An interview with… Alyssa Sheinmel

When I heard about Alyssa Sheinmel’s extraordinary research into face transplants for her novel Faceless, published by Chicken House, I was stunned the movie Face Off could have been based on reality. Face transplants are a real thing. Maybe not in the same way as in Face Off but still a possibility.

I was so intrigued to discover more I decided to interview best-selling YA author, Alyssa Sheinmel, for my regular Research Secrets section of Writers’ Forum, issue Aug 2016 #178.

Alyssa told me she knew she wanted to write a book about a girl who was in a horrific accident, a girl who struggled to understand how much of who she was is tied to what she looked like and it was her American editor who suggested a girl for whom a face transplant was her best hope at having a normal life after reading an article in The New Yorker about a full face transplant.

“I’m pretty sure I underlined more of the article than I left blank! My favourite line came from a plastic surgeon, who explained that while other surgeons made you well by taking you apart – by cutting out the parts of you that are no longer functional, that are diseased, that have turned toxic – plastic surgeons make you well by putting you back together. (A version of that explanation made its way into Faceless.)”

Alyssa Sheinmel

She explained she began her research by reaching out to doctors she already knew – her general practitioner, a friend who’d gone to medical school and a friend of her sister who was a plastic surgeon that specialized in reconstruction who answered her myriad of questions.

In particular, she wanted to ensure Maisie’s injuries were realistic. For example, could she have been burned in such a way that she’d need to replace her cheeks, nose, and chin, but retain her jaw? This doctor explained that pretty much everything about these surgeries is unusual, so there were no hard and fast rules. He also provided Alyssa with a detail that really stayed with her: it takes a while for the nerves to grow into transplanted skin, so for a period after her surgery, Maisie’s face would feel like sort of a mask hanging off of her – it might actually feel heavy. This detail made its way into Faceless.

Even so, Alyssa revealed she was worried about taking up these doctors’ time with her incessant questions but found these experts often wanted to talk about their respective fields

“It’s challenging when you’re talking to such ‘important’ people – when I was interviewing a plastic surgeon, for example, I kept apologizing for taking up time that he could be spending with his patients. But he insisted that he was happy to give me his time and answer his questions.”

Alyssa Sheinmel

Like all transplant patients, face transplant recipients are put on immunosuppressive drug regimens. Alyssa revealed her editor had a few doctor and medical student friends who were incredibly helpful with these questions in particular. What were the side effects like? How many pills would she have to take? At sixteen, Maisie has already been told that she can’t carry a child because her medication could cause birth defects. She found what the pills looked like by searching on Google.

Alyssa explained the immunosuppressive regimen became a big part of Maisie’s journey. It’s difficult enough for Maisie that she doesn’t look like her old self, but being on these drugs keeps her from feeling like herself too. She’s tired, nauseated, achy. She’s a former straight-A student who can barely stay awake in class anymore.

For Alyssa there isn’t always a straight a line between my research and the story as everything she reads and watches teaches her something about how to tell a story. She told me as she was writing Faceless, she found herself thinking about stories she’d read and movies she’d seen that – on the surface, at least – didn’t really have much in common with her book. But they still were every bit as helpful as all the articles she read and doctors she spoke to about face transplants. There were also things going on in her life that influenced the story such as, a family member underwent surgery and her stay in the hospital and subsequent recovery impacted on Maisie’s experience, too.

The emotional aftermath of surgery was another one of those times when her unintentional research came in to play. Years ago – well before she started working on Faceless – she watched a documentary called The Crash Reel about American snowboarder Kevin Pearce. Heading into the Vancouver Winter Olympics, it looked like nothing would stop Kevin from bringing home a medal (except possibly, his long-time rivalry with fellow-snowboarder Shaun White). But during practice one day, a horrific crash sends Kevin to the hospital, where he’s treated for a traumatic brain injury. All Kevin wants to do is get back on his board, back to the life he knew before – but his friends and family are worried that snowboarding again could kill him.

