Thursday, 22 October 2015

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Interview with Jim Carrington - Boy 23 (Bloomsbury)

I'm really pleased to be sharing with you the following Q&A with Jim Carrington. His latest novel, Boy 23, will be published on the 19th November 2015 by Bloomsbury Children's Books. It is a dystopian novel that has had me thoroughly intrigued. I'm only half way through the book, but I'm really enjoying it. I hope that this interview piques your interest and encourages you to purchase a copy to read.

Tell us a little bit about your latest book Boy 23?
Boy 23 is completely different to anything I've written before.  It's a dystopian story, set in Germany, featuring a character with unique powers and a deadly new disease.  It has a bit of sci-fi in there as well.  It's been described by some as Black Mirror meets the Chaos Walking trilogy.  And seeing as I love both of those, I'm happy to be compared to them.

Is there a message in your book?
Stories are a reflection of the world we live in, so if they don't say something about that world, if they don't contain some kind of message, I think there's a problem.  In Boy 23 I think readers could find messages about religion, about the way that those with power behave, about disease and those that profit from disease through providing vaccines and medicines.  I didn't set out to write a book that sent those messages, they just came from the story I wanted to tell.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
In the past I've been inspired by things that have happened in real life which I've seen or have happened to me.  Having said that, the idea usually changes quite a lot from the original inspiration.  In the case of Boy 23, though, I was intrigued by a few news stories I read a while ago about 'wild children' who had lived in the forests, away from the rest of society.  One story in particular took my interest - Kaspar Hauser.  He was a boy who turned up in a German town.  He didn't seem to know much about who he was or where he came from.  Eventually he told people his story, that he'd been kept in a dark cell for his whole life, never getting to meet another human being until just before he was left in the forest.  It's a real life story, but nobody knows for sure what had happened to him before he walked into the town.  Some believe he was the rightful prince of Baden, who had been swapped over at birth.  His story gave me inspiration to write Boy 23.

What do you think makes a good story?

I always look for something that flows well, first of all, something which sucks you in from the very first page and then doesn't let you go until the very last page.  Believable characters are also a necessity.  And a plot which is intriguing, something you can't necessarily predict.  I like all kinds of stories and books.  The major turn-offs for me are flowery description which goes on for pages and writers who clearly have a well-thumbed thesaurus at hand and use the longest, most pretentious words they can find.

How many books have you written? Which is your favourite and why?
Boy 23 is my fourth novel.  Before this I'd written Inside My Head, In the Bag and Drive By.  I love each one of them, but at the moment my favourite is Boy 23.  It's the one I've had to put the most research into and it took the longest to write.  I've always loved dystopian stories, so it feels good to have finally written one myself.

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc come from?
I owe it to my parents I think.  Our house was always filled with books, so it was natural to me to pick them up and start reading.  As for my love of writing, I think it has always been in me.  Apparently when I was three years old I wrote my name backwards on my bedroom wall and I haven't stopped since then (although I usually use a notebook or computer nowadays).  Over the years I've had a go at writing most things - fanzines, newspapers, magazines and now books.  Writing a great sentence gives me such a buzz.  I love being able to conjure up whole worlds just from the contents of my mind.  There isn't a better job, is there?

Do you think that the book cover plays an important part in the buying process? 

A great cover can make me pick up a book and want to read it, make me want to own it and covet it and display it on my shelves.  But it's the words inside that really count.  I might pick up a book with a great cover and start reading it, but if the words aren't right, the cover won't save it.  I think I've been lucky to have some really brilliant covers on my books.  And Boy 23 is the best cover yet, in my opinion.  Hopefully my readers agree that the words live up to the covers.

Are you currently involved in any writing projects that you can tell us about?

I'm very excited about what I'm currently writing.  It's a superhero story with a massive twist - boy gets hit by electrified worm and accidentally clones himself when cutting his nails.  It has the working title of WormBoy!

Do you read much and, if so, who are your favourite authors?

I read loads.  My tastes are fairly varied - I read a mix of adult, YA and children's books.  Right now I'm reading a childrens' book by Jo Nesbo and before that I was reading Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy.  Next up, I plan to read The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis.  My all time favourite book is probably Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse.  I tend to get drawn towards books with anti-heroes, and Billy is the perfect anti-hero.  I plan to write my own story with an anti-hero soon.

What are your thoughts about how to encourage more children/teenagers to read?

It's my opinion that the perfect book is out there for everyone.  Once children find that book, they'll realise the enormous fun that reading can be and they'll be hooked.  Some readers are lucky enough to find their perfect book or genre really early and they never look back.  The challenge is finding the perfect book for each person and that's where parents, school librarians and teachers can come in so useful.  Over the years, I've met some school librarians and teachers who have been brilliant at doing this for their pupils, knowledgeable people who know exactly the right book to interest each child.  They've turned countless non-readers into readers and have enriched their lives immensely.  If I was to give one bit of advice to schools, it would be to employ a really, really good school librarian and to stock their libraries with excellent reading matter.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Press Release: Jason Bradbury are Hoverboards the future of a car-free London?

