Blog, Interview, Interviews

Interview with children’s author Anne Cassidy

We interviewed children’s author Anne Cassidy, as featured in the latest issue of PaperBound, all about her new book The Drowning Day. Read on below to find out more.

Discover even more great content in all our issues.

Can you tell us a little about your book, The Drowning Day?

The Drowning Day is a story set in the future. Jade, Bates and Samson are living in a dangerous world. There are floods which make their lives precarious but the society they live in is divided and harsh. Jade finds out that her sister needs her help and she and her friends need their courage to help her. It’s an adventure. Three young people trying to make things right in a broken world.

The Drowning Day is set in a dystopian future thirty years from now. What inspired you to tell this story?

I had been watching dystopian pandemic drama based on television and enjoyed the idea of people surviving a disaster and trying to make a decent society again. It seemed that the biggest danger wasn’t so much the disease but what the other survivors were like. Instead of creating a good society they looked after themselves. I wondered what it would be like to be children in this kind of world.

Friendship and found-family is a huge theme throughout the whole book. How important do you think friendship is when it comes to writing, and real life?

Friendship is probably the most important thing after family. In all the books I’ve written for teenagers friendship has always been crucial to the plots and the themes. Friends can become as close (if not closer) than family members and the plus is you get to choose them for yourself. In The Drowning Day families are split up because of the need to work, poverty or death. Finding a new family among friends is very important. Jade, Bates and Samson find this connection during the events of the book.

Global warming, environmental issues and natural disasters are also at the forefront of this book in a very real and impactful way. What advice would you give to young people who want to help save our planet?

I wouldn’t give advice to other people because I think it’s important for people to come to their own conclusions. All I would say is look around, listen to the arguments and think about what is right for the future. Then make your mind up and see what things you can do tomorrow to help.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

I have two tips. Read a lot; books, comics, newspapers, online blogs or forums. Write a little every day (15 mins) – a diary, journal, poem, opinion piece, letter, beginning of a story. Think of writing a bit like being an artist. They have sketchbooks and are always drawing or painting. Little and often.

Can you tell us about any new books you might be writing, or are on the way?

Currently I’m writing an adult book. This is new for me so it’s trial and error – but I’m enjoying the challenge. It’s a crime novel. 

Anne Cassidy worked in a bank and as a teacher before she was a writer. She has written over ninety books for children and teenagers. She lives in East London and has two dogs.

The Drowning Day is out now and published by UCLan Publishing.

Don’t forget you can catch up with the latest issues of PaperBound Magazine here. All our issues are completely free and run by volunteers, however if you would like to support PaperBound and the work we do, you can help us out by buying us a virtual book.

Blog, Interview, Interviews

Interview with YA author Natasha Devon

Catch our interview with Young Adult author Natasha Devon as featured in the latest issue of PaperBound, as she tells us all about her new book Toxic and offers her own tips for aspiring writers.

Discover even more great content in all our issues.

Can you tell us about your book, Toxic, and what inspired you to write it?

I visit an average of three schools or colleges every week, delivering talks and conducting research on mental health and related issues. The research involves doing focus groups with 13-18 year olds and a theme that emerged just before I wrote Toxic was how to navigate difficult friendships. I thought fiction was an ideal format to explore this because it’s such a very nuanced and complex phenomenon. 

As kids, we’re taught that life is divided into heroes and villains and that good always triumphs over evil. But as you grow up you realize that actually, the world is just full of flawed people doing their best to get by. Sometimes two people create a dysfunctional dynamic and it’s okay to acknowledge that, to extract yourself from the harmful situation without having to hold a grudge, or encourage everyone you know to ‘pick a side’. That’s the central theme of Toxic, it’s about a young woman learning how to have boundaries.

Your main character, Llewella, struggles with anxiety and panic attacks, which the writing captures so well. Did you have to do any research when writing about these topics?

I actually have a diagnosis of panic disorder and, with the knowledge I now have about the condition, have realized that I’ve been having panic attacks since I was ten. Back then, mental health wasn’t acknowledged or spoken about in the same way it is now, though, so I was misdiagnosed with asthma and allergies as a child – I didn’t receive the correct diagnosis until much later. So, writing about panic and anxiety came very easily to me. 

Having said that, panic attacks vary massively from person to person. When I’m talking to young people who experience them, I encourage them to plot how their panic manifests from stages 1-10, so they can identify them early – this is actually a technique I learned from my therapist and that Llewella uses in the book. 

Friendship can often be tricky to navigate when you’re a teen. What advice do you have for any young people struggling with toxic relationships?

This applies to many struggles we face, not just friendships: Think about the advice you would give someone you really cared about if they told you they were in the situation you are in. This is a technique I learned from one of my best friends, Shahroo, who wrote a book called The Kindness Method. She noticed that we are often kinder, more forgiving and understanding to the people we love than we are to ourselves. 

The chances are, you would tell someone whose interests you had at heart that they tried their best, that being in a difficult friendship dynamic is not a reflection of their value and that you wouldn’t judge them at all for taking a step back for their own emotional safety. The same applies to you! 

Toxic also explores racial identity and the personal challenges some people might face. Did this change how the story developed?

The racial dynamics within the story definitely add another layer of complexity. 

I was inspired to create Llewella when I watched a Channel 4 documentary called ‘The School That Tried to End Racism’. One of the contributors was called Farrah and she was of mixed heritage with one white parent and one from Sri-Lanka. Like Llewella, Farrah was light-skinned and you wouldn’t necessarily assume she was mixed. When her class were split into racial affinity groups, she didn’t know whether to join the white or the racialized group. There was this moment of pure panic on her face and, as a viewer, I found myself wondering if this was a reflection of not knowing where she fitted in generally, not just in the context of the exercise.

