Guest Post: Author Siobhan Curham on Creating Authentic Teen Characters in YA Fiction…

2

moonlight dreamers

We are super excited to welcome Siobhan Curham, author of new release YA novel The Moonlight Dreamers, to the Shelf, thanks to Walker Books Australia.  We reviewed The Moonlight Dreamers earlier today on the blog, and now Siobhan is with us to share some tips for all you budding YA writers on how to create authentic teen characters.

Take it away Siobhan!


HOW TO WRITE AUTHENTIC TEEN CHARACTERS

Siobhan Curham

 I guess the first thing I would say if I were advising someone on how to write authentic teens is:

don’t be patronising.

The way some adults talk about teens it’s as if they’re describing some kind of alien life form – full of suspicion and fear. Or they treat them like over-grown children. It’s like they’ve forgotten that they were ever once a young adult!

Which brings me on to my next point:

remember what it’s truly like to be a teen.

When I think back to my own teenage years I remember it being a pretty intense time; a time of so many ‘firsts’. First love, first exam stress, first job, first holiday with friends, first time living away from your family, first alcoholic drink, first hangover, first adult choices.

I also remember it being a pretty scary time. You don’t yet have the benefit of decades of experience and so, when things go wrong, it can be hard to have faith in the belief that, ‘this too shall pass’. The pain of a break-up, or a failed exam, or the death of a loved one, or your parents’ divorce can be overwhelming and it can be really hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

On the other hand, young adults aren’t jaded by decades of experience, so they’re able to embrace life and new ideas with freshness and optimism. I’m reminded of this every time I give a talk in a high school or run a workshop for teens and I find it so inspiring. It’s definitely something I try to inject into my teen characters.

There’s a quote by the writer e. e. cummings that I think perfectly sums up the teenage years:

It takes courage to grow up and become the person you really are.

This idea is at the heart of my novel, The Moonlight Dreamers. Yes, the teenage years can be scary, and yes, it’s hard to become the person you really are, when society, the media and the internet might want you to be something you’re not. But if you can find the courage to be your true self and dare to dream your true dreams, then what a great life you’re creating for yourself.


We’d like to say a big thank you to Siobhan for sharing her wisdom with us and for providing such an uplifting read in The Moonlight Dreamers.

Until next time,

Bruce

Dragonfly Song Blog Tour: Guest Post by Wendy Orr…

2

DragonflySongBlogTourGraphic

We are very pleased to be participating in the blog tour for YA historical fiction adventure Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr.  Following on from our review yesterday, today we have Wendy here with us to discuss what it’s like to have your book turned into a film, which is what happened to Wendy’s Nim’s Island books.  Before we get stuck in, here’s the blurb for Dragonfly Song from Allen & Unwin:

Abandoned by the priestess of the island at birth, Aissa is an outcast, surviving by her wits

Dragonfly Song

Dragonfly Song (Wendy Orr) Published by Allen & Unwin 22nd June 2016 RRP: $16.99

– until she joins the acrobatic bull dancers who are sent away to compete on the island of the Bull King. A gripping and powerful adventure by acclaimed author Wendy Orr.

There are two ways of looking at Aissa’s story. She’s the miracle girl who escaped the raiders. Or she’s the cursed child who called the Bull King’s ship to the island.

The firstborn daughter of a priestess is cast out as a baby, and after raiders kill her adopted family, she is abandoned at the gates of the Great Hall, anonymous and mute. Called No-Name, the cursed child, she is raised a slave, and not until she is twelve does she learn her name is Aissa: the dragonfly.

Now every year the Bull King takes a tribute from the island: two thirteen-year-old children to brave the bloody bull dances in his royal court. None have ever returned – but for Aissa it is the only escape.

Aissa is resilient, resourceful, and fast – but to survive the bull ring, she will have to learn the mystery of her true nature.

A riveting, mythic Bronze Age adventure from award-winning author Wendy Orr.

And now I’m going to hand over to Wendy Orr – her novel Nim’s Island was the inspiration and basis for the 2008 film of the same name starring Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler and Abigail Breslin.  Welcome to the Shelf, Wendy!
Orr Wendy, preferred author photo, credit Roger Gould

Wendy Orr         (Photo credit: Roger Gould)

What is it like having your book turned into a movie?

An emotional roller coaster – and just like any roller coaster ride, I can now only remember the thrills.

It all started when an independent Hollywood producer, Paula Mazur, got Nim’s Island out of the library for her eight-year old son. She emailed me a few days later, painting me a beautiful picture of the family listening to the story – and asking for the rights.

