Category Archives: Interview

Interview with Alan Brough

Alan Brough high-res 3 credit James PenlidisAlan Brough is the author of the crazy, laugh-out-loud new book, Charlie and the War Against the Grannies.  Alan is a Kiwi who now lives in Australia and he has worked as an actor, director, musician and a dancer before he became a writer.  Charlie and the War Against the Grannies is his first book for children and I certainly hope he writes many more.

I had a few questions I wanted to ask Alan and he has very kindly answered them for me.  Read on to find out about weird granny behaviour, the things you need to have in a war against grannies and how Alan came to write his crazy story.

  • What inspired you to write Charlie and the War Against the Grannies?

One morning I was watched a middle-aged man in a beaten up old car deliver my newspaper and I wondered whether kids did paper round anymore. That afternoon I saw a granny delivering pizza menus and, for some reason, I came up with the idea that a boy tries to get a paper round but can’t because all the deliveries in his neighbourhood are controlled by an evil cabal of violent grannies.

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  • What is your strangest grannie experience?

My grandmother had a glass eye. The idea of it completely freaked me out. One morning at the breakfast table she took her glass eye out and rolled it across the table to me to try and make me feel more comfortable about it. It didn’t work.

  • Did you have a paper round when you were a kid?

No. I couldn’t cope with the early mornings.

  • What are the 3 most important things you need to fight a war against grannies?

Shortbread laced with tranquillisers, a hairnet full of false teeth and questionable morals.

  • Charlie and Hils have an awesome secret code called Flush Latin for communicating secretly from a toilet when they get in trouble. Did you have your own secret code when you were a kid? 

Hell yeah. I still love codes. I used to make up all sorts of secret codes. I loved writing invisible messages in lemon juice, I had secret drop-offs for swapping secret information with other agents and I was never without my ‘KnowHow Book of Spycraft.’

  • You’ve been an actor and a director as well as an author. How different is comedy on the page than comedy on the screen?

I suppose the essential difference is that comedy on the screen can be done purely with images. You can tell a whole joke without words. Whereas comedy on the page – for me at least – is all about words. Their order, the way they sound and even the way they look.

  • Charlie is hilarious and I’m sure it is going to have kids rolling around on the floor in fits of laughter. Who are your comedy idols when it comes to writing?

Thank you. I’m really pleased and proud that you think Charlie is hilarious. As far as comedy writing idols go I love Douglas Adams, Dorothy Parker, Evelyn Waugh, Charles Dickens, Franz Kafka (he’s really funny), Kyril Bonfiglioli, Nancy Mitford and Ronald Hugh Morrieson (born and bred in my hometown of Hawera.)

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Interview with M.G. Leonard about Beetle Boy

Beetle Boy

Beetle Boy by M.G. Leonard is one of my favourite books so far this year.  I got the chance to interview M.G. Leonard for Christchurch City Libraries.  You can read my review of Beetle Boy here on the blog and follow the link to check out the interview.

Interview with M.G. Leonard about Beetle Boy

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Interview with Em Bailey

Em Bailey is an award-winning Australian author.  Her previous book, Shift was the winner of the 2012 Gold Inky Award for best Australian YA novel and was selected as a notable book by the Children’s Book Council of Australia.  Em’s new YA novel, The Special Ones is an incredibly exciting, twisty, nail-biting read.  You can read my review of The Special Ones here on the blog.

The Special Ones is one of those books that I can’t get out of my head.  I had a few questions that I was dying to ask Em and she has very kindly answered them for me.  Read on to find out her inspiration for the book, what it was like to go inside the head of a psychopath and what draws her to writing for teens.

Special Ones

  • What inspired you to write The Special Ones?

I’ve always been interested in the psychology of cults: what sort of person becomes a cult leader, the people who are drawn to them, what happens when someone attempts to leave. I knew I wanted to write something about this theme and I started thinking about how modern technology might affect the way a traditional commune-style cult operated. I began imagining a situation where someone was able to control and manipulate a group, in the way that cult leaders traditionally always have, but without needing to be physically present.

  • Which of The Special Ones are you most like?

‘Him’? No, not really! I don’t think I’m very much like any of the girls, although I guess certain aspects of Esther’s personality are like mine but she is much tougher and far more determined than I am. I like to write about characters who make mistakes and do dumb things – sometimes even really bad things – because I think it’s still completely possible to have empathy for them. A number of people have told me that they really dislike Lucille in The Special Ones, but I must admit to having a soft spot for her. She’s put through a very traumatic series of events after all, and a lot of her complaints about Esther seem justified to me.

  • Is the cottage in the book based on an actual place?

