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2016 Debut Authors Bash – Kiran Millwood Hargrave – Author Interview

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Synopsis

Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.

When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.

But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.

From this young debut author comes a beautifully written and lyrical story of friendship, discovery, myths and magic – perfect for fans of Philip Pullman, Frances Hardinge or Katherine Rundell.

Image and Synopsis from Goodreads

Released in Hardback in the US on Nov 1st 2016.

 

Author

KMH

Kiran Millwood Hargrave is a poet, playwright and novelist. Last year she graduated from Oxford University’s Creative Writing MA with Distinction.

Kiran was born in London in 1990, and now lives in Oxford with her mad artist boyfriend and mad writer friends.

Website

Twitter

Author Interview

A huge thanks to Kiran for such a wonderful and open interview.

I’m very lucky to have already have read The Cartographer’s Daughter, however, in the UK it’s called The Girl of Ink and Stars. Can you tell us about the process of titling the book initially and in different countries?

The original name was The Cartographer’s Daughter – I chose it as a homage to Philip Pullman’s The Firework-Maker’s Daughter which was one of my favourite books growing up. Chicken House (my UK publisher) decided the title should reflect the fact that Isabella is very much defined by her own terms, and so we settled on a title that places focus on that. When I sent a UK copy to Pullman he wrote back saying how he loved the title and hoped the US had left it alone (unlike his) – I didn’t mention that it was actually the UK who had changed it! I love both titles though, and it’s been fun seeing how the book is marketed and packaged so differently. I wish I’d chosen shorter titles – it makes tweeting nigh-on impossible.

 

How do you feel the title of a book can influence readers?

Hugely. It’s a bit like a first line in that it sets the tone for the book. I started out writing poetry, and titles have to work hard for you – I don’t think novels should be any different. My favourite titles are either really short, like Skellig or long, like The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

 

In real life female friends fight and Isabella and Lupe are no different. Have you ever had a fight with a friend that has affected your life in such a major way?

Yes. In Year Nine at secondary school my best friend decided she didn’t want to be friends anymore. She’d heard a chinese whisper rumour about something I’d confided in someone, and on a Tuesday before gym class (can you tell it traumatised me?!) she took me aside and said she didn’t want to be friends with a liar. It set a whole chain of events in motion, from the rest of that friendship group taking her side, to my whole class effectively stopping talking to me. It was the most alone I’d ever felt. I self harmed and acted out and generally lost my way a little. It still makes me feel a bit sick to think of.

 

Then I got fed up of crying in the toilets at lunch time and started hanging out with another class in my year. In that class was Izzy, who is still my best friend and who my main character Isabella is named after. She’s also going to be my maid of honour when I get married next year! I did make up with the first girl and friendship group eventually. Things got easier, but in the case of that particular person we’ve not talked for ages. People move on.

 

Also, which gift given to you by a friend do you particularly treasure?

Recently, my friend Jessie made me a black-out poem from the first page of an old copy of The Water Babies for my birthday. It’s a beautiful object and I love that she took the time to do that. I always treasure books, and my friend Sarvat got me a copy of The Girl Who Circumnavigated… by Catherynne M. Valente which was a game-changer for me.

 

Maps are obviously an important part of the story. What inspired that?

Growing up, we had this huge, heavy, hardback atlas that my brother and I would heave out and open on a random page. Then we’d make up stories set in the places we landed. So maps have always been a way into stories for me. I also find it fascinating how the first cartographers managed to envisage the world like that – as one of my characters says, ‘to leave space for where [they’re] about to be’.

 

My parents, especially my dad, have an almost childlike wonder and enthusiasm for how things work. My dad is a geologist and he still stops the car by the side of the road to pick up a rock and tell us what it is and how old. I’m not that enthusiastic, but I am interested in how and why things are the way they are, and maps are an important part of how humans have visualised our place in the world.

 

Also, how are your map reading skills and tell us about a time you got lost.

In a recent interview I said my map reading was terrible, but since realised that is an unfair reflection on myself. Whenever I go away with friends they put me in charge because I’m pretty good. That said, one of the scariest moments of my life was getting lost in a forest in La Gomera with my family. It’s this beautiful, wild national park and there aren’t many signs. We’d been walking for hours, had run out of water and not seen a soul. We eventually got rescued by German tourists who had a satellite phone. It was one of the seeds for the story, imagining a girl on an island before Google Maps!

 

I read that you ‘Never meant to write a book’. Now that you have please tell us there are more to come.

Yes, of course – now I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’m editing my second story, and writing a third and fourth. I have no intention of stopping. Writing’s a compulsion now, I feel irritable and useless if I haven’t written for a while.

 

I also read that you wrote ten drafts – what tips can you give about the editing process? What have you learnt working with editors that you will take into your future independent editing practice?

You have to be open to the idea that other people sometimes see your manuscript more clearly than you, without compromising on what you think it should be. As long as edits are in line with your final picture, try them and see. I made major changes to GOI&S and they are often the things people are most complimentary about.

