Blog, Interview, Interviews

Blog Tour: Bigfoot Island by Roderick O’Grady

PaperBound Magazine are thrilled to be part of the Blog Tour for Bigfoot Island.

We were lucky enough to interview Rod all about the inspiration behind his books!

Q&A with Roderick O’Grady

Can you tell us a little bit about your new book Bigfoot Island (and Bigfoot Mountain for those who haven’t read it yet – no spoilers!) and the inspiration behind it?

Let’s start with what inspired me to write BFM. I had never written a book before and the only subject at the time that really intrigued me was that of Bigfoots also known as Sasquatches, also known as Sabe (Saa-bay). In fact, every Native American tribe has a word in their language for the big hairy forest people that, according to them, have always lived on the American continent. I had happily fallen down the rabbit-hole of ‘Bigfoot Research’. In Bigfoot Mountain we meet the four humans living in the Pacific North West in cabins near the sea at the foot of a mountain – Minnie, her step dad Dan, their neighbour Connie and her young son Billy.
We also meet eleven Bigfoots who are looking for a new forest home as wild fires forced them to leave their caves in the mountains to the east. Minnie and the young Bigfoot Kaayii (who is nearly seven foot tall) don’t become friends, but they do help each other. In Bigfoot Island, a family comes to stay in one of the cabins who go hunting on the mountain. Minnie is worried that their paths will cross with Kaayii. The young Bigfoot has problems of his own when an angry rogue Bigfoot arrives on the mountain and starts wandering close to the humans. Kaayii needs help and, again, Minnie is able to provide it.

What made you decide to write about Sasquatches?

The evidence for their actual existence has been increasing in recent years. I’ve read the DNA report which says they are an unknown relic hominid, not yet recognised by science. If they do indeed exist then I think the way I describe their way of life might be quite accurate. They live in family groups, are self-appointed stewards of the forest, and can communicate telepathically.

Did you have to do a lot of research to write your books? If so, what was the most interesting thing you discovered?

I did a ton of research and am still learning. I wanted to set the story in a temperate rainforest where animals thrive as it has high rainfall and therefore plenty to eat. So, I researched the area of Western Canada in British Colombia so that the descriptions of the flora and fauna are accurate. I’ve never been there, though I hope to visit one day. The most interesting thing I discovered is that many eye witness accounts of seeing Bigfoots in the woods describe how they seem to be able to make themselves go invisible, possibly by raising their vibration. And the footprints they leave in mud and snow can suddenly stop, like they just disappeared in to another dimension!

What do you hope readers will take from these books?

I believe that the more children understand about nature, the more they will want to protect it. I hope I have described the forest, the sea shore, the islands vividly enough that they will want to go out in to nature and explore our wonderful natural world.

What do you enjoy most about being an author?

I really enjoy meeting children in schools, and inspiring them to think about maybe writing a story one day.

If you could give one writing tip to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Just start writing. Your first idea might not be the one that will end up being a great story but the process of writing will pull from your subconscious mind incredible ideas, charming characters, fun dialogue and extraordinary places ­- if you just let it.

Roderick O’Grady is an actor who has worked in London and New York. His stage play, ‘A Foolish Fancy – How not to Get Ahead in the Theatre’ was a Time Out critic’s choice on the London Fringe. He has voiced the audiobook for Bigfoot Mountain, his first children’s book.

Bigfoot Island

When Minnie spots a white boat bringing strangers to the cove below her cabin, she fears the hard-won peace of her tiny community at the foot of Bigfoot Mountain will be shattered.
Kaayii too has to deal with an intruder on the mountain and, injured, needs to reach his family across the water. The two inhabit separate worlds but must find a way to work together to avoid disaster and protect the people and places they hold dear.

Bigfoot Mountain and Bigfoot Island are out now and published by Firefly Press

We have loved being a part of the Bigfoot Island Blog Tour!
Don’t forget to check out the other great blogs this week, for lots more from the world of Bigfoot Mountain!
Blog, Interview, Interviews

Interview: Meg Grehan in conversation with Siobhán Parkinson

To celebrate today’s release of middle grade title The Lonely Book, we are excited to share an interview of author Meg Grehan in conversation with Siobhán Parkinson. This is a loving story about gender identity, family, and the magic of books.

Annie’s family is made of love.

When her moms open up their bookshop in the mornings, there is always a mysterious pile of books on the counter. By evening, every book has found its ideal reader. But one day there is a book on gender identity that doesn’t get bought. Who can its reader be, and why don’t they come?