There was also an activity the children had to do later in the documentary, where they brought in objects which reflected their culture. The children from racialized backgrounds were bringing in items such as beaded prayer mats and African jewellery and were able to explain exactly what they represented and how they were used. The white children seemed really embarrassed and had brought in things like the England flag, not really understanding why. It made me reflect on whether having a strong sense of cultural identity is a form of privilege. Hence Llewella, who was raised by a single white mother and doesn’t know her Asian father or his family, started to form in my mind.  

Aretha (who is the other half of the toxic friendship in the book) is also mixed. Her mother is white and her very present, supportive and loving father is Black. Aretha both experiences and demonstrates racism towards darker Black people in Toxic. She also uses elements of critical race theory to bully Llewella into doing what she wants. The point I’m trying to make is that you can’t just cherry pick aspects of CRT when it suits your agenda, or throw around terms like ‘privilege’ without properly understanding them (both of which I see a LOT of on social media). 

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

I read an incredible book when I was in the early stages of writing Toxic called ‘Story Genius’. It posits that all engaging stories are about a protagonist who is trying to avoid something which the audience knows is inevitable. It also talks about how we, as the reader, actually join the story part way through. The characters have already had experiences and challenges and triumphs which have shaped them before the reader ever meets them. It’s important not to think of your characters as blank canvasses at the beginning that just have stuff happen to them (which if often how we are taught to approach story writing in primary school). 

Can you tell us about anything else you’re working on at the moment?

I have a non-fiction book called Yes You Can: Ace School without Losing Your Mind coming out in August. It’s about how you don’t have to choose between your academic performance and your mental health – looking after your brain makes you cleverer (because mental health and cleverness both happen in your brain).

Natasha Devon is a writer, broadcaster & activist. She tours schools and events throughout the UK and beyond, delivering talks and conducting research on mental health, body image, gender & equality. She presents on LBC Radio every Saturday and writes regularly for Grazia Magazine.

Toxic was published 7th July 2022 by UCLan. It is available in the UK and will be released on audiobook soon.

Don’t forget you can catch up with the latest issues of PaperBound Magazine here. All our issues are completely free and run by volunteers, however if you would like to support PaperBound and the work we do, you can help us out by buying us a virtual book.

Blog, Interview, Interviews

Interview with children’s author Jen Carney

Catch our interview with children’s author Jen Carney as featured in the latest issue of PaperBound, as she tells us all about her book series The Accidental Diary of B.U.G and offers her own tips on how to write comedy in fiction.

Discover even more great content in all our issues.

Can you tell us a little about your series The Accidental Diary of B.U.G. and where the inspiration for your main character, Billie Upton Green, came from?

The Accidental Diary of B.U.G. is a contemporary comedy series firmly rooted in reality. Each book is narrated by Billie Upton Green, a sparky ten-year old who sneakily ‘repurposes’ boring old spellings practice jotters into diaries that she doodles and writes in when she should be going to sleep. Billie’s funny observations on life knit together so that each book tells a story. In The Accidental Diary of B.U.G., for example, the story is about a thief in Billie’s school.

Billie was inspired by my son. He wanted to read a funny book in which the main character was happy, feisty, and had two mums, like him.

Your books have been praised as ‘perfect for fans of Tom Gates, Wimpy Kid and Jacqueline Wilson’. What was your initial reaction when you first heard this?

I was filled with joy and a little nervous! These are marvellous books and wonderful authors! I was aware that Liz Pichon’s Tom Gates books were real gateways to reading for children sometimes classed as reluctant readers, so that was a real compliment for me as I’d written the first book to appeal to that market – my son hated reading for a long time and these were the kinds of books that piqued his interest. He moved on to Wimpy Kid after Tom Gates and I think the B.U.G. series sits well between the two. As for being compared to Queen Jacqueline – what could be better! She’s a wonderful writer who kept my daughter entertained every night for many years.

Your main character, Billie, often finds herself in the middle of surprises and hilarious happenings. What do you find is the hardest thing about writing comedy?

Trying to come up with jokes and laugh-out-loud moments can be hard while staring at your keyboard! Fresh air helps loads, as does life in general. Also, finding the right balance for your target demographic can be tricky – not under/over-estimating their ability to infer.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers who want to write comedy?

Keep a pen and paper on you at all times. Inspiration comes from all sorts of places and when you least expect it. Also, read your work aloud frequently and test things out on your target age group. Be prepared to cut LOADS when no one laughs! Think back to when you were the age your main character is. What did you find funny? Read other writers’ books and see what makes you laugh/smile.

What’s the best thing about writing a series and how do you come up with new ideas?

I like being able to develop characters; not just Billie but the secondary ones too. I’m constantly coming up with new ideas, so a series gives me the opportunity to explore them more fully without trying to squeeze them into one book. It’s also great to be able to carry themes through a series. So, in this series, acceptance of differences, navigating a new friendship, adoption and The Biscuit Laws run through all the books.

As for new ideas, I think about my life, and that of my children and those that I have taught and play around with ideas until I have something I’m happy with.

Your main character, Billie, is adopted by her two mums and has a larger-than-life personality. How important do you think it is for children to read inclusive books?

I think it’s vital that children have access to books that both mirror their lives and provide a window into the lives of others. Age-appropriate inclusive books really help children to empathise with people who are different to themselves and broaden their knowledge of our world and the people who live in it. Similarly, reading books about people a bit like them, or someone in their family, can really validate a child’s experience of life.

Are there any other authors out there who you admire and, if so, why?

I read loads and there are so many authors I admire. A few to mention are Sarah Hagger-Holt who isn’t afraid to tackle same-sex parenting head-on, Louise Gooding who is an amazing advocate for inclusion, Masie Chan who brings other cultures into popular fiction, Emma Mylrea and Heneka Statchera whose world-building is brilliant, Joanne O’Connell whose book Beauty and the Bin I thought was a brilliant novel for bringing food waste issues into children’s lives, Jamie Russell who is building a fantastic series to engage gamers and entice them off their consoles, and Louie Stowell whose comedy skills are top notch. I could go on!!

