Thursday 30 April 2015

Interview with 'Orkney Twilight' author Clare Carson

Happy Thursday, readers! Today I have a very exciting author interview for you, the writer of an awesome thriller called Orkney Twilight. I don't usually cover adult books on Delightful Book Reviews, but after reading the press release I was intrigued and really wanted to see what it was about! I am halfway through and I must say I am totally hooked. The story behind Orkney Twilight is utterly fascinating... the author's father was an undercover policeman himself and in the novel she explores what it's really like to be so close to someone, yet not really know anything about them at all. I was fortunate enough to be able to speak to Clare Carson all about writing unsettling narratives, creating the hugely diverse mix of characters within the novel, and what it was really like to have a Dad who also doubles as an undercover cop...

How did you find inspiration to write Orkney Twilight?
The inspiration came from two main sources. When I was a kid, my dad worked as an undercover cop. I thought of him as a master storyteller. The second source was our regular childhood holidays in Orkney – I was intrigued by the cairns and stone circles littering the island, the sense of ancient mysteries. The two fused in my mind as a story about individual and collective mythmaking.

The presentation of Jim in the novel is very ambiguous. How did you want the reader to feel about him as a character? 
Ambiguous. The thrillers I love – the ones that raise unsettling moral questions - have ambiguous characters at their core. I don’t think Jim is any more ambiguous than Alec Leamas in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Having said that, Jim has a peculiar charisma, and some people who have read the book do adore him.

How far is Sam based on yourself in your teenage years?
Sam is nothing like me. She shares some of my teenage experiences, but she is a completely different character. One of my sources for Sam was Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Maybe I should have called the book  Sam’s Adventures in Undercoverland.

In Orkney Twilight, the reader travels along with Sam to discover the truth about Jim, which results in an unsettling narrative with many twists and turns. How did you achieve this effect?
My primary device for unsettling the narrative was using Sam’s perspective to tell the story. The book is written in the third person, but everything is seen through her eyes. I understood Sam, in many ways, as a neo-noir protagonist in the Big Lebowski mould. She is an insider-outsider who doesn’t know exactly what is going on, sometimes doesn’t want to find out and isn’t always capable of revealing what she thinks and feels. She sees many important events but doesn’t necessarily interpret them correctly. 

Tom seems to be portrayed as the one who is never afraid to ask questions. How integral is he to the progression of the story?
Tom is central. When the object of the story is as ambiguous as Jim, and the protagonist is as blurry-eyed and conflicted as Sam, you need a more focused character to keep the plot moving along the straight and narrow. Sam tries to sideline him. But then she would, wouldn’t she?

Sum up Orkney Twilight in three words.
Who to believe?

Thank you for being interviewed, Clare!

 Check out Clare Carson here:

Until next time :)

Wednesday 29 April 2015

Project Remix

Hello, readers! As you might know, I have been writing for a very long time, but did not show a single person my work until I was thirteen or fourteen. My Dad knew I was an introvert about my writing, but he also knew that I wanted nothing more than to become a writer one day. However, being an introvert about my work and wanting to publish aren't easily cohesive, so he suggested that I join a teen writing website called Since then, loads of amazing things have happened to me, and a great number of them are due to Movellas! With their amazing community, invaluable support and great competitions I gradually emerged out of my shell and became proud of my writing for the first time ever. Throughout all the years I was active on the site I entered many of the competitions (I was only successful in a few of them!) and this boosted my confidence hugely, and reminded me that it might someday be possible to pursue my dream of becoming a writer.

A couple of weeks ago, I received a very exciting email regarding one of these competitions. However, it was unlike anything I had ever come across before on the site. This competition was one of the most exciting competitions for young people that I have ever heard about before. The email was regarding an invitation to the awards ceremony of a competition called Project Remix, a competition to find the UK’s best young writers and creatives. The competition encouraged young people aged 13-19 years to take inspiration from their favourite writers to make their own creative work in response to their books and stories. The possibilities for entries were enormous: Write a fanfic, design an alternative cover, reboot a story for their own spin-off comic strip, or even write a piece of original music inspired by a writer's work.

