Thursday, 29 August 2013

Friday Feature: Matt Forbeck on How To Blow A Series

I wrote my first books for younger readers about a decade ago. The folks at Wizards of the Coast wanted to launch a new series of Dungeons & Dragons novels for kids, something that would introduce them to the concepts of the kinds of worlds in which D&D games are set, and they asked me to take a shot at it. 
It took me three tries until I came up with the concept for the Knights of the Silver Dragon. With my first couple efforts, I concocted intricate storylines and intriguing characters who would evolve as the stories progressed. 
That was a mistake, mostly because I wasn’t going to be the only writer of these books. Once I came up with the concept and wrote the first book, an assortment of other writers would take over from me and write other books in the series. With luck, I’d get to revisit the setting again, but those other writers would create the stories in between my entries. 
Because of that, the best model for the series turned out to be episodic television, which turns out the kind of stories that you can catch in just about any order and enjoy. There’s no building plotline, no ongoing developments, and no strict continuity to worry about. 
With this kind of setup, each writer plays with the same set of toys, but we’re all required to put them back on the shelf when we’re done, in roughly the same condition in which we found them. It works great with a multi-author setup because most of the stories have the exact same starting point, which they come back to at the end of the book — if only so the next author can take off from that same point without any hiccups. 
The model worked well in that it satisfied the requirements of the situation. Unfortunately, while it produced some fine stories, a great series didn’t arise from them. It went on for a dozen books, after which I wrote a two-part series to cap it all off. 

Wizards had hoped to continue the series forever, like a fantasy-based Hardy Boys set. Sales dropped off, though, and they had to cancel it instead. 
I’m not omniscient, of course, and can’t say for sure what went wrong. As I see it, though, there was a clear reason for the line’s demise. While the episodic TV series model worked well, we didn’t take it far enough.
In a TV series, the showrunner makes sure that each episode of the show feels reasonably close to the ones that went before it. That way, when you sit down to watch the latest episode in your favorite series, you get something close to what you expect. 
With the Knights of the Silver Dragon series, though, the authors and their styles wandered a bit much. By themselves, the stories were all decent, but the way the authors wrote them didn’t always match up well. The readers who enjoyed my first entry in the series, for instance, found something different in each of the next tales. 
They were all about the same core group of kids, but they were told in different voices. If you liked one, you couldn’t be sure you’d enjoy the next, and that kind of uncertainty adds up to lost sales. And the end of a line. 
It was hard to see how to fix a problem like that, as Wizards wanted to release a book every month or two, and they didn’t think any one author could manage it. I set out to prove them wrong last year by challenging myself to write a dozen short novels of (perhaps not coincidentally) the same length as those Knights of the Silver Dragon novels. 
I didn’t quite hit my goal. I wrote ten novels, although one of them was a novel based on the Leverage TV show, which was a bit longer than the others. I also wrote nine Magic: The Gathering comics and a Starcraft short story, plus a number of other things, during that year. Still, I think if I’d stuck with writing only novels, I could have managed it. 
Of those novels, three of them form a trilogy called Monster Academy. I’m still writing the last two as I polish the first — which should be out in October — but I’m writing all of them. If you like the first one, there’s an excellent chance you’ll like every one of the others too. 
And as a reader, that’s what a series is really all about: finding a group of characters you love in exciting situations and following them from book to book in a well-tailored series of events. As a writer, that’s just what I want to deliver to you too.

Check out Matt's excellent website, or catch him on Twitter!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Friday Feature: Blogger Interview with Kerrie of Read and Repeat

Welcome to another of my blogger interviews! This one is with Kerrie from the brilliant Read and Repeat site.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself - what do you do aside from reading and blogging?

Hi I'm Kerrie and I run Read and Repeat a YA book blog, when I'm not reading or blogging I can usually be found working or spending time with my family and friends.

2. One of my favourite features on your blog is Two Pound Tuesdays, where you pick out brilliant books for under £2. What do you think is the best bargain you've seen this year?

It probably has to be Paper Towns by John Green which has been under £2 for ages now, if you haven't brought it yet, why not?

Fab pick! Paper Towns is my favourite JG. 

3. I know that, like myself, you're a big fan of Andy Rabb's Geekhood books. If Archie and co invited you to go LARPing, would you go? If so, what would your character be?