Are there any more books from The Accidental Diary of B.U.G. series on the way?

At the moment, B.U.G. is a three-book series. However, the door has been left ajar on it, and I’d love to write more in the future. At the moment I’m working on a new comedy series targeted at the same age range. Watch this space!

Jen Carney is a children’s author-illustrator living in Lancashire. Co-mum to three children, Jen is passionate about the representation of different family units in children’s books, and promoting reading for pure pleasure. The Accidental Diary of B.U.G is her debt comedy series.

Follow Jen on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.

Sister Act, the third book in The Accidental Diary of B.U.G. series, was published on 3rd Feb 2022 by Puffin, currently available in the UK and Commonwealth.

Don’t forget you can catch up with the latest issues of PaperBound Magazine here. All our issues are completely free and run by volunteers, however if you would like to support PaperBound and the work we do, you can help us out by buying us a virtual book.

Blog, Interview, Interviews

Interview with children’s author Lee Newbery

To celebrate the launch of The Last Firefox by Lee Newbery, we are excited to share our interview with him from the latest issue of PaperBound. Read on to discover more about the inspiration behind The Last Firefox, a heartfelt, inclusive middle grade novel full of magic and wonder – with buckets of personality.

The Last Firefox by Lee Newbery

Can you tell us a little about your debut book, The Last Firefox

Of course! The Last Firefox tells the story of Charlie Challinor, who’s got a few big life problems. He’s getting picked on at school, he’s pretty much terrified of everything, and his dads are in talks of adopting another child. How on earth is he supposed to stand up for his little brother or sister if he can’t stand up for himself?

But then he accidentally becomes the guardian of the last firefox, and his whole world changes. Because the firefox is covered in magical fire fur that’s governed by its mood, and now Charlie has to keep his furry little friend a secret from his bullies, his dads, and a sinister monster from another world that’s hunting it down. Cue endless hilarity, adventure and danger as Charlie uncovers his own inner fire! The book is published by Puffin, and it’s beautifully illustrated by the amazingly talented Laura Catalán. I’m a very lucky debut author! 

Where did the inspiration for The Last Firefox come from? Why did you want to write it and what do you hope readers will take from it? 

The inspiration for The Last Firefox came from a few places, actually. I’m a huge Pokémon fan, and when I was younger I was always making up my own fantastical critters. One of them was a fox covered in fire instead of fur, which it could use to protect itself or show affection (a close relative of Vulpix, maybe?).

But the true inspiration for the book came from my experiences of going through the adoption process. When my husband and I first embarked upon our journey towards becoming a family, I couldn’t really see many books out there with adopted children as the main character, books where the character has two mums or two dads. I wanted our future child to see himself represented in the world, so that was how this book was born.

We’ve now got a three-year-old son, and it warms my heart when he opens my book, points to an illustration of Charlie and his dads, and declares that it’s him and his daddies (there may or might not be some similarities between Charlie’s dads and myself and my husband!). 

Your main character, Charlie, has to deal with/ overcome a few issues in the book, such as bullying. Was there anything that you found difficult to write about and, alternatively, was there anything that came more easily?  

Actually, this was one of those rare instances where the first draft of the book wrote itself (alas, it hasn’t happened since!). I think because it was so closely tied to my own experiences as an adopter, and as a shy child who, a bit like Charlie, was intimidated by everything, it just sort of leapt from my fingertips. I was writing from the heart every step of the way. Even the bullying scenes – difficult to read, perhaps, but easy for me to write because they were so engrained in Charlie’s character arc. 

Could you tell us a little bit about your journey to publication? 

Ah, the journey to publication! I would love to say that I wrote a book, found an agent straight away, went on sub, entered a ‘hotly contested’ auction with several publishers after a few days … but that did NOT happen. It sort of happened the long way for me. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was eight, and in the second year of University I started taking it seriously. I wrote a YA book about a girl who could see dead people and subbed to agents, but that didn’t get any offers. Then I wrote another YA about magical teen runaways, which did get me an offer of representation from an agent – but only one, and that was after intense reworking and rewriting according to her insight. We went on sub with that YA, and that didn’t get any nibbles from any publishers.

So, I wrote my first MG, The Last Firefox, and we went on sub with that. An editor from Puffin said, “Hmm, I like it, but not enough to buy it yet … come back to me if you don’t get any offers.” And that’s exactly what happened. No other publishers offered, so we went back to the editor at Puffin. We met in London (this was about two months before the UK went into lockdown for the first time), had a lovely dinner, and he offered me some editorial advice.

I went home, spent a few weeks editing, then resubmitted. I waited some more, and then in May 2020, Puffin offered a two-book deal! It just goes to show that it only takes ONE person to love your book. One agent, and then one editor! 

What would be your biggest tip for anyone thinking of writing a book for the first time?  

I know this sounds cliché, but write whatever the heck YOU want to write. Writing is so much more fun when you’re writing a book you yourself would love to read, not what you think other people want to read. It’s pointless trying to write to a trend – if the trend is current, then you’re already too late! Forget about all that and write the book of your heart.  

What kind of stories/books did you love to read growing up? 

 I was a sucker for fantasies and horrors. I loved R.L. Stine and Darren Shan. But I was also a huge fan of A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Spiderwick Chronicles, and Joseph Delaney’s The Spook’s Apprentice books!  

Are you writing anything else at the moment? 

I’m currently waiting for edits on my second book with Puffin (which I can’t talk about yet, but I think I can at least tell you that it’s another standalone, not a Firefox sequel!), so I’ve been working on a just-for-fun YA. It’s a bit over-the-top and outrageous and dark and funny. It might never see the light of day, but I’ve had SO much fun writing it so far! 

