Lorraine lives in Devon, not far from the Atlantic Ocean. She has an Honours degree in English & European Literature and, before writing full-time, had a highly-chequered career which included time in the WRAF; eight years of teaching English to 11-18 year olds (during which time she was Head of VIth form English); experience in various areas of the Business world; MD of her own company organising business events and international conferences around the UK; and, latterly, TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language).
Writing in one form or another has been an integral part of her working life since graduation, from educational curriculums, coursework and reports, to PR and a range of marketing material, to speaker profiles and programmes for international conferences, and various consultancy projects. In any breathing space between these commitments, she has always scribbled – a diary, short stories and multiple ideas for novels which she dreamed of making a reality one day.
Lorraine has always believed in the importance of reading for everyone and, especially, young people. She sees it as an invaluable means of not only increasing knowledge, awareness, imagination and sensitivity but also as a wonderful line of escape to other worlds!
Her interests are, primarily, all animals, wildlife and the natural world, then walking, reiki, Baroque music, and Italy. Oh – and she is, of course, a voracious reader!
1 My debut YA novel
Mary Darling sprang from nowhere. I grew up with strays because my mother fed anything and everything that came to her needing food and love. So I learnt the value of the wildlife and animal world very early and realised how much animals are used, abused and exploited by human beings. This became even clearer as I got older and read about the greed and cruelty of humans towards both the small and our larger, iconic animals in terms of poaching for ivory, trophy hunting, bear bile, the dog meat industry, and practices like bullfighting, use of donkeys in cruel and inhuman ways, animals in circuses and many other forms of cruel entertainment for human enjoyment. Then, when I was teaching, I saw how children young and older reacted to animals, what a difference it made (I even , with the permission of the Headmaster, took my dog into the classroom on one or two occasions and saw the difference it made) and, of course, it has been shown many times that animals have a definite therapeutic value in all sorts of areas of health and social need. Yet they are still not respected but used and abused so much and in so many ways.
I’ve always wanted to write, always scribbled odds and ends, ideas for short stories and novels and then, out of the blue came the idea for a novel about all my favourite ingredients, the importance of animals, the power of magic, healing and other gifts that can be used to change the relationship between animals and humans – and the power of young adults, as the adults of tomorrow, to change the world! But they have to know about the challenge first! And so came Mary because the novel is also about loneliness and the goodness inside people, regardless of their appearance or apparent lack of status in this world that is so concerned with superficiality; and Mary is so lonely and alone at the beginning of the novel – and by the end of it, when she has embarked upon her mission, when love and a completely unexpected and genuine friendship have both taken her by surprise, her life is so different!
So it’s essentially a novel about the importance and value of the animal world and the relationship between human beings and animals. But it’s also about other values: about real friendship, love, loyalty, truth, respect and hope. Oh – and the value of dreams!
I have planned two sequels which continue Mary’s battle to save the animal world from cruelty and extinction but I am waiting to see if they are likely to be wanted . . .
2 What do you love about writing?
The freedom to explore, imagine, create and to live in another world. I particularly love the moment in which the characters spring to life and take over the story, I feel it immediately and just let them have their heads!
3 Who inspires you?
An underdog with courage. Anyone who battles against the odds. Power struggles. Eccentrics.
In terms of writers: Paulo Coelho, Tolkien, C S Lewis, Stephen King, Philip Pullman, Eva Ibbotson, Frances Hardinge.
4 Have you read anything lately you’ve just loved?
Two books, completely different in character, one fiction, one non-fiction: Frances Hardinge – (YA) The Lie Tree. This was the Costa Book of the year in 2015 and I found it completely unputdownable. One of the relatively few books that I was reading in bed, well into the early hours. “Brilliant: dark, thrilling, utterly original, ” says Patrick Ness on the cover and I totally agree. I wish I had written it! So different, such a leap of the imagination. I loved it. Yanis Varoufakis - Adults in the Room. As Finance Minister of Greece, Professor Varoufakis attempted to renegotiate his country’s relationship with the EU and this is a compelling account of what goes on in the European corridors of power. It is a weighty book, dense with layers of meaning and has to be read slowly with care if you don’t want to miss any of the nuances of perception as Professor Varoufakis is an extremely interesting, clever and erudite man. I am not a political person and this is not my usual type of reading for relaxation but it was utterly fascinating. It made my mind work really hard especially in the parts dealing with economics and political analysis as neither is my subject, but I was fascinated by Machiavelli in my Italian subsidiary at university and I believe in stretching the mind, so the accounts of political manipulation and chicanery in this were instructive, extraordinary and yet strangely entertaining.
Mary Darling, L M d'Mello's eponymous protagonist, was abandoned on hospital steps at birth and spent most of her early years living in care. Things start to look up for her when she is adopted by Tom and Susan, a caring couple who lost their own daughter in an accident. Tom and Susan do their best to make Mary happy, however school bullies are making her life wretched, until an expected ally emerges. Mary's life is transformed when she discovers that she has unusual and powerful supernatural abilities that she can use to understand and heal animals. She begins a fight to save the animal world from cruelty and extinction, and as her powers mature throughout the books in the trilogy, she must defeat increasingly dangerous enemies, making discoveries about her own abilities along the way. The book ends with Mary discovering that she is to be an animal ambassador and must take on powerful individuals and organisations around the world. L M d'Mello's debut book explores the importance of animal welfare, a subject that is increasingly highlighted by the media as a result of high-profile individuals, including the Duke of Cambridge and Ricky Gervais, speaking out against trophy hunting and poaching. Mary Darling draws from L M d'Mello's own involvement with animal charities, and will appeal to animal welfare organisations. It will be enjoyed by readers aged 12-16 years.
