“Face it, Zizi. You’d be lost without your make-up and your girly clothes.”
“And you think ‘feminine’ is a dirty word. You’re the one who’s never going to change, Loretta.”
“You want to bet?”
When Loretta and her best friend Zizi make a life-changing bet, one thing’a for sure: the summer is about to be turned upside down.
Before you two were friends how would you have defined feminism?
Loretta: I would have defined it like this: Feminism is self-defense.
ZiZi: You see what I mean about Loretta, right? Everything gets exaggerated! How I would’ve defined it is: Wannabe guys with a limited sense of humour and not a lot of patience.
Describe your style.
Loretta: Immune to the pressures of a fashion industry that wants you to buy something new every week so it can make more money. And immune to the pressures of a society that thinks it has the right to tell you how to dress. Utilitarian and comfortable, but with colourful socks.
ZiZi: Fashionable and feminine, but (now) with practical shoes. When I look in the mirror I want to smile.
What do you admire most about the other?
Loretta: ZiZi’s unique. She may look like Miss Congeniality, but she’s opinionated, stubborn and for definite has a mind of her own. And she makes me laugh.
ZiZi: With Loretta, what you see is pretty much what you get. And what you get’s a real friend. Plus she has a great sense of humour, and if you get a flat tyre on a lonely road, she’s the girl you want next to you.
What do you think would be the hardest part of being a boy?
Loretta: In some ways, there are as many restrictions on guys as there are on girls – they’re just different restrictions. All that competition and pressure to Be a Man. And, as ZiZi would say, you can’t even go shopping or put on your favourite dress and those outrageous earrings to cheer yourself up.
ZiZi: Having to wear boring clothes. Plus having to be tough and strong when really all you want to do is going under the duvet and cry.
Are you more like Loretta or ZiZi? In what ways?
I’m probably more like Loretta. I often have the impression when a contentious topic comes up and I clear my throat that my friends are all wishing I wouldn’t say anything.
Describe your writing style.
That’s a question I’ve never been asked before. But, judging from editor and copy-editor comments I’ve had over the years, I’d say it’s idiosyncratic.
How many ways of being a girl do you have?
I don’t do the stilettos or the makeup, but otherwise I think I cover the range. I own both a food processor and a drill.
What I thought?
This was such a fun read and I loved the characters of Loretta and Zizi and especially their friendship.
I found this a really accessible way to look at gender and feminist issues through the set up of a bet.
More Than One Way to Be a Girl takes a slightly lighter hearted view of similar themes to that in Holly Bourne’s Spinster Club series and is perfect for the 13+ age group it’s aimed at. Relationships with boys feature, and believe me I shared Loretta’s annoyance when her relationship with her colleagues changed.
MTOWTBAG is out now.
I also had fun recreating the cover for #bookstagram, and below is a picture of me after checking my tyre pressures. Let’s just hope I never manage to put oil in the brake fluid ever again?! *disclaimer – this happened a long time ago.
The second book in the Alfie Bloom series – Alfie Bloom and Talisman Thief was released on the 2nd June. For my spot on the blog tour I have an interview with the author Gabrielle Kent and a review of both books in the series.
When Alfie Bloom inherited a castle and a centuries-old magic, his dull and lonely life was changed forever. But Alfie’s new life has come with dangers he never could have expected. When Ashford the butler is kidnapped in the middle of the night, the castle comes under threat from a terrifying enemy. Trapped inside with only his twin cousins and best friend Amy, it’s up to Alfie to defend his inheritance and prevent a terrible fate from befalling the whole of England!
Gabrielle has worked in and around the videogames industry since the mid 90’s. She currently teaches games development at Teesside University where she directs and presents Animex, a week long festival of games and animation talks and events bringing young people together from all over Europe to hear from world leading studios.
Gabrielle has written and contributed to a number of articles and broadcasts on gaming and is a regular judge on the Games BAFTA awards. She has been named one of the Top 100 most Influential Women in the games industry several times, and recieved a Woman of the Year award from MCV magazine.
In her spare time, Gabrielle writes books for children aged 8+. Her Alfie Bloom series has been published across several continents.
Is there an interesting story behind the origin of Alfie Bloom?
I have always adored castles and still remember visiting Alnwick Castle on a school trip thirty years ago. There was a medieval festival taking place in the market square at the time, little did I realise it would make its way into my books decades later! I came up with the idea for Alfie Bloom in 2006 when I visited Castle Coch in Wales. In one of the rooms is a carving of The Fates above a fireplace. I imagined talking to them and hearing my destiny. I suppose, in a way, they really did talk to me – they told me I’d write a book. As I made the long drive back from Cardiff, an idea for a story flew round and round my head, growing bigger and bigger. By the time I got home I was ready to start writing about the boy who inherited a castle.
