Category Archives: Blog Tour

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. 


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 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 😊


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: 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.


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.


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:, Twitter:, Facebook: and her website is :

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.


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.


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


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.


You can find out more about Emily Kenny and her books on her website:, 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, 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.


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.


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


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.


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: She hopes you will.

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

Blog Tour – Mary : Adrift in the Sea of Sorrow by Kate Cunningham

I am delighted to welcome you to the next stop of the Mary : Adrift in the Sea of Sorrow Blog Tour, the fantastic new book published by Reading Riddle and written by Kate Cunningham.

Kat Cunningham

Mary is kept in a locked white room – alone apart from the testers who take samples from her. Vander was recently given the job as a tester and feels sorry for her. He has lived through the Red Plague and seen the choices families had to make to survive. When he releases Mary his actions trigger events that spiral out of control and change countless lives. Mary must decide what price to put on freedom.

Mary : Adrift in the Sea of Sorrow by Kate Cunningham

Thank you Kate for agreeing to be interviewed on my blog today as part of your Mary : Adrift in the Sea of Sorrow blog tour. Your book is a real eye-opener into human nature and quite poignant in the aftermath of the corona pandemic. I am fascinated to find out more about your writing process for this novel.


So tell us a little about yourself and the inspiration for your book Mary: Adrift in the Sea of Sorrow.

I always wanted to be a writer but it never seemed to be something an ordinary person could do, so I’ve had a few different jobs over the years, including working for a development charity and ten years teaching in large primary schools in London. In hindsight those jobs gave me the skills and knowledge I use now, and I carried on writing throughout that time, joining writing groups in the evening and at weekends. I’m married to historian Sean Cunningham, so at home a lot of our conversations revolve around research and documents, what they tell us and what they might mean for interpreting events.

Mary is inspired by a real person, Mary Mallon, more commonly known as Typhoid Mary. Many years ago I read about her and wondered what would happen if she was around now. The real Mary lived at the start of the 20th century in New York. She was employed as a cook by wealthy families, and after a number of outbreaks of typhoid, it was concluded that she was the common factor and the source of the infections, some of which resulted in deaths. She was confined to North Brother Island, in New York’s East River for many years, but refused to believe that she was responsible for spreading the disease. She was eventually released, but disappeared again. Once more she started working as a cook, and once more infections followed her. She ended up back on the quarantine island but never accepted responsibility for the outbreaks or the deaths. My Mary is also infectious, and in denial.

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

Mary is unusual for me, as I normally write within the framework of a real historical moment, which in turn means I build the plot to fit around that. This is the first time my story has sprung from a person rather than event, and is set in the future rather than the past. This time it was very much character-driven and I really enjoyed having the freedom to go in any direction I (or my characters) chose.

What is a significant way your book has changed since the first draft? 

The first draft focussed on Mary telling the story in the first person, with the idea that she was an unreliable narrator. However, I needed other perspectives and more characters to drive the plot and give a wider view. Mary starts from a very limited place, physically, mentally and emotionally, so her narration would have had a lot of gaps that I felt would become frustrating. The final version is told in the third person, but I am writing a few short side stories that will be shared through my newsletter and I am tempted to explore some first person reports of the events that unfold.

If your book were made into a movie, which actors/actresses do you imagine playing your characters? 

Anya Taylor-Joy would be wonderfully mesmerising while taking Mary on her journey, and Head of the Facility was the easiest choice for me, with Tilda Swinton as Marinda. Dafne Keen would be a suitably spiky Barb and I think Idris Elba would definitely be broody and do what needed to be done as Frank, with the more gentle Amir Wilson as his son, Max. Finally, Alex Lawther would be Vander and Timothee Chalamet (with an English accent) as Shaw.

Do you have any writing rituals?

My week has a pattern with visits to schools at the start of the week and writing at the end, as I’ve found that I’m more productive with solid chunks of time to work on a manuscript. On writing days, I hustle the rest of the family out of the house to work or school, and then brew a huge mug of tea and set up my computer. If it’s been a particularly chaotic morning (or week), I play one game of patience, a version called Gaps or Montana, but it has to be with real physical cards, and just one game to clear my head.

This game involves laying out all the cards in a grid and the act of shuffling and dealing the pack sort of clears my brain of lost bus passes and arguing with my teenage son over whether he will need a coat that day. I did wonder if I was just making excuses for doing this, but there are articles about games being relaxing and releasing endorphins, so I’m feeling less guilty about it now. Computer patience absolutely does not work – that only leads to prevarication and kills productivity!