Jason Hoverboard

Photo's from Stephen Muchmore (Design Agency)

Jason Bradbury wows crowds with his Delorean and Hoverboard in Piccadilly last night | Location: London UK - 
Timing was everything, so Jason made sure he was ready for the start of Back To The Future week. The crowds couldn’t get their phones out quick enough to start filming the one-off stunt.
Dressed in the iconic Marty McFly attire, needing no help with his Nike Power Laces, Jason jumped on his exact replica of Marty's hoverboard and hovered around Piccadilly Circus asking passers-by "What year is it?”.
  • "Wow, unbelievable stunt anyone would think Marty McFly was in town" 
  • "The attention to detail of the Delorean and Hoverboard were epic"
  • "Anything is possible in the future, all you have to do is believe”
  • "Nothing expresses the magic of Technology more than the Hoverboard" says Jason
The large crowd of BTTF fans stared in awe at Jason as he flew passed in the coolest way possible, before disappearing off again. (Probably back to the future).

  • Twitter: @jasonbradbury / @design_agencyuk
  • Hashtags: #jasonbradbury #bttf2015 #bttf #BackToTheFuture

Tuesday, 20 October 2015


Book Cover Wars is back again for another exciting year and we are looking for a new worthy winner. If you are returning to the site for another year, or you are new to this competition, then I send you a very warm welcome. It is a delight to have your company in the book cover war zone. Don't forget to share this exciting adventure with your friends and followers - everyone is welcome.

For any follower of this site this is the chance for you to become part of the weekly book cover wars. Each week, starting from today for the next 4 weeks, I am going to select five book covers for you to vote for. The winner of each heat will then go forward to the final round and get a chance to be crowned as 'Mr Ripley's Enchanted Book Cover Winner 2015/16'.

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Book Cover War Rules:
There will be four weekly heats with five book covers to vote for. All heat winners will make the grand final. However, one more entry will also be entered into the final - this will be the book cover with the most votes from the other four heats as the runner up. 

As a voter, not only will you get the chance to choose your favourite book cover, but you will also be in with the chance to win a different special book each week. Therefore, in order to kick off the competition this week we have an amazing book, which is a hardback copy, Doctor Who: Time Lord Fairy Tales by Justin Richards, WHICH IS A GREAT READ...

If you are interested then all you need to do is:
  • Vote for your favourite book cover using the poll - HERE
  • Leave a comment through this post or poll - HERE
  • Mention it on Twitter/Facebook #BOOKCOVERWARS 
  • Sit back, watch the voting develop and wait to hear whether you've won (once the poll has closed). Please note that this competition is open to the UK only.
  • This poll will end 27 October 2015 at midnight UK time. 
So here are the five book covers to vote for this week:

Book One - Shane Hegarty - Darkmouth: Worlds Explode - Published by HarperCollins Children's Books - 30. July 2015 - Book Cover James de la Rue. VOTE HERE

Book Two - Danny Weston - Mr Sparks - Published by Andersen - 1 Oct. 2015 - Book Cover by James Fraser. VOTE HERE 

Book Three - Darren Shan - Zom-B - Fugitive (US Cover) - Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - Sept 22. 2015 - Book Cover by Cliff Nielsen VOTE HERE

Book Four - Derek Landy - Demon Road - Published by HarperCollins Children's Books - 27. Aug 2015 - Cover by Larry Rostant. VOTE HERE

Book Five - Barry Hutchison & Chris Mould - The Moon-Faced Ghoul-Thing - Published by Nosy Crow - 1. Oct 2015 - Book Cover by Chris Mould. VOTE HERE

Happy voting.....

Monday, 19 October 2015

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: R. M. Tudor - Box 1571 - Book Review

“If you want to help your family, Ella, look in the box.”

The Talbot family is in trouble. The business is collapsing, Mum can’t stop crying, and Ella will do anything to help. So when she finds thousands of pounds in Dad’s secret post office box, she thinks that all her problems have been solved. But thousands of pounds lead into six extraordinary rooms, and then Ella’s problems really begin. 

The money is hers, but she must win it by completing dangerous challenges in unknown places. With only her wits and the mysterious voice of ‘Finder’ to guide her, Ella navigates a pitch-black pathway, entertains evil executives, and escapes from vicious scorbsters. In Dark Rooms, Bored Rooms and Sale Rooms, she passes challenge after challenge, collecting more of the money and giving it to her parents without them knowing its origins. 

