Friday 25 May 2018

AUTHOR INTERVIEW | 'The Wonder of Us' | 5 Minutes with... Kim Culbertson

Hey guys, and happy Friday! Today I am excited to be sharing with you an interview with the author of a brand new book, The Wonder of Us, Kim Culbertson. This is a summer read you need to grab before your holidays! I can't wait to devour this in the park on a warm summer's day... absolute bliss!

Check out the blurb here...

Riya and Abby are: Best friends. Complete opposites. Living on different continents. About to embark on an epic adventure around Europe. Since Riya moved away with her family to Berlin, she and Abby have struggled to be there for one another, and they haven’t spoken in weeks. But Riya is pretty sure she knows the perfect way to make things better – a grand tour of European cities. Two weeks, six countries, unimaginable fun. Can the lush countrysides and dazzling cities of Europe fix their friendship, or does growing up mean growing apart? Perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins, Maggie Harcourt and David Levithan, this witty and vivid story is the ideal holiday read.

So without any further ado, here is Kim on my blog to talk all things The Wonder of Us, female friendships and the joy of summer road trip novels!

What was the inspiration behind The Wonder of Us? 

At the time I began to write this book, I was teaching a wonderful group of teen writers. One afternoon, I was meeting with a young man about his fiction and he seemed distracted. He explained that he was worried about a friendship that had always been close, but as they were both heading into their final year of school, seemed suddenly strained. It wasn’t the first time one of my students had expressed this worry to me. Throughout my years as a teacher, I’ve seen many students struggle with their friendships changing, especially as they neared graduation. When I was brainstorming ideas with my editor, this seemed like an interesting question to tackle – does growing up means growing apart? 

Tell us a bit more about the main characters, Riya and Abby. Do you have anything in common with them?

Both of these girls hold parts of my heart. I share an interest in history with Abby (her focus is the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World and I enjoyed studying these when I was writing the book). Riya’s current main interest is theatre and I taught theatre for many years and still have an involvement in local children’s theatre so that was a connection for me with Riya. I also thought it would be interesting to look at more introverted Abby and more extroverted Riya to investigate how these personality differences can impact character relationships. I am more of an extrovert and my husband and daughter are both introverts, so that has been an education in personality differences over the years. It has been interesting even in the emails I’ve received from readers because often people tend to side with Abby or Riya depending on whether they are more introverted or extroverted. It doesn’t seem like it should matter but it does.  

Do you normally come up with plot or characters first?

Characters always come first for me. In fact, my editor might chuckle at this question because I am so far on the side of character-driven narrative that I often have to remind myself to think about plot. Still, I feel like most plotting, at least in the books I write, comes out of character motivation and decision: what does a character want? What is in a character’s way? What are the cross-purposes between one character and another? For me, plot is just a timeline in which all of these tensions play out.

What made you want to write a summer road trip novel, all about friendship?

I knew I wanted to write a novel about female friendship because I believe we need to value this discussion more in YA novels, this idea that often our first loves are the friends in our lives before romance ever becomes part of things. I chose a summer road trip structure for a couple of reasons. Perhaps because I spent so many years in school and then as a teacher, summer has always held the promise of change for me. Summer books allow the characters to be on the cusp of new beginnings. This book allowed for this both in its season and in the travel component of the book. Like summer, travel can offer new perspectives at every turn. These girls have much to sort out in their friendship and have the opportunity to do so against the backdrop of all these beautiful, interesting places. However, travel can also be exhausting, no matter how luxurious, and therefore can test even a steady friendship. This trip provided so many opportunities for these girls to be outside their comfort zones and that is always fun when writing fiction.

What’s so special about YA literature?

I could write a whole book about this question, but I will try to be brief and say that I believe YA literature taps into that shimmery, challenging time in our lives when we hover in the gap between being a child and being an adult. There is something elastic and expansive and frightening and scarring and beautifully romantic about this time period – we go through so many firsts, so many doubts, so many dreams. Of course as adults we continue to change and make important decisions that recalibrate our lives; however, during our teen years, we are new to this kind of independence and tension and I think it makes for great literature. 