I was lucky enough to know nothing about how hard it is to get a movie made. She was so passionate that I always believed it would happen, even when things looked bleak – and of course, there were some bleak times in the five years between that first email and the red carpet. And because we quickly became friends, and once it was optioned I became a consultant on the script, I knew what was happening, every step of the way. It was a very intense time, intellectually (there was a lot to learn!) and emotionally.

Probably the luckiest thing of all is that Paula contacted me before three other queries came in. None of them seemed to have any particular feeling or insight into the book, but I could easily have signed anyway – and the film would probably never have been made. A film like this, that doesn’t fit the mold – one article claimed it was the first adventure feature film with a young girl hero – needs a passionate advocate.

Actually there was lots of luck. Like Jodie Foster wanting to play Alex Rover. Jodie Foster is a reader, and Nim’s Island was the book that got her oldest son into reading. She fought hard for the part – and changed what I’d imagined as a quiet little movie, into something big. The amazing thing for me was that she looked so like my concept of Alex. The brilliant Abigail Breslin signed on as Nim, and Gerard Butler as her dad Jack and Alex Rover’s fictitious hero. Gerry Butler is better looking than my Jack, but I coped with that.

The first time I arrived on set, Abbie/Nim was running through the rainforest with Fred on her shoulder. It was exactly as I’d written the scene in the book; there was something surreal about seeing it happen in flesh and blood (and TV monitors). I met one of the two sea lions who played Selkie, which tipped my emotion right over the edge – I cried so much that Gerry Butler interrupted some publicity shoots to ask if I was all right.

Then we had the premieres. One at Sea World in Queensland, with Jodie Foster and Leah the pelican who played Galileo, and one at Graumann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, with all the cast and crew (minus the animals), blue ‘island’ ticker tape blown down the road, and thousands of screaming fans. But the biggest thrill was simply seeing the film, to see the characters from my head come to life on the screen.  I had the same reaction watching Return to Nim’s Island, which was much more loosely based on Nim at Sea – but Bindi Irwin was still so definitely my Nim, and the plot line was so true to Nim’s spirit, that I forgot it wasn’t the story I’d written.

It’s the ultimate expression of letting your story fly free to make its own way into the world.

 Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $16.99, available now

Thank you Wendy for sharing your experiences with us here on the shelf.  Dragonfly Song is available now and the perfect way to escape on an adventure if you aren’t lucky enough to be travelling somewhere exotic yourself these school holidays!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

 

Behind the Fairy Tales: Interview with Author, Becca Price

2

Have you ever wondered how authors come up with new ideas when writing about old favourites? Of course you have. Well now you have the opportunity to get the answer to that burning question – hurrah! Becca Price, author of Heart of Rock, a modern fairy tale featuring gargoyles (that you can read more about here) has kindly answered some of my burning questions about her work.

Becca has written a number of books featuring her own modern fairy tales and you can find out more about them at Wyrm Tales Press, but for now, sit back, imbibe your favourite beverage, and find out more about writing new stories in an old, old genre.

It seems that there are lots of retellings of traditional fairy tales around at the moment – how difficult is it to come up with original ideas for your modern fairy tales?

I have always loved fairy stories, but as I grew older and more sophisticated, I saw some of the patterns in the Grimm Brothers and Andrew Lang stories that I hadn’t seen before: brave, bold men, and domesticated women who need to be rescued. Rebellion against those stereotypes also informs my writing.

I’m a science fiction and fantasy fan, and I figure that fairy stories are the gateway drug to JRR Tolkein and other fantasy books written for adults. I have heard that people don’t read stories to their children anymore, and that kids today read less than my generation does (too many other bright shiny forms of entertainment vie for their time and attention). I wanted to write stories that might be more modern, more relevant to young children than Cinderella and Snow White are, but would still have that archaic, fairy-tale feeling about them that I loved so much myself.heart of rock

What was it about gargoyles (apart from our stunning good looks, of course) that made you choose them as major protagonists in Heart of Rock?

Heart of Rock had it’s genesis in a couple of interesting events. The first was when a minor acquaintance from the Society for Creative Anachronism appeared at my door looking for a place to stay for a few days. As a guesting gift, he brought my then-husband a gallon bottle of sake; for me, he brought a plaster-of-paris classical gargoyle (you know, the kind that looks rather lilke a distorted pug dog with wings, and a fierce expression and a half-opened mouth showing teeth.) I’d never given much thought to gargoyles before then, I admit, but I was absolutely charmed by this one, and he stayed with me for years.

