Amelie’s passion for baking drives her forwards

A guest post by Vanessa Curtis (@VanessaCurtis1) author of The Baking Life of Amelie Day, out today. 

It feels a little surreal and very exciting to have The Baking Life of Amelie Day published by Curious Fox today. The book has been on a long journey to get to this stage and has changed a little along the way, so I’m delighted that my book will reach a wider audience from today. The Baking Life of Amelie Day Although the book has a light-hearted theme and contains some mouth-watering recipes, the deeper message behind the book is that it’s possible to achieve anything if you put your mind to it.

Amelie is really quite seriously ill and yet her passion for baking drives her forwards all the time and helps her to plan for a future despite the limitations put on her by Cystic Fibrosis. I’m also pleased that the illness itself will become better known about now that the book is published.

As part of my research I read the blogs of some young adults who live with the illness and I felt a lot of respect for the way in which they pushed on with their lives despite having to take countless pills and do breathing exercises every day just to stay alive. I hope that something of their bravery is shown in the character of Amelie Day.

It feels fantastic to have the book published today by a successful, vibrant publisher like Curious Fox and it also feels important to spread awareness of Cystic Fibrosis too. I’m looking forward to hearing what my readers think of Amelie and her baking obsession.

So, enjoy the read – and hopefully, baking the delicious recipes too! You can learn more about Cystic Fibrosis on the Cystic Fibrosis Trust website.

Surprised by Serpents!

A guest post by Bea Davenport (@BeaDavenport1) author of The Serpent House, out today.  

One of the secret surprises about being a writer is that you don’t always end up with the same idea you started with.

The Serpent House

When I started writing The Serpent House I had two ideas in mind. I wanted to write about the medieval leper hospital that lies, buried by history, under the streets where I live.

I also wanted to write something based on the lives of my three great-aunts who worked in service, Downton Abbey-style, at the turn of the twentieth century.

As I began to write, it came to me that my main character Annie had lost her hair. Alopecia is something I know about from my own childhood and I know how traumatic it can be.

And then the snakes crept in – or maybe that should be slithered. This happened rather against my will, as I’m terrified of them. Did you know, though, that snakes are regularly used in medicine and this was the case even back in the Dark Ages? They were clearly meant to be part of this story.

So when a friend asked me why I wrote about something that frightened me, I realised that this fear gave an extra power to the writing. And the presence of the creatures moved the story on in ways I didn’t plan, like a game of snakes and ladders, but which always felt right.

Now that readers are about to get their hands on it, I’m very excited to hear what they have to say about it. I’m hoping readers will find it scary, funny and above all, exciting and worth turning the pages.

Wish me – and Annie! – luck!

Hopefully You Will Love Alex Too

A guest post by Alyssa Brugman, author of Alex As Well, out today. 

I’ve never been to the UK before, and I was super excited to be invited. I’m very grateful that Curious Fox are so enthusiastically backing my little book. ‘Alex as Well’ is different to anything I have done before, and I’m quite proud of it.

Alex As Well

It’s been a very busy few months for me. Firstly I graduated from Canberra University. I now have a PhD which I have been working on for a few long years now. There were many times I was ready to give up, and it’s very satisfying to be finally finished. ‘Alex as Well’ was the work that was submitted for examination, along with my thesis. It was tricky at times, but I am confident that it’s made me a better writer. I am finding that there is a lot of space in my brain where the PhD used to be, and I’m not sure what to do with that space now! It’s a bit like a big lumbering machine with cogs that have suddenly ground to a halt. It’s different from the space that has books in it, which is kind of like an overstuffed filing cabinet that refuses to close no matter how hard you slam it.

Alyssa in her PhD hat

After the graduation I went to Outback Queensland to break in some wild horses on a remote two-million acre cattle station. That was a wonderful experience, although it was hard, rough and scary. I was lucky to pick a five year old stallion who ended up being a bit of a softy. As soft as a brumby gets anyway! I learned some terrific horse handling skills. We rode our freshly started horses up and down some mountains. I slept under the stars and watched the moon, drank billy tea and all that good Aussie stuff.

Then it was my fortieth birthday. I put on a frock and a tiara and had a terrific party surrounded by all the people I love the most. Some people travelled a long way, and that was very touching.