We both enjoy love stories, but the relationship at the heart of the books we’ve been writing for the last couple of years is one between two siblings. Although both our main character, Merry, and her brother, Leo, have romantic entanglements, it’s their relationship with each other which provides the framework for our trilogy. Through The Witch’s Kiss and The Witch’s Tears Merry and Leo take care of each other, save each other, misunderstand each other, fall out and make up. They argue about boyfriends, share ice-cream and fight bad guys together. In The Witch’s Blood (out next March) they’ll face even more challenges. One thing we can say for sure is that they will want to face those challenges together.
Why do we love writing about siblings so much? Partly it’s because we’ve always been very close. We agree with Jane Austen that there’s something unique about the sibling relationship which isn’t replicated by even the closest friendship: ‘Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply; and it must be by a long and unnatural estrangement, by a divorce which no subsequent connection can justify, if such a precious remains of the earliest attachments are ever entirely outlived.’ (Mansfield Park)
But partly, it’s wish fulfilment. Much as we love each other, we’ve always wished we had a big brother too, so Leo is really our fantasy sibling. And yes, if we had the technology to create a Leo android, we totally would!
Here are some other fictional brothers we think would be perfect sidekicks for any YA heroine.
Hector Delos (Starcrossed Trilogy, Josephine Angelini)
Hector is ultra-protective of his younger siblings, Jason and Ariadne. Plus, he is super-strong and can breathe underwater, so he would be an excellent big brother if you had to save the world from invasion by giant deep-sea dwelling monsters.
Eomer (The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien)
Eomer comes across as a pretty traditional guy. He probably doesn’t really understand his sister’s terrible fear of being put ‘behind bars, until use and old age accept them’. But he does try to protect Eowyn
from the lecherous Wormtongue, and when he thinks she’s died at the battle of the Pelennor Fields, he’s almost overthrown by grief. Best big brother to ride into battle with.
Edmund (The Chronicles of Narnia, CS Lewis)
Maybe not the obvious choice. But we think Edmund – after his experience with the White Witch, of course – would be a much more understanding big brother than the rather too perfect Peter. He’s quite forgiving of Eustace in The Voyage of The Dawn Treader, and we’d like to think he’d excuse any sisterly bad behaviour in the same way.
Fred and George Weasley (Harry Potter, JK Rowling)
All the Weasley boys are good older brother material – even Percy’s heart is back in the right place by the end of the series. But Fred and George are by far and away the most fun. With the twins around it would be impossible to be sad for long.
Alec Lightwood (The Mortal Instruments, Cassandra Clare)
Like Eomer, Alex would be a good choice if you needed a brother to fight at your side, but he also seems like someone you could discuss boyfriends with (despite his horror whenever he sees Izzy in a compromising position with Simon). Best big brother if your fictional adventure involves destroying demons.
Henry Tilney (Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen)
Henry is amusing, loves reading novels, and he’s happy to go shopping with his sister to help her choose dress fabric. The perfect big brother if you just want to hang out for the day.
Can true love's kiss save the day...?
Electrifying dark magic debut by authors and sisters, Katharine and Elizabeth Corr.
Sixteeen-year-old Meredith is fed-up with her feuding family and feeling invisible at school - not to mention the witch magic that shoots out of her fingernails when she's stressed. Then sweet, sensitive Jack comes into her life and she falls for him hard. The only problem is that he is periodically possessed by a destructive centuries-old curse.
Meredith has lost her heart, but will she also lose her life? Or in true fairytale tradition, can true love's kiss save the day?
Originally from Chicago, Julia Ember now resides in Edinburgh, Scotland. She spends her days working in the book trade and her nights writing teen fantasy novels. Her hobbies include riding horses, starting far too many craft projects, PokemonGo and looking after her city-based menagerie of pets with names from Harry Potter. Luna Lovegood and Sirius Black the cats currently run her life.
Julia is a polyamorous, bisexual writer. She regularly takes part in events for queer teens. A world traveler since childhood, she has now visited more than sixty countries. Her travels inspire the fantasy worlds she creates, though she populates them with magic and monsters.
Julia began her writing career at the age of nine, when her short story about two princesses and their horses won a contest in Touch magazine. In 2016, she published her first novel, Unicorn Tracks, which also focused on two girls and their equines, albeit those with horns. Her second novel, The Seafarer’s Kiss will be released by Interlude Press in May 2017. The book was heavily influenced by Julia’s postgraduate work in Medieval Literature at The University of St. Andrews. It is now responsible for her total obsession with beluga whales.
In August 2017, her third novel and the start of her first series, Tiger's Watch, will come out with Harmony Ink Press. In writing Tiger's Watch, Julia has taken her love of cats to a new level.