Is there a particular place you like to write?

I write at the kitchen table. It is six feet long, so has lots of space to spread papers, books, mugs of tea and all the other debris that gathers as the day goes on. It is by a glass door that looks out at our garden – which is a small bricked yard full of lots of pots and planters. We have a growing number of regular bird visitors, including the magpie who tries to get into the bathroom and has succeeded in flying off with a few things left on the windowsill.

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

The core advice is to read a broad range of current children’s books, but linked to that is to support your local library and build a relationship with them. It gives you access to books and people who love books, plus libraries are essential to supporting and nurturing our future readers.


That has been fascinating. It has been brilliant being able to get a peek into the way the book developed and find out more about your vision whilst writing it. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed as part of your book tour on my blog.

You can find out more about Kate Cunningham and her books on her website:, on Twitter @reading_riddle, on Instagram @reading_riddle, on Facebook: and on TikTok: @readingriddle.

Mary : Adrift in the Sea of Sorrow by Kate Cunningham is available to buy through all bookshops, large or small, and all the usual outlets online. Kate also has a free short story, linked to Mary, which is available through the newsletter on her website

You can check out the rest of the blog tour here:

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

Blog Tour – Monty and the Monster by Rhonda Smiley

Today I am joining Rhonda Smiley’s blog tour for her exciting middle-grade adventure, Monty and the Monster.

Rhonda Smiley is a writer living in Glendale, California. After graduating from Concordia University in her native Montreal, Canada with a BFA in Film Production, she began writing for television – everything from family adventure to cop shows to cartoons. Her passion for storytelling led her to become an author, and her first novel, Asper, was awarded the BRAG medallion.

Rhonda Smiley

Monty and the Monster is a story of friendship and learning to trust your own instincts is about a boy who finds it difficult to make friends so decides to create his own friend using potions he discovered in a secret chamber. However, his new friend does not turn out quite as expected.

Monty and the Monster by Rhonda Smiley

Before we start I would like to thank Rhonda for agreeing to be interviewed for this stop on her blog tour. I really enjoyed reading Monty and the Monster and was intrigued to discover more about how you wrote the book. So without further ado, let’s us begin…


Q&A session with Rhonda Smiley

There’s a strong theme of friendship and bullying within your novel. What made you want to explore these themes?

They’re both very relatable themes, especially for children. I was shy as a child and making friends didn’t come easy. At the time, I thought I was the only one who felt that way, which of course wasn’t true. There are a lot of children who feel the same way, and I wanted to make them the hero of their own story. At the same time, I thought it would be interesting for those who do make friends easily to see through Monty’s perspective and get an idea of how it feels from the other side.

Bullying came into play when considering obstacles to Monty’s goal. Even though he can be his own biggest hindrance (can’t we all), I wanted outside complications as well, and bullying is a very real and scary one. It was important to show the emotional effects of it. It made normal everyday events, like going to school, very daunting for Monty. But I also wanted to convey that sometimes bullies have their own inner issues and use bullying as a means of acting out.

What gave you the idea of a child creating their own friend?

I wanted the book to be really funny, full of incredible adventures, and truly heartfelt, and the literal interpretation of “making” a friend was the perfect springboard for all of that.

Of course, Monty tries the conventional way to make a friend at first, but it’s a bust. I love that he doesn’t give up and proactively turns to the replication formula, which is its own humorous undertaking. And when he does make his new friend, well, that opens up a whole new set of challenges. It is a stinky hairy eight-foot-tall monster, after all.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I am definitely a plotter. I started out as a pantster, but when I began writing for television, I was required to do outlines. I dreaded them at first, but soon realized how incredibly helpful they were and ironically how liberating. It’s much easier to write details of a story when you have the structure plotted out and you know where you’re going. That said, if a character or situation sparks a new and exciting direction, I’m all ears, but I always refer back to the outline to make sure it fits within the overall story and that important points aren’t lost.

Talk us through your writing process for Monty and the Monster.

My writing process is pretty much the same for all my works. I start with the broad strokes of an outline, the beginning, middle, and end, and then open it up and fill in the gaps with goals and obstacles and the characters involved.