The day after my birthday I had a terrible car accident. I was on my way to a book club talk and a motorcycle came flying around a corner and wedged into the bonnet of my car. The rider lived, but has very serious injuries. My three year old daughter was in the car with me, but thankfully we were both unhurt. It really emphasises how arbitrary and chaotic life is and makes me grateful for my good fortune so far.

Alyssa and Brumbies

Meanwhile my normal life still goes on in the background. Sadly I can’t pause it. I run a small business offering hoof care and equine nutrition. We are a growing business and it’s challenging to juggle a growing demand from our clients at the same time as the speaking engagements relating to my writing – not to mention finding opportunities to sit down and write!

There is also the business of writing. Alex is coming out in a few different languages and overseas editions. There is always mail to respond to from readers about the other eleven books also.

When you do a tour like this there is a lot of preparation, interviews, speeches to plan. It also pays to practice the readings that you are going to do. I have always wanted to do the parts of the books that I find the most affecting, but then I worry that I will cry like a big sooky lala, so I usually pick a funny part instead.

And what to wear?

We’ve already had some great reviews for the book in the UK. Georgia, our lovely publicist has been working so hard to make this trip a success, and I am very grateful for that!

I’m really looking forward to meeting you all, and hopefully you will love Alex too.

The Ruby Airship: New characters, new places, and new challenges

A guest post by Sharon Gosling, author of The Diamond Thief and The Ruby Airship.

Isn’t it funny how time seems to move so slowly, and then suddenly speeds up? It’s about a year since I finished writing The Ruby Airship, but so much has happened during that time that it actually feels much longer.

The Ruby Airship is available to buy now!

A little over a year ago, my husband and I decided to change our lives forever. We put our flat in London up for sale and started looking for a house in Cumbria. The plan was to ditch our office-based day jobs and move north to open a second-hand bookshop in Penrith. In between we thought we’d take advantage of the fact that we’d be homeless for a while to do some travelling – but by then I also knew that I would need to finish The Ruby Airship before we moved into our new home.

Thus, the first draft of the book was written while we were staying on La Gomera, one of the smallest islands in the Canaries. It’s a beautiful, quiet place, with the extinct bowl of a volcano housing a rainforest in the centre, edged by jagged peaks that slope down to sandy, calm beaches around its edge.

Every morning I would get up just as the sun was about to tip the horizon, and I’d sit on the balcony that overlooked the ocean and work. My husband would get up a little later and go out walking in the mountains. I’d write until about lunchtime then join him for a walk myself. At the end of the six weeks that we were there, I had a finished manuscript and Adam had a fantastic tan (actually, so did I!). Then we came back and started our new lives.

The bookshop (Withnail Books) opened in July, and I worked on the second draft of The Ruby Airship surrounded by the Pennines. Maybe that’s why the landscape of the book is so mountainous – I wrote what was around me into Remy and Thaddeus’ new adventure!

I really hope readers enjoy The Ruby Airship. I had so much fun writing it, not just because of where I was as I worked, but because I do so love the characters.

It’s funny, but despite the fact I hadn’t written them for quite some time, Remy, Thaddeus and J came back to me very swiftly. It seems that their voices stay in my head even if I’m not writing down what they’re saying. They’ve all grown up a little – and they grow up even more over the course of this particular story. There are new characters for them to meet, new places for them to explore and new challenges for them to overcome – and I hope you have as much following them as their adventure unfolds as I did!


Read more about The Ruby Airship, download a sample chapter, and take advantage of great offers here.

Meeting the ferrets at Wood Green

A guest blog by Jackie Buckleauthor of Half My Facebook Friends Are Ferrets.

Although a ferret features prominently in my book, I had yet to meet one in the fur so I was excited to be heading off to Wood Green, The Animals Charity near Cambridge for a ferrety photofest. Of course ferrets do have a certain reputation for biting and as we approached the shelter I conjured up an unwelcome image of a TV presenter from my youth screwing up his face in agony as his hand is prised from a ferret’s locked jaws. Hopefully the Wood Green ferrets would be better behaved.

