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Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The young adult voice in historical fiction

No 'World of' blog post this week because of Thanksgiving in the States and also because I have been busy blogging elsewhere. On the Historical Fiction Connection blog, I'm talking about the young adult voice in historical fiction, and the pitfalls of thereof.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The World of Maggie Dana's Timber Ridge Riders

This week's 'World of my Book' guest is Maggie Dana.

Maggie’s first riding lesson, at the age of five, was less than wonderful. In fact, she hated it so much, she didn’t try again for another three years. But all it took was the right instructor and the right horse and she was hooked for life.

Her new riding stable was slap bang in the middle of Pinewood Studios, home of England’s movie industry. So while learning to groom horses, clean tack, and muck stalls, Maggie also got to see the stars in action. Some even spoke to her. A few years later she even jumped bareback on her first pony (see above). Born and raised near London, Maggie now makes her home on the Connecticut shoreline where she divides her time between hanging out with the family’s horses and writing her next book in the Timber Ridge Riders series.

To learn about her horse books, go here
For more about Maggie’s women’s fiction, go here

The world of my books . . .

Vermont — home of lush green valleys, red barns, white church steeples, dairy cows, Ben & Jerry’s delicious ice cream, snow-covered peaks in winter, and enough color in the autumn to make your eyes bleed. And while you’re inhaling the stunning scenery you might also notice a few riding stables — not always the most glamorous of places — where dedicated kids are mucking stalls and hugging their horses.

What does the world of your books feel like?

For me? Perfectly comfortable … but for someone not used to horses, it probably feels a bit scary. Horses are big animals. Even a small pony weighs 500 lbs. A full-sized horse, like the ones you see racing at Epsom, weighs more than twice that. But despite their size, horses are gentle creatures and amazingly trainable. They have long memories, so something you teach them today, they will remember ten years from now, long after you’ve forgotten it. This is not always a good thing. For instance, one of my characters teaches her horse to lie down on command, which is great for entertaining the younger kids at the barn but not so great when the horse lies down while you’re still on her back … just because she wants you to reward her with a carrot!

If I fell into your books, what would I hear and smell and feel?

You’d hear the steady beat of a horse and rider cantering around the ring  . . . a horse rattling his bucket in the barn because he’s eager to be fed. On a sunny afternoon you might hear the sound of horses swishing each other with their tails to keep flies away as they graze in the paddock. But the best sound of all is a pony whickering at his owner because he loves her.

Smell? Fresh hay, saddle soap, and the pungent aroma of manure (totally wonderful to horse people, believe me!)

As for feeling . . . I’d like to think you would feel excitement because that’s what my stories try to provide.

Who would I have to watch out for?

Angela, definitely. She’s the quintessential barn princess who loves to win ribbons and cause as much trouble as she can get away with. Oh, and you might want to keep an eye out for Marmalade. He’s the barn’s biggest horse and while he’s super gentle, he doesn’t always pay attention to where he puts his gigantic feet.

Who would keep an eye on me?

Kate. At fourteen, she’s mature beyond her years, but fortunately her best friend Holly is teaching her how to lighten up.

What do I need to bring with me?

Sturdy boots and a sense of humor. Oh, and a strong arm with a pitchfork would help, too.

By the time I came home again, I’d know more about . . .

How responsible and caring kids can be when they’re tasked with taking care of animals.

Thank you, Maggie. We have some stop-press news here about Maggie's latest in the series . . .


Book #8
Timber Ridge Riders

Valentine's Day is just around the corner and the Timber Ridge girls are excited about getting dates and new outfits for the school dance. But a blizzard plunges them into reality when the barn's power goes out. If Kate and Holly don't act fast, a pony may die.

But Angela Dean doesn't care.

She spreads false rumors that Kate can't be trusted around horses, and trashes Kate's reputation the way she did a year ago.

Kate shrugs it off.