Yet with each conquest, Ella’s goal seems to move further and further away. The money brings new challenges that are much closer to home. She must follow the right path and learn the lessons of loyalty, determination and friendship before it’s too late. How will Ella save her family without Box 1571 destroying everything she has? 

This is a daydream adventure from R. M. Tudor. Ever since she was a child she wanted to be an author; those dreams have now turned into a reality as her first children's book, which is being published for 8-12 year olds. The author has spent her last nine years teaching and very much utilised that experience towards the development of Box 1571. 

The seed of this story started with the author both living and working in Australia. One day she had to collect the post for the company that she worked for - this my seem quite an ordinary and everyday task, but she'd never seen a post office box before. This got her thinking as to what might be on the other side. Maybe just like this story, there really might be another world on the other side . . . . . . If you want to find out like I already have, then you NEED to turn those pages. 

The plot started really quite slowly, in my opinion. The story is narrated by a young girl called Ella, who tells the story of her family struggling with financial problems at their family run cafe. Once this was established, I started to really warm to the fantastical adventure within. I was really intrigued and transported to a magical world each time that Ella visited Box 1571. The six rooms and adventures were like engrossing Roald Dahl snippets into an alternate world leaving your imagination on over drive. 

Every visit Ella makes transports you into a crazy and surreal place, especially as the challenges become more bizarre than the next. You will find yourself sucked into the box navigating The Sale Room, a once-in-a-year opportunity to buy everything and anything that you need or, in some cases, don't need! Then the next minute you are being chased down by the fantastically named Scorbsters (lobster/scorpion-type creature) which are all very strange and crazy, but fantastic to read about.

This is a very heart-warming story that will have you thinking about daily family life. It's a great family read told with both passion and conviction. This author is a new voice in story telling - I'm really looking forward to reading more by R.M Tudor. 

Thursday, 15 October 2015

This is How we Read in the UK (Parcel Hero Infographic)

 ParcelHero have created an interesting infographic in the run up to the Man Booker Prize on the UK's reading habits.
The infographic looks at everything from the most well-read regions of the UK to a head-to-head comparison between eBooks and hardbacks. We thought this would be something that you would be interested in reading, children's books have overall done really well in 2014, but are they still lacking the coverage they so deserve...

Take a look and see what you think?

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Children's Book Picks November 2015

Christopher William Hill - Tales from Schwartzgarten: Marius and the Band of Blood - Published by Orchard Books (5 Nov. 2015)
Meet Marius Myerdorf, the newest recruit of Schwartzgarten's most secret of societies. His is a tale of adventure and abduction, friendship and fearlessness, as The Band of Blood race against time to unmask two of the foulest fiends in the history of the Great City. The deeds are DASTARDLY. The twists are TERRIFYING. And happy endings are NOT always guaranteed. If you prefer CLEAVERS to KITTENS and FIENDS to FAIRIES...then welcome to the gruesomely funny Tales from Schwartzgarten.

Curtis Jobling - Max Helsing and the Thirteenth Curse - Published by Viking (US Publication) (10 Nov. 2015)
Slaying.... and playing. All part of a day's work for Max Helsing.
Descended from a long line of monster hunters, Max Helsing does a pretty good job of being and eighth grader by day and keeping his town safe from demons, ghouls and the occasional mummy by night. That is, until he turns thriteen and discovers he's been cursed by an ancient vampire who wants him dead - at any cost. To save the world - and his life - Max must rely on his wise-cracking best friend, cantankerous monster, computer genius neighbour, and brand-new puppy. He'll need all their help and more to break the Thirteenth Curse!

David Almond & Salvatore Rubbino - Harry Miller's Run - Published by Walker Books (5 Nov. 2015)
A joyful, uplifting story of times gone by from the internationally acclaimed author of Skellig, illustrated in full colour by the award-winning illustrator of A Walk in London. Liam just wants to go out running with his mates - it's not long till the Junior Great North Run, and there's training to be done. But Mam needs him today, to help old Harry clear out his house. Harry knows a thing or two about running. When he was a lad, he says, he ran all the way from Newcastle to South Shields. "But Harry," says Mam, "that's thirteen miles!" Harry grins. "Different times," he says. This is the story of that day: of sweltering heat, clattering boots, briny sea air and the heavenly taste of ice cream; the day when Harry and his pals ran and ran and ran through the blazing sunlight all the way to the sea.

