Monday 30 September 2013

Month of Guests 2013: Keris Stainton

The lovely Keris Stainton is here again this year!  And without further ado, onto Keris....

My Favourite YA Tearjerkers

I love a good tearjerker. For some reason, I always end up reading the saddest books in public - I've sobbed on many trains and planes and I finished My Sister's Keeper in Starbucks, blowing my nose on the napkins. So I thought I'd share a few of my favourite YA tearjerkers in case I'm not alone in my love of books that make you blub…

Dear Zoe by Phillip Beard
I sigh whenever I think about this book - it's just gorgeous. It's narrated by Tess in the form of one long letter (divided into chapters) to her three-year old sister Zoe who died in a car crash almost a year earlier, on September 11, 2001. It's been compared to The Lovely Bones, but I found it warmer and less sentimental. 

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott
This book isn't even out until January next year, but it was reading it via Netgalley that gave me the idea for this post. When Emma's pregnant mother collapses and dies, Emma's stepfather decides to keep her body alive to try to save the baby. Emma can't grieve for her mother because she's still there, Emma visits her every day, and she's furious with her stepfather for not letting her mother go. She finds it hard to care about anything at all, until she meets Caleb Harrison, who is struggling with a family tragedy of his own. I had to keep putting this book down to catch my breath. It's so romantic, but also, unsurprisingly, incredibly sad. 

The Twice-Lived Summer of Bluebell Jones by Susie Day
This book is, I think, slightly younger than YA, but don't let that put you off. On her 13th birthday, Bluebell wishes for someone to rescue her and an alternative version of herself appears. 'Red' is Bluebell (or 'Blue') one year on. She's a lot more confident and she has great ideas for improving Blue's summer, but she seems to be hiding something… It's smart and funny and true and heartbreaking. 

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
You've probably already read this one (and, if not, why not?). It's one of my all-time favourite YA books and I recommend it to everyone. Set in 1986, it's a story of first love and it makes my heart hurt to think about it. (I saw a Tumblr post that had a photo of this book in the corner of the room, with the caption 'Sit there and think about what you've done'. Yes.)


Thank you so much Keris!  It's great to have you back again - thank you so much!! :D
Hope you all enjoyed Keris' post! And don't forget to follow Keris' Site and Blog, follow her on Twitter and Pinterest, and check out her books on Goodreads! :D
And keep up to date with MonthOfGuests on Twitter using #MonthOfGuests2013! And stop by tomorrow for an amazing post by the brilliant Julie Berry!!


My mum always claimed that when she lived in America for a year, my dad wrote to her every day and, in one of his letters, proposed. My dad denies this. But when she got home they got married anyway. In 1966 they emigrated to Canada. They'd wanted to go to New Zealand, but it was full.
I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, which, by all accounts, is very cold. And also hot. But when I was four months old, my parents moved back to the UK. Don't worry, they brought me too - this isn't a misery memoir. And so I grew up on the Wirral. You probably haven't heard of it.
When I was 18 I moved to London and, a few years later, after meeting and falling in love with (I don't mean "at first sight". At first sight, I didn't like him and he didn't like me either. But that's another story) a fellow northerner we moved back "up north". Now we live in Lancashire (which is lovely, particularly when it's not raining. Which is about two weeks a year) with our two ridiculously gorgeous sons and a pug. Okay, we haven't got a pug, but maybe if I write it here it will come true. If you write it, pugs will come.
I've been writing stories for as long as I can remember (I spent much of my teen years writing stories about George Michael falling in love with me so I've obviously always had a good imagination), but I didn't write a novel until 2004 when I took part in National Novel Writing Month. I haven't quite finished that one yet (!), but I have finished a few others.
I now write full time and I think it's probably the best job in the world. Although if George Clooney is ever looking for an underpant-wrangler, I'll probably apply

Sunday 29 September 2013

Month of Guests 2013: Jennifer L. Armentrout

I love Jennifer L. Armentrout - like seriously.  She's amazing.  I am in love with her Lux and Covenant series, as well as all her NA books (written under J. Lynn).  And she has dragged the drop-dead gorgeous Daemon Black here for me to interview!