Lee Newbery author

Lee Newbery lives in South Wales with his husband and their little boy. Their favourite thing to do is go on adventures together, which they blog about over on their family Instagram account. The Last Firefox is Lee’s debut novel, though there may or may not be a YA book of his hidden far away in the depths of Wattpad, never to surface again.

Follow Lee on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.

The Last Firefox was published 3rd March 2022 from Puffin (Penguin Random House).

Don’t forget you can catch up with the latest issues of PaperBound Magazine here. All our issues are completely free and run by volunteers, however if you would like to support PaperBound and the work we do, you can help us out by buying us a virtual book.

Blog, Interviews

Interview with children’s author Lucy Hope

To celebrate the launch of Fledgling by Lucy Hope, we are excited to share our interview with her from Anne Manson, available in the latest issue of PaperBound. Read on to discover more about the inspiration behind Fledgling, a dark, gothic middle grade adventure set in the bavarian forest.

Anne: Fledgling is set in the past—a kind of surreal past. What came to you first? Setting? Character? 

Lucy: The setting definitely came first, and partly came from my experience of growing up in an ancient house in North Wales. I’ve always loved the look and feel of faded grandeur, dusty bookshelves, and buildings that take on their own character due to their age, and was keen to build these things into the setting for Fledgling.  

Fledgling actually began as an exercise on the MA (Bath Spa University MAWYP). Inspired by David Almond’s Skellig, I created an alternative world with a cherub instead of Almond’s angel. I decided to set it in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps as I love how the little towns there are often dominated by huge rocks, easily large enough to hold a house – and high enough for a passing cherub to find its way into! I started by writing 1200 words. And then the story just came to me—the setting, the atmosphere, the mother, the father, the hint of steam punk—over many, many sleepless nights. The characters came one by one and their voices were just there in my head, as if they already existed, so I didn’t have to try too hard to find them. 

Anne: The house feels a bit like a character on its own, and also a representation of the family generations that came before Cassie, your heroine.  

Lucy: Yes. When you grow up in an old house, you do feel a sense of the generations that lived there before you. My family house had chests full of unusual things and Edwardian dresses that would crumble under your fingertips as soon as you took them out. That was part of my childhood and part of my teenage years. I had a great uncle in North Wales whose mountainside house also inspired the setting for Fledgling. There was no road going to it so he used to take his own steam train along the Ffestiniog Railway to his private platform above the house. As an ex-army officer, he had a dynamite license, and managed to get permission to blow up a driveway that zigzagged up the mountainside, and that’s how we used to get to his house. Driving through its hairpin bends was quite a terrifying experience! 

Anne: You’ve really piqued my curiosity about your family. Are there cherubs in your family? You have to tell us. 

Lucy (laughs): I haven’t found any cherubs yet. We didn’t have neighbours growing up and I lived inside my head a lot as a result. To have had my own cherub would have been amazing! 

Anne: What part of the book was hardest to write?  

Lucy: I would say the middle. The strange thing about the book is, as I was writing it, I really didn’t know what was happening. I was entirely in Cassie’s shoes, wondering what was going on. Things were happening around her, but what was the root cause of it all? Because it’s written in the first person, she couldn’t see beyond that, and I couldn’t either, which was a strange situation to be in, and quite scary. What would happen if I didn’t find my way through this? But I think you have these moments when you’re writing, and you take some time away to sit and think, and you realise: Ah! That’s what’s going on. Then, all the other things you’ve written tie together, and you think, how did that happen? I’m constantly mystified by the process of writing because I’m not a plotter. I always get that feeling of having to make myself sit and write and coming away having not entirely enjoyed the process. But then you get through it, and that’s when the joy comes.  And I love editing! For me, writing is a journey of discovery with some nice and some tricky surprises. 

Anne: Do you have a writing routine? 

Lucy: No. My writing routine normally means circling the house like a dog waiting to settle down, going to the fridge, finding a snack, having cups of tea, thinking, I just need to pop out and do that thing. So, I’m pretty awful at getting started. I would love to have more of a routine. 

Anne: Have you thought about a sequel for Fledgling? 

Lucy: I’d love to write one. It might sound strange, but I just love being in that world. It’s a very happy place for me to be; it feels like home. I think the setting of your first novel is a place that you hold in your heart. And I think that’s why everyone’s first novel is the book of their heart.  

Lucy Hope grew up in North Wales, but now lives in the Cotswolds. After jobs ranging from designing websites to working in schools, she did a master’s degree in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University. Lucy loves exploring the countryside with her husband and big, shaggy dog, Bronte, or can be found trundling around the UK in her Bongo camper van, seeking out ideas for her next story. Like most writers, when she’s not actually writing, she loves eating cake (lemon drizzle or chocolate brownies in case you were wondering), sipping coffee and chatting to friends about all things books and writing.

Fledgling is published on 4th November by Nosy Crow and available at all good bookshops.

Anne Manson recently won a City Writes competition for her short story, “Bones”. She is working on her second novel, The Girl with the Hole in her Heart, a MG fantasy about a stolen pen, a lidless eye, and a mysterious Clockwork Artificer. She has published two short stories in PaperBound magazine, “Winter” and “Happy Day” and has a Masters in Writing for Young People from Bath Spa University.

Don’t forget you can catch up with the latest issues of PaperBound Magazine here. All our issues are completely free and run by volunteers, however if you would like to support PaperBound and the work we do, you can help us out by buying us a virtual book.

Blog, Interviews

Interview with children’s author Lesley Parr

We are delighted to share our interview with children’s writer Lesley Parr, author of The Valley of Lost Secrets, on the featured content section of our website. Join us as we chat to Lesley all about her writing, inspiration for her books, and what you can expect from her next.

You can catch the full interview here in our spooky issue of PaperBound – all our issues are completely free!