 Days pass, and the book with no owner gets lonelier and lonelier. The bookshop is unhappy, its magic starts to go awry, and the moms are worried that the shop isn’t making enough money. Meanwhile, Annie’s sibling has become withdrawn.

Annie has a plan to save the shop, but is this all that’s worrying her sibling?

Meg, I was thinking about what a lovely – and intriguing – title ‘The Lonely Book’ is. And of course this new verse novel is not just about a book — it’s actually set in a bookshop. Which reminds me that the main character in your first book, The Space Between, worked in a bookshop. So it seems that you are drawn to the idea of bookshops, not just as places to visit as a customer, but as rather enchanting places to work in. Have you ever worked in a bookshop, or is it just a dream?

I love bookshops. When I found it harder to leave my house they were real sanctuaries to me, little homes away from my real home. If I could get home I was OK, and if I could get to a bookshop I was OK. I think bookshops are so special, so unlike anywhere else.

I did work in a bookshop! I was a bookseller and I did most of the ordering. It was very fun but a lot more stressful than I expected! I loved getting to talk to people about books, help them with their most specific and niche requests. I need a book about a sloth, I need a book about the high seas, I need a book about … I loved that! Getting to know people has always been easiest for me when it’s through books. I feel confident that I know and understand the world of books and it’s where I feel safest, so working in a bookshop was very special to me.

And of course in this story, the bookshop has a very special kind of magic. It is the bookshop itself that chooses certain books and makes sure that they find their ideal readers. Later in the story, when this one unattached book, the lonely book, doesn’t find its person for some time, the bookshop gets very agitated. How did you come up with such an extraordinary device?

When I worked in the bookshop I had a little desk down the back where I would unbox all the new books I’d ordered, put them on the system and get them ready for the shelves. There were a couple of instances when someone would come up and say, ‘Oh, I heard about this book, it’s about …’ and I would have that very book sitting right in front of me! They always reacted like it was magic, and I always kind of felt like it was. That’s what gave me the idea for a bookshop that works with its people, helps with some of the bookselling – though they still have to find the right readers, of course.

The idea of a magic bookshop works very well in a story that centres on such a young character. I mean Annie, who is about eight or nine? She is not exactly the main character (that is probably Annie’s older sibling, Charlie); but Annie is a main character in another sense, because the story is told from her point of view. That was an interesting decision. It is Charlie’s story, but it is told from Annie’s perspective. What made you think of telling it that way?

I agree that Charlie is really the main character, but for what I wanted to achieve with this book Annie made sense as the character whose point of view we follow. In my last book for children, The Deepest Breath, we followed Stevie as she discovered that she liked girls. It made sense to follow Stevie on that journey, as she was starting from the complete beginning. It’s the same with Annie: she doesn’t know anything about gender at the start of the story and it makes her the perfect character to learn and grow with.

Charlie is a little older, a teenager, and a book about them would be a YA (young adult) story. But I felt that this book needed to be middle-grade – for younger readers. Just like with The Deepest Breath, I wanted to introduce concepts gently and carefully and in a positive way, and following Annie allowed me to do that. It is also very much Charlie’s story, though, I love them so much and I do think we see a lot that goes on with them through Annie’s eyes.

Yes, I see what you mean. The central issue, which clarifies as the story opens up, is that Charlie is starting to realise that they are non-binary. That is a big idea to mediate through the thoughts and worries of a much younger child, but it works really well, doesn’t it? I suppose Annie’s openness to new ideas is something that comes naturally to her, as a child – when you are small, everything is new, and you maybe haven’t acquired too many prejudices. So that makes her an ideal narrator, would you agree?

I do agree! It’s what’s so amazing about children, isn’t it? They learn and learn and learn every day, they are so open and ready for new things and so, so brave.

I wrote The Deepest Breath and The Lonely Book for younger readers because they both deal with topics I don’t think are written about enough for children. Queer stories are for everyone, and I wanted to share some!

Annie might be very young and very open, but she does also suffer from anxiety. Her worries are a kind of subplot – she knows there is something bothering Charlotte; she knows her mothers are worried about something completely different – whether the bookshop is financially secure. And one reaction she has to these anxieties is that she finds very often she can’t speak. Can you tell us a bit about selective mutism and why you chose to explore it in this story?

Selective mutism is a type of anxiety disorder that means that sometimes you just can’t speak. I decided to write about it because I have it. In times of extreme stress I lose the ability to speak. For instance, during the height of the pandemic I couldn’t speak at all for almost a year. My speech slowly came back but it was quite scary. Generally it just manifests in little ways: like, in an argument, sometimes words just vanish for me. It feels like quite a betrayal because I have always considered words friends. Writing about it, however minor a subplot it may be, was really nice for me. It reminded me that words take many forms and I am never truly without them.