Bloggers.  Here are some things you should know about Daemon Black:
  • He’s unbelievably hot (but don’t tell him that.  His ego’s big enough already).
  • He’s kind of a jerk (okay, a massive jerk) but we love him anyway.  (Don’t tell him that either.  His ego really doesn’t need to be any bigger.)
  • He has a big ego (if you hadn’t picked up on that already).
  • He’s an alien – a Luxen, to be precise (weirdly enough, this really is only 4th on the priority list…  Weird, huh?)
  • He’s dating Katy Swartz, a human (more or less) and a book blogger (which means we love her.  Book bloggers together!). 
  • He is the star of the Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout.
  • And he is here today…

Me: Anyway, hi Daemon.  It’s great having you here!  Now first off, you’re dating a book blogger.  Well done: you obviously have exceptional taste.  But for those bloggers who don’t know who you are, would you be able to describe yourself in one sentence?   
Daemon: Oh, I only need two words.  Ridiculously sexy.
My Inner Babble: Told you he had a freakishly big ego.
                                      Dammit, though, he’s right.                                                             

Me: Ok, you’re an alien – a Luxen.  Do you remember much of your journey to Earth – and of how you felt when you got here?  
Daemon: Since we can bend time and space, the actual journey to Earth was incredibly fast.  We came here because our planet was destroyed, so I felt displaced when we first arrived.  I didn’t want to be here, but I knew I needed to take care of Dee and Dawson so I was focused on them.
 My Inner Babble: Yeah, he does have his moments though…  Sigh…  You can almost forget about the ego when he talks like this…

Me: Careful not to give any spoilers, can you tell us anything about what happens in the latest book that is obviously all about you: Origin?  
Daemon: I can’t give any specific details but I can say that something really big happens in Origin that’s a game changer.
My Inner Babble: I’ll say!  I think that just calling it ‘game changer’ might be a bit of a understatement!!  World-ender, maybe.  Brain-exploder…
The cover though...  Yum...

Me: How did you… get through the events of Origin?  I know you’re strong, but under those circumstances…  Well, I wouldn’t be able to keep it together even for an instant.   
Daemon: I wasn’t keeping it together.  I completely lost it at first.  But that wasn’t going to help Kat so I needed to get a grip and channel my energy.
My Inner Babble: And there’s that sweet, protective side again…  This guy has more layers than I can wrap my head around!

Me: Speaking of Origin: you get loads of your own chapters!   I know all us bloggers are ridiculously pleased about that.  Does it feel good to finally get to tell your side of the story?  
Daemon: As much as I trust Kat, I’m sure that her accounts of me don’t accurately reflect my awesomeness.  So, yeah, it’s good to tell my side of everything.
My Inner Babble: The Ego, honestly...  But yeah.  He wasn’t always shown in the most favourable light – especially in Obsidian and Opal.  Still managed to make me love him, though, even when he was being a colossal jerk.

Me: Now don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re kind of a jerk – especially to Kat at the beginning of your…relationship.  But lately we've got to see your sweet side – and it is super sweet.  You like to snuggle, are the sweetest boyfriend and you even said the 'l' word, albeit under rather dismal circumstances...  But still: loads of growth.  I've gone slightly off topic – if I had a topic to begin with...  The question is: do you feel like Kat's made you a better person and do you have any more sweetness beneath the prickles?  
Daemon: I am absolutely certain that Kat’s made me a better person.   I’ve always been loyal and protective of my family, but she’s brought out something in me that I didn’t ever care to know could be a part of who I am.  I knew that I couldn’t get any hotter, but I didn’t realize that I could have the depth of the feelings that I have for Kat.
My Inner Babble: Melts inside…

Me: I love something you once said to Katy: "I'm perfect in all the ways that count".  In private when your ego isn't around, I might say that I totally agree.  But now I'm going to ask what exactly makes you think you so perfect?  And how the hell did your ego get so big?  
Daemon: Is that a serious question?  I mean, have you seen me?
My Inner Babble: Hmm… Looking… looking… looking… Yeah, I get it now.  Well, maybe not.  I might need to look a little longer…

Me: As mentioned earlier, Kat is a blogger.  This means she’s got to have one or two book boyfriends, like the rest of us.  (Though unlike us, she has you – lucky kitty.)  Does that make you jealous?  
Daemon: Me? Jealous of some tool in a book?  I don’t think this can be a serious question either.
My Inner Babble: Just FYI, my understanding of the ego often vanishes whenever he opens his mouth.

Me: After everything you and Katy have been through, how much do you think you’ve changed?  And would you change anything you did to her at the beginning of your relationship if you could?  
Daemon: I think mostly my priorities have changed because Kat’s become the most important person in my life.  Would I change anything about the beginning of our relationship?  Yes.  I would protect her better because I know that she has gotten hurt because of me.  I’ve let her down, and I won’t do it again.  I’m getting her back.  Period.
 My Inner Babble: Ok, I take what I just thought back.  He’s perfect…  And so sweet.  He’s just prickly to hide it.  And by prickly I do mean egotistical, a total jerk and totally stab-worthy.  But it’s all worth it when you get those glimpses of the Real Daemon…  Sigh…

Me: What's next for you and Katy do you think?  
Daemon: I can’t think beyond getting her back right now.  That’s the only reason for anything that I do at this point.
My Inner Babble: Awwwwww….