Jim Carrington - Boy 23 - Published by Bloomsbury Children's (19 Nov. 2015)
Boy 23 isn't in My Place any more. He can't see The Screen, he can't hear The Voice. Boy 23 is alone. 
One dark night, Boy 23 is thrown in the back of the van and driven out of My Place - the only home he has ever known. He is abandoned in a forest with a rucksack containing the bare essentials for survival. Before the van drives away, a voice tells him he must run as far as he can. His life depends on it. Boy 23 has never known another human. Boy 23 has never even been outside. So who is he? Why do people want to kill him? And more to the point, who is the voice that wants to save him?
A hugely fast-paced dystopian page-turner which by the end will leave you in a state of shock. For fans of Chaos Walking and Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Mr Ripley's Interview with Sophie Plowden Author of Jack Dash and the Magic Feather

Today I'm very pleased to be interviewing Sophie Plowden who is the author of "Jack Dash and the Magic Feather". I'd like to thank her for agreeing to do this brilliant interview and for taking the time to answer a few questions for Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books. It's a great insight into the story and certainly makes me want to read it.....

Tell us a little bit about Jack Dash and the Magic Feather? 
It’s about a boy who finds a feather quill pen in his bedroom in the attic of his new house. He makes a magical discovery: whatever he draws with his feather comes to life, but the only problem is, he’s not very good at drawing. By mid-morning, he’s created chaos.

Give us an insight into the main character. What does he/she do that is so special? 
Jack is a loner, a fantasist and a hypochondriac, who can always be relied upon to make the wrong decision in a crisis. His speech is peppered with big words and he has no idea what they mean. I’m currently finishing the sequel, so it’s been pretty tiring living with Jack inside my head for the past couple of years, but I’m very fond of him.

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend? 
I start with the names and the story follows. I have a collection of names, in fact, chosen entirely because of the way they sound. When I find a particularly good one, from the news, on a road sign or off the internet, I file it away in my brain. The original Jack Dash was a British communist and a trade union leader, who championed the rights of London dockers in the 1950s. The town where my story’s set is called Curtly Ambrose, after a West Indian fast bowler. I don’t know anything about cricket, but he was one of the greats, apparently.

Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write? 
I remember discovering a battered copy of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable in my parents’ bookshelf when I was about nine. I had no idea what it was, but I suspected my parents of practising some sort of literary witchcraft, so I slid it off the shelf and under my duvet for a spot of illicit bedtime reading. It seemed to me to be the most extraordinary book on earth: phrases and fantasies, myths and hearsay, all carefully categorised!

P. G. Wodehouse also provided me with a master class in farce: his sparkling characters survive twists of plot as absurd and elegant as a Pythagorean equation – and all delivered with a straight face. It makes my jaw sag.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books? 
I trained as a painter and I’ve realised that painting and writing are remarkably similar. Both a painter’s style and an author’s voice run deep through the psyche. It makes the process painful at times: you have to learn your craft, but you also have to recognise your strengths and embrace them.

What does your writing process look like? 
Ahem. It looks like this. (Well you did ask.)

What’s the earliest memory you have of writing a story? 
I clearly remember writing long and complicated stories throughout primary school, complete with illustrations and devoid of merit.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books? 
I start by creating the characters and then I deposit them in a situation that will drive the narrative. It’s often a chance remark that sparks my imagination, so I always carry a notebook in order to jot it down. (Last week, I overheard a man on the number 91 bus saying: ‘they’re no good to me now – not as feet anyway’ and I spent the rest of the journey tentatively peering under his seat.) When I’m back home, I drink coffee and pace the room, trying to build my character’s backstory. I ask a lot of personal questions: What do they keep in their fridge? How often do they change their socks? Who would they vote for in a general election? And most importantly: What are they most afraid of? When I’ve answered that one, I rub my hands together, flip my computer open and let them have it.

If you could own one item, that you don't already own now, what would it be?
Easy. A magic feather, of course.

Sophie Plowden is the author of Jack Dash and the Magic Feather (September 2015, Catnip 
Publishing and illustrated by Judy Brown.) Jack Dash and the Summer Blizzard follows in 2016.


Monday, 12 October 2015


Here is the fantastic new book cover for Nick Cook's sequel to Cloud Riders. This is due to be released on the 14th October 2015 and will be published by Three Hares. It's a great clean cut and eye catching cover which should appeal to all potential readers, in my opinion. Here is my Book Review for Cloud Riders, which is the first book in the series, and also the guest post that Nick wrote entitled To the Moon and Beyond 

Book Synopsis: The storm clouds of destiny are tightening their fist and chasing after Dom and Angelique. They in turn are chasing after Jules, in a desperate attempt to rescue her from the clutches of Lord Ambra, as he whisks her away to Hells Couldron. Their journey takes them from the whispered secrets of Floating City, to the fiery terrors of Hells Cauldron. Dom learns how he must discover the legacy of an ancient race hidden within the heart of every single airship and help break their chains of slavery. But, above all, he must stop an ultimate weapon being developed, a weapon which threatens every free Earth across the dimensions. The key to everything is within Dom, but will he find the strength to overcome the terrible cost of this fight and cope with the ultimate betrayal, that may destroy him. Dom, will need every skill he has learned about being a Cloud Ride to face the coming storm…