Using sign language to overcome mutism is a creative as well as a very loving response, and the whole family becomes involved. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Again, that comes from personal experience. For those months when I couldn’t speak my girlfriend and I learned sign language. We learned together and it was a very beautiful thing. It was her idea. We had tried a text-to-speech app but I didn’t like that, and we tried me writing things out, but it was such a slow process. Sign was the perfect answer. We loved learning it, we loved using it and I loved it so much that she learned it with me; and that made me feel so loved and respected and valued. And so that is why I wrote that into the story of The Lonely Book. It just seemed right.

The love that Annie and Charlie share with their two mothers is very strong, very warm, very sustaining. And emotionally very satisfying to read about. It is the core of the book, really. But I like how you don’t allow the fact that this family is united in love and togetherness to be an easy solution to their various anxieties. It’s important that they have each other, but it’s not enough to make all their worries disappear. Can you tell us a bit more about your thinking on this?

I am very lucky to be in a relationship for almost twelve years now with a warm, funny, kind and caring person. I am loved and cared for and supported beyond what I ever thought possible. But I still have my anxieties, my troubles, my worries and struggles. The love I receive and the love I give can soothe these worries, they can lessen the load, they can calm me when things get too much. But they cannot take them away.

It isn’t fair to expect a person, no matter who they are, to fix your problems or take away your struggles with just the power of love and togetherness. But it is OK to expect respect and love and tenderness, I think. That’s what this family do: they love and respect and care for each other because they are a family and this is what comes naturally to them. They don’t expect each other to fix everything for them, or expect themselves to be able to fix everything for the others.

This is what Annie is learning, you can’t fix everything for a person, even if you wish you could. But you can love them and support them and be there for them, and that can be just as powerful.

The Deepest Breath, which is also written for quite a young readership, is realistic, as was your first book, The Space Between, which is more for a YA audience. Then, with Baby Teeth, definitely YA, you plunged right into fantasy (almost horror), and that went down very well!

Do you think Baby Teeth opened up the way for the kind of magic realism we find in The Lonely Book? Maybe in the same way that centring the story on a younger child in The Deepest Breath might have inspired you to write The Lonely Book also for a young audience?

Maybe! I’ve never had any interest in categorising myself when it comes to writing. I am not a person who has a lot of ideas, I am not at all brimming with them and I rarely have to choose between them to decide what to write. Usually I have one idea and I sit with it for as long as it takes to form and grow and develop. Then I write it.

Same for me!

Beth (the main character in The Space Between) came to me first, then Stevie (The Deepest Breath), then Immy (Baby Teeth) and now Annie. Immy was the most self-indulgent for me (though it may seem to be Beth from The Space Between!) because I love horror, I love paranormal stories, I love the innate drama of vampires and the idea of many lives lived.

I also love not holding back when I write, letting myself be as over-the-top or dramatic or even maybe pretentious as I want to be and Immy let me do that. I very much wrote that book for myself and the fact that other people liked it too definitely made me much braver moving forward, which, yes, could have played a part in inspiring me to write about a magic bookshop.

All your books, Meg, are verse novels. Do you find that verse comes to you more naturally than prose? And do you find that audiences respond especially well to the poetic form?

It definitely comes more naturally to me. I have always, always loved poetry. My nana wrote poetry and she wrote a poem about me when I was little. I still have the book that it’s published in on my bookcase. I like to think she wrote me into the world of poetry.

What a gift!

Wasn’t it just?

I was also a drama kid. I performed poetry I loved and wrote and performed my own poetry. I’ve always read it, always written it, and always loved it. So when I learned that books could be poetry too, that I could write a whole story in a poetic form, a new world opened up to me. It just comes naturally to me, it makes me happy, it makes me feel free and brave and inspired.

I love verse a lot, and I do think people respond well to it, even if they don’t quite know what it is. I try quite hard to make my verse accessible and make it flow nicely so it isn’t too taxing to read and I think, or I hope rather, that readers feel that. I think people are often surprised by how much they like verse, it kind of delights me!

Yes, I see what you mean about how naturally it comes to you, but I’m still wondering if it was a conscious decision to use verse as a form and magic realism as a storytelling style in order to tackle a subject that some readers might find more difficult to think about if they encountered them in a realistic novel or one in prose?

Honestly, no, not really. I trust readers, I trust young readers. I think they can handle bigger ideas and concepts than we give them credit for.

I totally agree, Meg. I think that respect for young readers is what marks the best writers for children and young people.

