Win a signed copy of Balthazar by Claudia Gray

To celebrate Claudia Gray’s visit to NZ and her NZ Blog Tour I have two signed copies of her latest book, Balthazar to give away.

To get in the draw just read my interview with Claudia today and answer this question “What is Claudia’s advice to teenage guys interested in teenage girls?”  Thanks to HarperCollins NZ for this fantastic prize. 

Thanks to everyone who entered.  The winners were Lisa and Scott. 

Claudia Gray’s NZ Blog Tour – Interview with Claudia

Claudia Gray is coming to Auckland on 31 March and in the lead up to her visit, she’s doing a New Zealand blog tour.  I was curious about romance in Young Adult fiction and in her books in particular so I caught up with Claudia and asked her some questions.

Romance is a major part of each of your books.  How do you create realistic relationships between your characters?

I think the trick to writing a three-dimensional romance between two characters is to make sure each character is three-dimensional in his or her own right. Often you read a book or see a movie where the hero is portrayed in a lot of detail — but the girl is just “the girl,” and she’s always wearing makeup and looking perfect and possessing zero personality of her own. You also see books and movies where the woman is the center of the piece and the guy is just this toneless, unthreatening slice of beefcake. You never really buy those romances, do you? But when you feel like both people in the romance are real — that they have motivations of their own, flaws of their own, humor and personality that set them apart — then it is also going to feel real when those two people “click.” My rule of thumb is that I would have to want to read a book about either member of the couple that was just about that one person, with no romance. They need to be well-developed enough for that.

Guys often get put off my romance in books.  Why should guys read your books?

First of all, I think it’s just not true that guys hate romance. Guys are told they SHOULD hate romance — and I think sometimes they pretend to more than they really do, because of this weird societal expectation that they’re not supposed to care. (For much the same reason, many girls play down their enjoyment of sports, etc. It’s all very silly.) But guys fall as deeply in love as girls do.

Also, if you are a teenage guy who is into teenage girls, a helpful hint: Spend some time exploring what teenage girls are interested in. This gives you shared interests and something to talk about. You will meet more girls, and these girls will know you’re a little different — more independent, more open, and usually way more attractive to them than the average guy. There are always a handful of guys at my signings — and they are invariably accompanied by about three to six girls each. These are good odds, people. These are the kind of odds you want.

Finally, while there’s a lot of romance in my books, they aren’t purely romance novels. Just as even thrillers and crime novels often have romances folded in, my books have a lot of adventure and action amid all the kissing.

As a teenager would you rather have fallen in love with a vampire or a werewolf?

As a teenager? Probably a werewolf, because you’d only have to deal with the scary hairy stuff one night a month. (At least, in traditional folklore.) It would have made a conflict with the prom far less likely.

When you were a teenager was there a character like Lucas that you fell in love with?

When I was a teenager, sadly, I was Lucas-free. I went to a very small school — 200 people, kindergarten through 12th grade. All of us had known each other since we were babies, which made dating a challenge; the guys all felt more like my brothers than like people I’d want to go out with. No hot, brooding loners with mysterious pasts ever transferred schools into my class, and more’s the pity.

Why do you think paranormal romance appeals so much to teens?

I think paranormal romance appeals to teens because the paranormal allows us to acknowledge the element of fear. Honestly, right now, I believe we are in this cultural place where no one gets to admit vulnerability. Nobody gets to say that they’re afraid, or they’re intimidated, without people treating it as some kind of problem to be overcome. We can’t admit that some experiences are just flat-out terrifying and being afraid of them is a completely natural reaction — and I think falling in love is definitely in this category. Falling in love is SCARY. Having sex for the first time = scary. Being that vulnerable and that open to someone = terror!  We all know it’s true, even if right now we have to pretend to be jaded, sophisticated, and so totally over it all.

So, enter the vampires. And the werewolves. And all the other scary things that have become romantic in the recent past. We’ve hung monster masks on our own fears, so that we can admit them.