Even more exciting; the Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman herself chose her favourite entries in each category. There were hundreds of entries, all from the categories of:

. Creative writing: write your own piece of fiction inspired by your chosen book, story or poem. Word limit: up to 2,000 words.

. Comic strip: create your own comic strip inspired by your chosen book, story or poem. Limit: up to three A4 pages.

. Cover design: design or illustrate your own alternative cover for your chosen book.

. Book trailer: produce a book trailer – a short piece of film, like a film trailer – for your chosen book, story or poem. Limit: up to 2 minutes.

. Music: write and perform a song or a piece of original music inspired by your chosen book, story or poem. Limit: up to 3 minutes.

The Movellas Team and Malorie Blackman were astounded with the incredible quality and diversity of all the entries, and I think this shows how talented teenagers are, and how much they can achieve when they really put their minds to it. 

As soon as I heard about this competition and the awards ceremony I knew that it was something I wanted to follow up and spread the word about; anything that includes inspiring teenagers to get creative is something I will be interested in! I couldn't wait to meet the young people whose entries had blown away the Children's Laureate and speak to them about their creative endeavours. When I joined Movellas back in 2012 the site was mainly focused on creative writing, with a sparse number of book trailers and book cover design. It was amazing to see how the site had evolved, and how competitions like these were reaching out to a greater number of young people, appealing to all different kinds of interests.

A few posts will popping up over the next couple of weeks with interviews with the winners and an outline of the event- keep your eyes peeled!

Check out Movellas and Project Remix here:

Until next time :)

Saturday 25 April 2015

World Book Night Flagship Event!

Happy Saturday, readers! Today I have a very exciting post for you... As promised, a run-down of the World Book Night Flagship event at the Shaw Theatre in London. Over the past couple of weeks I have been lucky enough to be involved in WBN and publishing posts such as author interviews and my own reading journey. Hence, I was really looking forward to attending the Flagship event, as many authors that inspire me were attending, and it was set to be a fantastic celebration of what World Book Night aspires to do.

The Shaw Theatre is a beautiful, modern venue with a lovely foyer area and an even lovelier theatre. It was fantastic to see so many people there; all of whom I knew loved books as much as I do. I saw many people from different publishing companies, PR agencies, charities and booksellers. Waterstones was even there selling all of the books from the shortlist, and there were plenty of people buying the wonderful books that we would be hearing about later that night. 

In the theatre, we were welcomed by Sue Wilkinson MBE, the Chief Executive of the Reading Agency, who gave an inspiring talk about everything that the Reading Agency does to encourage people to start reading, the importance of World Book Night and the integral value of books in themselves. The excitement in the venue grew as we were given a run down of the authors we would be hearing about that night, and the reading journeys we would discover as the evening went on. 

David Almond was the first author on stage, and it was not only a thoroughly enjoyable and inspirational talk, but the passion he felt for books, reading and writing came across so powerfully. I am a huge fan of David Almond's novel A Song for Ella Grey and it was so wonderful to hear about him explain what an honour it is for him to write for young people. There were only a handful of young people in the audience (including me) and the  way he addressed criticisms he hears every day for example young people don't read anymoreteenagers don't enjoy books, they don't care about literature was very emotional; I hear things like that said too, and it made such an impact to hear them addressed by one of my favourite authors. David Almond also spoke about his own reading journey and the part imagination has played in both his reading and writing throughout the years. He made some incredibly interesting points about how reading and writing can be merged to be seen as one entity; how imagination has not only affected his writing but his reading also. The continued importance and unfortunate dismissal of libraries was also discussed, and there were several murmurs of approval from the audience as we all concurrently agreed that libraries are an invaluable part of all of our reading lives. David Almond called libraries one of the most important human institutions, and writing a product of humanity's desire to 'create something beautiful'. It was a wonderful start to the evening, and demonstrated not only the importance of World Book Night but of authors like David Almond who care so passionately about what he does.