Quick-Fire Questions:
Books or movies?  Movies
Puppies or kittens?  One Kitten in particular
Favourite food?  Ice cream
Favourite place?  The lake where I take Kat
Favourite TV show (like I don’t already know the answer…)?  Ghost Investigators
Favourite song?  Hungry Like the Wolf
Tell us one thing we don’t know about you.  I’m not going to divulge any of my secrets.

Me: Oh, and a quick question to Jennifer, who was kind enough to bring Daemon along today (and by ‘bring’, I’m pretty sure I mean ‘drag’…): Why do you insist on leaving all your books on the worst cliff-hangers possible?  Do you want us to go mad?  And what is next for Daemon and Katy and everyone?!?!?!  
Jennifer: I don’t think that all of my books have the worst cliffhangers possible, but, if it makes you feel better, I will tell you that Origin doesn’t have a big cliffhanger ending.  There is something big that happens at the end of Origin, but it definitely doesn’t leave you hanging like Opal.  As for what’s next…you will just have to wait and see!
My Inner Babble: Wait a second, Origin didn’t end on a cliffhanger?!?!  I’d call that a cliffhanger!!  I was curling up in a ball and then rocking in a corner for days!!!  I can’t wait for Book Five – I need it!!! ;)

Thank you so much for stopping by!! :D
My Inner Babble: Now what do I need to do to make you both stay and for Jennifer to tell me what happens next and for Daemon to stay forever…?


Oh, thank you so much Jennifer!!  This has been sooo much fun!!  
And congratulations on Lux being optioned as a film!!  I am so freaking excited - I cannot wait!!  And then Covenant has been optioned as a TV series too!!  I literally died when I found out - which was, unfortunately, after this interview!  :D
Hope you all enjoyed the interview - and that you will check Lux out after this interview with the hotness that is Daemon!!  I can't believe I was such a fangirl (actually, I totally can...)  And don't forget to follow Jennifer's Site, follow her on Twitter and Facebook, and check out her books on Goodreads!   Oh, and check out all the Lux jewellery on Hebel Designs too!! :D
And keep up to date with MonthOfGuests on Twitter using #MonthOfGuests2013! And stop by tomorrow for a brilliant post by the amazing Katie Dale!!


# 1 New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Jennifer L. Armentrout Lives in West Virginia.
All the rumors you heard about her state aren’t true.
Well, mostly. When she's not hard at work writing, she spends her time, reading, working out, watching zombie movies, and pretending to write.
She is the author of the Covenant Series (Spencer Hill Press), the Lux Series (Entangled Teen), Don't Look Back (Disney/Hyperion) and a yet untitled novel (Disney/Hyperion), and new YA paranormal series with Harlequin Teen.
Jennifer also writes New Adult and Adult romance under the pen name J. Lynn. The Gamble Brothers Series (Tempting the Best Man/Tempting the Player) and Wait for You. Under her pen name, she is published with Entangled Brazen and HarperCollins.

Saturday 28 September 2013

Month of Guests 2013: Kate Cann

The amazing Kate Cann is here today!  I've loved her since I read Leaving Poppy many years ago and am very excited to have her here today talking about her latest book Witch Crag!!

Witch Crag

I've been fascinated by the idea of the witch since childhood; I tracked them down through books and stories, playing witches was my favourite game, the first book I wrote was a spell book! Many years later, a feminist friend said how healthy she thought this – witches meant female power.

That idea of power stayed with me. And then, years after that, I heard something intriguing about the witch hunts that swept through Europe in the seventeenth-century. In Poland, apparently, women accused of witchcraft would flee to a certain stark, forbidding mountain. Then, to keep themselves safe, they'd spread dark rumours about the evil hags who lived there, and the mountain became a place of terror.

I loved that idea. You're coming after us because you think we're dangerous? Fine, we'll play it your way. We'll create a myth about ourselves so terrifying you won't dare come anywhere near!

So Witch Crag was seeded. I'd always wanted to write a book about witches. I'm not going to take on the might of Harry Potter here, but to me – witches aren't male. And they don't go to school. They're wild, anarchic, female forces of nature, awake to senses that are dull in ordinary people. They're not evil but if you threaten them – they bite back. Anger is a significant part of Witch Crag – anger that can transform into a force for good.

While I was writing Witch Crag, the Arab Spring was bursting forth. That fed into the book too – the young thinking freely and throwing off the corrupt practises and domination of the old. I didn't want to sideline men in the book, either. I wanted to show they can evolve and move forward too. Arc balances Kita.

