Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Alba The Hundred Year Old Fish by Lara Hawthorn

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Review: Alba The Hundred Year Old Fish by Lara Hawthorne

Alba loves all things beautiful and shiny, and it is her pleasure to bring her treasures back to her coral reef home. Over the years her collection grows. One day, she realises there aren’t so many fish as there used to be. In fact, the coral isn’t looking so healthy either, and instead of shiny treasures, she can only find strange and horrible rubbish. 

When Alba gets trapped in a plastic bottle which washes up on a beach, a little girl decides it is time to act. With the help of her community, she makes part of the ocean a healthier place for Alba to live again. 

This story was inspired by a rough-eye rockfish which lived until 205 years old. It was also inspired by the changes which the ocean has undergone in that time. Changes which are entirely down to human activity. 

img_8076Birds are dying with plastic in their stomach. Dolphins are getting caught in plastic debris. The list of animals harmed by plastic goes on and on, but even with growing awareness of the problem, it will take something else for humans to commit to a real change. It takes empathy. Learning to care about the environment from a young age has never been more important and story plays a key role in nurturing empathy. Soon awareness campaigns won’t be enough. The next generation needs to care about the world without being told. 

I love the illustrations which lay out the changes Alba has seen in the ocean. A colourful world or a grey one. The choice is as simple as that. 

img_8072That’s not to say this book is all agenda. It is a gentle story which shows the difference one determined person can make. It also gives us a look at the coral reef and underwater world in all its colourful glory. 

Lara Hawthorne is one of my favourite illustrators of recent years. She makes eye-catching use of colour and pattern. These are the type of pictures which I look over and over to spot more detail. This would make a lovely book to share at bedtime just because every picture opens up a whole new conversation. ‘Did you spot the diamond? Which fish is your favourite?’ It is a real book for sharing. 

This would also be a lovely book to encourage children to draw underwater pictures. It shows shells and corals and fish in their infinite shapes and colours. 

Alba The Hundred Year Old Fish may have a strong message, but it isn’t an awareness campaign. It is the sort of book which promotes true empathy and love. I’m a big fan and I can see this being a huge hit we look to start more conversations about plastic pollution. 

 

Thanks to Big Picture Press and Molly Holt for my copy of Alba The Hundred Year Old Fish. Opinions my own.

Lifestyle

All about the Hansel And Gretel candle from Bookworm Candles (Plus discount code)

All about the Hansel And Gretel candle from Bookworm Candles (Plus discount code)

With the Christmas lights down and the scents of the festive season a memory, the first months of the year can feel like a dark and miserable time. I was sent a candle by the lovely people at Bookworm Candles, and it turned out to be just the thing to brighten the dark days. 

Regular readers know how much I love fairy tales, so this was the perfect choice for me. I am always looking for bookish bits and pieces and this candle sits so nicely next to my fairytale collection. 

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What do you think of when you think about Hansel and Gretel? For me it is the sweetie house. This candle smells of buttery-biscuits and is sprinkled with hundreds and thousands. It brings to mind those biscuit walls all studded with sweets and decorations. 

The candle is a generous size and it is 100% soy. (Great news to a veggie like me.) The tin is beautifully decorated with images and phrases related to Hansel and Gretel, and I love the ribbon decoration tied around the lid. 

This would make a lovely gift for all your bookish friends. 

img_8062Bookworm candles have a great range, with candles inspired by stories as diverse as myths, fairytales, superhero narratives, classics, and contemporary favourites. 

Interested? I’ve got a discount code for you to use if you want to treat yourself and add an extra dimension to your reading. Just enter BLOGGERS20 on any order for a 20% discount. 

 

Thanks to the lovely people at Bookworm Candles for sending me a candle to try.

Young Adult Reviews

Review: Pulp by Robin Talley

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Extract:

Janet had never understood, not until she’d turned the thin brown pages of Dolores Wood’s novel, that other girls might feel the way she did. That a world existed outside the one she’d always known. 

(Pulp by Robin Talley. P36.) 

cropped-bbd35e74-4b7a-46ca-8f8f-0e29fc08a5861.pngSynopsis:

Washington DC.

1955: Janet Jones is in love and she has finally discovered a romance novel she can relate to. Reading Pulp fiction helps Janet to embrace her feelings for her friend Marie. Everything should be perfect, except it is practically a crime to be gay in 1955 DC. As Janet comes to terms with her feelings, she begins to write fiction of her own, but her writing puts both herself and her friend in danger.

