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 So many of my previous (unpublished) projects were the first books of planned trilogies, so it is a strange and wonderful thing to finally be able to finish one.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!