YA Shot

All posts in the YA Shot category

YA Shot 2016 – why you NEED to go!

Published October 16, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Hi everyone, I’m here today to talk about a fantastic young adult literature festival in partnership with Hillingdon Borough Libraries and Waterstones Uxbridge that happens over just one day in Uxbridge (end of Metropolitan and Piccadilly Line just outside of London). Do you love young adult fiction? Are you free next Saturday 22nd October? Then you should definitely check out the YA Shot webpage HERE and see what delights they’re offering. I was lucky enough to attend YA Shot last year with my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads and we hosted a workshop called “Introduction To Blogging.” We were terribly nervous, especially as I’m not big on public speaking but we both ended up having a whale of a time and are so glad we did it.

For now, here are ten reasons why you should give YA Shot a try! (author links take you direct to the YA Shot webpage):

1.) It’s the brainchild of super-duper author and all round lovely person Alexia Casale whose novels The Bone Dragon and House of Windows you simply have to check out for their spellbinding content and beautiful, lyrical prose.

2.) Panel events? YA Shot has them in abundance! For example, Terms of Endearment: feminism and the portrayal of romance in YA – Harriet Reuter Hapgood, Rachel McIntyre, Holly Smale chaired by Holly Bourne sounds completely unmissable.

3.) Tough topics: To Have and Have Not: exploring poverty, privilege and class through YA – Michael Byrne, Patrice Lawrence, Steve Tasane, chaired by Polly Ho Yen, a talk which I’m sure will explore gritty issues and spark a great debate both during and afterwards.

4.) Feeling a bit emotional? The YA Shot team have got it covered with: The Hurt Locker: love, loss and coping – Sarah Alexander, Jenny Downham chaired by Clare Furniss.

5.) For the historical fiction lovers out there (like myself!) this looks incredibly tempting: Out of the Past: the age of the Tudors & Stuarts in YA with Jonathan WeilJane Hardstaff, Ally Sherrick, chaired by Andrew Prentice.

6.) Love the idea of “in conversation” author events? How about: It’s a Wonderful Life: exploring bullying and loss through magical realism with Mike Revell and Nikki Sheehan?

7.) Fancy being a writer yourself? How about an exclusive, small workshop (first come, first served) with a best-selling author where they can teach you all the tricks of the trade?: History is horrible (but great for writing fiction!) with Rhian Ivory.

8.) Do you have a favourite blogger/vlogger? Or maybe you’re just starting out? Come along to: The blogging system: all the things they don’t tell you with Vivienne Dacosta (Serendipity Reviews) and Laura Heath (SisterSpooky), also Blogging/Vlogging: the technical low-down with Stevie Finegan(SableCaught) and Virginie (Chouettblog).

9.) Don’t miss: Managing your reading and choosing what to review with Cora(TeaPartyPrincess) and Luna (Luna’s Little Library). (Hmm…maybe I need to go to this).

10.) There will be book signing sessions. Need I say more?

There are so many more wonderful author events and blogger/vlogger workshops than I’ve had space for in this post and I strongly urge you to visit the website to check out everything that’s going on. It’s a jam packed day that I’m certain will be a roaring success but you need to buy tickets if you want to go! Maybe I’ll see you there? Come and say hello if you see me, I’m sure to be lurking in some capacity!

Aw… bibliobeth turns 3!

Published January 5, 2016 by bibliobeth

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It’s my blogoversary today and I can’t believe I’ve been blogging now for three years – just where has the time gone? 2015 was one of my best years to date, I met some lovely fellow bloggers at events such as YALC and YA Shot and Crime In The Court, interviewed some top authors like Alexia Casale, Alison Rattle, Karen Maitland, Sarah Hilary, Jane Elson and Piers Torday (to name a few!), carried out my first face-to-face interview with Jason Starr (post to be published soon) and ran my very first blogging workshop with my lovely sister Chrissi Reads! That’s a whole lot of things to be excited about and if I can be half as successful in 2016 I will be one happy blogger indeed.

I just want to thank EVERYONE who reads my little old posts whether you’re a bibliobeth virgin or a returning reader, it really means the world to me and I couldn’t do it without your support.

So, to celebrate my blogoversary I will be running a giveaway where the prize is four books of your choice (excepting textbooks and ridiculously prized books) from Amazon or The Book Depository. I’ll leave the giveaway open until the end of January to give people a chance to enter where I’ll then pick a winner and update you all. Please make sure if you are under eighteen you have permission to email me your address so I can send your books. Enter below!:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway IS international so why not try your luck?