The farmhouse isn’t based on a particular building, it’s more a composite of many. I started planning The Special Ones while driving through South Australia with my family. I spent a lot of time looking out the window at the dry landscape and noticing the abandoned, ramshackle old stone farmhouses here and there. It’s that kind of environment that I picture for The Special Ones and I imagined the girls being imprisoned in one of those solid old buildings.

  • You take readers inside the head of a psychopath in The Special Ones. Did you have to prepare yourself to get into character when writing these parts?

It was difficult, and exhausting, to be in ‘his’ head. I would be working on a passage and realise that I was writing it from a normal person’s perspective, with typical, human reactions to things. I would then have to stop myself and think ‘but how would a psychopath view this situation?’ I read Jon Ronson’s book The Psychopath Test book as part of my research and I had a list of psychopathic characteristics stuck up beside my desk which I used to refer to as a way of keeping myself on track. It wasn’t very pleasant. I would often find myself frowning or clenching my teeth as I was writing from his viewpoint. It was always such a relief to flip back into ‘Esther-mode’.

  • Apart from ‘him’ in your story who is the most evil, twisted character from a book or movie that you’ve come across?

I am a bit of a wimp when it comes to scary books and movies (yes, it’s ironic I know) so I’m probably not the best person to answer this. I did however read a lot of non-fiction accounts of cults while preparing for this book and it was amazing to notice the similarity between the various cult leaders. They share such an unswerving belief in their own greatness and a complete disregard for the rights of anyone else. Because they lack the ability to feel empathy the suffering they inflict on others has no effect on them whatsoever. It’s chilling to read about people like this because it’s clear they genuinely don’t realise they’re doing anything wrong.

  • How did the story come together? Did you know how it was going to end?

Nutting out the plot was a very long process. I knew basically how I wanted to resolve things, but it took a lot of work to get the details right. I think I re-wrote the entire second half at least four times. It was painful at the time, but ultimately it was necessary for getting the storyline to follow a course that felt right to me.

  • What do you love most about writing for teens?

Writing for teens is great because there’s so much scope. The YA genre is so broad now that you can really go in any direction you want and explore a wide variety of themes. I’m drawn to writing plot-dense stories and this works well with teen literature. I think of my books as being escapist but hopefully also reasonably substantial, theme-wise. Teens read a lot more widely and with a greater level of sophistication than they did in my day, so there is also the challenge of writing something which will meet with their approval.

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Interview with Christopher Edge

Christopher Edge is the author of many great books for kids, including the Penelope Tredwell books Twelve Minutes to Midnight, Shadows of the Silver Screen and The Black Crow Conspiracy.  Christopher’s latest book is the out-of-this-world, inter-dimensional adventure The Many Worlds of Albie Bright.  I absolutely love this book and you can read my review here on the blog.

I had some questions about The Many Worlds of Albie Bright that I wanted to ask Christopher and he has very kindly answered them for me.  Read on to find out if bananas are indeed radioactive, which Back to the Future film is Christopher’s favourite, and what’s the coolest thing that he has ever built.

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  • What inspired you to write The Many Worlds of Albie Bright?

Lots of things! One of the sparks was a popular science book I read called How To Destroy The Universe And 34 Other Really Interesting Uses of Physics. It described cancer as a ‘quantum killer’ and explained how this disease is caused by a single-cell in your body mutating and going rogue. This got me thinking about the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum physics which suggests that quantum events might happen in one universe but not a parallel universe, so I had the idea of a boy who might have lost his mother to cancer and how he might try to use quantum physics to find the parallel universe where she is still alive. From this spark I slowly built the story and thought about the different parallel worlds the boy might find and how his life might be subtly different in each one. When friends asked what I was writing, I told them it was like It’s A Wonderful Life, but with added quantum physics!

  • One of the things I love about your book is that there is lots of science in it. Did you have to do lots of research?

Back when I was at school, I got a grade D for GCSE Physics – so I’m not any kind of science whiz! But as an adult I’ve become fascinated by the wonders of the universe as expertly explained by scientists such as Brian Cox, Jim Al-Khalili, Michio Kaku and Brian Greene. The American physicist Richard Feynman once said, “If you think you understand quantum physics, you don’t understand quantum physics”, but thanks to a huge pile of books in my office by these and other expert authors, I’ve been able to pretend that I understand a little more than I did before I started writing The Many Worlds of Albie Bright. It was important to me that all the science mentioned in the book was real and accurately described, so I had the manuscript checked by a friend who’s a Professor of Particle Physics and also works at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Luckily he said it passed the test!

  • Are bananas really radioactive?