We heard many other fabulous authors talk about their individual reading journeys and read out sections from their own work. In my opinion, there's nothing quite like listening to books you have read and loved being read out loud by the person who wrote the words. It is also wonderful watching the passion as they read out the story they prepared so intricately months, years before. It's kind of like going to see your kid at their first ever ballet show or school play. You're like woah, I made that. Books are people's babies, and the readers share and invest in the experience as much as the author does. Sarah Winman's first chapter of When God Was a Rabbit and Irvine Welsh's reading held me utterly engrossed and I believed every word they said when they told us that they wouldn't have written their work without the books they had read. It was also amazing to hear
Elizabeth Fremantle read a section of The Queen's Gambit and talk about the 'superpowers' of reading. I thoroughly agreed when she pointed out that people who read are the most attractive people, and the people who are best to fall in love with ;)

One of the highlights of the event was definitely hearing Akala perform his epic poem; he is a totally awesome guy and a huge inspiration for young people everywhere. The fuse of poetry and rap was a beautiful combination and it was definitely something I had never heard of before. Lynda La Plante had us all in stitches recounting the moment when she thought a ghost knocking at her door when it was in fact an audiobook of Wuthering Heights; the moment when Heathcliff is yelling Cathy's name across the moors. Blaine Harden's story about how at college Conrad's Heart of Darkness changed his mindset about nearly everything, and opened up a world where words meant something. But most of all, it was just a bloody good read, and I think that sometimes that's all it takes for someone to start reading. It's not always about deep meaningful discussions or a moment of sudden inspiration, but the times when a book simply speaks to you. 

And lastly, Annabel Pitcher's impromptu poem of her reading journey, from Flat Stanley to Emily Brontë and Harry Potter was absolutely incredible, and put into words so perfectly not only the point to World Book Night, but the books and authors that make it such an incredible, inspiring and potentially for many people, who don't read, a life changing event.

I'd just like to thank you all for sticking with me the past couple of weeks, SO MANY of you have checked out my WBN posts and I am so grateful for all the people who have shared it and spread the word! THANK YOU xxx

I am attending a very exciting event on Monday... So I will keep you posted on that!

Check out all the WBN links below:

Until next time :)

 Hehe sneaky little add-on on the end here.... A STREETCAT NAMED BOB <3 

Wednesday 22 April 2015

A World Book Night Special: Interview with Elizabeth Fremantle

Happy Wednesday, readers! Today (the day before World Book Night) I have a special interview for you, with the amazing Elizabeth Fremantle! Elizabeth is the author of many wonderful historical novels including 'Queen's Gambit', which is one of the titles for World Book Night, and I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to speak with her all about World Book Night, the 'transformative qualities of literature' and even her own reading journey...

How are you involved in World Book Night?

I’m going to be at the WBN event at the Shaw Theatre in London, talking about why reading is a superpower.
I was a book-giver on the first WBN in 2011, when I was a struggling writer in search of a book deal, so to have Queen’s Gambit amongst so many brilliant titles, and to be part of the WBN flagship event is very special indeed on a personal level. 

 Why do you think projects like this are important?

Anything that reminds people of the transformative qualities of literature and encourages people to discover the pleasures of a good book has got to be a good thing.
What is your own 'reading journey'?

The first novels that truly captured my imagination as a small child were Frances Hodgeson-Burnett’s The Little Princess and The Secret Garden. 
I graduated onto Laura Ingalls-Wilder’s autobiographical tales of life in a pioneer family, which I read countless times, never tiring of them. 
It was Jean Plaidy who whet my appetite for historical fiction, aged about twelve. 
If I’m sad I always turn to PG Wodehouse, because he makes me laugh out loud; I’m a fan of Patricia Highsmith, F Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, Stephan Zweig, to name only a few. 
Of contemporary authors I read everything Sarah Waters writes, I love Rose Tremain, Hilary Mantel and there are many more, far too many to name here. 

What is your personal favourite in the World Book Night titles? (not including your own, of course!)

It’s hard to choose between so many wonderful books but I’m going to say Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. She’s a wonderful writer and it’s an utterly beguiling novel.

Do you think the Government should play a part in getting people reading? If so, what could they do?