So, the reason I chose verse is that that is what I love and how I write best, and I wanted to give this story it’s best chance at being good. And I chose magical realism or fabulism because it allowed me to tell the story I wanted to tell and because the idea excited me. I think it just worked out well that these choices helped me in telling the story as clearly and accessibly as I could.

And it all worked out pretty well perfectly! Thank you, Meg, for talking to me, and thank you for this wonderful book.

You can catch this interview in the back of The Lonely Book upon its paperback release from Little Island Books. We want to thank Little Island for giving us permission to publish this interview on our blog to celebrate this fantastic release!

PaperBound Magazine is an online magazine for the young, and the young at heart. We are dedicated to showcasing authors and illustrators for children’s and young adult fiction and we strive to deliver inspiring content, uplifting stories, and top tips for young and aspiring writers yet to burst on to the literary scene.

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. We appreciate any support you can give us!

Don’t forget you can catch up with the latest issues of PaperBound Magazine here.

Blog, Interview, Interviews

Interview with children’s author AF Harrold

We teamed up with Emma Stanford who reviewed The Worlds We Leave Behind by A.F. Harrold (and beautifully illustrated by Levi Pinfold) in a previous PaperBound issue and put together a few questions for the author. Read the interview below, or in the latest issue of PaperBound here.

The Worlds We Leave Behind by A.F. Harrold

Could you tell us a little about The Worlds We Leave Behind, and the inspiration behind the story and illustrations? Did it start with a setting, a character or something else?

The Worlds We Leave Behind is a strange, slightly dark, slightly creepy, slightly odd story about a boy, Hex (short for Hector), who gets in some trouble down the woods, meets an old lady and her dog in a cottage that shouldn’t exist and gets offered a bargain that could change his life. I think that’s probably all I could say about the story without saying too much. 

The inspiration for it came from the previous book Levi and I made together, The Song from Somewhere Else. That was a story that I wrote and which the publisher (Bloomsbury) went out and found an illustrator for (which was Levi, obviously). And what Levi did with that story, and what the designer (Andrea Kearney) made of the book-as-object, was utterly delicious, dark and moody and beautiful. Naturally people asked if we were going to do anything else together… 

And, a few books later, the thought came of taking one of the minor characters from that book and letting them have a go. And so Frank (the main character in The Song…) had a little brother, Hector. What if, I thought, time had moved on five or six years, so that he was now the age Frank had been when she had her adventure (10-11)? And how might he react put through some of the same sorts of difficulties she was? 

The previous books, The Imaginary and The Afterwards (both with Emily Gravett), and The Song…, all have some sort of bargain at their heart. In the two books with Emily the ‘villains’ of the books have made supernatural bargains to allow them something they shouldn’t have, and in the first book with Levi, a boy called Nick’s dad has made a bargain with a secret agent to bend the rules… This time, I felt, I could look at one of these bargains being made, with an outer entity. 

And so the thought of someone offering Hex the chance to get his own back, to have his revenge on someone who’d hurt him, who’d wronged him… that seemed a good starting point. And the story grew and changed and spread and got pruned and eventually sort of fitted in and around that original thought, and ended up how it looks today. (Thanks to plenty of work with my editor Zöe Griffiths, who asked the important questions and made me stretch for the answers.) 

What is the process of working with an illustrator like? When did you start collaborating? Were the illustrations created after the story was complete, or did they develop along with the story itself? 

Since Levi lives in Australia and I’m in the UK, we’ve only met, in person, a few times. But when we have met we’ve got on well, and although he’s a decade younger than me, we have enough childhood loves and experiences in common (me growing up in the pre-internet ‘70s/’80s, he in the pre-internet ‘80s/’90s) that we have a shared understanding of the sort of story we’re making, and the atmosphere we want to give. Although the story is ‘modern’, in that there are mobile phones and computers, it’s still very much rooted in our shared ‘80s memory, I think. 

And so, where The Song from Somewhere Else was written without knowing who would be illustrating it, this new book I wrote specifically with Levi in mind. So, although it isn’t a collaboration in the sense of ‘coming up with the story together’, it is very much a collaboration in that I was thinking, ‘What do I want to see Levi draw?’ as I went along, knowing the visual language and atmosphere of the previous book. It was as if he was sat on my shoulder as I wrote and tinkered. 

And then, a few weeks before the first lockdown, Levi happened to be in the UK, and he had a spare afternoon so he came over to Reading, where I live, and we had a cup of tea, and we sat in my shed and I told him the story, face to face, and that was a really lovely moment I’ve not had with anyone else. 