Once again, thank you so much to everyone in the blogosphere for making this such a great community to be part of. Here’s to hopefully many more years of blogging ahead. Good luck everyone!!

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Author Interview – Alexia Casale on her new YA novel House Of Windows

Published November 23, 2015 by bibliobeth

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ALEXIA CASALE – A BIOGRAPHY

Shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize. Longlisted for The Branford Boase Award. A Book of the Year 2013 for the Financial Times and Independent.

A British-American citizen of Italian heritage, Alexia is an author, editor and writing consultant. She also teaches English Literature and Writing.

After an MA in Social & Political Sciences (Psychology major) then MPhil in Educational Psychology & Technology, both at Cambridge University, she took a break from academia and moved to New York. There she worked on a Tony-award-winning Broadway show before returning to England to complete a PhD and teaching qualification. In between, she worked as a West End script-critic, box-office manager for a music festival and executive editor of a human rights journal.

She’s not sure which side of the family her dyslexia comes from, but is resigned to the fact that madness runs in both. She loves cats, collects glass animals and interesting knives, and has always wanted a dragon.

Alexia is represented by Claire Wilson of Rogers, Coleridge & White.

Her debut novel, The Bone Dragon, is published in English by Faber & Faber, and in German by Carlsen.

Click on the books to get to the link for GoodReads!

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For my review of The Bone Dragon, click HERE.

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For my review of House Of Windows, click HERE.

Interview with Alexia Casale

I’d like to welcome Alexia to bibliobeth today and thank her very much for her time in giving this interview.

1.) House of Windows is a very different book to your debut The Bone Dragon. Did you set out to write such a completely different story or was it an idea that developed over time?

I started working on a version of House of Windows when I was thirteen, long before I thought of the pieces of story that became The Bone Dragon. Returning to this ‘old’ project after The Bone Dragon allowed me to start as I mean to go on by showing that I plan to write all sorts of books, across all sorts of genres: it’s the story and characters that attract me to a book, not the genre or readership. But I love that Faber took such trouble over the look of House of Windows so there was a connection between the two, at least with appearances!

bibliobeth (“Both the covers are absolutely beautiful, designed by Helen Crawford-White.”)

2.) Our main character in this novel is Nick and his story reads like a “coming of age” epic. Is he based on anyone you know and was it hard to say goodbye to him at the end?

Nick, or a version of Nick, has been living in my head since my early teens so I doubt I’ll ever be rid of him. The thing that’s changed is that he’s no longer demanding that I write his story: he’s out there between the pages to meet other people, so he doesn’t take up my time creatively any more. But he’s not gone, just like Evie’s not gone. I guess it’s like former colleagues who’ve become friends: it’s all fun now, rather than mostly hard work!

Different bits of Nick are based on different people. There’s a certain amount of me in him, as there is with any protagonist, then there are bits of various people I went to University with, and bits and bobs of family members and family friends… The people we meet and know and love and hate are how we understand how people work. No matter what a writer says, that’s the resource we all draw on to create characters.

3.) You paint a beautiful picture of Cambridge in the novel, a city that you know well. Did most of your research for this novel involve having to re-visit and why in particular did you choose to set your story here?

Going back to Cambridge is always wonderful and it was fantastic to have an excuse to revisit some of my favourite places in the University and the town. Mostly I went to take photos in case I needed them for publicity or promotions stuff – I’m hoping to make a book trailer once YA Shot is over! Cambridge is so close to my heart that I didn’t need to re-visit. That’s why the book had to be set in here: I had all the passion and joy in the place that Nick needed and it was a lovely thing to share with him. I got to fall in love with Cambridge all over again through him, sharing all the little details of one of my favourite places in the world.

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King’s Chapel in Cambridge from The Backs (photograph provided by author)

As for the ‘character’ of the University, most people imagine Cambridge is posh and snotty and that it takes itself very seriously, but that’s only true of some aspects and some people. The thing I’ve tried to capture is how Cambridge is a world unto itself and everyone plays along because it’s fun… but we all get how daft it all is. Take the language: you have to learn it because everyone stops speaking English at the gates, but that’s not a hardship because it’s basically a very silly game you all get to bond over. So what most people probably see as a way of excluding the rest of the world is more about building a sense of community around fun and not taking yourself or the whole Cambridge life too seriously. I really hope that comes across. But the bottom line is that Cambridge is beautiful and fascinating: the key aspects of most compelling settings.