I used to volunteer in my local primary school, helping children who struggled with reading, working with them one-on-one. What always made me sad was the level to which volunteers were relied upon, making the help they needed inconsistent. When work made it difficult for me to continue with it, it was devastating to think that the children I’d been working with might no longer continue to get the help they needed. 
Some children, for whatever reason, have parents who are unable to read with them at home. So I suppose I’d like to see increased funding to help those children and their parents.

What got you reading? 

I was always a natural bookworm, reading was a refuge for me and so I needed no encouragement. I still tend to read at least a book a week, and never go anywhere without a book in my bag. 

Thank you, Elizabeth, for being interviewed on my blog! 

Tomorrow I will be attending the World Book Night flagship event at the Shaw Theatre in London, and I look forward to seeing Elizabeth and many other exciting names there. Also, look forward to a write up of that event!

Check out Elizabeth Fremantle here:

Check out World Book Night here:

You can still buy tickets for the Flagship event here:

Until next time :)

Sunday 19 April 2015

A World Book Night Special: Rachel Joyce's 'The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry' (*****)

Happy Sunday, readers! Today I have another World Book Night special for you, this time a review of one of the featured titles on the World Book Night list 2015. Following World Book Night 2014, national charity The Reading Agency which runs the programme, conducted a survey of World Book Night volunteers who had the chance to suggest the title they would most like to give away as part of the programme. Rachel Joyce’s bestselling The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry has been selected from the volunteers’ picks to be a title for 2015, in recognition of the inspiring work of the World Book Night volunteers who champion reading for pleasure through social action in their communities.

Intrigued? Here is the blurb...

When Harold Fry nips out one morning to post a letter, leaving his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other. He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone. All he knows is that he must keep walking. To save someone else’s life.

I read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry last week and thoroughly enjoyed it- I was struck by the protagonist, Harold Fry, and the strength and determination he showed throughout the book. He is such an inspirational and unique character, and throughout the book you really feel as if you get to know him; his strengths, his failures, his wishes, his downfalls. The special thing about Harold is that he is not perfect, he is utterly human. As you read you learn that he is not on the 'pilgrimage' for any other reason but to fix the mistakes of his past and to rediscover his sense of self. Rachel Joyce writes beautifully and does not reveal everything in the first chapter, but scatters in the truth sparingly, so the reader is discovering things about Harold and his life as Harold reflects on his past mistakes, and sets about trying to fix them.

The whole book is one big adventure. It pulls the reader in and doesn't let them go until the very last page. It is a roller coaster of emotions, and although it is a highly emotional read, you feel satisfied and happy at the end. Throughout the book you can't keep but wonder how you would manage on such a journey, and how far you would go to save someone else, and yourself, before it is too late. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, more than anything, is a story about love, how one manages it, and everything that gets in the way. It questions how much one can sacrifice for love, and the difficulty of sometimes expressing it.

Overall, I loved the journey that this book brought me on. However young, or old, you are, wherever you live or whatever you do, this book speaks to you. It appeals to the most objective element of our humanity, and renders you speechless when it is over. 

Check out Rachel Joyce here:

Check out World Book Night here:

Buy The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry here:

Until next time :)

Saturday 18 April 2015

A World Book Night Special: My Reading Journey

I have always been a reader. It has defined me, shaped me, and created the person I have become today. If you had told me when I was little that at 17, I would be reviewing books on my own blog and on the Huffington Post, I would not have been surprised in the least. Ever since I was younger, I have always known that books and reading would play a huge part in my future. 

Reading was one of the first things I learned to do. The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker was the first book I read at about 6 years old, closely followed by Teddy Robinson Stories by Joan G. Robinson. After my parents had tucked me up in bed at 7pm, I would grab my torch and read these until I fell asleep. I used to think that reading was one of the naughtiest and secretive things you could do. After reading and re-reading these books, I would trace the illustrations and write my own versions (probably the earliest fanfiction!) and write my name in felt tip in the inside cover, so everyone would know that these books belonged to me. This has remained a constancy; I am not more possessive about anything else in my life more than my books. 