When you were a child, what were your favourite stories to read?
Magical realism! When I was little I was sure that fantastical creatures and magic were all around us if we just knew where to look and I loved books that backed up my beliefs by setting magic and fantasy in our own world. I still do.
Do you write better in a specific place (i.e. office, bed, café…)?
I fidget a lot! I start writing at my desk, but move around the house a lot, then I start visiting the fridge for snacks. I find that the best place to actually get a lot of writing done is at a library. I like Liverpool Central library but it can be very loud so I always take noise-cancelling headphones.
Who is your favourite character in the Alfie Bloom series?
I adore Artan, the flying, talking, pun-loving bearskin rug. What better flying carpet than one that can talk to you and tell terrible jokes while you’re flying
If you could live in any fictional world ever, which one would you choose?
I always thought Xanth from the Piers Anthony novels seemed a magical and wonderful place to live with so much to discover. I’d like to live in Castle Roogna and travel into the magical tapestry that hangs there.
Do you have any odd writing rituals (i.e. writing in the dark, only at 3am, only after four cups of coffee…)?
I always light a candle while I’m writing. Fig, blackcurrant and woody scents are my favourite. I brew a pot of popcorn green tea and choose one of my favourite spotify playlists. Usually: Through the Woods, Deep Dark Indie, or The Far-North Folk.
There is a lot of mystery and magic in the Alfie Bloom books, do you know how everything works?
I do, and it takes me a long time to write because I like to have everything clear in my head. When I wrote the first book I was a bit unclear on what Alfie’s magic was and how it worked. and it caused me many problems later on as it became rather confusing for my proof readers. As a result I went back and clarified it, but it did involve quite a bit of rewriting!
What is your favourite aspect of the magic in Alfie Bloom?
Very little comes easily in life, so I like to show that magic also comes with consequences. As Spiderman’s Uncle Ben once said, “With great power comes great responsibility”. The powerful magic that inhabits Alfie is always hungry to feed. Alfie must learn to control it and to exercise restraint in using it.
What I Thought?
Thanks to Faye Rogers and Scholastic I was introduced to this series and provided with copies of both books to review. Opinions are my own – as ever.
I really loved this series and its characters and raced through both books, and will definitely head back for a re-read when the next book comes out. I find that I do sometimes struggle with middle grade books feeling too young (as a 37 year old that’s not really surprising), but, for these books that wasn’t a problem at all. I was definitely hooked when the carriage from Muninn and Bone came calling. Although they work well for the intended age group 8-12 there is much for readers of any age to enjoy. This series has been compared to Harry Potter and there are some similarities – the fabulous cast of characters, joy and ease of reading and magic but it is also very different.
In ‘The Secrets of Hexbridge Castle’ poverty stricken Alfie finds out he has inherited a castle… and a ‘bit’ of magic. The only thing he will miss by moving is his best friend Amy, but his castle is in the village occupied by his dead mother’s family so he gains his twin cousins Robin and Madeline as friends, and Amy comes to visit. Together they explore the castle and its many rooms, secret passages and dangers. Alfie’s new school Wyrmwald House seems to be led by two Miss Trunchballs!! Something sinister is happening in the village and Alfie is driven to use his magic.
One of the things I liked is the idea that magic isn’t necessarily fun and simple to use and that it does come with responsibilities. Alfie isn’t necessarily that happy with the power he has been given and it will be interesting to see how he handles this as his experience grows. Alfie reminds me a little of Roald Dahl’s Charlie Bucket – he is very generous and kind-spirited.
Like Gabrielle, Artan the flying bearskin is my favourite character and his puns did make me giggle.
In ‘The Talisman Thief’ we find out more about Ashford the butler that was assigned to look out for Alfie and his father – thankfully because William – Alfie’s dad, a rather eccentic inventor – really can not cook. I can’t say much without spoilers but Ashford isn’t maybe what you might have expected. Hexbridge is invaded by fae and it’s up to the children to save the day.
Alfie’s school isn’t a magical one and his magical training comes via letters, deduction and trips between times. The rural village setting of Hexbridge is perfect to contain the magic and mysticism and I loved that the villagers follow old pagan festivals.
To summarise – read these books – to your kids if you have them – or to yourself if not. There is much more I could say and many more characters to meet but I’d much prefer you to find that out for yourselves.
Do also check out the rest of the blog tour.
Imagine you had access to countless items of technology which have been classified as potentially too dangerous for the world to have access to!
Dev’s Uncle is the caretaker of The Inventory, the World’s strongest vault.
However, on the day that Lot, a girl from school, and bully Mason happen to visit, thieves try to break in to steal Iron Fist, and the three kids find themselves in a deadly battle with the intruders, and The Inventory.
