The Opposite of You Blog Tour: Interview with Lou Morgan (and Bex & Naomi!)

34338745Very recently we read, The Opposite of You by Lou Morgan, and you can read our review here! It’s a fast-paced story about twins, running away and a very special connection. Before we chat to Lou about her debut and writing in general, we have a few  questions for Bex and Naomi about being twins. Ready for Twins Interview Twins? Let’s go!

  1. What’s your favourite shared memory?

Bex: One of the camping holidays we went on with our parents, where…
Naomi: Which one?
Bex: The really hot one. In the campsite on the beach?
Naomi: The one where you got bitten by an ant or something and your foot blew up?
Bex: No. Obviously not.
Naomi: That was my favourite one. Right up till the foot thing.

(Bee: haha! Once, when we went on holiday, Maddie’s hand got bitten by a horse fly and it blew up so it looked like a plastic glove water balloon!)

  1. Have you ever switched places?

Naomi: Yes. But I can’t tell you when, because Mum might read this.
Bex: What she said. (Sorry, Mum.)

  1. Describe each other in three words

Naomi: For Bex? Artistic, kind, funny. Sometimes.
Bex: Naomi is… brave, loyal, funny.
Naomi: Seriously?
Bex: Like you said: sometimes.

  1. What’s your favourite thing to do together?

Bex: I kind of like just… hanging out.
Naomi: Hanging out? Nobody says that. Are you Dad?
Bex: Dad says that?
Naomi: Yes.
Bex: Fine. Just being at home, watching Netflix with pizza.

  1. If you could have anyone else, alive, dead, fictional or real, as your twin for the day, who would you choose?

Naomi: Janis Joplin.
Bex: Naomi.

Okay, so, Bex was ridiculously sweet with that one, I could cry! And we have to say ditto to the Netflix and pizza thing! Now we have a couple of questions for the creator of this  pair:

  1. What inspired you to write about twins?

It actually came out of a conversation with my editor, Ruth. I’m always very interested in how human minds work and what makes us who we are: in this case, we were talking about the old theory that twins – and particularly identical twins – have some kind of ‘psychic connection’ between them. We thought it would be interesting to tell a story that explored that from both sides. Personally, I’m not sure I believe it, but it definitely makes for an exciting place to start a story…

(Bee: In case you were wondering, readers, no, Maddie and I cannot read each other’s mind, or feel each other’s pain or say what the other one is doing if we’re five hundred miles apart, or…)

  1. If you could have anyone as your twin for the day, who would you choose?

Oh, wow. That probably depends on my mood and what I was doing on any given day. Let’s say… Andrew Scott, because he’s awesome.

  1. What part of the book did you find most challenging to write?

Balancing the two different voices, and the need to show how the relationship between Bex and Naomi had changed over the years while keeping it fairly fast-paced was a bit of a juggling act. When it came to the main characters, both of them needed to have their own personalities and voices, but also had to have the kind of similarities you find in any family – not just one that includes twins – and that meant there were a couple of drafts with a lot more background detail around Bex, Naomi and their parents… but in the end we had to cut most of it because it was slowing everything down!

  1. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Read everything – and I mean everything – you can. Keep writing, and finish what you start… and don’t be afraid. Most of all, write for you. If you write because you love it – because you can’t not – then whatever happens, whether you’re sharing it with people or keeping it to yourself, submitting it to agents or sticking it in a drawer that makes you a writer. No ‘aspiring’ about it. So what are you waiting for…?

Thank you so much to Stripes Books for letting up be part of this blog tour, and thank you to Lou for answering all our questions! You can add The Opposite of You to your Gooreads by clicking the button below, look at the book on Amazon, by clicking here!

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Follow Lou on Twitter
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You can check out the previous stop on the The Opposite of You Blog Tour, hosted by maiaandalittlemoore by clicking here!

Goodbye Days Playlist Blog Tour!

31575528Today, Bee and I are lucky enough to get to celebrate one of my favourite books of the year, by one of my favourite authors ever, Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner. As part of the GD Playlist Blog Tour, Jeff has picked five songs that speak to the book in some way.

Today’s song is Avalanche by Leonard Cohen!