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Managing Writing, Chronic Illness and a Full-time Job
When I first suggested this post as a topic, I thought I would write a list of helpful hints and tips. Then I realised I am literally the worst at following my own advice. My personal management style has been more survival than true management. This post is going to be as much about what not to do as advice to follow; one author’s rumination on things she’s tried and how she’s going to do better (maybe).
I started writing with the goal of publication in 2014, after a several year hiatus from creative writing while I was in graduate school. I started working fulltime in early 2015, got my contract for Unicorn Tracks around the same time, and have since then published three books. I’ve suffered from both depression and anxiety since high school, both of which have been cyclical to an extent – striking with a force for a year, then remitting, then striking again. But in graduate school, I was also diagnosed with diabetes. At first, the doctors assumed it was type 2 because I was overweight, despite a long family history of relatives developing type 1 in their thirties. Type 1 affects your immune system. This year, after a series of infections, including shingles in my eyes, chronic joint pain and persistent visual aura migraines, I’ve also been diagnosed with MS.
If I’m honest with myself, my typical work week is about 55 hours. I work full time in the book industry, as a sales manager for a large Edinburgh based distributor. I have fairly typical hours there, 9-5 with occasional trade shows on weekends. In the evenings and weekends, I write, catch up on promotional things and manage my social media accounts. I struggle to be alone without working. When I have plans with others, it’s fairly easy for me to switch off. But when I’m alone, with a computer or a means of working, it’s hard for me to switch off and do something else. Even when I’m tired and I know I should crawl into bed and watch Netflix, when I know I have a lot to do and I’m not making progress my anxiety spikes. I know how unhealthy this is, and yet I can’t stop.
Sometimes, it takes living on the brink of exhaustion to learn your limits. I’ve learned mine this year. Releasing two books, in separate, new series, within the space of a summer, has been too much and has really taken its toll on my mental/physical health. I’ve learned that currently, with the amount I work outside of writing, I can’t realistically handle two launches in four months. When I came back from RTCon in Atlanta, after the launch of The Seafarer’s Kiss, I was ready to take a break. Knowing I couldn’t and reorganising myself to launch The Tiger’s Watch, has been one of the most draining experiences of my life. I think it’s important for authors to be honest that launching a book can take a huge mental toll. The rush and work of edits, the excitement and adrenaline that hit prior to launch, the lull that comes after, dealing with criticism … all of this drains your resources to cope. If you have a chronic illness, this is magnified. If you have deadlines for other projects at the same time, this already high level of stress just increases. I learned this year that I need time to recover after a launch.
I’m now trying to establish better working habits and boundaries for myself. Here is a list of things I’m trying to do, with varying success because often my workaholic brain takes over and I neglect these new rituals:
1) Learn to take actual holidays. In 2016 and 2017, I have used 80% of my holiday days on writing conferences. As an author, when I go to conferences, I go to work and to promote, not to relax. For 2018, my partner and I have already agreed that our big trip will be to Japan. I have allocated 60% of my holiday days to this trip already, and it will be an actual break.
2) Structured social media time. Social media can be a problem for me. On the one hand, I have published with small presses so far, and I know that having an active social media presence is therefore important to the sales of my books. But on the other, I think social media promotions have a diminishing returns factor. You can do too much. One or two teasers are great. People love them. By the time you get to the fifth – are people really paying attention anymore? Have they already pre-ordered the book? I’m trying to be better about allocating myself small windows for Twitter, and being conscious when I’ve probably reached all my followers and have reached the limit of what I can do.
3) Sleep more. I need 9-10 hours of sleep a night. This has increased with my illnesses, to the point where if I get 6-7 hours of sleep for more than one night in a row, I can almost guarantee that I’m going to get sick.
4) Take my medication. This seems like it should be obvious, but I know many writers who choose to come off their antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication because they believe it hampers their creativity. I think that this is true for me to an extent – I don’t have the same wild productivity spirts while medicated because my anxiety isn’t spurring them. However, I am able to make more gradual, consistent progress. If you’re prescribed medication for a condition – take it!
5) Do at least one thing a day for self-care. This could be anything away from my computer, like read a paperback in the bath, go for a walk, take a long country drive. Anything that gets me away from my computer and the temptation to work or go on social media.
6) Work on my internalized ableism. This one is probably the hardest to talk about, but I know that I have a lot of internalized ableism toward myself. I think this is common, and certainly is an experience that my spoonie friends relate to. It’s very hard to overcome the societal stigma that tells you you’re useless if you can’t work. Even if you would never think this about other people, changing your way of thinking about yourself is much more insidious. I am trying to being more mindful and remind myself of things I love about myself, that have nothing to do with success while working.
7) Know what distracts you in times of serious stress. One of my techniques for stress management (and I don’t know how healthy this is tbh, but it works) is obsession diversion. If I’m feeling overwhelmed with promotion and starting to obsess over it, I move onto something I can easily get hooked on. For me, this usually means starting a computer game. I get very easily invested in online worlds and sometimes the only way to distract myself from one social platform is to engage with another.
For those of you who also manage fulltime work with writing and illness, I am curious about how you manage. I think as a community, we can only start to help each other when people become more honest about their struggles. This post has been about mine, and coming to terms with my limits. I wish I had more perfect solutions to offer, but like any approach to wellness, people who claim to have all the answers usually don’t.
