, witches, and monsters to play a game with deadly consequences and rescue her aunt.

Evie Von Rathe lives in Blight Harbor—the seventh-most haunted town in America—with her Aunt Desdemona, the local paranormal expert. Des doesn’t have many rules except one: Stay out of the abandoned slaughterhouse at the edge of town. But when her aunt disappears into the building, Evie goes searching for her.

There she meets The Clackity, a creature who lives in the shadows and seams of the slaughterhouse. The Clackity makes a deal with Evie to help get Des back in exchange for the ghost of John Jeffrey Pope, a serial killer who stalked Blight Harbor a hundred years earlier. Evie must embark on a journey into a strange otherworld filled with hungry witches, penny-eyed ghosts, and a memory-thief, all while being pursued by a dead man whose only goal is to add Evie to his collection of lost souls.

Judith Eagle (Author), Jo Rioux (Illustrator) - The Pear Affair  - Published by Walker Books US (June 14, 2022) - ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1536217032 - Hardback - Age: 9+

Nell is determined to find her beloved missing au pair in this vibrant adventure set in, and underneath, Paris.
Penelope Magnificent spends as little time as possible with her awful parents—a grocery-mogul father and a fashion-obsessed mother who loves expensive purses more than she does her daughter. But when they mention an important trip to Paris, Nell begs to come along. Paris holds something very dear to her: her old au pair Perrine—Pear—who lives there. Pear used to write to Nell every week, promising to come to her rescue, but recently the letters stopped. With the help of a savvy bellboy named Xavier, Nell sets out from her parents’ ultra-fancy Parisian hotel to find her beloved Pear. But Pear’s old neighbors and coworkers are strangely tight-lipped. And as Nell’s search for the truth takes her and Xavier to some of the darkest, most mysterious parts of the city, a sinister plot comes to light involving the destruction of a cherished—and delicious—part of Parisian life. Food, fashion, and intrigue abound in this delightful caper from the author of The Secret Starling.

Kelly Devos - Go Hunt Me - Published by Razorbill (June 14, 2022) - ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0593204856 - Hardback - Age: 12+ 

For Dracula lovers and fans of Diana Urban’s All Your Twisted Secretsthis spine-tingling thriller follows seven horror buffs as their dream trip to a remote Romanian castle turns into a nightmare when they begin to be killed one by one.

Alex Rush is ready for the trip of a lifetime.
She and her friends have made some creepily awesome films together throughout high school, so with only a few months left before they go their separate ways for college, they’re determined to make the best one yet: an epic short film that reimagines the story of 
Dracula, filmed on location at a remote castle in Romania.
But when they get there, it’s not quite the majestic setting they planned for. Menacing weapons line the walls, the twisted halls are easy to get lost in, and with no connection to the outside world, the group is unexpectedly off the grid. After just a few hours spent under its roof, Alex and her friends have no trouble imagining how this dark, terrifying castle inspired one of the most enduring horror novels of all time.
Only soon they no longer have to use their imaginations to understand the location’s terrifying history—just as they get the film's first shot rolling, one of Alex’s friends disappears, and she’s nearly certain she saw a cloaked stranger lurking in the shadows. As more members of the group begin to meet an untimely demise, Alex is desperate to stop the bloodshed, even if it means facing a monster she never thought would be let loose.

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Maisie Chan - Author Interview (Q&A) - Keep Dancing Lizzie Chu - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books #26


Hello Everybody! This week we have another wonderful interview; I'm delighted to introduce Maisie Chan, who is the author of Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths. Her latest book is Keep Dancing Lizzie Chu and was only published this month (June 2022) by Piccadilly Press. In this interview, we are given a fantastic insight into the author, her relationship with her stories, and the characters of the books. I have really enjoyed reading the author's responses to the questions and hope these inspire you to pick up a copy of the book, which can be purchased HERE.
  • Your recent novel is called Keep Dancing, Lizzie Chu and will be published on 9th June 2022 with Piccadilly Press. How did you pitch this book idea to the publisher?
When I sold Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths I had to pitch a second book. I wrote down a one page pitch about a Chinese goddess who comes to earth but she's had enough with being a goddess and wants to be human. That book isn't Keep Dancing, Lizzie Chu! However, I did want to keep the aspect of having a Chinese goddess in a more contemporary story. I had also written a teen novel about a girl who looks after her grandfather who has dementia, so I tried to put the two ideas together. I then wanted to infuse it with popular culture as I felt that TV and films had been a blessing over the lockdowns. 

