Tuesday, 17 August 2010

James Rollins - Jake Ransome and the Skull Kings Shadow - Review

Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow
 I wasn't sure what to expect from this having previously read some of James Rollins adult books. I was curious as to how his writing style might differ to appeal to a younger readership and on the strength of this I have been impressed. Jake Ransom And The Skull Kings Shadow is the first of what it seems will be a series of books featuring young Jake.

Three years ago a mysterious package arrived for Jake and Kady Ransom. Inside were two halves of a Mayan gold coin, their mothers sketchbook and their fathers notebook. But their archaeologist parants failed to return from an expedition to the site of a long lost Mayan civilazation. Now Jake and Kady are plunged into a terrifying adventure.

...and what an adventure it is. after being mysteriously invited to open an exibition in London which featured many artefacts uncovered by their now missing parents. One of these items holds a rather unholy power and transports Jake and Kady to an ancient time and so starts a tale involving dinosaurs, past civilizations and strange alchemic powers.
 A genuinely good read and I find myself looking forward to the next instalment of the Jake Ransom story "Jake Ransom & The Howling Sphinx" which will be released in the spring.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Books On the Dark Side for September 2010

                                        
                                                
                                         
                                               Mortal Coil (Skulduggery Pleasant - Book 5)
Derek Landy - Mortal Coil (Skulduggery Pleasant) B.k 5 - Publisheby HarperCollins - 2 September -2010
Skulduggery Pleasant is back, and reunited with his original head. But all is not well in the magical world. For one thing, there's an unstoppable assassin with a face-mask on the loose… and for another thing, Valkyrie has discovered she might be Darquesse, the evil sorceress set to destroy the entire world. The problem is, she doesn't feel she can tell Skulduggery what she's learned, and so she must try to change her terrible destiny alone.
But the price of a new fate is high, and if she fails, she'll die alone too.
With Valkyrie on her own quest, Skulduggery and the gang are even more vulnerable. Which is a shame, because remember that remnant the Necromancers had? They've still got it – and they're thinking about letting it out…
The Dead
                                         
Charlie Higson - The Dead - Published by Puffin - 16 September 2010
A terrible disease is striking everyone over the age of fourteen. Death walks the streets. Nowhere is safe. Maxie, Blue and the rest of the Holloway crew aren’t the only kids trying to escape the ferocious adults who prey on them. Jack and Ed are best friends, but their battle to stay alive tests their friendship to the limit as they go on the run with a mismatched group of other kids – nerds, fighters, misfits. And one adult. Greg, a butcher, who claims he’s immune to the disease. They must work together if they want to make it in this terrifying new world. But as a fresh disaster threatens to overwhelm London, they realize they won’t all survive

                                              Birth of a Killer (Saga of Larten Crepsley)
Darren Shan - The Saga of Larten Crepsley - Birth of a Killer - Published by HarperCollins - 30 September 2010
When Larten escapes the terrible workhouse in which he toils, he doesn’t know that he is running from an early death… into another kind of transformation. After meeting the mysterious vampire Seba Nile while sheltering for the night in a crypt, Larten finds himself drawn into the shadowy world of the vampire Clan. As he travels and learns, Larten finds himself enjoying the adventure he has always dreamed of, seeing a world beyond any he suspected in his poverty-stricken youth.
But Larten begins to discover something else, too. Much like death, becoming a vampire is something you can’t come back from…


See book review: The Saga of Larten Crepsley

                             Changeling: Demon Games
Steve Feasey - Changeling: Demon Games -  Published by Macmillan Children's books - 3 September 2010

Teenage werewolf Trey is facing the most important and dangerous mission of his life. He must journey into the dark Netherworld and rescue Alexa, daughter of his vampire guardian Lucien, who is being held hostage by a powerful demon lord. But strength and courage alone are not enough to succeed – instead Trey must ‘win’ both their freedoms by participating in a death-match against his deadliest nemesis yet. The forces of evil are stacked against him and Trey can only be certain of one thing . . . one of them WILL die.


Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Alex Keller - Haywired - Book Review

Haywired
                                                 
It has been some time since I have had the opportunity to read a book published by Mogzilla, so it was great to be able to read this one. Especially as I had had my eye on this book for a little while.