 

This was the first story I ever tried to tell. I have no manuscript languishing in a drawer, and I’d only written poetry before it – all my mistakes were made (and hopefully corrected!) within the landscape of this book’s world. I threw everything I had at it. It was an exercise in self-indulgence. It used to be double the length. My major influences for the first draft were The Firework-Maker’s Daughter, The Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy, and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and boy – that confusion showed. I made error after error and I’m so grateful to my agent and editors for seeing through all that. My next books know what they want to be.

 

Giveaway

GoIaS

 

One copy of The Girl of Ink and Stars and Five Bookmarks

Click here for rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

Checkout the rest of the Bash schedule here and follow all the fun using #16DABash.

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2016 Debut Authors Bash – Jennifer Mason-Black – Author Interview

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I’m thrilled to be sharing my interview with Jennifer Mason-Black whose first book ‘Devil and the Bluebird’ is out now.

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Synopsis and Image from Goodreads

Blue Riley has wrestled with her own demons ever since the loss of her mother to cancer. But when she encounters a beautiful devil at her town crossroads, it’s her runaway sister’s soul she fights to save. The devil steals Blue’s voice—inherited from her musically gifted mother—in exchange for a single shot at finding Cass.

Armed with her mother’s guitar, a knapsack of cherished mementos, and a pair of magical boots, Blue journeys west in search of her sister. When the devil changes the terms of their deal, Blue must reevaluate her understanding of good and evil and open herself to finding family in unexpected places.

In Devil and the Bluebird, Jennifer Mason-Black delivers a heart-wrenching depiction of loss and hope.

Interview with Jennifer Mason-Black

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The cover of Devil and the Bluebird is delicious. How much input did you as the author have in that?

I had no input on the initial design, which makes the fact that I love it so much more wonderful. The sole change I participated in involved the boots (they were originally something else). But that adjustment was really my editor’s suggestion; I just enthusiastically agreed. The elements inside the guitar all refer to specific pieces of the story. It was so fun to see them for the first time. Who am I kidding? It’s still fun to see them!

 

I’m a huge Supernatural fan and was very excited to read about a ‘Devil-at-the-crossroads’ YA tale. What were your inspirations for this story?

My inspirations are all over the place. I’ve known the story of Robert Johnson for most of my life and it definitely plays a role. Beyond that, all the musicians I’ve known have been wonderful, talented people who center their lives around music, but will never be household names. Their stories definitely influenced Blue’s. As do my own experiences as a writer…I’m interested in the roads we have to travel in order to test ourselves, learn who we are and what we’re meant to do. It’s really a story made up of bits of song I’ve heard and faces I’ve seen and unexpected kindnesses I’ve encountered—all sorts of things.

 

Music seems to be important to your character – why?

Blue grew up with music. Prior to her mother’s death, Blue’s family—herself, her mother, her sister, and her mother’s partner, Tish—had a life that revolved around her mother’s band. After her mother’s death, Blue turns to her mother’s guitar for solace. So much of her journey across the country is about her coming to terms with her relationship to music, with understanding that she’s more than the little sister singing along, the daughter waiting in the wings.

 

We grow up fluent in the languages of our parents. Not merely the spoken ones, but the creative ones that emerge in songs, or quilts, or novels. These things we learn sitting in our parents’ laps become part of us. Eventually, though, we become our own people, and in the process, we must develop our own relationships to these creative fires.

 

Are you musical?

No! Well, I can sing in the car with the best of them, but I play no instruments, have an appalling lack of rhythm, and would quickly starve if left to support myself with music.

 

Blue’s price is her voice? How hard would you find it to spend a few days without talking?

 

I’m a fairly silent person by nature, so I’d probably be okay. On the other hand, I’m a mom, and managing my family without being able to shout down the hall might be a challenge.

 

On a more serious note, while writing Blue’s story I spent quite a bit of time cataloguing all the noise I make. Not just conversation, but the sound that comes when stubbing a toe, or calling out to stop someone from moving into trouble. Not being able to discuss Shakespeare is one thing. Not being able to say “I’m scared” or “WATCH OUT” is something else entirely.

 

Which writers/books would you name as inspirations?

I have absorbed so many books so deeply that it’s hard to point to specific ones. As an adult, I tend to read with a bit more of a sense of wonder about the writing, with more questioning about things like whether I could handle overlapping POVs or create a captivating omniscient narrator. Which means I often feel less influenced and more challenged by other writers.

 

Books I read as a kid, on the other hand…those are a huge part of how I write. When I think of influences, those are the ones I pick. Madeline L’Engle, Ray Bradbury, Agatha Christie, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, Lois Lowry, Julia Cunningham, Stephen King—that’s a very short list of the many writers whose stories have helped shape my brain and my connection to words.

 

What are you working on now?

I’m a little superstitious when it comes to talking about projects. Or…maybe less superstitious and more aware that it’s easier for me to talk about the details of an unfinished story than it is for me to write it. So, in the interest of keeping me from being lazy, let’s just say that I have several different stories I’ve been playing with lately. To be honest, it’s been a hard spring when it comes to carving out space to write. I’m looking forward to the summer and more time to spend in my head in productive ways.

 

My new feature is asking authors if they were to rewrite a book which character would they Repeat, Rewrite and Remove and why. I’d love to know your thoughts.

