Interviews

Interview with children’s author Sam Thompson

PaperBound caught up with author Sam Thompson to chat about his first book for children, Wolfstongue.

Could you tell us a little bit about your novel, Wolfstongue?

It’s the story of a boy called Silas who is bullied at school because he has speech difficulties and is very quiet. One day he meets an injured wolf, and discovers a hidden world called the Forest where animals can speak. A struggle is going on between the wolves and the foxes: the foxes’ leader, Reynard, controls everything with his clever talk, and has turned the wolves into slaves in his underground city. Silas wants to help his wolf friends escape from the foxes, but to do this he will have to face his own struggle with words.

Readers may recognise some of the names in Wolfstongue from Reynard the Fox stories. Can you tell us a little bit about how you were inspired by these, and share any other inspirations behind the book?

Reynard the Fox has appeared in many different stories over hundreds of years, including a cycle of medieval European fables which were my main inspiration. Reynard is a trickster — a bit like Loki, Anansi or Br’er Rabbit — who is always getting himself in and out of trouble with his clever schemes, and he invariably gets the better of his rival Isengrim the Wolf. One reason I wanted to write a Reynard and Isengrim story was that I sympathised with poor old Isengrim, and I felt he deserved to be more than just the victim of the cunning fox! Further inspiration came from all the books I’ve read and loved about children going into hidden worlds, from Alan Garner’s Elidor to China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun. And I took lessons in language from books like Ted Hughes’s The Iron Man and Neil Gaiman’s Coraline – writing that is so clear and simple that it feels like myth. I hope Wolfstongue has some of that spirit.

This is your first novel for young people. We’d love to know what came first: did you always plan to write something for this age group, or did the idea for Wolfstongue come first?

Actually what came first was my own young people. When my children got big enough for me to read them books with chapters, I rediscovered a lot of childhood reading that I hadn’t thought about in a long time, and in turn that got me inspired to write: I find writing usually follows from reading in that way. And then the idea for Wolfstongue came together when one of my children was having trouble with his speech. I found words difficult when I was small, and really I still do; I wanted to give my son a story about the power and danger of words, and how we get to grips with them.

Wolfstongue has been described as a fable, with references to the relationship between humans and the natural world, and to some of the more troubling times in our past/present. How did you decide what to include, and what do you hope readers take from the novel?

I didn’t really have to decide what to include, because the story led the way. Once I had the wolves and the foxes and what happened between them, the other ideas flowed in. I do hope the book gives readers a way of thinking about how humans relate to the world beyond ourselves, and how we might use our language to speak respectfully on behalf of things that are silent.

Are you writing, or planning to write, anything new for this age group?

I’m working on a sequel to Wolfstongue, provisionally titled The Fox’s Tower. I’m feeling very excited about it and would love to tell you all about the story, but I’d better keep it to myself! Writing a sequel is rewarding because it lets me dig deeper into parts of the story that I only began to uncover in the first book.

If you could pass on a writing tip to an aspiring young writer, what would it be?

If you’re like me, you started writing for the joy of it. Then, when you got serious about writing, it turned out to be very difficult. Joyful and difficult: it’s okay for writing to be both.

What are your top book recommendations for young people today?

I would recommend omnivorous reading. The most wonderful thing about being a young reader is that you can read anything and everything – read adventurously and ravenously and discover for yourself what you love. My best memories as a young reader are memories of investigating the shelves in my local library, taking down whatever looked intriguing: books I’d never heard of, books I didn’t understand, books that seemed strange or scary or like they weren’t meant for me. It’s all yours to explore.

How would you sum up your novel in three words?

Fox, Wolf, Child.

Sam Thompson grew up in the south of England and now lives in Belfast. He is the author of the novels Communion Town and Jott, and his short fiction has appeared in Best British Short Stories 2019 and on BBC Radio 4. He teaches writing at Queen’s University, Belfast. Wolfstongue is his first novel for children, published in May 2021 by Little Island Books.

Don’t forget you can catch up with the latest issues of PaperBound Magazine here – and they’re all completely free!

Interviews

Interview with YA author Clare Owen

We chatted with author Clare Owen recently all about her new YA novel, Zed and the Cormorants.

Can you tell us a little about your novel, Zed and the Cormorants? What made you want to write it?

It’s a story of a young girl who moves from London to Cornwall. Zed’s dad is convinced that a fresh start and a simpler lifestyle will improve the family’s life – he even gives up his job to start an artisanal bakery – but Zed is riddled with anxiety about starting a new school and becomes increasingly convinced that she’s under attack from a flock of cormorants who live in the woods near her home.

 It’s got ghosts, mythology, romance, Cornish history, baking, environmental issues and bucket loads of teenage angst!

The inspiration came when I was walking my dogs and I saw two cormorants on the sand banks, and it struck me how poised but also how sinister they looked!  I went home, began to research them and learned how adaptable they are – they’ve been around since the dinosaurs and live in all parts of the world – but also how often they feature in mythology and literature. I’d been playing around with the idea of writing a story about a young girl struggling with anxiety, but the cormorants wouldn’t go away.  In my mind they stretched out their wings, and said, ‘If we’re good enough for The Bible, The Odyssey, Shakespeare and Milton, don’t you think you should give us a look in?’

Zed and the Cormorants is steeped in mystery, family and centres around a haunting love story that spurs on the entire book. Did you know what you wanted to include from the start, and did anything change through the course of writing it?

I knew I wanted to explore anxiety, loneliness and the oblique ways that we find to face difficult emotions and overcome them. Love needed to be a part of this: the fear of never finding it and the fear of finding it and having it taken away. I also wanted Zed to have a loving family – for that never to be an issue – but for them all to be real, flawed and struggling themselves, so they aren’t always able to give her the support that she needs.  The question was how to combine this very ‘real’ story with the more fanciful elements; how to introduce all the mythology, ways of communicating with the birds and the possibilities for making a truce. And that was where Denzil (a young man who sometimes sleeps rough in the woods) came in.  Once I’d got to grips with who he was – his particular challenges and coping strategies – then he became a kind of bridge between the two worlds. 