And so, then he gets the ‘finished’ manuscript and goes away and makes his art. And I get to see it at various points and simply be amazed, moved and feel immensely, intensely lucky to know such a man with such a talent! 

Time is used in a very unique way in this book. Did this bring up any issues with structuring the story at all? If so, how did you overcome them? 

Because of how The Song from Somewhere Else had been structured (days instead of chapters), this book was obviously going be the same, which meant you’ve only got four days for the story (Monday to Thursday, plus evenings/nights), so it’s actually very linear. Things happen in the order in which they happen, and so that’s quite simple. 

Although there are some wrinkles (trying to be spoiler free, one might allude to alternative timelines), there is no back and forth time travel or paradoxes to be negotiated (I think of something like Gareth P. Jones’ No True Echo (which I read after seeing it mentioned in a review for The Worlds…), where it’s proper mind-bending timelines folding in around themselves, past and future and present in a big timey-wimey complex)… none of that. Just things happening one after another. 

What are your top three tips for aspiring young writers and illustrators? 

I think my two tips would be unsurprising ones. Firstly, read books. For one thing, reading books is a great way to fill your time and take yourself to all sorts of places and times and viewpoints you’d not otherwise get to visit (or to see places, people and times that you do know, but with fresh eyes), and secondly, if you want to be a writer, by seeing how other people do it you’ll get a feel for how to do it, or how not to do it… 

And my second tip is, if you don’t feel like writing, don’t, and don’t beat yourself up about it. You don’t have to write every day. Sometimes you’ll write loads, and sometimes you won’t  Sometimes ideas will pour out of you, and sometimes they won’t. Don’t worry, don’t panic, don’t beat yourself up. You’re allowed to not write. 

My third tip is have a bath whenever you can. It’s a good place to read, and it’s a good place to think. 

Photo by by Alex Genn-Bash

A.F. Harrold is a poet, performer and children’s author who has written funny and spooky books for all ages and gotten to make art with some of the finest illustrators of the age, including Chris Riddell (Things You Find in a Poet’s Beard), Emily Gravett (The Imaginary), Joe Todd-Stanton (Greta Zargo and the Death Robots from Outer Space), Mini Grey (The Book of Not Entirely Useful Advice) and Sarah Horne (the Fizzlebert Stump series).

His two books with Levi Pinfold, The Song from Somewhere Else (winner of the Amnesty International/CILIP Honour, 2018) and The Worlds We Leave Behind are good things. 

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 help keep us running you can buy us a virtual book.

Blog, Interview, Interviews

Interview with children’s author Maggie Horne

Author of middle grade book, Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One, Maggie Horne chatted to us about the inspiration behind her debut novel and what’s coming next! Read on below to discover more about Maggie …

Could you tell us a bit about Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One? 

Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One is about 12-year-old Hazel, who begins the book completely focused on one goal: to win her school’s annual speech competition after a humiliating defeat last year at the hands of her nemesis, popular girl Ella Quinn. But when she learns that Ella’s being sexually harassed online by a boy in their class, the two girls team up to try and take him down, and Hazel has to choose between winning and doing what she knows is right.  

Hazel is such a brilliant character. Where did the inspiration for her come from?  

Thank you! Hazel was largely inspired by my own experience growing up and dealing with sexual harassment at school from a young age. I have a lot of memories from around that time (good and bad!) and tried to really tap into them to make Hazel as authentic as possible. 

Do you have any tips for writing memorable characters?  

I think that in middle grade especially people can be tempted to over-explain things or to make sure that each character is specifically teaching the reader a lesson, but I think that creating characters that way can be condescending to the reader. Writing 12 year olds who are fully fleshed out people in the own right is what makes them memorable! 

Friendship is a strong theme throughout the book. Was this always something you wanted to write about?  

Definitely! I always think we should have more friendship stories out in the world, and being able to explore the theme through Hazel, who begins the book almost afraid to even try to have friends and ends it in an entirely different place, was really fun.  

You also include themes and issues that aren’t always talked about in middle grade fiction, but you do it in such a sensitive and engaging way for the reader. Do you think there are more themes and issues that could be featured in fiction for young people? 

Thank you! Definitely. I think that the middle grade years are often when the differences between you and the people around you start to become something that gets talked about a lot more (for better and for worse), so writing about those differences, first of all, is hugely important. I’d love to see more queer middle grade, and especially middle grade with queer BIPOC protagonists. Beyond that, I think that there was a period of time where writing about things like sexual harassment for young people was seen as more taboo because the topics weren’t seen as “appropriate” for them. But, like Hazel mentions in the book, of course it’s not appropriate! That’s why it needs to be recognised and stopped, and writing about it is a first step to that.  