Amazingly, YES! All bananas contain potassium which is a natural source of radioactivity. This means that if you’re standing next to the fruit bowl in your kitchen and it’s got a banana in it, then every second you’ve got a chance of being blasted with a gamma ray of radioactivity. Don’t worry this is completely safe and won’t turn you into a radioactive banana-eating superhero! However, large shipments of bananas have been known to trigger false alarms when they pass through radiation monitors at ports and airports!

  • Albie uses just a computer, a Geiger counter, a cardboard box and a banana to travel between dimensions. What is the coolest thing you’ve ever built?

A Tusken Raider from Star Wars using toilet rolls and cardboard boxes!

  • Back to the Future gets a couple of mentions in your book. It’s obviously a favourite of yours (who can blame you?). Which movie is your favourite?

The first Back to the Future is obviously the best. In some ways I wish they’d have kept it at just one film as it’s just so perfect from start to finish, whereas I don’t feel that way about the second and third films. Having said that I do like the fact that in one of the parallel universes that Albie visits in the book there’s a cinema showing Back to the Future IV…

  • If you could travel to a different dimension what is one difference that you would like to see and one that you wouldn’t like to see?

Difference that I’d like to see: greater equality. Difference that I wouldn’t like to see: a universe where libraries no longer exist. #savelibraries!

  • What’s the thing you enjoy most about writing stories for young readers?

It’s funny, I spoke about this at the end of an interview I gave to Front Row on BBC Radio 4 and said that one of the things I like best about writing stories for young readers is that you have a fearless audience. Young readers aren’t a jaded audience – they’re an audience with high expectations, who will go with you anywhere if you can deliver on giving them a great story. And it’s a real honour to write for an audience like that.

To find out more about Christopher Edge and his books visit his website, www.christopheredge.co.uk.

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Interview with Maria Gill

Maria Gill is one of our queens of children’s nonfiction in NZ.  She has written some fantastic books for all ages and on many different topics, from dogs to Kiwi and volcanoes to politics.  Some of Maria’s most recent books have profiled remarkable Kiwis from all walks of life.  In Maria’s latest book, Anzac Heroes, she tells the stories of the triumphs and tragedies of 30 heroic Australasians during World Wars One and Two.

I had a few questions about Anzac Heroes and Maria Gill kindly offered to answer them for me.  Maria talks about some of the extraordinary men and women she discovered while writing her book and the collaboration process with Marco Ivancic.  Thanks for joining me Maria!

  • Who is the ANZAC that fascinated you the most?

Hard to pin down to one. Charlie Upham, perhaps. Not just for his bravery on the field – he sacrificed his life many times for his men and the Anzac army – but also, for his tenaciousness at trying to escape prisoner of war camps eight times! When he came back to New Zealand, locals had fundraised and bought him a farm to thank for his service to his country. He refused it. As far as he was concerned, unless they were going to give a farm to all the soldiers, he wasn’t going to be singled out for a gift. Australian Joice Loch was another.

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  • Did you have a personal connection with any of the heroes in your book?

None of the heroes are relatives or friends’ relatives. However, Albert Knight’s story touched me personally. It was very difficult finding any information about Aboriginal soldier Albert Knight. I only found two sentences online about his life. There were no archived newspaper stories about him. Sadly Aboriginal soldier stories have gone unreported. I had to find his family and speak to them. I only had his surname and the town he was born in over 120 years ago. I rang many phone numbers until I found a family member. That person put me on another family member, and they told me to ring another. Between Albert’s relatives, I pieced together his life story. There was a lovely outcome that came out of talking to his family – read his story to find out.

  • How did you choose the heroes to be featured in your book?

First I had to define ‘what is a hero’. Then I had criteria. I wanted Army, Navy, and Air Force servicemen. They had to have a range of jobs within those military forces and fight in different places so that I was covering as many of the wartime arenas as possible. Next I wanted four indigenous soldiers: two Aboriginal and two Maori. Lastly, I wanted to include women. Women couldn’t fight in the two wars, but the five women I chose were incredibly brave while operating in the war zones as ambulance drivers, doctors, nurses, rescuing refugees or as a spy. It means there aren’t just Anzac soldiers in the book, but in the Introduction, I say why I included all the others.

  • We hear so much about the male heroes but your book also features some incredible female heroes.  Can you tell us a little about one of these amazing women?