This book has themes of mental health, parental illness, loss, and new beginnings. Can you tell us a little about why you felt these themes were important to include? Were any difficult to write about?

All these things are part of our lives and as such they should be written about in literature for any age. The joy of writing YA is that you can tackle them head on, with characters who are hungry to learn about the world, open to self-discovery and their feelings are usually pretty close to the surface.  I didn’t find those bits hard to write, in some ways they were the easiest because they needed the least imaginative input.

Your writinghas been described as ‘Daphne Du Maurier for the 21st century’. Do you find your writing has been influenced by gothic style?

It’s funny, I never set out to write a gothic book and didn’t think I was drawn to the gothic style! I’ve never ever read Frankenstein or Dracula, and it’s only in the last few weeks that I’ve read Poe’s The Raven and du Maurier’s The Birds.  But, of course, Zed is gothic – it has mystery, suspense, foreshadowing, the supernatural and overwrought emotions. And I’ve always loved the Brontës, particularly Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, and they are all about wild landscapes, hidden secrets, haunted buildings and passionate, intense love affairs.

The setting and landscape plays such a key role in this book. Did you ever think about setting it anywhere else?

No, right from the start it was always set in a particular wood near my home.  Partly because it’s where I first saw the birds that inspired the story, but also because although it’s specifically a story about a girl at war with a flock of cormorants – why they are seeking revenge and how she can make amends – it’s also about someone being forced to engage with the natural for the very first time and what they gain from that.  I needed a setting that would be alien and isolating to a city girl but also offers her headspace and access to wildlife, so that she can learn to live in harmony with it and at the same time find some peace within herself.

What’s next for you and your writing? Are there any more books on the horizon?

Last year I wrote a lot of short stories and now I’m working on a novel for adults. I’ve had to do a lot of research trips on Google Earth which has slowed me down a bit and isn’t half as much fun as spending the day away from your desk: drinking lots of coffee and lots eating lots of cake to fuel hours and hours of hours of walking round locations that may or may not be used. 

What are your top 3 tips for aspiring writers?

Read. Read. Read. As much as possible and as widely as possible and when you like something – whether it’s a description, a punchy bit of dialogue or even just the rhythm of a sentence, copy it down somewhere.  I put it in Notes on my phone.  Then when you lack inspiration, you can just dip into it and you’ll get all fired up again.

Be nosey. I don’t just mean listening to other people’s conversations (although I do this a lot, I’m afraid!) but also follow your nose. Be curious. Most of us have the internet at our fingertips, so use it.  If you have a phone, don’t just use it to scroll through social media, but use it to investigate things. Any number of questions can be answered in a ten-minute bus ride, and those questions can lead to any number of ‘what ifs’ which can lead to any number of stories.

‘Write with the handbrake off’!  I don’t know who said this, but I put it in block capitals somewhere prominent when I start any new writing project.  It’s really just a mantra to push you to the end of the first draft – because that for me is always the hardest bit.  Once you have a first draft then everything slows down, and you can spend as long as you like fiddling with one paragraph!

What are your top YA book recommendations for young people today?

I think every teenager (and probably every adult) should read All the Places I’ve Cried in Public (Holly Bourne) as it explores how easy it is to get into a toxic relationship and how painful it is to get out.

The Space Between (Meg Grehan) – a tender, lyrical novel in verse about mental anguish and coming out.

Sisters by Daisy Johnson. It isn’t marketed as YA, but it explores the dark relationship between two teenage sisters.  It’s beautifully written but very disturbing and not for the faint-hearted!

How would you sum up your novel in three words?

‘The-Birds meets Bake-off’ (ha.. that’s really cheating isn’t it?)

After working as an actor in London – performing in venues that ranged from The National Theatre to the boot of a Ford Fiesta – Clare married a boat builder and moved to Cornwall. Her short stories have been published by Mslexia, Storgy, Litro & Fairlight and in the anthology An Outbreak of Peace.  Zed and the Cormorants (Arachne Press) is her first YA novel. 

You can keep up to date with Clare by visiting her website, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Zed and the Cormorants is available now and published by Arachne Press.

Don’t forget you can catch up with the latest issues of PaperBound Magazine here – and they’re all completely free!

Interviews

Interview with children’s author Struan Murray

Rebecca Perkin caught up with Struan Murray to chat about his writing and his Orphans of the Tide book series. You can catch the interview in the full magazine by clicking here and scrolling down to our Spring 2021 issue.

Struan Murray

When a mystery boy washes in with the tide, the citizens believe he’s the Enemy – the god who drowned the world – come again to cause untold chaos.

Struan Murray grew up in Edinburgh and has a PhD in genetics and is a lecturer in biochemistry at the University of Oxford. And now, following his success with the Bath Children’s Novel Award, he is the debut author of fantasy adventure Orphans of the Tide. If you’re a fan of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, then Orphans of the Tide is a must read. Children and adults alike will find themselves caught up in Murray’s dark and mysterious word, left wanting more when they reach the end. Thank goodness there’s a sequel!

After enjoying a very interesting and insightful video call with Struan through my writing group, I was thrilled when he accepted my invitation of an interview. I asked him ten questions about himself and his debut.

Orphans of the Tide has a lot of themes around trust, family and grief. What was the hardest scene to write?

To be honest, the emotional scenes are usually the ones I find easiest – it’s not hard to get into the heads of characters when everything’s emotionally turbulent. The hardest parts were more technical – there are a lot of rules surrounding the magical element of this book and it was a challenge at times to find ways to weave in the necessary backstory in a way that was organic, without overloading the reader or giving away too much too soon.