After a savage attack drives her from her home, sixteen-year-old Mnemba finds a place in her cousin Tumelo’s successful safari business, where she quickly excels as a guide. Surrounding herself with nature and the mystical animals inhabiting the savannah not only allows Mnemba’s tracking skills to shine, it helps her to hide from the terrible memories that haunt her.
Mnemba is employed to guide Mr. Harving and his daughter, Kara, through the wilderness as they study Unicorns. The young women are drawn to each other, despite that fact that Kara is betrothed. During their research, they discover a conspiracy by a group of poachers to capture the Unicorns and exploit their supernatural strength to build a railway. Together, they must find a way to protect the creatures Kara adores while resisting the love they know they can never indulge.
Having long-wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the mermen’s glacier. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.
Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from Loki. But such deals are never as one expects, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies.
Sixteen-year-old Tashi has spent their life training as an inhabiter, a soldier who spies and kills using a bonded animal. When the capital falls after a brutal siege, Tashi flees to a remote monastery to hide. But when the invading army turns the monastery into a hospital, Tashi catches the eye of Xian, the regiment’s fearless young commander.
Tashi spies on Xian’s every move. In front of his men, Xian seems dangerous, even sadistic, but Tashi sees a more vulnerable side of the enemy commander – a side that draws them to Xian.
When their spying reveals that everything the inhabiter's academy taught was a lie, Tashi faces a choice: save their country or the boy they've started to love? But while Tashi grapples with the decision, their volatile bonded tiger doesn't question her allegiances. Katala slaughters Xian’s soldiers, leading the enemy to hunt her. But an inhabiter’s bond to their animal is for life – when Katala dies, so will Tashi.
Crossing Borders: Writing The Jungle Pooja Puri
Earlier this year, the UK government announced its decision to end the Dubs Amendment. Like many, I too was disappointed by the verdict. The closure of the Calais refugee camp, more infamously known as ‘The Jungle’, resulted in a large number of young people being displaced onto the streets. The site had been the focus of much debate in recent years and its closure came under intense media scrutiny. The process was distressing to witness. Residents walked away from makeshift homes, belongings in hand. Others clashed with police in a desperate attempt to keep the lives they had created. They had all come here hoping for a second chance. Instead they found themselves moving onto a path of yet more uncertainty.
Such images, of course, are not unique to ‘The Jungle’. The war in Syria has driven countless people from their homes. Many now find themselves in refugee camps in neighbouring countries. Others continue to brave the journey across the sea to Europe in the hope of making a better life for themselves.
I was initially driven to write The Jungle after reading an article about the discovery of a body on the Norwegian coast. A young man had bought himself a wetsuit in the hope of swimming across the Channel. The thought of the courage and desperation involved in making such a decision really stayed with me. I began researching more about the camp. The more I read, the more I realised how young some of its residents were. I saw many harrowing accounts of boys, too young to be called men, attempting to jump a train in order to reach England. One had seen his cousin killed before his eyes. Others were badly injured. And yet each of them spoke of their future with hope. They had come this far, after all. They would try again. They would keep trying.
It was this most human determination which stood out for me whilst writing the story. When ‘The Jungle’ was first created it was little more than a clutch of tents. When it closed in 2016, it had grown into a society complete with shops and food stalls. The residents had endeavoured to create for themselves some semblance of normality. Nothing epitomized this idea more than a photograph of a group of young boys playing football between a cluster of muddied tents. With their futures so uncertain, they had taken control in the only way they could – through a game of football.
Although the camp has now closed, the futures of these young people remain largely unknown. Earlier this year, aid organisations reported that refugees, particularly unaccompanied minors, were returning to Calais. Many have taken to sleeping rough on the streets, yet media coverage has noticeably lessened since the camp’s closure. In our current fast-paced technological climate, it is increasingly easy to become desensitized to the stories we see or hear on media outlets.
That is why, I believe, books are so important. They do not allow us to forget. They do not let us switch to another channel or click away. Instead, they make us confront these realities. They allow us to ask questions. The power of imagination should not be underestimated. It can help us cross borders – to fully understand that those caught up in this terrible situation, young and old alike, are no different to us.
There was a story Jahir used to tell me. About how the first humans were born with wings. Can you imagine what that would be like? To fly anywhere in the world without worrying about having the right papers? Mico has left his family, his home, his future. Setting out in search of a better life, he instead finds himself navigating one of the world's most inhospitable environments - the Jungle. For Mico, just one of many 'unaccompanied children', the Calais refugee camp has a wildness, a brutality all of its own. A melting pot of characters, cultures, and stories, the Jungle often seems like its own strange world. But despite his ambitions to escape, Mico is unable to buy his way out from the 'Ghost Men' - the dangerous men with magic who can cross borders unnoticed. Alone, desperate, and running out of options, the idea of jumping onto a speeding train to the UK begins to feel worryingly appealing. But when Leila arrives at the camp one day, everything starts to change. Outspoken, gutsy, and fearless, she shows Mico that hope and friendship can grow in the most unusual places, and maybe, just maybe, they'll show you the way out as well.
Today I am very excited to have the wonderful Amy Alward on the blog with a guest post. Her new book, The Potion Diaries: Going Viral came out yesterday and, if you haven't started this trilogy yet DO IT! This is the last book and it was absolutely brilliant!