Dr. Jessie Scott was a young doctor from Canterbury. When she received a personal invitation from the Scottish Women’s Hospital to work in Europe – she caught the first boat out. She had been working in a hospital close to the frontline when the Austrians then Germans invaded Serbia. She and the other doctors decided not to desert their patients. Instead, they stayed. The Germans crammed Jessie and the other nurses and doctors into a train carriage with little food or water. For several weeks, they were taken from one country to the next while the American Red Cross negotiated with the Germans for their release. When they arrived back in London and Jessie was interviewed about her ordeal, she perkily said the Germans had treated them well, and they had enjoyed the scenery. They had only eaten once a day, slept on straw, and the Germans had taken most of their possessions off them. Jessie’s story didn’t end there, though…

  • What was your collaboration process like for this book? Did you work closely with Marco Ivancic?

I worked closely with the illustrator and designer of the book. For Marco, I took photographs at museums in Australia and New Zealand so he could use them for photo reference when drawing the pictures.  I also spent a day with an Army re-enactment group and took photographs of them doing a drill, acting out a war scene, and holding different guns. They kindly stood still in poses while I took photographs of them at all angles. Marco had asked for close-ups of details on their clothing, how they held a gun and expressions on their faces. The re-enactment group even stood in formation so Marco could see the stance and angles for the front cover illustration. For designer Luke Kelly I gathered different maps of Europe during WWI and WWII and marked in battle zones. I also found all the medals for the heroes, and for the medal page. Sometimes I could not get the real medals that belonged to that hero so had to line single medal images up in order and send to Luke. Luke, Jack Hayes (New Zealand military expert) and I put a lot of work into those medals! I also collaborated with different experts, museums, and Creative NZ enabled it to happen with their grant.

  • What does ANZAC Day mean to you? How do you celebrate it?

I believe Anzac Day recognises not only the sacrifice men and women made during the different wars but also the kinship between Australia and New Zealand while fighting. Common themes that resonated throughout the different Australian and New Zealand stories were their comradeship, incredible bravery, modesty, and down-to-earthness. Leaders fought with their men instead of sitting in their offices. It shows how alike Australians and New Zealanders are, compared to other nationalities.

I’m going to attend my first Anzac Day dawn parade this year. I have to confess my only interest, before writing this book, was in reading war stories. I love adventure stories where the hero survives at incredible odds. Most of the heroes in ‘Anzac Heroes’ fit that category.

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Anzac Heroes by Maria Gill, illustrated by Marco Ivancic is available now from Scholastic New Zealand.

 

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Interview with Glenda Millard

Today I’m joined by Glenda Millard, author of the amazing new YA book, The Stars at Oktober Bend.  Glenda’s book, A Small Free Kiss in the Dark, is one of my favourite books and I was very eager to read her latest book.  It is an absolutely amazing story with unforgettable characters (you can read my review here).

Check out my interview with Glenda to hear about her inspiration for The Stars at Oktober Bend, why she wrote her story in the way that she did, and her haunting characters.

The Stars at Oktober Bend | FRONT COVER (20 October 2015)

  • What inspired you to write The Stars at Oktober Bend?
My strong point as a writer is certainly not planning! I usually begin writing with a singular idea and develop it as I go. The initial idea for ‘The Stars at Oktober Bend’ came from a brief newspaper article about a homeless girl who sang and in doing so had earned herself a scholarship to study music at a prestigious conservatorium.
 So I began writing with the vague notion of telling the story of someone who sang as a means of escaping a traumatic past. But as often happens, once the characters began to evolve and further information came to hand, my story changed direction.
One of the bigger impacts on the change of direction for ‘The Stars at October Bend’ was that my daughter was studying for her Masters in Speech Pathology and I became aware of language disorders, their causes and effects. That led me to thinking about what it would be like to be unimpaired intellectually, but to struggle with expressing ideas verbally.
  • Your characters really got under my skin and I couldn’t stop thinking about them.  Do they still haunt you?

Literary characters have to live and breathe for me. I have to be totally engaged with them and believe in them otherwise I can’t imagine how other people will. I feel the same as a reader – if I have no emotional connection with the characters, then it doesn’t matter how good the plot is, there is nothing to keep me motivated to read. So I suppose the answer to your question is ‘yes’ because I think of the characters as  living people for so long, that it’s hard to forget them once the book is finished.

  • What is your secret to creating memorable, relatable characters?

I’m not sure I can tell you the answer to that. I imagine that creating a literary character and acting the part of one in a play or movie might be similar in some ways. I only know that I have to try to feel what my characters feel and then express it in a way that readers will relate to – not only in an intellectual way, but an emotional one.

  • Joey is the sort of brother that all sisters would want.  Do you have a brother like Joey?

I don’t have any brothers, but I invented one who I hoped would seem plausible – Joey with all his human faults and foibles, but staunchly loyal and faithful.

  • You use both prose and verse to tell Alice’s story.  Why did you decide to do this?