The second part of the story is that, after my divorce from my then-husband, I stayed with some friends for awhile while getting back on my feet. Their little girl, Gillian, suffered from severe night terrors – she would (still asleep) sit up in bed and start screaming and giving forth heart-rending cries. If you’ve never experienced someone who had night terrors before, they’re just as scary for the people around the child as they are for the child.

So one night, I took my gargoyle, and put it by the side of her bed, and told her the first part of the story – how nightmares (Night Mares – intentional pun) were brought by magical creatures in the night, that they looked like horses with flaming eyes, mane and tails, but that gargoyles could fly after them and nip at their heels and drive them away. (this part of the story was inspired by a friend who had a chow-chow, which the Chinese had bred to fight invading horsemen a long time ago – that was the origin of the breed, and my gargoyle did look a bit like my friend’s chow only not as hairy. For the record, Dominic was the sweetest dog you could ever hope to find in reality.)

Oddly, that was the end of Gillian’s night terrors, but she wouldn’t give me back the gargoyle, and has it to this day in her room – and she’s in her mid-20s now. I’ve never found anything like it to replace it, which saddens me.

So that was the origin of Heart of Rock.

I got interested in gargoyles, and decided that, in spite of their ugly and sometimes frightening appearance, they should be an old race, much given to a love of beauty and seeking wisdom. I decided that there needed to be a story about why so many places have gargoyles carved up high on roofs where they really can’t be seen, and figured that they were there to guard the city against Night Mares and other evil creatures, and to serve as watchmen for enemies. And that was the genesis of the third part of the story came about.

Then I got to wondering – what if two kingdoms both needed the same magical talisman, and their needs were equally pressing – most fairy stories tell about the hero finding the magical talisman and stealing it away from the monsters who guard it and taking it back – but what if the “monsters” weren’t evil, and needed it for their own reasons? and needed it equally as important as the putative hero needed it?

And there was my story.dragons and dreams

Why did you choose to write for younger readers?

Why do I write fairy stories? well, Albert Einstein said “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy stories.” I have two children of my own, now in college, but when they were little, I would tell them stories to help them get to sleep . If I read picture books, they’d be involved in looking a the pictures, and wouldn’t go to sleep. That’s why my original books were unillustrated – I wanted the children to be able to see the pictures in their heads. Both my kids tend to be… idiosyncratic, let’s say, and the standard fairy tales and children’s stories bored them (although my daughter liked Paper Bag Princess). My son likes dragons, so there had to be dragons in some of the stories, but not the fierce man-eating kind, because I didn’t want him to have nightmares. My daughter was afraid of the dark for awhile, and that’s the genesis of The Dark, in my firstcollection, Dragons and Dreams.

So I had all these stories written down in my computer, and never did anything with them until a cousin looked into self-publishing her father’s WWII experiences, which he’d written down as a sort of therapy (The book is called Bailout over Normandy, and is itself fascinating – I seem to come from a long line of story tellers) I figured that I should look into self-publishing through Amazon, and it turns out that I have a friend who is a fabulous artist (Todd Cameron Hamilton) and I sent him my first book, and he came back with a lovely painting for Dragons and Dreams, and has done the covers for me for most of my other books.

And one thing leads to another. Writing one story gives me ideas for another one, and some how they keep coming.fairies and fireflies

Do you have any projects on the boil right now that we should look out for? (And are there any plans to feature more gargoyles in your future works?!)

My immediate goals are to get illustrations for my other books. I’ve stumbled on a wonderful artist who is illustrating Fairies and Fireflies for me, and I hope to get that one out by July. I have a second set of butterfly-fairy stories cooking, but I don’t know when I’ll have time to write them. I’m also working on a fairy tale collection called “Quests and Fairy Queens” that may contain more gargoyle stories.I hope to have Quests out by the end of the year, as well as a few more stand-alone stories.

My beta readers, and other reviewers have told me that there needs to be more to Heart of Rock than the relatively simple fairy tale it currently is. One of my goals, for maybe this year, for maybe early next year, is to expand the current story into something maybe 20,000 words long, aimed at late middle-grade, with more chapters and more details.I’m not sure whether I’ll keep the same name for the longer version or not – but I definitely want to expand on the gargoyles, make them more individuals and characters in their own right.

But yes, there will be more gargoyle stories – they’re too fascinating to leave alone.

Hurrah! We agree. Too many gargoyle stories is never enough.  We of the shelf thank Becca for her time and for telling us all about how her ideas get from brain to book.