Book Release date: 14th October 2015 

Friday, 9 October 2015

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Middle Grade Children's Book Picks - November 2015 - US Post Two

Juman Malouf - The Trilogy of Two - Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (November 10, 2015)
Identical twins Sonja and Charlotte are musical prodigies with extraordinary powers. Born on All-Hallows-Eve, the girls could play music before they could walk. They were found one night by Tatty, the Tattooed Lady of the circus, in a pail on her doorstep with only a note and a heart-shaped locket. They’ve been with Tatty ever since, roaming the Outskirts in the circus caravans, moving from place to place.

But lately, curious things have started to happen when they play their instruments. During one of their performances, the girls accidentally levitate their entire audience, drawing too much unwanted attention. Soon, ominous Enforcers come after them, and Charlotte and Sonja must embark on a perilous journey through enchanted lands in hopes of unlocking the secrets of their mysterious past.

Andrea Cremer - The Conjurer's Riddle (The Inventor's Secret)  - Published by Philomel Books (November 3, 2015)
The Revolution is beginning–and Charlotte may be on the wrong side.

In this sequel to The Inventor's Secret, Charlotte and her companions escape the British Empire, but they haven't left danger behind. In fact, if they go against the revolutionaries, they face even greater peril. 

Charlotte leads her group of exiles west, plunging into a wild world of shady merchants and surly rivermen on the way to New Orleans. But as Charlotte learns more about the revolution she has championed, she wonders if she's on the right side after all. Charlotte and her friends get to know the mystical New Orleans bayou and deep into the shadowy tunnels below the city–the den of criminals, assassins and pirates–Charlotte must decide if the revolution's goals justify their means, or if some things, like the lives of her friends, are too sacred to sacrifice.

This alternate-history adventure series asks the questions: What would have happened if America had lost the Revolutionary War? And what would people be willing to do to finally taste freedom?

Anne Nesbet - The Wrinkled Crown - Published by HarperCollins (November 10, 2015)
Fans of Anne Ursu will love Anne Nesbet's tale of music and friendship, set against an age-old war between magic and science.
In the enchanted village of Lourka, almost-twelve-year-old Linny breaks an ancient law. Girls are forbidden to so much as touch the town's namesake musical instrument before their twelfth birthday or risk being spirited away. But Linny can't resist the call to play a lourka, so she builds one herself.
When the punishment strikes her best friend instead, Linny must leave home to try to set things right. With her father's young apprentice, Elias, along for the journey, Linny travels from the magical wrinkled country to the scientific land of the Plain, where she finds herself at the center of a battle between the logical and the magical.

J. Lynn Bailey - Black Five (Black Blood Chronicles) - Published by Poorhouse Publishing (November 17, 2015)
 Seventeen-year-old Penelope Jackson has a seemingly ordinary life until she learns of the bizarre and magical world surrounding her, a world that is nearing extinction because of one man, Vacavious . . . the same man who wants to destroy her. Penn’s adventure begins after a stranger’s death puts her on a collision course with the very person she has been sheltered from her entire life. No one is who they seem to be, including those closest to her.  As powerful forces await the fall of her protective veil on her 18th birthday, Penn prepares to fight against unseen evils before it’s too late. The world of Nighmeriantotte and its people depend on her survival, for she is Sanguine.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Mr Ripley's Interview with Joe Craig Author of the Jimmy Coates Series

Today I'm very pleased to be interviewing Joe Craig, who is the author of the fantastic Jimmy Coates series. This is a fantastic fast paced read full of action and adventure that will keep you hooked from the first page to the very last. 

I'd like to thank Joe for agreeing to do this interview and for taking the time out to answer a few questions for Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books. This has been one of my favourite Q&As that I've received recently - very interesting, incredibly engaging and very amusing. Thank you very much, Joe. 

Who is Joe Craig?
Style icon, innovator (chiefly scarf-knots).
Dreamer of dreams, snacker of snacks.
Spinner of tales.
The guy over there with the hot pocket square.
Few regrets, lots of fountain pens.
Often confused, rarely fooled.
Part sushi, part shortbread. Chocolate brownie investigator.
Philosopher, musician, games-player, chef and lover of benches.
Reader (impatient), photographer (selfies and dogs only), doodler (labyrinths).
Preacher of kindness and quality stationery.
Lover of films and good socks.

How would you describe the Jimmy Coates series to potential new readers?
Jimmy is on the run from the secret service. In his escape he discovers abilities he’s never had before and instincts that keep him alive. These abilities and instincts keep developing, gradually taking him over. So while fighting the system that sent the secret service after him, he’s battling for control of his own body and mind.