I used prose, verse, lower case letters and minimal punctuation as an acknowledgement of the difficulty Alice had in explaining longer, more complex thoughts in single sentences.  As Alice herself says, she began by writing lists, these developed into verse and then as the story progresses, so too does Alice’s ability to communicate more complex, cohesive thoughts. One of the things Alice and I love about verse is that each line can give a small foretaste of what is to come – a kind of prompt or reminder. So for Alice, verse became an aide to expression, something that helped her string longer passages of thought together in small bites.

  • You write picture books, books for younger readers and teens.  Do you have a favourite age to write for?

Anyone who can read! The age of the reader is in some ways irrelevant to me. Even when I write picture books, I don’t presume that only children will read them. I am always looking for the best way to tell my story, so that whoever reads it will enjoy it for some reason or other. Perhaps the story itself or simply the way it is told. Each genre has its own challenges and pleasures. Picture books, for example, generally demand very concise writing. For me, writing across a broad range, from picture books through to novels is a way of keeping my writing fresh and not allowing myself to get too comfortable or predictable.

  • Who are your rock-star authors?

Among the many on my list, David Almond, a UK writer, has been for many, many years, my rock-star author. My not-so-secret wish is to have David endorse one of my books!  In Australia, I am a great admirer of Ursula Dubosarsky’s beautiful writing and have had the privilege of meeting her on a number of occasions.

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Interview with Katrina Nannestad, author of Olive of Groves

k3Today I’m very excited to be joined by Katrina Nannestad, author of the enchanting new book, Olive of Groves.  You can read my review of Olive of Groves here on the blog.  I absolutely love this book and I wanted to ask Katrina a few questions about her book, her characters, and what we can expect next from Olive and the gang at Mrs Groves Boarding School for Naughty Boys, Talking Animals and Circus Performers.  Thanks for joining me Katrina!

  • What inspired you to write Olive of Groves?

‘How about a boarding school story?’ A simple suggestion from my publisher and the world of Groves came tumbling, rumbling, rollicking into my mind. The way a story takes shape can be a little mysterious, but I do remember starting with my students – talking animals for charm, naughty boys for action and circus performers for a touch of the exotic. The combination of all three was sure to lead to adventure, danger, disaster and hilarity. Mrs Groves, kind but bonkers, bumbled forth as the perfect headmistress – one who would not interfere too much with the students’ wild and woolly activities.

Somewhere in this creative process, Olive stepped forward – brave, clever, loyal and a little bit quirky. It was love at first imagining … despite the tartan skirts and long socks … or maybe because of

Once I started writing, the story seemed to take on a life of its own. I just went along for the ride, recording events as they happened, throwing in a pithy comment or two along the way when the need (or urge) arose!

  •  You have a delightful cast of characters in Olive of Groves.  Do you have a favourite character?

Such a difficult question! It’s a bit like asking a parent which child is their favourite.

Olive, of course, is my beloved heroine of whom I am very fond and proud. What a sweety-pie!

But I also adore Pig McKenzie, head boy and school bully. I have had an enormous amount of fun creating this Pig of Poor Character, developing his wicked schemes, fabricating his ridiculous tales of heroism. There is something thrilling about writing a truly despicable character, a villain who inspires us to boo and hiss and stamp our feet every time he sets his fat, pink trotter on the page. There is also something marvellous in knowing that his fate is in my hands!

  •  Which of your characters are you most like?

I hope that I am most like Olive. I always write something of myself into my heroines. Like Olive, I am a little bit clumsy, I can read and write big words like ‘conflagration’ and ‘arthritis’, I like choc-chip bickies and I strive to be brave, kind and loyal.

I fear, however, that I am more like Mrs Groves. I do bumble around the house muttering to myself, I am rather forgetful, I’d rather dive behind a potted palm or some heavy velvet curtains than confront troubling issues  and I do cry, ‘Goodness gracious me!’ many times each day.

  • Lucia Masciullo’s illustrations are wonderful. Are they just as you pictured your characters?

When I write a story, I develop a vivid mental picture of my characters and their world. To have someone else step in and present their own interpretation of that world could be rather troubling. Lucia, however, is a genius! When the roughs for Olive arrived, I thought, ‘Of course! That is just what my heroine would look like!’ From that point on, Lucia’s Olive was the picture in my mind as I was writing.

There is often a little bit of to-ing and fro-ing with roughs and the ideas around characters, but Lucia is incredibly perceptive and has embraced the craziness of Groves. Her illustrations have not changed the characters but have added to their personality and charm. I feel very privileged to be working with this wonderful artist.

  • You have a word-loving rat in your story called Wordsworth and it’s clear that you love playing with words.  Do you have a favourite word or words?

