Blog Tour: Secrets of the Great Fire Tree

Blog Tour

Justine-Laismith_author-photo.jpgMeet Justine Laismith.

Justine Laismith is the winner of the Beyond Words: Young and Younger writing competition, who published her chapter book, The Magic Mixer. She grew up in Singapore and has worked in the UK pharmaceutical, chemicals, and education sectors. When not writing, she takes far too many pictures on her phone. She now lives in England.

For more information, visit www.justinelaismith.wordpress.com.

Excerpt

Kai fetched his basket. It was wide and deep enough that if he curled himself into a ball, he could fit in it. Two pieces of cloths were tied to it in a loop shoulder length apart, forming the shoulder straps for him to carry the basket on his back. Yee Por held the basket for him while he threaded his arms through.

With the bucket inside and Piglet on a rope, Kai descended toward the thick bushes. Down the mountain path and past the soft green that grew around the clearing to his favorite Dragon’s Pearl Tree, the tall tree with enormous fruit that went uneaten. To Kai, it was such a wasted effort; even more so last year when the tree tried to brighten up the dry season with heavy blossoms. They were unusual flowers; instead of branches, they stuck out directly from the trunk. But like any flower, the petals fell and produced its fruit.

“The birds would not eat them, so we mustn’t eat them either.” He remembered what Ma had said.

Every tree and every rock down that familiar path to the river reminded him of Ma, how he used to charge ahead with Pink Belly, whacking the bushes and frolicking in the clearing until Ma caught up with them.Today, he did not feel like playing with the new piglet in the same way.
He had always gone with Ma to fetch the water. She was stronger and carried the bigger bucket. He carried the smaller one. It only took fifteen liters.

Without Ma, the road back was windier and more treacherous. The burden of the water weighed him down as he lumbered upward. Thank goodness Piglet was only tiny and seemed to know how to handle the uneven terrain, grass or rock, upward or downward. He rested his tired legs and shoulders every few meters. But each time he stopped, he listened for voices. He did not want to be caught resting by the school bullies. Especially now he was on his own.

On one of these breaks, he heard a rustle. Then a pair of huge feet appeared on the path.

 

Giveaway info here!

 

 

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Blog Tour Schedule Below:

NOV 11
https://thebookbratz.blogspot.com/

NOV 12
https://autumnbookreads.home.blog

NOV 13
https://anewlookonbooks.com/blog

NOV 14
https://forbookssake.home.blog/

NOV 15
http://jemimapett.com/blog/

NOV 18
www.justinelaismith.wordpress.com

NOV 19
https://wittyandsarcasticbookclub.home.blog/

NOV 20
https://aurelialeo.com/blog/

NOV 21
https://www.storeybookreviews.com

NOV 22
www.justinelaismith.wordpress.com

Journey Through Scotland With Diane Magras

Guest Post

Meet Diane Magras

 

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Photo credit: Michael Magras

Diane Magras grew up on Mount Desert Island in Maine. She spent much of her childhood reading and writing, but also outside: racing on seaside granite slabs, darting through birch-lined marshes, and hiking mossy forests. She is the editor, writer, and chief fundraiser for the Maine Humanities Council. She volunteers at her son’s school library, and is addicted to tea, toast, castles, legends, and most things medieval. The Mad Wolf’s Daughter is her debut novel.

Links:

Website: www.dianemagras.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dianemagras

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dianemagrasbooks/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dianemagras/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36441547-the-mad-wolf-s-daughter

 

Guest Post

Setting a Scottish Historic Fantasy Take a lass with a sword and an injured knight and send them off on a tense journey together to save her family (his enemies) from being hanged. That’s a snapshot of the premise of The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, my debut novel, which was published on March 6. When I set The Mad Wolf’s Daughter in medieval Scotland, I didn’t pick the Highlands, that glorious land of hills, glens, coasts, and mountains. I claimed the Lowlands (also a glorious land of hills, glens, coasts, and slightly smaller mountains), which is not what people usual think of when they think “Scotland.”

This region (scribble a line through the lower part of Aberdeenshire, cross over above Stirling, and loop up over Dumfries and Galloway to the coast) is simply the rest of Scotland. In the Southern Lowlands during the early 13th century (when The Mad Wolf’s Daughter takes place), the region held a population with a sense of Scottish identity but also many Anglo-Norman cultural influences (not so much in Galloway, which had its own distinct Scottish warrior vibe).