Jackie Buckle visits Wood Green Animal Shelter

Jackie (right) and Marie (left), plus Albie and Frank

I was greeted by Katja who is Wood Green’s Business Development Officer, by Tara from PR and by Marie who is an expert in field and small animals. Marie introduced me to two different ferrets: Albie (pure white), and Frank (yellowy-brown). Both were very cute, in a lively, slinky, fast and furry kind of way! Like dogs, ferrets enjoy going for walks, so we harnessed them up and went to take the pictures. I must say Albie and Frank were very obliging throughout the rather windswept photoshoot and didn’t bite once!

Albie and Half My Facebook Friends Are Ferrets

After photos it was time for a tour. The shelter is one of the largest in Europe, covering 52 acres, and providing a home for pigs, ducks, goats and alpacas, as well as the more usual rabbits, cats and dogs. In addition to rescue, Wood Green also do lots of work educating the public on animal welfare, including showcasing how animals should be kept. Rabbits, for example, need much larger enclosures than most people are aware of. In fact, according to Katja, rabbits are probably the most abused of all British pets due to poor housing and neglect.

At the dog enclosure, it was time to get a few lumps in the throat, as the dogs came rushing up to the bars wagging their tails. Dogs are so desperate for human contact that it’s especially heartbreaking to see them in kennels. Wood Green have just opened new state-of-the art enclosures to house the dogs, though, which will be a lot more homely.

Katja then had to go for a meeting so we didn’t have time to see the cats. In hindsight this was probably a good thing as I have an especially soft spot for kitties. It meant I was able to leave with my dignity and mascara largely intact!

wood_green_animal_shelter_logo

We will be making a donation to Wood Green for every copy of Half My Facebook Friends Are Ferrets that’s sold. I am so pleased to be helping this excellent charity, even in a small way. They really are a worthwhile cause and the staff are so committed to making things better for animals. You can find out more about them and the great work they do at www.woodgreen.org.uk

Kate Kelly talks about her novel, Cli-Fi, cats and more, with Amy of Team Fox

Today, we have a lovely author whose book ‘Red Rock’ caught the Fox’s fancy and many of Team Fox’s readers as well! One lucky Team Fox member, that’s Amy (me! I’m writing this post), got to read & review it first. The other members followed suit & many of us enjoyed it. But sometimes it’s not enough just raging about a book, it’s nice to get to know them. So I sat down & talked to Kate for the Fox (thanks Fox & Kate for this opportunity); I was very curious & asked lots of questions. I hope you’ll find the questions, and especially the answers, interesting! 😀

For the readers, what’s your name & where do you call home? Can you do it 20 words or less? 

Hello, I’m Kate and I live in rural Dorset, not far from the sea, but I’m actually Scottish.

What’s next? Are you planning on writing more YA after your success with Red Rock

Most definitely. I have a new novel in the pipeline and loads of ideas buzzing around in my head.

Is there an issue/topic you would like to see more of in YA? Why? 

Tricky one. YA is pretty good at covering topical and challenging subjects. That is what makes it such an interesting genre. I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more science and technology tied up in it though – but then, I am a scientist so I would!

I’ve seen that Red Rock is categorized as Cli-Fi, it’s the first book in that genre I’ve read. Do you think it’s becoming more popular and how can you describe it to the readers? 

Cli-Fi quite simply means Climate Fiction and refers to any novel that tackles themes of environmental change, not necessarily caused by humans. There seem to be quite a buzz about it at the moment and increasingly more novels are emerging that explore these themes.

Is Cli-Fi a genre you particularly have to do research for or is it from experience? Does reading other Cli-Fi’s help? 

I’m a marine geologist so I’m very aware of how the world has changed in the past – the ice advances and retreats, sea levels rise and fall. So it’s quite easy for me to extrapolate these changes to the present day. 

What occupational hazards have you experienced in being an author? 

The main one is losing track of time and forgetting to do important things like cooking dinner.

What is the hardest part of a book, such as Red Rock, to write? 

The start because it’s only through writing about them that I can get to know my characters.

Can you describe your publishing journey in brief (and know if you use the word ‘easy’ we’ll know you’re lying…) 

It’s a rollercoaster – there are exhilarating highs – like when a publisher says they want your book, or you first see your cover art – and lows – when you struggle with something in your plot that just won’t work, or you get piles of rejections (which was the case with an earlier novel of mine).