IMG_4756-001Trinity Hall, Jerwood Library from Clare Bridge, Cambridge (photograph provided by author)

4.) You touch on some emotional subjects in this novel, in particular the relationship between Nick and his father. Do you think that if their relationship had been better Nick would have been a different person as a result?

Definitely! Nick is emotionally unintelligent and maybe he always would have been, but a loving, healthy family dynamic would doubtless have mitigated his natural cluelessness: it’s hard for someone who doesn’t naturally ‘get’ people if there’s no one to help him figure those things out. If even one of his parents had helped him learn how to relate to other people, he’d have lived a very different life. He’d still be super-smart but maybe if he had been busy having a social life and doing something other than studying and more studying, he wouldn’t have gone to Cambridge at 15… Which is not to say that Nick isn’t responsible for his own choices, but he is still a kid. He gets a lot of stuff wrong but I appreciate how little help he’s had in getting it right. Nick isn’t written to be likeable, but I really hope people will grow to understand him. Even if they still think he’s spiky, difficult little smart arse, I hope they’ll also empathise with him by the end of the story.

5.) Are you working on anything now and can you tell us a little bit about it?

Many things! I’m writing a WWII adult historical novel. And a psychological thriller in a similar vein to The Bone Dragon. And also the first in a potential series.
But obviously the main thing is YA Shot until November!

bibliobeth: (“I actually cannot wait!!”)

IMG_4992-001The Bridge Of Sighs at St John’s, Cambridge (photograph provided by author)

Now for some quick fire questions!:

E book or real book?
Real book EVERY TIME. As a professional editor, ebooks are too much like work.

Series or stand alone?
Depends. Series for fantasy. Standalone for thrillers. Series for historical. Standalone for literary/contemporary. Series for crime. Sometimes. Oh, I don’t know. Just give me all the books and an eternity to read them.

Fiction or non-fiction?
Fiction for pleasure every time. As a researcher, I’m hardly anti non-fiction, but getting the most out of non-fiction is always hard work. Books are sometimes just for fun.

Online shopping or bookshop trawling?
Online at the moment because of time and energy issues! But I LOVE secondhand bookstores. Many of my happiest family holidays of a kid were spent in Hay-on-Wye (aka Bliss-on-Earth).

Bookmarking or dog-earing?
Bookmarks for reading. Dog-earring for permanently marking things I think are amazing. Dog earring for recipe books.

Once again, a HUGE thank you to the lovely Alexia Casale for her efforts in making this interview possible. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next and be assured, I will definitely be reading it.

House of Windows was published on 6th August 2015 by Faber Children’s Books and is available from all good book retailers now. I also highly recommend her debut novel The Bone Dragon which was short-listed for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.

YA SHOT – 28th October 2015, Uxbridge, London

Published October 21, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

YA Shot is a one day event for young adult and middle grade fiction in London where seventy-one authors will participate in talks and book signings. It has all been organised by the lovely Alexia Casale, author of The Bone Dragon and House of Windows who decided on a YA Shot five-word “ethos,” that it should be generous, passionate, inclusive, challenging and fun and she has put together a fabulous programme that is sure to excite anyone who is enthusiastic about young adult fiction.

Tell us more?:

The event in partnership with Hillingdon Borough Libraries and Waterstones Uxbridge will host various “panel” and “in conversation” talks throughout the day at different sites all within easy walking distance of each other. There will also be an opportunity to attend workshop events hosted by bloggers and vloggers active in the UK at the moment.

What kind of talks?:

There are so many talks planned that look so interesting! I will be trying to attend as many as possible (that is, until I have to go host one of the workshops with my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads in the afternoon!)

The ones I’d love to go to include:

11.30am – 12.30pm Playing with Time: Historical fiction and historical settings – Chaired by Natasha Farrant with Lucy Coats, Rhian Ivory and Alison Rattle

12.45pm – 1.45pm Crime and Punishment: Fictional wrongdoing and human rights – Chaired by Laura Jarratt with Cat Clarke, Keren David and Emma Haughton

2pm – 3pm Trigger Warning: Exploring sensitive issues in ethical ways – Chaired by Alexia Casale with Holly Bourne, Tanya Byrne and Louisa Reid

12.45pm – 1.45pm Treasured Land: Nature as a character and concern in YA – Chaired by Piers Torday with Lisa Heathfield and Anna McKerrow

4.40pm – 5.40pm Tragedy! Tackling sadness in fiction for younger teens – Chaired by Candy Gorlay with Jane Elson and Aoife Walsh [MG event, suitable for children aged 7-11 as well as adults]

Aagh, I can already see I’ve got a clash and am going to have to think carefully about which talk I want to go to! This is only a small sample of what’s on offer and I can honestly say I think there’s something for everyone.

