Category Archives: Blog Tour

Blog Tour – Phyllo Cane and the Magical Menagerie by Sharn W. Hutton

Today is my stop on the Phyllo Cane and the Magical Menagerie by Sharn W. Hutton blog tour.

Phyllo Cane and the Magical Menagerie by Sharn W. Hutton

Sharn W. Hutton is the author of The Adventures of Phyllo Cane series, the first of which, Phyllo Cane and the Circus of Wonder, was hailed by the judging panel of The Booklife Prize to be ‘dizzyingly bewitching, articulate and intoxicating.’ The sequel, Phyllo Cane and the Magical Menagerie, was released on July 31st 2022.

In Magical Menagerie we Join Phyllo on his next apprenticeship with the Circus of Wonder – a brand new adventure with the fantastic beasts of the Magical Menagerie and a race against time to save their lonely dragon from destruction. But what if the fire-breathing dragon won’t come out of its pen to perform? What if the Ringmaster thinks it’s worth more in the apothecary chop-shop than as part of the troupe?

The Beast Whisperer of the Circus of Wonder must bring her beloved dragon back up to its performing peak fast, if she’s to save it, and she thinks she knows what to do. The unhappy creature needs a mate, but the male sand dragon is a rare beast indeed, and she’ll never be able to catch one alone. Time for Phyllo to become the Beast Whisperer’s apprentice…

Before venturing into the realms of upper middle grade/YA magical fantasy, Sharn wrote cosy mystery based around the irrepressible Angel Drake, in Angel Drake is Going Solo and the short story, Nothing Ventured. Her first novel, It’s Killing Jerry, was a standalone mystery.

Sharn W. Hutton

Based in Bushey, Hertfordshire, Sharn works from home in the tiny office at the back of the house, which makes up for what it lacks in size and warmth with a rather nice view of the garden. When she isn’t hitting the keyboard (laptop, not piano) she does enjoy a trip to the theatre or cinema and pretends to use the very expensive exercise machine rusting in the summerhouse. One day she plans to also learn how to play the piano.

I have interviewed Sharn W. Hutton about her Phyllo Cane series for my stop of the blog tour. So let’s take a look at what Sharn had to say:

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What inspired you to write a magical adventure series set in the circus?

I’ve always loved magical stories, Charlie N Holmberg, Pratchett, Gaiman and, of course, the Potters and when I decided that I wanted to create my own magical world, I knew I wanted it to be rich with detail. The circus is so full of possibilities. Death defying acts, incredible strength, impossible feats – it’s full of magic before you even get to any kind of wand waving.

I also knew that I wanted the Circus of Wonder to feel like it was from another time, travelling around today’s countryside, playing to charmed and ordinary audiences alike. That opens the stories up for all kinds of possibilities.

We live in such a ‘convenient’ world. Everything is available at the touch of a button. You can buy pretty much anything online and search the internet to find any information you need. The tradition of the circus pushes back against that. If you’re lucky enough to catch it, it comes to town once a year. You might get a ticket, if it’s not already sold out. The acts could be anything and they probably aren’t safe. I love how illusive, mysterious and dangerous it is.

Have you been on any literary pilgrimages and if so what were they?

I’m all about the research at the moment, plotting the next story, and have become a member of the British Library. Real life stories about the circus world are sometimes stranger than fiction and are an excellent source of ideas. I love books, really old ones and spanking new, you never know where what’s inside might lead you.

I bought a book about circus food which led me to discover Giffords Circus, which not only feeds the troupe in its restaurant tent, but a lucky few punters as well, if you can get yourself a seat. When I saw that Gifford’s route was going to come unbelievably close to where I live for the first time, what choice did I have but to book myself in for the show and some dinner?

Visiting Giffords felt a lot like visiting the Circus of Wonder. Small by the grand circus tent size terms we often see, but perfect to get enough people in the crowd for atmosphere in their themed and moodily lit big top. There were traditional acts where acrobats summersaulted on horseback and knife throwers terrified us with a crossbow. Then flyers who walked in the air above the crowd gripping silks, just like Ezio did in the Circus of Wonder. It was an incredible experience that felt totally real in a world of special effects and TV trickery.

The restaurant was a series of long plank tables with the only choice being vegetarian or not. Everyone had the same. People were served in groups, whether they knew each other or not and by the end of the evening we all felt like family. I’d go again in a heartbeat.

Perhaps a pilgrimage should take more effort – that particular one was a joy.

What are the underlying themes of your novel, Magical Menagerie?

In Magical Menagerie Phyllo learns about the impact of his society upon the natural world and about taking responsibility for his actions. I wanted to touch on this in a way that might inspire a reader to consider if the practises around them, considered to be the normal, are really worth their cost.

There are new characters introduced too, one of whom I am particularly enthusiastic about, Schlepper. He is Contraptionist (that’s an inventor of contraptions to you and me!) who, as a wheelchair user, invents leg alternatives for himself. He is a hugely positive and engaging character inspired by my father, who never once allowed his physical challenges to slow him down.