I love the Geekhood books, I've been recommending them to everyone! I would love to go LARPing with Archie and his friends but I'm not sure what character I would choose to be, I'd wanna see what everyone else chooses first!

4. We seem to have similar tastes in a lot of ways - a book we both really enjoyed was Drummer Girl by Bridget Tyler - fab review, by the way! Which of the girls from Crush would you say you were most like?

It would have to be Lucy, she was quite shy and tended to go along with the flow and didn't like to upset the balance. Pretty much sums me up!

5. What's your favourite genre to read?

Contemporary without a doubt. I do read others and enjoy them but I always come back to a contemporary book especially if I'm having a reading slump

6. I'd hope that most of my readers will take a look at Read and Repeat when they finish reading this interview. Is there a post you're particularly proud of that you'd like to direct them towards?

It's probably still my review of Pushing the Limits, to me it was such a great story and a hard one to do justice but I was very happy with my review in the end

Great review of a wonderful book!

7. Is there anything you wish you'd known about blogging when you first started?

How much time is required to keep the blog up to date. You only have to not post for a while and you soon get backed up

I definitely agree with you there! It can be incredibly time-consuming.

8. If you could interview any author for Read and Repeat, who would you choose?

I would love to interview John Green, even though I'm not sure what I would say to him other than "your books are amazing"

9. What's your favourite thing about blogging, and is there anything you don't like?

My favourite thing is the community, I know everyone always says it but it's true everyone you meet or talk to via Twitter is so nice, helpful and supportive and it helps so much when you're new and trying to get the hang of things and even now when I'm having a bad day just one supportive tweet makes everything better!

The community is fab, isn't it? So many brilliant people.

10. Do you think you'll still be blogging in a few years time?

I really hope so, I never thought I would ever start my own blog but it is something that I've never regretted even on the bad days!

That's good to hear! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, Kerrie!

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Sunday Spotlight: Bookbag Reviews for June

Carrying on with my new feature in which I share the best books I've reviewed over at The Bookbag - click on a title to read the full review. June was a particularly good month!


Spy Society by Robin Benway - A real charmer of a romance, with a wonderful central pairing and a great friendship story as well.

Invisibility by David Levithan and Andrea Cremer - Gorgeously written, this story of love and magic is a huge recommendation.

Severed Heads, Broken Hearts by Robyn Schneider - Lyrical and unpredictable, this is one of the true standouts in what's been an absolutely wonderful year for YA. A must-read. (Fans of John Green, in particular, will devour this one!)


Brooklyn Girls by Gemma Burgess - I usually think NA is better in theory than it is in practise - although that may be just because I've been unlucky in some of the books I've tried. Brooklyn Girls, though, shows just how much potential NA has to be an awesome age category, focusing on a cast of characters in their early twenties who aren't quite comfortable with the responsibilities of being adults yet. The tagline 'Who knew adulthood would be so damn grown-up?' is great, and sums up the book perfectly.


The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell - I normally only post here about children's, teen, or NA books, but I couldn't leave out this beguiling, wonderful story. Set in Prohibition-era New York, with the main characters Rose and Odalie weaving between the police station they work at as typists and the speakeasies they frequent, this is the best adult novel of the year for me by a long, long way. Hard to summarise, but impossible to put down.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Friday Feature: Interview with Sarah Skilton

Anyone who's been reading my blog a while, or following me on Twitter, will know that Sarah Skilton's Bruised is one of my favourites of the year. You can imagine my excitement when I lined up an interview with her!

1. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

I hope teenagers of both genders will pick it up, because first and foremost it’s a book for them. I also picture adults enjoying it. I know several young adult authors in Los Angeles, and in the Lucky 13s (a group of 2013 debut childrens’ authors) so it makes me smile to imagine us all picking up each others’ novels at bookstores.

2. Imogen is probably my favourite narrator of the year so far - who's the best narrator you've ever read about?

Thank you! I adore Francie Nolan, the young protagonist of Betty Smith’s classic A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, though her story is technically told in 3rd person omniscient. It takes place in the early 1900s, but I believe Brooklyn is a universal coming-of-age tale any generation can relate to.

More recently, and to more accurately answer your question about narrative voice, I was riveted by the twisted husband-and-wife narrators of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl; both characters are sharp and clear and fresh.