Ellie and Anna are two strong independent female characters. What is the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?

I think it’s important for me to be mindful when writing female characters to avoid the dangers of the unintentional male gaze and be really thoughtful about expressing the integrity of someone with a different gender from me.

Aside from the follow up to Orphans of the Tide, Shipwreck Island, what other works do you have in the pipeline?

Currently I’m working on the third (and possibly final!) book in the Orphans of the Tide trilogy. So many of my previous (unpublished) projects were the first books of planned trilogies, so it is a strange and wonderful thing to finally be able to finish one.

Could you see Orphans of the Tide as a film and if so who would you like to see playing Ellie?

I definitely could – in fact whenever I’m writing a scene at least a part of my brain is imagining how it would be filmed. I’m a huge fan of Studio Ghibli, and often dream about how my novel would look in that style. As for actors, I haven’t thought much about the child characters but think Tom Hardy would do a great job of the brooding, fanatical Inquisitor Hargrath, while Chiwetel Ejiofor would be perfect as Castion, the kindly, charismatic whale lord.

If you were to rewrite Orphans of the Tide is there anything you would do differently?

If I’m honest, I haven’t really looked back through the novel since it was published. There are certain aspects of the world that I would have liked to bring out more (the politics of the City, the rivalries between different whale lords), but I think that would be more for me, because they were important considerations in creating the world, but would have slowed the pace of the story.

As an author myself, I like to hide things in my books that only a handful of people might pick up on. For example, a door code being your birth date. Do you hide any secrets in your books?

I named a few (very minor) characters after a few of my (very minor) friends. They haven’t been nearly as grateful enough.

Has a book ever made you cry, and if so what was it?

I remember crying at the end of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (spoiler alert) when Dumbledore died. Occasionally I have cried while rereading my own stuff but that’s more from exhaustion than the quality of the writing.

What is your writing kryptonite?

I sometimes get bored describing character’s physical/emotional reactions to things and usually just put an asterisk for future Struan to deal with. When he comes across them he *

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be? Related or unrelated to writing.

I think I’ve spent an awful lot of my writing life questioning whether I am ‘worthy’ of being a writer, instead of just writing. This is an entirely pointless exercise – if you have made the effort to sit down to try making up a story, then you are a writer.

And, finally, if you could write anywhere, where would it be? Real or imaginary?

A big, big library full of books and comfy chairs and spiral staircases that lead to nowhere.

Thanks so much to Struan for this ten question insight into his debut novel and world of writing.

You can visit Struan’s official website to keep up to date with all his latest news and books. Orphans of the Tide is published by Puffin Books and OUT NOW. The follow up to Orphans of the Tide, Shipwreck Island was released on 4th March 2021.

Interview by Rebecca Perkin.

Rebecca Perkin is a YA fantasy and sci-fi author from Surrey. Being an avid reader from a young age, Rebecca always loved escaping to other worlds. Her passion for writing comes from the freedom it gives someone to live out another life. She has written five novels to date, and is currently working on Half Undone, a YA Speculative fiction all about secrets, memories and what it means to be human.

Don’t forget you can catch up with the latest issues of PaperBound Magazine here – and they’re all completely free!

Interviews

Interview with YA author Bex Hogan

We were thrilled to catch up with YA fantasy author Bex Hogan and chat about her adventure series The Isles of Storm and Sorrow. You can catch the interview in the full magazine by clicking here and scrolling down to our Spring 2021 issue.

Can you tell us more about The Isles of Storm and Sorrow series and what readers can expect?

The Isles of Storm and Sorrow is a YA fantasy adventure series set on the high seas. The first book, Viper, follows Marianne, the Viper’s daughter, who has to decide whether she’s prepared to sacrifice everything to fight against her cruel father. Expect power, politics and pirates – with magic, romance and sea-monsters!

The sea can be a dangerous place but also provide the perfect sanctuary – in fiction and real life. Did you have to do a lot of research into seafaring and the ocean (or monsters!) before writing Viper?

I grew up in Cornwall, close to the sea. It’s always been a part of my life, with not a day passing that I didn’t see it, even if only from a distance. When you live near water, I think you learn to respect its immense power – certainly I’ve always both admired and feared the ocean. It’s beautiful and deadly, something I wanted to capture in Viper. But because I fear it, I’ve always tended to do little more than paddle on the shore. Although I’ve been on boats, it was very much as a passenger and not a sailor, so I had to do a fair amount of research in that respect. I was also fortunate enough to go to Charlestown Harbour, where they have tall ships you can board, which was as close to being on a ship from an equivalent time period as I could manage.

What are the best ingredients for a fantasy trilogy, and why do you think this genre is so powerful?

The attraction of fantasy is timeless. Partly because it offers an escape, and now more than ever I think we’re all desperate to lose ourselves in another world for a few hours. But the best fantasy is also rooted in the world we know, and so we can relate to the struggles and the characters in a real, but also safe, way. It offers a sense of hope too – we can be part of the epic journey, feel the many lows and the occasional high, experience power alongside the protagonist, who has the ability to affect change in their world, and ultimately take heart when good overcomes evil.

Who is your favourite character in The Isles of Storm and Sorrow series, and why?

This is an impossible question! How can I possibly choose just one?! I love all of them for different reasons – some because they’re pure and good, others because I want to hug them so bad, and a few I simply love to hate! But if I have to pick just one, I’ll have to go with my girl, Marianne. She’s the one I’ve spent the most time with over the past few years, the one I’ve been with through every nightmare scenario she keeps finding herself in, the one I’ve rooted for every step of the way. And I think ultimately, she’s the one I’m going to miss the most now the series is over.

What do you love most about writing and being an author?