  • Have you based any of the characters in the story on real people?

Well, I have some experience of being a young adult carer who looks after an older man, so I guess Lizzie has some links to me. Chi and Tyler her best friends aren't based on people I know. I did name some characters in the book using the names of my friends but the characters aren't them. Wai Gong (grandfather) is loosely based on my dad Ron, who had dementia and used to see someone he called 'Angel' so that sort of made it into the plot! 
  • There is a mention of sausage sandwiches in the plot; what would be Lizzie Chu's favourite sandwich fillings? 
Lizzie loves roast dinners, so I reckon she would like roast chicken (with the skin on) on some white crusty bread with butter, maybe with a smear of mayo. 
  • Lizzie comes up with an idea in the book to take Wai Gong on the trip of a lifetime to Blackpool. Why Blackpool and did you visit it as a child? 
I used to go to British seaside towns a lot as a child. We didn't have money to go to fancy places like....Benidorm! We would go to Blackpool on the coach and see the illuminations. We also went to Rhyl and Barry Island a lot. I remember there was a swarm of flying ants one summer. It was my worst nightmare! 
(Maybe that could be a good topic in a future book?)

  • Your first book was called Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths. What did you learn from writing this book that helped you to develop Keep Dancing, Lizzie Chu? 
I had much less time to write Keep Dancing, Lizzie Chu than I did Danny Chung. My editor was there from the beginning, which wasn't the case during the early drafts of Danny Chung. I think having an expert there in the early stages really helps so there are fewer drafts needed as they can steer you in the right direction a bit earlier. What I did differently with Lizzie Chu was to have a much stronger opening chapter where there is more action and tension. 
  • You are a British Chinese author who lives in Glasgow, are there any particular aspects of your cultural heritage that may we find in the characters and the plot? 
There are fewer British Chinese cultural elements in Keep Dancing, Lizzie Chu and this was because unlike Danny Chung, I wasn't trying to introduce British Chinese culture to those who didn't know much about it. I wanted the story to be about a girl who really wants to do a nice thing for her grandad, and they're fairly British in the sense that they speak English to each other and aren't always eating 'Chinese' food (which to Chinese people is just called 'food'!). There are aspects of Chinese stories in the book. I used to dress up as Guan Yin when I was a storyteller, she's the goddess of compassion and mercy. So there are stories about her that are Chinese. She's one of the most beloved Chinese deities. Later on, I put in the Journey to the West story which is one of the most famous Chinese novels of all time. So the journey of Lizzie and the gang, mirrors the journey in that famous story which has the Monkey King in it. 
  • I love a good dance, what music would you and Lizzie Chu dance to?
I think Lizzie would dance to Cha-Cha-Slide which has elements of the cha cha cha but also is funky! I really like all kinds of music, old-school hip hop, RNB, Soul, Pop, World Music and Classical music. I like dancing, but I'm definitely not great at it! I can't do routines! But I can freestyle! 
  • How important is it to write books for children and do you think there is a place for adults to read and enjoy them as well?
Writing books for children is very special. I think there are multiple levels of things going on when you write for children. The most important is the story. Then books can promote empathy. Some children can see themselves for the first time when reading my book. That's important to me as I didn't have a book like Danny Chung or Lizzie Chu when I was growing up. There was nothing at all, and they still remain very few books like mine out there which is a shame. I've had many adults tell me that they enjoyed Danny Chung and I think Keep Dancing, Lizzie Chu will appeal to adults too, especially if they like Strictly Come Dancing! 


Twitter: @maisiewrites

Insta: @maisiechanwrites

Tik Tok: @maisiechanwrites

Friday, 17 June 2022

Hannah Moffatt - SMALL! BLOG TOUR - What Next For Harvey Small? (Everything With Words)

Hello everybody! Welcome to the final stop on the Hannah Moffatt blog tour. This post is about the main character Harvey Small and WHAT NEXT? This brilliant book is now available to buy and READ.  However, if you need any more encouragement to purchase a copy then you can check out our BOOK REVIEW HERE. All the stops for the blog tour are at the bottom of the post if you have not had the chance to check these out already. Anyway, without any further ado, if you are sitting comfortably and ready for unspeakable trouble then you have come to the right place!