Can you tell us a little about your novel, The Valley of Lost Secrets, and what inspired you to write it? 

It all came from a writing task when I studied for a Master’s Degree at Bath Spa University. We were asked to write a short historical piece. When previously researching a different story, I discovered the true account of children finding a skull in a tree. So I used that as a starting point for my own characters, setting and mystery.  

How did it feel to put yourself into the shoes of your main character, Jimmy, while writing this book, and why did you decide to set it during wartime? 

I found it surprisingly easy to write from the point of view of a 12-year-old boy! I only realised after I’d written it just how much of me is in Jimmy. His loyalty to his dad and nan, his resistance to change, his love of comics, his fear of small spaces is all me!  

Oddly, I didn’t ever see myself writing historical fiction, even though I’ve always been interested in history. This whole book came from the chance to try a new genre. Once I’d started, I knew it was a story I wanted to tell.  

Your main characters go through a lot of change and emotional challenges in this book. What was the hardest part of writing it?  

The emotional stuff isn’t what I found difficult – my writing is very character-led and how they feel and what they think pulled me through the story. It’s pace and structure I found hard. The skills of my tutors and my editor got me through that! But that’s okay – my husband calls it Writing Top Trumps…I have accepted that no one can have a 10 in every category. And it’s great because I’m learning with each new book. 

The landscape is a big part of this book and Jimmy reacts to it strongly – particularly where he’s from, and where he is evacuated to. Did you always want to use setting as a strong driving force for this novel? 

I didn’t plan to, I don’t plan much to be honest! I need to write to get a feel for all aspects of my stories. I suppose the setting was bound to come alive for me (and therefore hopefully the reader) as it’s what I know – a small, close-knit Welsh valley community. Because it’s all so alien to Jimmy I was able to show it through his eyes and take the reader there with him. In one scene, Jimmy is on the mountain with his new friend Florence (another evacuee): 

‘I love being so high,’ she says, looking out over the valley. ‘I’ve never seen anywhere as lovely as this.’  

And Jimmy says he tries to see what Florence sees. This is perhaps the first sign he’s beginning to want to be there. 

Are there any writers that have inspired you in your writing and life? 

David Almond is always an inspiration as he writes so beautifully about working-class characters in working-class settings. He was a professor on the MA for which I studied and it took me about three times of meeting him to be able to have a conversation because I was in awe! And I love books by Patrick Ness; like David, he writes with such simplicity to show real heart and grit. Emma Carroll is someone else I admire, as she proves historical fiction can be authentic to its era and feel fresh at the same time.  

If you could share one writing tip with an aspiring young writer, what would it be? 

The simplest words are usually the best. It’s easy to fall into the trap of overwriting when you’re new to it (I definitely used to). Writing in 1st-person from the point of view of a 12-year-old, I often have to simplify my language. So I tend to use a thesaurus in the opposite way to how people usually do. I think of a word and look it up to find one a child would be more likely to use. This is especially important in dialogue. Think about how people really speak! Adult characters, too! 

Sum your book up in three words:  

Friendship 

Brotherhood 

Secrets 

Can you tell us about anything else you’re working on?  

My next book is called When The War Came Home (out January 2022) is about a girl called Natty who, with her  mother, moves to  live with distant relatives. It’s set in the early 1920s when the world was still reeling from the Great War. It’s about boys who lied about their age to go to war and how Natty helps them. And it’s about how she learns to fight for something. It’s quite political. 

Lesley Parr grew up in South Wales, at the bottom of a valley and quite near a seaside steelworks. Now she lives in the middle of England (almost as far from the sea as it’s possible to get) with her husband and their rescue cat, Angharad.

She shares her time between writing stories, teaching at a primary school and tutoring adults. Apart from books, rugby union is her favourite thing in the world, especially if Wales is winning. Lesley graduated with distinction from Bath Spa University’s MA in Writing for Young People. The Valley of Lost Secrets is her first book.

The Valley of Lost Secrets was released in January 2021, published by Bloomsbury Children’s, and available in the UK, India, Australia and New Zealand. You can keep up to date with Lesley on Twitter, Instagram and on her website.

Don’t forget you can catch up with the latest issues of PaperBound Magazine here. All our issues are completely free and run by volunteers, however if you would like to support PaperBound and the work we do, you can help us out by buying us a virtual

Blog, Interviews

Interview with YA author Julia Tuffs

PaperBound caught up with YA author Julia Tuffs to chat all about her debut novel, HEXED! Join us as we discover more about Julia’s writing, her top current reads, and how she came up with the idea for HEXED.

You can catch the full interview and all other issues of PaperBound FREE here.

Can you tell us a little about your novel, Hexed

Hexed is about Jessie Jones; new girl, witch and accidental activist. Jessie’s life is turned upside down when her mum suddenly moves the family back to her home town on the Isle of Wight. All Jessie wants to do is fade into the background, coast and avoid the attention of school douchebag Callum Henderson and his toxic cronies, but when strange and uncontrollable magical powers start to manifest during her period, flying under the radar becomes impossible. Hexed is about finding your place and your power and learning to love your differences. 

Your novel deals with important and timely themes, such as sexism and toxic masculinity, and easily puts the reader in Jessie’s shoes. What inspired you to write about these issues? 

Donald Trump – amongst other things! It was really painful to watch as someone who had boasted about grabbing women’s genitals was elected president and it was a moment in time that highlighted how little society values women and women’s rights. I wanted to write something that looked at how ingrained it is in all aspects of society – our schools, our media, our courts, our government – but I wanted it to be relatable and focus on what all girls experience and are forced to navigate through on a day to day basis. 

These themes are woven into a story about witchcraft. Can you tell us how you came up with the idea to combine these two things? 