Witch Crag is a dystopian tale.  I think we have a fearful fascination with - what would we do, if everything stopped? If electricity and water and public transport stopped flowing, and anarchy spread? How would we organise ourselves to survive? They say we're just five missing meals away from total chaos.

When I was planning my dystopian novel Witch Crag, I wasn't interested in depicting people under the brutal yoke of an elite dictatorship. We have that, all too sadly, in the world already. What interested me was how we would start again – how a few people left after a cataclysmic disaster would organise themselves. I imagined a tribe where basic survival became its creed, its law, almost its religion – how hard it would be to think outside that rigid box, as Kita does; how hard it would be to grow beyond it.

I think we're intrigued by how well people would do equipped with only the absolute basics of life – I think there's even a kind of longing for this simplicity. And I wanted ultimately to finish on a utopian note. The extra sense that the witches (and Geegaw!) have - and I believe many of us in the 'real' world have, if we'd only wake up to it - could be used for great good if it's developed harmoniously. If my characters get it right, they'll slowly create a world that's far better that the one we live in.


Thank you so much Kate! I loved Witch Crag and loved hearing more about where it came from!!  
Hope you all enjoyed Kate's post! And don't forget to follow Kate's Site, follow her on Facebook, and check out her books on Goodreads! :D
And keep up to date with MonthOfGuests on Twitter using #MonthOfGuests2013! And stop by tomorrow for a super exciting post - Jennifer L. Armentrout brought Daemon Black for me to interview!!  It's very exciting for me!!


When I was a child, I wanted to be a witch. My first foray into writing was a series of nasty spells full of rats’ tails and bats’ wings. Then, when I turned thirteen, I began keeping a lurid diary, full of adoration or loathing, depending on who I was writing about. I used my later diaries for the Diving Intrilogy. 

I never thought ‘I want to be a writer’, but I loved books and writing. At school, I was rubbish at just about everything but English, so I went on to Kent University where I did two degrees in English and American Literature. At Kent, I fell dramatically in love with Jeff, the man I'm still married to. We had loads of fights and adventures, but we kept coming back together. He's still the person I most want to spend time with. Awww! 
My first proper job was in a publishing house, Time Life Books, as a copy-editor. I felt very glamorous. I used to go to the huge YMCA on Tottenham Court Road at lunchtime and do aerobics classes (very big in the 1980s and yes - I wore legwarmers). Then I'd fall asleep over my desk in the afternoon. 
When my two kids came along, I set up as a freelance copy-editor and worked from home. By chance I got given some teenage books to edit, and I hated the way they treated sexual relationships: they were either full of gloom and doom, or were gushy, unrealistic candyfloss. So I got bitten by the ‘I can do better than this’ bug, and started writing. I remember the first day I started to write - it took me over. I forgot to eat (unthinkable for me) and I nearly forgot to collect the kids from school. About a year after that, Diving In was accepted for publication.

Friday 27 September 2013

Month of Guests 2013: Catherine Bruton

We have the amazing Catherine Bruton here today!!  She's done an awesome post for us - hope you all love it as much as I do!! :D

Confessions Of A YA Writer

Did you know that Michael Morpurgo writes in bed, propped up on pillows? Or that Truman Capote scribbled his novels on a chaise longue with a glass of sherry in one hand and a cigarillo in the other? Were you aware that John Cheever penned his novels wearing just his underwear, whilst the poet T. S Eliot reputedly composed caked in green make up and answering only to the name ‘The Captain’. And not many people know that Nabakov wrote all his books on gold rimmed index cards or that Thomas Clayton Wolfe had to lean over a fridge to scribble his first drafts because he was too tall for a desk (how does that even work?).
You see, we writers are funny creatures; we all have our quaint quirks and secret scribbling idiosyncracies. And so I figured, in the spirit of honesty and open-ness, I’d tell you mine. I may regret this later, but here they are – confessions of a YA Writer aged 39 3/4 . Don’t judge me, please! Oh, and then you have to tell me yours.