The book cover that has been illustrated/designed by Rachel is absolutely fabulous; it starts a guessing game as to what the story is going to be about. The central image is quite bizarre but very intriguing - it certainly catches the eye.

In the quiet village of Little Wainesford, Ludwig Von Guggenstein is about to have his unusual existence turned inside out. When he and his father are blamed for a fatal accident during the harvest, a monstrous family secret is revealed. Soon Ludwig will begin to uncover diabolical plans that span countries and generations while ghoulish machines hunt him down. He must fight for survival, in a world gone haywire.

Once you start reading this book you immediately find yourself immersed in a steampunk bubble. I personally, love the steampunk genre, so it had a hard act to follow and yet in someways it actually exceeded the precedence already set. The characters in the book are extremely well developed - the author's imaginative creativity really brings them to life. The monstrous creatures, known as HELOT's in this book, are a fine example as to what the future may bring. These machines were invented for war and therefore crush any enemy that gets in their way; making some great murderous and memorable encounters.They have you quaking in your boots. 

The book has lots of great twists and turns - the story is cranked up to various levels but threads beautifully together. The fight for survival brings out the darker side of the story, which keeps you on the edge of your robotic pants. Themes of science and superstition run throughout the story adding yet another layer to the story, which worked really well for me.

As the book came to an explosive end I was wanting more, in fact it could have done with a little more detail in some places and perhaps a period setting - this may help in appealing to a wider readership as at the moment I feel it is perhaps limiting itself.

This is a great start to this adventure series, the next instalment is entitled Rewired. I will be looking forward to it next spring when it it is due to be published.

Suggested age range is 11+

Published by http://www.mogzilla.co.uk -  1 September 2010

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

GUEST POST – “The Familiars” by Adam Jay Epstein & Andrew Jacobson

“Adam’s Top 5 Favorite Fantasy Books”
ADAM JAY EPSTEIN spent his childhood in Great Neck, New York, while ANDREW JACOBSON grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but the two met in a parking garage out in Los Angeles. They have been writing for film and television together ever since. The Familiars  is their first book.
One day, Adam asked Andrew, “Are you familiar with what a familiar is?” And from that simple question, Vastia was born, a fantastical world filled with the authors’ shared love of animals and magic. They wrote every word, sentence, and page together, sitting opposite each other.
Adam Jay Epstein lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Jane, their daughters, Penny and Olive, and a black-and-white alley cat who hangs out in their backyard. Andrew Jacobson lives with his wife, Ashley, and their dog, Elvis, four traffic lights away.

THE FAMILIARS will be produced for film by Sam Raimi and Sony Animation.
Fantasy fiction has created my love of reading from an early age. No other books captured my imagination the way that they did, and often I dreamt of living in those worlds as I sat in bed each night devouring the pages.
5. “Something Wicked this Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury
Not sure you would call this fantasy in the tradition way, but it’s filled with magic and scares and a fantastical world that lies just beyond our eyes in the neighborhood carnival. It scared me silly when I first read it. It was evocative and unique. And although it was tough to choose between this and “The Illustrated Man” as my favorite Bradbury tale, I had to go with this one, seeing as how picking an anthology seemed like cheating.
File:MonsterManual-1stEdAD&D-Cover.jpg
4. “The Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual” by Gary Gygax
Before I ever started reading novels, in third grade this was my introduction to fantasy. A friend’s older brother turned me onto it and after I purchased it and brought it home, I read it cover to cover. There’s no story, just a list of magical monsters in alphabetical order, but each one was like a story to me. And an excellent primer on mythology, both Greek, Norse, and Babylonian.

Early edition cover


3. “Spell for Chameleon” by Piers Anthony
In fifth grade, my dad gave this book to me. Up until that point, I wasn’t really interested in novels at all. I’d rather read my dragon magazines and make up stories of my own. But on his recommendation, I started it, and couldn’t put it down. It was funny and the world of Xanth was like nothing I had ever seen. Plus with surprise twists and turns it got me hooked on the art of storytelling.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Book 3) Paperback
2. “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkeban” by JK Rowling
My favorite of the Harry Potter series, although “Deathly Hollows” comes in a close second. The most emotional one for me and the only one that made me cry. Stories of parents and their children always connect in a special way for me. Also the tight, clever storytelling and brilliantly planted plot puzzle pieces come together in such a rewarding way in the end.
The Hobbit
1. “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien
The first Tolkien I ever read, and yes, still my favorite even over “The Lord of the Rings.” The classic hero’s journey tale and the book which all other fantasies are indebted, including mine!
“The Familiars” at www.thefamiliars.com.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Ross Mackenzie - Zac & The Dream Pirates - Book Review