Until next time,

Bruce

twitter button Follow on Bloglovin Bruce Gargoyle's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

//

Review and Author Spotlight and GIVEAWAY!: Ghost Hand…

6

Morning all! Today I have a YA paranormal for you with a *gasp!* original premise! (Sorry, cynical Bruce came out for a moment there. I’ll stuff him back into an out-of-the-way cupboard in my psyche.  That’s what happens when you let too many emotions out at once!).  Now, what was I saying? Oh yes, Ghost Hand by Ripley Patton, was published in 2012 and not only do I have a review for you today, but I also cajoled Ripley Patton into answering some questions about the book for your continued book-related intellectual growth.  And even better than that, Ripley has kindly offered to give away a SIGNED paperback copy of Ghost Hand to one lucky winner…in the US. (Sorry, Non-US-dwellers. But read on anyway to find out about a great book and author, and a sneaky special offer!)

I first came across Ghost Hand when it was released in 2012 and immediately put it on my to-read list. The premise struck me as sufficiently different from other YA fare around at the time, and I couldn’t help but have a giggle at the thought of having a ghostly hand that had a mind of its own. I remember thinking at the time that the premise could either be executed with great skill, thereby drawing me in and ensuring the suspension of my disbelief, or executed with great clumsiness, thereby drawing me in and ensuring the suspension of my bladder through laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of it all.

I am pleased to say that Patton has achieved the former with this book for me. But allow me to give you a brief overview of the story.

Olivia has PSS – that’s Psyche Sans Soma to you and me – a rare medical condition which means that instead of a flesh and blood hand, Olivia has a hand-shaped pocket of energy attached to her wrist. Up until now, Olivia’s biggest problems have been trying to fit in amongst her peers with her ghost hand, and dealing with her father’s recent death from cancer. When Olivia’s hand suddenly takes on a life of its own at school, reaching into a classmate and causing her to fall unconscious, things begin to spiral out of control. Along with mysterious new boy Marcus, Olivia discovers that there may be others out there interested in what her hand can do – and they’ll do anything to bring Olivia under their control…

ghost hand

Ghost Hand is a thoroughly enjoyable, action-packed, suspense-filled ride from start to finish. Patton had me hooked straight away with Olivia’s down-to-earth (and slightly sarky) narration. The weird ghost-hand action starts in the first chapter and despite experiencing a few periodic giggles at the oddity of having a ghost body part, I was pretty much able to suspend my belief right from the word go. The world building has been nicely accomplished by giving out information about PSS and the political rumblings behind it slowly, with the reader finding out essential information as Olivia does. The interactions between the characters are believable, and while this book does have some teen romance (Bruce’s pet peeve #1), it didn’t detract from the story because it unfolded in a natural, guarded way and was never the main focus of either of the two characters’ attentions.

I was also very impressed by the suspense that Patton has generated here. There is a lot of chasing/running away going on in this book and Patton has managed to imbue a real sense of danger and fear into the action. I also appreciated that the story didn’t resort to wildly unbelievable actions by the teens – when they are forced to defend themselves, they behave with all the misfires and mistakes that one would expect from a young person untrained in reconnaissance and combat. Overall, this was a great read and I’m glad I got around to it, albeit a little late. That’s why we have TBR lists, I suppose! Book two of the series, Ghost Hold, was released in 2013, so on to the list it goes.

Now it’s time for you to find out more about the brains behind this enticing series! Read on to discover Ripley’s answers to our deeply probing questions, and then enter the giveaway at the end.

PSS is such an interesting concept – where did that idea spring from?

The idea for PSS came from an actual medical phenomenon known as Phantom Limb Syndrome in which people who are amputees or were born without a limb can still feel or sense the physical presence of that missing limb. I have a friend who is an amputee, and one day when I was visiting him and we were walking in his back yard, he said, “You know, I can still feel the grass between my toes on the foot that I don’t have. And sometimes I still get a cramp in the middle of the night in the leg that I don’t have.” This was such a fascinating concept to me that I asked myself “What if these phantom limbs really existed? What would they look like and act like? What power would they hold? And how would society react to those who possessed them.” That is how PSS came into being. But at first I didn’t have a name for it. A nurse friend of mine came up with the term Psyche Sans Soma which loosely translated from Greek means”Life without flesh.” And I guess I did a good job of making it a convincing birth defect because readers often tell me that they stop mid-read to go look it up on the internet to find out more about it.