It’s that not-Highland-but-still-Scottish identity that I was interested in, and also the region dominated at times by England. The landscape, which includes the main battlegrounds of the Scottish Wars of Independence nearly a hundred years after my novel takes place, show identity through its castles.

Both the Scots and the English built these magnificent fortresses. Most castles changed hands, changed back, and many were destroyed by Robert the Bruce as a means to prevent these valuable bastions from falling into enemy hands again (battles and life were that uncertain). In only a handful of cases were these castles rebuilt. My obsession with castles and my interest in the medieval conflict between the Scots and the English (not to mention the Scots and other Scots), but also the similarities between the people of the region, was one reason I wanted to set my novel in the Lowlands.

That’s the history behind my novel’s Scotland. Or least a wee bit of it.

Ready for the fantasy part?

The Mad Wolf’s Daughter is technically historical fantasy because the conflicts I describe didn’t happen—and the landscape isn’t entirely real. Well, it is, but as a combination of elements of historical Lowland Scotland that I combined for a coastline and woods that suited my story’s needs. While you can’t quite follow my wee lass Drest, and Emerick, the wounded knight, on their adventure in Scotland, I can tell you a few places in the Southern Lowlands that will give you a sense of The Mad Wolf’s Daughter’s world.

 

 

St. Abbs Head.SRae.jpgCaption: Scotland, UK (St Abbs Head (from Pettico Wick looking northwest)) via Wikimedia Commons

Let’s start with the headland where Drest grew up and where the novel begins. Scotland is full of dramatic coastlines that would fit nicely for this setting, so I had my pick. One region in the Borders fit my needs nicely: St. Abbs Head in Berwickshire. This is a coast of jagged cliffs with nooks and crannies, rocks strewn in the sea below, and a rugged character, just the kind of place where my tough wee lass would grow up to be strong. Imagine what the rest of the world would feel like if this landscape was the one you knew best!

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Caption: Iain Thompson, via Wikimedia Commons

Drest knows her cliffs and stones, and knows a bit of what woods are like from the trees in a ravine on the headland. The woods she encounters on her journey are unfamiliar and often frightening. I wanted to use a landscape of ancient woodlands filled with moss, oaks, and pines. And a perfect match for my needs was the incredible Woods of Cree in Galloway (it’s managed by the RSPB—Royal Society for the Protection of Birds—a U.K.-wide charity). I haven’t had the chance to visit yet, but the pictures I’ve seen (such as the one above) helped me build the world I’ve tried to create. It’s also helped that I’ve lived in areas of Maine with similar forests, so I know what such woods smell, feel, and sound like. (And my copies of Complete British Birds and A Handbook of Scotland’s Trees have kept me accurate to my chosen region.)

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Caption: Dirleton Castle isn’t quite a historic match for Faintree Castle, where Emerick lives and where Drest’s family are taken to be hanged, but it’s a castle in more or less the right region. And a beauty! Photo: Diane Magras

Picking a representative castle is the hardest part of this post. Most Lowland castles that would have fit Faintree Castle were destroyed in the early 14th century by Robert the Bruce, as mentioned above. And any surviving castle built in the era of my novel (Faintree Castle was built in the mid 1100s) would be, thanks to the ravages of time, in complete ruin by now. So picture this as a Norman castle, square-towered, built quickly but well, with two gatehouses, on an earthen promontory with cliffs below and cliffs all around it…all right, all right, like many castles in fiction, this may be the most fantastical part of my novel. Still, I encourage readers to visit just about any ruined castle in the Lowlands to get a sense of what being in a castle might have felt like.  That’s a brief snapshot of the Scotland of The Mad Wolf’s Daughter. I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour!

Book Details

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Art: Antonio Javier Caparo

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mad-Wolfs-Daughter-Diane-Magras/dp/0735229260/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1494165571&sr=8-1

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-mad-wolfs-daughter-diane-magras/1126270831?ean=9780735229266

Indiebound: http://www.powells.com/book/the-mad-wolfs-daughter-9780735229266/62-0

Excerpt of Henry Hunter and the Beast of Snagov

Blog Blitz, Misc., Spotlight Tour

Henry Hunter.jpgHENRY HUNTER AND THE BEAST OF SNAGOV: THE HENRY HUNTER SERIES #1

By John Matthews

Published on: 9/20/16

For: ages 8–12

Summary: Adolphus Pringle lived a relatively normal life before he met Henry Hunter, but being the best friend of a twelve-year-old millionaire genius certainly makes life interesting. He has accompanied Henry on adventures all over the world and encountered dozens of supernatural creatures. Henry has a penchant for paranormal mysteries, and he never fails to drag his trusty sidekick, Dolf, into adventures to track down the truth in these mystical legends.