Make sure you stop by these other great NZ blogs to find out more about Claudia Gray and her books:

My Most Anticipated April New Releases

Department 19: The Rising by Will Hill

After the terrifying attack on Lindisfarne at the end of the first book, Jamie, Larissa and Kate are recovering at Department 19 headquarters, waiting for news of Dracula’s stolen ashes.

They won’t be waiting for long.

Vampire forces are gathering. Old enemies are getting too close. And Dracula… is rising.


Fear by Michael Grant (Gone series, book #5)

It’s been one year since all the adults disappeared. Gone.

Despite the hunger and the lies, even despite the plague, the kids of Perdido Beach are determined to survive. Creeping into the tenuous new world they’ve built, though, is perhaps the worst incarnation yet of the enemy known as the Darkness: fear.

Within the FAYZ, life breaks down while the Darkness takes over, literally—turning the dome-world of the FAYZ entirely black. In darkness, the worst fears of all emerge, and the cruelest of intentions are carried out. But even in their darkest moments, the inhabitants of the FAYZ maintain a will to survive and a desire to take care of the others in their ravaged band that endures, no matter what the cost.


Revived by Cat Patrick

Daisy has died five times. She’s a test subject for a government super drug called Revive, which brings people back from the dead. Each time she is revived, Daisy has to move cities and change her identity to avoid suspicion. Daisy has always gotten a thrill out of cheating death, but her latest move has come with unexpected complications: a new best friend, and a very cute new crush. As Daisy’s attachment to her new home grows, she discovers secrets that could tear her world apart. And the more she learns, the more she feels like a lowly pawn in a sinister game.

Rainbow Orchid: Volume 3 by Garen Ewing

At the beginning of Volume Three, Julius and Lily are recovering from the electrifying end of Volume Two. What does the future hold for Evelyn Crow and her gang of desperate villains? Do Julius and Lily have the strength to prevent Urkaz Grope from enacting his evil plans? Don’t miss the stunning conclusion to the biggest adventure in comics!

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

Everyone said sending teenagers into space would be their opportunity of a lifetime… It’s been decades since anyone last set foot on the moon. But three ordinary teens are about to change that–and their lives–forever. Mia knows this will be her punk band’s ticket to fame and fortune. Midori believes it’s her way out of her restrictive lifestyle in Japan. And Antoine just wants to get as far away from his ex-girlfriend as possible. But little do they know that something sinister is waiting for them on the dark side of the moon.

Picture Book Nook: Seesaw Po by Kyle Mewburn, illustrated by Katz Cowley

Read me for NZ Book Month!

Kyle Mewburn has done it once again!  He’s created another clever and fun-filled picture book that children and adults alike will love, and it features a loveable hippo called Po.

Po and his friends love the playground.  “I want to swing!” said Uta.  “I want to slide!” said Madi.  “I want to spin!” said Raff.  “I want to do everything!” said Po.  They all rush off to the playground and have a go on everything.  Everyone, that is, except Po.  Poor Po is just too big to go on anything…until he gets to the seesaw.

Children absolutely love Seesaw Po!  I’ve read it numerous times to children from 2-7 years and they were all captivated by the story.  Older children know right from the start that Po is too big to go on the playground and they feel sorry for him, but they don’t see the surprise ending coming.  It’s a story that all children can relate to because they all love going to the playground and they all have their favourite thing they like to go on (for me it’s always been the swings).  Katz Cowley’s illustrations are as marvelous as always.  You can really see the joy on the faces of the characters as they whizz around on the roundabout and whoosh down the slide.  The favourite illustration of the children I read the book to was Po stuck on the slide and they liked to point out that Uta was trying to pull Po down the slide by his ears.  Book Design deserve a special mention for the wonderful design of the book.  I love how the words follow the characters down the slide and around the roundabout, while still making the text easy to read.   It’s also great to see Scholastic NZ publishing Te Reo versions of their New Zealand picture books, especially these younger picture books.  Seesaw Po is a great collaboration from two of our most talented authors and illustrators.