There has never been a moment in my childhood where I have not been reading. I can think of a few hundred books that I can say that I have loved, but few books have changed me. There have been books that have challenged my way of thinking, books that have made me cry, made me laugh, made me look at myself a little differently. There have been few books that have actually changed me as a person. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell has made me less scared of studying creative writing at university, If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch has made me treasure my siblings more, She is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick has taught me that it is okay, and sometimes better to be different.

But the book that has changed me? Villette by Charlotte Brontë. It is by far not the most popular and widely-acclaimed Brontë novel, not by a long shot. But when I read it last summer, it taught me so many things. It taught me that it's okay to challenge, and be scared by, religion. It taught me that improving yourself, whether academically or your sense image, is completely normal, and it takes time. It taught me that when you feel your most alone, you will always get through it, and it isn't about someone else helping you, it is about you helping yourself. And finally, it taught me that unrequited love is one of the most painful and soul-destroying emotions to ever be felt by a person. Villette has taught me to challenge the world around me, to always ask questions, and to always have a firm grasp on what I want from life. There is nothing in life that is more important in life than having a sense of direction, and a purpose.

I would love to hear your reading journey. Share it below!

Visit the World Book Night page:

Until next time :)

Friday 17 April 2015

World Book Night 2015

Happy Friday, readers! I apologise but for the rest of this week and most of next week I will be overwhelming you with posts... All very exciting, however! This year, I am fortunate enough to be involved with World Book Night 2015 (with The Reading Agency), a great project aiming to get the whole nation reading and loving what they read. It involves 20,000 volunteers from all over the UK handing out 400,000 free books they love to the public, and hopefully encouraging them to continue reading for pleasure. In conjunction with FmCM Associates, I will be writing some features all about World Book Night this year, including book reviews, author Q+As and even my own 'reading journey'...

The lovely Sanne from BooksandQuills has made a video about her involvement with World Book Night, and the book she has chosen to give away is Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. She has packaged them up into gorgeous little presents and has given them away, and left them in places where people will find them and pick them up.

Thousands of volunteers are doing the same thing all over country, and I am determined to do my bit to support this fantastic project! In my next few blog posts I will be spreading the world of World Book Night, sharing my favourites, and commenting on my own 'reading journey'. This year sees a sensational and diverse line up designed to bring reading and books into people’s lives. The list (featured below) covers a range of genres including crime, poetry, non-fiction, Quick Reads, fantasy and sci-fi, historical and contemporary fiction, and fiction in translation.

Appearing on the list are bestselling favourites, including Lynda La Plante’s Prime Suspect, David Almond’s Skellig, and Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. The incredible Roddy Doyle is also featured with his first Quick Read title, the spooky comedy Dead Man Talking. Also on the list this year is TV and radio personality Karl Pilkington’s hilarious comedy, The Moaning of Life – a book which is sure to appeal to his fans and to tempt those who are not yet regular readers to try a book on World Book Night. As well as these amazing books, World Book Night is able to include a wonderful anthology of poetry on the list for the first time, Essential Poems from the Staying Alive Trilogy edited by Neil Astley.

World Book Night 2015 is focusing on reaching out to as many readers as possible from all parts of the country and many public participation events through partnerships with libraries, bookshops, communities and charities, will be taking place in venues and open public spaces in celebration.

Interested? Here are the 20 titles especially selected for 2015:

1. After the Fall by Charity Norman (Allen and Unwin)

2. Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M. C. Beaton (Constable, Little, Brown) 

3. Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb (HarperCollins)

4. Chickenfeed by Minette Walters (Quick Read) (Pan Macmillan) 

5. Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts by Mary Gibson (Head of Zeus)

6. Dead Man Talking by Roddy Doyle (Quick Read) (Vintage, Penguin Random House)

7. Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden (Pan Macmillan)

8. Essential Poems from the Staying Alive Trilogy, Neil Astley (ed.) (Bloodaxe)

9. Honour by Elif Shafak (Penguin General, Penguin Random House)

10. My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher (Orion / Hachette Children’s) 

11. Prime Suspect by Lynda La Plante (Simon & Schuster)

12. Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle (Michael Joseph, Penguin Random House)

13. Skellig by David Almond (Hachette Children’s)

14. Spring Tide by Cilla and Rolf Börjlind (Hesperus)

15. Street Cat Bob by James Bowen (Quick Read) (Hodder)

16. The Martian by Andy Weir (Ebury, Penguin Random House) 

17. The Moaning of Life by Karl Pilkington (Canongate)

18. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (Transworld, Penguin Random House)

19. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (Two Roads, John Murray)

20. When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman (Headline)

There will be lots of posts coming up in the next few days all about World Book Night- I can't wait to share them with you!