Once I have the outline, I dive into my “words on paper” draft. That’s where I just get it down and don’t worry too much about phrasing or on-the-nose dialogue. If I come across something that needs researching, like Monty’s skateboarding tricks, for instance, I make a note to do it later and don’t let it interrupt my momentum. It’s the kind of draft you’d never let anyone read, but it’s a wonderful way to lay out all the pertinent information. Once I have that, the real fun begins with finer details, character development, dialogue, and phrasing.

I’d like to say that’s my official first draft, but honestly, I do several more passes, looking for redundancies, crutch words, inconsistencies, and mistakes. When I think the manuscript is as good as it can be, I give it to an editor for overall story notes, which inevitably leads to more drafts.

After that, when I’m absolutely certain it’s as good as it can be, I send it off to beta readers. Getting outside eyes on it is extremely helpful. Of course, more drafts follow. It’s a long process, but every step adds to the depth of character, story, and the world.

How did you develop your characters and their voices so children can identify with them?

My background in children’s television has given me a lot of experience with different age groups as well as a wide range of characters. I’ve written for Little Bear, Rescue Heroes, The Adventures of Chuck and Friends, The Stinky & Dirty Show, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Totally Spies just to name a few. From adventurous boys and girls to crime-solving teens to mutant turtles living in the sewer!

It’s really fun to lose yourself in the mind-set of a child or tween or teen (or bear or truck or turtle) and look at the world through their viewpoint. Many times I’d step back and put myself in Monty’s sneakers to understand how he’d perceive what was happening. Even though the book is on the fantastical side, the characters’ reactions and emotions are still based in reality.

What is your favourite thing about writing for children?

You can’t ask for a better audience. Children are naturally curious and open-minded. I can tackle important topics without being didactic or preachy because children are eager to learn and grow. They pick up on the themes within the entertainment.

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

Research your demographic. Are you writing Chapter Books, Middle Grade, or Young Adult? It’s important to know who you’re writing for, how they see the world, and what’s meaningful to them at this stage in their lives.

If you’re writing for a younger age group, consider what parents would want their children to read since the parents are most likely buying the book. Kids can’t fall in love with your stories if they never get a chance to see them!

And finally, don’t underestimate kids. Even though you want to use language and themes appropriate for their age group, it’s okay to have a word or two they can learn from context. I learned a lot of new words from reading when I was growing up. Actually, I still do.

Thank you again Rhonda for joining me on my blog. You have given us a great insight into your writing process for Monty and the Monster.


You can find out more about Rhonda Smiley and her books on her website: and follow her on Twitter @RhondaJSmiley.

You can buy a copy of Monty and the Monster by Rhonda Smiley from Kobo UK and Amazon UK here in the UK and in the US you can get your copy from: Amazon US, Barnes & Noble and Kobo US.

Check out the rest of the blog tour here:

I would like to thank Anne Cater from Random Things Through My Letterbox for organising this blog tour and inviting me to take part. Hopefully this will be the first of many more. Thank you.

Blog Tour – How Messy! by Clare Helen Welsh

It is with great pleasure and excitement that I host my first ever blog tour. The blog tour is for renowned picture book writer Clare Helen Welsh who will be telling us about her latest book, How messy!

Clare Helen Welsh

How messy! is the first in the Dot and Duck series written by Clare Helen Welsh and illustrated by Olivier Tallec. More titles in the series include How Rude! and How Selfish! and they are published by Happy Yak, an imprint of Quarto Publishing. How Messy! is about Duck’s very untidy habits, much to his best friend Dot’s despair.

How Messy! by Clare Helen Welsh and Olivier Tallec


Q&A session with Clare Helen Welsh

Thanks so much Clare for being the first ever of the blog tours featured on my blog. I love your picture books. This is the last stop of your tour so we have a lot to live up to. Let’s get started with the first question…

Tell us a little about the book and your inspiration.

How Messy! is the third book in the Dot and Duck series, illustrated by Olivier Tallec and published by Happy Yak, an imprint of Quarto. It features two characters – Dot who hates mess and Duck who hates tidy! In the story, the friends learn the importance of teamwork and to embrace each other’s differences.

The book started out life as a title! When the first book in the series went to acquisitions, I was asked to suggest some follow up ideas if the books were a hit (Happily there were!)