Angela has done this many times before and Kate has survived. But this time, Holly warns, a lot more is at stake. If Angela succeeds in her latest vendetta, Kate might lost all she's worked hard to attain -- her place on the team and the respect of her two closest friends.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Thursday, 14 November 2013

The World of Lauren Baratz-Logsted's Twins

Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the author of 32 books for adults, teens and children. You can read more about her life and work at or follow her on Twitter @LaurenBaratzL. The paperback edition of THE TWIN'S DAUGHTER, hailed by Library Journal as "riveting", will be released on 14 January 2014, and Lauren is here to tell us more about the world of the book.

The Twin's Daughter

If I fell into THE TWIN'S DAUGHTER, what would I hear and smell and feel?

You would notice more what you wouldn't hear: the cacophony of TVs and other electronic devices. You'd smell horse dung and slop jars. And you'd feel the occasional fabric that might be strange to you, like a tufted horsehair sofa. All of this would be because you'd be in London in the 1880s.  

Who would I have to watch out for?

From the moment you meet her, you would think you'd need to watch out for Helen Smythe. As time goes on, you'd waver: Am I right about this fear or am I wrong?  

Who would keep an eye on me?

Kit Tyler, the boy next door. Of all the characters I've created, Kit is the one I'm in love with the most and he deserves that love. 

What do I need to bring with me?

I think no matter where you are, commonsense and a sense of humor are always assets. Other things you'll want: keen powers of observation and detection (there will be a murder to solve); and resilience (we all need that); plus a strong neck (since yours might whip around each time the way you think things are gets turned on its head). Oh, and if at all possible, you'll want to bring indoor plumbing with you since you won't find any there. 

By the time I came home again, I'd know more about . . . 

The interior design, fashions and foods of 1880s London, also how camels might be used in warfare.

Postscript: Lauren also has an Amazon Countdown promotion on another of her titles: Robbie Knightley, which means you could snap up a bargain before the price returns to normal.


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The World of Barbara Morgenroth's Bittersweet Farm

This week's world is that of novelist Barbara Morgenroth's Bittersweet Farm.

Barbara Morgenroth has been writing professionally for many years, riding horses for even longer.

Her series, Bittersweet Farm, is home to seventeen-year-old sisters Talia Margolin and Greer Swope. They often have a contentious and competitive relationship but share a passion for horses. Action and intense emotion fill Talia’s and Greer’s world as they leave high school behind. Will their new trainer, Lockie Malone, be a part of their future? Will Cameron Rafferty, jumper rider, present an irresistible temptation? Which horses will carry the young women to the top? This series will captivate and intrigue teens and adults alike.

Barbara, if I fell into your books, what would I hear and smell and feel?
The clean scent of country air, herbaceous hay and fresh pine shavings. Either you would feel excited or appalled by the level of passion at which Talia and Greer live their lives at Bittersweet Farm.

Who would I have to watch out for?
It seems that the determined and opinionated Greer Swope is someone to be avoided, but that would be a mistake as she has so much to offer. The person who is the most dangerous is the show jumper rider, Jennifer Nicholson.

 Who would keep an eye on me?
Talia Margolin looks out for everyone. When she was younger, she tended to her dying mother and that set the tone for her life. Her first reaction is always to try to make life better for those around her, whether human or animal.

What do I need to bring with me?
Your own saddle would be excellent. If you’re at Bittersweet Farm, you’re definitely going to get up on a horse.

By the time I came home again, I'd know more about . . .
Hopefully you’d know more about yourself. Bittersweet Farm is a learning experience. It seems like the main function is training horses and riders but mostly it’s about growing.


Thursday, 31 October 2013

The world of Nicole Hayes' book

The first author to tell us about the world of their book is Nicole Hayes. Welcome, Nicole!


Nicole Hayes is a writer, teacher and editor based in Melbourne, Australia. She Tweets at @nichmelbourne and blogs at her website, You can check out the trailer for The Whole of My World or review the book on Amazon. The Whole of My World is published by Woolshed Press (Random House Australia) and is available here, here, and here.

The Whole of My World

Desperate to escape her grieving father and harbouring her own terrible secret, 15-year-old Shelley Brown disappears into the intoxicating world of Aussie Rules football, joining a motley crew of footy tragics. Best of all, she makes friends with star full forward, Mick So why don't her friends get it? Josh McGuire, who she's known all her life, but who she can barely look at anymore because of the memories of that fateful day. Tara Lester, her supposed best friend whose cold silences Shelley can't understand. Everyone thinks there's something more going on between Shelley and Mick. But there isn't — is there?