Until next time :)

Thursday 16 April 2015

Ryan Graudin's 'Wolf By Wolf' Afternoon Tea (and Cover Reveal!)

Happy Thursday readers! Today I will be talking about a very exciting event I was lucky enough to be invited to on Sunday- an afternoon tea at Waterstones Piccadilly 5th View, with the one and only Ryan Graudin! A while ago I reviewed her amazing novel The Walled City here, and I also did the UK blog tour for Walled City when Ryan wrote a post about her top writing tips. So, as you can imagine, I was incredibly excited to meet Ryan, and chat to her with the other UKYA bloggers who attended.

The only thing I was looking forward to more than the DELICIOUS cake (that is always on hand during blogger events for some reason!) was being able to take home a proof of Ryan's new novel to be released in October later this year. Wolf By Wolf has been described as X-Men meets Inglorious Bastards meets The Book Thief- if you're not excited about this book then I don't know what's wrong with you! After some coffee and chatting to the other UKYA bloggers, we all gathered around the cake-stuffed table and Ryan introduced herself. We started with discussing Walled City (as most of us had been part of the UK blog tour) and Ryan told us a bit of her inspiration for writing it and some of the amazing travel experiences she had had. After this we moved on to discuss Wolf By Wolf, and Ryan read us the first chapter, leaving us all utterly speechless. The first chapter was dramatic, heart-breaking and left me and the other bloggers breathless. 

We were then told some very exciting news. We were the first people EVER to see the UK cover of Wolf By Wolf, so we did a cover reveal to let all of our followers know what the UK cover was going to look like. It was such an honour to be one of the small group of people chosen to reveal the UK cover (which is stunning, by the way!) See the picture here:

After some more informal chatting over tea and MORE cake, Ryan signed our copies of A Walled City and Wolf By Wolf and we all wrapped up our conversations. It was lovely to go out for coffee with Jim (check out his blog) and Lily (check out her blog) after, and talk some more YA! It was so great to meet both of them, when the content of our blogs are so similar, although theirs are a lot more advanced and professional than mine! 

A HUGE thank you to Fierce Fiction and Nina Douglas for organising this fabulous afternoon tea, all the UKYA bloggers who were so lovely and especially to Ryan Graudin, who gave up her time to come and meet us!

Check out Ryan Graudin's amazingly beautiful website here.

Check out Wolf By Wolf here.

Until next time :)

Wednesday 15 April 2015

'The Minnow' by Diana Sweeney (*****)

*WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS*. I was sent a copy of The Minnow by FmCM Associates in exchange for an honest review :)

There haven't been many books that I have finished and had that period of silent reflection where I have thought woah. I flipping wish I had written this. There has to be that tenderness, that intensity, the pull you feel towards the characters that you can't help but get unconditionally drawn to. The Minnow was without question one of those books, for me. In my previous blog post, my interview with the author Diana Sweeney, I explored the idea of the coastal community, and how pivotal it was to the magical, watery atmosphere created in the book. When the setting is so contricted and the characters are confined to the small island that is, inevitably, their world, the stories that they tell intensify to the point of no return. 

The Minnow is a tragically beautiful story following fifteen-year-old Tom and her journey to regaining her sense of self after the tragic flood that devastated her whole world and killed her parents and sister, Sarah. Tom is an unquestionably strong character who has had wrong after wrong after wrong commited to her. Entrusted to family friend, Bill, after the flood, Tom is sexually abused and finds herself pregnant with 'the Minnow'. The events that follow will change her, and everyone else around her, forever. Alongside her best friend and loyal companion, Jonah, Tom realises that she is never on her own.