2017: Abby Zimet’s family is falling apart and her relationship with Linh is over. As she struggles to deal with her feelings, Abby becomes more engrossed in her senior creative writing project: an attempt to write a subverted pulp novel. The more research she does, the more Abby longs to talk to author Marian Love.

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Sometimes a book just blows you away. Pulp did that to me.

It is a story about love, a story about prejudice and a story about writing. It is about a specific genre of fiction which emerged in reaction to prejudice faced by very real people who just wanted the freedom to love. It captures two time periods in the same city. Two generations of young adults forming their identities.

Both Abby and Janet discover pulp fiction for the first time, but they discover it in totally different eras. Pulp novels were often forced to show drastic endings which warned women off such ‘behaviour’ but these endings could be tacked on to narratives about genuine romance. To Janet in 1955, this is groundbreaking. It is the first time she has heard voices like her own. To Abby in 2017, these novels are in need of an update. I love how we see their contrasting reactions. We come to empathise with people who are living in a climate of censure and what it means to get around those restrictions and read something even partially like your own experience.

The story will speak to anyone who has come out or struggled to form their own identity, about how much comfort there is in fiction and in knowing that there are other people who feel the same way as ourselves.

As someone trying to bridge the gap between writing for myself as writing as a career, this story spoke to me in volumes. It showed so much about the writing process which a lot of people are often unaware of – how genres often conform to patterns, how writers both consciously and subconsciously emulate other writers, and how stories often begin with something from real life. It showed how much work it takes to get to one complete manuscript (hint: there’s a volume of work behind book one) and how authors sometimes wish they could revise their early novels.

A couple of reviews have suggested that this book is hard to follow. I’m going to dispute that although I understand how the reviewers came to that conclusion. Throughout both storylines there are extracts from other works – books read and written by Abby and Janet. Two of these feature heavily, to the point where you might try to follow the fictional characters’ stories. My advice? Don’t treat these as additional plotlines. They teach us so much about the characters we are investing in, the characters we are following, but don’t mistake them for additional stands of the plot.

Aside from that, I loved the characterisation. Abby is so set on one version of happily-ever-after but she grows and changes a lot over the course of the novel in a way which felt realistic. This is a strong narrative for older YA readers and one which lots of adults will relate to with hindsight.

If you love realistic and heartfelt contemporary novels or novels which celebrate all things literary, give Pulp a go. It’s one of the special ones.  

 

Thanks to Young Adult HQ and Nina Douglas PR for my copy of Pulp. Opinions my own.

 

 

 

Young Middle Grade

Young Middle-Grade round-up: January 2018

Young middle-grade round-up: January 2018

 

Bramble The Hedgehog by Jane Clarkebramblehedge

Bramble the Hedgehog has a wobbly tooth. Dr Kitty Cat’s advise is to eat lots of sticky food. When the little animals go to the funfair, Bramble embraces this advice. He eats lots of sticky sweets until he feels very poorly.

This is the latest title in a charming range which is perfect for children at the Squishy McFluff reading stage. The Dr Kitty Cat series incorporates pictures of real animals into the illustrations and is guaranteed to interest animal-lovers or to hook readers on cute factor alone.

The stories also include basic first aid and medical advice. I think this is a fantastic idea as too many people grow up unable to respond to basic first aid situations.

 

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The Perfect Kitten by Holly Webb and Sophy Williams 

Abi has always wanted a kitten, so she is really excited when Mum phones the rescue shelter. Unfortunately, the family lives on a main road where cats have been run over before. The shelter isn’t willing to house a cat there.

Then a deaf kitten arrives. Flower will never be able to go outside, so she is the perfect pet for Abi’s family … if they can only keep her indoors.

As the companion of two rescue cats, this story warmed my heart. I know that animals are as much a part of the family as humans, and how very much we worry about them when they go outdoors. What I liked about this story was it made clear that the needs of our animal friends come above our own wants.

 

Shine – Sara’s Dream Role by Holly Webb and Monique Dong 

Sara is so pleased to have got a place at Shine stage school, but her parents would have preferred her to go to a normal school. If her marks aren’t perfect by the end of term, she will not be able to carry on at Shine. 

An audition comes up for the stage version of Mary Poppins. It is a role Sara has always wanted, but can she beat competition from fellow pupil Lizebeth?

The second book in the Shine series looks at parental pressure and rivalry from fellow pupils. It also sees Sara befriend a boy. For most readers, this series will be wish-fulfillment, but it always shows the hard work which goes into forming a talent.