All this along-side a romping good adventure of course!

Do you think it is more difficult or easier to write a sequel?

I think that depends on your plan from the start. Before writing the ‘Adventures of Phyllo Cane’, I wrote a cosy mystery called ‘Angel Drake is Going Solo’. I fully intended for Angel Drake to be the star of a series of mysteries, but that first book was the entire story I had in my head at the time. Getting ready to write book two was difficult because I felt like I had to reinvent her.

With the ‘Adventures of Phyllo Cane’ it’s completely different. When I came up with the idea it formed as a series of stories, seven in total. When I finished book one, I knew that really the story was only just beginning. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t have every single detail planned out, but I know broadly where we are heading and I’m excited to tell the next part of the story.

Now I’m plotting out the third and I don’t think that’s anywhere near as daunting as it might be otherwise.

What is the first book that made you cry?

I had to really think about this and honestly, I don’t read books that make me cry. I like to escape into my stories and if I think that place is going to be one of tears (or horror) then I’m not going.

Having said that, I did shed a tear when Phyllo completed his task with Tamer Venor and was flying home – it had all been such a struggle!

If you could meet your characters, what would you say to them?

I’d tell Phyllo not to give up or lose heart. He’s got a challenging road ahead.

I’d ask Tamer Venor to teach me how to meld with a dragon.

I’d ask Marvel to make me something in the Confectionary that brought back memories of rolling down grassy hills in the sunshine with my childhood friends.

What writing advice would you give to people aspiring to be a children’s book writer?

Know you audience and how they consume stories. I specifically sought out an editor with lots of experience in the area I wanted to write in. Their advice was invaluable.

Is there anything else you would like to tell readers about your books and writing for children?

Phyllo Cane is an imperfect hero. He’s struggling to meet the expectations of his troupe, but will never give up. He’s got kindness at his core and in the end that will be the making of him. The Adventures of Phyllo Cane are tales of growth, discovery, magic and adventure and I hope that they will resonate with young and older readers alike. They are suitable for children, yes, but I like to think of them as fantasy with a PG rating, rather than being babyish in anyway.

Thank you Sharn for agreeing to be interviewed on my blog today as part of your tour.

Thanks very much for taking an interest in my stories about Phyllo Cane. I really hope you enjoy them. Best, Sharn.

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The Adventures of Phyllo Cane are available as ebook for Kindle and are included in Kindle Unlimited. Paperbacks are available for order from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Waterstones. Most book stores will be able to order it in. If you visit the Amazon pages you will be able to see full descriptions and the possibility of downloading a free sample for kindle. The international book link to the series is: mybook.to/PhylloCane

You can find out more about Sharn W Hutton and her book Phyllo Cane and the Magical Menagerie on her website: www.sharnhutton.com, Facebook: @SharnHuttonAuthor and Instagram: @sharnious

I would also like to thank Anne Cater from Random Things Through My Letterbox for organising this blog tour and inviting me to take part. Thank you.

You can visit the rest of the blog tour here:

My book review of Phyllo Cane and the Magical Menagerie by Sharn W. Hutton is scheduled to appear next month, on Wednesday 26th October, so please keep an eye out for it.

Blog Tour – Petra and the Sewer Rat by G J Kemp

My stop on the Petra and the Sewer Rat by G J Kemp blog tour today, will take the form of a book review.

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TitlePetra and the Sewer Rats

Written by: G. J. Kemp

Cover illustrated by: Andrei

Published by: TB5 Publishing

Petra and the Sewer Rats by G. J. Kemp

A quick and easy read. Petra and the Sewer Rats is the story of a young girl who dares disobey the town of Fairacre’s rules to save its unwanted orphans. The town is ruled by men who treat women like property. Petra is a plucky and persistent character who has to deal with being entered into an arranged marriage and then discovers she is pregnant by another man.

This novella provides a fascinating peek into a dark and dangerous world. I found there were a lot of characters to keep track of in such a short book. These characters may have been more familiar to me and easier to identify with if I had read some of the other books. Most of the action is moved on by speech which moves at a rapid pace.

Petra and the Sewer Rats is a story of discovery and determination. I can imagine it as a play performed on the stage, Oliver Twist style.

I would like to thank Anne Cater from Random Things Through My Letterbox for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. Thank you.

You can follow the rest of the tour at the stops below:

You can find out more about G. J. Kemp on his website: www.gjkemp.co.uk and follow him on Twitter @tb5publishing, Instagram @tb5publishing and Facebook @tb5publishing.

Blog Tour – Sid’s Big Fib by Roo Parkin

Exciting news! Today I am hosting Roo Parkin for the next stop of their blog tour for their picture book, Sid’s Big Fib, published by Maverick Books.