Don’t forget the workshops as well! Chrissi Reads and I are hosting one at 3:45 pm about How To Get Started With Blogging. If you’re new to the blogging world or already have your own blog but want to know a bit more about getting things going, please come along and we shall try our best to make it worth your while. We’ve also got Michelle from Fluttering Butterflies and a member of the Bookish Brits who will be talking about group projects and reading challenges, Benjamin of Tomes who will show you how to get started with vlogging, Debbie from Snuggling on the Sofa and Daphne of Winged Reviews who will show you how to develop your brand and increase your followers and Jim from Ya Ya Yeah and Wei Ming Kam of Rare, Medium, Well Done who will discuss diversity in literature. To name a few!

Which authors are going to be there?:

I’m just going to throw a few names out there:

Alexia Casale (obviously)

Piers Torday, author of The Last Wild series

Jane Elson, author of A Room Full of Chocolate and How To Fly With Broken Wings

C J Daughtery, author of The Night School series

Tanya Byrne, author of Heart-Shaped Bruise and Follow Me Down

Emma Carroll, author of Frost Hollow Hall and The Girl Who Walked On Air

Holly Bourne, author of Soulmates and Am I Normal Yet?

Cat Clarke, author of Undone and The Lost And The Found

James Dawson, author of This Book Is Gay and All Of The Above

And that’s just a few of them.

Where can I buy tickets?:

Tickets are still available from the YA Shot website. Online orders will close at 6pm on Tuesday 27th October but there may be some available on the door on Wednesday 28th October.

Any more information?:

Please see the official YA Shot website which will tell you everything else you need to know. Maybe I’ll see you there!

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YA SHOT REVIEW – How To Fly With Broken Wings – Jane Elson

Published October 19, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

‘If Finn Maison shouts jump you jump or you are dead.’

Twelve-year-old Willem has Aspergers Syndrome and two main aims in life: to fly and to make at least two friends of his own age. But all the other boys from the Beckham Estate do is make him jump off things. First his desk – and now the wall. As his toes teeter on the edge, Sasha Barton gives him a tiny little wink. Might she become his friend?

Bullied by Finn and his gang the Beckham Estate Boyz, Willem has no choice but to jump. As he flies through the air he flaps his arms, wishing he could fly and escape into the clouds. Instead he comes crashing down and breaks his ankle.

Sasha, angry with herself for not stopping Finn and his Boyz, is determined to put things right. And soon, while the gangs riot on their estate, Willem and Sasha form an unlikely friendship. Because they share a secret. Sasha longs to fly too.

And when Magic Man Archie arrives with stories of war-flying spitfires, he will change the lives of the kids on the Beckham Estate for ever. And perhaps find a way for Willem and Sasha to fly …

Touching on themes such as friendship and bullying, this is a charming tale about overcoming obstacles and finding friendship in unlikely places.

What did I think?:

When Alexia Casale (YA author, organiser of YA Shot and all round “good egg,”) asked me if I would like to interview Jane Elson as part of a blog tour for YA Shot, I jumped at the chance. Not only did I completely fall in love with Jane’s debut novel A Room Full Of Chocolate last year but I have had her second novel on my Kindle for a while now wondering when I was going to get round to reading it! I’m so glad I made time for it now as it was a heart-breaking and terrific read that cemented me as a definite fan of Jane Elson.

The author focuses on a few different characters in this novel but the pivotal character is a twelve year old boy called Willem who has a form of autism known as Asperger’s Syndrome. This leads to him having problems interacting and communicating with others, strange rituals and behaviours that he must complete otherwise he gets very anxious and he also tends to see the world in a very literal way which can be quite confusing for him if someone is being sarcastic for instance, or making a joke that he cannot understand.

At the beginning of the novel, poor Willem is at the mercy of school bully Finn and his horrible gang. They exploit both Willem’s fear of the bullies and his passion for flying in the worst way – by making him jump off a fairly high wall. He breaks an ankle in the incident but is still determined to complete his homework set by his maths teacher, to make two new friends. Like a little guardian angel, in flies Sasha Barton. She is the girlfriend of gang leader Finn but has become increasingly fed-up with his antics and feels terribly sorry for Willem after he breaks his ankle, visiting him and vowing to be his friend.