In Faceless, Maisie was a runner before her accident – she ran track on her school’s team, she ran alongside her boyfriend, she ran for fun. Running was a huge part of who she was, part of how she defined herself – and after her procedure, she can’t run the way she used to. In fact, she might never be able to run again. Just as Maisie has to give up running, in The Crash Reel, Kevin Pearce has to come to terms with his new reality – a reality that might not include snowboarding.

Another piece of unintentional research helped her with the aftermath of Maisie’s accident – a novel called The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman, which I read years ago as well. It’s the story of an ordinary New Jersey librarian to whom the extraordinary happens: one day, she’s struck by lightning. Afterwards, the world looks different – literally: she can no longer see the colour red. Though Hoffman’s protagonist doesn’t have much in common with Faceless’s main character, Maisie (other than the fact that each have a run-in with lightning), they’re both characters whose lives are changed by somewhat random events, and they have to come to terms with a new normal.

“When I was a freshman in college, my psychology textbook taught me how to insert humour into a dry topic. Magazine articles have prompted (sometimes completely unrelated) story ideas. And certainly, when I watched a documentary about snow-boarding a few years ago, I had no idea it would someday influence a novel I wrote about face transplants.”

Alyssa Sheinmel

Alyssa’s tip to other writers when researching is to keep an open mind. She explains you never know where your next idea will come from, which book or article or essay will help you learn how to tell your story. Just keep your eyes and ears open, and learn as much as you can.

You can find out more about Alyssa Sheinmel on her website: www.alysasheinmel.com and follow her on Twitter: @alyssasheinmel.

To read the complete unabridged feature you can purchase a copy of the Aug 2016 #178 issue of Writers’ Forum by ordering online from Select Magazines.

To read my future Research Secrets or Writing 4 Children interviews you can invest in a subscription from the Writers’ Forum website, or download Writers’ Forum to your iOS or Android device.

Book review: The Blue Umbrella

Title: The Blue Umbrella

Written by: Emily Ann Davison

 Illustrated by: Momoko  Abe

Published by: Anderson Press

The Blue Umbrella by Emily Ann Davison and Momoko Abe is a beautiful picture book with a theme of sharing. The pastel colours give the illustrations a satisfying sense of calm. Written in the first person it is unclear whether the main character is male or female and it could easily have been either. I liked this but for the for ease of writing this review I decided to identify them as a girl.

A blue umbrella turns up on the doorstep and all that is on it is a note saying, ‘For you’.

So our young protagonist takes the umbrella for on a walk to the park with her mother even though it is not raining. Lucky she did as it starts to rain. She realises that if she suggests her mum shelters under the umbrella with her it would mean she would get wet as there would not be enough room for both of them but she suggests it anyway. This is a truly selfless act and sets the tone of this elegant picture book.

To her surprise they both fit and she believes the blue umbrella has grown bigger to accommodate them both. Soon they are both inviting more and more people to shelter under the blue umbrella. The umbrella grows bigger and bigger to keep everyone dry.

The people have fun sharing stories and their picnics under the blue umbrella. They do not even notice when the rain stops. Being sociable, chatting to each other and making new friends opens up the world to new possibilities. From this date they come together as a community. The park becomes a gathering place to meet up and escape isolation. This is such an important message and will hopefully encourage people to be more caring and climb out of their bubbles the recent pandemic left us with.

The message is one of hope for the future.

To read my review of another of Emily’s picture books please take a look here: Book Review: Every Bunny is a Yoga Bunny

You can also read my author interview with Emily on my blog here: An interview with… Emily Ann Davison.

You can buy copies of The Blue Umbrella by Emily Ann Davison and Momoko Abe and Every Bunny is a Yoga Bunny by Emily Ann Davison and Deborah Allwright from your local bookshop, or online at uk.bookshop.org, an organisation with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops.

An interview with… Naomi Gibson

Every Line of You by Naomi Gibson and published by Chicken House, is about a lonely girl who creates her own artificial intelligence (AI) to love her. In the 24 Mar 2022 #242 issue of the national writing magazine Writers’ Forum, I interviewed Naomi about her inspiration and writing process for this YA psychological thriller.