When the whole of your world is football, sometimes life gets lost between goals.

What does the world of your book feel like?
It’s a wet and wintry Melbourne in 1984, so there’s the big hair and the puffy shoulder pads, but also the innocence of a time before mobile phones and the internet.

If I fell into your book, what would I hear and smell and feel?
Eucalyptus and liniment, cut grass, and mud. The relief of a hot pie warming your icy hands on a wet and cold Saturday afternoon at the footy, the thump of boot on ball, and the cheering laughter of a crowd of people doing what they love most.

Who would I have to watch out for?
Ginny Perkins at Shelley’s school has some issues, but probably it’s Tara, Shelley’s new friend, we need to worry most about. She’s essentially on her own but probably the last person on earth who’d ask for help.

Who would keep an eye on me?
It’s Shelley’s story in every way. She might not be doing the greatest job of taking care of herself, but she’s an expert at protecting her dad from seeing her pain and struggles. She’s fiercely loyal, too, even though she gets a little waylaid for a time there.

What do I need to bring with me?
A warm jumper and an autograph book. A Glenthorn Falcons scarf would probably put you in good stead, too, if you’re very keen.

By the time I came home again, I'd know more about . . .
Grief, family, Australian football, and all the machinations and permutations therein. Plus 1980s Melbourne when football and religion ruled our lives, and trams ruled the roads.

Thank you, Nicole!

Monday, 28 October 2013

The world of my book

I have been trying to work out what it is that makes a young adult novel what it is--what's the difference between an 'adult' and young adult book? Some of the differences are ambiguous and perhaps slight. For instance, I read How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff unaware that it was YA--because I'd listened to a radio adaptation and found it gripping. It was simply an amazing book--for anyone of any age.

I think there's an intensity of emotion in a YA or middle grade (MG: a book aimed at someone of roughly eight to 12) that's stronger than is necessarily the case in adult literature. By the time adults pick up a novel aimed at them they carry with them years of experience that may have worn away at that rawness of feeling adolescents know. But perhaps that's why adults like reading YA--there's a purity of emotion that hasn't yet been trampled on by compromise.

And MG and YA novels may tend to keep to one central protagonist's point of view: the structure is perhaps simpler. The choice of subject matter will also be key--there are certain subjects you wouldn't expect to read about in MG. YA seems more ambiguous, with books aimed at older teenagers covering just about everything you'd expect to find in adult works.

In my view one reason YA works so well (and appeals to adults as well as teenagers) is because it sets up its own world. Harry Potter's world is so familiar it needs no introduction. Classic school stories work because they are their own little universe. Jane Eyre can perhaps be seen as a prototype YA novel, at least in parts. Who can forget the world of Lowood School with its burnt porridge and epidemics, and the intense but tragic friendship between Jane and Helen? Great Expectations could simultaneously be read as a YA novel and a novel aimed at adults who've experienced a lot of life--the POV shifts between Pip as a boy and Pip as a wiser grown-up, looking back at himself in the past. This is one of the most fascinating elements of the novel for me. Pip moves between the flames of the smithy and the coldness of Satis House, between Joe's benevolence and the cruelty of Miss Havisham and Estella. His world is bipolar and I find it endlessly fascinating.

From this week onwards I'm going to be asking some YA and MG writers about the worlds of their book. Can't wait.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Welcome to Blitz Kid

Meet Rachel Pearse . . . 

1940. Rachel, 14, is on a train to boarding school to avoid the bombs falling on London, but she doesn't want to leave the stricken city and her sick mother. She jumps off the train and returns. As the air-raids intensify and the city becomes ever more dangerous, Rachel's only friends are an elderly German refugee and a boy, Paul, who robs abandoned and bombed buildings. Rachel and Paul plot to free Paul from his old way of life. But can the two of them  manage to stay alive on the streets in the fiercest night of the London Blitz? 