“The Bourne Identity for kids,” is how it’s usually described in reviews.

I wrote it because I’ve always been so frustrated with books. I’m an impatient reader. I was put off by those thick fantasy books I saw people reading at school and the ‘classics’ my sisters read. They made no sense to me. But I loved stories – gripping stories. The kind I saw in movies. I wanted to create that for myself. Something sogripping that even the most impatient reader in the world – me – wouldn’t be able to put it down.

So Jimmy Coates combines all the thrill and mystery elements I loved about The Bourne Identity, Harry Potter, Mission Impossible, The Fugitive, Terminator and James Bond.

But there’s no magic. It’s all real.

What's the trick in writing great books for boys? How do you engage with them?
Tell a story. That’s it. But just the story. So that every word counts.

When Bernini unveiled his astounding marble sculpture of an elephant (Rome, 1667) they asked him what his trick was. He said you get a block of marble then, “take away everything that isn’t an elephant.”

(Sometimes you hear the same story about Michelangelo and a sculpture of an angel, but any story that could be about an angel is better if it’s about an elephant.)

When you ask me about engaging with ‘them’… there is no ‘them’. It’s me. I am still the impatient boy reader I was when I was 8, or 12, or 17. If there is a trick, it’s to trust that primal instinct that wants a story and won’t put up with waffle or clichĂ© or a lack of rigour. I am ruthlessly honest with myself. I don’t trust anybody else to hold me to the same standards.

(Also, I can’t leave this question without saying that my books are as much for girls as they are for boys. I don’t write for a gender. My readership is roughly 50/50. Though I take the point that it’s often tough to find books that grip boy readers and my books fit the bill. I just don’t like gendered marketing.)

Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?
I often write the end of a sentence before I’ve written the beginning.

I often get away from the computer and write at my second desk, which is just for fountain pens and beautiful notebooks.

I write naked. I’m sure that’s less strange and more common than you’d think, you just don’t hear about it because other writers aren’t comfortable sharing it. Sometimes I have a dressing gown on. It’s not a deliberate thing, it’s just that I start getting dressed, turn on the shower, and I’m thinking about my story the whole time so I’m drawn to the computer to get some words down without realising the shower is still running. Suddenly it’s a few hours later and I notice it’s a bit chilly and the bathroom’s all wet.

If I want a change of scene I go out to write in a café, for which I need clothes.

I usually prefer writing at home because I’m very particular about having to have certain music playing.

I write some passages in a kind of semi-fake-Russian then translate them back into English when I’m editing. (Especially scenes where characters travel.)

While writing, I eat a lot of radishes and bee pollen. Not together. That would be ridiculous.

Finally, as a writing break, I massage used coffee grounds into my hands.

If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
I’ve actually had to think about this quite a lot, partly because there’s been movie and TV interest in my books over the years. As you’ll see, it’s possible I’ve thought about this a little too much.

I wrote the part of Ares Hollingdale with Ian Richardson in mind. When the original version of House of Cards was on TV in the early nineties I was too young to watch it, but I caught about two seconds of it while my parents were watching. The whole Jimmy Coates series is an extrapolation of what ten year-old me imagined that TV series must be, based on the two seconds I saw.

Sadly, Ian Richardson died a few years ago so he can’t be in an adaptation of the Jimmy Coates books now. Instead, I’d like, in various parts, Anton Lesser, Iain Glen, Greg Hicks, James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Natascha McElhone, Jason Statham and Viggo Mortensen.

The part of Miss Bennett was written for Saffron Burrows. Paduk was written for Vinnie Jones (sort of). Saffron Walden was written for Thandie Newton.

I’ve also written the Jimmy Coates theme tune. It’s awesome.

What's the funniest thing a child has said about your books?
After one of my talks at a school, I was sitting next to a huge box full of copies of Jimmy Coates: Sabotage. A Year 8 girl who’d been in my talk seemed fascinated. “Did you write these?” she asked. I was a bit puzzled, as she’d just been listening to me going on about my life and my books for an hour. “Did you really write all of them?”
I said that I did. She opened one of the books, looked at the printed words and said, “But how did you do that? And so many of them?” She thought I’d physically written out all of the copies of all of my books. She was struggling with the basic concept of a ‘book’.
It was a humbling reminder of what writers and publishers are up against when we’re trying to get people excited about reading. Some of them have reached Year 8 without even knowing what a printed book is.

Oh, this was supposed to be a ‘funniest thing’, wasn’t it? That wasn’t particularly funny, just the strangest and one of the most powerful.

I get funny questions all the time, and wonderful, hilarious story ideas when I’m running a workshop. One example:
Me: “OK, so Bob is in the park and aliens land right in front of him and the spaceship opens and… what’s the very worst thing that could happen next?”
Tiny girl with a huge smile: “A DUCK FALLS IN LOVE WITH HIM.”