Jeff Says: This song is mentioned specifically in Goodbye Days. It’s not the brightest spot of realism in the book, since it’s the rare teenager in 2017 who’s going to be super into Leonard Cohen. But still. I had to include the song there and here. I couldn’t tell you exactly why this song is so emblematic of grief for me, but it is. The lyrics don’t seem to have any direct connection to grief, but that’s ok, because grief is often irrational anyway. The imagery of an avalanche is so powerful and consuming. It has no regard for what’s in front of it. Nothing can stop it. It covers you up so you can’t breathe. This is what grief feels like.

Goodbye Days is a really powerful book. It’s saturated with grief, and sometimes that’s overwhelming. Emotions are going to pour out of you whether you can help it or not. Just the concept of recreating a loved one’s favourite activities makes me want to tear up, let alone actually doing it. But, I really like the emphasis the book places on celebrating life, and sharing stories. It’s sensitive, heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, to know that you can find friendship anywhere.

A Maddie and Bee Goodbye Day would be identical, just like us. There’d be a take-away reading list of all our favourite books, a visit to the library, a screening of our favourite Disney Channel Original Movies and Mary Kate and Ashley’s ‘Winning London’ from back in the day, with colourful wool so people can knit while they watch.

What would your Goodbye Day look like?


Jeff Zentner.jpegJeff Zentner is the author of both The Serpent King (2016) and Goodbye Days (2017) and can be found on Twitter and his website!

Be sure to check out the other spots on the tour which can be found on the graphic in the side bar!

My Top 5 Historical Couples by Sophia Bennett, author of Following Ophelia

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Hey everyone! Something very exciting for today’s post – Sophia Bennett joins us for the penultimate stop on the Following Ophelia blog tour to talk about her favourite historical couples. Romance was one of the strongest elements of the book, so we can’t wait to hear what inspired Sophia for Ophelia’s love story.

(Check out the banner on our blog to find out where Sophia’s stopping next!)


Thanks for having me, Bee and Maddie, and thank you for your review of Following Ophelia. I loved it!

It wasn’t until my seventh book, Love Song, that I wrote a proper romance. I’m interested in girls who make things or do things and they never (not even in the romance) rely on a lover to sort their lives out. But there is something wonderful about love.

I’m lucky that I ended up with my soulmate – someone I trust absolutely, and who makes me laugh every day. He also put up a light for me yesterday, but knows that I could perfectly well have put it up myself, if I didn’t happen to be gardening. He is awesome. It took a while to meet him though. We didn’t marry until I was thirty-nine.

Before that, I experienced all the ups and downs of love. I want my readers to feel the heady thrill of lust, the joy of feeling a connection – but I don’t want them to think that automatically means ‘happy ever after’. It’s usually just the start of a roller-coaster, so I wanted Mary’s experience in Following Ophelia to follow mine a little bit. She’s only just started on the journey of love. I have more to write, and she has further to travel.

It’s been fun setting her story in the 1850s, with all the complications of class, money and sex the Victorians experienced. Here are some of my favourite couples from history and legend, whom I got to know while researching various books. It’s not always easy being in love.

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  1. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert – from Following Ophelia. I’ve always loved the strong connection between Victoria and Albert. Albert is underrated, I think. He was highly intelligent, curious, and passionately supported the arts. We have his energy and support to thank for the V&A Museum, for example.

    Victoria became boring and distant after he died, but she was quite different while he was alive. (Check out Daisy Goodwin’s fantastic TV series about them if you haven’t already seen it.) If only he’d lasted longer than 1861 …

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  2. Persephone and Demeter – from Following Ophelia. I had to research this Greek legend for the book, as Mary takes on the name and inspiration of Persephone. She was a daughter of Zeus and Demeter, stolen by Hades and taken to the Underworld.

    Demeter, the goddess of the Harvest, desperately searched the world for her missing daughter. Eventually, she found her and begged for her return. But there was a catch, involving 7 pomegranate seeds … It’s a tragic story, driven by a mother’s love. I won’t spoil it if you don’t know it, but there’s nothing like a Greek legend for drama. And isn’t this statue of mother and daughter unusual and beautiful?

