I’ve had an early read of this and let me tell you: Jane’s writing is extremely child friendly and reminiscent of Enid Blyton. Great classic with a steampunk twist.
Social media and the general world wide web is ablaze with excitement as we recently saw the release of the first, official trailer for the new Jurassic World.
Well, what do you think? Me? I loved it! Fantastic evolution from first film to this, if I’m honest. I’m not sure what Michael Crichton would have thought. Perhaps the concept has been taken a little too far, but I think it certainly raises the God question and ethics into question once again. I know some people think it is a shame that the original cast members aren’t in here, but sometimes new faces freshen up something that was seen as extinct. *excuse the pun :) But take Jurassic Park 3 for instance, a poor, poor film, that I rarely watch. I think the only part in that film I enjoyed was the bird cage bit. But with Steven Spielberg at the helm again, I’m sure this won’t be just style over substance. It really does have a Terra Nova feel to it.
Yes, you heard right. I visited a school earlier this week. And you know what, it was great! I received the lovely invitation from Sara, who had first seen a poster of my Here Lies Love in a shopping centre in my home town. After liking my book, Sara was quick to get in touch. I couldn’t say no.
I have to admit: I didn’t really know what to expect. I had been racking my brain for the past fortnight and writing down every conceivable question that could be asked. But as usual, when I was there, in the presence of so many eager readers, my mind completely ignored my list. Thankfully, I feel I answered every question sufficiently to satisfy the asker.
The book club at the school is fabulously organised and well versed in different genres and formats. When I was at school (which wasn’t that long ago!) we never had a book club, which actively sought the opinion of its student members. Here at The Gainsborough Academy, every girl (sadly no boy members) had an opinion on various books. Some disagreed with each other, but that was fantastic to see. Teenagers engaged in democratic debate of what made a book great, bad, boring, exciting.
I may be a small time author, but I hope they got some enjoyment from my visit. They each had their own copy of Here Lies Love – I signed them too! Go me! Other schools should take note, because being enthusiastic about children and teenagers reading only promotes books, even books which they discover to be not as good as they hoped. I have no doubt in my mind that this bunch of readers will continue their reading excitement and take it with them into adulthood, no matter if it is a kindle book or a paperback.
Yes! I know! An Audiobook! That’s exactly what I thought. It was narrated and produced by the very brilliant Corina Marcos. I must say that Corina has done a brilliant job at bringing Abbey (the main protagonist) alive. She’s captured the innocent, yet enduring qualities so well. As soon as I heard the sample, I fell in love with the pace and accent.
If you haven’t read the book yet, and prefer audiobooks, you’ll find Here Lies Love Audiobook available from Amazon, iTunes and Audible.
Audible allows you to pay a subscription monthly and you use a credit to buy Here Lies Love Audiobook (yes I am going to carry on saying that). But what’s more, if you aren’t an audible customer, you can get a 30 day free trial with no obligation to stay afterwards. This is the perfect opportunity to sign up, use your free credits to download Here Lies Love audiobook.
A sample can be heard on all retailers’ websites
I’ve been so busy lately that I’ve been neglecting my blog posts. For that, I’m sorry. But know that I have been busy doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year. I’ve been writing the sequel to The Black Petal and I may not be meeting the daily word count, but I am about 14,000 words more into it. This is a good amount, trust me.
I had my book signing for Here Lies Love today at the Gainsborough Library. I sold some books and had some coffee, which to me means a successful morning! The library staff were lovely, as usual. They even put up this promotional board! (apologies for the reflection)
Anyway, I will be running a monthly competition from now on to win some great books. I’ve been thinking about this for a while. We should all make the effort to read more, try new genres and shout about books that deserve attention.
To kick things off, I will be giving away Sharon Sant’s entire Sky Song trilogy. This comprises of Sky Song, The Young Moon and Not of our Sky. I’ve read all three and loved them – a great addition to the young adult genre and mixes urban fantasy with family drama that will keep you reading late into the night.