I’m actually pretty happy with this group of characters. Most of them have fairly lengthy backstories that only I know about, which means that what you see in the book is the tip of the iceberg. There are things about Dill—another traveler that Blue meets—that I’m curious about. Were I to rewrite DEVIL, I might hone him a bit. I don’t think I’d remove anyone. I get very attached to all my characters. Once they’ve made it into a final version, I don’t want to lose them.

 

Giveaway

1 finished copy of Devil and the Bluebird – Now open Internationally. Yay.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck everyone.

 

While you are anxiously awaiting to find out if you’ve won do checkout the rest of the Bash schedule here and follow all the fun using #16DABash. I’d love to see you back here on 11th June for an interview with Kiran Millwood Hargrave.

The Way We Were by Sinéad Moriarty – Blog Tour and Book Review

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I’m really happy to share with you an extract from the first chapter of The Way We Were by Irish author Sinéad Moriarty. When I was approached about the book this synopsis grabbed my attention straight away.

The Way We Were is a novel that asks; how would you cope if your husband, a Doctor giving aid abroad, is declared missing and presumed dead? How would you handle your own pain when you need to be strong for your grieving children?

And, what would you do if, when just as you and your family have started to move on and build a new life, your husband turns up on your doorstep?

 

Part 1 London, October 2012

Alice

Kevin locked up the surgery and handed Alice the keys.
‘God, I’m tired today.’ Alice yawned. ‘It’s been non-stop.’
‘It’s such a bitch being so popular,’ Kevin said, grinning.
Alice smiled. ‘I’m glad to be busy, but I’d just love a soak
in the bath instead of a long evening wrestling with Jools
about homework. And now Ben’s invited David and Pippa
for dinner tomorrow night, so I’ll have to go to the shops on
my way home.’
‘Maybe Ben will come home early tomorrow and help
cook for his friends.’
‘Fat chance.’ Alice sighed. ‘I love David and Pippa, but
dinner at nine on a Tuesday night just doesn’t suit me. I’m
always so tired after dealing with Jools.’
‘You should have said no, then.’
Alice smiled at the idea. Kevin had never really grasped
the concept of compromise in relationships. Which was
probably why his never lasted very long.

Please click here for the full extract.

(I had difficulty viewing the PDF using firefox until I updated my PDF viewer – try viewing the blog in Chrome if this is the case for you too)

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My Review

This is the first book of Sinéad’s that I have read and it is adult contemporary fiction – not my usual genre, but, as I said above the premise was so intriguing.

The Way We Were is told from three different points of view: married couple Alice and Ben and their youngest daughter Holly (aged 11 -13). The adults’ sections are in third person but Holly’s is first person.

Now, I have to say I didn’t really like how Ben was at the beginning of the book although after ‘the incident’ I warmed to him and I loved the relationship between him and Declan (another doctor). I think maybe I’m quite like Kevin in the snippet above, not all that familiar with compromise in relationships and so Ben seemed initially seemed quite like someone who might irritate me. Especially, as we have some pre-insight to what is to come, I was as annoyed as Alice at his decision to go to Eritrea in Africa. As a health professional the idea of Doctors without Borders has always been really interesting to me but also very scary and I can’t say this book really added to my pros list for offering my services anytime soon but it has increased my respect for those that do and obviously the situation here is a very extreme one.

Even though, as the reader you are aware that Ben is still alive you are very much taken on the bereavement journey with Alice, Holly and Jools (the older daughter) and identify with Alice’s conflict about moving on. I also found myself swept up in her new relationship and felt sick and as stuck as she does when Ben returns. I don’t think this book will split people into “Team Ben” and “Team Dan” factions though. Instead most people I see joining “Team Poor Alice has a near impossible choice” instead, especially as no one here is perfect.

I tend to judge a book by how much emotion it makes me feel so the fact that my eyes were often brimming, and at points overflowing with tears means it gets thumbs up from me. I did almost find this uncomfortable at times and maybe that’s why I shy away from this genre – a bit too realistic? I definitely recognised aspects of the book in things I see and hear around me. But, I can cope with grit and this book has that in spades, although there is also a fair bit of humour and, thanks to Declan, a few knock knock jokes that I was unfamiliar with.

In Holly’s section you see her grow from a fairly naive young girl to someone prepared to step forward and have her say in situations that perhaps would have scared her to start with. As a slightly geeky bookish character I did find myself drawn to her.

As an avid young adult fiction reader the only thing I might have liked to have seen was some scenes from Jools, the teenage daughter’s (16-18) point of view. Although, seeing her through the eyes of the other three, you still get a good sense of what she is like.  I just would have liked to have gained a little more insight into her particular response to the tragedy. Considering her fascination with Keeping Up with the Kardashians though, perhaps Sinéad made the best choice!

Themes of family, love, bereavement, war and plenty of conflict meant this was a book I didn’t want to put down although at times I had to, unless I wanted soggy pages. Thanks Sinéad for the heartbreak.

 

Please take a look at the other blogs involved in the tour where you will find further extracts and interviews with the author.

Thank you to Rose at Penguin Random House who provided me with a review copy of the book. This did not affect the content of my review.

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