The Minnow is not only a story about tragedy, however. There is a persistent hopeful tone throughout, as Tom continues to look at the things in life she is grateful for. The childish, slightly broken-sounding Tom at the beginning is radically different from the young woman at the end of the novel, and the reader leaves the story with the feeling that things can only get better. The story is a journey; about acceptance, friendship, and most of all, about moving forward. Sometimes you cannot forget the past, but moving forward with it and changing it into a better future is often the best thing to do.

Tom's strength is infectious, and The Minnow challenges your misconceptions about everything in life. In a world where everything has been turned on its head, Tom remains persistently unwavering, for herself and her baby. The Minnow is a story that doles out misery and hope in equal measure, keeping with the message that nothing is better than the tiny pleasures in life. Family doesn't always come in the category of 'normal', but the family you shape for yourself is often much more important.

You can buy The Minnow here:

Until next time :)

Monday 6 April 2015

Interview with Diana Sweeney- author of 'The Minnow'

Hello, readers of my blog! Today, I have a very exciting post where I will be talking to the author of a very beautiful book, The Minnow, Diana Sweeney. There will be a review of this stunning book soon, but in the meantime, here is Diana talking about coastal communities, what inspired her to write the book and the importance of coming-of-age fiction...

What inspired you to write 'The Minnow'?
I was inspired by a strange dream that occurred midway through my PhD thesis. I realised (at the time) that I was feeling extremely stifled by the non-creative trudge of academia. The dream turned out to be the first chapter. 

Tell us about the importance of the coastal community in the novel.
There are some dream-like scenes on or near the coast, but the township is inland. This was important as it adds to the feeling of isolation.

How can you relate to Tom? 
Great question. My life doesn't mirror Tom's, but I've experienced things that enable me to relate to her pain.

The Minnow has been described as having the 'aching beauty of swimming underwater'. How did you set about achieving this effect in your writing?
I love fish and watery stuff - which fit perfectly with what was happening in the story - but during the writing, it felt as though it was coming from Tom, not me.

Were you inspired by a particular natural disaster to write about the flood that devastates Tom's life in the novel?
The Queensland floods happened during the early writing, and some of the images were extraordinary. Added to this, I was in Townsville just prior to the tsunami which devastated the town.

Why do you think coming-of-age fiction is so popular to both young people and adults?
Coming-of-age fiction is the real deal. We might grow and mature, but many of us still struggle with the raw emotions of our teenage years, and the YA genre speaks to that part of us. It doesn't presume to know the answer. It just says, "yeah, I feel it too". 

Thank you so much for being interviewed, Diana.

Until next time :)

Interview with 'Salvage' author Keren David

Happy Easter, blog readers! I am sorry that I haven't been very active recently but there are lots of exciting titles coming out soon, as well as more author interviews and posts that I can't wait to share with you. There are also a few book events which I am attending in the next few months so I will be sure to write up posts on those for you.

Yesterday I finished reading the last book in the YA Book Prize shortlist, and I spent some time reflecting on how awesome and diverse the shortlist is! Although all the books come under the huge umbrella of 'YA' literature, the genres and styles of writing are so different yet they all fit together so beautifully. As well as your standard romances and dystopian (which is growing increasingly popular in YA literature as the years go on) I found myself enjoying new styles of books that I hadn't ever picked up before, for example horror and comedy. 

One of my favourite books in the YA Book Prize shortlist is a realist coming-of-age novel written by Keren David, called Salvage, about two estranged siblings Cass and Aidan, whose worlds collide when they are finally reunited after many years. This book was touching and tender and I found myself drawn to the two narrators Cass and Aidan, and relating to them at every moment. I was very grateful to get the opportunity to interview Keren for this blog and Huffington Post, all about writing, broken family relationships, and if she thinks that everything (as according to her title) can eventually be salvaged...