What books/ stories/ authors have been an inspiration to you, and your writing? 

My absolute favourite book when I was Hazel’s age was Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes. I’ve always loved how thoughtful and precise his language is, and I try to emulate that where I can.  

When I re-discovered middle grade in adulthood, I was so excited to see how many authors were bringing diversity to the category! Authors like Claribel Ortega, Ashley Herring Blake, and Mark Oshiro (to name a few!) are doing so much for middle grade.  

We’d love to know what’s up next for you. Are you writing anything new, or any other exciting news?  

I’m VERY excited about my next middle grade book, Noah Frye Gets Crushed, which will be out in 2024. It’s about 12-year-old Noah, who, after noticing that her best friends seem to be suddenly boy-obsessed, decides she can teach herself how to have a crush on a boy to fit in. Noah’s story is almost the opposite of Hazel’s – where Hazel’s lack of close friends has forced her to have a very strong, independent sense of self, Noah’s grown up with an extremely tight-knit circle of friends, and she doesn’t quite know who she is without them.  

I’ll also be debuting a YA book in 2024, Stay Here With Me! It tells the story of two best friends who’ve just broken up, because one of them was outed as a lesbian, finding themselves developing feelings for the same girl.

Maggie Horne is a writer and editor who grew up near Toronto, Canada. She studied at Oxford Brookes University, where she obtained both a BA in Publishing Media and a wife, which was a pretty good deal. She now lives outside of Ottawa with her family. Her first novel, Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One, was an Indies Introduce Summer/Fall 2022 Selection, an Indie Next pick, and a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection.

Her second middle grade novel, Noah Frye Gets Crushed, will be released winter 2024, and her young adult debut, Stay Here With Me, is out autumn 2024 with Feiwel + Friends. 

Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One is out now. You can find out more about Maggie by visiting her official website, or by following her on Twitter and Instagram.

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 help keep us running you can buy us a virtual book.

Blog, Bookshelf

Our winter 2022/23 bookshelf

Take a look at our music themed bookshelf, as featured in our winter 2022/23 issue, which has all kinds of books perfect for spreading the love of music. You can read even more wonderful stories, author interviews and more in our latest issue by clicking 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. 

Here at PaperBound, we love stories. Want to be a part of ours? Find out more.

© PaperBound Magazine

Blog, Covers

Our winter 2022/23 issue is out now!

Did you know the winter 2022/23 issue of PaperBound Magazine is out now?

This issue’s theme is based on ‘MUSIC’, filled with lots of new captivating writing and gorgeous illustrations, plus all kinds of fantastic author interviews, writing prompts, book recommendations, and more.

You can read the latest issue of PaperBound completely free here. Just scroll down until you see our WINTER 2022/23 issue.

We hope you enjoy it!

Blog, Interview, Interviews

Interview with children’s author Lauren Wolk

We caught up with children’s author Lauren Wolk in the latest issue of PaperBound Magazine, who told us all about her new novel My Own Lightning. Read on to discover more.

Could you tell us a little about your book, My Own Lightning, and the inspiration behind it? 

My Own Lightning is a sequel to Wolf Hollow, something I never expected to write. It’s a product of the pandemic, a time of such turmoil and uncertainty (both because of COVID and the political situation in the U.S.) that I longed for the safety and security I had always felt on the family farm that inspired Wolf Hollow. But I was also intrigued by how I was being influenced by the chaos around me, and I wanted to explore how Annabelle would react to a similar shock. How it would make her see the world differently. How it would teach her to look past the obvious to hidden truths … about herself and others. Since I’ve always been fascinated with the untapped potential of the hidden brain – and how some of its mysteries are revealed by lightning strikes and other traumatic events – I decided that Annabelle’s ‘shock’ should be literal. So I sent her out into a summer storm and then watched what happened next. 

My Own Lightning takes place in the 1940s and has some beautiful locations, such as the farm and Wolf Hollow. What draws you to this time period? And are any of the settings based on real locations? 

I grew up listening to my mother’s stories about her childhood in the 1940s on the family farm in Pennsylvania, and I spent quite a lot of time on that farm myself. Wolf Hollow and My Own Lightning are my way of paying tribute to that time, that place, my family, and the natural world. I owe a great deal to my mother, especially, for sharing the memories that inspired my work. But I am indebted to my grandparents and my uncles as well, all of whom devoted so much of their lives to the land. 

Annabelle is struck by lightning at the beginning of the novel and gets heightened senses and the ability to understand dogs. What powers would you want if you were struck by lightning?  

