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Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein – Guest Post – Are Characters Writers’ Imaginary Friends?

Continuing with the spooky theme – today I have a guest post from Sarah Epstein author of psychological thriller Small Spaces.

Synopsis

Tash Carmody has been traumatised since childhood, when she witnessed her gruesome imaginary friend Sparrow lure young Mallory Fisher away from a carnival. At the time nobody believed Tash, and she has since come to accept that Sparrow wasn’t real. Now fifteen and mute, Mallory’s never spoken about the week she went missing. As disturbing memories resurface, Tash starts to see Sparrow again. And she realises Mallory is the key to unlocking the truth about a dark secret connecting them. Does Sparrow exist after all? Or is Tash more dangerous to others than she thinks?

Author

Sarah Epstein spent her childhood drawing, daydreaming and cobbling together books at the kitchen table. A writer, illustrator and designer, she grew up in suburban Sydney and now lives in Melbourne with her husband and two sons. She is passionate about YA, especially the thriller genre, which is her favourite to read. Small Spaces is her first novel.

Are Characters Writers’ Imaginary Friends? by Sarah Epstein

Imaginary friends have always fascinated me. And while I don’t remember having one myself as a child, I’ve encountered plenty of people who did. When my own kids were small and attending playgroup and kindergarten, I’d hear stories from mothers about how they’d overheard their child’s one-sided conversations in the bath, or how their child’s invisible friend had to have a place set at the dinner table. I’d always think, where do these imaginary friends come from? Are they tied to emotional issues, loneliness or just boredom? Are they coping mechanisms, a cry for attention, or even, as some suggest, a spiritual presence that a child’s mind is open enough to see?

It was a subject I wanted to explore in a story. But in many ways I’ve been writing about imaginary friends for years – my own. The characters I create who tell me their story.

In Small Spaces, I wrote about my protagonist Tash’s experiences with her imaginary friend, Sparrow, both as a young child and as a teenager. To do this, I had to understand Tash’s character inside and out – her hopes, dreams, fears and faults – so I could figure out how she would react to the appearance of Sparrow and the situations his presence would put her through.

In a sense, Tash became my imaginary friend, because she was constantly talking in my head. She was with me while I walked my dog, took showers, and late at night when I was trying to switch my brain off to go to sleep. For writers, this is nothing new. Our characters are shadowing us everywhere we go, especially during the drafting stage of a novel when we’re trying to work out exactly who they are. You imagine how they look, speak, think and act, who they are closest to in the world, and what makes them angry or afraid. Soon they become more than just fictional characters – they become friends we are passionate about. They become friends we are rooting for, friends who are keeping us company on our writing journey as well as actively driving our stories.

And, until readers discover these characters, they are friends created in our imagination that no one else can see.

Is this so different from the imaginary friends some of us invented during childhood? If they were created for company, entertainment, comfort or even a bit of attention, perhaps it’s not so different at all. And while I may not set a place for Tash at my dinner table, or hold a conversation with her in the bath, she’s always with me, tucked away inside my head.

Thanks so much to Sarah for this insight into how characters can ‘live and breathe’ for the writer. Hope everyone taking part in NaNoWriMo has picked nice people to spend the next month with

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The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton – Book Review

Synopsis

All Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. But as a descendant of the Witch Rona Blackburn, who famously cursed her family over a century ago, Nor is no stranger to suffering. She has a reason to hope, however, that she may have escaped the thornier side effects of Rona’s curse.

Then a mysterious book come out, promising to cast any spell for the right price. The author – Nor’s own mother- is performing magic that should be far beyond her capabilities. And such magic always requires a sacrifice.

A storm is coming. It’s coming for Nor.

Author

Leslye Walton was born in the Pacific Northwest, a setting that figures predominantly in both her novels for young adults. Her debut, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, was published in 2014.

Twitter @LeslyeWalton

What I Thought

Like a cross between Practical Magic, Charmed and The Craft with Dark Willow thrown in for good measure. This book seems to have garnered mixed reviews but I really enjoyed it. I have not read the author’s previous novel which I believe is in the genre of magical realism. This is a very different book to that. More an urban fantasy horror.

The story takes place on Anathema Island and the environment and nature plays a huge part. Our protagonist can hear plants and animals so they become characters in the story and shift and change based on the mood. Personally I’d have liked to hear from some the animals a little more. Some of their conversations provided little spots of humour in an otherwise dark novel.

Nor was a conflicted heroine with the dual burdens of being a witch and having an awful mother taking a heavy toll. Luckily her grandmother Judd and her partner Apothia fulfil the loving family element although they take more of a back seat later in the story, with the next generation leading the charge.

There is some romance and friendship and small town shenanigans but this is at its core a horror and therefore a perfect read with Halloween on the way. The Prologue was all about the matriarch of the Blackburn Witches, Rona. I’d have loved to have had her story in even more detail too.

We start with a girl who isn’t comfortable in her own skin and end with an epic showdown. Nor’s mother Fern the author of The Price Guide to the Occult is most definitely bad to the bone and she has no redeeming features. Nor’s father felt very inconsequential – and this fact is played out. Fern has everyone – even the President of the USA under her spell and and the comedown from the magic high is briefly explored at the end of the book. Nor’s comfort may be fleeting, and it made me wonder if we will be hearing more from Nor (sorry couldn’t resist).

Trigger Warnings for Self Harm, Suicide and Parental Violence.

Thanks to Walker for the copy for the purposes of this honest review.

Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow by Siobhan Curham – Empathy Blogswap

In order to celebrate the release of Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow by Siobhan Curham, Walker have organised a blog swap. Throughout August a number of bloggers are hosting guest posts from our peers. Something to give us an insight into an issue we might not otherwise have come across. To step into their mind and empathise. I encourage you to visit other posts across the month to expand your experience.

Today I’m hosting Alba with her post on Acts of Kindness. You can read more from Alba on her blog Alba in Bookland here.

Acts of Kindness

One thing I love about the football World Cup is how it manages to bring people from all over the world together. Last month, we decided to organize an office pool in which you would select several teams and earn points every time one of your teams would score or win a match. Quite simple. But then in the middle of it, a colleague had a brilliant idea: let’s also collect acts of kindness.

So every day, we would check the news all over the world to find those little acts. It was amazing to see how this world event had affected the daily life of so many people, all from different nationalities and backgrounds and brought them a little happiness.

We even started printing our favorites and putting them in our office board, so everyone could read them. They definitely sparked more than one smile and even a few tears between our colleagues. So today I decided to share with you three of these acts of kindness:

1) How a deafblind fan is enjoying the World Cup thanks to his friends. Here is the video, if you haven’t seen it: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-44657259/icymi-how-a-deafblind-fan-is-enjoying-the-world-cup

I actually studied sign language in university and met such vibrant and active people in the deaf and deaf blind community. We used to have weekend excursions to different places in Barcelona and it was always such a especial moment to be able to sign for the deaf blind so they could experience new places too. So this video definitely brought a lot of nice memories back. I should start volunteering again.

2) Mexican and Colombian supporters lift Egyptian fan in wheelchair so he can see screen in fanzone. Here is the photo, if you haven’t seen it: https://www.thesun.co.uk/world-cup-2018/6553124/world-cup-mexico-colombian-egypt-disabled-fan/

3) Japan and Senegal fans help to clean up World Cup stadiums. Here are the photos, if you haven’t seen them: https://edition.cnn.com/2018/06/20/sport/senegal-world-cup-stadium-clean-up-spt-intl/index.html

And a special mention to the fans that created the pride flag with football shirts to let Russian LGBT community know ‘they’re not alone’ (https://www.standard.co.uk/sport/football/worldcup/world-cup-2018-activists-in-moscow-create-pride-flag-with-football-shirts-to-let-russian-lgbt-a3885161.html)

I hope these kind images brought a smile to your face too. And remember, acts of kinds cost nothing but are worth a lot.

Thanks for sharing these wonderful positive stories Alba. I often think of the more negative side of football so it’s great to see how a common interest can bring people together. Definitely relevant to my job as an Occupational Therapist.

Book Synopsis

Fourteen-year-old Stevie lives in Lewes with her beloved vinyl collection, her mum … and her mum’s depression. When Stevie’s mum’s disability benefits are cut, Stevie and her mother are plunged into a life of poverty. But irrepressible Stevie is determined not to be beaten and she takes inspiration from the lyrics of her father’s 1980s record collection and dreams of a life as a musician. Then she meets Hafiz, a talented footballer and a Syrian refugee. Hafiz’s parents gave their life savings to buy Hafiz a safe passage to Europe; his journey has been anything but easy. Then he meets Stevie…

As Stevie and Hafiz’s friendship grows, they encourage each other to believe in themselves and follow their dreams.

An uplifting story of friendship, unity and hope that highlights the important and topical issues surrounding young carers and young refugees.

I really enjoyed Siobhan’s Moonlight Dreamers and Tell it to the Moon (which I’m just about to loan to a friend’s daughter) so I think this will be a fabulous read. Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow is out now.

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