Hmm, what next for Harvey Small? That’s a hard question to answer without giving away lots of spoilers! So, what can I say?

First up, don’t worry. Book one doesn’t leave you hanging. Stories that end on ‘you’ll never guess who was at the door’ moments feel unfair on readers who’ve picked up a book expecting a complete story. So, although I drop a big hint about what might come next, I hope you’ll feel excited rather than frustrated.

With that in mind, here are some ways I’ve tried to pave the way for a sequel without putting readers off. (If you’re writing a series, feel free to try them, too.)

Leave room to explore

The Stinking Sinking Swamp is a big place. One of the reasons I don’t feel done with Harvey yet is that I want to visit more of the world beyond Madame Bogbrush’s School for Gifted Giants. A second story gives me room to roam. I hope you’ll come with me.

Create characters you want to hang out with

I love Harvey’s relationship with his giant best friend, Walloping Toenail. A sequel gives that friendship time to grow. So far, we’ve seen Harvey struggling to fit in a giant’s world. But what will Walloping do if his lifelong wish to be an explorer is scarier than he expected? How will he cope if the rest of the world really is too small for him?  

Whatever happens, I know Harvey and Walloping will stick together, no matter what scrapes they get in.

Build a boomerang problem that can keep coming back

There are two levels of problem in Small! There are the one-off problems, that have to wrap up nicely to make the end feel satisfying. They include answering the obvious questions:

  • Will the giants figure out Harvey’s not a giant? 
  • Will Harvey’s bad luck change?
  • Will Madame Bogbrush’s School for Gifted Giants pass the Beastly School Board inspection?

Then there’s what I’m calling the boomerang problem: the one that goes away when the book ends but could easily come back to clonk Harvey on the head if he’s not careful.

In Small! the child-stealing threat from the Unspeakable Circus is that boomerang. So, expect lots more unspeakable trouble in Harvey’s next adventure. You’ve been warned!

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

James Harris - Author Interview (Q&A) Happytown Must Be Destroyed - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books #25


What a joy to have James Harris back for another interview. This time we wanted to find out more about his new book HAPPYTOWN MUST BE DESTROYED which was published by Hodder Children's books on the 14th April, 2022. It's a story about jogging, eating salads, and really enjoying these whilst smiling all the time. They're happy; really, REALLY happy. Who could complain about that? Well, it's time to find out! 

  1. Happytown Must Be Destroyed is the title of your latest book; it is a fantastic title. In what ways does the story live up to this amazing title?

Why thank you! I actually came up with the title first, about nine years ago, and it’s taken me this long to come up with a story that is worthy of the name.  

  1. What comical capers do the characters get up to and why is everybody so happy?

Well, everybody is happy because there’s aliens in their heads making them happy, that’s the problem! And Leeza is the only person who can save the world, but she’s really terrible at making decisions. So there’s a lot of indecision, a ton of running around, a fair amount of aliens schlurping up peoples’ noses, some heavily-armed ice cream men firing freeze rays all over the place, a colossal dance routine, some top-notch arguments, a small jar of pickled onions… something for everyone, really!

  1. The last book was about biscuits, is this book still good to read with a cup of tea? 

Yes, but as always remember: dunk the biscuit, not the book!

  1. How important is it that readers find the story funny? Is this something that is important to you? 

When I write stuff, whether it’s alien invasions or giant orange monsters running round town, it just turns out funny, I can’t help it. A lot of people say my books are “bonkers” but the planet that we live on is pretty bonkers generally, so to me that’s realistic.

  1. I see you are a filmmaker, a performer, and also a pole-vaulter. How has each role contributed to you becoming a children's author? 

Apart from the pole-vaulting, which is just a big fib, everything I’ve done: making films, comics, zines, sketch shows, animations – they’ve all involved writing, so it was all practice. All the little things I have written over the years, for fun, have all helped me be the writer I am today. Keep writing, that’s my advice!

  1. When you were last interviewed you were just coming to the end of writing this book. Did it all go to plan or did the Aliens and the allergies get you?

Oh, it took a couple of goes to get it right. It’s all about juggling the aliens, and the allergies, and the ice cream, and the friendship, and the action and the emotion… it took me a while to keep all the balls in the air for a whole book. Did I manage it finally? Read it and find out!