What a great question! Honestly, I’d like a whole boatload of powers – including being able to sing beautifully and fly (of course) – but those are far-fetched. I simply haven’t got the mechanics for such things. But people have gained some really extraordinary abilities from lightning strikes and traumatic brain injuries – like being able to compose music and play the piano … or do complex math … or speak foreign languages. I’d be delighted to speak another language well. Especially the language of dogs and other creatures. Trees? I’d be over the moon. 

My Own Lightning is a sequel. What was it like to take the characters from Wolf Hollow on a whole new adventure?  

Because I write without a map, I’m always surprised by what I encounter as I write a novel. Of course, I have some influence on the route I take, but I trust my characters enough to follow where they lead. And I trust Annabelle to my bones. She’s a very able guide. As I wrote My Own Lightning, however, I was so baffled by the state of the world in general and the U.S. in particular that I allowed a fair bit of that confusion to muck up the works. Annabelle and I got lost a couple of times, following subplots down rabbit holes, running in circles, and falling down a lot. It was only after a couple of drafts that I managed (with the help of my editor) to shut out the noise around me and listen to what mattered most to Annabelle and her story. In the end, it was a simple one that focused on giving people second chances and doing the hard work it takes to be fair in a world that seldom is. 

Dogs play a big role in My Own Lightning. How hard was it writing them in danger?  

It was difficult to put my beloved dog characters in harm’s way. But I had made a decision early in the book that I would not allow any of them to die. I rarely make hard and fast decisions about a book, but in this case I did. I was therefore able to put them as risk without losing too much sleep. It was hard to see them get hurt, but it was very satisfying to see them survive. 

You have been called a ‘successor to Harper Lee’ by The Times. How did that feel? 

It’s wonderful to be compared to such an icon. Truly. But it’s also a bit scary, first because I always want my work to be mine, not an echo of someone else’s … and, second, because Harper Lee has very big shoes I can’t possibly hope to fill. I honestly didn’t see any parallels between my work and hers, largely because I was so inspired by my own family history and legacy, and I was therefore shocked when people started to point out plot and character similarities between Wolf Hollow and To Kill a Mockingbird. Then I reminded myself that all of art and literature are filled with echoes. They’re inevitable. But I do work hard to make sure they’re not deliberate. 

Is My Own Lightning the last we’ll see of Annabelle and her friends and family? Or is there more to come for Wolf Hollow?  

I’d love to write a third Wolf Hollow book at some point. And I’m excited about writing a sequel to each of my other books as well; Beyond the Bright Sea and Echo Mountain. (I can’t tell you how many school children have asked for such things … and plotted them all out for me!) But I’ve nearly finished a brand new novel with different characters, and I have another one I plan to rewrite after that. So it may be a while before I meet up with Annabelle again (or Crow or Ellie). 

Lauren Wolk is a poet and artist best known for her novels, especially the New York Times bestselling and Newbery Honor-winning Wolf Hollow (2016), its sequel, My Own Lightning (2022), the Scott O’Dell Award-winning Beyond the Bright Sea (2017), and Echo Mountain (2020). 

My Own Lightning is out now. You can find out more about Lauren by visiting her official website, or by following her on Twitter and Instagram.

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 help keep us running you can buy us a virtual book.

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Interview with author & former Wales children’s laureate Eloise Williams

Author of Gaslight, Eloise Williams, spoke to us about writing and her new novel, Honesty and Lies, in the latest issue of PaperBound. Read on to discover more below.

Could you tell us a bit about your new book, Honesty and Lies? 

Set in the winter of 1601 and centred around Greenwich Palace, it’s the story of two girls and their friendship. Honesty, a Welsh girl seeking fame and fortune, befriends Alice, a maid to Queen Elizabeth 1. But while Honesty looks for attention and praise, to make a better life for herself, Alice must stay invisible, hiding a terrible secret. Can they trust each other?  

It’s a tale of intrigue, scheming and plots set in the spellbinding world of the Elizabethan court. A thrilling adventure where nothing is as it seems. 

Where did the inspiration for this story come from?  

Inspiration is always difficult to pinpoint. I adore London and have done since I was very young. I love the history of it and the way it changes, the size and variety it brings, its scruffiness and its grandeur. Taking a boat from Greenwich to Southwark seems to chime as an important moment in thinking of this story. As does walking along the South Bank of the Thames.  