Confession No. 1: Writing a novel is like being pregnant. And no, I’m not talking about being temperamental, forgetful and  eating for two  whilst I labour for months to gestate my works of literary genius (although  that does all sounds a bit like me -  apart from the genius bit, that is!) No, I’m talking about weird food cravings!
You see, for me, every book is associated with the compulsive consumption of a particular food stuff. For ‘We Can be Heroes’ it was those fizzy astro-belt things. You know the ones that strip the skin from your tongue if you eat too many? And I definitely ate too many!  I blame this on the fact that they are the fave food stuff of 12 year old Priti who  slurps strawberry laces and bubble gum astro-belts throughout the book, whilst  whizzing around on heelie shoes concocting  crazy plans like catching suicide bombers and solving kidnappings (usually with pretty hilarious – and explosive consequences!) I ate so many bags of astro-belts them whilst writing that book, that now I always take them along to  give to students at school events (because everyone in the whole world loves and astro-belt, I think you’ll find!). And even now and the taste takes me back to writing about the summer Priti and friends caught a suicide bomber and prevented an honour killing, bought Ben’s dad back from the dead and made the 10 o’clock news for all the wrong reasons!
With ‘Pop!’ it was Cheesy Wotsits and I’m not actually sure which came first – me munching the dusty orange tubes or them featuring in the book? Either way, it’s no coincidence that fourteen year old Elfie feeds Wotsits to her baby brother Alfie to keep him quiet at the ‘Pop Factor’ auditions. In fact she claims they are actually one of his five a day because they are made of cheese, and so practically the same as milk (!). But then again, Elfie also tells the judges that Alfie is her  son and that her poor unsuspecting friend Jimmy is the father of her love child so you can’t always believe everything Elfie tells you. What I can tell you is that Wotsits are great creative fuel – although they do leave a lot of orange dust over the keyboard!
The book I’m writing now, ‘I Predict a Riot’, is all about cake. Don’t ask me how a book about gangs, riots and videotape features cake, but I can confirm that all types of cake are highly conducive to literary output. On balance, I think chocolate cake is most potent but a good lemon drizzle can do wonders for writers’ block! I wholeheartedly recommend you try it sometime!

Confession No. 2: All my books contain secret messages. I think this all comes down to an unfulfilled childhood ambition to be a spy. Because I honestly think I’d have been brilliant at the whole super-sleuthing, code-breaking 007 bit. In fact, so determined was I about being a spook that I chose a module at university purely so that I could have tutorials with a professor rumoured to be recruiting agent for MI5. Needless, to say he was unimpressed by a five foot giggly undergraduate and I never did get that call up from ‘M’ (although I am still available at any time if Her Majesty’s Secret Service are reading this).
It’s probably also the reason that Priti and friends decide to ‘turn detective’ in ‘We Can be Heroes’ to foil the bomb plot, prevent her big brothers from honour killing her big sister, and find out who kidnapped Stevie Sanders. I had great fun writing about code-breaking and undercover missions which all goes to show that being a writer is the perfect way of living out all your unfulfilled fantasies. If you can’t do it in real life – do it on the page. Perfect!
So I may never get to be a super- spook but I can also content myself by popping secret messages into my novels. Mainly I do it for family and friends but occasionally I pop one in for some of my pupils past and present (when I’m not writing books, I teach English part time at a school in Bath). So, for example, in ‘Pop!’  the graffiti in the toilets at the ‘Pop Factor’ audition venue is a little love note to my long-suffering hubbie.  And all the postcards Ben’s mum sends in ‘We Can be Heroes’ contain secret messages for my kids! And there’s a little something for my lovely Year 11s in my next book too – but only they will be able to break the code!

Confession No. 3. Writers  talk to themselves. Well I do, anyway. When I’m writing I turn into a kind of schizophrenic, role-playing, one-woman-Punch-and-Judy-show.  Seriously, if you saw me at my desk some days you’d have me carried off in a straight-jacket.
I think it’s because I plan my novels in quite a cinematic way and always write dialogue before anything else. This is probably because I watch way too much TV and films (‘We Can be Heroes’ is inspired by ‘Son of Rambo’  and the black and white version of ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’,  whilst ‘Pop!’ is basically a mixture between ‘Shameless’ , ‘Billy Elliot’ and ‘The X factor’).  I write chapters as scenes and often see them in my head in terms of camera angles and close ups etc. So much so, that the main character in my next book ‘I Predict a Riot’ is an amateur film-maker and the whole book is written as scenes in the film she shot, a film which ultimately causes the death of one friend and the disappearance of the other. But you’ll have to find out why when it comes out next year!
I think it’s also because (and I’m going to sound weird here) I see writing as a bit like acting.  I was a bit of thesp in my younger days (my greatest claim to fame is that I starred with David Walliams in the National Youth Theatre the days when he was still called David Williams!) So I find when I’m immersed in writing a book the characters totally take over my head. So much so that I end up thinking in their voices. It sounds odd, I know, but I find to really understand my characters I need to ‘climb into their shoes and walk around in them’ (to misquote a far greater writer than myself) –  even the  baddies. And it’s the way I find my characters’ voices. I sort of let them chatter in my head  - or out loud! I’ll even find myself driving or walking round the supermarket  muttering to myself sometimes.
Yes, I sound like a nutter! I said I might regret some of these confessions, didn’t I?

Confession No. 4 Every writer has privately cast the film version of their book. Any writer who denies day-dreaming about which celeb they’d want to play the lead in the
Hollywood version of their masterpiece is telling you porkies. I personally have a little daydream which involves Daniel Craig falling in love with me on the set of ‘We Can be Heroes’. I’ve decided he can play Ben’s dad who was killed in the 9/11 attacks in New York when Ben was only three and who therefore only appears in flashbacks, because this character is sort of based on my husband which means I technically won’t really even be unfaithful when Daniel and I run off into the sunset together – right?

When it comes to ‘Pop!’ Michael Fassbender is a shu-in for Elfie’s  dad, the militant striker, and of course Gary Barlow would have to be head judge on the ‘Pop Factor’ panel, alongside Jessie J and Sharon Osborne and I think Will-i-am could make a cameo appearance. Elfie’s feckless, walkabout mam would be played by Kiersten Wearing from ‘Fish-tank’ (an incredible film which was a huge influence on the book) and I think I’d give myself a small cameo as another contestant on the show. I’d like to play Agnes, the shy but beautiful Portuguese girl with the voice of an angel whom Elfie decides is her ticket to fame and fortune but I fear the fact that I am tone deaf and considerably older than 14 might rule me out for that particular role.

Confession No. 5: Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea. I’d like to claim that I came up with that little gem of a quotation but, alas, it was the incredible writer Iris Murdoch what said it first. I actually met Ms Murdoch once. It was on my very first day at university and my friend Martin threw up on her shoes - but that’s besides the point. The point is that love that quotation – I have it stuck on the wall above my writing desk (apparently, Ian Rankin does too so I’m in good company!) and I take great consolation from it.
The thing is that every book starts out in your head as staggering work of literary genius – a kind of platonic conception of the perfect novel, an ur-text from which the final fatally flawed and infinitely less brilliant version finally descends. I suppose it sounds depressing because Murdoch is saying that you are always disappointed with the final book you write, but it’s actually a quotation that represents writerly idealism  and that’s why it resonates with me. Because I suppose I am an idealist as a novelist. I set out to write about contemporary issues like terrorism, child poverty, the culture of talent TV, urban riots, family breakdown, strikes and inner city gangs, and I do it because I want my books to make an impact. I hope they’ll make readers laugh and cry and care about the characters enough to open their eyes to the issues they are facing. I’d like my books to make readers think. Not that I want to tell them what to think, but I would like my writing  to raise questions, challenge assumptions, open doors -  open minds. And I think if you set off on your writing journey with the highest of ideals, believing in what literature can, at its best, be and do, then you may fall short of the perfection you strive for but at least you’ll be going in the right direction.

So there you have it, the confessions of a lunatic author who talks to herself, thinks she’s a spy and uses unhealthy snacks as her muse. What can I say? I’d love to hear any anecdotes you may know about other strange writers’ quirks – maybe your own. Go on, I can’t be the only utterly bonkers YA author on the block – can I?   


Wow, thank you so so much Catherine!! I love this post more every time I read it!!  
My crazy writing confessions: The only people I can brainstorm with are my dad and my younger brother because my dad is ruthless and my younger brother loves the characters as much as I do.  I talk to my characters - one in particular, who is especially snarky and always makes me laugh (sometimes in public)...  And I tend to get distracted from writing by other books... I have a really sucky attention span... ;)
Hope you all enjoyed Catherine's post!   What are your crazy writing quirks?  :D  

And don't forget to follow Catherine's Site, follow her on Twitter and Facebook, and check out her books on Goodreads! :D
And keep up to date with MonthOfGuests on Twitter using #MonthOfGuests2013! And stop by tomorrow for a brilliant post!!


After graduating from the University of Oxford, Catherine Bruton began her career as an English teacher and later went on to write feature articles for The Times, among other publications. She started writing fiction while teaching at a school in Africa, inspired by the children she was working with, and the culture that surrounded her. She still teaches, and her pupils continue to be one of her main sources of inspiration. We Can Be Heroes is her first novel for Egmont. Catherine lives near Bath with her husband and two small children.

Thursday 26 September 2013

Month of Guests 2013: Alex Gutteridge

We have the brilliant Alex Gutteridge here today with an amazing post...  Enjoy!! :D


‘There’s no such word as can’t.’ This was one of my father’s favourite sayings when I was small. I was a cautious child and he said these words to me often as I faltered over some task. He ensured, for the most part, that I didn’t give up on things which were within my grasp, if only I’d tried a little bit harder. Of course those words used to irritate me at the time and of course I’ve failed at many things, many times, but it’s not been for want of trying. And where my father’s words have been particularly useful is in my writing life.

I think that I always knew deep down that I wanted to write but didn’t actually know if I could do it, if I would have the right amount of persistence, resilience and imagination to see me through to the end of a book. But the time comes when the only way to find out if you have what it takes is to give it a try. And sometimes you really do think to yourself, if I am going to do this, it has to be now. This is what happened to me after my daughter was born. Suddenly the time seemed right. I enrolled at what was then Leicester Adult Education College and for one morning a week learned about writing in various forms. At the time writing for children was very much under the radar and we actually only had one brief session which covered it. But that didn’t matter. I learned about plotting, a sense of place, mixed with other people who loved writing and probably most importantly of all, I learned about the importance of studying your market. I still didn’t know if I could write a story that would be published but I knew that I had been given the grounding I needed to give it a go.

Actually I was very lucky and my first book, Ghost Riders, was accepted by A&C Black/Puffin as part of their Chillers series. When I look back at that initial manuscript it looks very amateurish but the publishers obviously saw something in the story and I will be forever grateful to them for that. Of course getting a book accepted for publication is a huge thrill and gives you a certain degree of confidence. With each book you write, whether published or sitting in a drawer waiting for its time to shine, you learn something about yourself and about the process of writing. However, what never leaves me when I begin a new project is that initial thought ‘I’m not sure that I can do this’. This is probably partly to do with the fact that I’m not a plotter or a planner. When starting out, I know the beginning of the story and usually the ending, but the swathe of chapters in the middle remains a complete mystery, until I begin to write. It’s a scary way to work but also an enlightening one too because sometimes a scene just pops into your head and you think ‘oh I had no idea that was going to happen’.

Basically it all boils down to trust, trust in yourself and in the process of writing. It is about believing, despite the doubts and that nasty little critic sitting on your shoulder, that you CAN do this, that the right words will reveal themselves and that the plot will unfold in the direction it is meant to take. If you love your story and your characters it is about having the faith that they will find their rightful place in the world. This can take time and a good degree of patience. It may eventually result in publishing your book yourself rather than using a mainstream publisher but if you do not honour your commitment to whatever project it is you have undertaken you may forever wonder ‘what if?

 My latest book, Last Chance Angel, was the most technically difficult book I’ve had to write and there were times when I thought that I’d never get it right.

But again I was lucky. I had people around me who believed in my ability as a writer, my friends and family and of course subsequently Templar, my publishers. But ultimately I had to believe in myself in order to do justice to the story I wanted to tell. And of course I had my father’s voice, imprinted in my psyche, whispering to me through my own negativity. Of all of the gifts he gave me, those six little words, ‘there’s no such word as can’t’, have been some of the most valuable.  On the whole we are capable of more than we realise.


Thank you so much Alex! This was a great and inspirational post!  I shall remember these words and will never say 'I can't' again.  Unless it's about something silly, like eating charcoaled food or thinking I can jump off a house and live...  Other than this though! ;)
Hope you all enjoyed Alex's post! And don't forget to follow Alex's Site, follow her on Twitter and Facebook, and check out his books on Goodreads! :D
And keep up to date with MonthOfGuests on Twitter using #MonthOfGuests2013! And stop by tomorrow for another brilliant post!!


Alex Gutteridge was born in Leicestershire and has lived there ever since, earning her the rather dubious title of 'woolly back'!
Alex attended local primary schools, followed by boarding school and 6th form college. She is now married with 3 children and surrounded by pets that include several stick insects and lots of fish.

Alex has a real fear of spiders, Maths and hermetically sealed packages but cannot get enough of raspberries, the colour Blue and swinging as high as she can go on her daughter's swing!

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Month of Guests 2013: Matt Whyman

I love Matt Whyman and I was so excited both by him agreeing to take part but also about what he planned to write about.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do...

Matt Whyman

The first rule of Ghost Writing Club is that you never talk about the books you’ve ghosted. Ever. You’re hired to be invisible. Quite literally - a ghost. This is not your day in the sun. The celebrity whose name is all over the cover is the one to bask in the glory. You might be lucky to get a small-print acknowledgement, but even then don’t hold out hope.

Last year, I heard from my agent that I was in the running to ghost a celebrity memoir. She knew that I’d always been interested in writing such a book. It seemed like a challenge, which appealed to me. I also knew there was a long shortlist drawn up of writers more than capable of doing the job, and so I put it to the back of my mind. Then, on the last day of June, my agent called and said, ‘scratch out everything in your diary for July. The next four weeks are about to be a well-paid hell on earth.’

As you can imagine, the surprise at getting the gig was eclipsed by the news that I only had a month to write it. Normally, a book will take me between six to nine months. So, having agreed to the offer, I put down the phone and promptly had a panic attack. What was I doing, I asked myself? I’d just signed up to the impossible, and had visions of being sued by the publisher, the celebrity and all ‘the people’ involved in the project who expected me to deliver the goods.

So, once I’d finished breathing into a paper bag, and having realised I was totally on my own here, I sat down and worked out a course of action. Straight away, it felt like being told I was facing exams imminently, and yet I hadn’t done any revision. In that situation, I knew that a plan was the first thing I needed to draw up.
The contract stated that I was expected to deliver a 50,000 word manuscript. Because my maths is terrible, I decided to give myself not a month but 25 days to write it, simply because I could divide 50,000 by 25 in my head. All of a sudden, 2,000 words a day for 25 days didn’t seem so terrifying. I could do this, I thought, but first I had to meet the celebrity.
Things were so tight that my first encounter with the commissioning editor occurred on the train journey to meet the star in question. He had placed great faith in me, and I didn’t want to let him down.  By the time we stepped off the train, I felt I had his full support, and an appreciation of what lay ahead for me. Our meeting with the star occurred behind closed doors. As a ghost writer, I quickly recognised that it’s not their job to worry about the writing. That’s my responsibility, as was drawing out the material I needed in order to put it together. I left with a sheaf of notes, most of them unintelligible, but with a clear idea of the story ahead of me.

That night, I plotted the entire memoir from start to finish. I boiled down each chapter to a sentence, emailed it to my editor the next morning and gave him one chance to come back with any input. There was no room to mess about midway through this project. Everyone needed to know exactly what to expect from the start.
Then came the writing. 500 words before coffee break. Another 500 to lunch. After that, I had the small matter of looking after my children when they finished school, before returning to my desk when my wife came home from work so I could write another 1000. Sometimes I’d be done by 10pm. Other nights I’d be up until 3am. There were no weekend breaks. I just motored on. What saved me was the road map I’d written up. I just stuck to the plan, and reminded myself throughout that I wanted to do a good job. I’d picked up several ghost written memoirs and promptly put them down again. They just lacked soul, in my opinion, and so I sweated hard on that spark.
Just to make things harder, I agreed to send across three chapters at a time so my editor could sign them off. It was tough, but the alternative risked delivering a 50,000 word donkey that everyone rejected.
Twenty five days later, like a man who’d just crawled across the desert, I reached the final full stop. I then had a few days spare, in which my editor allowed me to tinker with everything, before the manuscript was taken out of my hands. My role in the book was finished. There was nothing more for me to do. As a result of my labours, the springs in my keyboard were so worn out I had to replace it. I was exhausted, but everyone was happy, and that included me.

It was weird to see the book published later that year. The star did the promotional rounds, and I resisted every temptation to yell ‘I wrote that’ from the rooftops. Was the experience hell on earth, as my agent had suggested? No. It was just very intense but would’ve been a nightmare without forward planning. As for the finished product, it did very well. You’d know the title if I told you, but there’d only be consequences, so I’m saying nothing more.


Thank you so much Matt!  I really do love this post and you have me utterly intrigued!!  Thank you for taking part!!
Hope you all enjoyed Matt's post! And don't forget to follow Matt's Site, follow him on TwitterFacebook, Pinterest and YouTube, and check out his books on Goodreads! :D
And keep up to date with MonthOfGuests on Twitter using #MonthOfGuests2013! And stop by tomorrow for a brilliant post by the lovely Alex Gutteridge!!


Matt Whyman is a bestselling author, also known for his work as an advice columnist for numerous teenage magazines. 

He has written two novels for adults, Man or Mouse and Columbia Road, as well as both fiction and non-fiction for teenagers, including Superhuman, XY, Boy Kills Man, XY:100, The Wild, the So Below trilogy, Inside the Cage,Goldstrike and The Savages.

His most recent books, Oink! My Life With Minipigs (also known as Pig in the Middle), and Walking with Sausage Dogs, are both comic memoirs about family life with problem pets, published by Hodder and Stoughton.

A graduate from the University of East Anglia's MA in Creative Writing, Matt is often invited to teach the subject for writers of all ages. Recently, he has hosted workshops across Russia and the Middle East.

In 1995, Matt became the first agony uncle for 19 magazine, and has subsequently written regular advice columns for B, Fox Kids, AOL UK and Bliss. He often appears on television and radio in this role. Over the years he has co-presented a series of ITV's cult Saturday morning show, Love Bites, and a live weekly phone-in on LBC. He is currently resident agony uncle on BBC Radio 1's The Surgery.

Matt is married with four children, and lives in West Sussex, UK.