Archive for the ‘Guest post’ Category

The Magic of Bookshops | With Jen Campbell

The Magic of Bookshops with Jen Campbell

Jen Campbell is a published poet, short story writer and the author of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops, which was a Sunday Times best-seller. Her latest novel, The Bookshop Book, is the official book of the 2014 Books Are My Bag campaign and has been described as a love letter to bookshops all around the world. Jen stopped by the blog this morning to talk about the magic of books, bookshops, and falling in love with good stories. It’s a beautiful piece and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

I put a question up on the ‘Weird Things…’ Facebook page last week: ‘What was your favourite childhood book?’ The comments section exploded: people reminiscing over the Moomins and Roald Dahl, The Animals of Farthing Wood and Jill Murphy. Some said they used to read under the covers at night with a torch; others recalled being read to, or a teacher recommending a book they fell in love with. Some couldn’t remember the title of their books, just flashes of colour or a feeling they conjured up; a feeling of security and warmth.

Books do this to us because we all love stories. Stories offer up places to escape to; characters who become alter egos; different worlds that we want to get to know. It’s why I love reading; it’s why I love working in a bookshop and it’s why I write books myself. Human beings have been making up stories for things we don’t understand, or can’t explain, for as long as we’ve been around to do so: moral tales and fairy tales, myths, legends and everything in between. We have a desire to want to unravel things, even if we can’t. We want to empathise and we want adventure. Books allow us to do that. They allow us to explore.

Helping children pick out stories that they’ll hopefully love is one of the best parts of my job as a bookseller. I once had a little girl in our bookshop who told me she loves bookshops because they are houses for stories. A boy once said I should get a dragon to guard the shop when I wasn’t there. When I asked him if this mightn’t be a fire hazard, he rolled his eyes and said: ‘Well, duh, you’d have to get a trained one.” There’s a never a dull moment – a girl even lost her hamster in the shop last week (thankfully we found him; he hadn’t escaped from her pocket at all, but had eaten away at her coat lining, buried himself inside it and gone to sleep. Crisis averted!).


A Day in the Life of a Debut Author | With Emma Kavanagh

A Day in the Life of a Debut Author

Hi guys! To celebrate the paperback publication of her first novel Falling, author Emma Kavanagh has stopped by the blog to talk about what a typical day looks like for a debut author. (It’s definitely less glamorous than we might think!) If you’d like to follow the blog tour and read Emma’s other posts, make sure to visit these blogs.

My days generally begin in utter chaos – getting my 3 year old son ready and out of the door, unloading the dishwasher, tidying up and making enough coffee to keep your average elephant awake for a month. There’s this myth that all writers work in their pyjamas, and whilst I think that’s great in theory, I tend to get dressed just like I would if I was going out to work. I find that it helps me get into the right mindset and helps differentiate work days from rest days. Once all that is done and the house is finally quiet, I settle down on the sofa and open my laptop.

Typically, I begin each day by scanning my notes and reminding myself where I left off. Then I’ll re-read some of what I did the day before, then begin to write. I try not to edit myself too much during the initial writing process, but just let the words pour out. There will be many re-writes to come so I try not to get too bogged down in the minutiae at this stage. If it’s a day where my son is out of the house for a full day, I’ll usually write from 8.30am till around 2pm, depending on how well I’m getting on. The afternoons I tend to reserve for administrative stuff – blog posts, articles, answering e-mails.


Robin Talley’s Top 7 LGBT Characters of Color from YA

Lies We Tell Ourselves banner

In the past few years, the rallying cries have increased for more books for kids and teenagers featuring diverse characters ― and authors and publishers are responding. As we see more and more books featuring characters of color, characters who are LGBT, characters who are disabled, characters who aren’t native English speakers, and other key underrepresented groups, we’re seeing more and more YA books come out featuring characters who fall into more than one of those categories.

Books like these are essential to accurately reflect the world around us. After all, it’s not as if falling into one minority group makes you any less likely to be part of another.

So here’s a list of some of my favorite characters of color in YA novels who are also LGBT, listed in the order they were released. (I’m limiting this list to protagonists, by the way. If I expanded it to include secondary characters, the list would be a lot longer, and there would be even more amazing characters on here.)

I Am JJ from I Am J (2011) by Cris Beam

J is transgender, and he’s also biracial ― his mother is Puerto Rican, his father Jewish. He spends the story trying to understand what it means to be transgender and what it means to be a man, while his parents struggle to accept J the way he is. What astonished me most when reading J’s story for the first time was how real he felt ― I kept expecting to bump into him the next time I went to Starbucks. That’s how complicated and fascinating this guy is.