                                       Zac and the Dream Pirates

Everybody dreams. That's the problem. Good dreams are sweet. Bad dreams are scary, but what happens if the worst sort of nightmares take over? Zac Wonder is about to find out. On the stroke of midnight, he is plunged into an extraordinary world on the other side of sleep. Is he still dreaming? Has he gone nuts? Or, is he really meant to save us all from vampires, werewolves and the dream pirates who threaten to keep us awake forever............

If you ever want to get lost in a book and be instantly transported back to your childhood, then this is the book for you. From the very first page to the last, this is a magical adventure that is full of crazy ideas which are spun into every page enabling your imagination to run wild. 

The book finds Zac living a normal life with his granny. However, Zac has started to have vivid dreams which begin to unsettle him, as they feel too realistic. One day he finds his granny acting strangely and follows her into a full-on adventure. This story will have you spellbound, as you fly through the pages in a zany camper van - fighting skywaymen, a variety of monsters and blood-thirsty vampires that have come straight out of your nightmares.

This book is packed with action - it will leave any reluctant reader wanting much more. The stand-offs between the Knights of Nod and the Dream Pirates have a film-like quality that bring your imagination to the boil. It's full of nasty creatures that want to eat you, suck your blood or indeed just kill you . . . . . !

The one thing I was a little unsure about involved the book cover. Whilst it glows in the dark, which is a great marketing idea to entice the younger reader. I would have liked to have seen a more appealing book cover to entice a wider audience. This, I feel, would attract more readers because this is certainly a book that screams out to be read by everyone.

This is a great debut book by Ross - it's well written and I think it has a great future.  Ross should begin to develop a good following, as every reader who picks up this book up and turns the pages, should be eager to see what he writes next. I for one, can't wait.

Book Published by Chicken House -  6 September 2010

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Cornelia Funke - Reckless - Book Review

Reckless

                                                  
I have always eagerly anticipated Cornelia Funke's new books, since having first read 'Inkheart' and being blown away by it. Since then I have read many of her books and have never been disappointed - at least not yet! Once again this book lives up to the high expectations that have been set . 'Reckless' is an intriguing read - entwined within a world of fairytales, but as to be expected with many unusual twists and turns.


The story begins with Jacob Reckless, who has been visiting another world from behind a mirror, for many years. This world is full of fairies, witches and other fantastical creatures but it 'captures' Jacob - alluring him back time after time to hunt for treasures and attempt unusual quests.

This double-life suits Jacob well, until the day his younger brother Will, discovers his secret. Not surprisingly, he follows Jacob into this other world (perhaps trying to unravel the mystery behind Jacob's long disappearances) but unfortunately with disastrous consequences. Time becomes vital in trying to release Will from the curse that is gradually turning him into stone. Fortunately he is not alone in his quest, as he has Clara (Will's girlfriend) and Fox (Jacob's adoring friend) to help him. 
The changes that Will face are portrayed intensely, as the rapid change towards the end sees him develop from the 'lovesick fool' into the hardened warrior. A soldier and protector who becomes unable to distinguish between the enemy and his own brother . . . . 

The beginning of each chapter has been illustrated by Cornelia Funke herself. These miniature drawings reflect the feelings of adventure explored within each chapter. The quality is superb, with careful attention to detail - these tell a story in themselves!

At one point in the book, I felt I was actually in the cave with the 'metal Dragon's' that the characters had discovered. I could almost feel myself gripping the sides of the book and clenching my toes as the aeroplane spluttered to life, gradually making its way into the air. This visual portrayal was made possible by the particularly great use of descriptive language.

I really devoured this book. I actually read it over several hours and made myself intensely tired the next day but it was certainly worth it! I think I may need to read it again at some point, in order to really appreciate the minute attention to detail, as I galloped to the end with a ravenous appetite needing to know the outcome.