Roo Parkin

Sid and his friend Lulu are always trying to outdo each other. Yet, Lulu always seems to win their brag-a-thons until one day, Sid tells a fib, which quickly escalates to a bigger and then an even bigger fib. Sid considers telling the truth but before he knows it his fib is discovered. After setting things right, Sid learns you don’t have to lie to have fun.

Sid’s Big Fib by Roo Parkin and Irina Avgustinovich

I hope hope you are as eager as me to learn more about Sid’s Big Fib and Roo’s writing process so let’s get on with the interview.

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What inspired you to write Sid’s Big Fib?

Sid’s story (about two children desperate to outdo one another) began life in a writing class. Why it took the form it did was probably down to a myriad of things. I had powerful childhood memories of certain super-competitive playmates and their comical but disproportionate desires to be ‘the best’. (Whatever ‘the best’ was supposed to be.) It also struck me how, sometimes, this never goes away. One glance at social media will show you how people love to out-holiday, out-handbag, out-cake one another. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sharing fun details about your life, but let’s say not everything is always as it seems. I also love using language in fun ways, and Sid’s story had an escalating energy of its own that really lent itself to that.

How do you get inside your character’s heads? 

I won’t claim I always do this but, for Sid, I spent some time writing an extract from his point of view about many things not necessarily connected to the story. Themes included Sid’s thoughts about school, who he found cool, why his dad sometimes annoyed him. It was nice to find his voice without worrying about the word count.

What’s your favourite writing snack or drink?

I’d say chocolate buttons. A lot of chocolaty bang for your buck if you let them melt in your mouth one by one with a nice cup of tea.

Do you have a favourite spread in the book?

Hmm. Story-wise, the second spread where we realise Lulu is going to out-brag Sid every time with her cheeky backchat and things are going to spiral. Illustration-wise, there’s a great double spread where the school dinner lady rumbles Sid’s fib. The kids have clocked it too and there is so much emotion in those drawings: fury, shock, absolute hysteria. The brilliant illustrator, Irina Avgustinovich, excelled at bringing my words to life.

What books did you grow up reading?

You know, I don’t remember reading that many picture books when I was little. I was always in the King’s Lynn town library, and they must have had some, but maybe not as many as they’ll have now! Later, Winnie the Pooh was a great favourite of mine – an incredible piece of work, and I loved all the usual children’s classics. But The Witch’s Daughter by Nina Bawden had a big impact on me – such an atmospheric story that amazes me to this day.

Who has been the biggest supporter of your writing? 

For sure, my crit group The Book Bees. They put in so much effort reading drafts and making suggestions. My writing experience wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without those ladies. Friends and family are thrilled for me, of course they are, but no one else quite understands the process or what the wins and disappointments mean as much as other writers. There are also lots of lovely people on Twitter who happily yeek, yay and retweet stuff – which is so kind and much appreciated.

Is there an aspect of writing for children you wish someone had told you when you started out?

That everything would take ages but getting published was something I could achieve. I would have applied myself much, much earlier if I had known! I thought it was something other people did and that those ‘other’ people all had first class English degrees from elite universities. There is so much free or affordable information out there now – no one should feel that writing is only for members of an exclusive club.

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I would like to thank Maverick Books for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I would also like to thank Roo Parkin for agreeing to a Q&A for this stop of the tour. Thank you.

To join the other stops of the Sid’s Big Fib by Roo Parkin blog tour check out the schedule below:

You can find out more about Roo Parkin and her books on Twitter @RooParkin, and on Instagram @roogirl73.

Sid’s Big Fib by Roo Parkin and Irina Avgustinovich is available to buy from Maverick, or from your local bookshop, or online at uk.bookshop.org, an organisation with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops. It is also available at:

Blog Tour: Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao

It is with great pleasure I join the blog tour for Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao.

Xiran Jay Zhao

Xiran Jay Zhao is the #1 bestselling author of the Iron Widow duology. A first-gen Hui Chinese immigrant from small-town China to Vancouver, Canada, they were raised by the internet and made the inexplicable decision to leave their bio-chemistry degree in the dust to write books and make educational content instead. Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor is their first middle grade novel.

My contribution to the blog tour will take the form of a book review.

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Title: Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor

Written by: Xiran Jay Zhao

Cover Design by: Karyn Lee

Cover illustration by: Velinxi

Published by: Rock the Boat

Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao

Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor is a fun, roller-coaster middle-grade fantasy with foundations in the real world. I must say that before I even opened the book I was captivated by the fantastic front cover designed by Karyn Lee and illustrated by Velinxi. It is absolutely gorgeous and had me mesmerised. The story follows twelve-year-old Chinese-American, Zachary Ying, who has been bought up by his mother first in New York and then in Maine, United States, after they escaped from the Chinese government.

In the same way as Rick Riordan uses Egyptian mythology in the Kane Chronicles and Greek mythology in his Percy Jackson series, author Xiran Jay Zhao, successfully uses Chinese mythology and folktales in what promises to be the first of the Zachary Ying books. The amusing chapter titles were a clever device, which made me want to read on and find out more.

