Interviews

Author 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. 

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. 

Interviews

Interview with children’s author Clare Weze

We caught up with author Clare Weze to talk about her debut novel, The Lightning Catcher, in the latest issue of PaperBound Magazine.

Could you tell us a little bit about your novel, The Lightning Catcher?

The Lightning Catcher is an adventure story featuring Alfie, who’s been transplanted from the city to a small village in the countryside because of problems his sister’s been having. He isn’t used to village life and doesn’t yet realise that whatever you do there tends to be SEEN! There are mysterious weather anomalies, including isolated icicles in July, whirlwinds in buckets and shoes icing up for no apparent reason. Alfie and his new best friend Sam decide to investigate, but Alfie is fearless (and reckless) and doesn’t understand that certain places are no-go areas. He accidentally releases something from a box while trespassing, and whatever it is unleashes yet more meteorological mayhem. The adventure blows up in Alfie’s face. Friendships are tested, new and special ones created, and there’s some extremely unfair scapegoating.  

The Lightning Catcher is full of sci-fi adventure, whiplash humour and mysterious goings-on. Where did the idea come from?

It grew out of the setting and main character, but my love of weather and biology probably sparked the idea for Whizzy. The book is a consolidation of all my interests, and they spiral around a character with a burning curiosity, someone who just has to find out WHY? I’ve always liked the idea of mysterious no-go areas, and people who attract labels and become outsiders, so once I had my strange and lonely house, I wondered why it was dilapidated and full of junk. What sort of person would let that happen, and why? So Mr Clemm, another important character, grew out of that setting.

This book has been affectionately described as Skellig meets Stranger Things. What do you think of this comparison, and were you inspired by any other film/TV/books when writing it?

Skellig and David Almond’s other books have been a huge influence on me, so I love the comparison. Finding someone or something in odd, dark places has always sparked my imagination, and I love the general tone of Skellig. Until this year I hadn’t watched Stranger Things, but I can see what people mean: boys on bikes making discoveries. There’s no horror in The Lightning Catcher though, so I think that’s where the similarity ends. I was inspired by John Gordon’s The Giant Under the Snow for that sense of an escalating, race-against-time adventure. And I loved the cheeky interplay between the siblings of Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce.

Can you tell us anything about your writing journey so far, and what you’ve learned from it?

It’s been a long journey, but one of the main things I’ve learned is to have a bit of everything ready to suit all opportunities. There are openings popping up all over the place, so it’s best to join every writing-related organisation you see advertised so that you’ll hear about them. Some places are looking for short stories, others for flash fiction, and agents in particular are often looking for novels. It’s great if you can have something finished to submit. Watching the process of building a book from start to finish has also been fascinating. And meeting some of the people required to make the finished product – many more than you would think – has been very special. Seeing Paddy Donnelly’s illustration for The Lightning Catcher for the first time was also a huge highlight. It’s so beautiful. From those aspects of the journey, I’ve found out what a difference each person’s contribution can make, and seen the book and its concepts grow and change, which has been really exciting.

If you could choose 1 tip for an aspiring writer, what would it be?

There are lots of openings for very short fiction in online magazines these days, so trying your hand at flash fiction is a good idea. It helps to get your name out there and boosts your confidence.

What would you say is the most challenging thing when it comes to writing?

For me, keeping the momentum going while plotting is quite difficult. I find setting up the events and characters straightforward, and often know where I want them to end up, but keeping the engine of the book thrusting forwards is trickier.

What other middle grade books have you enjoyed reading recently?

Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee is fantastic. I read it last year and although there’s a rare medical condition at the centre of it, there’s so much heart and love, and city life is brilliantly painted through the eyes of a child. The Space We’re In by Katya Balen is lovely. It has a really different pace: quiet in the day-to-day, but in the background, there’s a huge and life-changing event ticking away.

How would you sum up your novel in three words?

Stormy, heart-warming, surprising

Clare Weze grew up in London and Yorkshire and has British and Nigerian heritage. She is the author of The Lightning Catcher (Bloomsbury) and a story called ‘Once’ in the forthcoming anthology Happy Here (Knights Of and BookTrust).

You can visit her website, and also follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

The Lightning Catcher was released on 13th May 2021 and is published by Bloomsbury.

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 Stephanie Burgis

PaperBound caught up with author Stephanie Burgis to chat all about her new middle grade fantasy novel, The Raven Heir. Read on to discover more …

Can you tell us more about The Raven Heir? How would you describe it to anyone who hasn’t read it before?

The Raven Heir is an epic adventure about three triplets, brought up in a secluded, magical forest, who discover that almost everything they thought they knew about themselves is untrue … and the only way to save their family now is for one of them to become the next king or queen of a kingdom wracked by war.

You’ve written so many fantastic looking books. What’s unique about this one?

I’ve written lots of different kinds of fantasy novels before (from funny historical fantasy adventures to dragons drinking hot chocolate and arguing with fairies), but this is my first foray into really epic fantasy adventure, and it was so much fun!

Did you have to do a lot of research when it came to the magical elements of this book, or did most of it come from your own imagination?

I actually did a LOT of research for the magical elements in this book, because the heroine of The Raven Heir is a shapeshifter who can transform herself into any animal she chooses – which meant that I had to research hundreds of new-to-me details about how those different animals (from moths to bears, wolves, swallows, and more) all experience the world around them.

The magical world you’ve created in The Raven Heir is so vivid. How important do you think setting is in fantasy writing and world building?

I love how immersive good fantasy is, and how it lets us escape into different worlds from our own – which has been even more of a gift than usual during lockdown! Personally, I live in Wales, where I frequently visit local castles that were involved in some of the real-life battles of the British Wars of the Roses. Although The Raven Heir is set in an imaginary kingdom (named Corvenne), I absolutely drew on the history I’m surrounded by in my own life as I was creating that imaginary world and its history … with lots of magical twists!

Are there any books in particular you’ve been influenced by in your own life and writing?

So many! As a kid, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit first turned me into a fantasy fan, supplemented when I was a teen by other fabulous fantasy novels by Robin McKinley, Patricia McKillip, and Nalo Hopkinson. As an adult, Hilary McKay’s Casson Family series was what first convinced me to try writing middle grade fiction. Some of the MG books I’ve loved recently include Sophie Kirtley’s The Wild Way Home, Clare Weze’s The Lightning Catcher, and Maria Kuzniar’s The Ship of Shadows.

What do you love most about middle grade fiction?

I love the true sense of wonder in middle grade fantasy. When I’m writing it, I get to really luxuriate in the sheer coolness and beauty of what real magic might feel like!

Do you see anything of yourself in Cordelia, your protagonist?

We both love nature, and we’re both deeply loyal to our families. She is far wilder and more fun than I am, though!

If you could turn into any animal with magic, what would it be?

I’d love to be a cat, prowling around gracefully, making impossibly high leaps, and basking in the sunshine.

How would you sum up your novel in three words?

Magic, family, danger!

Stephanie Burgis lives in Wales with her husband, their two sons, and their tabby cat, surrounded by mountains and castles. She writes fun MG fantasy adventures, most recently The Raven Heir and the Dragon with a Chocolate Heart trilogy. She has also had over forty short stories for adults and teens published in various magazines and anthologies. To find out more (and read excerpts from her books), please visit her website: www.stephanieburgis.com

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 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 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!