I think all writers will recognise how much writing is simply a part of us. I can’t imagine not doing it – I love escaping into my own worlds, I love unravelling the mystery of a story and working out how it all fits together. When I write, it’s like I can breathe properly, it’s a release, it’s a relief. It makes me happy to tease characters out of my head and set them free on to a page. Having those words published is a whole other joy – I’ll admit it’s terrifying knowing that people can read what I’ve written, but it’s also an honour to be able to share my stories. I love knowing that the characters are on their own journeys now, that each reader will perceive them differently and give them a new lease of life.

Vulture, the final book in the series is out in April. What comes next for you and your books?

That’s a good question! The simple answer is, I don’t know! I’ve been busy writing – I’ve finished an adult manuscript and a younger middle grade one, plus I’m currently working on another YA fantasy and an adult fantasy, so we’ll just have to see where they lead – if anywhere! All I know is I’ll keep writing!

If you could create any top 3 tips for aspiring writers, what would they be?

Keep reading. Keep writing. Keep going.

You could get lucky, and your first book gets immediately picked up, but more likely it’ll take a few attempts. For me it took ten years from starting to write to publication day and trust me, I thought about giving up sometimes. But you’ve just got to keep going, because the more you write, the better you get. And so much is down to timing, so hang in there, even when it gets tough!

Raised on a healthy diet of fantasy and fairy tales, Bex Hogan has spent much of her life lost in daydreams. Writing her stories down was a natural progression and now she enjoys sharing her time between living in the real world and escaping to her imagination. A Cornish girl at heart, Bex now lives in Cambridgeshire with her family. She might be found riding horses, talking to her plants or eating marzipan. Or not.

You can keep up to date with whatever Bex is up to by following her on Twitter and Instagram, or by visiting her official website.

Viper, Venom and Vulture in the Isles of Storms and Sorrow series are published by Orion Children’s Books (Hachette Children’s Group). Vulture is released 8th April 2021, while the rest of the series is out NOW!

Don’t forget you can catch up with the latest issues of PaperBound Magazine here – and they’re all completely free!

Interviews

Interview with children’s author Tamsin Mori

We chatted with children’s author Tamsin Mori about her debut book The Weather Weaver. You can catch the interview in the full magazine by clicking here and scrolling down to our Spring 2021 issue.

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Can you tell us about The Weather Weaver and where the idea came from?

The Weather Weaver is an adventure story with a touch of magic. Stella, the main character, is spending the summer with her Grandpa in Shetland, but her life takes a turn for the stormy when she meets an old woman called Tamar, who asks her to catch a cloud …

My mother’s family are all Shetlanders and I grew up listening to my Granny’s tales of Shetland – both family stories and the island myths and legends. In all her stories, weather was never a backdrop, it was a character – tricksy and wild. I must have absorbed that idea quite rapidly, because by the time I was 10, I was already experimenting with calling the weather.

What challenges did you face when writing a book about showing how clouds might feel?

The main challenge was that Stella can’t hear her cloud, so there’s no dialogue. Also, though they can change shape and colour, clouds don’t have faces, so there aren’t any expressions to describe! Having said that, once I’d discovered what Nimbus was like as a personality, it became surprisingly easy to imagine how he’d react in any situation.

You might not be able to chat to your pets, but that doesn’t stop you from understanding how they’re feeling – it’s all about body language. When I was editing, I did quite a lot of acting out the scenes, to get the movement right. It would have looked completely bonkers if anyone had seen me.

What do you hope readers can take from The Weather Weaver?

I hope they’ll be left with a sense of the magic hidden inside everything – things that seem commonplace until you look at them a little differently. Even stones are full of stories! I’d love readers to finish The Weather Weaver and look around with a sense of possibility and wonder – breathe bit deeper, dream a bit larger. And who knows? Maybe we’ll discover a few new weather weavers out there.

Did you get into similar adventures as Stella when you were growing up?

Much like Stella, we moved a lot while I was growing up, but my mum’s family are all Shetlanders, so that was the one place we always returned to – the place that felt like home. And exactly like Stella, what I loved most was the freedom! Although they’re wild, the islands are very safe, so I was allowed to roam and explore as much as I liked. Fog was the one thing that could keep us there – when there’s fog, the planes can’t fly – so my earliest attempts at weather weaving involved whispering spells into the wind, to call the fog. It worked, too – we once got fogged in for a whole extra week! Magic!

What does your typical writing day look like?

I don’t really have a typical writing day – I write whenever I can find a quiet moment – that can be anything from in the car, first thing in the morning, in the middle of the night, on a windy hilltop, in bed … I have two children and a part time (non-writing) job, so I’ve become a master at making time elastic – stretching it out to make space for writing!

My ideal writing day involves waking up gently, so I can hold onto the tail end of dreams, then scribbling in my bedside notebook. I find mornings best for first-drafting – inventing new things. Afternoons are better for editing, because by that time, my logical brain has switched on.

Is there anything you wish you’d known before becoming a writer?

How long it takes to make a book! Not the writing bit – I love that – more the actual process of turning it into a book. I somehow imagined that having written a book, it would just magically appear on the shelves of bookshops. The truth is, there are lots and lots of rounds of editing and polishing and proofreading, and between each one is a long period of waiting. The waiting bits are the worst – I am not a patient person. I’ve got the hang of it now, so I have several stories on the go at the same time. Each time I send back edits on one, I’ve got another story to jump into. I wish I’d known that before!

In The Weather Weaver, Stella has a book of myths and legends she treasures. Are there any myths and legends that are your favourite?

My favourite myth is the selkies – magical creatures that look like seals, but can shed their skin to become human and walk on land. Growing up, I was half convinced that I was a selkie – I’ve always loved the water. I’d love the ability to transform and be just as at home under the water as on land. We used to sing the selkies when I was small. If you sing from the beach, the seals all pop up out f the water to listen – a semi circle of sleek brown heads, with soulful eyes – selkies one and all.