What is your least favourite part of the publishing/writing process?
Gendered marketing.
There’s also a lot of incompetence around so when you find the good people you have to do everything you can to hold on to them. And it’s a treat when you find someone with imagination. There’s a lot of enthusiasm in the industry, sometimes even passion, just not many ideas about what to do with it. I wish we all backed things we believed in, despite perceived risks.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
I’m not interested in writing anything that promotes sexism, horror, intolerance, religious bigotry or football.
Nothing I write will ever have the name of a bird in the title, unless it’s a bird of prey.
I’ll never write anything with a colour in the title unless it’s red, blue, green, white or black.
I won’t write anything named after a type of the weather, or anything that involves the weather in the plot.
I won’t write a story with a title that follows the pattern of The Something-y Something of Funny-name Codswallop. Lazy.
I hate all those stories where people at school (or college, university etc) get all worked up about something trivial that means nothing in the wider world. Usually they’re stories that involve the characters working out who they are or discovering the nature of beauty or something like that. Anything with an inspirational teacher reading poetry to the class. Anything where you could slap the characters and tell them to get over themselves.
I’ll never write fantasy. I might write stories that involve an element of magic or worlds that aren’t quite like our own, but the stories you’d stereotypically call fantasy aren’t for me.

What are you working on now? What is your next project?
I’ve been working on a book about a ninja. That took a while, but I’m pleased with the state it’s in now.
So I’ve moved on to starting a book that takes a new look at what it means to be a superhero. Not just the powers. But looking at why anybody would use those powers to help people. That seems stranger and more ‘super’ to me. I’m only using real technology in the book too. Stuff that already exists, some of which is used by various armies or secret services. Superhero powers are out there, just nobody who wants to use them to help people.

Is there anything that you would like to share with us?
Yes: the word for the period of the year between Christmas and New Year’s Day. It’s called the interscotia. It’s a very useful word. The Norwegians call it romjul. It’s my favourite time of year. There’s something special about interscotial fun. Now you know the word, use it as much as possible.

On twitter, instagram and facebook I’m @joecraiguk. On periscope I’m @joecraig and on snapchat I’m turkeyriding (long story). In real life I’m Joseph Alexander Canonball Craig. And that’s the first time I’ve revealed my middle names anywhere on the internet.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Middle Grade Children's Book Picks - November 2015 - US Post One

Tania Del Rio and Will Staehle - Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye - Published by Quirk Books (November 24, 2015)
Meet Warren the 13th, a cursed 12-year-old Victorian bellhop who’s terribly unlucky . . . yet perpetually optimistic, hard-working, and curious. Orphan Warren’s pride and joy is his family’s hotel, but he’s been miserable ever since his evil Aunt Anaconda took over the management. Anaconda believes a mysterious treasure known as the All-Seeing Eye is hidden somewhere on the grounds, and she’ll do anything to find it. If Warren wants to preserve his family’s legacy, he’ll need to find the treasure first—if the hotel’s many strange and wacky guests don’t beat him to it! This middle-grade adventure features gorgeous two-color illustrations on every page and a lavish two-column Victorian design that will pull young readers into a spooky and delightful mystery.

Pintip Dunn - Forget Tomorrow - Published by Entangled: Teen (November 3, 2015)
Imagine a world where your destiny has already been your futureself.
It's Callie's seventeenth birthday and, like everyone else, she's eagerly awaiting her vision-a memory sent back in time to sculpt each citizen into the person they're meant to be. A world-class swimmer. A renowned scientist.
Or in Callie's case, a criminal.
In her vision, she sees herself murdering her gifted younger sister. Before she can process what it means, Callie is arrested and placed in Limbo-a hellish prison for those destined to break the law. With the help of her childhood crush, Logan, a boy she hasn't spoken to in five years, she escapes.
But on the run from her future, as well as the government, Callie sets in motion a chain of events that she hopes will change her fate. If not, she must figure out how to protect her sister from the biggest threat of all-Callie, herself.

Jodi Lynn Anderson - My Diary from the Edge of the World - Published by Aladdin (November 3, 2015)
Told in diary form by an irresistible heroine, this playful and perceptive novel from the New York Times bestselling author of the May Bird trilogy sparkles with science, myth, magic, and the strange beauty of the everyday marvels we sometimes forget to notice.

Spirited, restless Gracie Lockwood has lived in Cliffden, Maine, her whole life. She’s a typical girl in an atypical world: one where sasquatches helped to win the Civil War, where dragons glide over Route 1 on their way south for the winter (sometimes burning down a T.J. Maxx or an Applebee’s along the way), where giants hide in caves near LA and mermaids hunt along the beaches, and where Dark Clouds come for people when they die.