Book published by Chicken House - U.K and Little,Brown Books - U.S 14 September 2010

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Garth Nix - Book Events - August 2010

GARTH NIX
Garth has not been to the UK for a few years, so he hopes lots of people will come along to these events to say hello and get books signed and so on. While the blurbs for the events often give age ranges,he say's he will not be talking about specific books or a series, in fact he will talk more generally, and typically the audiences include readers of all ages: kids, young adults, older adults, very old adults, immortals etc

 11.00am - Friday 13th August 2010
Event at Seven Stories, The Centre for Children's Books
30 Lime Street, Ouseburn Valley, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE1 2PQ
For more information visit:


10.00am - Saturday 14th August 2010
Event in the Main Theatre at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh
For more information visit:

6.00pm - Monday 16th August 2010
Event at Waterstone’s, 4-5 Milsom Street, Bath , BA1 1DA
For more information visit:


2.30pm - Tuesday 17th August 2010
Event at The Forum, 2 Millennium Plain, Bethel Street, Norwich, NR2 1TF
For more information visit:

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Books On The Reading Pile This Week........

Reckless

The choice of books is really beginning to grow - the 'to be read' pile is starting to become a hard decision to choose from. Many books are vying for attention - needing and wanting to be read. However, these are the three picks to start the week with. Thanks to all those people, who have sent and enabled my book choice to be so exciting!


Cornelia Funke - Reckless - Published by Chicken House & Little Brown Books - 14 September 2010
For the first time in his life, Jacob Reckless is afraid. For years he's stolen across to another world. A dark enchanted place he's loved for its treasure, secrets and dangers. Until now. Will, his younger brother, has followed him with terrible consequences: The boy will turn to beast; the girl he loves will break her hert and chaos will rule forever, unless Jacob can spin a fairytale to save them ..


Zac and the Dream Pirates
                                    
Ross Mackenzie - Zac & The Dream Pirates - Published by Chicken House - 6 September 2010
Everybody dreams. That's the problem. Good dreams are sweet. Bad dreams are scary, but what happens if the worst sort of nightmares take over? Zac Wonder is about to find out. On the stroke of midnight, he is plunged into an extraordinary world on the other side of sleep. Is he still dreaming? Has he gone nuts? Or, is he really meant to save us all from vampires, werewolves and the dream pirates who threaten to keep us awake forever......


                                   
Alex Scarrow - TimeRiders:Day of the Predator - Published by Puffin - 6 August 2010
Liam O’Connor should have died at sea in 1912. Maddy Carter should have died on a plane in 2010. Sal Vikram should have died in a fire in 2029. But all three have been given a second chance – to work for an agency that no-one knows exists. Its purpose - to prevent time travel destroying history . . . When Maddy mistakenly opens a time window where and when she shouldn’t have, Liam is marooned sixty-five million years ago in the hunting ground of a deadly - and until now - undiscovered species of predator. Can Liam make contact with Maddy and Sal before he's torn to pieces by dinosaurs – and without endangering history so much that the world is overtaken by a terrifying new reality?





Thursday, 22 July 2010

Darren Shan - The Saga of Larten Crepsley Bk 1 - Birth of a Killer


The Saga of Larten Crepsley (1) - Birth of a Killer





U.K Book cover (could look like this) Published by HarperCollins Children's Books 30 September 2010

Darren Shan, and his ever rapid production line of exceedingly good horror books, has introduced a new series. This first book is due to be published late September. The main character should be a very familiar figure to those who have read The Saga Of Darren Shan. But with this series we go full circle and follow one of the more interesting members, Larten Crepsley - the saga then begins.

The story starts with Larten, toiling day to day in a workhouse, until he manages to escape the brutal regime. He moves onto encounter the eerie Seba Nile - in a graveyard. The book explores his life with the Cirque De Freak and shares the insightful lives of the Vampire Clan, which I was drawn to, like a moth to light.

This book is written in Shan's normal style - a fast paced, gripping story plot and a vivid imagination in the ways of the gruesome. I loved the first section of the book, it felt like a new story but the more I delved into the book I had a feeling of deja vu. Whilst I strongly believe that this book is worth reading, it did feel like Darren had written this before - plucking the exploits of Larten out of a previous series and weaving it into another book. Now it may be that there is indeed a wealth of new content in this book, but this familiarity was unnerving - perhaps I've dreamt this story in my nightmares - but something felt very familiar!