  1. Are you going to make a short pointless film for this book? I really think you should! 

Oh go on then! I should, shouldn’t I?

  1. What question do you wish you had been asked as part of this Q&A and why? How would one of your characters have responded to this question?

Ooh, well they’ve all been good questions… You could have asked “Should everyone buy this book?” and I would have said “HECK YES”, of course, but Leeza would have said “hmm… but there are so many other books you could buy… I don’t know. Yes, maybe?” and her best friend Ishy would have burped the alphabet and jumped over a bin. Does that help?

Monday, 13 June 2022

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

Elen Caldecott - The Blackthorn Branch - Published by 
Andersen Press (2 Jun. 2022) - ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1839132032 - Paperback - Age: 8+ 

Cassie’s older brother Byron has fallen in with the wrong crowd – it’s soon clear these boys are wild, reckless and not human at all. They are tylwyth teg – Fair Folk, who tempt humans down into the dark places of the world. And Byron is tempted.

When he goes missing, Cassie and her cousin, Si├ón, follow his trail to an old abandoned railway tunnel which goes down and down into Annwn, the underworld. Here they find that the tylwyth teg are restless – and angry. Their leader, Gwenhidw, wants to protect Annwn from the damage humans are doing to the world. Byron is part of her plan. But Cassie won’t let her big brother be part of anyone’s plan. Can she rescue her brother before it is too late?

Kate Gilby Smith - Olive Jones and the Memory Thief - Published by Orion Children's Books (23 Jun. 2022) - ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1510108523 - Paperback - Age: 8+ 

Olive Jones has just inherited her grandmother's memories - through a mysterious new device called a Memoriser. But her grandmother has left her a mystery in those memories. And now it's up to Olive to solve it.

After her grandmother's funeral, Olive learns she has inherited something unexpected: her grandmother's memories.

Olive is surprised - her grandmother wasn't a cuddly, affectionate kind of grandmother. Curious about what she might discover, Olive sets out to 'watch' the memories. But before she can, they're stolen right from under her nose. Olive can't understand why anybody would want to steal the memories. As far as she'd known, her grandmother had always lived an utterly ordinary life.

Following the trail of the thief, Olive begins to discover that her grandmother's life wasn't what she thought. As she unravels the secrets lurking in her grandmother's past, she discovers clues Grandma Sylvie left her. It's up to Olive to solve the mystery of the memory thief, and in the process, learn about the incredible life and adventures of the grandmother she has never really known.

Lindsay Galvin - My Friend the Octopus - Published by Chicken House (2 Jun. 2022) - ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1913696405 - Paperback - Age: 8+

England, 1893, and aquarium fever is at its height.

Twelve-year-old Vinnie Fyfe works in the tea-shop at Brighton aquarium, and waits for her milliner mother to return from Paris.

The arrival of a giant octopus changes her life for ever. Discovering a talent for art, Vinnie begins to draw the extraordinary beast.

She soon realises she can communicate with the octopus through colour and – as a gripping mystery begins to unfold – discovers what true courage really means ...

Alastair Chisholm - The Consequence Girl - Published by Nosy Crow Ltd (2 Jun. 2022) - ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1839941207 - Paperback - Age: 8+ 

A thrilling, unputdownable adventure, from the highly-acclaimed author of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize-shortlisted Orion Lost and the Blackwell's Children's Book of the Year, Adam-2.

The world of Colony is in ruins. No one knows what caused society to begin tearing itself apart - but the secret may lie with Cora, a girl living on the mountainside far away from others. Cora possesses an extraordinary gift: the power to see back in time, from an event back to its causes. Even more incredibly, sometimes she can change events. But the present is looking for Cora, and she is forced on the run - and must decide who she is, what she can do ... and how to fix the future.

With incredible twists and turns, and a hugely gripping story, The Consequence Girl is a brilliantly-imagined, ambitious and high-concept adventure from one of the most exciting new voices in children's fantasy and science fiction.

Wednesday, 8 June 2022

Emma Bradley - Author Interview (Q&A) - The Trouble With Fairies (The Arcanium Series) - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books #24

Thank you for joining us for the third scheduled Q&A. This week I am delighted to introduce author Emma Bradley; self-published author of The Arcanium series. In this interview, you can find out more about the books (fantasy adventures about the Faerie world) as well as the author. Hopefully, we will be able to tempt you into wanting to read a copy. If so, you can purchase both books, and perhaps even a signed copy Here. 
  •  You have just published book two in your The Arcanium Series; what is the story about? 