I enjoyed the exploration of modern day Chinese politics with all its trials and tribulations  and was fascinated by the amazing diversity of the Chinese people. I also felt Zack’s apprehension about other people’s attitudes to his cultural background was realistically portrayed. This was evident in the fact his mum didn’t teach him Mandarin, as she didn’t want him to have an accent at school, and in the way he furtively tries to compost his freshly cooked Asian packed lunch as he does not want the other children to tease him about not eating ‘American’ food. However, because he never embraces his Chinese heritage he is utterly unprepared for the ensuing quest. He is told more than once he worries too much about what people think of him.

Zack is a great character with a unique voice who captures the reader from the start. He plays as a team with his so-called ‘friends’, in his favourite online augmented reality game, Mythrealm, which is played through a clear AR headset, styled like a hero’s mask from DC or Marvel, as can be seen on the beautiful front cover. The game is a Pokémon-style game where players wander the streets to find unique characters. Xiran Jay Zhao cleverly combines this AR gaming with Chinese myths and history to create an exciting action-packed adventure that will have readers hooked.

Simon Li, who channels the Emperor Taizong of Tang, arrives at his school and explains to Zack he is a descendant of the First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, and was born to host this Dragon Emperor’s spirit. But Qin Shi Huang fails to possess Zack’s body and binds to Zack’s AR gaming headset instead. The Dragon Emperor presents Zack with gaming tags through the headset, which provides often hilarious key facts about each new character, explaining their role in history and effectively move the story forward.

When Zack’s mum’s soul is abducted and she consequently falls into a coma, Zack is told he must travel with the spirit-possessed headset to China to help shut the portal to the China’s underworld to save her. They have until the deadline of the seventh lunar month (known as Ghost Month) which is in only fourteen days. He believes if they fail he could lose his mum forever.

In China, Zack and Simon meet up with Melissa Wu, who channels the only female emperor in China’s history, Wu Zetian. Zack must learn how to use the emperor’s water dragon powers so together with his new ‘friends’ they can find the magical Chinese artefacts to defeat a host of historical and fictional figures.

Xiran Jay Zhao’s world building is excellent. I liked the way the magic became more powerful through the stories being kept alive in people’s minds, despite whether they are fact or fiction, and how this linked to the stories portrayed in computerised games and movies, as well as in the myths and legends.

Through his journey Zack learns about his ancestry and discovers Emperor Qin Shi Huang was a tyrant who lies, cheats and killed many people to get what he wanted. Zack struggles with whether he should be helping him or not. As the story progresses, he finds it more and more difficult to determine right from wrong. He ultimately discovers what it means to be truly strong.

I would recommend this book to all middle-grade readers who love fast-paced fantasy adventures. I am looking forward to the second book in the series.

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To follow the rest of the blog tour please take a look at the schedule below:

I would like to thank Anne Cater from Random Things Through My Letterbox for organising this blog tour and inviting me to take part. I would also like to thank Rock the Boat publishers for sending me a review copy. Thank you.

You can find Xiran Jay Zhao on Twitter @XiranJayZhao for memes, Instagram @xiranjayzhao for cosplays and fancy outfits, TikTok @xiranjayzhao for fun short videos, and YouTube @xiranjayzhao for long videos about Chinese history and culture.

You can buy copies of Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao from your local bookshop, or online at uk.bookshop.org, an organisation with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops.

Blog Tour – Secrets of an Undercover Activist by Nat Amoore

I am happy to announce today is my stop on the Secrets of an Undercover Activist by Nat Amoore blog tour.

Nat Amoore

Nat Amoore wrote and directed international award-winning short film Elemenopee. She currently has a feature film and a kids’ TV series in development. Nat was a recipient of the CBCA Maurice Saxby Creative Development Program for 2018. Nat has a kid-lit podcast One More Page, which was nominated for the ‘Best Newcomer’ category at the Australian Podcast Awards 2018. Nat’s debut Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire was a children’s book bestseller in Australia and Secrets of an Undercover Activist won the Environment Award for Children’s Literature. But most importantly, she used to be a trapeze artist and had a pet kangaroo when she was little.

Secrets of an Undercover Activist by Nat Amoore

A brilliant, fast-paced adventure that will have you laughing in your seats. Casey Wu tries to stay out of the spotlight, which is why no one would suspect her of being the mastermind behind a string of attention-grabbing pranks at her school.

Together with best friends Zeke and Cookie, she is part of Green Peas – a secret activist organisation designed to make adults sit up and pay attention to important environmental issues. But when the three young activists get wind of a major cover up in their town, things really start to get serious. It’s time for Green Peas to stage their biggest prank yet. This book is hard to put down.

Winner of the Environment Award for Children’s Literature in Australia. Shortlisted for the Readings Children’s Book Prize 2021. Shortlisted for the Young Australians Best Book Awards for Older Readers

Todays’ stop takes the form of an author interview. 