What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Being a writer is about tuning your senses to the world and really noticing things -- noticing the way things smell and taste and sound and feel to the touch. Noticing the way people move or act and exploring all the different points of view people have in the world. Specifically, for character, really listen when people talk and study the way they build sentences so that you can recreate different speech patterns in a character. Know your characters' likes and dislikes. I think the most important thing is to remember to allow your characters to be whoever they are in the world. People often have a tendency to want to put characters into stereotypical boxes and writers should try to see them as whole, flawed people (the best, and truest sorts of people). But it's also okay to love them all deeply. I have certainly been accused of loving my characters too much!

Sum up The Wonder of Us in 3 words!

I asked my 13 year old daughter to answer this question and she said when she describes my book to her friends she says: funny, bittersweet, smart (aww, I promise I didn’t pay her!)

Thank you so much, Kim, for appearing on my blog!

Make sure you guys keep an eye out for a review coming soon...

Buy The Wonder of Us here:

Check out Kim Culbertson here:

Until next time :)

Sunday 13 May 2018

LARI DON BLOG TOUR | 'The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster' by Lari Don | Why I Love Scottish Traditional Tales

Hey guys, and happy Sunday! Today I am delighted to be participating in the blog tour to celebrate Lari Don's beautiful new children's book: The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster

Check out the blurb here...

Ishbel and Kenneth need to save their family from going hungry, so when they remember the old local tale about treasure under Urquhart Castle, they set off across Loch Ness in a rowing boat. But the loch may be hiding its own secrets. There's another ancient story about a giant monster living in the depths . . . 

Legends of the Loch Ness Monster abound, but this new tale from renowned Scottish children's author and storyteller Lari Don sidesteps the modern Nessie to create a new Loch Ness Monster myth inspired by local folklore. 

A perfect companion to bestselling picture book The Secret of the Kelpie, also by Lari Don, this timeless tale of Scotland's most famous creature, atmospherically brought to life by Natasa Ilincic's stunning illustrations, is destined to become the classic Loch Ness Monster story.

And to celebrate the publication of this wonderful book, I am thrilled to have Lari Don on my blog today, to talk all things Scottish traditional tales!

I love folktales, legends and myths from all over the world, but I keep returning to my first love: Scottish traditional tales. 

Why do I love Scottish folklore? Well, partly because I live here, partly because Scottish magical stories were - along with the fairy tales most western kids grow up with – the first magical stories I was aware of, partly because Scottish stories fit so well into the Scottish landscape, but mostly because Scottish traditional tales inspire almost every book I’ve written!

Like most traditional tales, Scottish folktales have similarities to their story cousins from the rest of these islands and the rest of the world, but they also – like most traditional tales closely linked to one particular culture or landscape - have their own unique flavour, their own recognisable tang. 

So, here’s what I think the bright thread of Scottish folklore adds to the world of stories:  


Most cultures have a few shapeshifters, but the Scottish landscape is filled with them. Selkies (who can be seals or human) and kelpies (who can be horse, monster or human and have a taste for eating children) are two of Scotland’s best-known magical beasts, with individual local stories set right round the coast and by many lochs and rivers. Many Scottish witch stories are about having the power to change shape into crows or hares or cats. The Borders ballad The Tale of Tam Linn is about a girl who saves a boy from the fairy queen even though he shifts into many terrifying animals in her arms. And the travellers’ tale The King of the Black Art is about a chase between two magic users, who constantly shift into different predators and prey. 

Strong women 

I am passionate about telling stories with strong girls and strong women, partly to redress the balance of all those stories with girls just waiting to be saved by blokes with swords or married off as a fairy-tale ‘happy ending’. And there are lots of strong women in Scottish folklore. For example, lots of places in Scotland have folktales about the ‘last wolf in Scotland’, and a significant number of those ‘last’ wolves were dispatched by women. Often with kitchen implements. 