FIVE PLACES I WROTE THE POTION DIARIES: GOING VIRAL
Standing at the top of the active Villaricca volcano in Chile, lava bubbling away at my feet, all I could think was… get me a piece of paper and a pen, so I can write down this experience for my next book!
Of course… I didn’t actually get to write anything while at the top of the volcano – I had to wait until I’d walked (or, in some parts – slid!) down the mountain to get back to town, where my trusty notebook was waiting. The words flew onto the page after that! If you read Going Viral, you’ll be able to guess exactly what chapters I wrote in that café in Pucon…
Travel has always formed a big part of my writing experience – and nowhere is this more evident than in The Potion Diaries: Going Viral. It also means that while travelling, I got to explore some of the world’s greatest coffee shops-turned-offices-from-home! Here are some of the favourite places I wrote Sam Kemi’s adventures:
1) Café de la P, Pucon, Chile
Pucon is the small town at the base of the Villaricca volcano, and the population almost triples during the summer because of all the amazing outdoor activities around! I ordered ‘tea with milk’ at a small café in town while jotting down some of the volcano scenes in Going Viral, and ended up with a peppermint teabag in a bowl of milk froth. Not exactly what I was hoping for, but got some good words down anyway!
2) El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore, Argentina
In the running for one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, El Ateneo is a converted old theatre. An absolutely stunning and inspiring place to write, the coffee shop is situated on the stage. Delicious coffee, surrounded by books, sitting under a spotlight… not sure what could be better!
3) Borges Y Alvarez, El Calafate, Patagonia, Argentina
This ‘libro-bar’ is quite literally a bar inside a library – making it an uber cool place to write a few words. The town is also famous for its waffles and red wine… an odd combination, but it worked.
4) Guantanamera Yacht, Galapagos
If you check out this ‘Day in a Writing Life’ video from WH Smith’s [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-QUvvuDCys], you can see that I did a fair amount of work while on board a boat in the Galapagos! Not recommended if you get seasick, but I was so inspired to write about weird and wonderful magical creatures after seeing some of the wildlife of the Galapagos
5) Upper Rideau Lake, Ontario, Canada
For me, nothing beats writing by the lake (or fireside, in the winter time!) at my cottage in Canada. It’s peaceful, surrounded by beautiful trees and wildlife, and yet has all the creature comforts I need – including plenty of coffee! The bulk of Going Viral was written here; a place I was able to take a moment, absorb the months of travel, and translate them into the exciting, whirlwind adventures taken by Sam Kemi and her friends.
I hope you enjoyed reading about some of the places that inspired Going Viral – please feel free to get in touch with me on Twitter (@amy_alward) or on Instagram (@amyalward) to find out more about what (and where) I’m writing next :)
When the Princess of Nova accidentally poisons herself with a love potion meant for her crush, she falls crown-over-heels in lovewith her own reflection. Oops. A nationwide hunt is called to find the cure, with competitors travelling the world for the rarest ingredients, deep in magical forests and frozen tundras, facing death at every turn. Enter Samantha Kemi - an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent. Sam's family were once the most respected alchemists in the kingdom, but they've fallen on hard times, and winning the hunt would save their reputation. But can Sam really compete with the dazzling powers of the ZoroAster megapharma company? Just how close is Sam willing to get to Zain Aster, her dashing former classmate and enemy, in the meantime? And just to add to the pressure, this quest is ALL OVER social media. And the world news. No big deal, then.
Can you believe that, we are almost in September? I can't believe it. But to be honest I'm just counting down the days till I go to Florida next September.
With a new month comes new books! I am so excited for September and these are the top 5 I cannot wait for.
Can you fall in love with someone you've never met, never even spoken to - someone who is light years away? Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth - with a single passenger on board. A boy called J. Their only communication is via email - and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love.But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean? Sometimes, there's something worse than being alone...
Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since Aelin shattered the glass castle, since Chaol's men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken.
Now he and Nesryn sail for Antica - the stronghold of the southern continent's mighty empire and of the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme. It's Chaol's one shot at recovery, and with war looming back home, Dorian and Aelin's survival could depend on Chaol and Nesryn convincing Antica's rulers to ally with them.
But what they discover there will change them both - and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.
Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.
Bella Fisher is back - and is cool, calm and collected as ever. So:
NOT EVEN REMOTELY. Her fledgling relationship with Hot Adam seems to have stalled mid-flight (he isn't really speaking to her), her big sister Jo has gone off to university leaving Bella to deal with ditzy Mum on her own, something is up with her best-friend-dynamic with Tegan and Rachel and horror of horrors, horrendous ex-boyfriend Luke has an ACTUAL MODEL as his new girlfriend. Mum opens up a doggy ice cream parlour - Give a Dog a Cone - which Bella is forced to help out at on Saturdays. Yes, dressed up as a dog. For some light relief she enters a radio competition to secure a performance from hot band of the moment The Helicans at her school - but another contestant begins turning into her sabotaging nemesis. Throw in a suspicious new lodger and the world's most chaotic dog agility course and you've got another truly hilarious, truly relatable and truly madly awkward story!