There will be two winners this month. One will win the trilogy in paperback and the other winner will win the trilogy as eBooks gifted to them. If you are interested, and let’s face it, who wouldn’t be, enter the rafflecopter link below.
Just for you, here is the blurb for book one: Sky Song
An unknown past. An unwanted destiny. A fight for survival.
A strange-eyed boy with no memory of his true identity or real parents, Jacob could have no idea of the mortal danger he has been in every day of his fifteen years. Now that danger has found him and suddenly he doesn’t know who he can trust and what is real anymore. All he knows is that his new identity is almost as terrifying as the peril unleashing it has brought. Caught in the universal power struggle of an ancient race of beings and a destiny demanded of him that he does not want, he must fight to protect his own life and everyone he holds dear.
But when the time comes, will he be strong enough to make the sacrifices that saving them will demand?
Good luck *
Yep, that’s right. Halloween is nearly upon us – and it is celebrated worldwide, making it just as important to some people as Christmas and Easter. The meaning and ways in which the day (or rather night) are celebrated have changed throughout the many years.
Children are impressionable – they have open minds that make them believe in the magic of, well, magic. They are naive – brilliantly so, which also means that they are open to the scariest time of the year too. It isn’t just a time for Trick or Treat (even though if you shouted ‘Trick’ to them when you opened your door they would probably look at you all confused) but Halloween is also a time for scary fun.
I must admit, I never went Trick or Treating. I never used to get dressed up – I’m not really sure why. The ethics of it have been questioned from time to time, often being compared to some sort of door to door begging. I’m not sure I think of it like that.
What I did used to do though was take my prized library card along to my local library (where I am also doing my own book signing!) and bearing in mind that you used to be allowed to take 12 books out at the same time, I raided the shelf for …
Yep! RL Stine’s Goosebump series. I remember this is where my OCD probably started to take shape. I have to read things in order – even if they don’t have to be. I started with the first book – Welcome to the Dead House. And then carried on with Stay Out of the Basement, Monster Blood, Say Cheese and Die! …..
Did you know that the Goosebumps books have sold more than 400 million books worldwide! Before JK Rowling came along, they were bestselling series of all time. RL Stine has aptly been named ‘The Stephen King of children’s literature’ and I’m not surprised.
During October of every year, I used to haul my stack of Goosebumps books, safely wrapped in a Kwik Save bag, up to the attic and start reading. I was terrified! But happily so! I used to jump at every noise and creak. In my attic, there used to be a slanted sort of sky window, and when the rain came down, it almost sounded as if it would break the window any minute! Which of course only added to the halloween atmosphere.
Whether it was discovering ghosts, using a cursed camera that causes accidents of its subjects, a dummy that comes alive or a terrible werwwolf of Fever Swamp – the goosebumps series preys on every cultural, sociological and phobia known to children. In essence they are pretty harmless – mild may even be too extreme a description of their horror-ness, but like I’ve said – children are impressionable.
I wonder what I would think if I took along my library card (the same one!) and took out one of them to read again? I remember them being very Americanised – even for a British audience. Didn’t they turn it into a TV series? I think I remember watching it.
My reading habits have changed significantly over my teenage and young adult periods, but I do have a guilty pleasure for anything dark. I often describe things as ‘deliciously dark’ because I know my friend thinks I’m ‘wrong in the head’ at how dark subjects can be entertaining to me.
Speaking of which, did anyone watch Penny Dreadful? I loved it.
I was so excited when I was given permission to interview American author, Chrysler Szarlan. Her debut novel, The Hawley Book of the Dead was a book I absolutely loved. It has been released over seas already, but due for release in late October here in the UK. If you haven’t heard of this book, here is the info:
In the tradition of The Night Circus and A Discovery of Witches, The Hawley Book of the Dead is the kind of novel that makes you believe that magic really exists.
An old house surrounded by acres of forest.
A place of secrets, mysteries and magic.
This is where Reve Dyer hopes to keep herself and her children safe.
But a mysterious figure has haunted Reve for over a decade. And now Reve knows that this person is on her trail again.