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What are the underlying themes of Secrets of an Undercover Activist?

There’s a lot going on under the surface of this book. The fun pitch is ‘three kids who are passionate about the environment take down an evil mayor who is trying to destroy their local park using epic pranks’. But like all good stories, ‘Secrets of an Undercover Activist’ is layered and complex. It explores themes of activism, how far is too far, grief, loss, family relationships, friendship and community, finding your tribe, disability representation, self-reliance, making yourself heard, standing up for what you believe in and the grey area between right and wrong. I know that sounds like a lot for one kid’s book but I always want my books to reflect the world kids live in and kids run into all of this and more on a daily basis. I like to create a safe space for kids to explore all the things they are thinking about (and sometimes worrying about) while being lost in a hilarious and adventurous story.

If you were going to be an activist, what cause would you be most passionate about?

Oh this is so hard. There are SO many things going on right now that honestly keep me up at night. I guess I would have to say equal human rights because it’s a big umbrella idea that covers a lot of things that I am passionate about. For everyone to be able to live their lives safely and freely and make their own choices about themselves, their bodies, their relationships and how they live their lives.

How did you develop Cassie’s Wu’s voice?

There is a little bit of me in Casey. I think there is a little bit of me in all my main characters – it’s how I get the authenticity to begin with. But then I really need each character to feel and sound different, especially because I write in first person a lot. So I try and think of someone in my life who aligns closely with my character and channel them as I write. I know a kid who is very intelligent and strong-minded but also a little shy and ‘behind-the-scenes’. I kept her in mind a lot as I was writing Casey. But after I get a decent amount into the story, I find my characters usually take on a life of their own and I don’t have to try anymore, it’s like they speak to me.

What was the most fun scene to write of Secrets of an Undercover Activist?

Oooohhh, a lot of it was REALLY fun to write but if I had to choose, probably the opening scene. It’s based on a real prank at my school assembly and it was so much fun for me to write down what was essentially now a sort of movie scene in my head. In my previous book ‘Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire’ there is a mention of Casey and the alarm clock prank she wanted to do and ever since then I have wanted to write that scene. I think it makes a great opener and we learn so much about Casey in just one chapter. It also makes a really fun read aloud and sets up the tone of the book perfectly. I do have to admit all the pranks were fun to write though because I wanted them to be quite sophisticated and complicated so that took a lot of thought and consideration.

Tell us about your YouTube channel and any other forms of social media you think are useful for authors.

I have mixed feelings about how much social media helps me as a kid’s author (it’s different if you write for adults or teens). Nothing for me has more impact than actually getting in front of kids, connecting with them, making them laugh, getting them excited about reading. But we know this is not always possible. The beauty of things like YouTube is it allows me to connect with readers in remote areas, overseas, during Covid. It also creates content for teachers, librarians and parents to share with kids. So I definitely think you need a presence on social media but I’m not sure it needs to eat up half your life. I would rather spend time WITH kids than on social media or creating online content but, that being said, I love making funny videos and so YouTube (or videos for social content) is where I do dedicate my online time because I believe it is most likely to reach my most important audience – the kids!

If you could tell your younger writing-self anything what would it be?

Well, when I was young, I NEVER thought I would be a writer. I thought authors were super clever people who knew all the big words and knew where all the commas went and what a semi-colon is (I’m still not sure about that one). What I didn’t realise is that the most important part of being a writer is being a great storyteller. The rest you can learn if you want to. So I guess I’d tell my younger-self – ‘You’re wrong. If you want to, you can do it.’ I’d also tell myself to climb more trees while you’re young because people look at you weird when you do it as an adult!

Is there anything else you would like to tell readers about Secrets of an Undercover Activist and writing middle grade?

I think it is a surprising book (at least that’s what people keep telling me). It has everything you might expect – fun, humour, action-filled hijinks and a strong message about standing up and making yourself heard. But it has quieter themes of loss, family, differences, learning about yourself, diverse families, disability representation and finding out who you are. People (adults and kids) often write to me after reading my books to say they were surprised they had to reach for a tissue or about the in-depth conversations they had with their kids after reading it. I love that. I love to surprise a reader. Someone once said that my books were like ‘hiding vegies in the bolognaise sauce’ – I didn’t realise I did that. I just write how I feel. But if kids expect fun and hilarity from my work and then they get that AND a little bit more – then I couldn’t be more stoked!

What are your social media links where can people find out about you and your books?

Great question! Come follow me/check me out, I’d love to see you all online…

Where is the best place for people to buy your book in the UK?

I am fortunate enough that there are many places to buy my book in the UK. Fantastic stores like Waterstones of course. Or if you love to support your local indies, then check our bookshop.org. Or just head to the Rock The Boat website and decide for yourself…

Thank you Nat for agreeing to be interviewed as part of your blog tour.