The first in my new series of young adult fiction featuring Rachel Pearse, Blitz Kid is available from Amazon. and Smashwords

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Technological woes

I need something I can write directly onto, with no internet distraction, with immediate printing. At the moment, in this household, we each have a laptop and there are two printers. I can only use the printer that does not belong to me, as my printer refuses to acknowledge Windows 7, which is what runs on my Toshiba laptop. So, if I want to print out my latest WIP on my Ricoh laser printer (essential for printing a long document if you want to produce it in less than about a day) I have to borrow either my husband's old Acer, or my daughter's elderly MacBook. Usually she's at school and I can email my book to the Mac and print off on the Ricoh. But MacBooks seem to use something very fragile in the power cables, or, more accurately, the bit that you stick into the Mac itself. They fray. We get through two or three a year. This can't be right. We aren't using them as dog leads or skipping ropes, just as a method of connecting a laptop to a socket.

Meanwhile the laser printer has run out of ink and when I took the cartridge into the print cartridge shop in Wantage, the shop owner had never seen one like it. I don't think this is a Good Sign, do you?

I really wonder sometimes why we don't go back to electric typewriters.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Literary feminist fantasy fiction by Aliya Whiteley

Aliya Whiteley (Three Things About Me, Light Reading and Mean, Mode, Median) is a Macmillan New Writing friend and she is kindly visiting my blog to tell me about her newest book: a short story collection.

Welcome, Aliya, and congratulations on your first collection of fantasy short stories, Witchcraft in the Harem.  The book has been described as a reading experience akin to “being waterboarded by angels" and it's hard to think of an accolade any author would be happier to receive. 

1. You’re best known as an author of full-length fiction. Are short stories a new departure or have you been penning them quietly on the side for some time?

I looked back through my records and found my first short stories were published in 2003, so that’s a decade of writing them. The short stories have always been my outlet for the wilder side of my imagination. It’s great to collect them together for the first time.

2. Do the stories in Witchcraft in the Harem follow a certain theme? I have heard 'literary feminist fantasy fiction' used as a way to describe them, is this an accurate way of looking at your short stories? 

I’m not keen on labels but I’m not unhappy with that one! The stories are about things that matter to me, manifesting in different ways. I’m interested in how women see the world because I am one (stating the blindingly obvious there). I’ve always loved fantasy writing, because it gives me freedom. If I need a magic box to turn up that contains the secrets of the universe, it can. I think the stories are literary because I’ve always been fascinated by the power of words and I try to experiment stylistically in ways that stretch the reader. So, yes, as labels go, that’s not a bad one.

3. How do you decide the order in which the stories go within a collection? Do characters and settings reappear?

My first thought on putting together the collection was that I wouldn’t be able to find a theme, but when I started to look back through my publishing history I realised I did have a number of stories that dealt with the ideas of escape and capture, particularly for modern women through becoming girlfriends, wives, mothers, whores, witches, bitches, and so on. Then a process of trial and error led to putting them in an order I liked.

When Dog Horn Publishing expressed an interest in the collection, I worked with a great editor who pointed out the weaker stories and I replaced some, and changed around others until it felt right.

Both of my published novels were set in my fictional seaside town of Allcombe, but that doesn’t make an appearance in these stories. There aren’t recurring characters but there are certainly some key ideas in there.

4. Some writers (me included) find short stories more challenging to write than novels, because of the space constraints. Do you find this challenge stimulating?

I like the fact that it takes me a week and not a year to write a short story! Novels take so much energy, and a lot of the challenge of the longer form is, for me, to sustain the characterisation and meaning over eighty-thousand words. Plus it’s difficult to be really free in a novel. I can’t give in to the urge to have pterodactyls appear or to start writing in blank verse instead.  I’d say I find short stories easier to write, but then I’m not one of those writers who produces 100,000 words and cuts down to 80,000. I write 50,000 and have to put stuff in…

5. Are you still writing novel-length fiction and if so, what are you working on at the moment?

I’ve just finished writing a fantasy novel in very much the same vein as Witchcraft in the Harem and feel that I’ve managed to sustain those themes very well, so I’m happy with it. I’m always writing short fiction and have stories lined up to appear in various magazines and anthologies, so it’s going to be an exciting year for me.