I really enjoyed this middle grade action adventure and particularly warmed to Dev. Isolated from making friends because he can never invite them home he doesn’t have the best relationship with his uncle so is pretty lonely with a somewhat sarcastic robot his only company. Dev is clearly intelligent and has paid attention to workings of The Inventory but can he beat the thieves? Well, that would be classed as a spoiler so I’m not going to tell you. What I can say is that readers will enjoy the array of technology, be thrilled by the chase and surprised by certain revelations. I’m certainly looking forward to reading future adventures.
Interview with Author Andy Briggs
How much fun did you have making up whacky inventions and which do you wish were real?
Making things up for a living is, in a word, awesome. Making up wild inventions for The Inventory was, therefore terrific fun. However, I had one vague rule at the back of my mind: make them feel real, even if it means pushing the barriers of fringe science, they have to at least sound plausible. That’s what set Star Trek aside from plenty of other science fiction shows, it was more science than fiction.
Straight away I would waltz into the Inventory, strap on a pair of Hover-Boots and fly around at breakneck speeds. If the internal security was to prevent me from pilfering the boots, then I would try and sneak off with the Onmi-Board, which is a next generation skateboard that puts Segways and hover-boards to shame.
Who is your favourite inventor and why?
That is so easy: Nikola Tesla. The Croatian genius who invented so many things – such as radio control, the Tesla coil (which used to be a vital component of old TVs), and – radio. Of course I can hear many history teacher correcting me there, but they’re wrong. There was a bitter legal battle with Marconi… go and read about it. Fascinating stuff. Many of Tesla’s inventions are only just being explored today.
Despite his amazing inventions, Tesla died penniless, had a pigeon as his best friend and believed that aliens transmitted ideas straight to his brain…
Writing is inventing. What is your process: Inspired by a Eureka moment or a carefully planned trial?
If you had asked me this for any other book then I would have answered that it’s all carefully planned. I structure the chapters and key plot points and have my Eureka moments away from the page, then carefully integrate them into the story. This comes from the screenwriter side of me, scripts have to be very carefully structured and timed.
However, this time I threw caution to the wind and ploughed into the story. It wasn’t a moment of madness, it was an experiment. The Inventory itself is supposed to be a place of unexpected twists and turns, so I wanted to be surprised just as much as the reader. I didn’t want to fall into the trap of those old James Bond movies in which 007 gets exactly the gadget he needs later in the story. I wanted my heroes to find seemingly useless items then be forced to make them work to escape a dastardly situation later. The result is that I, at least, was surprised by what lurks in the World Best Kept Secret…
Were you a science geek in school? If not what was your best/favourite subject?
Um. Yes. When it came to choosing GCSEs I took Technology Design, Chemistry and Physics. Then for A-levels I took Maths and Physics – and Media Studies too, of course. The problem was, I wanted to know about quantum physics, black holes and travelling at the speed of light and, sadly, that didn’t crop up in my lessons so I quickly became bored and went off to write stories instead. These days I’m always watching documentaries, reading New Scientist and Wired Magazines and pretend I know exactly what they’re all talking about…
What have sheep ever done to you? (Reference to making them invisible and blowing one’s head off)
Before the RSPCA descend upon me, they are fake sheep! Sheep are menacing. They have weird horizontal pupils and quietly judge you when you walk past their field. Sure, they act dumb, but the moment you’re out of earshot they’re baa-ing away in their cryptic alien language. Them (and cows) are contributing to massive global warming as they fart in order to terraform our planet for their own nefarious purposes. You mark my words, the cute fluffy image is merely creative marketing…
Which of the characters in the book would you Repeat, Rewrite, Remove and why? And yes you have to answer ;0
Ooh, now I know I don’t like you! What a cruel question… I would repeat Lot, because, as the daughter of an Air Force test pilot, she is a gung-ho thrill seeker.
I would rewrite Dev because you can never have a perfect hero (and by perfect, I still include all the flaws that make them interesting) as you keep coming up with new and intriguing issues and problems to inflict upon them. That said, the joy of writing a series is that I can now put him under so much more pressure and really pull him apart…
Finally, I would remove Mason (if I had to) because bullies should be erased (or thrown into the prison colonies of our future masters, the sheep (see above).
Huge thanks to Andy for some brilliant responses. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did.
Comment below with which everyday invention you’d confine to The Inventory and tell me why (is it dangerous or just plain annoying) and then head over to the Rafflecopter to register your chances to win. Closes Wednesday 11th at midnight. UK and IRL residents only.
The Rest of the Tour
You can find the links to all the blogs on tour organiser Faye’s website here.