I was thinking about the recent surge in our reproductive rights being threatened and all the ways men in power try to control women and women’s bodies (Britney, how can we help?!) and that led me to the witch trials; the way women were strip searched for Devil’s marks and how anyone single or widowed could be suspected and tried. Even today, like hundreds of years ago, if women don’t fit into a prescribed box – if we dare to be angry or outspoken or stray out of our lane – we’re labelled and shamed. I found the parallel interesting (and terrifying) and I loved the idea of that which makes us different actually making us stronger – which is how the period witch idea came about – wearing a super plus but being able to magic up your dinner and punish nasty boys! 

The setting of Hexed is vividly portrayed. Did you always plan on setting it on the Isle of Wight? What was it about this setting that you were drawn to? 

I love the Isle of Wight! My husband is from the Island and we lived there for a few years when our children were small. It’s such a unique setting – beautiful in places, 1950s seaside in other places, removed from the mainland and with a population that doubles over the summer. I wanted to explore how someone would feel moving there from a big city, especially if that person was trying so desperately hard to be invisible – which is basically impossible in a small town setting where everyone knows everyone and it’s harder to escape! I also loved the idea of being on Jessie’s journey with her as she falls in love with the Island and begins to appreciate how special it is.   

Can you sum up your novel in 3 words? 

Funny, feisty, feminist. 

What’s the one thing you’d wished you’d known before becoming a writer? 

That it’s a rollercoaster of emotions and A LOT of waiting – waiting for edits, waiting for news, waiting until you’re allowed to announce news, waiting for publication day… 

What are your top reads from the last year (MG or YA), and why? 

Oooh, this is hard – there have been so many good books! For YA, I’d say The Yearbook by Holly Bourne which is in her typical style of being frank and funny whilst also dealing with serious issues and Afterlove by Tanya Byrne which is a gorgeous and heartbreaking love story.  

After a brief (but fun) stint working in television and as a primary school teacher, Julia decided to take her writing dreams more seriously. She lives in South-West London with her family and ragdoll cats (Billy and Nora) and spends her time writing, reading, dreaming of holidays and watching too much reality TV. She aims to write the kinds of books that shaped and inspired her as a teenager. HEXED is her debut novelYou can keep up to date with Julia on Twitter, Instagram and by visiting her website.

HEXED was released in July 2021 by Hachette. It is available NOW in the UK and Australia. 

Don’t forget you can catch up with the latest issues of PaperBound Magazine here. All our issues are completely free and run by volunteers, however if you would like to support PaperBound and the work we do, you can help us out by buying us a virtual book. 

Blog, Interviews

Interview with children’s author Joanna Nadin

We were thrilled to catch up with children’s author Joanna Nadin in the latest issue of PaperBound. Join us as we chat to her about her latest novel, No Man’s Land, and discover more about her books, characters, and writing tips.

You can read our interview with Joanna here, or in the latest issue of PaperBound Magazine on our issues page.

Can you tell us about your new novel, No Man’s Land, and a little about what inspired it? 

No Man’s Land tells the story of a new version of England – Albion, run by a far right-wing government – and two boys, ten-year-old Alan and five-year-old Sam, who, a matter of weeks away from World War 3, are secretly evacuated from Bristol (now Brigstowe) to a women’s commune on the Tamar estuary between Devon and Cornwall – the eponymous No Man’s Land. What follows is Alan’s narrative as he tries at first to get used to a wilder life, then, when his Dad doesn’t show up, resolves to escape to rescue him, Sam in tow. It was written in a state of rage on the back of Donald Trump’s increasing abuse of power, and the UK’s vote to leave the EU. Trump has, thankfully, gone. But our world still feels apocalyptian at times.  

No Man’s Land mimics our own current political climate and doesn’t shy away from a future Britain changed for the worse, not the better. It’s easy to empathise with Alan’s frustration of adults not telling him what was happening. Do you think we don’t give kids enough credit for how much they observe the world around them?  

They hear and see so much – more, sometimes, than we do – and of course they realise what’s happening. That’s why we need to talk about it – to reassure them that despite the mess of the world, there is always hope.  

There are so many interesting characters in No Man’s Land. One of our favourite characters is Dad. Do you have a favourite supporting character, and if so, why? 

Dad is a favourite of mine as well. He’s modelled on the actor Joe Gilgun (I cast all my novels, so I can see the characters move and hear them speak better), whom I’ve always found mesmerising on screen – funny and moving too. My top favourite though Ahmed, who’s only in it for a short time, but who is bold and caring, and a great friend to Alan.  

The book ends in a way that people might not expect. Did you plan for it to end this way (without spoilers)?  

I did. I don’t start writing a book without knowing exactly where it will end up, so I’d plotted out the final chapter before I’d started the first. I knew I wanted it to be realistic, as opposed to a classic happy ending, but offer hope as well.  

How do you hope readers will respond to No Man’s Land

I hope readers will recognise some of what’s going on in the world around us at the moment, and where we could end up if we don’t make some changes. Most importantly, I hope they’ll find some courage within themselves to realise they can help make that change. No one hero or heroine is ever going to save the world – too many books tell us that. In No Man’s Land, as in real life, only by working together can we change things.  

Can you sum up your book in three words?  

Funny. Scary. Moving.  

Along with being an author, you also teach creative writing. Do you feel your writing has improved/ developed through teaching? What would be your biggest tip for any aspiring young writers out there? 

Of course. I learn so much from working with other, often hugely talented, writers, many of whom have gone on to be published. In fact, No Man’s Land was partially inspired after a class working on voice in middle-grade novels. My biggest tip is: read. If you read enough, you begin to absorb how story works. You’d be amazed at how many students think they can get away with not reading. It’s like a violinist imagining they can learn to play without ever listening to anyone else. On which note, practise as well. Writing is no different to violin here either, or sport. The more you do it, the better you get at it, so write every day, even if it’s a diary, even if it’s only a paragraph. Slowly it will become more of a muscle memory and you’ll find the right words leaping to your fingertips all of a sudden.  