If you don’t already know, what star sign do you think your main character, Danni, is? 

Oh she’s definitely an Aries 

Which character (if any) is most like you? 

I’d like to say Danni, but it truth she’s more the person I would like to have been. I reckon I’m more like Isaac.

If you could only do one hobby for a day, what would it be? 

I’d go scuba diving. More specifically I’d go scuba diving off Comino. (I’ve dived there before and it was amazing.)

This/That? 

Pen or pencil?   Pen.

Cats or dogs?   I like both but I keep cats

Sad books or funny books?    Either. I love all books.

Hot climate or cold climate?   Either so long as it isn’t raining.

Plotter or a Panster?     Somewhere in between

Early bird or night owl?    Early Bird

• Ice cream or hot chocolate?     Depends whether I’m in the hot climate or the cold climate.

I did find those answers interesting & sometimes a little cheeky (especially with this/that). I’ll let the slight cheating slide though as Red Rock is so brill. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it if you read it, here’s some reviews: Penny West (editor @ Curious Fox) gave it 4* (which means she really liked it, of course!)Amy Bookworm (interviewer but primarily reviewer) also 4*’d it & gave her opinion, newspapers also gave a look in & there’s more reviews (and books) to look at here 😀

I also reckon there are more books by Curious Fox I’ll enjoy- I’d better get reading! *disappears… for now*

*Voice echoes as she disappears*

Team Fox: If you want to guest post here please let the Fox know! (TheFox@curious-fox.com) You could do an interview, review or discuss something. Maybe you’re curious about something, possibly publishing-related? Get your creative hats on, start thinking & let us know if there is anything you’d like to post at this blog!

(Massive Thank You! to Amy from all at CF)

From Swindon to Hay, with glitter and cupcakes along the way…

To celebrate the release of Diary of a Mall Girl at Curious Fox, I (that’s me, Luisa Plaja) travelled up and down the country visiting schools and libraries for fun-packed and glamorous events. Here are some highlights…

– In Swindon, I spoke to a huge room full of girls at the Isambard Community School. This is a school that plays music in the lunch hall and has an animal room for the use of students  – yes, an entire classroom filled with pets. The lovely staff gave me a full tour, and I was extremely impressed. Thank you to the library staff and all the students! (Read Swindon Library’s roundup here.)

Bristol Central Library’s event gave me my first beauty demo experience. Two already-stunning models were given makeovers before my eyes as I attempted to take mental notes and pictures. This was also my first experience of the fabulous Curious Fox goodie bags. The youngsters in the audience tucked into their lipstick lollies as I chatted to them, and at one stage I was faced with a row of girls whistling into their empty lolly cases. Fun!

– Next stop: Edinburgh! A fantastic turnout at Sighthill Library, where there was bath-bomb making and glitzy cupcake-eating, thanks to the Glitz Lit crew. The writeup on the Edinburgh Library website suggests that I was overwhelmed by the success of the evening – and they’re right!

Barnstaple Library in my home county of Devon put on a huge array of activities – there was something for everyone! A nearby college provided practical hair and beauty hints, hand massage and nail design was available, and we could make our own smoothies. The Body Shop was there and so were the lovely staff from Barnstaple Waterstone’s. It was a magical night.

Bromborough Library hosted a truly wonderful evening filled with quizzes, competitions, mocktails and fun. Read all about it here.

– There were fabulous pink drinks, cupcakes and snacks at Chester Library, a talk and demo from The Body Shop, and lots of Girl Guides in the audience. Some of the students and staff of the school I’d visited earlier even stopped by to see me again!

– Finally, I reached the Northeastern leg of my tour, and my first stop was in Stockton-on-Tees. An absolutely brilliant, fun-packed event was put on by Stockton Library. There were craft tables, makeup tables, nail art, Wii dancing and much more. The lively gathering of teenagers asked me some fantastic questions and made me feel like a superstar!

Newcastle Library put on an amazing hair demonstration as part of a lovely night in the beautiful city centre. And so ended the Lipstick Library Tour.

Then there was the Hay Festival… Oh, what a wonderful time I had at Hay, beneath the artificial stars of the Starlight Stage! I got two small people to interview me about it, and you can read the transcript at Girls Heart Books.