 

Star Friends – Poison Potion by Linda Chapman and Lucy Fleming 

The latest installment in the series picks up where the last book left off. Three of the four friends still don’t trust new girl Essie, but she and her Mum are starting to settle into the village. Essie’s Mum even sells her own anti-aging potion. 

Then all the adults in the village start acting like children, and it is up to the friends to work out why. 

I am a big fan of this series, with its slightly folksy and magical feel. It does scary antagonists in a way which is just scary enough for its young audience. It is also firmly grounded by reality. There is at least one day-to-day issue such as peer pressure or friendship problems in every story. Unlike many of the younger middle-grade stories, these are best read in order as one story runs into another.) 

 

hotelflamingoHotel Flamingo by Alex Milway

Anna arrives at Hotel Flamingo to find it in a state of disrepair. The Hotel hasn’t had a paying guest for years because it can’t compete with it’s rival, the Glitz. Anna thinks this is a great pity because Hotel Flamingo had a reputation for welcoming all animals. She thinks there is space on Animal Boulevard for a hotel which is friendly and welcoming. 

She assembles a team and they get to work. Can they restore the hotel to its former glory and bring sunshine back to Animal Boulevard before the hotel inspector shuts them down? 

A bright and cheery story suitable for the youngest of middle-grade readers. I love the vintage style glamour of the hotel. It reminded me of Tiana’s diner in The Princess And The Frog. This will raise lots of laughs as Anna and her team try to meet the needs of every animal (the cat wants a litter tray, for example, while the Flamingos need access to a swimming pool). 

 

Thanks to Oxford University Press, Little Tiger UK and Piccadilly Press for the titles featured in this round-up. Opinions my own.

Middle Grade Reviews

Review: The Girl With The Shark’s Teeth by Cerrie Burnell

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Extract: 

The Wild deep is a real ocean. An sea within an sea. You dive deep to enter its gate at Vintertide, then swim to a place of waves and sky, icebergs and islands. It is home to many marvels, Minnow, stranger than you dare imagine. 

(The Girl With The Shark’s Teeth by Cerrie Burnell. P66.) BBD35E74-4B7A-46CA-8F8F-0E29FC08A586Synopsis:

Minnow has grown up listening to stories about an enchanted ocean called The Wild Deep. When two men appear on Minnow’s boat and take her mother away, Minnow must journey across the seas in time to save her mother. The only way she might get to the Caribbean in time is to cross the Wild Deep.

With her new friend Raife by her side, Minnow sets off to find out the truth about the fairy tales and her own magical abilities.

BBD35E74-4B7A-46CA-8F8F-0E29FC08A586Review:

A magical underwater quest about a girl who belongs under the sea as equally as she belongs on land. If you love fantasy stories where characters discover their magical heritage, this one is for you. Minnow is a shark-tooth and her mother once played a special role in the Wild Deep. A role which led her to trouble.

I adore the setting – the magical ocean with its different gates and zones, and the boat which Minnow calls home.

Thumbs up for an antagonist who isn’t all bad – JahJah began as a boy who loved the ocean but he used that love to justify terrible actions. His brother Ely is even more complex – warning Minnow’s mum that Jah Jah is coming but doing nothing to prevent his actions. It is lovely to see a fantasy where the characters aren’t pure evil or pure good. They felt rounded and human and it made a believable world.

With growing awareness of the damage humans have caused to the oceans, this story couldn’t come at a better time. One of the themes explored is whether humans have a right to see the magic of the ocean. The story doesn’t condemn anyone for being enchanted by the corals and underwater treasures, but it shows how that love can quickly turn to greed. To a lack of awareness of our planet. This would be a lovely novel to start a discussion about our responsibility to the sea.

A strong adventure which hooked me from start to finish. This would be perfect for fans of Abi Elphinstone’s stories, or for anyone who has ever dreamt of finding magic beneath the waves.  

 

Thanks to Oxford University Press for my copy of The Girl With The Shark’s Teeth. Opinions my own.

blog tour · Middle Grade Reviews

Blog Tour: The Truth About Martians by Melissa Savage

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Extract:

That’s when Dibs pokes his head in between us. ‘I think you’re brave, too.’ He smiles with his big beaver teeth. ‘Way braver than those girls in the movies who are always screaming and carrying on. You’re not screaming and carrying on or nothing and those Martians could zap us with their ray pistols or probe our brains with their mind-control mechanisms at any minute. That says brave to me. No doubt about it.’ 