4 out of 5 stars

Interview with Chris Haughton, creator of Oh No, George!

Chris Haughton is the author and illustrator of a very funny new picture book called Oh No, George!  It’s all about a naughty dog who keeps getting into trouble and the story will have you laughing out loud.  I was lucky to have the chance to ask Chris some questions about his new book and his quirky, colourful illustrations.

  • Did you have a dog when you were a kid? If so what was it’s name?

CH: I had 3! Tammy, Tessa and Milly. Tammy was the most like George in personality. She once ate all my Easter eggs.

  • What did you do as a kid that made your parents go, ‘Oh no, Chris!’?

CH: Probably annoying my sister. Maybe running after her around the room in a similar way to George and Cat.

  • While researching the book you watched lots of guilty dogs videos on the internet. What were some of the worst things that you saw dogs do?

CH: I think 90% of them had eaten something. I was just using google images to see their guilty faces so I could draw them but I noticed there was one dog in particular that kept coming up again and again. The guiltiest dog on the internet! I wondered to myself what on earth had this dog done to have deserved such a reputation and that’s when I discovered that video… (

  • One of the reasons I love your picture books is because of your bright, bold illustrations. How do you decide what colour pallet to use for your illustrations?

CH: I just work on it as I’m going. I try to make the colours all work with each other and be bright and harmonious but be different enough to provide a bit of contrast and it just happens that it comes out like that. I ignore the ‘real’ colours of the animals and I just use colours in a way that best tells the story. For example the owl is the only thing black against the bright colours of the forest which helps define his shape. George fills so much of the book that he couldn’t be black, I wanted it to be a colourful book and for his shape to be easily recognised so I had him in one block colour which contrasted with the orange background and text. The whites of the eyes (which are the most important thing in every picture) are the only things that are ever white in any of the illustrations.

  • As well as being an author and illustrator you’re also a designer. How does your design work differ from your illustration work?

CH: There is a lot of overlap. A lot of the repeat pattern designs that I have done for dresses and clothes at People Tree have found their way into the forest and colours of A Bit Lost and Oh No, George! I think it’s nice to have a bit of variety between the different work I do because it all fuses together somewhere along the line and it helps keep it fresh in both directions.

Win an Oh No, George! print

Thanks to Walker Books, the wonderful publisher of Chris Haughton’s Oh No, George! we have a limited edition print to give away to one lucky person.

All you have to do is enter your name, email address and phone number in the form below and we’ll draw a winner on Monday 19 March (NZ only).

This competition has now closed.  The winner of the print was Clare.

Fast Five with Kyle Mewburn

1. Why did you want to be a writer?

I never really thought I “want to be a writer”. Mainly because I was always told being a writer wasn’t a “proper job”. Besides, I knew most writers never made much money, and for a long time I believed making money was very important. (Because that’s what nearly everybody said.) Writing has always been like a bloodhound on my trail. Over the years I tried all sorts of other jobs, trying to throw it off the scent, but I never quite managed it. In the end it caught up with me. Now I realise there are much more important things than making lots of money. Like doing something you love. Or bringing wild and crazy ideas to life.

2. What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Getting to hang out with other writers. They are such an entertaining bunch. If I wasn’t a writer, I’d probably have to become a stalker. Or a librarian.

3. What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

I didn’t grow up in New Zealand, so I don’t have any all-time favourite New Zealand books. It kind of changes every year. At the moment my favourite books are Northwood by Brian Falkner (which is just such an original thrilling story) and Stomp! by Ruth Paul (because it’s delightfully simple and beautiful).

4. What do you love most about New Zealand?

I could say “that it’s next to Australia”. haha (I am, after all, originally from Brisbane.) Otherwise, I’d have to say its size. There’s so much variety packed into a small space. Two hours drive and I can be swimming in the ocean, skiing in the mountains or tramping in the wilderness. It’s unique and slightly magical. Though the flipside is you sometimes have to drive two hours to find like-minded people, too.