How/why were you inspired to write Salvage?
As someone who spent a long career working as a news journalist, I often get my ideas from news stories, and this was a report about birth families contacting adopted children through social media. I thought it was interesting, and would make a good starting point for a book, but did nothing about it because I had another book to write. Then, a year later I was watching my son play football and one of the other mums said, 'I know what you should write about,' and it was the same thing. It turned out that she was a social worker in the adoption field, so was able to brief me on the background. 
I loved the idea because it had so many different aspects and viewpoints -  a real minefield of emotions and ethics. 

What interests you about family relationships, especially 'broken' families who are reunited?
One theme of my books seems to be family secrets -  the way that things we don't remember and aren't told can affect us enormously.  In Salvage  I wanted to examine what we mean by family, how we create families and what remains when families fall apart.  I'm just fascinated by people, and families are so important in forming who we are. 

Where did the inspiration for Cass and Aidan come from, and what was it like writing from two different perspectives?
I wanted to contrast the lives of two siblings, one who was adopted and one who grew up in care. I knew that older boys often end up without an adoptive home, so that's why Aidan is the older one.  I saw them both as survivors who shared a chaotic early childhood, of neglect and abuse. Cass was adopted and her life changed completely to one of love and privilege, so I imagined her as a small girl, desperate to hang on to this new home, and suppressing feelings and questions to do so. Aidan was inspired by reading about children who have grown up in care and been badly treated, but also by the good that excellent foster parents can do.  He was very easy to write, Cass was far more difficult, I think because she was a mystery to herself!

What message were you aiming to put across through Salvage?
I don't think in terms of messages, but I hope that Salvage will make people think about families, about adoption and, above all, about how we should nurture, protect and care for children in care and care leavers. I think it's disgusting that so many of our social problems -  crime, homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse -  involve people who have been let down by our care system. 

Who did you relate to more, Cass or Aidan?
Funnily enough, Aidan. Although Cass is much more like me as a teenager. I think it's because I find boys easier to write. 

What opinion do you have on the current state of Social Services? Do you think the system treats young people like Aidan well?
There are many wonderful people working with cared-for children, including social workers and foster carers, and I think we should be proud of them. But there are far too many children still being let down by the system, as recent court cases have shown.  Although rules have changed about children leaving care at 16, so that they can stay with foster carers, there is still the scandal of kids leaving care to live in hostels, flats and bedsits and fend for themselves. The current minister for children and families Edward Timpson comes from a family of foster carers, and I think he's done a good job, which I hope will be continued by the next government. Children in care should be a priority for politicians, not an afterthought. 

Do you think 'broken' relationships like Cass and Aidan's can always be 'salvaged'?
No, some people are so damaged by neglect and abuse that it may be easier to look forward rather than revisit the past. I tend to think that reunions between birth families and adopted children should be done with professional support, for both sides.  However, for many people, I imagine the chance to be reunited with a long-lost sibling is wonderfully healing and helpful. 

What did it mean to you for Salvage to be shortlisted for the YA Book Prize?
I was so happy and grateful. For several years I've been one of a few authors working hard to promote British YA books as a brand -  UKYA - to raise our profile alongside the American big sellers. I saw the establishment of the YA Prize (which is for British and Irish YA writers) as a huge step along that path.  Yp be shortlisted as well -  that was just brilliant. 

What other projects are you working on at the moment (that you can tell us about!)
I'm just finishing a historical  YA novel which I've been working on for a few years now. It's set in Canada in 1904 and 1994, and it hasn't got a publisher yet, so I'm hoping someone will like it. I've also just started writing my next contemporary YA book for my publishers, Atom. It's called Cuckoo and it's about a former child star who loses his way in life and finds an unexpected ally.  I'm also working on the script for the musical version of my book Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery which I'm writing with composer Paul Herbert and lyricist Andy Kaby. And in May my next YA  book comes out, This is Not a Love Story, which is about falling in and out of love and is set in Amsterdam.

Any tips for aspiring young writers?
Try and write a target amount of words every day, to let your story grow. Don't be too harsh on yourself, only the final draft has to be perfect. And switch off the internet! 

Thank you, Keren, for being interviewed! 

Check out Keren here:

Buy Salvage here:

Until next time :)