The Dot and Duck books are very much inspired by family life and my time as a school teacher. In How Messy, which is set near the beach – I love the beach! – Dot and Duck are partly modelled on my husband and me (although I shan’t tell you who is who!) There’s also a lot of younger me in Duck, too. My family often tell me I was messy when I was growing up, but I always (usually?!) knew where everything was. It was creative, organised mess that made perfect sense to me!

Do you have a favourite spread in the book?

That’s a hard question to answer – I love all of Olivier’s artwork! There’s a twist at the end, which I think has been brought to life wonderfully. But to avoid spoilers, I’ll choose the spread where Duck is making pancakes but wearing most of the mixture. It feels very authentic to me!

Tell us about some of the other books in the Dot and Duck series.

How Rude! is the first book in the Dot and Duck series. Dot invites Duck to a tea party, but from the moment Duck enters the house, the tea party descends into chaos; from licking sandwich fillings to spitting tea, Duck gets ruder… and ruder… and ruder.

How Rude! by Clare Helen Welsh and Olivier Tallec

This book was followed by How Selfish! in which Dot and Duck find a stick. But Dot thinks it’s a sword and Duck thinks it’s a flag. Dot refuses to share the new toy and goes to any lengths to make sure Duck doesn’t try to take it.  Both books have simple, funny, but ultimately touching arcs that we hope will appeal to any child who is learning what it means to be a true friend

How Selfish! by Clare Helen Welsh and Olivier Tallec

What was your writing process for the Duck and Dot series?

When Dot and Duck initially went on submission, the text was called ‘Luke and the Penguin Problem.’ Before that it was called ‘Don’t Poke the Penguin.’ It was written back in 2016 when I had a lot to learn (I still do, of course!) By the time we had signed contracts with Quarto, I had rewritten the text from first person, into third person, into dialogue only AND changed the animal and main character! I think there’s a lot to be said for being flexible with early ideas. How Selfish! Was the first story, but when I was asked to pitch alternative titles if the book were to be made into a series, the team felt How Rude! would be the stronger title to lead with.  

With all the books in this series, I’ve known the ending before I begin writing and I start by jotting down a pitch line to sum up the takeaway, thinking of scenes that build to this point. My original pitch line for How Messy was ‘Dot hates mess and Duck hates tidy. On holiday together, can they find the perfect compromise?’ This helps keep me focused and allows me to see clearly what to put in and what to keep out. My pitch lines often evolve as the book is written, but there isn’t any space for waffle in a picture book so I find this helps.

Do you have any writing rituals?

How I write a book usually depends on the type of book, how well thought-through the idea is and if there is a deadline for it or not! These days I tend to start on the Notes pages on my phone, where there is less white space and less pressure to create something perfect. I always write in spreads and sometimes jump to the end or the crisis point – not necessarily writing in order. Then I email these notes to myself and beautify them in a word document. It’s less intimidating as far as first drafts go.

Is there a particular place you like to write?

I’m quite flexible as a writer and I can write pretty much anywhere – in bed, on the sofa, on the beach, in a traffic jam… I’ll refrain from saying on the toilet… in the bath! At the moment, I’m very productive in my living room, which is my office in the daytime. I have all my essential to hand – blankets, snacks, a drink, background noise and a pooch for company.

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

It’s not a new piece of advice unfortunately, but an important one. READ! Read books like the ones you want to write. Read the books you wish you’d written. Read books you like and books you don’t. Read unpublished texts such as those of your peers. Do read for enjoyment but also read critically. Join a critique croup and get into the practice of analysing what works and why and what works less well. These skills will help you in your own writing and will also give you a sense of the industry, so you can find your way in.

Anita, thank you SO much for having me on your blog. I’ve really loved answering your thought-provoking questions – a very lovely way to celebrate How Messy!

And thank you Clare for giving us such a useful insight into the world of writing picture books. I love getting a peek into an author’s writing process. It has been fun being the last stop of your How messy! blog tour.


You can find out more about Clare Helen Welsh and her books on her website:, on Twitter @ClareHelenWelsh and on Facebook: Books by Clare Helen Welsh.

Take a look at the schedule below to catch up with the other blog stops that have hosted Clare’s How Messy! tour.

How messy! and the rest of the Dot and Duck series is available to buy now from your local bookshop, or online at, an organisation with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops.

I have previously reviewed The Perfect Shelter by Clare Helen Welsh and Åsa Gilland. You can read the review here: Book Review: The Perfect Shelter.