(The Truth About Martians by Melissa Savage. P116.)

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Synopsis:

Milo wishes he had the same courage as his big brother Obie. The brother who died over a year ago. Milo is still grieving. On top of that, he wishes he could help his friend Dibs. Dib’s father is under a dark cloud and he regularly locks Dibs out of the house.  

Then a flying saucer crash-lands in the local area.

Milo and his friends investigate the crash and Milo learns that superheroes need more than super strength. They need superhuman hearts.

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Review:

Milo lives in a small town near Roswell in the 1940s. The Truth About Martians is based on a real-life event which happened in 1947. An army Air Force base announced that a flying saucer had been recovered. The story made major news around the world. Soon after, the US government announced that the saucer had in fact been a weather balloon. Conspiracy theories abounded and it makes prime material for fiction.

This is a story about life beyond our borders. Beyond our known experience. It is also a touching look at grief and living with loss.

What I loved about the story was the friendships. Milo and Dibs have a friendship founded firmly on comic books and their shared sweet-tooth. Their wider social group includes two boys they like-don’t-like, and Gracie. Milo may have a crush on Gracie, but she is determined to do the same things as the boys. The friendship group and child-sized world (do you remember when someone’s house marked the boundaries of your known existence?) felt real and the constant banter between Milo and Dibs reminded me of how intense childhood best-friendships could be.

The story is a great one for breaking gender stereotypes. As well as Gracie’s determination to be an active and adventurous person, Milo has to get over his idea of one type of bravery. These themes are being seen more often as writers seek to help children break any stereotypes about what gender means.  

Think ET with added friendship and conspiracy. This really captured how it felt to live at a time when attention was turning to space and it would make a lovely introduction to that era.

 

THE TRUTH ABOUT MARTIANS by Melissa Savage out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)
 
 
Follow Melissa Savage on twitter @melissadsavage 
blog tour · Young Adult Reviews

Blog Tour: Kim Curran’s ‘Slay’ Playlist

All about Slay:

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Synopsis:

They’re world famous, epic musicians and recognised as the cutest boy band on the planet. Conner, JD, Niv, Tom and Zek make up Slay. They are also demon killers. 

When Milly has the demon-encounter of a lifetime, the last thing she expects is help from a boyband. She finds herself on the road with the guys, hunting demons including the sinister Mourdant who has a plan to take over humankind. 

Can they figure out his plan in time to stop him? 

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Introduction: 

With Slay 2: On Tour hitting the shelves, I was delighted to have the chance to catch up on the first novel. My blogger friends had told me it’s a good story. What they didn’t tell me was how totally epic this book is. 

Slay takes a familiar narrative – evil dude with evil plan searches for object of all doom – and tells the story in a way that feels totally fresh.

As a mid-millennial, I grew up in the boy band era. Boyzone, N Sync, Busted, McFly, that other one, thingummy. Busted aside, I wasn’t a fan, but it is nice to see a teen book which acknowledges the importance of manufactured bands in young lives. Love them or hate them they are part of the landscape. Slay shows the ups and downs of life as a mega-star, but it also puts a twist on the whole thing. The only reason the band exists is as a front for the demon-hunting. 

The demons are scary, but the plot is fantasy rather than horror. It strikes the right balance in a way which reminded me of films like The Little Vampire and Casper The Friendly Ghost. The setting is a little more modern, with boys who create vlog diaries for their fans, but it has the same timeless appeal. 

Kim Curran kindly shared the playlist she created when she wrote Slay, and I am delighted to share it with you. (Note: I remember Busted: The Year 3000 on repeat.)

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Slay playlist by Kim Curran 

I can write anywhere: in my office at home, on the sofa, in cafes even on the bus. But I really struggle to write in silence. Music is an essential part of the process for me. So, whenever I set out to write a book, I always create a new playlist to write to. That way, as soon as I put it on, I’m sucked straight into the world!

My Slay playlist (or slaylist if you will) is entirely taken up by boy bands!

Kim Curran’s Ultimate Boy Band playlisthttps://open.spotify.com/user/kimecurran/playlist/0BZTOczZZCMSgCyyo2cQoO

http://bit.ly/UltimateSLAY

To hear Kim’s Slay: on Tour playlist, checkout Golden Books Girls’ stop on the Slay: On Tour Blog Tour!

Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: The Gruffalo 20th anniversary edition

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A gruffalo? What’s a gruffalo? 