Tamsin had a nomadic childhood (eight different schools!), but the one place that always felt like home was Shetland, her mother’s homeland. Shetland is a collection of teeny tiny islands, so far north they fight too fit on the map. They are overflowing with myths and legends, most of which are true.  Growing up, Tamsin was usually to be found on the beach, whispering spells into sea shells and singing to the selkies.

Tamsin now lives in Bath with her husband, two children, one rabbit, several crows, and a badger, though she flies home to Shetland whenever she can – if you go there in the summer, you’ll probably spot her, striding about with the wind in her hair, chasing a wild story.

The Weather Weaver is published by ULCAN Publishing and is out NOW! You can keep up to date with Tamsin and all her book related news on Instagram and Twitter.

Don’t forget you can catch up with the latest issues of PaperBound Magazine here – and they’re all completely free!

Interviews

Interview with YA author C.G. Moore

In our spring issue, we chatted with YA author C.G. Moore about his own life experiences and how they led to writing his new book, Gut Feelings. You can catch the interview in the full magazine by clicking here and scrolling down to our Spring 2021 issue.

Can you tell us more about your new YA novel Gut Feelings and how it felt to write it?

Gut Feelings tells my own story of living with a rare genetic illness known as Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (or FAP for short). Wart-like lumps known as adenomas or polyps grow in the bowel and rectum and eventually they turn cancerous. The book opens with my diagnosis at eleven, then treatment, before looking at the aftermath of chronic illness. Writing Gut Feelings was cathartic but emotional. The book is incredibly personal and doesn’t hold back.

How does it feel to be able to share your story in this way?

Scary. I was terrified readers will get an insight into my deepest fears and most embarrassing moments. As someone that didn’t see their chronic illness represented in the books I read as a teenager, it was so important to put myself out there and write the story I wanted to read. While it’s been scary, it’s also been hugely cathartic and the response has been overwhelmingly positive! I’m hugely grateful to my publisher (Hazel) for believing in me and Gut Feelings.

This and your previous novel, Fall Out, deal with important topics. What do you hope readers will take from them?

I hope it will inspire readers and create more empathy for those that have had different lived experiences and challenges in their lives. Reading for empathy is so important and it’s something that fascinates me about the power of the written word.

What made you decide to write this book in verse? Did it create any challenges?

Not many people have heard of my illness and fewer truly understand how it impacts the lives of those that suffer with it. When you try to explain it, you’re trying to get as much information across as possible in the most concise manner and it’s near impossible to describe the physical, emotional and psychological impacts. It was because of this that I had the idea of writing in verse. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. It felt right. It didn’t create challenges; it created possibilities for me to explore the illness in ways I would never be able to accomplish in prose.

What books/other verse novels do you enjoy?

My favourite verse novels include The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta, Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover and Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust. Each has a different message and distinct style, but they are all beautifully immersive and engaging.

Is there anything you wish you’d known before becoming a writer?

When you’re writing with the intention to get published, you need to be so resilient and determined, but also willing to take chances, try new things and take constructive criticism. For me, I needed to learn this over time. I started writing with the intention of being published ten years before Fall Out. I needed that time to learn these lessons and wrote something that was true to me and the best story I could create. Knowing this before I became a writer would have changed my trajectory and the kind of stories I told.

Christopher (C.G. Moore) is a freelance editor and marketer. He currently lectures on the BA and MA in Publishing courses at the University of Central Lancashire. He is the author of Fall Out and Gut Feelings which are both published by UCLAN and available NOW!

Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @YAfictionados

Don’t forget you can catch up with the latest issues of PaperBound Magazine here – and they’re all completely free!

Interviews

Interview with Michelle Kenney

We chatted with YA author Michelle Kenney about her trilogy, Book of Fire, in the Winter 2020 issue of PaperBound. Read on to discover more about Michelle’s books and what inspires her writing …

Tell us a little about The Book of Fire trilogy.

The Book of Fire YA fantasy trilogy follows wild girl Talia, surviving as a hunter-gatherer in a treehouse village valley, after a biochemical Great War has destroyed most of the world. The story focuses on two communities: a sealed off scientific population who believe the outside world to be poisoned, and a treehouse-dwelling community of foragers who believe they are the only Great War survivors – until a chance encounter changes everything…

The trilogy is rich in Roman mythology, science and history, with plenty of romance thrown in for good measure. The action is also set in and around a war-torn ruined Exeter! Often dubbed ‘The Hunger Games meets Mythology,’ or ‘Percy Jackson meets The Bone Season’.

The series has strong themes and raises questions about the frequent conflict between nature and science.

Inspiration for the series grew from a visit to the Colosseum in Rome where they were burning torches of lavender at the end of every stand. The tour guide explained it was an authentic detail from the real gladiatorial games, where the scent was used to cover the scent of bloodshed. It was a tiny gruesome seed that lodged in my head, and stayed with me for nearly 20 years, before it grew into a trilogy.

How important is setting to you and your books?

I deliberately chose Exeter for my setting because I wanted the landscape to be local and recognisable – partly because I like to ground my fantasy in a little reality, and partly because Exeter has a deep vein of Roman history I knew I could tap into and use. I love living in Devon and feel very lucky to have the moor, coast and historical cities like Exeter on my doorstep for inspiration.

As the trilogy progressed, I realised readers were enjoying the local setting as much as I was enjoying writing it, and it inspired me to research and include more local history and landmarks. These included the ruined Roman bathhouse beneath Cathedral Green, which I deliberately used as a backdrop to action in City of Dust, and of course Exeter City’s famous underground passages.

Do you think dystopian fiction is on the rise again?

I think dystopian fiction is always bubbling away beneath the surface. Unfortunately, it’s not difficult to imagine a dystopian world given recent world events, and this adds a factor of relatability at the moment too. The Book of Fire series imagines a world after a devastating Great War, and I’ve been surprised by the number of readers who’ve been in touch to say how the setting feels a little too raw and realistic to be entirely comfortable. However, this is a real measure of its success for me.