And it’s not over yet! Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the mall… Mall Girl hits Westfield, London!  All readers are very welcome to come and decorate cakes with me at Foyles, Westfield on Saturday 6th July from 1.30pm, find out more here.

Thank you very much to all the inspiring and wonderful book-lovers I met on this tour. A special mention has to go to the people who made it all possible. Thank you, Curious Fox team!

Luisa Plaja
xxx

The Soul Shadows Tour – Guest Blog by Alex woolf

The Soul Shadows Tour

I’ve had a fantastic time recently, promoting my new book Soul Shadows. I visited four schools in all and spoke to over four hundred students…

CITY OF LONDON SCHOOL
My first visit was to this magnificent boys’ school in the heart of the city, overlooked by St Pauls Cathedral and just across the river from the Globe Theatre. I was a little overawed at first by the size and imposing atmosphere of the school, but David Rose, the school librarian, made me feel very welcome. To my great relief, the tiny memory stick containing my powerpoint file did not fail me, and the slides duly appeared on the screen at the touch of a button. This was something of a revelation to me as I’ve never given a talk using powerpoint before. I spoke to three classes in all, and got some magnificent questions. My talk really seemed to fire their imaginations. One boy asked if multiple soul shadows from the same person was possible. Another asked if shadows themselves could generate shadows. I said these suggestions were brilliant, and I may well save them up for a sequel!

FORTISMERE SCHOOL
The following day I visited three schools in Haringey in the company of the tireless and magnificent Sean Edwards, the borough’s Children’s & Youth Libraries Manager. We got to our first school, Fortismere in Muswell Hill, at the improbably early hour of 8.45 and I was expecting to have a little time to set up, perhaps have a coffee. But as we walked into the library, it was already filled to the brim with eager students looking expectantly towards me! They then had to wait patiently while I fiddled around with my memory stick and located my reading glasses. However, as it turned out, they were a joy to speak to. The session ended with a great Q&A – always my favourite part of any talk, as it can lead into all sorts of unexpected territory. The toughest question came from a teacher: what is my favourite YA book? Gosh, I have so many, but why is it that whenever anyone asks that question, my mind always goes blank! I would like to thank Gill Ward, the school librarian, for setting everything up, including a lovely display of my previous books.

Fortismere School

Alex Woolf meets pupils at the Fortismere School

HIGHGATE WOOD SCHOOL
There was no parking available at our next school and we had to park at the local library. Kudos to the heroic Sean Edwards, who had to lug a heavy box of books up a very long, steep hill. I spoke to well over a hundred children at Highgate Wood – the entire Year 8, I believe – in a huge hall. The book cover of Soul Shadows has never looked so big or scary as it did on the humungous screen that filled the stage. Richard Lamb, the Learning Resources Centre Manager, said I must feel like a rock star today. I resisted performing my air guitar routine to the crowd, and instead focused on the book. Once again, I was really impressed with how attentive the students were, and the questions they asked, such as what inspired me to start writing and why do I like horror. Fortunately, no one asked me the questions that apparently a lot of authors have to face: how old are you, and how much do you earn?! A big thanks to Richard Lamb for organising things and taking photos.

Highgate School

Alex Woolf talking to pupils at Highgate School

HEARTLANDS SCHOOL
The final stop on this leg of the Soul Shadows tour was Heartlands School in Wood Green. After a quick tour of this impressive new school, I spoke to a class of bright and enthusiastic students. By this time I was feeling a little like a theatre actor reciting lines I’d said so often before. But the interest evident in the eyes of the audience reminded me that to them this is all brand new, and that helped me to keep my talk fresh and lively. Again, the questions were unpredictable and thoughtful. One student was intrigued by the interactive genesis of Soul Shadows (an earlier version of the book was published by Fiction Express, and at the end of each chapter readers were given a chance to vote on how the plot should continue). She asked what happened if I disagreed with a vote! I must thank Learning Resources Centre Manager Helen Swinyard for her help on the day, and for her enthusiastic tweeting about my visit.

All in all, it was an exhilarating couple of days. As a YA author I found it valuable and fascinating to meet with and talk to so many young readers. Their enthusiasm has filled me with hope for the future of books and reading, and given me a whole new lease of energy.