5. What book changed your life?

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. It’s deservedly a classic. My Year 7 teacher gave me his copy on the last day of school and I’ve read it every year since. If, like me, you love word games and puns, there’s no better book on the planet. It set me off on a life-long quest to write (or invent) the perfect pun. I haven’t done it yet, but boy I’ve had enormous fun trying!!

Kyle Mewburn is the award-winning author of Kiss, Kiss, Yuck, Yuck, Old Hu-hu, Hill and Hole and the hilarious and disgusting Dinosaur Rescue series.

Picture Book Nook: Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton

I’m a dog person so I love books about dogs.  The best one has to be Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy (and I’m not just saying that because I’m a Kiwi – even the Duchess of Cornwell loves it!).  You can tell the difference between an author/illustrator that loves dogs and knows how they act and one who doesn’t.  Chris Haughton obviously loves dogs and has spent a lot of time studying their habits and expressions, because his new book Oh No, George! is one of the most hilarious picture books I’ve read.

George is a dog that just wants to be good.  The only problem is that there are so many distractions all around him and he can’t help being bad.  His owner Harris is going out, but before he goes he asks “Will you be good, George?” and George says that he’ll be very good. But he has just seen a cake in the kitchen…What will George do?!

Chris Haughton is an incredibly talented author and illustrator.  The story is one that children can easily relate to (wanting to be good but somehow getting into trouble) and they’ll want to join in, yelling out ‘Oh no, George!’ The sense of anticipation hooks you in, because you want George to be good and not eat the cake or dig up the garden.  Like Chris’ other book, A Bit Lost, the story doesn’t quite end so children will imagine what George might do next.  Chris’ illustrations are so bright and bold so Oh No, George will catch the eye of young readers.  I’m sure it will become a favourite in schools and homes just because of the amazing cover.  The thing I like most about Chris’ illustrations is that he can portray so much emotion with very little detail.  Looking at the cover, you can tell that George is feeling guilty just by looking at his eyes and his droopy ears.  If you look at the last page you can see that George is weighing things up in his head.  Oh No, George works great as a read aloud for age 4 and up and older children enjoy it just as much (as do adults).

5 out of 5 stars

Join me tomorrow when I host Chris on his Oh No, George! Blog Tour.

Fast Five with Gavin Bishop

1. Why did you want to be a writer?

So I could be in complete control of the picture books that I wanted to illustrate.

2. What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Besides working at home in my own studio I enjoy talking to children and adults about my work.

3. What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

“The Three Legged Cat” by Margaret Mahy

4. What do you love most about New Zealand?

Feeling as if I belong here.

5. What book changed your life?

“The Hobbit” by J. R. Tolkein

Skulduggery Pleasant: The End of the World by Derek Landy

Everyone’s favourite skeleton detective is back in a mini-adventure.  The End of the Worldis a shorter story that Derek wrote for World Book Day in the UK and we’re also lucky enough to get it in New Zealand too.

The End of the World focuses on Ryan, an ordinary boy living in an ordinary world.

Or so he thought.

Ryan holds the key to a powerful weapon that could destroy the world.  He’s being pursued by a gang of insane sorcerers who will do anything to get a hold of the key.  His only chance for survival rests with Skulduggery Pleasant and his teenage partner, Valkyrie Cain, and we all know how things work out when Skulduggery gets involved.

This short Skuduggery adventure packs the same punch as the longer stories and is full of the magic, action and humour that you love about the Skulduggery books.  The coolest thing about this story is that it kicks off in a library.  Imagine, you’re choosing your books or reading quietly in a corner when fireballs start being thrown around, shelves go flying and Skulduggery and Valkyrie come storming into the library!  That would be the BEST DAY EVER!  As well as the main story, there’s also a bonus short story featuring the winners of the Australia/New Zealand character competition.

Derek Landy is coming to New Zealand in August so don’t forget to enter the competition to go in the draw to meet Derek in person.  Also, make sure you enter our Free Book Friday competition this week for the chance to win a copy of The End of the World.