When the pair find out that they both share a passion for flying they are overjoyed but even more so when a kindly new neighbour to the estate shows them his beautiful secret, a Spitfire plane flown in the war which is now lovingly taken care of and flown by Archie himself. The Spitfire has a wonderful history to go along with it and Sasha especially is entranced by the love story between a man and a woman in Great Britain at war, the woman Rachel being one of the very first and little known about women pilots who flew Spitfires for the war effort in the 1940’s. Then when riots break out on the estate between Finn’s gang and a rival gang, it pulls together all the characters in ways they never imagined and additionally creates a heart stopping and dangerous moment that reveals how terrifying peer pressure and bullying can really be. As a result, it might even be possible for Sasha and Willem to discover how to fly but not initially in the way they dreamed of.

This book tugged at every single one of my heart strings. Once again, Jane Elson has pulled off a truly mesmerising read that will have you shouting at the page (not this one hopefully…no spoilers here don’t worry!) and re-evaluating how you look at/treat people you come across in your daily life. I know a couple of people with either autism or Asperger’s Syndrome myself and I think Jane has done a stellar job, writing the character of Willem sensitively and accurately. I loved Willem as a character – he has that sort of pure innocence and honesty that we often lose early on in our lives when we become grumpy, cynical old adults. It was quite refreshing for me reading a point of view like this but in another way quite bitter sweet as it can often make that child an easy target for bullies, which is what Willem goes through. I also enjoyed the extra characters and what they brought to the story, in particular Willem’s fiesty Gran (who gives the rioters a run for their money!) the lovely neighbour Archie and even Buster the Staffie who I definitely developed a soft spot for! As with her debut novel, Jane Elson does not hold back, hide away or attempt to side-step difficult or traumatic situations. Bad things happen, the world sometimes is not fair and telling children the truth I think is so incredibly important and is one of the very many reasons why I think Jane Elson is a brilliant author for the little people (and even the big people) in your life.

To see my review for A Room Full of Chocolate click HERE

To check out my interview with Jane Elson click HERE

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Author Interview – Jane Elson on her second novel, How To Fly With Broken Wings for YA Shot

Published October 15, 2015 by bibliobeth

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Jane Elson with staffie Shireen from The Dogs Trust at Harefield – photo provided by author

JANE ELSON – A BIOGRAPHY

After performing as an actress and comedy improviser for many years, Jane fell into writing stories and plays. A Room Full of Chocolate was her first book for children and won Peters’ Book of the Year and the Leeds Book Award as well as being longlisted for the Branford Boase and nominated for the Carnegie Medal. Her second book How To Fly With Broken Wings  has been Longlisted for Hillingdon Secondary Book of the Year and the Hounslow School Libray Service Junior Book Award.When she is not writing Jane spends her time running creative writing and comedy improvisation workshops for children with special educational needs and volunteering at Kentish Town City Farm. Jane was also Selected as a New Voice in the Guardian’s guide to The Best New Children’s Books 2014, Jane is described as ‘A new author to watch.’

Click on the books to get to their description on GoodReads!

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For my review of A Room Full Of Chocolate please click HERE.

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INTERVIEW WITH JANE ELSON

I’d like to welcome Jane to bibliobeth today and thank her for her time in giving this interview!

1.) How To Fly With Broken Wings is your second novel, following the amazing A Room Full Of Chocolate. After the huge success of your debut novel did you find it difficult to write the second or was the story always there to be told?

I actually started writing How to Fly With Broken Wings before I had finished the draft of A Room Full Of Chocolate, which I submitted to my now agent, Jodie Hodges. I was attending Lou Kuenzler’s Writing for Children Workshop at City Lit and the first chapter just fell out on the page and the story started to pour from me. I really enjoyed the experience of writing in the two voices of Willem and Sasha. I think How to Fly is the most complex project I have ever tackled but I loved every moment of working on it, and for that I have my amazing editor Naomi Greenwood to thank. She makes the editing process a creative joy, so even when I was working long- long hours on my story, it was enjoyable. However tired I got it never felt like a slog as Naomi has such a talent for helping me bring out the best in my writing.

2.) How To Fly With Broken Wings follows a young boy with Aspergers Syndrome who is trying his hardest to make friends. Have you had any personal experience with bullying and how did it affect your life?