Down to earth concerns 

We do have our share of kings and queens, of course, but if there is a Scottish variant of a universal story, it often has a more domestic narrative than its better-known cousin. For example, the story of a woman accepting help from a magical being then having to discover that magical being’s name in order to stop her child being taken as payment. In Rumpelstiltskin it’s a queen who needs help spinning straw into gold; in the Scottish tale Whuppity Stoorie, it’s a farmer who needs help saving her sick pig. Slightly more down to earth, but the mother’s desire to find the name and save the baby is just as compelling. 

The coolest fairies EVER 

Scottish fairies are not wee and twinkly. They are as tall as we are, and usually much better armed. The fairies of Scottish folklore steal children and musicians, they charm and trick and seduce young men and women, and they fight battles: the fairy flag at Dunvegan Castle is a promise to provide fairy warriors to fight for the Clan MacLeod. So, Scottish fairies are beautiful and dangerous, which makes them much more interesting in stories! 

And yes, I know all of these story elements are present in lots of other nations’ and cultures’ stories, because all stories are connected, somewhere far back in our shared past…

But there is one Scottish story beast that is totally unique: 


That big long green monster that either does or doesn’t exist in the dark depths of Loch Ness. She is the greatest example of a link between Scottish landscape and Scottish story: it’s impossible to discuss or describe the monster without referring to her home, and it’s almost impossible to talk about the loch without finding yourself in a discussion about whether you’ve seen the monster and whether or not you believe in her.  

The Loch Ness Monster is possibly the best known, most instantly recognisable and friendliest monster on the planet. But up until now, she’s been a mystery, a question, rather than a character in a story…

As a writer who draws most of my inspiration from Scottish traditional tales, I’ve already written about selkies and kelpies and part-time hares, I’ve retold The Tale of Tam Linn and written novels about fairy warriors, and there are strong girls and an absence of princesses in pretty much everything I write. And now… I’ve written about Nessie too! 

The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster is wonderfully illustrated by the fabulous Nataša Ilinčić and is based on a magical tale about the castle on the shores of Loch Ness.

I’m sure I will be inspired to play with more Scottish lore in future books, and I also hope you will be inspired to find some Scottish magic of your own… 

And speaking of which, I would like to take this opportunity to tell you about a wonderful competition, that allows you to draw a picture of your own mythical monster, to win a bundle of books by Lari Don!

The Discover Kelpies team are looking for young monster spotters to enter their Map My Monster art competition. To enter the competition for a chance to win a bundle of signed books by Lari Don just draw a picture of your local mythical monster on their special Map My Monster sheet. Don’t worry if you don’t have a local monster – you can borrow one from another place, or create your own! 

For more details visit: 

Thank you so much, Lari, for appearing on my blog!

Keep an eye out soon for a review on my blog, and make sure you guys check out the rest of the books on the blog tour!

Buy The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster here:

Check out Lari Don here: 

Until next time :)

Friday 11 May 2018

BLOG TOUR | 'Gravity Well' by Melanie Jootsen | 5 Minutes With... Melanie Jootsen

Hey guys, and happy Friday! Today I am super excited to be part of another blog tour, this time celebrating the publication of Gravity Well by Melanie Jootsen. Today I am thrilled to have Melanie on my blog to talk all things family, female friendships, and astrology!

Before that, however, check out the blurb of Gravity Well here...

Lotte, an astronomer who spends her nights peering into deep space rather than looking too closely at herself. Returning to her hometown after years abroad, and reeling from a devastating diagnosis, she finds that much has changed. Lotte’s father has remarried, and she’s estranged from her former best friend, Eve. Initially, Lotte’s return causes disharmony, but then it is the catalyst for a much more devastating event — an event that will change Lotte and Eve’s lives forever.

So without further ado, here is Melanie!

What was the inspiration behind Gravity Well?

I wanted to write about families and particularly about what happens when the lynchpin of a family dies. I wanted to explore how a father and his adult daughter who have never been close might redefine what a family is in the absence of the wife/mother. 

Another inspiration was astronomy. I love the way science writers and astronomers describe the universe in really majestic and compelling language. In trying to make us understand how our tiny self-important planet fits into the scheme of things, they touch on interdependence and how each planetary body is affected by those around it - it seemed to me they are often writing about family.

There were more specific inspirations, but I don't want to give the plot away!