Well, you should know by now because this year marks the 20th anniversary of The Gruffalo. Alongside Harry Potter, The Gruffalo is one of the best-known books of our generation. And what’s remarkable about that is it shows the power of great storytelling and strong illustration. 

img_7943This edition features some extras, which makes it worth buying for old fans as well as being a little bit special for the next generation. There is an information section about how the book came together, a section which teaches us how to say ‘Gruffalo’ is multiple languages, a quiz, some ideas about hosting a play and the words to the Gruffalo song. 

The sections about the story and the illustration were my favourite. I was delighted to read that the story was inspired by an old tale about a girl who tricks a tiger. What I love about Donaldson’s work more than anything is you can see her knowledge of plot. The way her stories are set-up and resolved is a delight and it is no wonder they have captivated audiences around the world. 

The dust jacket also doubles up as a play scene. Take it off, set it up and press out the puppets which are included in the book. (NB. I recommend that an adult does this. It is perfectly safe for children but the puppets can tear. Take extra care with details like mouse’s tail.) I love this idea because I am all children learning that story goes beyond words on a page. I think young children have a very instinctive understanding of this and that they will enjoy taking the characters from The Gruffalo into whole new adventures. 

As for the story itself – it is timeless. I can see two readings to the story, one more subversive than the other. The is that an innocent mouse is saved from a hoard of animals and monsters by his quick thinking. The second reading is more subversive. Mouse starts off as a liar, but he’s not so good at it. If he carries on this way we know he will eventually get caught out and eaten. When the Gruffalo comes along, we think the game is up. Mouse, however, defies all expectations. He tells a new story with such flourish and bravado that he sees off all his predators. The second reading of the story says that if you are going to tell a lie, you’ll need to tell it well. I think this is one of the huge attractions of the story and one which is too often forgotten. The very best characters in children’s fiction aren’t the innocent ones. They are the witty ones. The ones who escape on their own cunning. 

Now is a great time to buy a copy of The Gruffalo and this edition will appeal to fans old and new. Twenty years is nothing. This one will be around in a hundred and twenty.

 

Thanks to Macmillain Children’s UK for my copy of The Gruffalo. Opinions my own.

Young Adult Reviews

Blog Tour: The Fork, The Witch, And The Worm by Christopher Paolini

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This is a book which many people have been waiting for. Eragon is one of those series which defines a childhood. The kind you remember sitting up at night to read in one go. Now this volume of short stories is here and it catches up with Eragon and Saphira for the first time since they took on the duty of training new dragon riders. 

Eragon’s new story is set a year from that final battle. He is trying to create the perfect home for the dragon riders but finds himself overwhelmed with a huge list of tasks and is afraid he will never get everything done on time. To take his mind off things he listens to three stories – one projected into his mind by the Umaroth, one written in a witch’s papers and one told by the Urgal. These are the three stories which give the book it’s title – The Fork, The Witch, and The Worm. 

This is a love letter to the existing trilogy and it will be a huge hit with existing fans. It brings back many favourite characters and races and it will delight the hardcore fans. It is also a lovely introduction to the trilogy. 

The format is interesting – really it is a book of three separate stories but we also follow Eragon as he listens to them. I liked the short sections where we returned to Eragon after each story because they encouraged the reader to be reflective and to consider the themes of the stories they had just heard. 

My favourite story is The Worm – the tale of a dragon who ravages farmland. After her family is killed in the raids, Ilgra swears she will be the one to take it down. She sets herself apart as a warrior and gets deeper and deeper into the quest she has set herself. This is a story of perspective – of being able to step back and back the right decision. It is also about revenge and how revenge can become all-consuming. I just loved the tone of the story too. It was pure fantasy and it was timeless. 

The stories come together as Eragon moves forward in his own ambitions. 

This is a lovely way back into the trilogy and I am determined to reread the orignial books. I liked the format because it gives us space to think about the role of stories in our lives, and how stories can give us a different perspective on our own problems. 

The Fork, The Witch and The Worm by Christopher Paolini is published by Penguin Random House Children’s and is out now.

Check out my Twitter page to find a giveaway. UK and Ireland only – ends 17.01.2019 at 11.59pm. 

 

 

Q & A · Q and A/Author Interview

Blog Tour: Q&A with Lucy Strange, author of Our Castle By The Sea.

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Our Castle By The Sea is the story of Pet, a girl who lives in a lighthouse during the second world war. Everyone in Pet’s costal village wants to do their bit for the war effort. Some people think this means rounding up anyone who could be German or Italian. When Pet’s mother is accused of being a spy, Pet thinks she is going to lose everything that matters to her. 