Yes, I was bullied at school. I was an undiagnosed dyslexic and dyspraxic, which made me an easy target. The kid who was clumsy and very uncoordinated – so easy to mock. I hated PE so much. So much bullying seemed to happen in those lessons. I remember the teacher doing this thing where the last child to get changed after swimming and back on the coach would lose 10 house points. Of course it was always me. Getting changed quickly and dealing with buttons and shoe laces can be a challenge for a dyspraxic!

I remember as if it were yesterday, the misery of trying to run to the coach with half my clothes on inside out and still wet from swimming as I had not had time to dry myself properly.

I would say bullying affected my confidence in a big way. I now work one morning a week with dyslexic and dyspraxic children, some of whom have Aspergers Syndrome.

The bullying I went through has given me a big insight and understanding into some of the challenges many young people face.

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From Jane’s Pinterest board: moods by LEGO face, source – designholic at flickr.com

3.) Willem and Sasha bond in the novel over their love of flying. What kind of research did you have to carry out in order to bring their story to life?

Oh my goodness, I have never done so much research in my life! The acknowledgement list at the back of my book is huge. There are too many people to mention all of them here so I will just name a few, starting with the nitty gritty – the technical stuff.

I read a whole manual on How To Fly a Spitfire! I was also lucky enough to coincidently bump into a man, Andrew Pearce, who knew everything about Spitfires.

My cousin Sally helped me with the science and made it fun and easy for me to understand, as it’s not my strongest subject.

My publisher, Hodder Children’s Books, was adamant – and rightly so – that if I was going to tell the story I wanted to tell, then the bullies had to get the appropriate punishment.

My friend Paula, put me in touch with Steven Wilkinson, a retired policeman, who was able to advise me on police procedure for the climax of the story. My friend Curtis Ashton, a social worker who has worked extensively with Young Offenders, was so valuable in making sure that we had the appropriate punishments for Finn and his gang in How To Fly With Broken Wings.

Next came the research for the historical texture of my story. The research I enjoyed the most was visiting the vintage shop Circa who helped me explore the beautiful textures and fabrics of 1940’s fashion and let me peep in the 1940’s handbags, smell the face powder, feel the silk and embody Rachel’s world – the female Spitfire Pilot in my story – as she danced the night away in her red dress. My friend Leon, an expert in dance, talked me through 1940’s dancing – the jitterbug and jive.

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Diana Barnarto Walker – one of the “Spitfire Women,” – Jane’s inspiration for the character of Rachel (photo provided by author)

 

The research that moved me the most was watching documentaries about the Spitfire Ladies of the ATA. I was so touched by these women, now very old but with such twinkling eyes, that have known the freedom of flight: the feeling of dancing with the clouds in a Spitfire. Life was never the same for them when the war ended. Most of them never had the opportunity to fly again. That really tore at my heart. I have such respect and admiration for their bravery and the vital part they played in World War 2.

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Maureen Dunlop, an Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) pilot featured on the front cover of The Picture Post magazine on the 16th September 1944. One in ten female pilots died flying for the ATA. Maureen died at the age of 91 in May 2012. Jane says: “She became the glamorous cover girl image of the war. People loved this image as it showed women could be brave and beautiful.”


The other bit of research that moved me deeply was the plight of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier or Staffie as they are commonly known. They are the most abused breed and a huge percentage of dogs in rescue centres are Staffies. They are loyal beautiful dogs – known as the nannie dog as they actually are so good with children. Even so, they have gained an undeservedly bad reputation through the media, as so many lads like Finn and his gang in How to Fly choose this breed to strut down the street with thinking it makes them look tougher. This powerful and brilliant RSPCA You Tube video Britain Love Your Staffie, really tugged at my heart strings.

I thought back to the books I had read as a child and so often it was a Collie dog, or Retriever or a lovable but scruffy mongrel, but I couldn’t think of any story with a Staffie –and so Buster was born. He was such fun to write and I thought it an interesting dynamic to make him Finn’s dog but a total softie, showing the true nature of the breed. As they say there are no bad dogs, only bad owners.

Dogs Trust Harefield were so supportive with what I was trying to do with Buster. Richard Moore, the manager met with me and introduced me to the dogs. I had a lovely morning playing with and having my photograph taken with Shireen, a beautiful little white Staffie, for the inside of the back cover of How To Fly With Broken Wings. Shireen, I am thrilled to say, found her forever home the week after the photo session and is so happy with her new family.

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From Jane’s Pinterest board and her inspiration for the Staffie Buster in the novel (and coz it’s too cute, I couldn’t resist!) Source: petsandlove.net

4.) You are appearing at YA Shot in Uxbridge this year on a panel about tackling sadness in fiction for younger teenagers. Is it crucial for you as an author to get an important message across in your books?

