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. 

Bookshelf

Spooky Bookshelf

Here, you can find our spooky themed bookshelf, as featured in our autumn 2021 issue, which has all kinds of haunting, atmospheric books perfect for the autumnal season. You can read even more spooky stories, author interviews and more in our latest issue by clicking here. 

PaperBound Magazine's Spooky Bookshelf

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

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!

Bookshelf

Summer Bookshelf

Our summer bookshelf is full of book recommendations set during the heat of summer for you to enjoy, from middle grade and graphic novels to YA. These are just a few of our favourites. Are there any we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below.

You can also see this page and lots more recommendations in our Summer 2021 issue, which can be found here.

© PaperBound Magazine

Interviews

Interview with children’s author Struan Murray

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

Struan Murray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your writing kryptonite?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview by Rebecca Perkin.

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

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

Interviews

Interview with 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!

Bookshelf

Our Spring Bookshelf

Our spring issue is full of stories about new beginnings and interesting mother figures, as well as featuring books set during spring. From classics like The Secret Garden to rip-roaringly hilarious new releases, like Love is for Losers, here are the books we’d love to share as part of our spring bookshelf. Are there any we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below.

You can also see this page and lots more recommendations in our Spring 2021 Issue, which can be found here.

© PaperBound Magazine

Bookshelf

Our Winter Bookshelf

Take a look at our winter warmer bookshelf, filled with each of our own book recommendations for books to read in winter. From novels to short story collections, and middle grade to YA, we hope there’s something you can get stuck into over winter here, or maybe even find something new …

You can also see this page and lots more recommendations in our Winter 2020 Issue, which can be found here.

© PaperBound Magazine

Interviews

Interview with author Damaris Young

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

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

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

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

What does your typical writing day look like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing prompt:

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

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

We may even print it in a future issue!

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

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