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn is one I've been meaning to read for ages, while Gone Girl looks great as well.

3. Another really strong part of Bruised for me was Imogen's family, and the difficult relationships she had with her brother and father, especially the way they changed over the course of the novel. Who are your favourite fictional family?

As a kid, I adored the family in the Animal Inn series by Virginia Vail. There was 13-year-old Val, her little brother Teddy, their father the town vet, and their Mennonite housekeeper. They were a loving, adventurous, and fair family--and I was jealous of Val for getting to be around so many dogs and cats at her dad’s clinic.

4. I loved the discussion guide for Bruised on your website - really thought-provoking! Are you hoping that Bruised will be studied in schools?

Sometimes having books chosen for you by a teacher can take away the fun of reading, but other times it opens your eyes to books you might never have discovered otherwise. I’d be over the moon if kids studied it in schools, or perhaps for a summer book club. As a proud nerd, I actually loved the books I studied in school, particularly John Knowles’ A Separate Peace.

5. Which YA author would you most like your husband to saw in half? (I should point out to my readers that your husband is Los Angeles magician Joe Skilton, before they get the wrong idea!)

Ha! This sounds like a trick question…I plead the fifth. ;)

6. Bruised, published here just a few months ago, is your first novel. Is being a published author living up to your expectations, and is there anything you DON'T like about it?

For the most part it’s been dream-like. One moment I’ll remember forever was attending the ALA (American Library Association) conference in Seattle this past January. My incredibly supportive publisher, Amulet Books, arranged for me to sign my ARCs and participate in several presentations. I loved spending time with the talented people at Amulet, and as a bonus, my mother, a former librarian, came along for the trip as well. It was very special for me to share the experience with her.

As for downsides, I have to be careful about looking at rankings and reviews online because if I fall down the Internet rabbit hole, it’s difficult to climb back out. My computer is a force for good and also a force for evil time suckery that takes me away from working on my new novels.

I know what you mean about time suckery! I've been meaning to schedule this for about a week and keep getting distracted by Twitter...

7. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what's the soundtrack to Bruised?

I love this question!

I listen to music if I already know what my scene needs, or if I’m revising. For rough drafts or if I’m uncertain about the direction of a scene, I prefer silence. I did write down a soundtrack for the Bruised, though, and you’re the first person I’ve told!

Here it is. And if you’re familiar with the songs/lyrics, you’ll understand how they relate to the plot:
“Kiss with a Fist” by Florence and the Machine
“Tower of Learning” by Rufus Wainwright
“Stupid Girl” by Garbage
“Flux” by Bloc Party
“Blackbird” (Sarah Maclachlin cover)
“We Use to Wait” by Arcade Fire
“Happy Birthday to Me” by Cracker
“Just a Girl” by No Doubt
“I Can't Sleep Tonight” by The La's
“Blackbird” (Beatles)

That's an awesome soundtrack! I love Stupid Girl, Kiss With A Fist, Blackbird and Just A Girl, and will have to check out some of the rest.

8. If you could ask any other author any question, what would you ask and who would you ask it to?

I would ask the brilliant Tana French why In the Woods has such a frustrating lack of closure at the end for both main plots! (Can you tell this haunts me?)

9. You mention on your website that you were a big X-Men fan in high school. Are you still a comics reader? Anything you'd particularly recommend, if so?

I don’t read comics much anymore, but I did enjoy Buffy Season Eight in comics form, and I’m starting to really appreciate graphic novels such as Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and Hope Larson’s Mercury and Chiggers.

I've been rereading Buffy Season Eight, which I didn't get too far with originally due to time constraints, and am enjoying it at the moment. Glad you liked it!

10. What's next for Sarah Skilton?

My next YA book, HIGH AND DRY, comes out Spring 2014 through Amulet Books. It’s a desert-set mystery about a high school soccer player, a boy this time, who’s framed for a stranger's near-fatal overdose, blackmailed into uncovering a missing flash drive, and pressured to throw the big game, all while trying to win back the girl of his dreams.

Sounds fab! Amulet are a great publisher - looking forward to reading it.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, Sarah!

Bio: Sarah is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, a fact that came in handy while writing her martial arts-themed debut YA novel, BRUISED. She and her husband, a magician, live in Southern California with their toddler son.
She can be found on her website, Twitter, her blog, or Facebook.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Friday Feature: Interview with Candy Harper

A strong contender for the funniest book of the year so far for me has been Have A Little Faith by Candy Harper. (Check out my review here!)