I never write a book thinking I want to get a message across. The story is always paramount but through the characters issues naturally arise and it’s important I am responsible about this. I am very aware that children in the MG age range 8-12 often are dealing with the same issues as the YA age group. It is important to me reaching out to those children. I applaud Jacqueline Wilson for the subjects she has tackled and I feel that she has paved the way for other authors to be able to do this.

5.) Do you believe that libraries still play an important role in inspiring young people to read?

Yes definitely. I think there is something very precious about choosing a book in a library, taking it home, getting lost in the story, then bringing it back and exchanging it for another story to treasure. I still remember my first trip to the library when I picked Orlando, a story about a ginger cat who had adventures. In my job as an author I have seen some amazing libraries, both public and in schools. I love it when they are lively and the hub of the school or community. They are also relatively safe places for children to go when they have nothing else to do in the long school holidays. I see time and time again in my local library, flocks of children drifting in off the streets and shifting through the books then finding something that captures their imagination and sitting there quietly for hours lost in another world. That’s magical really if you think about it. Libraries are vital to the community and must be protected.

6.) Have there been any authors in particular that inspired you as a writer?

I realize the books I read as a child inspired me to be on the path I am now – but of course I did not realize it at the time, as it never occurred to me that I could be a writer. It was beyond my imagination as I spent my whole time at school being punished for my bad spelling. However the stories I wrote were passed under the desk and read by the other kids in secret during science – yet still the penny did not drop that maybe, just maybe I had a knack for storytelling.

When I was a child I loved books by Noel Stretfield particularly When The Siren Whaled – I performed a piece from that book to get into my after school drama classes. It really is a wonderful book. The other book of hers I loved was Ballet Shoes. I think this book had a major influence in my ending up in the theatre. I have a flare for improvisation, so making up stories and reading and performing them was the passion of my life – yet still it didn’t occur to me that maybe I could write stories down. I also read all the Enid Blyton books, of course. If you had told me when I was a child that I would grow up and be published by Hodder Children’s Books who also publish Enid Blyton and Noel Stretfield, I would never have believed you in a million years.

When I met my editor, Naomi Greenwood, for the first time she asked me about my background. Naomi said something along the lines of – you have always been on the path to this moment, only you didn’t realize it. I remember looking round and seeing all the displays of Enid Blyton and Noel Stretfield books and it was a really profound moment, like my life suddenly made sense.

Horse books were also my passion as a child – I loved Black Beauty and My Friend Flicka. On my next book cover, Swimming To The Moon, Michelle, my lovely designer is going to put a horse on the front! This is the ultimate dream for me – I am so excited. I like to relax by going to Kentish Town City Farm to see the horses in particular Winston a big black cob who I have really bonded with.

Entering the world of children’s books as an adult, there are many writers who have inspired me. For example, the late Siobhan Dowd – Solace of the Road is a stunning piece of literature; David Almond’s Skellig is one of my favourite books of all time; I also love Hilary Mckay. Naomi, my editor gave me a copy of Permanent Rose. I loved it so much and promptly went out and bought the whole Casson Family series. Hilary’s writing is just delicious. I was so honoured that one of my first author appearances was at the Hay Festival on a panel with Hilary Mckay.

7.) How do you see the future of YA/MG fiction?

I think as the world changes the stories that need to be told naturally evolve with the issues young people face. But I always hope that young people will continue to read classic books from days gone by. I think it is important to understand the stories of the past to make sense of the present.

7.) Are you working on anything now and can you tell us a little bit about it?

The book I am writing on now is called Swimming To the Moon about a quirky, very clumsy girl called Bee who has a love of hats. Bee can’t swim, yet accepts a double dare to enter a sponsored swim to raise money for the local old people’s home where her great grand Beatrix lived before she died. Bee misses her so much she can’t breathe. Then she meets Moon-Star Higgins a traveller, who feels like a trapped animal in school. The two make a pact by the Promise Tree in the woods that cannot be broken and both their lives are changed forever.

Swimming To The Moon is a book about love and grief and reaching for your dreams.

And now for some quick fire questions!……

E book or real book?

Real books – every time, I love the smell and touch of a book and the satisfaction of holding it in your hand and finishing it.

Series or stand alone?

Both – some standalones stay in your memory forever and are perfect just as they are. There is something very exciting though about reading a series. I mentioned the Casson Family series earlier by Hilary McKay. It’s lovely to have a whole collection on your shelf.