I hadn’t written anything historical since Gaslight so it seemed like a challenge and I like to challenge myself creatively. I also wanted to write something about appearance and reality, and this seemed the perfect setting for those comparisons. The splendour of the palace, life as a maid, Christmas and Twelfth Night, theatre – both in the real sense with the Globe and in the way that people perform their roles.   

Could you share a little bit about how you research when writing a novel? Is this something that you do before you start writing, or as you go? 

I start by doing a bit of very easy research into the period. This could be through reading books and listening to podcasts, watching films, visiting museums and historic buildings. It helps me to get a basic understanding of what life was like for young people at that time. However, I’m always in danger of falling into a research rabbit hole as I get overly interested in everything, so I have to stop myself after a while. I then write the first couple of chapters which gives me a better idea of the areas I need to concentrate on a bit more specifically. I’m not a historian – though I think it would be fascinating – so I like to give a flavour of the time but only so that it serves the story.  

What top tip would you give to an aspiring writer who would like to try writing historical fiction? 

History is just the backdrop and should help to paint the picture, not detract from the story. It’s tempting to drop facts in just because you’ve learned them. You can include some of the weird and extraordinary things you discover – there are lots of things which seem unusual to us now – but only when they illuminate something about the characters, their personalities, journey, or their lives. It’s not a history lesson, tempting as it is to make it one sometimes. If you want to put a fact in, try to make it part of the rich tapestry which supports the action.     

You’ve written so many brilliant books for young people, as well as being the Children’s Laureate of Wales, and recently creating and editing The Mab alongside Matt Brown. What has been the best/ most memorable moment in your writing journey so far? 

Firstly, thank you. It’s very hard to think of your own books as brilliant! It’s much easier to see what you perceive as the flaws. Stories tend to have a mind of their own and rarely turn out to be the things you had intended them to be.  

I’ve had so many wonderful moments. Every time I see one of my books in a bookshop or library it seems like a small miracle. Discussing stories with young readers is always a highlight. They can be very frank with their questions and opinions so it’s always good to have a sense of humour!  

Collaborating with Matt Brown and the other brilliant authors and illustrator was such a fantastic experience, and we are very proud of The Mab

I think, though, if I were to choose the most memorable moment, it would be when a young person threw one of my books out of their bedroom in disgust and shut the door on it. Her mother told me that she did it because she was so angry on behalf of the main protagonist. She fetched it again later and loved the story, so it was all okay in the end, but it made me realise how passionately young people believe in the stories they are reading, and I think of it often. It helps to keep me focused on writing the best story I can.   

You live close to the coast in West Wales and must feel inspired by the landscape there. Does much of that inspiration find itself in your books? 

Absolutely! It’s impossible not to be inspired by the landscape here. Sometimes it presents itself directly in my work – The Tide Singer, Seaglass and Elen’s Island are all set by the sea and inspired by the coast of Pembrokeshire. Other times, the love of nature and wildlife I’ve fostered here comes through in my writing. I talk about birds a lot in Wilde, that’s a love I’ve found over the last ten years, and I can’t seem to stop mentioning the moon.  

What other writers and books have inspired you (past and present)? 

There are so many! Far too many to mention them all. I’m always impressed by anyone committing to writing a book and finishing it. I read widely and find inspiration of some kind in almost every story.  

Could you let us know what you’re working on next?  

Well, I do have some exciting story news coming up soon but I’m not sure if I’m allowed to talk about it yet!  

I’m also at the dabbling stage with another new story. This is probably the part of writing I love most and fear most. There’s every possibility of it being the story you want it to be, and the empty pages are enticing and exciting. It also feels somewhere between improbable and impossible that you’ll ever manage it and as if there is a colossal mountain ahead. This story is one which has been bouncing around in my head for a while now and it won’t let go. It’s based in my own family’s history, and it’s a story of hope, but I don’t want to give too much away in case the mountain proves too steep!  

Eloise Williams grew up opposite a library in Llantrisant, Rhondda Cynon Taf, where she spent much of her time reading in the ruins of a castle. Her middle grade novels have won the Wales Arts Review Young People’s Book of the Year, the Wolverhampton Children’s Book Award, the YBB Book Award, and have been shortlisted for the Tir na nOg, the NE Book Awards and Wales Book of the Year. 

She has an MA in Creative Writing with distinction from Swansea University and was the inaugural Children’s Laureate Wales 2019-2021. Eloise now lives in West Wales, very close to the sea, where she wild swims, collects sea glass and ghost stories, and walks on the beach with her cairn terrier, Watson Jones. 

Her book, Honesty and Lies, is out now and published by Firefly Press. You can follow Eloise on Twitter and Instagram.

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 help keep us running you can buy us a virtual book.

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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 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.