I was thrilled to get the chance to talk to her about it.

1. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

One of the questions I get asked at parties is, ‘Wouldn’t you rather write something with more depth?’ (I know, don’t worry, later on I make them choke on a mini-quiche through the power of staring.) Obviously, YA fiction is neither shallow nor simplistic and when I imagine my audience I think of them as very smart; I never dumb down. My readers are definitely highly intelligent. And good-looking. Probably rich too. One of them is going to buy film rights to all my books any minute now.

Let's hope so!

2. As much as I loved Have A Little Faith, I was very glad I wasn't reading it in public, as I was in near hysterics at a couple of points. What was the last book you read which made you laugh out loud for most of the time you were reading it?

I’m afraid I’m a snorter when I laugh. The last thing that got me sounding like an asthmatic pony was Lottie Biggs is Not Mad by Hayley Long. And I always manage a few good snrgkkkks for Joanna Nadin’s Rachel Riley books.

Lottie Biggs Is Not Mad is a huge favourite of mine as well! Rachel Riley series is on my (long!) 'to read' list.

3. In addition to the great sense of humour, my other favourite thing about Have A Little Faith was the brilliant friendship group Faith is surrounded by. Who are your favourite set of fictional friends?

I love the Casson siblings and their friends in Hilary McKay’s Casson family books. Sometimes it’s hard to nail that affectionate mickey-taking tone that friends use, but McKay is brilliant at it. Whereas, whenever I call my best friend an imbecile of the highest order (in the cuddliest possible way) she gets really stroppy about it. 

Casson family series is another one on the 'to read' list for me... I've had lots of people tell me they're fantastic!

4. Of Faith's friends (including her), who would you say was the most similar to you in your teenage years? (I'd like to think I could be compared to Faith or Finn - I think most people who knew me as a teen would probably go for Westy or Lily, though!) 

There are some rumours that I was exactly like Faith as a teenager. I would just like to encourage people to continue to spread those rumours. Actually, these days I’m more like Faith’s form tutor, Mrs Webber, she’s makes bets on her pupils’ arm wrestling competitions and can usually be found snoozing when she should be supervising.

5. While I've seen a few mentions of Have A Little Faith as being a debut novel, your actual debut was The Disappeared, written under the name CJ Harper (which I need to get round to reading, as it sounds fabulous!) From the plot summary, I think it's safe to say that The Disappeared is a much darker book - do you do anything differently when writing in a different genre? 

My writing process doesn’t really change for different genres. Essentially, I clear a space for my laptop in the litter of toys and small children that clutter up my house and then try to ignore all screaming / questions about ‘bunny heaven’ / attempts to insert Lego in my ear. I do find that being able to switch between stories in different genres helps my productivity. When I’m tired of writing action scenes it’s nice to take a break by writing some funny stuff. It’s a bit like at Christmas when you stuff yourself full of roast potatoes to the point where you’re sure you’ll never eat again and then you think, ‘Well, maybe I could manage a little something sweet. . .’ and polish off half a tin of Quality Street 

6. I think I'm right in saying you're a former teacher? Do you find that working with children helps you get the right voice for writing about them?

Gosh, how did you know I was a teacher? Have you been reading about me in the local paper? Because what that kid told that reporter about me putting children on a treadmill to power my coffee machine is barely even true. I’m sure being a teacher does help with voice. At the time, I felt like the only thing the kids had given me was a terrifying sense of my own mortality and numerous cases of head lice. But after I left and wrote a book about a school where the teachers are kept in cages for their own protection, I realised that the students had left me something: an endless black well of memories that were ripe for fashioning into dystopian horror stories. So it turns out I was wrong when I handed in my notice and stormed out screaming, ‘You people have given me nothing, NOTHING!’ (Actually, I already knew it was untrue at the time; I had a roll of sellotape and several pretty fancy biros down my pants.)

7. What are you reading at the moment?

Ah, see this is why I became an author: so I could rattle on about YA books I love to people who are interested (that and the excuse to descend into alcoholism). I tend to read a few things at the same time, so that I’ve got something on the go for every mood and occasion. (This may have led to me bellowing across a crowded bookshop to a very famous author, ‘I’ve been reading you on the loo!’.) Currently, I am reading The Things We Did for Love by Natasha Farrant, What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell and Pea’s Book of Best Friends by Susie Day. They are all really good.