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  3. David Bowie and Iman – from Love Song. It can’t be denied: they look incredible together. This could have gone so wrong, the pop star and the supermodel, but as she said, she married David Jones, not David Bowie.

    They kept their relationship fairly quiet – no big Hello spreads – but I never saw them look anything less than deeply in love. He always seems so utterly entranced by her company.

    It might seem odd to have them as a historical couple, but when David died last year it felt as though a special period of history had come to an end. RIP David. We still miss you.

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  4. Sah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal – from Beads. He loved her so much he built the Taj Mahal as her monument. That says it all, really.

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  5. Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé – from Threads. Researching fashion designers as I did for the Threads series, I became fascinated that so many of them – almost all, in fact – had a brilliant business manager by their side, who was often their lover too.

    It takes a combination of creative flair, passion and cold business sense to make a fashion house work, and very few individuals have that in one package. Yves needed Pierre, and Pierre needed him. They were so lucky to find each other. If you’re a creative person, it really helps to fall in love with someone who appreciates and supports what you do!


After getting all flustered by how adorable all these couples are, you’re probably dying to read Following Ophelia, right? Check out our reviewFollowing Ophelia‘s Goodreads and find Sophia Bennett on Twitter!

Witching Hour: Meeting Laure Eve and Katharine & Elizabeth Corr!

On Halloween, the spookiest night of the year, Carys, Bee and I headed to Waterstone’s for their Witching Hour event with Laure Eve, author of The Graces and Fearsome Dreamerand Katharine & Elizabeth Corr, co-authors of The Witch’s KissThis was beyond exciting because we were all caught up with everything these authors had published, and I’m a long term fan of Fearsome Dreamer, happily placed as one of my favourite books of all time!

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So, here are some of the things that these wonderful witchy ladies had to say about their books, what influences them and why witches make such great characters!

Biggest theme of the book?

Outsider syndrome – The Graces deals a lot with outsiders and what it’s like being on the outside looking in. It’s something that so many people can relate too, because loneliness is a common human experience and the grass always looks greener on the other side, whether or not that’s the reality!

Siblings – One of the core relationships in  The Witch’s Kiss is between Merry and Leo. As Katharine and Elizabeth are sisters themselves, the bond between siblings is super important. We’re all in the same boat, wanting Leo as a brother in real life! It’s the same for The Graces, because where would that book be without the trio of witchy siblings?

Favourite witch of all time?

Jadis from The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. Sure, she has her faults but she’s a strong leader, and who wouldn’t be seduced by hot chocolate and turkish delight?

How do you deal with relationships?

“Set them up then set them on fire.” – Laure Eve, 2k16.

Why do people love witches so much?

It’s the feminism, of course! Witches are all about strong bonds between powerful women, and that’s really attractive for girls to read about. We may not be magical, but they’re definitely role models! Also, with magical stories, there’s so much for your imagination to latch onto and weave into a story, they make such amazing reads!

How do you write your plot twists?

Corrs -They only wrote what they wanted to write. None of the twists were engineered, the plot is just where story naturally went.

Laure – Everything was engineered, so River only shows you want she wants to. The whole book is narrowed to River’s vision. Every plot twist needs to feel right, like there are enough clues so you’re not surprised by what happens!

What are your future plans for your books?

Laure –  Thought, when she was first writing it, that The Graces  would be a standalone but now there’s a sequel, from Summer’s perspective slated for September next year. The only bad thing about sequels is that you have to living up to the expectations of the first!

Corrs  – The Witch’s Tears happened so fast. They had six months to write sequel, with a lot of focused and intent to get it done. In the sequel, wizards will be explored!

 

British Books Challenge 2017

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The aim of The British Books Challenge is to read more books by British authors! Maddie and I already love UKYA and have been desperately trying to read more of in the last year, but next year we want to work even harder to power through all the books on our UK TBR! The challenge is to read as many British books in one year, they don’t have to be a certain genre or age range as long as the authors are British. The recommended amount is 12 books, just one a month, but we’re hoping to read even more!

If you want to learn more about the British Books Challenge then head on over to Chelle’s blog Tales of Yesterday where the entire thing is being hosted! There are some incredible prizes to be one, and overall it looks like it’s going to be a fantastic event!