An incandescent, soul-searching story about a broken young woman's search for a truth buried so deep it threatens to consume her, body and mind.These are the things Lux knows:She is an artist. She is lucky. She is broken.These are the things she doesn't know:What happened over the summer.Why she ended up in hospital.Why her memories are etched in red. 'The nightmares tend to linger long after your screams have woken you up ...'Desperate to uncover the truth, Lux's time is running out. If she cannot piece together the events of the summer and regain control of her fractured mind, she will be taken away from everything and everyone she holds dear.If her dreams don't swallow her first.
Today, I am very excited to welcome Sophie McKenzie to the blog. I am a huge fan of Sophie and have been reading her books since I was a teen. ALSO her new book SweetFreak is out today. I read it last month and it is brilliant.
Sophie is the award-winning author of a range of teen thrillers, including the Missing series (Girl, Missing, Sister, Missing and Missing Me), Blood Ties and Blood Ransom and the Medusa Project series. She has also written two romance series: the Luke and Eve books and the Flynn series, which starts with the novel Falling Fast. Split Second is her first teen stand-alone novel in seven years. Sophie's first novel for adults is the psychological thriller Close My Eyes.
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1. Tell me about SweetFreak…
In SweetFreak popular, confident Carey is framed for sending her best friend a death threat. The threat, traced to Carey’s laptop (which wasn’t hacked, is password protected and only bears Carey’s fingerprints) has been sent from an anonymous user calling themselves SweetFreak via a social media app that allows the user to manipulate photos of people to show them being killed. Carey’s world falls apart as her friends desert her and even her mother struggles to believe she is innocent. Carey fights back, determined to find out who SweetFreak really is and why they have targeted her.
2. What do you love about writing?
Everything! Seriously, I enjoy each stage: the planning, the actual writing and the editing afterwards. I particularly love getting lost in the story and the characters, in the same way that you do when you read a book you really enjoy. And I love the lifestyle that goes with writing too: being able to work to my own schedule, taking time off when I want and making it up later. It’s an amazing freedom.
3. What made you want to write about the topic bullying?
I kept coming across articles about online bullying and the horrific impact it can have. I found these stories of vulnerable teenagers with their lives ripped apart heartbreaking and it struck me how much easier social media (and its anonymity) makes it to bully people. I wanted to write about the impact of bullying, from all sorts of different angles, but to do so in the context of a suspense mystery – a book with a (hopefully) exciting story that might reach more people than a straightforward newspaper article or report.
4. Carey and Amelia go through a lot in this book and their friendship is hanging by the thread. Was there a reason you wanted to write about friendship and the ups and downs of it?
I’m fascinated by the ways human beings interact and what motivates us. Friendships between girls are often intense, especially when you are at that stage when you’re moving away from a primary reliance on family relationships but haven’t yet had a serious romantic involvement. Over the years I’ve written about all sorts of different relationships, but the ups and downs of young teen female friendship was something I really wanted to explore in this book.
5. Have you read anything recently that you've just loved?
I really enjoyed The Girls, by Emma Cline and also Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. On the younger teen front I’ve just discovered The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward, which are great too.
6. Are you working on anything at the moment?
I’m currently writing a reworking of a children’s classic which I loved as a girl. I’m about a quarter of the way through my first draft and thoroughly enjoying it! I can’t say anything else about the project just yet, but I’ll be revealing more soon on Facebook and Twitter. www.facebook.com/sophiemckenzieauthor @sophiemckenzie_
Get ready for a brand new edge-of-your-seat read from bestselling author Sophie McKenzie! When everyone thinks you're a liar, how hard will you fight for the truth?Carey and Amelia have been best friends forever. Then Amelia starts being trolled by SweetFreak, a mysterious and hateful online account, and Carey is accused of being behind the vicious comments and threats. Shut out by her other friends and shunned by Amelia, Carey is determined to clear her name and find out who's really sending the messages. But as the online attacks spill over into real life, events start spiralling out of control... Can Carey expose the real SweetFreak before it's too late?
John Young is a writer who is originally from Belfast and now lives near Edinburgh. A former lawyer, he founded and runs The Teapot Trust, a children’s art therapy charity, with his wife Laura. He was a Scottish Book Trust New Writer Award winner in 2013. His debut novel, Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist, is available now from KelpiesEdge.
It’s difficult to write a young adult novel (‘YA’) when the term young adult isn’t defined to any degree that’s helpful. Many writers rue the day that the term YA was coined – even a considerable percentage of target YA audience refuse to give the genre any credence. To which age range does this nefarious term refer? Does YA refer to the age of the characters or the age of the readers? Is YA its own cocktail of sub-genres of sci-fi, zombies, vampires wizards, false love and talking bears? I don’t know.
I do know that I love many so-called YA books, but that doesn’t make me a young adult nor does the term satisfactorily describe the beauty of much of young adult writing. So what is it?
From my own perspective, when I was within that vague young adult target range there was little for me to read between Enid Blyton and James Herbert. It was a culture shock for me to go from ginger beer to gouging rats. With that in mind, I wrote Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist for someone like me when I was a young adult and looking for something different. …Terminal Optimist is a black comedy about escapism. That’s what I needed when I was a young adult, to escape a school that failed; to run away from “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland with the clawing violence and aggression that prevailed at that time. I also wanted to laugh about it, because that was what we did.