Fab recommendations! (Well, I haven't read the Blundell, but it looks good) - Pea's Book is one I rave about all the time, while the Things We Did For Love is one of the most underrated of the last few years for me.

8. If you could ask any other author any question, what would you ask and who would you ask it to?

Now then, Sally Gardner, don’t you think it’s time we told the world who really came up with the idea for the Carnegie-winning, rave-reviewed, best-seller Maggot Moon?

Sounds intriguing!

9. If you could collaborate with another author on a novel, who would you choose and why?

I am a terrible collaborator. I’m both bossy and lazy. But I do quite like the idea of writing a book from both a boy’s and a girl’s perspective. I’d like Andy Robb to write the boy’s point of view because he’s funny. And a boy. Although, he could be the girl if he likes. I’m really good at sharing like that. Except with sweets and cakes and royalties.

Andy Robb is a favourite of mine! Great pick. 

10. What's next for Candy Harper?

I thought I might have a piece of toast. 

I’m also working on the sequel to Have a Little Faith, and the sequel to The Disappeared, The Wilderness, comes out in February. In the longer term, I’ve been hearing that writers these days have got to diversify, so I was thinking maybe I’d try making organic baby food. It’s either that or mind control and world domination. Both of which probably require getting up early, so perhaps I’ll play to my strengths and do something in the field of Having A Biscuit And A Nice Sit Down.

Sounds good! (The books, that is. Mind control, world domination, organic baby food and Having A Biscuit And A Nice Sit Down are all good too.)

Thanks so much for talking to me, Candy. I look forward to reading The Disappeared, and Have A Little Faith 2!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Thursday Thoughts: Book Recommendation of The Summer of Telling Tales by Laura Summers

Grace and Ellie are at the seaside with their mum. They're not on a holiday, though - they've escaped from their domineering and abusive father. As the two settle into a new school and make new friends, Grace - who only ever speaks to Ellie - meets someone she can be herself around, while Ellie reinvents herself as Elle, a confident and popular girl instead of the shy and scared youngster she used to be. But can they ever be free of the shadow of her father?

I got this last week for Kindle - it's 99p at the moment - and started reading it on the train today because I wanted a fun light read. (For those of you who've read the summary above and are wondering what on earth I was thinking; it's got a cover which looks much cheerier than the book is! Also, I didn't read the blurb.) Despite it being nothing at all like I was expecting, and not a book I'd have thought I was in the right mood to read, it left me absolutely stunned. It's in turns tense, fun, scary and life-affirming, and it's up there with Twerp as the very best of the year for younger teens for me.

Grace and Ellie, who narrate alternate chapters, are wonderful creations - sympathetic without ever being too good to be true - and the way they both react differently to finally escaping from their father's cruelty is beautifully portrayed. I loved seeing them find happiness in different things, but appreciated that it was never easy for them and they struggled to recover from years of living in fear. Their mother's character is just as well-handled, and as a teacher myself, I really appreciated the strong, believable portrayals of the two teachers who play the biggest part in the book. Both have their hearts in the right places but are capable of making mistakes. Oh, and the love interest for Grace is absolutely adorable, while his family are vivid.

Speaking of family, the dynamics between Ellie, Grace and their parents feel incredibly realistic. Their father is all the more horrifying because we see moments in flashbacks when he very briefly seems to be as good a father as the image he portrays to the outside world, and the younger Ellie, in particular, is fooled into thinking that he could have changed. I also thought another relationship, between two of Ellie and Grace's fellow students, was exceptionally well-written.

In summary, outstanding. Highest possible recommendation.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Sunday Spotlight: Bookbag Reviews

Trying something a bit different here - I used to use Sunday Spotlight for reposting reviews I'd written for the Bookbag, one a week, but looking at the amount of views and comments they get it doesn't seem worthwhile reposting the entire thing - most people who want to read it will have seen it on The Bookbag.

Instead, I'm going to go to posting once every 2 weeks with a round-up of the best books I've reviewed for the Bookbag recently, so you can click on the title to be taken to the full review if you'd like to. Thanks to Sue and Jill for letting me do this!