If you had to have a PSS part, which do you think would be the most useful?

I think a PSS hand would be pretty handy. But I also think that a major point of the books is that no one gets to choose a birth defect or the physical challenges and characteristics they are born with. And all the extreme politicking and curfuffle made about such things is really pointless and causes a lot of unneeded agony. All that aside, it is fun to discover what PSS parts the characters have in the books, and what those parts can do.

The YA market is certainly booming at the moment, especially in the paranormal genre – how difficult (or easy!) did you find it to get your idea considered for publication?

I don’t think it is ever easy to get your book considered for publication. The process is made difficult on purpose. I had a New York City agent interested in GHOST HAND early on, but by the time I had the manuscript finished, she’d left the business. I then shopped it around for about six months and it was read by several major agencies but not accepted. Ultimately, I decided to publish the book myself and I’ve published the entire series that way. I raise an advance by offering pre-orders of the books through Kickstarter. In fact, I’m just finishing up a Kickstarter Project this month for the third book in the series, GHOST HEART. Then, using the pre-order funds, I hire a professional cover designer, editor, and formatter and prepare the book for publication. And those who back the project get their e-book and signed paperback copies of the book before the general public.

So what’s next for Olivia and her crew? What can we expect from PSS #3 (or #2 for those of us who haven’t read it yet!)?

Well, in general and without risking spoiling anything, I can promise that things get harder. A writer’s job is to make their characters miserable, I’m afraid. Of course, there is more exploration of what PSS is and how it works. There is more delving into the main characters and what makes them tick. The romance between Marcus and Olivia has a bumpy ride, but what is real love without some struggle? There is a cliff hanger at the end of book two, literally. In book three, GHOST HEART, I explore the point-of-views of two main characters besides Olivia, one of them being Passion. Finally, I think you can look forward to Olivia coming into her own and embracing the power of herself and her hand.

Have you got any other projects on the boil, or anything we should keep an eye out for in the future?

If you haven’t heard, I believe there will be a fourth PSS Chronicles book, though I expect it to be the last. The plan after that is to write another YA series, dystopian fantasy this time. The concept for it is really unique and based on yet another bizarre medical phenomenon. That series is the one my kids, both teens themselves, talk about wanting to read the most so I’ll write it for them. I love series and I love to read YA, so why not write the stories I want to read myself?

 

Why not indeed! I’m quite astounded that no publisher was prepared to pick up such an original, readable book. Ripley mentioned the Kickstarter project that she has running to get book three in the PSS Chronicles published.  If you’d like to help out and make this book a reality, you can find out more at this link here.

Also, if you want to read Ghost Hand, now’s the time because it is available for FREE on Amazon and Kobo RIGHT NOW! But not for much longer. So after you enter the giveaway, run over there and download it. Shoo!

 

So now the giveaway. Here’s the details:

* One winner will receive a signed paperback copy of Ghost Hand.  The giveaway is only open to those with a United States mailing address.

* The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and have 48 hours to respond to a congratulatory email before a new winner is chosen.

*We won’t be held responsible for any packages lost in the mail or otherwise undeliverable. Sorry.

*Only verified entries will count. We’ll check. So be honest.

click to enter button

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

twitter button Follow on Bloglovin Bruce Gargoyle's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

 

//

Night of the Perigee Moon: Lantern Review and Author Spotlight…

1

Greetings and salutations to you, my beloved associates in the pursuit of all things literary!  It’s Mad Martha with you today to provide you with a Lantern review of a fun and feisty new middle grade read featuring magic, mad cousins and monstrously large moons.  I give you Night of the Perigee Moon by Juliet Jacka!

Juliet is a Kiwi author.  And by Kiwi I mean that she hails from New Zealand, not that she is a cute, endangered, brown flightless bird with particularly advanced claw dexterity and a passion for literacy.  Although that would also be cool (and worth reading about).  We at the shelf love Kiwi authors. In fact, in a spectacular display of UnAustralianism, we are prepared to admit that we have a sneaking suspicion that New Zealand is an actual utopia, but until we can get Mad Martha stowed away in a suitcase heading for that delightful nation, we can’t confirm this positively.  Until then, we will continue quietly instigating the chilli-bin revolution. Join us, won’t you?

But back to the topic at hand! Once you have feasted your eyes on my poetical evaluation of this book, you can find out more about the author, who was brave enough to answer some (slightly self-centred) questions from Bruce AND THEN enter to win one of TWO PRINT copies of the book – woohoo! Since you are no doubt hyperventilating with excitement over all of that information, I will refrain from mentioning that the giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY, lest you pop a valve and have to be rushed to the hospital. If you would like to enter the giveaway, you can click this link here.  So let’s get to it.