The Arcanium series follows 16-year-old Demi as she joins the ranks of the FDPs (Fairy Deity People) and trains to become one of them. 

In the first book, she stumbles on a plot to overthrow the Queen of Faerie by a traditionalist Fae group called The Forgotten, but in book 2 she goes on assignment in Gallows Oak, an elitist Fae country club that The Forgotten are rumoured to use as a base. Her aim: to expose their secret gatherings and find out information on what they're plotting next. Unfortunately, Arcanium is chaotic at the best of times so she's not been prepared for the strength of the enemy or the tricks and pitfalls that are lurking, but at least this time her best friend Taz is going with her! 

  • At what point did you realise you wanted to write a book? What particularly fascinates you about the Fae that you write about?  

I've been writing ever since I was about 9 years old, starting off with pony stories and eventually widening into the world of fantasy fiction in my teens. I love the idea that you can escape into a world where anything is possible and also create your own, which is how the Arcanium series came into being. I wanted to have a character who wasn't a natural champion, but Demi actually started off as a sidekick until she shouted so loud my writing friends insisted she take the lead instead! With the tricksy nature of Fae folk as well, you can create great depth in both the enemies and the main characters, so that nobody is totally good (or totally evil because ‘they just are') - it was really important for me to show characters who have been moulded by life and their experiences into doing both good and bad things, and the consequences that come with it. 

  • You mention that Arcanium is the most prestigious of fairy organisations, please tell us more about it e.g. does it have a hierarchy system, etc? 

Arcanium is an absolute mess a lot of the time, purposefully so! I wanted a setting where everything is often chaotic rather than regimented, because this feeds in quite nicely not only to how a lot of large organisations are in real life (so it can be relatable), but also it lends itself nicely to creating stakes and obstacles for the characters in terms of lack of information, miscommunication, things not working when they should and so on. Despite this, becoming an FDP at Arcanium is a high honour, because it means you're trusted to be the eyes and ears of Faerie, taking on assignments and running errands for your clients. 

The hierarchy system is fairly simple - the Director, Queenie, handles the day-to-day running, while the Head Mentor, Emil, runs the assignments that FDPs are sent out on. Each qualified FDP gets a mentor who advises them while they're on assignment, and all hopeful FDP and mentor initiates must undergo two years of training as mentees before they qualify. Of course, things never run that smoothly for Demi, and although she's still a mentee she keeps accidentally volunteering (or getting signed up) for things!

  • Do your dreams ever become stories?

I tend not to remember my dreams, but my daydreams definitely end up in my stories sometimes. I've always found it easy to let my mind wander (to the frustration of teachers, bosses, and general people around me), but it's a great way to find inspiration and also you tend to absorb small things about your surroundings when you daydream that then leak into the stories without you realising!

  • I have seen a disclaimer that states: All initiates join at their own risk. Loss of limbs is unlikely. No refunds. Tell us more about the risks and what readers can expect and why?

Assignments in the realms of Faerie can be very dangerous, especially with The Forgotten roaming and planning to take over Faerie itself. Also, with Arcanium being so chaotic a lot of the time and a place that only a select group have seen inside of, rumours are bound to spread. Nobody knows if there's really a quarantine floor for dangerous creatures from Faerie, for example, or if they really did find a whole realm full of tentacles. Only those few FDPs and mentors who are lucky enough to make it through their first two years of course know what really lurks inside. It also takes a lot of effort and money to keep Arcanium running, so the 'No Refunds' was Director Queenie's idea. Once you pay for Arcanium's services, it's very unlikely you're getting your money back, but FDPs have never been known to fail an assignment. Lose a limb or disappear possibly, but the job always gets done one way or another!

  • Have you self-published your book? If so, did you have to take on all the roles a traditional publisher would? 