April and May's reviews:


Where You Are by Tammara Webber - Sequel to the very good Between the Lines is even better than that book. Four great narrators and an unpredictable story make this a must read.

You Don't Know Me by Sophia Bennett - Book of the year contender explores media manipulation, cyber-bullying, body image, romance, friendship, making choices, and does it all with incredible heart and a wonderful cast of characters.

Drummer Girl by Bridget Tyler - Stunning debut novel with a wonderfully portrayed set of characters who develop brilliantly through the book. Massively recommended.

Firewallers by Simon Packham - One of the most consistently excellent YA authors around gives us another great book, and one of the best endings in years.


Monster Odyssey: Eye of Neptune by Jon Mayhew - Fast moving and tense, this is a modern take on a Jules Verne-type underwater adventure. Well worth reading!

Friday, 2 August 2013

Friday Feature: Interview with Siobhan Curham

I'm a huge fan of Siobhan Curham's, having really enjoyed Finding Cherokee Brown and Shipwrecked, so I was thrilled when The Bookbag - where this interview originally ran - gave me the opportunity to interview her!
  • When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?
Siobhan Curham: For my books, Dear Dylan and Finding Cherokee Brown, I definitely saw young people who were maybe going through a tough time, as I'd written those books to hopefully inspire readers to overcome their obstacles and pursue their dreams. During the writing of my books, I'm constantly thinking about the reader and whether or not what I've written is interesting or captivating enough. With Shipwrecked I pictured a slightly older reader and one who wanted to be entertained - and enjoyed being slightly spooked!
  • Your first two books, Dear Dylan and Finding Cherokee Brown, were very realistic reads, while Shipwrecked is a contemporary story but with paranormal elements as well. What made you make the shift?
SC: I was actually asked to write Shipwrecked by my publishers as part of a partnership they had formed with a television production company. The idea was that I would write a book series that would be developed for TV whilst I was writing it, rather than after. So, I was given the brief of creating a story about a group of young people who get shipwrecked. I chose the paranormal element as I thought it would make an interesting challenge, having never written about anything like that before. I ended up scaring myself to death!
  • If you were stranded on a desert island, which six literary characters or authors would you most want to be stranded there with?
SC: Lennie from the YA novel, The Sky is Everywhere and her creator, Jandy Nelson as I LOVE her writing. Aslan from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe because he was my favourite character as a child. Anne Frank because she has always been one of my heroes.Elizabeth Wein, author of Code Name Verity, to shout at her for writing such a heart-breaking plot twist and hug her for writing such an incredible book. And Willie Wonka from 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' because hopefully he'd bring lots of weird and wonderful chocolate creations and we wouldn't have to end up eating bugs.
  • All three of your books so far have received particular praise for really strong central characters. Who are you most like, Georgie, Cherokee or Grace?
SC: I'm probably a mixture of Cherokee for her love of writing and books - and Grace because I love to dance.
  • I didn't realise until recently that Dear Dylan - now published by the fantastic Electric Monkey imprint of Egmont, along with your other two books - was originally self-published. What made you decide to self-publish, and were you always hoping it would be picked up by a major publisher?
SC: I actually originally turned down a traditional book deal for Dear Dylan because I was scared that some of the issues it covers (like domestic violence) would be watered down. I had written the book solely to try and help young people who might be going through similar things to Georgie, so I decided to self publish and give the e-book away for free. Then somehow, it went on to win a national book award! The book went to auction and I went with the fantastic Electric Monkey because they assured me that they wouldn't change any of it. And they have a really cool name, haha!
  • Advance publicity for Shipwrecked describes it - pretty accurately - as 'Gossip Girl meets Lost'. As much as I enjoy Cecily Von Ziegesar's books, I think most people are probably more familiar with Gossip Girl as a TV series, so it's interesting that the comparisons seem to be with TV rather than with other books. Is there any chance we could see Shipwrecked make it to the small screen?
SC: Yes, hopefully, because it was written specifically with that in mind. The TV side of the project has taken longer to come to fruition though because it always takes so long for screen projects to come together. Fingers crossed there'll be news on that front really soon . . .
  • I thought the love interest in Shipwrecked was rather fantastic, and have no doubt that teens all over will be falling hard for him. Who was your first fictional crush?
SC: So pleased you like him! This is REALLY EMBARRASSING but my first fictional crush was Julian from the Famous Five!! When my brother was born I even begged my parents to call him Julian! For some reason they refused...
  • I'll be honest, one of the main reasons I picked up Shipwrecked - apart from having really enjoyed Finding Cherokee Brown - was the 'dance school' element, as I've always loved dancing stories. (Not that they have much time for dancing as they're trying to survive, admittedly...) Did you read many books about dance when you were a teen? If so, what were your favourite?
SC: I LOVE dancing stories too. And dance movies. Fame was my favourite when I was younger. I used to pretend that I was a dance teacher and make my younger siblings be my students and get them to do endless routines in the living room. I was such a great big sis, hahaha!
  • What would you recommend for readers to keep them busy while they're waiting for your next book?
SC: Well, I'm currently working on a YA novel called THE TRUTH ABOUT LYING. It's about two characters who have blogs and meet online and it's a collaboration with another writer - a poet called Aaron Daniel. I thought it would be cool to actually set up the fictional blogs featured in the book and post the first few chapters online for free. So I'd love it if readers could keep busy by giving me feedback on the story as it progresses. I'll be posting more details on my website and twitter: @siobhancurham when it starts in the next few weeks.
  • What's next for Siobhan Curham?
SC: As well as THE TRUTH ABOUT LYING, I'm also finishing the second book in the Shipwrecked series and expanding my coaching business Dare to Dream helping other people achieve their dreams - which is very rewarding!
  • Thanks for chatting to us, Siobhan andwe're looking forward to seeing the resuls of all your hard work.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Thursday Thoughts: Book Review - Have A Little Faith by Candy Harper