Book of Fire’s core themes: science vs nature, history vs future and questioning if we should, just because we can underpin the whole series; and every reader who reviews or gets in contact to say Talia represents so much more than a wild girl in a recovering world, makes me very happy.

What dystopian novels do you love?

So many! The Bone Season series, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Hunger Games, 1984, Divergent, but perhaps the most influential for me was Robert C. O’Brien’s Z for Zachariah.

Z for Zachariah was the very first dystopian novel I ever read at the influential age of 13, and at that time it felt as though it changed everything. Before then, I’d read a usual range of popular childhood authors including C.S Lewis, Ursula Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Enid Blyton and Ruby Ferguson. But this one story turned everything on its head – a reimagining of a world after an apocalyptical war, where the race for survival is uppermost and no-one is who they seem, felt so exciting and unique. Afterwards, I actively sought books that gave that same thrill. I think part of the reason I love YA fantasy, is that it’s brave and unafraid of taking chances or asking the difficult questions.

Could you tell us a little about your writing journey?

I always scribbled stories as a child, and even had some short stories published in my local newspaper as a teenager/adult; however I didn’t start writing seriously until a traumatic event relating to the birth of my second child. While I always nursed secret hopes of getting published ‘one day’, the event was a wake-up call – a reminder that none of us are here forever, and fulfilling ambitions takes time and stamina! So I started writing seriously.

My first novel got an agent, but no deal. That same agent closed her business after a year, but by that point I had a second novel ‘Genetica’ and received four offers of representation within a week.

The initial feedback from publishers was great, but dystopia wasn’t in vogue and it went on the back burner while we worked on my next novel. Then, just as we were about to submit the new novel, a trilogy offer came in from HarperCollins HQ, a full twelve months after the original book was submitted! It was the most exciting moment of my writing journey.

Genetica became Book of Fire, the first book in the trilogy.

How valuable was it to have people to share your writing with?

Looking back, enrolling in the 2015 Curtis Brown Writing for Young Adults/Children course was one of the most valuable steps in my writing journey. More importantly than the writing wisdom and wizardry – though with Catherine Johnson as course leader there was plenty of that – I met a brilliant bunch of like-minded people who became the best friends and support network a writer could want.

Five years later we’re still in daily contact, sharing and supporting the highs and lows of each other’s journeys and lives. Some of us have agents and deals, some of us don’t, but it doesn’t matter because no-one’s success impinges anyone else’s, and everyone’s journey offers a chance to learn.

One of my cohort, Stuart White, started the hugely successful #WriteMentor, the online, accessible, support network for published and unpublished writers alike.

What’s your favourite ever book for young people?

Too hard! I do remember reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe very vividly, and being absolutely filled with wonder that someone had written a door to another world through the back of a wardrobe. It felt as though they’d read my mind, and heard the questions I whispered to myself when the lights were out. It still captures that essence of childhood magic for me.

Writing Prompt:

The Book of Fire series is full of Roman myths and legends! If you could recreate a beast of myth and legend, what would you create? What strengths/skills would it have and why?

Expand this into a map of your own mythological world. Where does your creature live? Who else lives there? Think about setting/time and add as much ‘world detail’ as you can.

We’d love to read what you come up with. Send your stories here: paperboundmagazine@outlook.com

We may even print it in a future issue!

Michelle is a firm believer in magic, and that ancient doorways to other worlds can still be found if we look hard enough. She is also a hopeless scribbleaholic and, when left to her own devices, likes nothing better than to dream up new fantasy worlds in the back of a dog-eared notebook. Doctors say they’re unlikely to find a cure any time soon.

The Book of Fire trilogy is published by HarperCollins HQStories and is available globally now (in English). The final book in the trilogy, Storm of Ash, was released earlier this year. Michelle is represented by Northbank Talent Management, and loves chatting all things book-related on her official website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Don’t forget you can catch up with the latest issues of PaperBound Magazine here – and they’re all completely free!

Interviews

Interview with Caroline Logan

We chatted with author Caroline Logan about her YA fantasy series, The Four Treasures, in the Winter 2020 issue of PaperBound. Read on to discover more about Caroline’s books and what inspires her writing …

Can you tell us more about The Four Treasures series and what readers can expect?

A few years ago, I got an idea for a story based on Scottish legends. I read a lot of Young Adult Fantasy but hadn’t really seen mythology represented. Originally, the story was supposed to be covered over one book but once I started plotting it out, I knew it would take a series to do it justice. I immediately knew what would happen in the first and second books, but then I had to make a decision about whether it would be a trilogy or a quadrilogy. Around that time, I stumbled upon the legend of The Four Treasures (which is actually an Irish story) and since my lucky number is four, I took it as a sign and plotted the other two books. 

The first book, The Stone of Destiny, is about a quest to find a magical stone, to save the kingdom and guarantee the safety of the king. But it’s actually so much more than that and I think people are always surprised when they read it. It’s really about the main character, Ailsa, who has been shunned all of her life by superstitious neighbours. She saves a pair of selkies who convince her to help them find the stone. But, meanwhile, something terrifying is stalking Ailsa through the forests of Eilanmor. There’s friendship, romance, action, and many monsters (my favourite things to write).

Have you always wanted to become a writer? How did you start?

No, I never thought I’d become a writer. English wasn’t my strong suit in school – I was much more suited to maths, science and art. I didn’t like dissecting poetry and hated writing essays. It wasn’t until I got back into reading again that I started thinking about writing. I had a New Year’s Resolution to read a book a week. By the end of the year, I wanted to give my own story a try. 

I started by coming up with characters, a plot and by building my world. That’s the best bit of writing a book in my opinion. I watched Youtube videos on writing and read blog posts. Then I just started. I didn’t think I would ever finish and I especially didn’t think anyone would ever read it. But a few years later, here I am with one book out and another on the way!