Night of the Perigee Moon follows young Tilly Angelica in the days leading up to her thirteenth birthday.  Turning thirteen is exciting enough, but in Tilly’s family, the thirteenth birthday also marks the time when young Angelicas take ownership of  a shiny new magical ability.  Poor Tilly is dreading this however, and just wants to be normal kid and have a normal party – not a whole host of crazy, magical cousins, uncles and aunts turning up to celebrate her “changeover”.  If that were not enough to worry about, Tilly’s grown-up cousin Prosper (an enchanter) seems to be behaving in a rather sinister fashion.  Along with her cheeky younger brother Fergal, twin cousins Ninette and Pippi, and house cat Kit, will Tilly be able to take control of her emerging talent and use it to her advantage?  Or will creepy cousin Prosper use the power of the Perigee Moon to change Tilly’s life forever?

perigee moon

Twelve.

So much

safer than

thirteen for some

kids.

Night of the Perigee Moon felt to me like something Enid Blyton might concoct were she writing today.  It has that classic feel of a fun kids’ story full of magic, reasonably innocent adventure and a plot to be foiled close to home.  All that’s missing is the ginger beer, but there’s plenty of other food-related mayhem instead!  This book is going to be read and re-read by the younger end of the middle grade bracket and would be perfect as a read-aloud for a grade four or five class.  The real action with Prosper and the perigee moon takes a little while to get going because the first third of the book is devoted to Tilly as she waits for,  discovers, then begins to tentatively use, her talent.  When the action starts however, it is a non-stop ride to the end of the book, involving bell-wearing dogs, mad fighting bats and my personal favourite, spectacular home-made millinery.

Fergal, Tilly’s brother, is a joy to read about as his ingenious and hilarious antics turn the tide for Tilly against cousin Prosper, and Tilly’s best friend Olivia is exactly the kind of person you want in your corner when you have some embarrassing secrets to divulge.  There is also a scene involving some highly imaginative insults that you’ll want to pop in your back pocket for when the appropriate situation arises!  All in all, we on the shelf recommend Night of the Perigee Moon for confident readers (or as a pre-bed read-together) for all those seeking to find the magic in the ordinariness of family life.

If you’d like to win a copy of Night of the Perigee Moon, simply fill in the entry form in the rafflecopter link here.  The giveaway is open internationally, so all residents of planet Earth should be fine to enter.  Good luck!

Now just who is the mastermind behind this fanciful romp, I hear you ask.  Well, allow me to introduce you to Juliet Jacka!

Juliet Jacka was born in Wellington. She spent her university years in Dunedin, and then headed to Canada and the UK.Juliet Jacka (small)

She’s now back in New Zealand living in one of Wellington’s hilly suburbs in a red house by a railway line with her husband and two young girls.

Juliet has wanted to write for years, in large part inspired by her love of Margaret Mahy’s young adult books. Escaping the call of writing would have been hard, as she comes from a family of bookworms and crossword fanatics.

She started writing junior fiction stories when she was on maternity leave with her first daughter (who was luckily a good sleeper).

Juliet now juggles writing with work and family life. She has a BA in English and a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism.

To find out more about the brains behind Tilly’s adventures, we forced Juliet  to answer some of our inane, burning questions!

What was it about this story that compelled you to tell it, rather than any other ideas you had floating around? And are any of your characters based on anyone in real life? (Creepy cousin Prosper, maybe?!)

I’m a huge fan of books with magic and mystery in them, and got hooked by the idea of creating my very own magical world. It was jolly fun too – I had heaps of fun dreaming up weird and wonderful talents for the Angelicas.

I don’t know any creepy cousin Prospers in real life. Which is good. He’s a proper slime ball!

Did you ever consider a role for some gargoyles in Arial Manor? And do any Angelicas have any talents related to gargoylery?

Interesting idea! I’m sure Fergal would have fun getting up to mischief with a gargoyle or two. His changeover is coming up soon after all … he might just be a contender for an Angelica with a gargoylery-related talent.

What sparked your interest in the perigee moon phenomenon? Do you think there’s any truth to the rumour that people (and creatures) tend to go a bit mad in the presence of a full moon (especially a really BIG one)?

I was busy trying to get my baby to sleep one night when I noticed that the moon was bigger than usual. I did some research – and aha! It was a perigee moon.