To Gracie it’s all pretty ho-hum…until a Cloud comes looking for her little brother Sam, turning her small-town life upside down. Determined to protect Sam against all odds, her parents pack the family into a used Winnebago and set out on an epic search for a safe place that most people say doesn’t exist: The Extraordinary World. It’s rumored to lie at the ends of the earth, and no one has ever made it there and lived to tell the tale. To reach it, the Lockwoods will have to learn to believe in each other—and to trust that the world holds more possibilities than they’ve ever imagined.

Maile Meloy and Ian Schoenherr - The After-Room (The Apothecary Series) - Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (November 3, 2015)

It’s 1955, and Benjamin Burrows and Janie Scott are trying to live a safe, normal life in America. It’s not easy, when they have the power to prevent nuclear disaster, and sinister forces are circling. Soon the advice of a mysterious, unscrupulous magician propels Janie and Benjamin into danger, and toward the land of the dead.  
Meanwhile, their friend Jin Lo washes up on a remote island where an American spy is stationed, and finds herself on the trail of a deadly threat in China. But she’s on the other side of the world—how can Janie and Benjamin reach her?
The triumphant finale in the trilogy that began with Maile Meloy’s bestselling, critically acclaimed The Apothecary, and continued in its captivating sequel, The ApprenticesThe After-Room is full of enchantment and heart, with Ian Schoenherr’s stunning illustrations throughout.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Danny Weston - Mr Sparks - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Book Review

After his father goes missing in the Great War, Owen is abandoned to live with his cruel aunt, and wishes he could escape his life of drudgery in her small seaside guesthouse. There he meets a mysterious guest, who appears to make his ventriloquist’s dummy speak, even in his sleep.
Soon Owen realises that the dummy, Mr Sparks, can really talk – and he’s looking for a newer, younger puppetmaster. But Mr Sparks has a dark past . . .

Oh Danny Boy, Oh Danny Boy where do your stories come from? Is it heaven or is it hell? This is another fantastically written story by that cheeky chap Danny Weston. It's another creepy tale that will set your teeth on edge just by looking at the book cover. The depiction on the cover is the star of the show, Mr Sparks. He, himself, is a look-a-like wooden version of Jimmy Crankie staring malevolently at you with his cold beady eyes. 

Mr Sparks has to be one of the best written characters that I have read for many years. He will keep you entertained all day long with his witty and often amusing dialogue. Engrossing and a delight to read about, he is fantastic.

The one thing that you might be thinking is - who is Mr Sparks? A whisper might be telling you that he is a ventriloquist's dummy, but the first thing that I'll tell you is that he's no dummy. He might be a wooden puppet, but I'm not sure who is pulling his strings. Some might say that he is possessed by the devil, but you'll have to make up your own mind.

This book is a whirlwind of fairytale madness set just after WWI (1919). It is based around the character 12-year-old Owen, who lives with his awful aunt at her hotel in Llandudno. He finds himself working there, more or less, as an unpaid slave. It all starts when one day, out of the blue, a strange man arrives with even stranger luggage!

This story is a thriller of a plot. Essentially, it is based around the classic story of 'Pinocchio', but with a very modern day twist to it. Just like Danny's first book, The Piper, which is another fantastic and recommended read. 

I have to say that this book has my name on it, literally! It has all of the ingredients that I enjoy in a brilliant book: a great plot (not too wordy), quirky and original characters (especially Mr Sparks, who is cruel, ruthless and manipulative) and a dark supernatural theme. It's also playful, poetic and tugs on the emotional heart strings in many ways.  The ending is very effective and deliciously ties up all the loose knots in a heedy head of excitement and a flourish of action. What more could you want? 

This is another five star rating for the elusive and mysterious author known as Danny Weston. This book is published by Andersen Press and is out now to purchase and read....

Friday, 2 October 2015

New Book Cover Reveal - Joseph Delaney - Spook's: The Dark Army (The Starblade Chronicles 2)

Here is the fantastic new book cover image for The Dark Army which is the second book in The Starblade Chronicles. The release date is now scheduled for January 7th 2016 and will be published by Bodley Head. 

Synopsis from book oneGirls are dying in mysterious circumstances . . .
They are found dead in their beds, covered in blood, with a look of pure horror on their faces. Worse still, their ghosts are left to walk the earth, just waiting for someone to hear the terror that has befallen them.

Thomas Ward is the local spook – it’s his job to protect the county from things that go bump in the night. But this is no ordinary haunting, and he finds himself on the path of a dangerous beast that is looking to kill again.

He soon realizes this beast is just the beginning. An army of monsters is massing in the north, and it poses a threat to all mankind.

The first terrifying tale in the Starblade Chronicles, from the bestselling author of The Spook’s Apprentice.

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