Quite a few of the books on our TBR for this challenge are also some of our most anticipated releases of 2017, but we’ve added a few that have been sat on our shelves for what seems like ages, so let’s get to it!

  1. Forever Geek by Holly Smale
  2. Margot & Me by Juno Dawson
  3. The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
  4. The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury
  5. Girlhood by Cat Clarke
  6. The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
  7. Fearsome Dreamer by Laure Eve
  8. Slated by Terri Terry
  9. We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan
  10. The Yellow Room by Jess Vallance
  11. Girl Online: On Tour by Zoe Sugg
  12. A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

Worlds Collide Tour: Meeting Rainbow Rowell and Leigh Bardugo!

img_6195In October, it was announced that Leigh Bardugo, author of the Grisha Trilogy and Six of Crows Duology, with Rainbow Rowell, author of Fangirl and Carry On, would be coming on a UK tour, Worlds Collide! There were only going to be four stops to this tour, and luckily we were close enough to one of the venues to attend (although because of super bad traffic, the journey took five hours?!)

Bee is a huge fan of Leigh Bardugo, and we’d met her almost exactly a year before when she was first promoting Six of Crows. We thought it would be really poetic to see her again a year later, when the series was finished and we were so much more confident than we had been in 2015. It also gave Bee a chance to have the rest of the trilogy signed that she missed out on last year. And, it’s no secret that we were the biggest fans of Fangirl, being twins studying Creative Writing and all…there was a lot of hype, and that kept us going when the traffic was at a stand still.

Tphoto-1he event took place in the Manchester Central Library, and was our first event not held at a Waterstone’s, so we were a little concerned we wouldn’t know where to go, but the long queue was clue enough for where we needed to be. Because we didn’t need to pick up copies of either author’s books, we managed to head straight to the seats and find a pair in the front row.

The format of the event was different to anything we’d seen before. Rather than having an interviewer prompting them with questions, Rainbow and Leigh led their own discussion, first telling us about how they first met. It turns out that when Rainbow was writing Carry On, Leigh was writing Six of Crows, and both books were going to have a character called Baz. Of course, in Leigh’s final product, the leader of the crows is Kaz, but it was still fun to hear about this little conflict at the beginning of their relationship.

They went on to discuss the stereotype ideas they had about each other’s writing, but how they really did fall in love with what they ended up reading, so the moral is always don’t judge a book by its genre, or the author’s slightly kooky name.

Unlike any other event, they then took it in turns to help each other act out scenes from their books. Rainbow performed the scene in Carry On where Simon is trying to make Baz admit he’s a vampire, Bella Swan style, and Leigh chose the scene in Crooked Kingdom where Nina is teases Matthias about what ‘barbarian’ means. It was beyond interesting to hear the scenes in the author’s voices, as that’s not something you get to experience often, and definitely helped to illuminate the vibe both authors wanted those scenes to have. The words really came alive, and it made me appreciate scenes I normally wouldn’t pay too much attention too as moments of development between characters.

So after just over an hour of chatter and a Q&A, the signing portion started. We were in the fourth group to be called forward, and you can probably guess the lines were Disney World long. We got chatting to some super lovely ladies, Nabilah and Charlie, about the event and the books and just about anything and that made time fly. So much time had flown in fact that that the library turned off all the lights and we were all cloaked in darkness for fifteen minutes before they were turned back on, saving us from the terror of flash photography.

photo-2Getting to tell Rainbow how much Fangirl meant to us, and how accurate we thought she’d represented twins was amazing and a highlight of the event. Seeing Leigh again was cute too, she was just as quirky and hilarious as before. And although we didn’t get more than a few minutes with each author, we got to say everything we wanted, and the interaction was definitely worth it!

cardsLeigh was also giving away badges and playing cards with the Crows on them: we managed to get my favourite, Inej and Bee’s favourite, Nina by trading Kaz with Nabilah (thank you!!) and overall, we couldn’t stop smiling when we walked away.

So, although we had one heck of a journey to get there, the atmosphere of Worlds Collide fans and aspiring writers was great, as always and the value of signed books will always be worth travelling for! It felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity, and one we were so glad to take!

Trials, Tribulations & Triumphs with Juno Dawson and Nicola Morgan

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We were lucky enough to win two tickets to the Birmingham Literature Festival’s Teen Takeover event with Juno Dawson and Nicola Morgan! It was the only event that we really wanted to go to, because *dramatic pause* duh, it’s Juno Dawson(!) but we couldn’t afford the tickets so Maddie entered a giveaway (without my knowledge) and we won! (Thank you so much to Michelle Toy for hosting the giveaway!) I couldn’t believe that we’d get to see this amazing talk, and oh my goodness it was incredible.

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Juno reading from Mind Your Head

Both authors stressed the importance of talking about mental health issues and thinking about how they affect teenagers. Juno explained how the first experience of panic or stress is turned into a catastrophe because the sufferer can’t recognise what they’re experiencing. This is why she is so passionate about PSHE (Personal, Social, Health Education) being taught in schools, because if you can teach young people about the effects of mental health issues then they will be better prepared to deal with them, or, at least, be able to recognise the symptoms.

Later in the talk, Juno read from her most recent non-fiction release Mind Your Head, which is aimed at a slightly younger audience, but appeals to everyone. 1 in 10 teens have diagnosable mental illnesses. But Juno stresses: what about about the other 9? Mind Your Head is aimed at more than just the 1 person who was brave enough to seek help and be officially ‘diagnosed’. It’s aimed at the 1, plus the 9 who are probably being told to ‘just get on with it.’

The authors talked about limiting yourself by using labels. Once you’ve been professionally diagnosed or you diagnose yourself with a mental illness it’s important to remember that you are more than your mental illness. Nicola and Juno agreed that when a mental health issue becomes a part of your identity, it becomes destructive.

When asked about whether they made an active decision to include mental health in their books, Juno responded ‘it never occurred to me not to put them in, [because they affect so many young people.]’ Nicola talked about wanting to write about OCD because her niece suffers greatly from it, but because the mental issue came first in her planning the rest of the story hasn’t come together. To write something convincing, and not preachy or laboured, the characters and the plot have to come FIRST. Juno gave a perfect example of this: Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne, which we have both read and really loved how although Evie’s OCD is prevalent and really affects her life, it’s mostly about female friendship and understanding feminism.

Juno also talked a little about her new book Margot & Me which is set in the 90s, and follows a girl called Fliss, who goes to live with her grandmother in south Wales and discovers her gran’s war-time diary in the attic, and it unleashes some family secrets that have the power to destroy. It sounds ridiculously exciting, and once again, different to everything she’s written so far, and is expected to be released in late January 2017. Nicola also talked a bit about her upcoming releases – she’s mostly been focussing on non-fiction, but would like to eventually return to fiction – which is a mental health book aimed for schools!

We are mostly there to hear from Juno Dawson, and we learned some pretty Fun Facts:

  1. Juno agreed to write This Book Is Gay because she came up with the really cool title.
  2. After writing This Book Is Gay, Juno needed to take a break, (even though she was contracted for more non-fiction), so wrote Under My Skin and All of the Above, which proved to her that mental health as still at the forefront of her mind, hence Mind Your Head!
  3. Juno credits Youtube books for making teen non-fiction ‘a thing’. Well, their existence means there needs to be a new category in bookshops…
  4. Hollow Pike, Juno’s first novel, was set to be a four book series, but the book’s initial sales meant the publishers cancelled the other three books – even though Juno had written Hollow Pike 2!
  5. This turned out to be a really GOOD thing, because it meant that she wasn’t stuck to a ‘brand’, which is why all of Juno’s books are different, because genre can’t define her writing!
  6. Juno considers All of the Above a sort of re-telling of Hollow Pike without the human sacrifice.
  7. Hollow Pike had more explicit references to self-harm, but the publishers asked for them to be toned down. Juno joked ‘Can’t it just be a nice book about human sacrifice?!’
  8. Under My Skin was about possession first and then became about dealing with internal struggles/anxiety/Feminism.
  9. Juno’s written a book about Grindr called Strings but after the release of Spot The Difference for World Book Day, where the audience was 10+, the publishers decided to delay its release.

If you want to find out more about these authors…

Nicola Morgan: Twitter | Website
Juno Dawson: Twitter | Website


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