The story plays out against the legend of the Daughters Of Stone. Pet doesn’t think she could ever stand up and be brave like the girls in the legend but her character is about to be tested. 

I loved Lucy Strange’s first novel, a brave and beautiful story about the way people with mental health conditions have faced gaslighting and manipulation. Both of Lucy’s novels take subjects which with think of as historical and make us question whether those attitudes are really confined to the past. They are the sort of books which make even the quietest of people feel brave enough to form their own views and make a stand. 

I was delighted to be offered the opportunity to ask Lucy some questions, and her answers are spectacular. Thank you very much to Lucy for your time. BBD35E74-4B7A-46CA-8F8F-0E29FC08A586

Q. Our Castle By The Sea begins with a local myth. Do you have a favourite folk tale?

A. The Daughters of Stone in the book are partly inspired by the Merry Maidens in Cornwall and Long Meg and her Daughters in Cumbria. Long Meg was said to be a witch who danced with her female followers on a Sunday – they were turned to stone as punishment, and the Merry Maidens were cursed in the same way for their lack of piety. The Daughters in my story are turned to stone for a much more heroic reason . . .  We have so many wonderfully dark and strange myths in Britain – they are an absolute gold mine for storytellers like me

 

Q. Your story examines the threat of a far-right ideology and the suspicion of people other than ourselves. Why did you choose to write this story? Was there any part of the theme you particularly wanted to examine?

A. When I found out about the treatment of ‘enemy aliens’ in this country and the Second World War internment camps, I felt that it was a story that needed to be told – an aspect of the war that many younger readers would not know about. I was keen to explore the feelings of anger and fear that so many British people would have experienced at this time – terrified of a Nazi invasion – and what that meant for people such as Mutti – my protagonist’s mother, who happens to be German. It was important to me to explore the feelings of prejudice and xenophobia that are of course so heightened by conflict. When a nation becomes ‘the enemy’ (through war or politics or propaganda), it is all too easy to dehumanise the individual human beings who happen to belong to that nation. It would be nice to think that in the last seventy-five years, we have developed a more sophisticated and compassionate approach, but I think we’ve still got some way to go . . .

 

Q. What draws you to historical fiction?

A. I love the fact that you are never working on a blank canvas. Real events from history provide the sparks for your story. The historical period gives you a detailed and colourful background for your story and adds layers of tension to the narrative. It can be restrictive too of course, as you have to ensure the timeline of the story fits with the timeline of real events, and you have to watch out for anachronisms – but I love the challenge of it.

 

Q. What sort of research did you do around the time period? How did this influence your story?

A. I did a great deal of research on the first two years of the Second World War – in libraries and on the internet. I also read lots of interviews with elderly residents in Kent who had lived through the war and had wonderful and terrifying tales to tell about the things they experienced. I needed enough first-hand accounts to make my narrator’s world felt real and concrete, but it’s also important not to overdo the period detail as it can feel false. Stories have their own life-force, and it can be tricky when a story pulls you away from the historical truths of the period: as a writer, you have to try to be true to your characters at the same time as keeping faith with the historical context.

 

Q. Please can you tell us about your writing process? How do you turn an idea into a novel?

A. I tend to develop the narrative one thread at a time, starting with the main plot and then weaving other ideas around it. I always plan very carefully and tend to write one chapter at a time, making sure I’m happy with it before I move on. Of course, I don’t always stick to the plan – characters can be unpredictable at times! – and I always go back and change things / add things in / delete scenes, but you can’t really do this until you’ve finished a full draft. It’s only then that the true shape of the story emerges. I often get stuck, and when this happens I usually go for a walk or do some housework. Sometimes you can stare at the laptop screen for hours, but it’s only when you get up and do something else that your subconscious gets a chance to fix the problem

 

Q. How do you give your characters a memorable voice?

A. I think the trick here is to try to be as authentic as possible. I always check that everything my character is saying and doing feels RIGHT for them, otherwise they simply won’t be convincing as a character and you’ll lose your reader. It’s vital for your central character to be three-dimensional and real to you as a writer before you put pen to paper. Sometimes I think my background in acting helps, as I often find myself trying out facial expressions and gestures as I write.

 

OUR CASTLE BY THE SEA by Lucy Strange out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com and follow Lucy Strange on twitter @theLucyStrange

 

Thanks to Lucy Strange and Laura Smythe PR for your time.