Yes! Don’t we all?

I love words that roll off my tongue, like ‘haberdashery’ and ‘brandish’.

I love words that are out-of-date and sound like something my granny might have said, like ‘evidently’ and ‘poppycock’.

I love ridiculous words, like ‘bowels’ and ‘squelch’.

I love words that contain an entire character description, like ‘prim’ and ‘unscrupulous’.

And I adore words that conjure up big pictures, like ‘flamboyant’ and ‘pandemonium’.

  • Chester the rat loves to collect buttons.  Do you collect anything?

I didn’t really set out to collect pigs, but I have quite a few hanging around. Perhaps people have seen a rusty metal pig in the garden and a wooden pig in the kitchen and they have thought, ‘Hey! I’d better buy Katrina a pig!’ … which is lovely … but also a little bit weird … As a result, I now have a large herd of pigs snuffling and snorting about the house.

There is also at least one pig in every book I have written!

  • Do you have any naughty boys, talking animals or circus performers in your life?

I grew up in a neighbourhood stuffed full of naughty boys, all running around on the tail of my brother’s hare-brained schemes. There were rotten plum fights, parachute jumps, flying fox disasters, wrestling matches, slingshot wars, firecracker explosions, bike stunts … and that was just in our back yard! Now, I am the mother of two boys, so the naughtiness lives on.

I am surrounded by talking animals! My dog, Olive, talks incessantly when we are out walking: ‘Look at that dog over there! Can we go and play with him? Can we? Huh? Can we?’ or ‘Oh no! There’s a bicycle headed our way! A bicycle! You know how they terrify me! Aaaaah!’ The birds in my garden are constantly arguing over branch rights – who got there first and who should take a hike – and whether or not it’s okay to use the birdbath as a toilet. And the nanny goat in the neighbour’s paddock shouts some very rude things to Olive every time we walk past.

Sadly, there are no circus performers in my life. I am, however, currently building a cannon in the shed, from which I plan to fire my husband and then my two sons.  I am expecting them to land somewhere on the South Island of New Zealand.

  • Do you have more adventures planned for Olive?

Absolutely! Books 2 and 3 are already written. This very morning, I received Lucia Masciullo’s cover illustration for the second Olive of Groves. It’s magical!  We are currently editing the third Olive of Groves. Books 2 and 3 are due for release next year in May and November, respectively. 2016 will be a busy time for Olive and her friends! The Pig of Evil Intent returns, too, so BEWARE!

 

 

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Seriously Spooky Month: Interview with Derek Landy

Derek Landy is the author of the Skulduggery Pleasant series and the new Demon Road series.  He is one of my absolute favourite authors and I have loved everything that he has read.  I got the chance to meet him and interview him back in 2010 when he was part way through the Skulduggery Pleasant series (you can read the interview here).  Since he has started a new series I wanted to ask him a few questions about it and get the scoop on Demon Road.  Read my interview with Derek to find out how many Demon Road books we have to look forward to, what Derek’s favourite supernatural being is, and why Derek loves horror stories.

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  • How did it feel starting a new series after you had been living in Skulduggery’s world for so long?

Scary, daunting, but also thrilling and refreshing. I was fully at home writing Skulduggery, and possibly too comfortable. That’s not always a good thing for a writer, so a new challenge was needed to stop things from getting stale.

  • Why did you choose to set your new series in America?

The idea of a roadtrip pretty much dictated where it was going to be set. I tried setting it in Ireland, but you can’t really have a roadtrip here. In America, you can drive for weeks without seeing anyone. In Ireland, every five minutes you’d be passing through some small town somewhere…

  • How many books are you planning on writing in the Demon Road series?

Three. There was no way I was committing to a nine book series like I did with Skulduggery!

  • What is your favourite supernatural being?

Vampires are endlessly fun. You can adapt them to fit whatever you need them to be. Dracula had them scary, Anne Rice had them romantic, Buffy had them cool, and Twilight had them sparkly. Er…

  • There are some really gory scenes in Demon Road.  Are these your favourite parts to write?

Gory scenes are definitely fun…! And it’s always an interesting exercise to see how far I can push things before my editor picks up the phone…

  • Out of all of your characters which one are you most like?

I’d like to think I’m like Skulduggery — cool, charming, and awesome. But the truth is I’m probably a mixture of Glen and, I dunno… Scapegrace.

  • Do you see your two series crossing over?  Will Skulduggery characters make an appearance on the Demon Road?

That was a temptation that I ultimately decided against. I wanted people to be able to pick up Demon Road without needing to know the rules of magic as set down in Skulduggery. Plus my vampires in both series are completely different, and I didn’t want to confuse people.