Times were different then, and experiences vary from person to person. My own children think I’m joking when I say that I counted myself lucky to get home from school each day without being stabbed. Most kids I knew suffered through school pretending to be thick to avoid getting a kicking for being a swot. That’s no atmosphere to stimulate anything, never mind learning how to cope for the rest of your life. It was this ignorant vandalism of education that caused many people I knew to struggle upon leaving school. I walked out of school with an angry attitude aged 15 with my future balanced between crime and college.
In the end I chose crime – well, criminal law – and took a job in East End London, writing defence statements for convicted and remanded criminals. I was just a teenager, chatting to murderers, drug dealers, and armed robbers. Some were headcases, but many were not that different from me except their lives fell a different way, their life opportunities weren’t the same as mine, their motivations, influences and choices were negative. If they had been given a second chance, maybe things would have been different for them.
Few stories are written about disadvantaged kids, even fewer make the star character an ill child, because the danger is that their illness becomes the focus and I desperately wanted to avoid that. My experience of looking after a disabled and sick child is that people have the tendency to see the chair and the tubes and not the person, when what that child really needs is to get out and do stuff, laugh and be treated like everyone else. Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist tells the story of Connor running away from his care home, without the cancer medication that’s
keeping him alive, spurred on by the school bully and the need to see his dad. However, this isn’t a sick-lit story, it’s a bittersweet comedy about second chances in love, life, family and friendship.
It was written with the aim and hope of being as relevant and appealing to any YA reader as it is to any adult.
Quick-witted, sharp-tongued Connor Lambert won't take it any longer: the bullying, the secrets, the sympathy. He's been dying from cancer for years, but he's not dead yet. He's going down fighting.
Forming an unlikely friendship with fellow juvenile delinquent Skeates, the pair stage a break out and set off on a crazy tour across Scotland -- dodging the police, joy riding and extreme partying -- to find Connor's dad, an inmate at Shotts prison.
But Connor's left two things behind -- the medication he needs to keep him alive, and the girl who makes living bearable.
A fresh and bold debut novel full of heart, guts and raw emotion. Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist is a brilliantly funny, thrilling exploration of friendship, identity and mortality populated with witty, sharply drawn characters.
Today I have the lovely Perdita & Honor Cargill on the blog today with a guest post, extract AND giveaway. Perdita & Honor have been so wonderful to giveaway both of their books signed, bookmarks and a notebook and one of you lucky lot will win it. Just head to my twitter to find out how you can win.
Honor and I almost fell into writing and collaborating. Honor’s brief (but weird) experience of professional child acting gave us the idea (our main character, Elektra, is a child actor), we had a shared love of stories and we had a long (boring) family holiday together to give us the space to get started…
What’s almost more surprising is that we’re still writing together nearly three books in - we’re editing the third Waiting for Callback book right now (send chocolate). In the meantime, Honor has finished school and gone off to Uni. We’re not at home together and she’s got student life and niche Roman/Greek stuff to distract her. How are we making it work?
I guess first, we’re lucky that we never got used to working in the same space. If we’d tried the whole side-by-side thing we’d have murdered each other by now. Instead we always gossiped plot together and then separated to write (me, mostly in the attic, Honor, mostly in cafes with excellent cake supplies). We always swap everything we’ve written and get brutally stuck in criticizing and re-writing until we’re both happy and it all smooths out. We can work this way as easily London/Oxford as when Honor was at home and we still do as much as we can in the holidays. It helps too, that we’ve got different strengths. Honor does more of the actual writing, especially dialogue, and I do more editing and structuring.
But the most important reason we’re still writing together is that it’s fun. And it’s more fun because it’s shared. That doesn’t mean that it’s not hard work, it’s so much work – but there’s two of us to share it. We’re each other’s first readers; we make each other laugh - not least when we’re writing the fictional Mum/Daughter bits…
We thought it would be fun to have an extract that showed that relationship, so here’s Chapter 4 of Take Two. Elektra’s in the kitchen with her mum. She’s just got her contract to ‘star’ in a movie… everything’s good until, Oh God, her mum switches her (full-on) attention to Elektra’s love interest, Archie… Enjoy!
When Elektra is discovered by an acting agent, she imagines Oscar glory can't be far away, but instead lurches from one cringe-worthy moment to the next! Just how many times can you be rejected for the part of 'Dead Girl Number Three' without losing hope? And who knew that actors were actually supposed to be multi-lingual, play seven instruments and be trained in a variety of circus skills? Off-stage things aren't going well either - she's fallen out with her best friend, remains firmly in the friend-zone with her crush and her parents are driving her crazy. One way or another, Elektra's life is now spent waiting for the phone to ring - waiting for callback. Can an average girl-next-door like Elektra really make it in the world of luvvies and starlets?
Today I have the lovely Akemi Dawn Bowman on the blog today with an interview with Katie over at QueenOfTeenFiction and Zoe from Ourfirstyearhere.
Akemi Dawn Bowman is the author of Starfish. She’s a proud Ravenclaw and Star Wars enthusiast, who served in the US Navy for five years and has a BA in social sciences from UNLV. Originally from Las Vegas, she currently lives in England with her husband, two children, and their Pekingese mix. Starfish will be published later this year (9/26/17, Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster), with a second YA contemporary to follow in Fall 2018. She is represented by Penny Moore of Empire Literary.
Photo by Rory Lewis Photography.
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Kiko is half-Japanese, which is awesome! What lead to you writing her with this heritage?