Fiction or non-fiction?

Fiction – I love to escape into another world. However, doing research gives me a chance to explore non-fiction books I would never normally read.

The How to fly A Spitfire manual springs to mind!

Online shopping or bookshop trawling?

Bookshop trawling definitely. I love exploring bookshops – all those possibilities! I love it when I am visiting new places and suddenly come upon an independent book shop to explore.

Bookmarking or dog-earing?

Bookmarking without a doubt. I have a whole collection including a beautiful one that my friend Chris embroidered for me. However sometimes I grab anything to hand to mark my place and forget it’s there. I love it when years later I come upon notes and all sorts of treasure within the pages of my books.

My dad used to put leaves in between the pages of his nature books. They were really beautiful.

 

Once again, thank you so much to Jane for her efforts in making this interview possible. How To Fly With Broken Wings was published on 3rd March 2015 by Hodder Children’s Books and is available from all good book retailers. Why not check out her awesome debut novel, A Room Full of Chocolate too?

Coming tomorrow on bibliobeth – my review of How To Fly With Broken Wings.

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YA SHOT REVIEW – The Wild Beyond (The Last Wild #3) – Piers Torday

Published October 14, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

FROM THE WINNER OF THE GUARDIAN CHILDREN’S FICTION PRIZE.

The final heart-stopping instalment of the bestselling, award-winning The Last Wild trilogy.

This is the story of a boy named Kester. He has brought the animals of his world back from the brink of disaster, and he believes there is hope on the other side. And, he might just be right, because:

1. The last blue whale on the planet is calling to him.

2. His animal allies are ready for one last fight.

3. Out there, somewhere, a brave mouse holds the key to the future…

What did I think?:

This is the last book in Piers Torday’s wonderful series The Last Wild and I’m pretty sad that it’s all come to an end as I’ve really enjoyed it. Ah well, that’s what re-reading is for I guess. I will also try and keep this review is as spoiler-free as possible but I really recommend reading the first two books in the series if you haven’t so far – you’ve missed a lot! When we meet Kester, our main character again in this novel, the tone is a little more melancholy than the previous two books. Kester is now surrounded by his friends, the loyal Polly and fiesty street-wise Aida, his slightly eccentric but well-meaning father and his faithful Wild, including Stag, Wolf, General and a very happy Rat.

However, the city of Premium has been left in tatters after suffering a flooding from the local river Ams and a mass extinction of animal life. It is only Kester’s group and a small number of other individuals that managed to survive and Kester isn’t filled with much hope for their future. In fact, the only hope for humanity is in Polly’s secret which was unearthed in the last novel and unfortunately, this secret now lies in the paws of Mouse who has completely disappeared. If she is in the hands of Selwyn Stone, the evil and misguided director “in charge” of Premium, Kester realises that he may never see her again and humanity will certainly be doomed.

To Kester’s surprise and delight, the Wild returns again in the form of a huge blue whale that is singing an ancient song with some wonderful news. It mentions that the key to life can be found on a remote desert island but it is unable to describe where the island might be. Enter the good old pigeons and a new friend called Eagle who doesn’t seem to have much of an opinion on anything but he is able to locate the island – hooray! However, the group go through many trials before they travel and even encounter a frightening new nemesis in one of Stone’s sidekicks, Auntie Fenella who is definitely not as sweet as that name suggests!

As with the previous two adventures, this is an action packed and exciting finale to the series that brings more new friends to chuckle at (the lizard is hilarious, “dude”), a bit of a twist to mess things up slightly and a beautiful but very bitter-sweet ending that I have to say brought a tear to my eye. Most reviews I’ve read of this book have also praised the ending and I’m so glad as it could go either way to be honest. It may not be all fairy-tale or happily ever after but it’s real and honest and I have more respect for the author for doing what he did rather than choosing perhaps what would have been the easier way out. The characters really got under my skin in this series and I started to care about what would happen to them – my absolute favourites had to be General the cockroach, the Mouse, the Toad, the Rat and the Lizard but they all have a certain quality to them that children (and adults!) will love. Oh please say you’ll do a spin off book featuring one of these characters, Piers?

For my review of The Last Wild, please click HERE.

For my review of The Dark Wild, please click HERE.

For my interview with Piers Torday, please click HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Come back to bibliobeth tomorrow where I will be interviewing YA Shot author Jane Elson on her fantastic new book, How To Fly With Broken Wings.

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Piers Torday (lost in the wild?) image from http://www.guardian.com