You are VERY welcome 😊

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I would also like to thank Anne Cater from Random Things Through My Letterbox for organising this blog tour and inviting me to take part. Thank you.

You can visit the rest of the blog tour here:

And don’t forget you can find out more about Nat Amoore on her website: https://www.natamoore.com/ and follow her on Twitter @nat_amoore on Instagram @nat_amoore and on Facebook @NatAmooreWriter. Check out her podcasts on YouTube at: Nat Amoore.  

My book review of Secrets of an Undercover Activist by Nat Amoore is scheduled to appear next month, on Wednesday 31st August, so please keep an eye out for it.

Blog Tour – Black Night Falling by Teri Terry

It is with great pleasure I join the blog tour for Teri Terry and her latest book Black Night Falling, the explosive finale of The Circle Trilogy. I have admired Teri’s books for a long time and I am an avid follower of her writing.

Teri Terry

The fate of the natural world lies in the hands of three teenagers. Captured by The Circle, Tabby is taken to their headquarters, Undersea. She learns about their ancient sisterhood, sworn to protect the planet, and that she is one of ‘the Chosen.’

In London, Hayden finds herself at the centre of a coming together of disparate climate change groups. Denzi is missing, and Hayden’s path to finding him is laced with danger. People all around the world are demanding clean air and blue skies, and on the cusp of humanity making change for the good, Tabby, Hayden, and Denzi’s paths draw closer together.

But as old friends arrive to help, old enemies resurface. The Circle’s endgame comes into focus and Tabby, Hayden, and Denzi must race to prevent the destruction ahead. 

Black Night Falling by Teri Terry

Teri kindly agreed to be interviewed for my slot in the blog tour.

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What inspired you to write The Circle trilogy?

A combination of things: I love the sea – I’m obsessed with being around water, much like Tabby;  weird science is totally my thing; and I’m desperately worried about climate change.

What comes first for you, the plot or the characters, and why?

A: This depends on the story. Sometimes they start with a character and a scene and I have no real idea who they are or where the story is going to go (eg. Slated). Other times there is a theme I want to write about (eg. Mind Games) and I develop a story and a character to go with it. And sometimes it all begins with an aspect of weird science that I want to write about (eg. Contagion – anti-matter; The Circle trilogy – using genetic engineering in a particular cohort). But overall, to me the plot comes from the characters, not the other way around.

What was your hardest scene to write in Black Night Falling, and why?

A: Usually endings are the fun part: by the time I get to them I know exactly what is going to happen and why. With The Circle trilogy this was the hardest part. I wanted there to be reasons for hope that humanity could solve the climate crisis, but equally I didn’t want to come up with some easy solution that fixes everything – it’s not the kind of problem where that is possible. I agonised a lot, trying to get the balance right.

Would you and your main character, Tabby, get along? 

Honestly, I don’t know – I can’t picture us in the same world.

Climate change is an important theme throughout The Circle trilogy. If you had to choose one, which of the climate change groups in Black Night Falling would you support?

Hayden’s group is pretty awesome!

Do you have a favourite place to write?

I don’t like to write in noisy, busy places – so cafes or on trains don’t work for me. My favourite places change all the time, but I’ve got a swing seat in the garden that tops the list in this sunny weather.

What writing advice would you give to people aspiring to be a YA book writer?

Read, read, read. Write because you love it. Have another way to pay the bills.

Is there anything else you would like to tell readers about your books and writing for children?

If you like a book – review it. Please! Reviews are so important.

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I would like to thank Teri Terry for agreeing to be a guest on my blog during her blog tour for Black Night Falling. I would also like to thank Hachette Publishing for organising the tour and inviting me to take part. Thank you.

Check out the schedule below to follow and catch up with the rest of the Black Night Falling by Teri Terry tour:

You can find out more about Teri Terry and her books on Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/teriterrywrites/, Twitter: http://twitter.com/TeriTerryWrites, Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TeriTerryMe/ and her website is : http://teriterry.com

You can buy copies of Black Night Falling by Teri Terry from your local independent bookseller. They need our support to survive; we need them to ensure a healthy book trade where there is room for all the diversity of reading experiences. Chains and online sellers are also available.

Blog Tour – Why We Walk by Shannon Wilvers

Today I am excited to be joining the blog tour for Why We Walk by Shannon Wilvers.

When we walk we see things that we would have missed if we drove. Things like birds, cats, & squirrels. When we walk we have fun spending time together. We talk and learn how walking can help to care for our planet. Join Siena and her dad as they walk to school and discover every little step counts.

Why We Walk by Shannon Wilvers

This is the second book in the Siena’s Stories series. The first book, The Dance of the Snow Tractors, was named a top book for children in the automobile category by Newsweek magazine.

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What inspired you to write Why We Walk?

My daughter asked me that real question as we walked to school. I thought it was a bit silly to see my neighbours pack their children in the car just to travel a few blocks to school. I cherish the time I spent walking to school with my daughter.

Who is the ideal reader for your book, Why We Walk?