In Hawley, where the magic of her ancestors reigns, Reve must unlock the secrets of the Hawley Book of the Dead before it’s too late…
Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Well, actually, I’ve read it, and loved it, here is my review if you are interested.
Q & A with Chrysler Szarlan
- For people who haven’t heard of the book, tell us what it’s about?
That’s about the hardest question a writer has to answer! But here goes: The Hawley Book of the Dead is about a reluctant heroine, Revelation Dyer, a wife and mother who is also a Las Vegas stage magician with a real power. She has contained that power within the illusionist act she performs with her husband. One night, an intruder sneaks a real bullet into Reve’s trick pistol, and she accidentally shoots and kills her beloved husband. Soon she discovers that her husband’s killer is stalking her and her daughters, so she flees with them to Hawley, Massachusetts, the home of her ancestors (she is descended from an entire family of women with special powers), where she hopes to keep them all safe. But Hawley is a fraught and haunted place, too, and Reve also discovers that she is next in line to be the Keeper of a very special magical book, The Hawley Book of the Dead. So she just keeps getting in deeper and deeper, trading stage magic for real magic.
- It seems your past experiences with racehorses has influenced parts of the book. What is it about these animals that you love the most?
I’ve always had horses, since I was a kid. There is something mystical between women and horses, especially, a connection I tapped into while riding my own horse in the Hawley Forest, which is a real place. The horse energy always figured into the book, from day one. I can’t really explain it, it’s just a sense of power and a kind of flow of energy one gets with a horse. Or at least I do. Some of my best ideas come to me while I am riding.
- Your previous work includes working as a magician’s assistant. That must have been exciting? What was one of your favourite magic tricks?
It was actually not such fun – it is a very demanding job, physically and timing-wise. I was quite bad at it, and always got something wrong. But I developed such respect for people who can perform illusions well. I think my favourite was the Three Part Girl, where I walked into a zig-zag cabinet, and the magician sliced me into three pieces with big blades, then put me back together again. It’s quite an exciting illusion!
- The Hawley Book of the Dead has been likened to A Discovery of Witches. How does it feel to be compared to the brilliant Deborah Harkness? It must be such a heart-warming accolade?
I am a great admirer of Ms.Harkness, who brought fantasy to a mainstream adult audience, and opened so many doors to other writers like myself. It is certainly an honour to be compared to her at all! But that said, I think our books are only alike in that we are both writing in the tradition of contemporary fantasy, with adult women heroines. And we have both written about families of women with extraordinary powers. But I’ll take the comparison, for sure!
- Reve is a strong woman, intent of doing anything to save her children. I believe her to be one of the most compelling characters I’ve read in a long time. Where did the idea of Reve come from? Were there any strong influences?
Wow, thanks Dan! High praise indeed! I actually have no idea where she came from, beyond the fact that the first image I had for the book was that of a woman bashing through a forest on her horse, desperately searching for her missing daughters. But my best friend says that of all my characters, I have the most in common with Reve (I think she means that we are both terribly stubborn!)
- The idea of Caleigh’s string-based magic was incredibly creative. Tell us more about your creative processes. Do you ponder on things for days, or write more impulsively?
I try NOT to ponder things. I am an intuitive writer, for better or worse, and it sort of feels like the inspirations for characters, themes, scenes, etc, just come up from the ground through my body, and out my writing hand. Caleigh’s string games as well. I didn’t ever play them as a child, and knew nothing about them at all. When she made her ability known, I had to do some research on the history and patterns of string games!
- The sense of smell is most prominent in the novel, especially the scent of lavenders signifying danger. Herbs and flowers are linked to witchcraft, which is also prominent in the book. Where does your interest in witchcraft come from?
I guess I don’t precisely think of the Dyer women as witches. I don’t know if I believe in witches per se, but throughout history, women especially who had knowledge of healing and herb-lore were persecuted. Or they were persecuted for holding and conveying ideas which were different. Reve’s ancestor, Mary Dyer, was a real woman who was hanged in Massachusetts in 1660 because she spread the Quaker faith. I think when one is living in Massachusetts, where the most infamous witch trials took place in Salem, it’s hard not to be influenced by that terrible history of intolerance for difference.