From there I started wondering about the things that could happen when the moon is extraordinarily large. Although I was busy juggling work and two small children, I kept sneaking in moments to write about magic, mayhem and talking animals.

I think any excuse to go a little madcap comes in handy, so yes – of course I think there’s truth to the rumour that people (and creatures) tend to go a bit mad in the presence of a full moon. Especially a really, really BIG one …

What were some of your favourite books as a kid?

It’s great this question says“some” instead of “one” (the last favourite book question I had to answer asked me to pick one – mean!). Some of the some include: The Tricksters and The Changeover by Margaret Mahy, The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery,The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner and The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien.

Your story is an award winner – congratulations! Do they give you some kind of plaque or trophy for the award? And if so, where do you keep it?

It’s a fancy certificate with my name written on it in curly writing. I’m going to frame it and stick it on the wall.

So there you have it! Thanks to Juliet for putting up with us.  I should probably also mention that Night of the imagePerigee Moon would perfectly fit into category three – a book with a specific time in the title – of the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge. Quite frankly, I wish I’d thought of that while I was reading it and I would have been one up on my challenge books. Never mind.  If you’d like to find out about the Challenge, simply click on the attractive button over there.

Now, go and enter the giveaway. Shoo!

 

Mad Martha

twitter button Follow on Bloglovin Bruce Gargoyle's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

//

 

Skycastle, The Demon and Me: Introducing the GSQ Review!

9

Good morning all! I am very excited today because not only do I have a fun, cheeky fantasy book to share with you, but I’ve also got a whole new review format to unleash! You see, my psychologist decided that I was too stony faced…not adept at sharing my emotions…unskilled in letting forth my true feelings about books…and so I have delved deep into my psyche to present a review that really encompasses a range of emotions about this book. I give you the very first “The Good, The Sad and The Quirky” review!

image

So away we go! Today’s offering is Skycastle, the Demon and Me by Andy Mulberry, the first in a new series for middle grade lovers of fantasy and adventure and unhelpful demons who have been accidentally foisted on you.  The book follows Jack Harper, who discovers a strange piece of advertising under the fridge (as you do) and inadvertently uses it to order a demon for his castle-turned-museum home.  Brinkloven Crowley (III), or Brink to his (non-existent) friends, is the aforementioned demon, and a more surely young example of his kind you would be hard pressed to find, although part of the surliness may be attributed to Brink’s imprisonment in a reasonably small crate prior to delivery at Greencastle.  As Jack attempts to use Brink as a hauntingly exciting addition to current tours provided at the castle (with mixed results), he begins to think that maybe having a demon around isn’t such a bad idea after all.  But when the Demon Collection Agency shows up to receive payment for Brink (or to repossess the demon…no pun intended), if Jack can’t come up with the money Brink might be looking at another eternity stuffed in a crate.  What are a boy and his demon to do?!

skycastle

What else can I say but, this book was meant for readers of my ilk.  That is, readers who love a story about unearthly creatures that is mixed with the funnies.  I loved this story and I predict that middle graders will love it too.  Jack is your typical “everyboy” and Brink is your typical slightly emo, understandably cranky demon kid.  It was a fun, fast-flowing romp/cautionary tale that everyone should read prior to ordering a demon for their home.  So here’s the Good:

image* Characters with loads of kid appeal (and grown-up who likes kid stories appeal)

* A well-paced plot that doesn’t waste time on overburdening the reader with detail, but leaves plenty of space for humour

* The provision of a useful cautionary tale for those considering demon-ownership…remember kids, a demon is for life, not just for Christmas.

 

The only problem I had with the story (if problem it could be called, was that I was left wanting more…and more and MORE!  I know this is the first book in the series (and I will certainly be hanging out for the next), but after finishing the book in one quick sitting, I had that feeling that I often get when reading graphic novels – the bittersweet pang of contentment at finishing a good story, mixed with a yearning to know the next bit. Immediately.  This struck me as an adult (and super-speedy, if I do say so myself…and I do) reader, but may not affect readers of the target age-group quite so much (due to their inferior reading speed, you understand).  So here’s the Sad:

image

* As I finished it in one sitting, I was left wanting more, which is a little painful when the second book hasn’t been released yet.