I used to take my daughter to pre school reading time at the local library. I wanted a book to reach that audience. Age one to six.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

My process of writing did not really change, but now I constantly think about how daily activities and situations can be recorded in a picture book.

What advice would you give to help others create their picture book plotlines?

I use Microsoft Power Point. I add text to a slide and find a picture as reference for Shannon to draw. I am a loyal fan of legendary comic artist Neal Adams who passed away recently. Neal once told me that if you wanted good art, provide good references. I take that wisdom to heart.

Do you have a favourite spread in the book?

I am an avid bird watcher. The birds in the book are my favourite illustrations.

What is your favourite thing about writing for children?

Children light up when they see nice colourful pictures. I think the story is secondary but necessary.

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I would like to take the opportunity to thank Rachel’s Random Resources for organising this blog tour and to Shannon Wilvers or agreeing to be interviewed.

To view the rest of the blog tour take a look at the schedule.

Blog Tour – The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks by Emily Kenny

It is with great pleasure I am taking part in the fabulous blog tour for author Emily Kenny and her debut novel The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks, published by Rock the Boat, an imprint of Oneworld Publications.

Emily Kenny

The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks is about an autistic girl who finds it difficult to make friends at her new boarding school. She discovers she has switcher powers where she can speak to and change into animals. She uses her new powers to help her solve the mystery of the missing animals.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks
by Emily Kenny

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Q&A session with Emily Kenny

Thanks so much Emily for agreeing to be interviewed as part of the blog tour for your debut novel, The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks. This is the ninth stop of your tour and I am thrilled to be taking part so let’s quickly dive into the first question:

Where did you get the brilliant idea for a girl who could not only talk to animals but can shapeshift into them too?

The idea came from the way in which many Autistic and neurodivergent people have a particular affinity with animals, often finding them much easier to relate to and communicate with than other humans. I just stretched this idea a bit further by having Alice learn to switch.

Tell us a little bit about the themes of friendship and self-acceptance within the book.

There are lots of different friendships in The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks: Alice and the library cat, Alice and the other animals, Alice and Ottie and Tim, and also Alice with key adults like the school chef and the librarian. I wanted to show the tricky, stop-start side of friendship as well as how wonderful a close friendship can be when it is finally achieved.

In terms of self-acceptance, I wanted to show both neurodivergent and neurotypical readers that Alice comes not only to accept but to celebrate her differences. I think that’s something we could all get better at.

How did you go about creating your cast of children and talking animals?

The animals were far, far easier than the children! The animals’ personalities came to me fully-formed, along with their voices, whereas the children needed more refinement. For Tim, I definitely wanted someone quirky but really good-hearted and loyal, whereas with Ottie I tried to keep things a bit more ambiguous, at least to begin with. The bullies who make Alice’s life unpleasant were easier to write as I remembered girls like that from school only too well…

Do you have a favourite place to write?

I like to write anywhere that’s quiet but particularly like snuggling up in bed to let my imagination run wild and get words on the page (or screen!). However, my son, who has just turned one, isn’t a big fan of letting me slip away and write so that’s proving a bit tricky at the moment…

Is there anything else you would like to tell readers about The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks?

The story takes place at a clifftop boarding school outside a little seaside town. I boarded as a teenager and I’ve tried to create a home away from home for my readers too.

What writing advice would you give to people trying to break into the children’s book market?

Write the book you need to write. Don’t worry too much about the market or what is selling for big bucks in The Bookseller. I really believe if you write the story that demands to be told then there will be a reader who needs to hear it.

Thank you Emily for giving us a peek into your writing world and your time and cooperation in taking part in the Q & A session.

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You can find out more about Emily Kenny and her books on her website: emilykenny.co.uk, on Twitter @Emilie_London and on Facebook: @EmilyKennyauthor. She’d love to hear from you so please get in touch.

To visit the rest of Emily’s The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks blog tour take a look at the schedule below.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Alice Tonks is available to buy now 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 Anne Cater from Random Things Through My Letterbox for organising this blog tour and inviting me to take part. Thank you.

Blog Tour – Robbie, or How To Be A Detective by Caroline Conran

Today I am taking part in the book tour for Caroline Conran and her debut children’s book, Robbie, or How To Be A Detective, published by Unicorn Publishing Group. Caroline has written many cookery books before turning her hand to writing for children.

Today my stop on the blog tour will take the form of a book review.

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Title: ROBBIE or How To Be a Detective

Written by: Caroline Conran

Published by: Unicorn Publishing Group

ROBBIE, or How to be a Detective by Caroline Conran

ROBBIE, or How To Be A Detective is about a boy who is quiet, withdrawn and lonely. He lives with his parents in the Port of Arlen, Northern Ireland. Robbie does not have any friends, preferring his own company. He lives in a world of his own, an imaginary place in which he is a detective, finding out secrets. His Dad is a very strict, dislikeable character and he is bullied at school. When he gets a pair of binoculars for Christmas, his world expands, he sees shadows, mysteries and menace all around him. Robbie has to face difficult challenges, fight for what he thinks is right and stay loyal to those he loves.