This book does deal with friendship and the emotional turmoil of bullying, which works well and eventually brings out the best in everyone. The portrayal of Vampires, as always, has been extremely well written. Although they appear more realistic than in other books of this genre, perhaps this is due to the teenage market making them look like high society dummies with a human-like social life and existence. Romance and vampires as a combination, in my opinion, really suck the life from this genre!

The magical aspect to Darren's book emerges through wild fantasy - a genre that every grown-up wants to explore but only once they have plucked up the courage to dare open the book. I know a lot of grown up's who don't even dare do this. But every person who does, always has a grin (or grimace) on their face, as they hide from the demons that follow him/her into the very next book.

The great thing about this book is that there is a lot of scope for the next exciting adventure. Only I hope I don't dream a similar storyline next time. So bring it on Darren. . . . .  


 U.S Book cover published by Little Brown Books 5 October 2010 - To keep up to date on all things Darren Shan visit his web page www.darrenshan.com


Sunday, 18 July 2010

Andy Mulligan - Trash - Book Review

Trash
                                              
Andy Mulligan was brought up in the south of London. He worked as a theatre director for ten years, before his travels in Asia prompted him to re-train as a teacher. Since then he has taught English and drama in India, Brazil, The Philippines and the UK. He now divides his time between London and Manila.


After reading Andy's debut book Ribblestrop, which ranked highly in my favourite books last year, I heard about the release of his new book. I was hoping for book two in this series, but finding out that this book was going to published by David Fickling and not Simon & Schuster, I knew this was not going to be the case. Disappointed I was, but also intrigued. 


Raphael is a dumpsite boy. He spends his days wading through mountains of steaming trash, sifting it, sorting it, breathing it, sleeping next to it. Then one unlucky-lucky day, Raphael's world turns upside down. A small leather bag falls into his hands. It's a bag of clues. It's a bag of hope. It's a bag that will change everything. Soon Raphael and his friends Gardo and Rat are running for their lives. Wanted by the police, it takes all their quick-thinking, fast-talking to stay ahead. As the net tightens, they uncover a dead man's mission to put right a terrible wrong. It's three street-boys against the world...


This book, in my eyes, had so much to live up to. However it did match the quality of 'Ribblestrop' but in a different way. It is a great tale of poverty and hardship - children and families living on the edge of life, just about keeping their heads above the 'trash', so to speak.

The book starts with the two main characters of the book, Raphael and his best friend Gardo. Living in a slum, they work all hours sifting through rubbish - just to make a little money to get by. The fourteen year old boys have no hope for a better life, until one day they find a bag, which changes their lives forever. They embark on a heart-stopping adventure that leaves you clinging onto every word and action.

The book is told through the many encounters that the characters become wrapped up in within this mysterious adventure. The tension continuously builds, as the boys face more danger, and the ever pursuing police.

I really loved this book, as it had all the ingredients required to make a good read - a great original story fraught with danger and good central characters that you warm to, wanting to ensure the best for them through the story. The book also has a strong cultural element based upon the author's extensive travels - a hint of life in the Philippines that ensures its appeal and authenticity. This is a sure fire read and I certainly look forward to another book from Andy soon.
Thanks to Lauren for sending this book out to me for review - it's very much appreciated.

Book published by David Fickling Books September 2010

Other books readers might like are Steve Augarde - Xisle Book Review and Paolo Bacigalupi - Ship Breaker-Book Review



Thursday, 15 July 2010

Picture Book Shop - Picks For July 2010


                                         Nat Fantastic and the Brave Knights of Old 
 
Kate McKewn  - Nat Fantastic and the Brave Knights of Old - Published by Orchard 15 July 2010
Nat Fantastic - aka miniature superhero - is back! And this time he's taking on the knights... and winning!
A brilliant follow-up to the hugely successful 
Nat Fantastic from bestselling author Giles Andreae.
                           I Want a Mini Tiger        
Joyce Dunbar & Lara Jones - I Want a Mini Tiger - Published by Macmillian Children's 2 July 2010

This little girl wants her very own miniature wild animal. Anything from a little snappy happy crocodile or a tiny trundle rumble elephant, to a pocket-sized grizzly bear. But as her big brother explains, a real wild animal would make a terrible pet. You can't nuzzle a crocodile, or tickle a wild elephant, and a grizzly bear belongs in a cave not a pocket! But there's one pet, a tiny pet, that loves to be tickled and cuddled. It's like a tiger, only much smaller .  A delightfully rhythmic tale, bursting with imagination, and a playful introduction to a world of wild animals.
                          Arthur and the Meanies
Jan Fearnley - Arthur and the Meanies - Published by Egmont  5 July  2010                  How do you play with an elephant? Well, if you're Tiger, Cheetah, Monkey and Peacock, you don't. Tiger growls that Arthur is too heavy for hopping, and Cheetah is very unkind when Arthur asks to hold the string on his beautiful new kite. But when it starts to rain, suddenly everybody wants to be Arthur's friend - as long as he will do as he's told and shelter them from the storm. This is a beautifully crafted picture book that is complete with a gentle and satisfying moral.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Marcus Sedgwick - White Crow - Book Review

Rebecca isn't happy to be spending her summer in Winterfold. She's been taken from London by her father to live in the tiny seaside village for six weeks. Back in London are all her friends, and Adam, who she was hoping to see more of - but it's too late now, she's stuck far away from them in a cramped house. 


I have read other books by this author, and to be honest, I've never really connected with them. However, from the very first chapter I felt that this book was very different - in a good way. The first thing to notice is the strong dark Gothic atmosphere that is created through the main characters.  These are very well written - the story is told by two young teenage girls, who captivate the reader until the story comes to an end.

The second aspect involves the interwoven story, that runs alongside the mysterious adventures of Rebecca and the spooky character of Ferelith. Told through a journal from the seventeenth century, encounters with the Rector and Dr Barrieux (the master of Winterfold Hall) unfold. Uncovered are the strange experiments in seeking the answers to the afterlife - these have you chilled to the bone.


This book is superb.  I loved the tension, the mystery and all the questions the author asks his readers about the after-life, friendship and the pushing of moral boundaries. You're never sure as to where the story threads are going to take you. The Gothic and religious nature add an interesting element to the story. The extent of the author's research into this book is extensive. The author has shown great diversity in this novel and delivered it with so much vibrant energy, that it leaves you out of breath.


Ferelith already lives in Winterfold - it's a place that doesn't like to let you go, and she knows it inside out - the beach the crumbling cliff paths,the village streets,the wood,the deserted churches and ruined graveyards,year by year being swallowed by the sea.


The book is particularly engrossing and captivating. It is extremely thought provoking and made a great impact on me. It's a terror and urban myth ride with a less than idyllic ending.  It's definitely one of the best books I have read so far this year.  I would highly recommend this book to you all!          

Book published by Orion Children's Books

Sunday, 4 July 2010

++++David Gatward - Author Interview - The Dead Book Launch++++


david gatward



A new devil has ridden into town with his band of monsters and ungodly creatures. The author has turned his visions into a fantastic debut horror series. The first book "The Dead", will have you running for your life. It is out now, if you want to get your hands on a copy, in order to see what everyone is talking about.
In the meantime, the author and his monsters, recently took a little bit of time out of their busy schedules to answer some questions and tell us more about the book.


Who is David Gatward? Could you tell us a little about yourself?
For my website, I had a go at doing not so much an author biog, as an obituary…

“David Gatward spent a considerable part of his life confusing the hell out of not just himself, but those around him. He spent most of his childhood and teenage years wondering what it would be like to be any one of the following (in no particular order): actor; musician; carpenter; army officer; writer; helicopter pilot, and highwayman. He suffered the usual illnesses (measles, chicken pox, pizza-face acne) and, for an embarrassingly long period of time, was a bed-wetter. He saw his first ghost at 16. At 18 he had his first book published. And saw his second ghost. At 19 he went to college. Four years later, qualified to teach, he went in to publishing. Managing his career with all the skill of a blind sea captain in a hurricane, he ended up in the civil service and ran away as soon as redundancy was offered. Writing took over, thanks to a couple of ghost-writing contracts and, quite to his own surprise, a book deal to write The Dead. The rest, as they say, is history...”

Did you have to wait a period of time before you managed to get your first book published?
I actually had my first book published when I was 18, which is pretty young. It’s subject matter is, I’m sure, going to have people coming back to me with stunned expressions, particularly considering what I write now. It was an astonishing experience; the process of signing the contract, doing the book, seeing it in print. The thrill of that moment has never left me. I got the bug. But that’s nearly 20 years ago now. So it’s taken me a fair while to break in to the mainstream. But then in that time I’ve spent probably thousands of hours working on my writing, my style, my ideas… If someone back then had told me it’d take this long I’d have been stunned (and probably very arrogantly dismissive!), but it’s been totally worth the wait.

Has your writing been influenced by any one person?
No. Not in the slightest. My writing has been influenced by so many things, so many people. I’m a horror movie fan, so everything I write I pretty much visualize as though it’s going to be seen on the big screen. When I was younger, Alan Garner’s books blew me away. But I read so many different styles and genres now; I’ve often got three or four books on the go. At the moment, I’m reading Joe Hill, Andy McNab, Chris Reeve, Clive Barker… But then my writing has also been influenced by the people who’ve helped me with the actual skill of writing; the writer Linda Chapman, editors Ben Horslen (Hothouse Ficton) and Amber Caraveo (Random House), and my agent Philippa Milnes-Smith, to name the most influential.



I see that you have two books (in the Dead Series) that are coming out this year, what can we expect from these?
Bloody, suspense, cliffhangers, betrayal, horror, excitement, sarcasm, friendship, action, revenge, the importance of family… The list goes on and on and on… All I’m trying to do is provide a story that is breathless in pace, hooks the reader, and keeps them wanting more; I’m in this for the long haul and I’m pretty damned excited about building a relationship with my readers, finding out what they think, maybe even using them to help me with ideas, with where the story could go next…

It looks like you also have ideas about book three. Do you find it easy to think that far ahead in the series?
It’s not a case of it being easy, more a necessity! I came up with the basic plan for all three over a year ago, and had some ideas for the following three as well. In the planning and the writing, the ideas change, but it would be impossible for me to approach something like this completely blind. I’d probably explode in panic! And I think I see it as a three act play. I once heard that the way to write is simply this: in the first bit, you put your hero in to a tree, in the second, you throw rocks at him, in the third you try to get him out of the tree. I like that – it’s actually rather clever. Mind you, I do seem to rather enjoy throwing those rocks, even when he’s getting out of the tree…

Is there a particular author that you admire and why?
At the minute, Joe Hill. As Stephen King’s son, he could quite easily have used his dad’s name to get him out there and published. But he didn’t. Instead, he honed his skill, used the small press, changed his name, and developed a serious critical following before anyone really knew of the family connection. His collection, 20th Century Ghosts, is simply beautiful. His writing is, to me, close on perfect. I love it, though it also makes me question what on earth I’m doing! Jack Ketchum’s also pretty worthy of a nod; he really pushes the boundaries of what you can get away with and explore. Clive Barker is so far out there, in terms of both talent and ideas, that he’s pretty much untouchable. Chris Reeve is in the same league, though for a younger audience. I’m also a big fan of Jeanne DuPrau, with her Ember series. Those books knocked me off my chair. Oh, and E. E. Richardson (The Devil’s Footsteps, and The Intruders)… I could go on!


I really like the front book covers, how much direction and influence did you have in the creation of these? 
Each one is based on a description of a particular scene/character from the books. I love them all and still feel a little in shock considering the artist; Mel Grant is an amazing talent, is pretty famous for his Iron Maiden album covers, and also did the covers for another rather well known YA horror writer… My favourite of the covers, though, is the one for The Damned… The eyes are simply terrifying!

Do any of the characters represent parts of your personality or represent any of your personal traits?
Lazarus has a water phobia, can’t swim – that was me until a few years back! I think most characters in a book have something of the writer in them, for me anyway, even the horrific monsters. I have to be able to put myself in their position, understand their motivation. And that sometimes involves exploring the darker side of who I am, what I could become, be capable of…

Have you always had plans and ambitions to become a writer or did inspiration strike you?
Yes! Careers guidance never made any sense to me. I was never able to see myself doing something like accountancy or law or management. To me, they were never things you actually ‘wanted’ to do, but things you just did because it was a living. But neither did I buck the system completely and live in a hovel trying to be a writer. I did both; went in to publishing, ended up in the (un)civil service, but through it all, kept my aim and ambition to be a writer. At times it’s been a complete nightmare. In fact, for the last couple of years, I’ve been doing both jobs really; full time employment, including a three-hour commute each day, and writing. It’s been interesting to say the least!