This book has got quirky in bucketloads.  While reading I was reminded of  the cheeky characterisation in Matt Haig’s “Shadow Forest”, and the wry tone of Caro King’s “Seven Sorcerers”.  This book is a lot shorter than either of those though, so it was just enough of a hit to keep me going until the next wry, cheeky novel comes along to entice me.  So here’s the quirky:

image

* A cliffhanger ending that involves an inanimate structure in a very deft piece of escape artistry

* The hiding of a very important plot device in the last place you would ever look…under the fridge

So there you have it.  My emotions laid bare for your entertainment.  And if that wasn’t enough, I will also be featuring Andy Mulberry, author of Skycastle, the Demon and Me in an author spotlight in the very near future.  And there may even be a giveaway.  You’ll just have to wait and see…..oh, who am I kidding, there’ll DEFINITELY be a giveaway.  So keep your eyeballs peeled!

Until next time,

Bruce (and the various facets of his personality)

twitter button Follow on Bloglovin Bruce Gargoyle's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

//

Author Spotlight and GIVEAWAY!: The Purple Girl by Audrey Kane…

7

the purple girlGood morning to you all! I am very glad you chose to stop by today because we have a real treat in store for you.  Audrey Kane, author of middle grade fantasy adventure new release The Purple Girl has dropped by the shelf to tell you a bit more about the inspiration behind the book and to offer the chance to WIN a SIGNED paperback copy! Woot!!  (But in case you can’t wait to find out if you’ve won, you can buy it here).

In case you missed it, Mad Martha haiku-reviewed the book on Friday, and you can catch up by reading the post here. Go on, we’ll wait.

Right then.  So here’s the skinny on Audrey herself:

As a writer, and also a designer of tapestries with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Georgia, it is only natural for Audrey to weave visual stories. When she is not designing tapestries, she is busy conjuring up characters that find themselves in extraordinary situations. Between carpools and design work, she is plotting, scheming, writing, and revising. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, their three children, and her unruly dog, Rascals. Audrey’s favorite time to write is in the early morning while her family sleeps. With Rascals sprawled out snoring beside her, it only takes one oversized cup of coffee to get her mind moving.

Audrey is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. She loves traveling, museums, and blackberry-apple pie. Actually, she loves all kinds of pie. And she especially loves her family—even if they aren’t purple.

PurpleGirl-audreyYou can find out more about Audrey and the book by visiting her website at http://www.audreykane.com

But in the meantime, Audrey herself is here to tell you more about how Violet’s story came about and how social issues are woven in amongst the fantasy threads in the book.

The Muse

As a child, I always had a stack of books by my bedside—with a notebook and a sketchpad tucked underneath them. I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading, writing or drawing something. Not only did books keep me up late at night asthey swept me away on fantastical escapes, they inspired me to use my imagination. And since my passion for writing and art are interwoven, somehow art or color always wriggles its way into my writing. My mind thinks in pictures; the words come later.

Many readers are surprised to discover that The Purple Girl was born from a writer’s block exercise. A fellow writer suggested I try an exercise that would force me to take off my editing hat. My job was to write for twenty-five minutes without stopping. And there were rules. I wasn’t allowed to erase a word, revise a sentence or pause to collect my thoughts. The Purple Girl came to me…and I fell in love with her story. At the time, I never would have guessed that The Purple Girl would become my debut book.

I didn’t set out to write a story that would weave social issues with adventure and magic. I didn’t have a clue my character would take me there. I simply enjoyed the process of writing. I got to be in charge—be the boss! Making the rules in my world was great fun. There was a story burning to come out, and when my character whispered in my ear, I listened.

Now, I will let you in on another secret. Children and adults who overcome obstacles are truly the heart of Violet’s story. They inspire me every day. And kids who feel lonely or different always linger in the back of my mind. Whether a child is reading The Purple Girl to escape on an adventure or whether she is grasping the deeper messages woven into the story, I’m simply happy a child is reading. And if I’ve helped a child stand taller—well, that’s icing on the cake!

Alright, now here’s the bit you’ve been waiting for….the GIVEAWAY!  To enter, click on the rafflecopter link below.  Before that though, here’s the guidelines for the giveaway:

– The giveaway is open internationally, so provided you live on planet Earth and have a postal address, you should be right to enter

– One winner will be chosen at random via rafflecopter and will have 48 hours to respond to a congratulatory email before a redraw will occur.

– The winner’s prize will be shipped by the publisher – no responsibility will be taken for packages lost in the mail. Sorry.

– The giveaway is in no way related to WordPress, Goodreads, The Book Depository, Rafflecopter, Facebook or any other individual or company that is not me.

– I will be checking entries, so be honest.

click to enter button
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck everyone!

Until next time,

Bruce (and Audrey!)