- I’ve read that you work in a bookshop. Do you sneak a peek inside the books when you have no customers?
Of course! But a bookstore is quite a busy place, so I hardly have time read more than a sentence or two. I also have the great privilege of helping choose books for the Odyssey Bookshop’s First Edition Club. We get to read advance copies of amazing fiction (not at work, though!), and choose one new book a month to ship to our club members (we DO ship to England, as well). Our latest pick was David Mitchell’s amazing new book, The Bone Clocks. I got to meet him when he was touring in the US, and he is the nicest man in the world! Working in a bookstore is the best job imaginable, except being a writer.
- Although mostly told from Reve’s narrative, there are also sections from Caleigh’s point of view. Why did you decide to have a different approach?
I’ve always been partial to the viewpoint switcheroo, having been heavily influenced by writers like Louise Erdrich, and the said David Mitchell. I just think it makes for a more interesting read.
- Excluding Reve, who’s your favourite character in the book?
Oh, that’s a tough one. I really love Nan, and Caleigh of course. I love Falcon Eddy, and have the greatest respect for Mrs. Pike. But I have to say I’m a sucker for a villain, so I think I’d have to ultimately go with Rigel Voss.
- Do we get to see more of Reve and her fabulous daughters?
Absolutely. I have a good start on the next book in the series, called Dreamland. It’s going to be a fun ride, I promise.
- Who did you grow up reading?
At first, just about every horse book known to man – Enid Bagnold was my favourite, with her great National Velvet – the book is even better than the wonderful movie. Then the Victorians – Dickens and Bram Stoker and Wilkie Collins. Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre remains my favourite book EVER. Then H.P. Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King. I’ve always been interested in New England gothic. Annie Proulx, though, is my favourite contemporary writer, I’d have to say. Well, it’s a toss up between her and Stephen King. Oddly, they both have the same editor, who also bid on my book. But I decided I needed to learn how to write suspense, and ultimately went with a great editor of suspense novels.
- Coffee or tea?
Oh, absolutely TEA! I am lucky to have great tea purveyors nearby, who are also friends, in Northampton MA – their shop is called Tea Trekker. They made a special blend just for the book, called Jolon’s Hawley Forest Blend. You can find a link to them, and the tea, a blend of black teas and Pu-erh, on my website.
- Hand write or computer?
A little of both.
- Favourite colour?
Pink and black together, like Velvet’s silks in National Velvet.
- Whilst writing, do you have any particular superstitions? Perhaps you need a drink in your favourite cup? Maybe you have to always wear slippers?
I only use pens with blue ink. Never black. I’m a bit superstitious that way.
- What single most experience has defined your life the most?
I think it was becoming terribly ill while I was practicing law, and having to give it up. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and suffer from it to this day, but to a lesser extent – lots of acupuncture! But that’s the reason I had the time to devote myself to learning the craft of writing. It was a long apprenticeship, too. I was on the writing path for twelve years, and wrote two other novels, before finding success with The Hawley Book of the Dead.
- Do you have any tips for wannabe writers?
Never give up, always keep on, find a writing group, believe the pros (as in agents who blog or give tips about the process of finding an agent – they should know). Don’t have spelling errors on your first page or your query letter when sending out. And signing with an agent is only a step in the process, it just goes wonderfully on!
- Before you go, tell us a little secret ;)
Cats are from another planet. But we love them anyway.
David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks is sat patiently on my bookcase! Fab interview, Chrysler. Very insightful. You know, you might be on to something there with the cats; the ancient Egyptians always revered cats – they knew!
UK Giveaway for a physical copy of The Hawley Book of the Dead
Thanks to the publisher, I have two copies to give away. Only open to to people in the UK though I’m afraid. Interested? Check out the rafflecopter link below.