(Note: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review - arranged before I switched from my review policy to my recommendation policy.)

Faith has been moved into a different form to separate her from her friend Megs, as the teachers seem to think they're a bad combination. On the plus side, the school are bussing in cute boys for their choir - and Faith is ready to get to know the dreamy Finn a lot better. Until she realises he's singing a duet with her sworn enemy, at least. Can Faith get the boy? And will she be able to move back into the same form as Megs by impressing Miss Ramsbottom with her new found maturity?

I sometimes make a note of page numbers with particularly good quotes on them, and started doing that with this book, but gave up quickly. Apart from anything else, the amount of consecutive numbers I had written down made it look like I was trying to learn to count! A couple of my favourites - Zoe's question to Faith "Is this one of your mad schemes that seems like a justifiable act of revenge against the evil rulers of this school, but ends in utter chaos, destruction and occasionally hospitalization?" and Faith's gran's sage advice on choosing between two boys "Find out what their fathers do. I don't want a coal miner in the family."

While there are some hilarious lines on nearly every page, it's Faith's voice in general, and the wonderfully warm characters, which had me hooked on this. Faith herself is a brilliant creation - heedless and bossy at times, but with her heart in the right place - while her friends and the boys they're interested in are all well-developed. (Lily, who's a little on the dozy side, would steal the entire book from the vast majority of narrators - although worryingly, I was starting to think I'm on a similar wavelength to her. I think the water in the sea SHOULD wash away the fishy smell...) Of the boys, the stand-out is Westy, whose bravado and constant attempts to impress the girls are painfully on the nose. The adult characters are really good as well, especially Faith's gran, who's also looking for love.

Having said that, the romance isn't as much of a focus as you'd perhaps expect from the plot summary, and the book's all the better for it. While Faith trying to get together with Finn is a recurring theme, we also have her dealing with friendship issues within her group of mates, trying to plot increasingly complicated revenge on her teachers, and cope with a rivalry with Vicky 'Icky' Blundell. I think that despite the rather pink cover, the humour in this one and Faith's brilliance as a tough, feisty central character means that boys as well as girls will really enjoy it.

Part of me wishes I was still teaching in a secondary school rather than a college as I know that a lot of my Year 8 form from last year would absolutely adore this, but part of me's thinking that it would have got very expensive - I know I'd have ended up buying an extra five copies to stave off the inevitable arguments from people who didn't want to wait to read it!

A complete gem, and an absolutely massive recommendation. Read it now! (But probably not on the bus or train, as you're likely to end up laughing hysterically and get some strange looks! Book two in this series jumps to very near the top of my 'most wanted' list.