Aristotle & Dante (tie) from Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (2012) by Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Benjamin Alire Saenz

I went back and forth trying to pick a favorite between these two, but I can’t ― I adore Dante’s romanticism and sincerity, but I also adore Aristotle’s beautiful narration and the complex way he thinks about his amazing family. So in the end, it’s a draw. Aristotle and Dante are both Mexican-American boys growing up in Texas who are slowly, very slowly, beginning to understand that they’re gay, and they’re in love. It’s at that same slow, gentle pace that readers discover that they’re in love with this book, too.

Sahar from If You Could Be Mine (2013) by Sara Farizan

If You Could Be MineUnlike Aristotle and Dante, Sahar and Nasrin, the two Iranian girls at the center of If You Could Be Mine, know they’re in love from the first page. Also unlike Aristotle and Dante, though, readers aren’t likely to root for these two as a couple. Although Sahar sees Nasrin only as the love of her life, readers will quickly discover that Nasrin is undeserving of Sahar’s devotion ― and the extreme measures Sahar to which is willing to go to for her, including undergoing sex reassignment surgery, which is legal in Iran despite the country’s criminalization of homosexuality. Over the course of the story, though, Sahar comes into her own, and by its end I was desperately rooting for her to find happiness ― and independence ― against seemingly impossible odds.


J Paul Henderson’s Road Trip Playlist

Hi guys! Today I’m happy to welcome J Paul Henderson, author of Last Bus to Coffeeville to the blog. Since summer is well under way and this is the time when most of us leave on holiday (or counting down the days like me), I wanted to bring you a blog topic fit for the occasion. And since my iPod and I are inseparable whenever I’m travelling, I thought I’d ask Paul to tell us about what kind of music he listens to when he’s on the road.

Coffeeville blog tour


Paul’s Coffeeville Road Trip Playlist

I’ve selected 20 CDs for a long road trip, and twenty tracks I’d be happy to play over and again on a shorter journey. All our in alphabetical order by artist.

20 CDs

Bad Company: Bad Company; Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band: Gorilla; John Cale: Music for a New Society; Captain Beefheart: Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller); Captain Beefheart: Doc at the Radar Station; The Jim Carroll Band: Dry Dreams; Dandy Warhols: Come Down; The Doors: The Doors; Bob Dylan: Street Legal; Eels: Blinking Lights; Grateful Dead: Terrapin Station; Gruppo Sportivo: 10 Mistakes; Leo Kottke: Mudlark; Matching Mole: Matching Mole; Turbines: Last Dance Before Highway; Violent Femmes: Violent Femmes; Tom Waits: Asylum Years; Neil Young: Decade; Frank Zappa: Ship Arriving too Late to Save a Drowning Witch; and Warren Zevon: Transverse City.

20 Tracks
(click on the tracks to listen to them)

1. AC / DC: It’s a Long Way to the Top. One of the best rock songs ever recorded, though still not sure about the bagpipes. I feature this song in my next book: The Last of the Bowmans.

2. Bad Company: Can’t Get Enough. Bad Company was the first album I bought when I moved to Mississippi. Every time I hear this track I’m reminded of living in the Colonial Arms Apartments in Starkville, MS.

3. Beatles: Hey Jude. My favourite Beatles track; unfortunately, it’s written by Paul McCartney.

4. Captain Beefheart: Pachuco Cadaver. Trout Mask Replica was the most difficult album I’d ever listened to: it took me three weeks just to differentiate the tracks. Once I had, though, I listened to the album for a solid year, and exclusively! (This is one of the songs Arnold Skidmore has played at his funeral).


Guest Post: Which Witches Should Be Making a Comeback?

Hi guys! Today I have another special guest for you. UKYA writer and author of Half Bad Sally Green stopped by the blog to share a fun post with you. I hope you enjoy it! :) Over to you, Sally.

I’m often told by journalists that witches are making a comeback in books. I’m not sure if they were ever really a dominant force (apart from Harry Potter of course), but I’m delighted if they are coming back. Perhaps they are also due to come back in film: Angelina Jolie currently plays Maleficent in Maleficent (the title of the film being that of the witch (hooray) rather than Sleeping Beauty (spit) as in the 1959 Disney version) and Meryl Streep is playing the witch in Into the Woods, due out later in 2014. This got me thinking who are the best witches in films and TV programmes, and which witches should be making a comeback? Here’s my look at some contemporary witches – and my thoughts on who I’d love to see again or otherwise. . .