 Joanna Nadin is the author of more than eighty books for children, teenagers and adults, including the bestselling Flying Fergus series with Sir Chris Hoy, the award-winning Worst Class in the World series, and the acclaimed YA novel Joe All Alone, which is now a BAFTA-winning BBC drama. She lives in Bath, and teaches at University of Bristol. You can keep up to date with her on Twitter and Instagram.

No Man’s Land is published by UCLan, available NOW!

Don’t forget you can catch up with the latest issues of PaperBound Magazine here. All our issues are completely free and run by volunteers, however if you would like to support PaperBound and the work we do, you can help us out by buying us a virtual book. 

Blog, Interviews

Interview with children’s author Hannah Gold

Children’s author Hannah Gold chats to us about her debut novel, The Last Bear, and the inspiration behind it. You can read the interview here, or in the latest issue of PaperBound Magazine by visiting our issues page.

Could you tell us a little about your novel, The Last Bear

The Last Bear is the story of 11-year-old April who accompanies her scientist father to a remote Arctic island. There are supposedly no polar bears left but one endless summer’s night April spots something distinctly bear-shaped loping across the horizon. He is starving, lonely and a long way from home. Determined to save him, so begins the most important journey of April’s life.  

HarperCollins (my wonderful publisher) describe it as a celebration of the love between a child and an animal, a battle cry for the environment and an irresistible adventure with a heart as big as a bear’s. I always love that last line! 

The Last Bear deals with important issues that are very relevant right now and close to a lot of people’s hearts. Could you share a little about what inspired you to write it, and what you hope readers take from it? 

The Last Bear is a book very close to my heart and is basically about everything I love most in the world – nature, the planet and that unique, instinctive bond that especially exists between children and animals.  

Although, it’s first and foremost an adventure story, there is a very important environmental message to the book – and this reflects my values and my own attempts to live as greenly as possible. I set the book on a real-life Arctic Island called Bear Island – so-called because of the polar bears which once lived there. But these days, because of the melting ice-caps polar bears can no longer reach the island which bears their name. Once I discovered this – there really was only one story to tell – and that was April’s desperate quest to take Bear home. 

Many teachers have already used the book in the classroom to showcase the dramatic loss of sea-ice in the Arctic and how this is impacting the polar bear population. This just makes my heart sing because one of my primary goals behind The Last Bear has always been to empower our children to find their roar and know that no-one is too small to make a difference.  

But it’s not just a book for the classroom. There’s a line in the book which a lot of readers seem to pick up on. It’s when April challenges someone who is questioning what impact she, as a little girl, can make. She replies: “But imagine if every person on the planet just did one single thing.” 

And yes, imagine if everyone reading the book made one positive ecological change to their lives? I wanted to write a book with hope. A book that would inspire change. That would encourage children and grown-ups to realise it’s not too late. We don’t have to sit and wait for someone else to make change – we can be that change first. 

Your book is beautifully illustrated by Levi Pinfold. What was it like working with an illustrator to bring your story to life?  

In truth, I didn’t have that much direct involvement with him! The art designer is the one who mainly communicates with the illustrator and decides what art the book is going to have and where any illustrations sit within the text. I was shown a rough copy and gave feedback but they were so stunning, there really wasn’t much to say other than just gasp. Levi has perfectly captured the bare, sweeping Arctic landscape, but at the same time the heartfelt bond between April and Bear. 

For me, this was a book written with love and it feels like it’s been illustrated with an equal amount of love too. And when I peel off the jacket to reveal the gold bear underneath, there are always gasps! 

The Last Bear has been likened to books by Philip Pullman and Michael Morpurgo. How does it feel to hear comparisons like these? And, are there any writers that have inspired you in your writing and life? 

If I’m really honest, I only think I was compared to Philip Pullman because we both have polar bears on the front cover!  

Although I am a massive Dark Materials fan, if I had one author hero, it’s definitely Michael Morpurgo. The themes he covers in his books – such as nature, helping animals, and our bond with animals – are those which deeply resonate with me. When I signed my deal with HarperCollins Children’s Books (who also publish him) I mentioned how much I admired his writing.  

Fast forward a few months and they asked me if there was anyone they would like me to approach to endorse the book? Obviously there is never any guarantee but straight away I said that I would LOVE Michael Morpurgo. Things went very quiet and I put it out of my head, thinking he would be too busy . . . until one Friday afternoon I received an email from my editor with the subject header: Endorsement. 

It was the best start to a weekend ever. 

To be honest, I still feel like such a newbie that to be mentioned in the same breath as him in various reviews actually makes me laugh. I can only hope my career has his longevity and that readers still embrace my 50th book just as much as they have this one.  

If you could share one writing tip with an aspiring young writer, what would it be? 

It took me a LONG time to get my breakthrough, so don’t be hard on yourself if your earlier effects don’t gain much traction. It’s a process rather than a race. Also don’t be self-conscious or worry too much about how good or bad you are. When we worry too much about our writing and what anyone else might think of it, we are thinking too much about other people’s opinions or judgement of us. But writing, first and foremost, is about finding some spark of joy for ourselves and that’s never been more important than now. 

Sum your book up in three words:  

Courage, heart and adventure! 

Can you tell us about anything else you’re working on?  

I am on a 2-book deal with HarperCollins so I am currently editing my second book. I can’t reveal too much about it other than it features another very large wild animal! 

What other books for young people have you enjoyed recently? 

Too many to mention as I really think we are in a golden age of children’s literature right now – but ones which immediately spring to mind are Starboard by Nicola Skinner, The Swallow’s Flight by Hilary McKay, and I LOVED Boy, Everywhere by A.M Dassau. 