Did you have to do a lot of research into Scottish myths and folklore, or history, to write these books?

I already knew quite a few myths but I had to dig a little deeper when writing the book. There are often different versions of the same story, so I just chose the ones I liked best. Sometimes I’ll add a twist to them, like the selkie’s water magic. Sometimes I’ll just make something up. When I was in primary school, my friends and I pretended there were bog monsters in the mud, waiting to steal your wellies, so I put them in the book. I reckon it still counts – I am Scottish after all, so I can make Scottish myths!

In terms of history, originally I was going to set the books in a certain time period, but nothing was really lining up and I wouldn’t have been able to give my characters kilts or have them eat curry. That’s why I decided to set it in a fictional land based on Scotland. I always joke that I just couldn’t be bothered researching all the history.

The main character in The Stone of Destiny, Ailsa, is treated differently from a young age because of the way she looks. Is there anything you hope readers can take from this?

I really wanted to have interesting, diverse characters to set them apart from other medieval based fantasy books. Though all my characters in book 1 are white, I hope they all have distinctive features and personalities. As we move through the books, we’ll start to meet people from different places other than Eilanmor and the cast will become even more diverse. Hopefully, it conveys the message that if you broaden your horizons and meet people from different places, with different sexualities and gender identities, and abilities, your life will be better for it.

When I was creating my main character, I wanted someone who felt like an outcast. The Changeling Mark was another myth I’d heard about and when I saw this picture of a beautiful woman with a birthmark on her face, it all just clicked into place. I think Ailsa’s struggle is something we can all identify with. I believe that everyone has the experience of feeling left out at some point in their lives, so hopefully I made a main character who was relatable and could show the reader that being yourself is better than being another face in the crowd.

What do you love most about writing? What comes next for you and your books?

I love coming up with plots and characters. I really don’t like the actual writing part that much but it’s just part of telling the story. I have a four book contract with Cranachan Publishing. The Cauldron of Life, the second in the series, was released in October. Meanwhile, I’ll be writing Book 3 which will be out in 2021.

I have a few side projects on the go, but I just don’t have the time for them right now. One is inspired by the Gorbals Vampire legend, another is a fairytale retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses set in Ancient Egypt, and the last is an adult Science Fiction Western that’s about a gang of female criminals on the hunt for treasure. Maybe when The Four Treasures Series is finished, I’ll be able to get on with those.

How will you be spending the winter season?

Playing with my dogs: Ranger and Scout. I know it’s a bit cringey, but they really are my babies. I’ll also be up to my eyes in school work. I’m a secondary biology teacher and I have a lot of senior classes this year. It’s been a challenge working through the pandemic but I’m so glad to see my students again. I don’t think I’ve laughed so much in months.

Writing prompt:

You explore a hidden cave and discover two portals. One will take you to a beautiful place with a terrifying secret. The other will take you to a dangerous place with a great treasure.

Write about which one you would choose and what you see when you step through the door.

We’d love to read what you come up with. Send your stories here: paperboundmagazine@outlook.com

We may even print it in a future issue!

Caroline is a YA fantasy author. Her debut novel, The Stone of Destiny, is the first in The Four Treasures series. Caroline is a high school biology teacher who lives in the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland, with her husband. Before moving there, she lived and worked in Spain, Tenerife, Sri Lanka and the West Coast of Scotland. She graduated from The University of Glasgow with a bachelor’s degree in Marine and Freshwater Biology. In her spare time she tries to ski and paddle board, though she is happiest with a good book, a cup of tea and her dogs.

You can keep up to date with Caroline by visiting her website, or by following her on Twitter and Instagram.

The Stone of Destiny and The Cauldron of Life are both available to purchase now!

Don’t forget you can catch up with the latest issues of PaperBound Magazine here – and they’re all completely free!

Interviews

Interview with author Damaris Young

We spoke to author Damaris Young about her new novel The Creature Keeper in our Winter 2020 issue. Read on to discover more, or head over to our issues page to read the interview inside PaperBound Magazine itself.

Tell us a little about your new book The Creature Keeper. What made you decide to write it?

When animal lover Cora learns that Direspire’s mysterious owner is looking for a new Creature Keeper, she realises this might just be the chance she’s looking for to save her parents’ farm. But Direspire Hall is a spooky place, and the strange creatures who live there are nothing like Cora is expecting. As Cora settles into her new life, it soon becomes clear that Direspire has its secrets, and that somebody will do whatever it takes to keep them…

Growing up, I was always more comfortable around animals, and sometimes I struggled to talk to people. I wanted to write a story about a young girl who, just like me, feels a connection to animals, and send her on a journey of self-discovery and adventure, where she learns to find her voice.

What does your typical writing day look like?

The first thing I do is take my two dogs for a long walk near the river, which helps wake my brain up. When I get home, I’ll make breakfast, toast and a cup of coffee, and take it up to my home office. I usually write for a few hours, before finishing off the day by catching up on admin. I send out author letters to schools, sign bookplates, write articles for blog posts, and prepare for virtual workshops. I love connecting with schools and readers, it is one of the best parts of the job.

Your book The Creature Keeper has been described as having a ‘creepy gothic setting’. How important is setting to your writing?

The setting is incredibly important to my writing and I will treat it as a character, with its own quirks, personality and different moods. In The Switching Hour, the setting of the drought-stricken land became the antagonist that thwarted Amaya on her mission to save her brother. In The Creature Keeper, Direspire Hall is found near the coast and ‘The sea, the one that bordered our part of the world, wasn’t like any other. It had a mind of its own. Ma said it had eyes and ears and even teeth, and that it would gobble you up if you weren’t careful.’ The setting is wild and unpredictable, not unlike the creatures Cora discovers in Direspire hall.