The inspiration for Every Line of You struck in a writing class at a local college. One evening we were given lucky dip bags with items in and asked to create a character based on those items. Naomi’s had a mini screw driver, an adaptor – things like that which she decided belonged to a teenage hacker, and that’s how Lydia was born.

All the drafts

“The class left me so inspired I went home and I did a lot of character prep. I knew Lydia inside out so when I sat down to write, the plot came naturally to me because I knew what she wanted and what she feared. Then I wrote and wrote, sometimes until three in the morning, and didn’t stop until two weeks later when I had a first draft of around 60,000 words. I completed this first draft in a hot and messy two weeks back in 2017. I ended up re-drafting about seven times.”

Naomi Gibson

Naomi uses this method for all her books she told me as I long as she knows the character backwards, the plot drives itself. She prefer to write first thing in the morning rather than pulling an ‘all-nighter’ as ideas percolate whilst she sleeps and when she wakes up it feels like her brain has sorted through it all, making for an easier writing session.

She told me she didn’t set out to write a book about artificial intelligence – the book was driven by her main character. Lydia is bullied at school and overlooked at home, and she pours all of herself into creating an AI named Henry after her dead brother. As Henry grows in sentience, he sees how Lydia is treated and helps her exact revenge on the people who’ve been mean to her. Soon his own desires grow to the point where Lydia must decide how far she’ll go to help him. It made sense to me that a lonely but intelligent girl would create her own AI. Her loneliness and desire to be loved drives the plot.

First and foremost it deals with grief and the relationship between grief and technology On another level it addresses morality and humanity, and what leads us to make decisions that might be ‘bad’ but understandable, and how certain choices are defined by our humanity – or lack of.

It was important to Naomi her characters were authentic, and to do this she leaned heavily on her own experiences and memories of being a teenager. Naomi explained it was through the use of a character questionnaire, she discovered Lydia had a very sad home life. Then she piled the stress on her: her younger brother had died – an event that tore her parents’ marriage apart and forced her dad to leave the family home, resulting in Lydia being left with her mum who was barely coping herself. She was bullied at school and there was nowhere she got any respite.

Naomi revealed she found her agent, Joanna Moult at Skylark Literary, through cold querying. She said, Jo was the only agent who ever gave her proper feedback on her manuscript and offered her a revise and resubmit. It took her a while to make the changes she suggested because she was so emotionally invested in the manuscript, but eventually she did and she is so glad.

In terms of advice, Naomi suggests approach at least 100 agents before you shelve a book. She revealed she was up to 50 rejections before she signed with Jo, and would have taken it to 100 if she had to.

“Getting those rejections is painful but the industry is so subjective. You need to approach a wider pool to give your book its best shot. I’m so very lucky that my book has sold to nine territories and been optioned for TV by Heyday Productions. None of that would have been possible without my wonderful publisher, Chicken House. They run a competition every year for young adult and middle grade writers. My writing tip to all aspiring children’s book writers is you should look into the next Chicken House competition as an alternative route to publication.”

Naomi Gibson

You can find out more about Naomi Gibson on her website is www.naomigibsonwrites.com and on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok find her @naomigwrites on all three platforms.

To read the complete feature you can purchase a copy of 24 Feb 2022 #242 issue of Writers’ Forum by ordering online from Select Magazines.

To read my future Writing 4 Children or Research Secrets interviews you can invest in a subscription from the Writers’ Forum website, or download Writers’ Forum to your iOS or Android device.

Blog Tour –  A Magical Moonglow Sleepover by Jocelyn Porter

Today is my stop on the blog tour for A Magical Moonglow Sleepover by Jocelyn Porter.

The author, Jocelyn Porter, started her writing career when she was asked to write a story for a preschool magazine. That story was the first of many. Jocelyn became the writer/editor of several preschool magazines and continued in that role for 15 years. Writing one new story every month, plus rhymes and activities was a tough gig, but very exhilarating. Time is the big difference between writing for a magazine and writing a book. You see your work on the supermarket shelves within a few weeks of completion. A book takes longer – a lot longer.