  • Why do you love horror stories?

I’ve always loved horror, since I was a kid. We love to be scared. Being scared is entertainment — provided you get to walk out of the theatre afterwards, or close the book, or turn off the TV. We love horror because it tests us within a safe environment. I doubt I’d love it so much if these things were really happening to me…

  • What other books would you recommend to kids and teens who love your books?

These days I’m recommending ‘The Rest of Us Just Live Here’ by Patrick Ness to everyone, as well as the Shattered Sea trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. Loved them both.

Demon Road by Derek Landy is out now.  Go and grab a copy from your library or bookshop now.

 

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Interview with Leah Thomas, author of Because You’ll Never Meet Me

Today I’m super excited to host an interview with Leah Thomas, author of the wonderful Because You’ll Never Meet Me.  It is one of the most extraordinary books I’ve read in a long time. You can read my review here on the blog.  I had a few questions about Because You’ll Never Meet Me and Leah Thomas has very kindly answered them for me.  Read on to find out what inspired Leah to write her wonderful story, where her characters came from and her favourite books and movies.

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  • I love Because You’ll Never Meet Me! I haven’t read anything quite like it.  What inspired you to write this story?

Thank you, thank you! I love hearing “I love”! And I love hearing “anything quite like it.” But in truth, so many things inspired this story that to me it feels more like “everything quite like it.” Parts of it were inspired by my homesickness while living abroad, parts of it draw directly from the comics and superhero stories that informed my childhood, parts come straight out of working with kids and in schools, with being raised by social workers (like Liz, yes), and a huge chunk of the story comes from the conviction that distances don’t matter so much when you can share words with people, in stories or in letters or in music.

  • When and how did the characters of Ollie and Moritz come to you?

Ollie was easy. Ollie demands to be heard, and I’m pretty sure he was hollering noisy things in my ears for at least a few years before I finally let him holler at other people. There are certain characters that really fight to exist, and he was one of them. I am often captivated by good people who put on a show of being happy even when they may not be, because they care more about how those near them feel than they care about themselves. This is, to me, a very selfless but sad way to live life, and with Ollie, he can’t quite pull it off, because he does value himself.

Moritz is the natural foil to Ollie: he’s very introverted and the front he puts up is that he couldn’t care less about the world, but the opposite is actually true. His self-loathing is so apparent but also so wrongheaded.

Both these characters are approaching their lives with whatever coping strategies they can, and when they contact each other, discover new possibilities for managing the crappy hand life dealt them.

I think these two boys really need each other. They are each other’s hope.

  • Did you have to do a lot of research about their conditions?

Of course research goes into any kind of writing, and where medical issues are concerned this is a must, but I’m going to reiterate: this is by no means a factual book, or at least was never intended to be. Yes, I very much wanted to write about characters with disabilities (and will continue to, because representation is everything!), but in my mind I was doing so within a science fiction framework. On a personal level, an immediate family member has epilepsy, and certainly my experiences with that informed the book, and as far as research into echolocation – it’s true and truly amazing that some people who are visually impaired adapt in remarkable ways, but in the book this is hugely, hugely exaggerated.

Because You’ll Never Meet Me falls very much in line with the spirit of superhero stories – just with a realism aspect that I hope is empowering, if a bit odd.

  • Would you rather live the life of Ollie or Moritz?

I feel like I already lived the life of Ollie! I grew up in the woods of northern Michigan, at the end of a dirt road, and so did a lot of my friends. It’s funny how many people from my hometown recognize aspects of our childhood in the book.

Having said that, I’d love to live in Germany. There’s a distinct lack of diskotheks here!

  • What books and movies inspire your writing?

Oh, gosh, what a huge question! Have you got time to read another book? Because this could go for so many pages. I’ll try to name a few things, in a random blob of text:

Harry Potter, Kurt Vonnegut, Discworld, Wes Anderson, His Dark Materials, MT Anderson, Fullmetal Alchemist, Nancy Farmer, Hannibal (Bryan Fuller), Marvel Cinematic Universe, Coraline, Ray Bradbury, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Tim Burton (the older stuff – you should have SEEN my wall collages in high school), Steven Universe, Patrick Ness, Harold and Maude…

Seriously, do people find ways to answer this question?! INTERROBANG?!

  • Can we look forward to more books from you?

Yes, yes, yes! (Sorry; I’m still excited by the fact.) The sequel to BYNMM, hesitantly titled Nowhere Near You, was actually drafted back in 2013, and will be released in early 2017! And following that, Bloomsbury’s also bought the rights to a work-in-progress called Birds and Other Transdimensional Things, which tells the story of a mother and daughter who have trouble with parallel universes, but more trouble with their relationship.