At the heart of the book is the fact that Robbie loves to sing, like his mum. He is persuaded by Julie, the receptionist at the local Art’s Centre (who is the nearest thing he has to a friend), to audition for the musical of The Little Shop of Horrors, much to his Dad’s disgust. Throughout the book, Caroline racks up the sympathy for Robbie and how he tries to cope with his dad who suddenly dies of a heart attack and the constant bullying at school, which threatens to follow him to his new school, alone.

Caroline Conran’s characterisation is spot on. Each character has their own characteristics and their own voice. In my opinion the dialogue was great. You could hear the Irish accents as you read. The settings were well described and I could imagine the port, the streets of Arlen and the art’s centre vividly. The only thing that let this book down is that it portrayed a rather dated view of a young teenager’s life. There are no mention of mobile phones, or computerised games and consoles, and the bullying takes the form of threatening notes and photos, dead rabbits and physical violence.

A good book for children who like to solve mysteries.

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I would like to thank Anne Cater from Random Things Through My Letterbox for organising this blog tour, inviting me to take part and sending me a copy of the book to review. Thank you.

Blog Tour – Evolution by Zelda Conway

I am pleased to be hosting another author interview on my blog today. This time I am featuring Zelda Conway and her book, Evolution, published by ZunTold Publishing.

Evolution explores what it is like to have a parent who decides to have gender reassignment. This is a great book for both children and parents, and would also be a useful resource for teachers, counsellors and everyone who works with young people.

Evolution by Zelda Conway

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Q&A session with Zelda Conway

Thanks Zelda for agreeing to be interviewed on my blog as part of your blog tour. Evolution is such a fantastic book. I think it is great to have different family lifestyles reflected in children’s fiction. This time I am kicking off the blog tour with the first stop, which is exciting. So let’s get straight to the questions:

Tell us a little about the inspiration for your novel, Evolution.

It’s based on experience. A member of my family has undergone gender reassignment and I supported her all the way. It’s a brave thing to do and is never done lightly.

Why did you decide to write a children’s book about a parent who decides they need to change from being a man to becoming a woman?

It’s brilliant that we are now more aware of gender reassignment and that it’s losing its stigma. It’s a topic that we read more and more about, but it seems to me that there’s very little in the way of books for the children of transgender parents, and for any other child who might be interested. Of course, kids with trans parents are part of the story, too. I wanted to write a book that could help kids like that, that would show them that others have been in similar situations, and that promotes understanding of gender reassignment generally. It was important to me to be honest – it can be a tough call for everyone involved – but it isn’t the end. Your mum or dad doesn’t stop loving you because they look different to how they used to.

What was the most difficult part about writing Evolution?

Deciding how much of my own experience to put in, and where it was appropriate to fictionalise without sensationalising things. It needed to have enough drama to keep young readers involved, and finding that balance was really tough. I hope I’ve got it right.

Talk us through your writing process.

For me, the story and setting are often the driving force, but with Evolution it was different. The character of Dan – the boy with the trans dad – was the starting point. Again, he’s based on someone I know, and some of his words are pretty well verbatim.

With Dan in my mind and heart, I set about creating his world – his school life, home life, family, friends and interests. I usually start to write pretty quickly and then go back and do lots of refining of what I’ve written but this was a bit different, probably because so much background stuff was decided before I started writing.

I usually know where my stories will end, but once again, Evolution was different. I knew the end would be positive, to reflect my own experience of this issue, but I had to wait for the story to unfold in its own time before I realised exactly what it would be.

Is there an aspect of writing for children you wish someone had told you when you started out?

Everyone tells you that writing for children – and getting published of course – is tough, but you can’t know how tough until you’re part of it. I wish I’d been better prepared for the highs and lows, especially the lows. You toughen up as your journey as a children’s writer continues.

What writing advice would you give to other children’s writers wanting to write about diverse family life?

Be honest. Follow your heart. Your story IS worth telling and you have the right to tell it. The great thing about writing for children at the moment is that publishers are interested in a much wider range of experience than they were ten years ago. Now is the time to let your story out into the world.

Is there anything else you would like to tell readers about Evolution?

It’s funny as well as topical. At least I think it is. I’ve tried to make it a good read. It’s not heavy handed and I think a lot of kids and even older readers will find it enjoyable. Give it a go! (Please.)

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Zelda for her time and cooperation in taking part in this interview for her Evolution blog tour. It has been a privilege to be included in the tour.

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Zelda does not have a website or anything yet, but is working on it. If readers want to contact her, they can do so via ZunTold’s website: https://zuntold.com/. She hopes you will.

Evolution by Zelda Conway is available to buy now from your local bookshop, or online at uk.bookshop.org, an organisation with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops.