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

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Interview with Michael Grant!

So, earlier this month Egmont reached out to us about Michael Grant’s Soldier Girls series, and as part of that we had the opportunity to ask Michael a few questions, and here they are:

  1. For those that haven’t read the series, what three words would you use to describe it?

Intense. Accurate. Entertaining.

  1. What triggered you to write Front Lines?

Actually my father-in-law was pushing the Liberation Trilogy by Rick Atkinson on me, and I thought nah, I’ve read enough about World War 2, but then I started reading it and very soon decided that I wanted to write about it.  It’s just so much story!  So many fascinating and strange and intense stories.

  1. Did you have any real life inspirations behind Rio, Frangie, and Rainy, and if so, who were they? 

Rio is based a bit not on the actual Audie Murphy, who was the most decorated American soldier in the war, but on the idea of Audie Murphy who was this short, squeaky, somewhat effeminate-looking kid from nowhere Texas.  The Marines rejected him, the Navy rejected him, and even after he was accepted in the Army and had been through training and was deployed to Italy, his officers tried to keep him out of combat because he was this little guy who stood 5’ 5” and weighed less than eight stone, which incidentally is about the size of a typical American woman.  Murphy won every medal they had, including the Medal of Honor, which is our equivalent to the Victoria Cross, and is not the sort of thing they hand out as prizes in Happy Meals.

  1. What was the most challenging and the most rewarding part of writing Front Lines?

The most challenging bit was getting the historical details right.  Practically every page required me to go and check some fact.  I suppose the most rewarding part was the feeling of having done something a bit outside my comfort zone.  Also, I’d never written in third person present tense before. You have no idea how many times I had to go back and correct myself for slipping into past tense.  But going with present was part of making the books feel more immediate, less sepia-toned.

  1. What was your favourite scene to write?

I think less in terms of scenes than characters and relationships.  I liked the relationships within Rio’s platoon.  I liked Frangie trying the square the circle between her basic gentleness and faith, and the fact that again and again she is patching soldiers up only to send them back into the fight.  And I liked Rainy’s coldly analytical way of thinking.  I liked all my main characters.  I would definitely like to buy them all a beer and sit in a pub and listen to their stories.

  1. In what ways did writing Front Lines differ from writing your other series?

Well, normally I just make things up.  That’s sort of my job description:  make things up.  The only time I’ve had to do much fact-checking was for the BZRK series, but even there I had much more control over how everything played out.  For FRONT LINES I went to a lot of trouble to get it all right.  In addition to reading and sifting through war videos I went to a number of locations:  Sicily, Luxembourg, Oradour-sur-Glane, Buchenwald.  And all tax-deductible.  Yay!

  1. If the Front Lines girls lived in contemporary society, who would they look up to?

Well, they would have voted for Hillary Clinton.  I’m sure of that much.


If you haven’t started this series yet, then we would highly recommend it and you can read our reviews of Front Lines and Silver Stars, if you need extra persuading!

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A Chat With Holly Smale!

What follows in a transcript for the video we posted on our channel, when we got our Geek Girl books signed by Holly Smale! (Be warned: if you have not read Head Over Heelsyou may find some of the conversation spoiler-y!)

Transcript:

Sarah: I did have to fangirl when you talked about Shakespeare

Holly Smale: How could anyone not love dinosaurs and Shakespeare?

Maddie: Write them in. Retelling!

S: That’s your next project

HS: That’s it. Hamlet but with a T-Rex!

*

HS: Did you have a good time, yeah?

Bee: Yeah, yeah, it was amazing! How are Nick and Harriet going to end? I feel so betrayed. We have already read ‘Head Over Heel’s because we got a review copy and I’m so torn, like, I love where this is going but…Nick?

HS: All I’m gonna say is that I’ve known for a long time what the story’s going to be and how it’s going to end so I’m doing it very carefully knowing what the end is. I think that everyone will be happy. But, it’s about the journey. I mean, that’s what books are.

B: I love the character development. You can see how Harriet becomes more and more mature and it’s like: this is great!

HS: Yeah, she does and that’s the thing. It’s really about Harriet developing, and also and what’s most important is that, with Nick and Harriet, it’s not enough to just love someone, you have to love yourself, to be strong enough, to be in a relationship and Harriet’s growing and it’s not unrelated that Nick can’t be there for all of it. She had to grow alone. She has to be strong enough to be in a relationship.

B: I love how we don’t know everything about their relationship, as well, because the timeline is quite jumpy but we don’t need to know.

Anna: Look at this smile. This is an author having a reader get exactly what she’s trying to do.

HS: I had someone go ‘I’ve missed a book’ and I was like ‘what one have you missed?’, I gave her the lineage and she was like ‘oh, no I haven’t, why is there five months missing?’ and I was like ‘that’s what I’m having fun with!’

B: If Harriet says she doesn’t want to remember it, we don’t need to know.

HS: And also, it’s part of the joy of an unreliable narrator. She fills you in on parts of it, then doesn’t fill you in and lies and pretends and fakes it and it’s what you do in real life, because you black out thing you don’t want to know and it also gives you the opportunity to do flashbacks to show you the story very organically, rather than A to Z, here you go, this is what it is, which I love doing. It feels more real to me, and the fact that their relationship is and the fact that everyone is so gunning for it, it makes me think that everyone else feels it’s real too.

B: I think ‘Head Over Heels is probably my favourite.’

HS: Really?! Everyone’s saying that.

B: It’s amazing!

HS: I was so nervous.

B: We can see Harriet mature and her friendships make me feel for her so much because having friends is what she’s always dreamed of.

HS: Honesty, there’s so much of me in her and I was someone that struggled with people at school like, as an adult, I’m surrounded now by people – I’m lucky I’ve met people that love me for me but the urge to clinge and to really force things is always there and when I was writing it, I thought this is how I’ve reacted to having that past so I’m going to give it to Harriet. That, like, ‘I’ve got what I want, I’ve got what I’ve always wanted and now I’m going to keep it, whatever it takes.’

B: Definitely gave me flashbacks to my secondary school experience like ‘I was Harriet!’

HS: Harriet is supposed to be a real person, and she reacts to things. You don’t just go ‘I’ve had this horrible thing happen to me, but la la la la la’, you’re over it but you have echoes back to it, so it’s just about showing someone psychologically processing. Not just that, but heartbreak, friendship, everything. Identity.

B: And Toby as well, he’s a real fave!

HS: Aww, I love him. You’ve read book five, yeah?

B: Yeah.

HS: I had the Rin intention from the beginning of book two.

B: It’s the only way it could have gone!

HS: Exactly! And I had that intention. Everyone was like ‘Oh, is Toby going to get with Harriet?’ and I’m like ‘Wait for it!’ I’m gonna give him something better than Harriet, I’m going to give him someone who actually thinks he is the king. I just think he deserves that and Rin would think he’s a king because he’s a boy Harriet.

B: I think that’s an excellent thing, that Rin comes back as well, because she’s such a beautiful secondary character that she needs to be more prominent.

M: Spin off series!

HS: I had a question yesterday at my event and they were like (they hadn’t read five) ‘is Rin coming back? She’s my favourite character’ so I was able to go ‘Yes!’ She was so special to me, there was no way I was just going to wipe her out. And that’s what’s lovely about series is that you can fall in love with characters and then go ‘I can bring them back!’ but then at the same time, it’s sad, because unless you want to write the same story again and again and again, which you don’t want to do, you can’t have them all having equal weight in every story, so you have to sit down and go ‘OK, in this book, Nat won’t be as prominent, but in the next book she’ll be a lot more prominent.’ For instance, in Book Five she takes very much a background but guiding role, more of the Annabelle thing, whereas in book six, she’s going to be very prominent. It’s going to be Nat’s main role in the book. Out of the series, it will be Six that will be Nat’s book.

B: Is Book Six going to be the last book?

HS: It is the last.

M: Sad noises.

HS: I’ll be tying everything up by this time next year and then obviously in the future, I’d love to come back and do Harriet a bit older.

M: Harriet at 27, Harriet at 53.

HS: Adrian Mole style, you know? I would love that, and I’ve already got ideas for it, but it needs, first of all, for me to do something else so that I’m not just Geek Girl forever, but also it needs time for Harriet to actually get older. So it’s not like ‘Oh by the way, it’s six months later but now she’s twenty!’ I need that time.

S: You need to take a break to write Shakespeare and dinosaurs.

HS: Yes, yes! Hamlet with a T-Rex, that’s what I’m going to be writing.

*

M: I’d like to say that Annabelle and Richard are my favourite characters in the whole thing. They’re so lovely.

HS: I love them!

M: I love that they’re such prominent parents as well because parents are something that’s just invisible in YA.

HS: Yeah, I did that on purpose, because parents are important you know!

M: And when you were saying about the gender balance in raising children and I really liked how Richard was always there and Annabelle was the lawyer mum

HS: It was really important to me to show that parents don’t have to be ‘MUM’, ‘DAD’, the stereotypical roles. They can be loving, they can be fulfilling different roles and also showing a romance between adults rather than just teenagers to show that the love story isn’t just Nick and Harriet and Nick and Jasper- Nick and Jasper! That would be another story!

B: Fanfiction!

HS: But, it’s showing this adult love which is established and is decades old and has it’s own pattern. I think it’s nice to show that life doesn’t stop, that love doesn’t stop when you hit teenage years.

M: It definitely added the term ‘maverick’ to my dictionary. The amount of times it came up in the first book, I was like ‘this is going to be used now!’

HS: Richard is basically my dad. My dad is a self-declared maverick.

B: He’s adorable. Richard is adorable.

HS: He’s adorable. My dad is an idiot but he is adorable.

M: We like exactly the same things about these books, so when she was talking I was like ‘yeah, yeah!’

HS: You know what, I know this sounds arrogant, but I love these books. I love, LOVE them. I read them and I go ‘God, they’re good!’ But, I love the characters and they do what I want them to do. I wanted an adult parenting team that show the love element, but also a man that wasn’t afraid to be feminine, and a woman that was more masculine and showing this journey as a teenager gets older and more experienced but also making mistakes and being quite childish at times, and love coming in and out and having to deal with that, so it’s not just a love story because that’s not enough.

M: What was your favourite modeling adventure in the books, so far, because obviously she’s got Australia to go?

HS: Do you know what, one of my favourite things is thinking up her shoots. I am the most selfish writer; I’ll just do whatever I feel like. I love elephants, so the elephant shoot was pretty amazing and I only did it because I love elephants so much, I was like, ‘I’m doing an elephant shoot not matter what anyone says!’

M: It makes sense!

HS: Well, I’ve washed an elephant in a pool, so I’ve done it, so I know what it’s like to stroke an elephant and cuddle it, so I love that. I loved the Japanese ones.

M: Oh gosh, that one in the pool.

B: Harriet with the lights in the water.

M: I can so imagine it.

B: I can picture it. I need to draw it! It’s so gorgeous.

HS: And in the glass box, with all of the dolls. It’s such a fun job because I get to go ‘what’s the most fun, weird, wacky thing’ and I never did any of the shoots that she actually does because mine were weird in another way and I like making them up so once I had to dress up like a raspberry. In Geek Drama, I made her dress up like a carrot, so I do tweak it. But, I did some really wacky stuff, and I go through Vogue and I go like ‘why is a woman standing in an elevator, I don’t know.’

HS: [about Geek Drama] What’s so fun about it is getting to come at it from Harriet’s perspective, because she’s so dry, and so sarcastic, and being able to slam Shakespeare while also adoring him. Being able to go, I personally think Hamlet is a complete idiot, but I love Hamlet the play.

HS: I just love my job and I’m going to be so sad when [Geek Girl] finishes.

M: I absolutely love when Harriet’s doing the shoots, when she’s trying to do what they want her to do, and they’re like ‘no, no, that’s not it’ and when she’s being herself that’s when they really love her. I think that’s a really lovely message, that you’ve got to be yourself, and that’s what people will enjoy more than trying to be someone that you’re not.

HS: Yeah, exactly. And, it comes across in pictures, you know. The really good models are models that are able to relax and show something through the pictures, not just standing there woodenly, which is what I did, which is why I was rubbish. I had two facial expressions and it was this or this.

M: That with a smile!

HS: Just really, really, really happy and scared.

S: Was the pout not a thing?

HS: Oh, I didn’t know how to pout. Everyone else was pouting and I was going like this. Everyone was like ‘you look like a little owl!’ Also, again, showing a variety of models, showing that models come from every background and every type of person. You get thick ones, you get smart ones, you get nice ones, you get bitchy ones. They’re so many types of people and you can’t just stereotype, like ‘this model’s going to be a bitch and stupid,’ you know?

M: Harriet’s definitely not a stereotype and that’s what’s so wonderful about her! We literally promote it to everyone: read Geek Girl, it’s the best thing!

B: On our channel, it’s like every other video. It’s always relevant.

M: Now whenever we say Geek Girl people are like ‘shh!’

HS: No, no, you tell ‘em to ‘SHHH!’ Keep talking!

B: Thank you!

Interview with Beth Revis, author of Paper Hearts Series!

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I  N  T  E  R  V  I  E  W:

To celebrate the release of Beth Revis’ latest book ‘Paper Hearts’, completely dedicated to inspiring aspiring writers, we got the chance to ask Beth some questions about the book! (And if that wasn’t exciting enough, there’s also a giveaway you can enter here!)

Maddie and Bee: You discuss a lot of controversial tips for writers in Paper
Hearts, which piece of classic writing advice are you most opposed to and
why?

Beth Revis: “Write every day.” That one piece of advice was very damaging to me,
personally, and it’s one of the most pervasive in literature. You hear it
over and over when you start out and it’s just wrong. I have never been
the type of person who can write every day. My writing schedule usually
means that for three or so days of the week, I can write between 2k and
10k words, averaging out to about 10-15k per week. But when I do those
really big bursts of writing, I almost always take one or two days off.
And that’s fine–the book gets done, often at the same rate as someone who
writes every day. It doesn’t matter how often you write, as long as you
write consistently and progress toward completing the novel.

“Write every day” is the kind of advice that has a good heart. There are a
lot of people out there who like the idea of writing, but don’t actually
write. But if you’re not one of those people, forget this advice. Write
the way you write to finish a novel. That’s all that matters.
Continue reading “Interview with Beth Revis, author of Paper Hearts Series!”

An Interview With Katy Cannon!

Love-lies-mincepiesFor the release of Love, Lies and Mince Pies, I got the chance to interview the author about the book and the other books in the series, Love, Lies and Lemon Pies and Secrets, Schemes and Sewing Machines, both of which are some of my all-time favourite contemporaries!

Maddie: What inspired you to write ‘Love, Lies and Lemon Pies’?

Katy Cannon: Basically, my love of cake! I was looking for a story that would encompass all the things I enjoy writing about most – a group of unlikely friends, great recipes and a good old-fashioned bad boy meets good girl with issues love story. The idea of a Bake Club just grew from there.

M: Did you have a favourite recipe from the book?

KC: I love them all! The ones I bake most often are the chocolate chip cookies and the double chocolate brownies, because they’re quick and easy (to make and to eat!). But my favourite is probably the Birthday Cake recipe, because that’s the cake my mum still makes for me every birthday.

M: What was your favourite part about writing ‘Love, Lies and Mince Pies’?

KC: Getting to revisit the gang and find out where they are now, a whole term after the events of Secrets, Schemes and Sewing Machines. When I wrote that book, my favourite thing was hanging out with the characters again, and it was the same this time. They’re all just such great fun to write!

M: Jasper was such a fun character in both books, the fact he’s getting his own story is fabulous! What did you particularly enjoy about giving Jasper a voice?

KC: I love that Jasper is everyone’s favourite, because he’s (not-so-secretly) a lot like my youngest brother. It was so much fun getting into Jasper’s head for a change, and figuring out what stresses him out, what he thinks about, and what his happy ever after looks like.

M: So, my fangirl heart needs to know, are Lottie and Mac living their happily ever after (with cake, of course)?

(*Spoiler Warning!*) KC: Of course! Mac is still living above the bakery, working out his apprenticeship at the White Hill Bakery and studying at the college, while Lottie studies for her A Levels. The whole gang hangs out at the flat sometimes, and someone is always baking something (usually Lottie).

M: It’s a tough decision, but do you prefer baking or sewing?

KC: Ooh, it is a tough one! I like sewing because I have something to keep at the end of it, but I think baking just edges ahead as my favourite because you get to eat what you make (and I do have a rather sweet tooth…).

M: What’s your favourite Christmas food?

KC: My Mum’s mince pies! They’re the basis for the mince pie recipe in Love, Lies & Lemon Pies – and in Love, Lies & Mince Pies, too, actually! They’re richer and tastier than any other mince pies I’ve ever tasted. I make them to her recipe every year, and as soon as I do it starts to feel like Christmas. But somehow, mine are never quite as good as Mum’s…

M: What’s the best advice you’ve been given about writing?

KC: Keep trying. I wrote for years before I was published, practicing, improving and learning all the way. It doesn’t come overnight – but if you give up, success doesn’t come at all.

M: And finally, would you consider writing any more spin off stories about the Bake Club gang?

KC: After the fun I’ve had with this one, I’m definitely thinking about it! I like the idea of checking in on them from time to time, seeing how they’re getting on. I’m not sure I’m quite ready to leave them, just yet.

Love, Lies and Mince Pies is being released on Katy’s website for all to see on within the next couple of days, but for now, sign-up to her newsletter for news and fun!