Hannah Goldgrew up in a family where books, animals, and the beauty of the outside world were ever present, and is passionate about writing stories that share her love of the planet. She lives in Lincolnshire with her tortoise, her cat, and her husband and, when not writing, is busy hunting for her next big animal story as well as practicing her roar. The Last Bear is her debut novel.You can keep up with Hannah on TwitterInstagram and Facebook, or by visiting her website.

The Last Bear was released in the US on the 2nd Feb and in the UK on the 18th February, published by HarperCollins Children’s. It will be coming out in various other countries in 2022.

Don’t forget you can catch up with the latest issues of PaperBound Magazine here. All our issues are completely free and run by volunteers, however if you would like to support PaperBound and the work we do, you can help us out by buying us a virtual book. 

Blog, Interviews

Interview with author Philip Womack

We caught up with author Philip Womack to talk about his latest novel, Wildlord, in the latest issue of PaperBound Magazine.

Philip Womack Wildlord book cover

Could you tell us a little about your new novel, Wildlord?

WIldlord is about a teenage boy, Tom, whose long lost uncle invites him to stay with him on a farm in Suffolk. He’s stuck at his boarding school for the summer, and so decides to escape without telling anyone. But when he turns up, he finds some very mysterious things going on, and discovers that the farm is menaced by various strange forces, known as the Samdhya – and the people inside the farm are pretty weird too, including a silver-haired boy called Kit, and an enigmatic girl called Zita. It’s a fantasy novel with some elements of time travel to it.

Wildlord is set in a different time period to many of your previous novels, and is aimed at teen readers. What inspired you to tell this story, and what do you hope readers take from it?

I’ve always loved folklore and fairy tales, and been fascinated by the idea of the Sidhe, or the Good Folk – the many names for fairies we have in these islands. They’re quite strongly associated with mounds, and of course they can’t cross running water or abide iron. In Suffolk, where I spend quite a lot of time, there are plenty of houses (even small ones) with moats – and when I saw this, of course my natural conclusion was that they must have been put there to stop the Good Folk getting in. From there it was a short step to thinking about why they were being prevented from coming in – and from that came Wildlord. I have written novels in the past which are set in the present day – my first novel, The Other Book, was set in a country prep school; my second, The Liberators, was in London post-financial crash; and The Darkening Path trilogy begins and ends in our world.

I don’t really think of time as linear – the past is all around us, and we are essentially in the future as we go about our daily lives. So I wanted to write something about time and how people think about it. I’m fascinated by history, and by all the moments that contrived to make each and every one of us who we are. Sometimes it’s dizzying to think of that chain of consequences.

It’s also about a teenager finding his own place in the world. I hope that readers will enjoy the setting and the story, and that it will make them think about our own place in history.

Can you sum up your novel in 3 words?

Mysterious, dark, hopeful.

Could you tell us a little about your writing journey, and why you decided to become a writer?

I think that as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. There’s something about the ability to create a story – a good, convincing story – that seems like magic. I swallowed down books as a child, indiscriminately, and I always wanted to know and understand how to write them. It’s an ongoing journey, of course – as a writer, I learn new things every time I sit down to write a sentence. I think it’s also something that, once started, is very difficult to give up, because you always want to go one better.

Are you working on anything else at the moment?

I’m thinking about possible angles for a sequel to Wildlord – we shall have to see. I had two books published in 2020, and it would be nice to see sequels for them too, in some form. I loved writing The Arrow of Apollo, which is set in the ancient world, and have enjoyed seeing its reception, so we shall have to see about that too.

Why do you think readers find fantasy so appealing? Are there any other fantasy books you would recommend for young people today?

Fantasy speaks to us in many ways. There’s a danger with realist fiction (which of course has its place) that it can be too specific and therefore date very quickly. With fantasy, you’re dealing with archetype, and metaphor, which means that it can console and inspire people in quite complicated and mysterious fashions. There’s escapism, of course; and then there’s dealing with our own world in a way that throws new light on it. Fantasy has been with us since we told stories. When you’re a child and you listen to fairy stories, you don’t think about them in terms of reality structures – you listen to them for deeper meanings that you can’t articulate yet. I’ve never been a fan of the kind of criticism that says, oh well, fairy tales are all about kings and princesses and are about power structures and so forth. That seems to miss the point – they’re stories in which people can imagine themselves as princes and princesses.

What are your three top tips for young aspiring writers?

Read, read, read. That’s number one. Read everything. Read things you don’t understand. Read them again when you’re older. Then read them once more. Read everything – poetry, prose, drama, non-fiction. Absorb things. Don’t be put off by people who tell you that things are complicated, or not for you. Just do it.

Write, write, write. I seriously mourn the loss of letter writing, with pens. It was such a nice and easy way to learn, subconsciously, how to tell a story. If you went to stay with a friend, you’d write a letter afterwards, and I soon learnt to tell a little anecdote. The fragmentation of most communication now, I think, is quite a worrying thing.

Turn off your computer and your phone. Yes, yes, I know it makes me sound like a fuddy duddy or a Luddite. But computers take up enormous amounts of your emotional and creative bandwith. They do things for you. There are computer programs now which try to anticipate what you are going to write. Take a pen and a piece of paper, and go and sit in a park or a café or on top of a bus, and note down what you see, hear, smell. Look at people. Fiction is ultimately about people.

Philip Womack is a British author and journalist, and his writing has appeared in The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Literary Review, and TLS. His books for children and teens include the fantasy trilogy The Darkening Path and The Arrow of Apollo. The non-fiction book How to Teach Classics to Your Dog was published in 2020.

You can keep up with Philip on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Wildlord was released in October 2021 and published by Little Island, available in the UK and Ireland.

Don’t forget you can catch up with the latest issues of PaperBound Magazine here. All our issues are completely free and run by volunteers, however if you would like to support PaperBound and the work we do, you can help us out by buying us a virtual book.