Thanks so much for having me aboard! I’m still pinching myself.

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Interview with R.L. Stedman

author photoR.L. Stedman is the author of the award winning A Necklace of Souls.  She has just released the sequel, A Skillful Warrior, which carries on the story of Dana and Will (read all about it here).  I had a few questions for Rachel about her new book, her journey to publication and what stories she has for us next.  You can read her answers below and enter the draw to win a copy of the new edition of A Necklace of Souls.

  • I was very excited to hear that you had written a sequel to A Necklace of Souls!  Can you tell us a little about what happens in A Skillful Warrior?

In Skillful, Dana and Will, along with N’tombe and Jed, have left the Kingdom of the Rose. They are searching for a weapon that can defeat the army of the emperor. This quest should be straightforward, but of course its not. There’s an army following them, they don’t really know what the weapon is and Dana is having really, really bad dreams. And when I say bad, I mean they’re a lot worse than the average nightmare. And then Jed gets entangled with a pirate-woman and … No. I don’t want to give too much away! But basically the story is about both Will and Dana beginning to realise what they can do, and in learning to be comfortable with their abilities. I kind of think of Skillful as Dana growing up.

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  • A Necklace of Souls won the Tessa Duder Award and the Best First Book Award at the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.  What do awards like these mean to you as an author? Do they motivate you to keep writing?

The awards are nice, and its cool to be able to see stickers on your book that say ‘winner of so and so’ like it makes you amazing but TBH it doesn’t mean that much in terms of sales. However, I do enjoy putting ‘Award-Winning Author’ under my name! The awards don’t motivate me to continue writing, because I love writing so much that I would do it regardless. But I think the fact that I’ve won a few prizes now helps to give people confidence that my books are (hopefully) a good read.

  • You have self-published A Skillful Warrior, the reprint of A Necklace of Souls and your thriller, Inner Fire.  What has your journey to publication been like since your first book?

Quite tricky, would be the honest truth. A number of publishers were interested in Skillful but they all said the market for YA fiction in New Zealand is very limited, and after thinking about it for a few months, most said no. But over this time I was getting emails from readers pleading for the sequel (Skillful is dedicated to a reader from Norway!) and I felt I had to get it published just for them. So that’s why I decided to do it myself.

Inner Fire was my trial piece, I wanted to learn how to self-publish on something different to Necklace, in case it all went terribly wrong or was a total failure…In actual fact though, self-publishing (I prefer to call it “independant publishing”) has been more fun than I had thought. I’ve loved being able to chose my own cover designs – I’ve worked with two different covers for Necklace and I love both. I really enjoy the look and feel of the books; the paper is nice and thick, the layout looks professional and the binding is really solid. It’s nice to hold it in your hands!

Independent publishing offers an author a lot more freedom. When you’ve put your heart and soul into a book, it is very rewarding to be able to call all the shots on how it is presented. I like the way I can chose my own illustrations and my own font and chose the price it will retail at. I like being in control of my own timeline, too.

I don’t think it would suit everyone but I’m fortunate that it does work for me. I have a business degree and do a lot of contracting/project work in my day job – that experience has helped me a lot.

  • What books would you recommend to those who have enjoyed A Necklace of Souls and A Skillful Warrior?

The Belgariad by David Eddings

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardego,

Any book by Juliet Marilliar.

The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula Le Guin.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown.

Under the Mountain by Maurice Gee.

The Merlin Chronicles by Mary Stewart.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

  • You have a book coming soon for younger readers.  What is it about?

It’s called The Prankster and the Ghost. It was shortlisted for the Tom Fitzgibbon Award in 2012 as Practically Joking. I love it so much! It’s funny and sad and (warning) contains lots of practical jokes.

The story is about two boys (I always seem to have two protagonists, I really need to stop that), called Tayla and Jamie.

Tayla is in a car accident. In pain, he pushes himself out of his body, and begins to haunt the hospital ward. Being a ghost is kind of boring, although it does allow him to play some excellent practical jokes on the nurses. Until an inspector arrives on the ward. ‘I’m sending you to school,’ she says. ‘Because every child deserves an education, even if they’re dead.’ Tayla thinks this is stupid. What’s the point in educating dead kids? Besides, he isn’t dead. He’s just not in his body.

Meanwhile, Jamie, newly arrived from Scotland, finds no-one can understand his accent. All his practical jokes go badly wrong, and at his new school there are some ruins that he’s sure are haunted…

Prankster is set in North Otago and is about friendship and learning to live with loss. And practical jokes, of course. It’s suitable for ages 8 upwards.

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