Jocelyn has to be patient now – not something she’s good at. Before becoming a writer, Jocelyn worked in higher education as International Students Officer. It was a rewarding and interesting job even though she was on call 24/7. Jocelyn also trained as a counsellor and volunteered at drop-in centres. She never knew who would arrive for counselling and had to be prepared for anything. This work gave her insight into some of the darker corners of life. Motor sport was one of Jocelyn’s early loves, she had the spine-tingling thrill of taking part in a 24-hour national rally as navigator – those were the days when rallies were held on public roads!

Jocelyn worked as an au pair in Paris in her teens. Having visited the city on a school trip, she fell in love with it, and always wanted to return. Jocelyn’s first book published by Full Media is The King Who Didn’t Like Snow, illustrated by Michael S Kane. Finn and Fred’s Arctic Adventure is her second book under Full Media and is illustrated by Leo Brown.

My stop on the tour will take the form of a book review.

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Title: A Magical Moonglow Sleepover

Written by: Jocelyn Porter

Illustrated by: Clare Caddy

Published by: Full Media Ltd.

A sweet early reader chapter book about friendship, trust and cooperation.

Katherine Baker and her friends Sophie and Charlotte decide to have a sleep over in her shed, which is a shed in her garden. Katherine tells her friends she has a fairy godmother called Marigold Moonglow but they don’t believe her. To their surprise the fairy godmother arrives on a magical train driven by a blue elephant.

The train takes them to an enchanted carnival at Oak Tree Hollow, a little village in Fairyland, for Sophie’s birthday. However, Sophie vanishes on the carousel. With the help of Dylan the Dragon and Charlie, the boy she dislikes at school, she has to set aside her feelings and find her friend.

Claire Caddy’s black and white pencil outline drawings add a touch of magic to this charming picture book. I liked the little touch of the dragon’s tail at the end of each chapter. Suitable for children 5-7 years old.

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You can find out more about Jocelyn Porter and follow her on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/jmpbooks

To follow the rest of the tour please see the dates and locations on the schedule:

To purchase a copy of A Magical Moonglow Sleepover follow the link: https://full-media.co.uk/product/a-magical-moonglow-sleepover-jocelyn-porter/

I would like to thank Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in this tour. Thank you Rachel.

Book Review: Glow Up Lara Bloom

Title: Glow Up Lara Bloom

Written by: Dee Benson

Published by: Hot Key Books

Glow Up Lara Bloom is a great concept middle grade book, written in the style of an online diary and reminds me of the Angus, thongs and full-frontal snogging series by Louise Rennison.

When 14-year-old Olmara Bloom falls for the hot new boy, Caiden, she initially thinks the best way to get him to notice her is to give herself a glow up. She keeps a journal on a private online app, to keep it away from the prying eyes of her blackmailing brother, outlining her feelings, expectations and the often devastating consequences. The diary format really draws you in making this book a fun, quick and easy read.

With themes of self-confidence and identity in the light of peer pressure, Glow Up Lara Bloom realistically portrays the life of a teenager and the doubts and fears they face. I found myself laughing and crying with Lara and the devastating chaos that plagues her. I particularly liked the way, she comes to the empowering realisation she is better off being herself no matter how clumsy she is.

A truly hilarious coming of age story, suitable for upper key stage 2 and lower key stage 3 readers.

I would like to thank Antonia Wilkinson for organising a review copy of this book.

You can buy copies of Glow Up Lara Bloom by Dee Benson from your local bookshop, or online at uk.bookshop.org, an organisation with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops.

Blog Tour: Ellie-May and her Toy Dragon, Ben by Genna Rowbotham

Please join me on the next stop of Genna Rowbotham’s blog tour for the release of her latest picture book, Ellie-May and her Toy Dragon, Ben.

Genna Rowbotham wrote her first children’s story in 2017, fitting it in around caring for her young family, and is now an author of nine children’s books as well as a short story in a magazine. Rowbotham has a passion to write stories that help entertain, educate and inspire young-ones as the reader can escape the seriousness of life and enter a world of magic.

Her other interests include reading, writing, travelling, astrology, spending time with her family and exploring the great outdoors.

She lives with her lively, imaginative family in Derbyshire in a house full of books, magazines as well as colourful drawings and all sorts of artwork from her children (empty cereal boxes are often taken from the recycle bin to reinvent something wonderful like a spy camera or telescope).

My stop of the tour consists of a book review and prize giveaway.

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Title: Ellie-May and her Toy Dragon, Ben

Written by: Genna Rowbotham

 Illustrated by: Shamima Afroz Alis

Published by: Adventure Scape Press

Ellie-May and her Toy Dragon, Ben is a quaint longer length picture book consisting of eighteen spreads and written in rhyming couplets. The spreads are formatted with the picture on one side and the text on the other. The text is in a large bold font and easy to read.

The story reminded me of the timeless classic The Boy Who Wouldn’t Go To Bed by Helen Cooper in that the main protagonist, Ellie-May, is excited about the next day so refuses to sleep. When her toy dragon, Ben becomes real, they take to the starry skies and embark on a night-time adventure, where they visit Ben’s castle and enjoy a dragon party. But Ellie-May struggles to keep her eyes open and eventually realises the importance of sleep.

This delightful, lyrical story is ideal for readers aged three upwards. The bold colourful illustrations compliment the text perfectly.

Giveaway to Win a bundle of  3 Children’s books by Genna Rowbotham (Open Int)

Prize includes Where is Lamby? (rhyming picture book), Lottie the Ladybird’s Adventure (for ages 7-9) and  Ellie-May & her Toy Dragon, Ben (rhyming picture book)

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494547/?

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box link.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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You can purchase a copy of

Ellie-May and her Toy Dragon, Ben by Genna Rowbotham and Shamima Afroz Alis at the following links:

Genna’s website:             www.gennarowbotham.co.uk/shop

Amazon (Paperback):    https://amzn.to/3InCyJN

Amazon (eBook):            https://amzn.to/3GmtLp1

Google Play: (eBook):    https://bit.ly/3QjcKR9

To find out more about Gemma Rowbotham and her books you can check out her social media links.

Website:             www.gennarowbotham.co.uk

Twitter:                http://twitter.com/GennaRowbotham

Facebook:           https://facebook.com/GennaRowbothamAuthor 

You Tube:            http://youtube.com/@gennarowbotham

Pinterest:             https://www.pinterest.co.uk/GennaRowbotham_Author

Book Bub:           https://www.bookbub.com/profile/genna-rowbotham

To join the other stops on the blog tour take a look at the schedule below: 

I would like to thank Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in this tour. Thank you Rachel.

Book Review: Pick a Story A Dinosaur + Unicorn + Robot Adventure

Title: Pick a Story A Dinosaur + Unicorn + Robot Adventure

Written by: Sarah Coyle

Illustrated by: Adam Walker-Parker

Published by: Farshore Books

Pick a Story A Dinosaur + Unicorn + Robot Adventure is fabulous picture book which encourages children to read in a very different imaginative way. Children can learn to make decisions so they can influence the route the story takes to achieve its final conclusion.

This is the second book in the series of Pick A Story laugh-out-loud, interactive picture book adventures. This time instead of pirates, aliens and jungle animals searching for the lost dog, Sarah Coyle and Adam Walker-Parker have amalgamated dinosaurs, unicorns and robots into one fun-filled escapade to find the missing birthday cake. It is such a clever device to incorporate a wide range of characters. This way the book will appeal to a large readership.  

The zany, eye-catching illustrations pop with colour and excitement. One of my favourite was the look on the dinosaurs face when it had to clean up the mess after the food fight. In fact, there are lots of food related shenanigans throughout the book.

It is great the way the book encourages the reader to interact and make their own choices. It is a brilliant way to keep the children entertained and engaged in reading with the possibility of a different story each time the book is read. There are four alternative endings with options to continue if you and your little one are determined to find the cake.

I would recommend this book for children aged 2 and upwards and it would be ideal in the classroom for children with short attention spans. In my opinion there should be more books like this for Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2.

I would like to thank Antonia Wilkinson for organising a review copy for me.

You can buy your own copy of Pick a Story A Dinosaur + Unicorn + Robot Adventure by Sarah Coyle and Adam Walker-Parker from your local bookshop, or online at uk.bookshop.org, an organisation with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops.

An interview with… Pippa DaCosta

Fantasy is another of those genres where people have said to me you do not need to research that you just make it up. But I believe to write believable fantasy you will need to research the world’s you are creating. In 2017, for the Sept 2017 #191 issue of Writers’ Forum, I interviewed fantasy writer, Pippa DaCosta who explained how her research helps ground those fantastical elements and convince the reader that what they’re reading could be real.

Pippa DaCosta’s five book The Veil series is about a half-demon girl who was raised by demons, but must learn to be human. Through various trials against the backdrop of an imminent demon invasion, she must conclude whether humans or demons are the real monsters. she has also written, Girl from Above, a four book sci-fi series and Hidden Blade another urban fantasy series centred around an Egyptian Soul Eater in New York. 

The inspiration for, City of Fae, her adult fantasy series set in London came from travelling on the tube during the WorldCon in London, in August 2013. As a country girl, she’s always found the tube to be a surreal experience, and as the tube train hurtled through the dark, the windows plunged into blackness, she asked herself, “What if there were something out there, peering back?” London itself is such a mismatch of old and new, modern and traditional, that the idea of taking a traditional countryside race of beings – the fae – and throwing them into the city environment, really appealed to her.

Pippa explained she wanted to take something beautiful and ethereal, like the fae, and put them somewhere dark and filthy—really going against reader expectations, hopefully to surprise them. The London Underground is one of the oldest in the world and in some parts you can really feel the history crowding in. It’s the foundation of London, and as readers of my London Fae know, the fae begin to undermine London from beneath.

London has many layers, it’s part of what makes the city so special, traveling from A to B, or marching along the street with only our destinations in mind. Pippa told me she researched much of London’s underground network of tunnels, including Victorian reservoirs, abandoned tube stations, and even a decommissions military bunker that used to be classified. Old entrances are disguised as store fronts. Commuters pass them every day not knowing a network of forgotten tunnels burrows beneath their feet.

The plague pits were a gory and fascinating discovery—such as those unearthed by the recent Crossrail engineering works. The under London is already so alien, that when she stumbled upon these plague pits during her research she knew she had to write them into the second book, City of Shadows.

Pippa revealed she rode the tube for a few hours, with no real destination in mind. She discovered once she slowed her pace and took the time to observe, the tube became a fantastic and interesting place to people-watch. Human beings aren’t meant to be crammed together in small metallic vessels and then dragged through underground tunnels at increasing speeds, but all she had to do was look around and see how commuters had adjusted to the uncomfortable and made it a part of their lives.

“One of the most interesting things, for me, was watching the ebb and flow of people. One time, I settled on a bench—the only person to do so—and watched trains clatter into the stations, deposit their crowds, and thunder off again. That stampede of people came in waves, and once they were gone, the station fell deathly silent again. Noise to silence to noise. Movement to stillness. It flowed in and out. That was something I couldn’t have known or experienced had I not been there.”

Pippa DaCosta

This way she picks up snippets of conversations. She said one gem came from two women talking and complaining about how hot the tube was, they explained between themselves that it was because the line we were travelling on at the time was one of the oldest and deepest parts of the London underground. That was a brilliant nugget of information, which went straight into the London Fae books.

Fantasy worlds are grounded in reality. As an author, you can’t just fling ideas together and hope they stick. The world has to make sense, it has to have an order, and rules. Research helps ground those fantastical elements and convince the reader that what they’re reading could be real. Before writing the book, Pippa explained she looks at the world and its rules. Nothing too strict, just enough to start spinning the ideas as she doesn’t want to trap herself in those rules later, she keeps them more like brush stokes than firm outlines.

She revealed her research generally starts with simple Google searches on mythically creatures where she often falls down Pinterest research holes and get lost in all the wonderful imagery. She explained many a fantastical beast has come from browsing the likes of Pinterest. She told me she keeps a document folder on her mac for articles and uses private Pinterest boards to pin research and images of various locations. In fact, creating a new Pinterest board is one of her ‘book rituals’.

“I’ll also look at things like the hierarchy of the courts or military units. Depending on whether I’m writing fantasy or sci-fi, I’ll research the shocking histories of various UK castles and their powerful lords. I find researching worldbuilding is a fluid process, that builds with each new lead I chase down. But, it’s easy to fall into a research hole, so you have to be focused and have a goal.”

Pippa DaCosta

Research is the foundation of worldbuilding, and worldbuilding is what brings fantasy realms to life. You never know what little research gem could prove to be the shining star of the next chapter. Give yourself time to get lost down those research holes, you never know where they may lead but never forget your goal.

Pippa told me about a new app coming for desktop PCs soon, called the Novel Factory. It allows you to generate character and plot profiles and link various research elements, including web addresses, articles, images, so it can all be easily found again in one place. She reckoned it looks like a great resource for organising all those plot bunnies.

You can find out more about Pippa DaCosta, her urban fantasy and science fiction novels here:

Website: www.pippadacosta.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pippadacosta

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PippaDaCosta

Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/pippadacosta/city-of-fae-urban-fantasy

To read the complete feature you can purchase a back copy of the Sept 2017 #191 issue of  Writers’ Forum by ordering online from Select Magazines.

To read my future Research Secrets or Writing 4 Children interviews you can invest in a subscription from the Writers’ Forum website, or download Writers’ Forum to your iOS or Android device.

Book Review: Wild Song

This week I am posting two book reviews. today the review is to celebrate the launch of Candy Gourlay’s latest novel, Wild Song.

Title: Wild Song

Written by: Candy Gourlay

Cover illustrated by: Leo Nickolls

Published by: David Fickling Books

The vivid descriptions in Wild Song by Candy Gourlay transport you to life in 1904 not only in the Bontok tribe but also life in America where the inequalities were abundant in this so called land of opportunities. There are a whole host of highly believable characters, in particular the main protagonist Luki, who has a clear, strong voice that carries the story well. I love the way she fights against male/female stereotypes and how she is an inspiration to others, not only in her tribe but also at the St Louis World Fair.

I was impressed with how tight and well-constructed the prose is, as every word of this novel serves a purpose. The dialogue is realistic and keeps the readers turning the pages. This emotional roller-coaster of a young adult novel is steeped in the Bantok history and culture. It is evident Wild Song has been well researched. The story left me thinking long after I’d finished the book.

A masterpiece of a novel.

You can buy copies of Wild Song by Candy Gourlay from your local bookshop, or online at uk.bookshop.org, an organisation with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops.

Book Review: The Swing

Title: The Swing

Written and Illustrated by: Britta Teckentrup

Published by: Prestel Publishing

The Swing by Britta Teckentrup is a gentle, meandering picture book of 160 pages, that guides you through snippets of a whole host of character’s lives all depicted by Britta Teckentrup’s distinctive collage paintings. The soft, calming colours escort the reader on an enchanting journey through time.

The Swing is a meeting place where many relationships and emotional journeys have bloomed. As the seasons change from year to year, we get a glimpse of the many people and animals who have enjoyed swinging, playing, thinking and planning their futures on the swing. Things change, people grow and the swing is the constant that is reassuringly always there. So when it is wrecked in a severe storm those that found solace at The Swing and have cherished memories of their time there, work together to restore the swing to its former glory.

This picture book is a joy for both children and adult readers alike. The message is timeless. A book to treasure

I believe The Swing by Britta Teckentrup would be an excellent discussion opener for people with all types of dementia to evoke memories of a specific place and time, as well as being an excellent resource in the classroom to talk about favourite places and change.

You can buy copies of The Swing by Britta Teckentrup from your local bookshop, or online at uk.bookshop.org, an organisation with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops.

I would like to thank Antonia Wilkinson PR for organising me a copy of The Swing by Britta Teckentrup to review on my blog.