The Arcanium books are wholly self-published, and apart from the cover designs and advice from my editor, I'm doing the process single-handed. It's a long road in terms of the different tasks that need doing, but also shorter in terms of time-frame. So to release one book I usually have to:

Sort ISBNs for the barcode

Arrange and approve the cover design

Ensure the book is the best it can be (with editorial advice)

Format the interior files to fit distribution portal requirements

Make sure the details are uploaded in various places so bookshops can find the metadata

Marketing/promotion/giveaways (this would be anything from social media promotion on Twitter or through TikTok videos, contacting bookshops in the hope they'll stock the book, designing and ordering merchandise like postcards, bookmarks etc. ordering stock and holding giveaways to increase the reach of the book) 

This isn't the full list and many of these take much longer than the above makes it sound! But I do love being able to see every step of the process, and as a naturally anxious person I can wake up in the middle of the night to check something and reassure myself rather than needing to wait for an answer, which often helps!

  • What advice would you give an author who is thinking of self-publishing?

Research everything thoroughly first. I thought I'd done this, but I still came up against unexpected hitches with both books 1 and 2! Research, planning and expectation are key before you decide to self-publish, so what distribution platforms are you going to use (Amazon KDP, Ingram, D2D, etc.), are you going with a cover designer, have you budgeted for everything like ISBNs if you're using them, how are you planning to promote so people can find your book, and so on. 

It sounds like a lot, and I suppose it is in bulk, but each bit can be broken down and explored until you begin to see how it all hangs together. 

Above all else, make sure your expectations are realistic. Self-publishing may get your book out there quicker than traditional routes, but you will be doing more of the work with less of the validation - there's no professional body like an agent or publisher to reassure you your work is good enough. You have to be all of that for yourself (although writing friends are worth their weight in books!)

  • I have read you are a serial spender, what is the craziest purchase you ever made and how did it change your life? 

Aside from the cost of my currently teetering TBR tower, I think the craziest (and best) thing I ever bought was my black Labrador, Buddy. You know full well 'we'll just go up and have a look' will turn into tears, a lot less money and a car full of toys that said dog is never going to look twice at (and of course the dog himself). We met him, walked him for 15 minutes, the whole time of which he pretty much ignored us and tried to pull us into every hedge going, then when we opened the car in the shelter car park he jumped inside and refused to get out, so that was that! 

Luckily, he's more than earned his keep - when I start writing or get engrossed in something I can often go for a whole day without moving or remembering to have a drink or anything, so he knows to disturb me when it's time to go outside or if I've forgotten to eat!

Monday, 6 June 2022

Hannah Moffatt - SMALL! - Book Review - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books


This is one of the most original stories you will read this year. Small! is the debut book by Hannah Moffatt and will be published by the giant story machine (Mikka) from Everything with Words. It will be available to buy from the 16th of June 2022. This book is a masterclass of storytelling; it stands tall with its humour, silliness, and total chaos. It is a story about Harvey (a small boy with a big heart in a GIANT world) who is expelled from school after accidentally setting fire to his headteacher's trousers. 

ARE YOU READY? It's time to strap on a pair of STILTS and walk into the swamp and the land of giants, although you might need to hold your NOSE first! Harvey has to look for a place where he can belong. He finds himself in the strangest of places - Madame Bogbrush's School for Gifted Giants. This book is a GREAT adventure story; a MAHOOSIVE mystery riddle needs to be solved to save the school from being closed by THE BEASTLY SCHOOL BOARD. However, it is also a journey about finding friends in the most UNLIKELY of places. 

I loved every page of this book. It has a BONKERS plot that will entertain everyone. In fact, as I write this book review, I have an infectious smile glued to my face as I reflect on the crazy storylines. It is a great family read to enjoy and savour over a cup of bogweed tea and SWAMP FISH sandwiches. The book is a great illustrative delight due to its black and white illustrations by Roy Walker. They work in perfect harmony with the story by adding a new dimension. 

This book tackles issues of friendship, bullying and how to deal with parents who divorce or separate. It is sensitively done and just adds a little emotion to a big story that is high on laughs and first-rate rule-breaking. It's a delight to read a creative, heart-warming, and imaginative story that also contains massive amounts of silliness. 

This book has everything you need to make it a favorite read for everyone. It contains a fortune teller in the cellar, a giant's guide to grunting and the great ring mistress of the unspeakable circus. It stands out from the crowd and on the bookshelf because even though the title on the book cover is SMALL! the text is so SOOOO BIG. Anyway, it's time to join the party and have a big guffaw so grab a copy this summer and enjoy one of the best reads of the year.