When I started writing Starfish, I knew I wanted to write the book I needed most as a teenager. I’m half-Japanese myself, and when I was growing up there just weren’t books that reflected a biracial experience like mine. And I knew in my heart when I decided to write a contemporary that this was the book I needed to write. I wrote Kiko to reflect my heritage, so that in turn she’d be able to reflect someone else’s—someone who’s still searching the bookshelves for the story I could never find.
What sort of research did you have to do before writing Starfish?
Starfish is very much the book of my heart. And I guess in a lot of ways, I’d already done the research simply by living through the experiences that I have. Starfish is about identity and family and healing, and how all three can sometimes be tangled together. I want to preface this next part by saying that not everybody has the same experience, and biracial people are not a monolith. But my experience was very similar to Kiko’s; I grew up with a feeling of not belonging—of being both not Asian enough and not white enough—and it really affected the way I saw myself. I’ve also lived with social anxiety for most of my life, which Kiko also has. So I think this book was less about research and more about taking pieces of my own experiences and reshaping them into a story that felt both organic and important. I didn’t write a biography, but I wrote the book I think would have helped me immeasurably if I’d only had the chance to read it in high school.
Is there a character that you found the most challenging to write about?
I think Kiko’s mother was the most challenging in some ways, because I created a character who doesn’t treat her children very kindly, but doesn’t necessarily have a big, eye-opening backstory as to why. She is incredibly narcissistic, but also has no idea how much she’s hurting people—Kiko specifically—because she has an inability to look past her own feelings and needs.
I think anyone who has experience with a parent similar to Kiko’s will see something familiar on the page. But on the flipside, those who don’t might be looking for an explanation as to why she is the way she is. They’ll want redemption or closure or a reason. But sometimes the people with parents like Kiko’s don’t get to have this. They don’t get an explanation in real life. And I think that might be tough for some people to understand, and so the challenge for me as a writer was to decide who I’m writing this story for—the majority who might not understand, or the minority who will?
And ultimately, I wanted to write a book for the people who don’t often see themselves represented, and that includes those who have grown up with trauma from an emotionally abusive parent. And I hope it helps some people, and that it resonates with those who really need it. I’ve had some wonderful readers already reach out to say that Starfish, for them, was like finally being “seen”—and that honestly means everything to me.
What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
That healing doesn’t happen overnight. That beauty isn’t just one thing. That sometimes you can be both okay and not okay, and that I see you—I understand you. And I want readers to feel a sense of hope, and to embrace who they are and believe that they absolutely belong in this world just as much as anybody else.
What inspired you to write Starfish?
I think I already tapped into this a bit in my earlier answers, but I wanted Starfish to be a mirror for readers who don’t often get to see themselves in books.
Were you a childhood bookworm? And if so, what were your favourite books?
Yes, absolutely! When I was really young I used to devour Nancy Drew and Baby-sitters Little Sister books like they were candy. I was also really into the Goosebumps series, and I’m pretty sure I read Night of the Living Dummy at least fifty times. As I got older, I discovered His Dark Materials and the Harry Potter series, and they basically changed my life forever.
Would you say Kiko is like you at all?
I’m sitting here laughing, because if anyone I knew was standing over my shoulder right now they’d be screaming “YES!” so loudly. When I was drafting Starfish, I was never consciously trying to make Kiko and I similar. But I think because of the nature of the story and the shared experiences of identity and social anxiety, there are definitely similarities there. That being said, I think it’s a lot more fair to say that Kiko starts off similar to how I was in high school. But Kiko is so much stronger than I was, and her journey and growth is what I wish I’d had years ago. Also, Kiko doesn’t like Batman, which is so not like me at all. And okay, I might have put that in the book on purpose so I could point it out to my family and say, “SEE, WE’RE NOT THE SAME PERSON AT ALL,” but still. I love Batman! So we’re not exactly alike!
Do you have any writing or editing rituals?
I like to have a chai latte or a sugary snack (Milk Duds, preferably!) to sit down with, but I don’t know if that’s a ritual so much as just me having a sweet tooth. I have a three-year-old and a one-year-old, so when I get a window of time to write, I’m in full-force light-speed mode trying to get every single word on the page in one sitting. I kind of write in bulk at odd hours, and I’m exhausted literally all the time, but it’s the only way I can get anything done. I’m so disappointed in myself for not having a cooler answer for this. Other authors have epic playlists and the most gorgeous sticker charts and post-it setups for edits, and I basically eat chocolate and write until my face feels like it’s going to fall off or one of my kids starts crying—whichever comes first.
Did you visit any of the art schools for research? And if so, did you have a favourite? –
All of the art schools are fictional, so there wasn’t any research there. That being said, the architecture and style was loosely based off of various campuses I’ve seen over the years. Brightwood was definitely my favorite—I love trees and flowers and nature. Being surrounded by so much green helps with my creativity, so I thought it was a perfect setting for an art school!
A gorgeous and emotionally resonant debut novel about a half-Japanese teen who grapples with social anxiety and her narcissist mother in the wake of a crushing rejection from art school.
Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she's thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn't quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.
But then Kiko doesn't get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.
From debut author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes a luminous, heartbreaking story of identity, family, and the beauty that emerges when we embrace our true selves.