Maleficent (the Disney version)


Maleficent from Walt Disney’s 1959 version of Sleeping Beauty is the archetypal Black Witch, she has it all from the clothes to the crow. Unfortunately she’s not a witch, she’s a fairy. A fairy! This perhaps explains why her spells seem to lack true horror. Maleficent performs an enchantment at Aurora’s christening which will mean death by spindle, but the enchantment is countered by another ‘good’ Fairy’s and so sleep rather than death is the result. All I can say is that I’m more impressed by Maleficent’s head gear than by her evil spells. Having said that I don’t expect I’ll be rushing to see Angelina play this part as I can’t see how Disney’s version can be improved on.


YALC Readathon Guest Post: 5 Fun Facts About the Oathbreaker’s Shadow

YALC Readathon 2014

Hi guys! It’s day 5 of the YALC Readathon (where did the past couple of days go?!) and we only have two more days left – how are you all getting on? Which books have you managed to read so far and what are you planning on reading at the weekend? In case you want to take a break from reading, today’s guest is Amy McCulloch, author of The Oathbreaker’s Shadow. Amy stopped by Books, Biscuits and Tea to share five fun facts about her book with you – over to you, Amy. :)

1. I remember the exact moment the idea for The Oathbreaker’s Shadow came to me: when I was sitting in the audience at the Toronto premiere of the Lord of the Rings musical. The musical wasn’t so inspiring… but the idea stuck and never left!

2. After that moment, I wrote the first draft of The Oathbreaker’s Shadow in a blur while in my final year at university. Some of my most productive writing was done when I was supposed to be listening to lectures (oops).The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McCulloch

3. The first scene I ever wrote now begins Part 2, where Raim is lost in the desert. This was meant to be a prologue, and got re-jigged back to its rightful chronological place when I realized that prologues aren’t always the best beginning to a story.

4. I then completely ripped that draft apart and rewrote it after I went on a post-uni gap year, helped by the fact that I visited my first actual desert in Namibia. This completely changed how I wrote about Raim’s experience. I don’t always believe in the writing advice ‘write what you know’, but in this case it really did help!

5. I might be the only author in the world with my own book tie-in hand-knotted oriental carpet, thanks to my sister who designed it and my dad who owns an oriental carpet store and had the connections to get it made!

#YALCReadathon Guest Post: Marcus Sedgwick on The Shining

YALC Readathon 2014

Hi guys! As part of the YALC Readathon (a week-long readathon dedicated to reading as many books by YALC authors as possible, running from today until the 29th June), which I’m co-hosting with the lovely Jess, Carly and Michelle, UKYA author Marcus Sedgwick stopped by the blog to talk about what he thinks about Stephen King’s famous novel, The Shining – and its film adaptation. I hope you enjoy the post – and if you’d like to sign up for the readathon or find out more, you’ll find all the details here. Over to you, Marcus. :)

Since YALC is taking place inside a film festival, I thought I’d talk about the moving pictures a bit, by asking: Stanley Kubrick, what the hell were you on about?

Stanley Kubrick is one of the greatest directors of all time, and certainly one of the most influential. The other remarkable thing about him is that he made a wild variety of films, from early pieces like The Killing (which directly influenced Quentin Tarantino), to biblical epics like Spartacus, to classic war films like Full Metal Jacket, to the unquestionably best sci-fi movie ever, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Along the way there was the shock-fest of A Clockwork Orange, the dark comedy of Dr Strangelove, but the movie I’m going to talk about here is Kubrick’s contribution to the world of the horror film: The Shining.

The Shining

One of the first things you notice about Kubrick is how many of his films were based on books or short stories. He was a voracious reader, and according to his collaborators, was always on the look out for the next story that he found excited him enough to want to adapt.

And talking of books becoming films, ADAPT is the word. For the two beasts are not the same. A book is a book and a film is a film and each has things it is good at, and things it is bad at.

So Kubrick’s film of The Shining is very different from Stephen King’s original novel, and famously, King hated what Kubrick did with it. I doubt Kubrick cared very much; in fact, there’s some rather strong evidence to show that he didn’t.

If you’ve read the book, you’ll know that Jack Torrance and family drive a RED VW beetle. Kubrick was well known for the meticulous thought behind every detail in his films – if he put something in a shot, he did it for a reason. Given that he knew that King hated his intentions for the book; the car that Jack Nicholson ends up driving is a YELLOW VW beetle.

And if you’re thinking so what? Then see what exact car, of all the thousands he could have chosen from, Kubrick has crushed by an 18-wheeler in the car crash scene later in the film…

Oh, a red VW. Two fingers to you, Mr King, I’ll make my own picture.