What other middle grade novels do you love? What is it about them that you enjoyed?

I’m currently reading When Life Gives You Mangoes by Kereen Getten, set on a small Caribbean island. I love the strong sense of place, and the clever, and perceptive protagonist, Clara. I’m also a huge fan of the author Kirsty Applebaum, and her new story Troofriend is excellent! It follows a robot manufactured to be a child’s companion, and the curious and clever robot stole my heart from the very first page.

You’ve completed a writing course; how valuable was it to have people to share your writing with?

Being able to share your work with other writers and critique each other’s stories is invaluable. Writing a book is tough, and it is easy to lose motivation. Having other writers who support and encourage you is essential, as is being able to celebrate each other’s successes!

What other things do you enjoy when you’re not writing books?

I’ve recently started to learn cross-stitch, and it’s a great way to relax your mind! This year has been particularly challenging for lots of people’s mental health and being able to do something creative and relatively simple, like cross-stitch, has helped me.

If you could share one piece of writing advice with our readers, what would it be?

Don’t compare yourself and your writing to anyone else. When I started on my writing journey I often felt like a chameleon as I tried to emulate the writers I admired. I wasn’t allowing myself to find my voice as a writer, and I caused myself no end of frustration when I couldn’t get it ‘right’.

Once I stopped comparing myself to others (although full disclosure, I do still sometimes find myself slipping into those bad habits) I began to celebrate what made my writing unique.

Writing prompt:

In my new book The Creature Keeper, Cora looks after extraordinary creatures that are extremely rare. When writing your story, imagine your character comes across a rare or endangered creature. What is it? Write an adventure, helping the creature get back to its natural habitat.

We’d love to read what you come up with. Send your stories here: paperboundmagazine@outlook.com

We may even print it in a future issue!

Damaris studied on the Writing for Young People MA at Bath Spa University, where she wrote her debut novel, The Switching Hour. She is passionate about inspiring and empowering young readers with knowledge and action about climate change, as well as encouraging a love of the natural world with her stories. You can catch up with Damaris on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

The Switching Hour and The Creature Keeper are published by Scholastic UK and both books are available now!

Interviews

Interview with Beth Cartwright

Earlier this year, Emma Gibbs spoke to English author Beth Cartwright to talk about her debut coming of age novel Feathertide and why it might not be what you first expect. Join us and read on to discover more.

This magical realism novel follows the story of Marea who is born covered in feathers and kept hidden in a house. In search of answers, she tries to find her father which takes her to the mysterious City of Murmurs.

The book has already been compared to bestselling fantasy novels, The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. However, Cartwright feels this comparison is misleading.

‘People expect fast paced action – it is not that kind of book,’ she said. 

Cartwright revealed the book is more ‘gentle’ and ‘introspective’ compared with other fantasy novels. Instead of world building the magic is brought to the world we know and are familiar with.

‘There are no demons or dragons, instead the villain is self-doubt,’ she revealed.  

The plot is driven by the protagonist, Marea, and her transformation.

In the beginning, Marea ‘can only dream of escape’, but by the end ‘she has complete freedom and has cast her independence. She is kind of no longer content with just staying still,’ said Cartwright.

Cartwright grew up in Greater Manchester near the Peak District and returned there as an adult. However, she has also taught English in Greece, and worked in South America for a time.

‘I would recommend travelling,’ she said. ‘Even leaving the house to go to the local forest or the wood.’

Cartwright has always written and suggested that parts of Feathertide are taken from childhood, but also bits of what she’s seen and heard throughout her life.

‘The birds probably came from my grandparent’s garden,’ she said.

Discussing how she got her publishing deal, Cartwright revealed it was in ‘a very traditional way.’

She sent the manuscript to six agents, at which point it was more of a novella.

‘It was not a novel, it was too short,’ she said. ‘I left it and went back to it. I didn’t really hear anything. I didn’t think I would get a book deal,’ she said modestly.

But then one day Cartwright received a call and almost didn’t listen to the message, until she noticed it was a London number. 

‘I listened to the message – it was the most uplifting but disappointing message I ever had,’ she said.

Her agent saw potential in her book, but it needed work.

‘She could see something. She took that chance,’ said Cartwright. However, she also noted that it’s important to ‘try and believe in what you are doing and the story you are trying to tell.’

Her agent eventually emailed to confirm the book deal with Penguin and they worked to polish the manuscript together for about a year. However, in its entirety, Feathertide was a 10 year writing project.

‘I wasn’t consistent in my writing,’ she said.

‘I’m not very brave and I’m not very confident. I sat on the idea of Feathertide for years,’ Cartwright said.

Cartwright refreshingly busts the myth that you need a completed manuscript, unwavering confidence, or a militant writing routine to bag a publishing deal.

When struggling for creative inspiration she turned to poems, but also enjoyed reading a number of current authors including Jeanette Winterson, Alice Hoffman and Jessie Burton.

‘I think Jessie Burton is a really intelligent writer,’ she said.

As for the editing process she revealed it was very ‘up and down’. Things would be ‘really slow paced’ and then ‘really fast’. In the end, the catalyst for finishing the book was her agent going on maternity leave.

‘My timing has always been terrible,’ she mused. 

The book launch was set back to July, not due to Coronavirus, but due to the book changing imprints.

When discussing the book launch and the inevitable feedback she said it now belongs to the readers, but it’s ‘great when someone understands how your mind works.’

Having revealed that she landed a two book deal Cartwright confirmed that she has completed the first draft of her second novel – and we can’t wait to see what she writes next!

Feathertide by Beth Cartwright is available now from all major book retailers.

Emma Gibbs is an NCTJ qualified journalist with bylines in Mancunian Matters, VIVA Magazine, Cornish Story and Cornish Guardian. She is also the founder of Emma’s Travels With Books blog designed to help people read their way around the world. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, exploring, and daydreaming.