Thanks, Eliza, for letting me invade your blog!

Thanks for telling us about the new venture, Aliya.
Witchcraft in the Harem is available from Dog Horn Publishing.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Four or five years ago I wrote a novel, JUBILEE, in which a girl, Jessamy Winter, was abducted and then reappeared, safe, some years later. At the time I had some doubts, believing this might be unlikely, but it was important for the story I was writing that Jessamy turned up again. Research I carried out back then indicated that abducted children did sometimes reappear (Natascha Kampusch, for instance). 

Today I have just read the amazing story of the three young women in Cleveland kidnapped as teenagers, who have finally managed to free themselves. How wonderful for their families.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

The Next Big Thing Redux

It's now my turn to take the stage on The Next Big Thing blog meme, following on from Nicole Hayes (see my last
post, and thank you for including me). Here are my responses to the questions:

What is the working title of your current/next book?
It's called Fairfleet, which, a friend told me, suggests a nautical or possibly even naval theme. It is firmly landlocked, though.

Where did the idea come from?
I never know where book ideas come from: I suspect that lots of little prompts, from reading, watching television and travelling around come together to meld an idea together. I was partly inspired by the Kindertransport statue at Liverpool Street Station, though.

What genre does your book fall under?
I never really know the answer to this! Novels of mine have been classed as crime, historical and women's.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

German Kindertransport refugee, Benny, comes to England with a guilty secret which he keeps for decades until he lies on his deathbed,  nursed by a young woman whose own violent and secret childhood past is linked to his own through their connections with Fairfleet house.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
My agent, Maggie Hanbury, has already sold Fairfleet to Blanvalet in Germany, who have published three of my previous novels: Weil du mich liebst, Die Antwort des Windes and the soon-to-be-published German version of The History Room.

How long did it take you to write the first draft?
About twenty months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Elements of the abortive 1940s love story were perhaps inspired by The English Patient. Among other contemporary authors, I very much admire Nicci French in her/their various combinations, and Julie Myerson. I would love to think that I have been inspired by their work.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Like many parents of young children, there's always been something about the Kindertransport as depicted in news clips, fiction or film that I find emotionally moving on an almost primitive level: surrendering your children for ever (in most cases) for their own good. Reading about it was the trigger for Fairfleet. Watching coverage of evacuee children sent away for their own safety can make me feel profoundly moved and unsettled.

What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
It has women flying Spitfires in it!The women who delivered planes, from fighters to enormous bombers, during World War Two were fascinating characters. I relied a lot on Giles Whittell's Spitfire Women and pretty well every single woman he describes is worthy of being the subject of her own novel.

It's now time to pass on the tagging baton.

Kristina Riggle is an American author friend of mine whose perceptive, someties almost raw, depictions of contemporary family life have gained her a fast-growing readership. Her novels are: Real Life & Liars, The Life You imagined, Things We Didn't Say and Keepsake. Kris and I have been writing buddies for years now, swapping manuscripts (and childcare tips) regularly. Kris is very active on Twitter, so do join her there if you tweet: @krisriggle.

Tim Stretton is another author friend, UK-based, this time, and is one of my son's literary heroes, writing historical fantasy. Tim blogs about his novels, which include The Last Free City, Dragonchaser and The Dog of the North. Tim also tweets: @timstretton. I got to know Tim when were both published as first-time authors by Macmillan New Writers. We meet up for lunch occasionally with other MNW authors and as Tim is also an accountant he is able to perform the complicated bill-dividing equations that throw most of the rest of us into a panic.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

My good friend, Nicole Hayes, is talking about her new book, The Whole of my World, on her blog Melbourne Musing as part of The Next Big Thing meme (and she kindly mentions me).
Nicole's novel is the story of a troubled teen, Shelley Brown, who's unable to connect with her grieving dad following her mother's death. Alone and desperate to belong, she escapes into the blokey world of Australian football where she befriends the star full forward who has his own issues, not the least of which is a quickly fading career.
Have a read about how Nic came to write The Whole of my World, the background to the story and what she calls the 'misspent' youth that inspired the book.