Tell us a bit more about the main character, Lotte. Do you have anything in common with her?

Some people tell me Lotte is not very likeable so I'd like to say I have nothing in common! But there's a lot of me in there. She's fairly direct and focused and she really struggles with the idea of putting her career on hold to have children. She's not selfish but she's aware of what she wants and what she needs to do to get it. She is also really passionate about her interests and expects other people to be as well. 

Curiously, there's also a lot of me in the other main character, Eve. She is quiet and somewhat introverted and often tries to please other people. She hates conflict and avoids it at all costs, even if it means further drama down the track.

Do you normally come up with plot or characters first?

A bit of both. This was a tricky book to write - it went through many drafts and I changed the structure a lot. I really wanted to create a sense of tension that pulls the reader in, but also explore the quieter moments in life. I came up with the character of Lotte first but wasn't sure what to do with her. However, I came up with Eve's plot first and had to write a character to explore that situation. 

What made you want to write a story that circulates around a complex female friendship? 

In early drafts of the novel the two characters Eve and Lotte didn't know one another, let alone form a friendship. I had been focusing on mainly the family relationships between Lotte and her parents but it felt a bit flat on the page. That's when I realised that really I was writing a story about female friendships. I think I resisted it for awhile because I didn't want to write a book that would be described as 'women's fiction'. But really, they're the books I love to read - ones about relationships and friendships and how we are all trying to get by.

What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Write the book you want to write - which is often the type of book you want to read. The minute you try to make it something it's not, the wheels will fall off!

Sum up Gravity Well in 3 words!

Families are complex!

Thank you so much, Melanie, for appearing on my blog!

Make sure you guys check out the rest of the spots on the blog tour <3 And keep an eye out for a review coming very soon...

Buy Gravity Well here:

Check out Melanie Jootsen here:

Until next time :)

Thursday 10 May 2018

DELIGHTFUL KIDS BOOKS | BLOG TOUR | 'Mr Snuffles' Birthday' by David Greaves and Emily Wallis (****)

Hey guys, and happy Thursday! Today I am thrilled to be back with my children's book feature, to celebrate the publication of a great new kids book called Mr Snuffles' Birthday written by David Greaves, and illustrated by Emily Wallis. Mr Snuffles' Birthday is a wonderful book all about friendship and the lovely things friends do for each other. Mr Snuffles feels left out when all his friends are going to someone's suprise birthday tea, when it is his birthday! He is also investigating a mysterious truffle thief. Will Mr Snuffles figure out the truth behind this myserious suprise birthday, and the truffle thief? 

Intrigued? Read the blurb here...

'It was a wonderful day for snuffling for truffles,

'What a birthday treat!' thought Mr Snuffles…’

Adults and children of all ages will delight in following Mr Snuffles' frustrating woodland quest for his beloved truffles. But is Mr Snuffles on the right scent?

Beautifully illustrated by Emily Wallis, David Greaves' Mr Snuffles' Birthday is a glorious celebration of language, friendship and truffles: a tale to be treasured and to read aloud together time and time again.

I adored this book! I love children's books that are a joy to read aloud; and Mr Snuffles' Birthday is definitely one of these. The language is so rhythmic and poetic and it is the perfect book to keep children entertained, or for a lovely bedtime story.

I think young children will definitely enjoy the mystery surrounding the suprise birthday party and the truffle thief. Mr Snuffles is a lovable character who just wants his friends to appreciate him on his birthday! The colourful cast of pig characters are fantastic - I love animal characters in children's books!

The illustrations by Emily Wallis are beautiful and really evocative. The setting is gorgeously depicted (reminiscent of The Gruffalo, I think!) and I loved the illustrations of the birthday party at the end. All of those food pictures made me so hungry... I bet children would love pointing out all the food and guessing what everything was.

Overall, this is a brilliant book for young children, that works well for both entertaining bored and restless kids, or for a bedtime story. For me Mr Snuffles' Birthday is what makes children's books magic - lively language and gorgeous illustrations.

Make sure you guys check out the rest of the spots on the blog tour <3

Check out Emily Wallis here:

Until next time :)