Henry announces one morning that he and Dolf are going to go in search of a creature more terrifying than Dracula himself: the Beast of Snagov. The pair of supernatural investigators travel from where Bram Stoker stayed in Whitby to Transylvania. Along the way they come across some strange things such as Dracula’s daughter, Bella, and an organization called the Order of the Dragon that wants to sacrifice Henry Hunter to the Beast of Snagov. When Henry is taken, it’s up to Dolf and Bella to team up and rescue him!

Will Henry survive this supernatural adventure? Get ready to discover the world of the supernatural through the eyes of our spooked narrator as he tags along on the first adventure in the Henry Hunter series!

An intriguing combination of Indiana Jones meets Sherlock Holmes, the Henry Hunter Series is the perfect middle-grade read for all young adventures looking for a bit of supernatural excitement in their lives!

Meet the Author

John Matthews is an historian, folklorist, and author. He has produced more than ninety books on Arthurian legends and grail studies. He has devoted much of the past thirty years to the study of Arthurian traditions and myth in general. He lives in Oxford, England

 

Excerpt:

Prologue
HOW I MET HENRY HUNTER

The first time I saw Henry Hunter he was hanging by his fingertips from the windowsill of the principal’s office.
He looked down as I walked past, fixing me with his large, slightly protuberant blue eyes and said, “Could you spare a moment, old chap?”
(Yes, he really does talk like that.)
I wasn’t really sure whether to answer or just ignore the boy dangling from the window. You see, I hadn’t been at St. Grimbold’s School for Extraordinary Boys very long, and wasn’t sure of the protocol in such an event. But he did look as though he might fall at any moment.
“Um, can I help?” I asked.
“Well, could you be a good fellow and fetch the ladder from the gardener’s shed?” said Henry, beaming at me.
The gardener’s shed was just a short walk away, but since the situation seemed to call for it I ran all the way there and back. I leaned the ladder against the wall, angling it close enough for Henry to reach with his feet and climb down.
“Thanks!” he said rather breathlessly. Then he nodded towards the window of the principal’s office and added, “You might be better off not hanging around here for a while.”
“Okay . . . right . . . thanks,” I said, wondering what I was thanking him for. I found myself following Henry as he walked quickly away across the playing fields. He headed towards the elm trees that lined the drive up to the imposing cast iron school gates.
I caught up with Henry and noticed he had a bundle of bright green cloth tucked into the front of his school blazer.
“So—um—what were you doing up there, anyway?” I ventured. I didn’t normally ask such direct questions, but somehow I knew the answer would be too intriguing to ignore.
Henry turned his bright blue eyes on me. “I’m not sure you’d believe me if I told you,” he said.
“Try me,” I answered. I was becoming intrigued by Henry’s odd behavior and the way he spoke.
“Okay,” said Henry. He looked around to make sure no one was watching, then
pulled the mysterious bundle from his jacket, unwrapping the fabric at the edge for me to see what was inside. It looked a bit like a flute—but not the kind likely to be played in a school orchestra. This one was elaborately carved out of what looked like old bone (not, I hoped, human—but you never know).
I didn’t know what to say. “I-I’ve never seen anything like it before!” I stuttered.
“That’s not surprising,” said Henry, pushing back his slightly floppy hair, “because it’s one of a kind. Anyone who listens to it has to do whatever the person blowing it says! I didn’t think it was the sort of thing Dr. Hossenfeffer should be in charge of.”
There it was. The sort of casual remark I became very familiar with as I got to know Henry Hunter better. The sort that showed that he, a twelve-year-old (even in a school for extraordinary boys), thought nothing of challenging the principal. I’d soon discover that it was the kind of thing Henry Hunter did all the time.
Henry explained that Dr. Hossenfeffer, the current headmaster of St. Grimbold’s, had stolen the strange flute from a passing Himalayan priest. I suspect his reason may have had something to do with trying to control a hundred and fifty unusual boys, but in any case Henry had decided it was far too powerful an object to be in the hands of an ordinary principal—especially one who was supposed to be looking after us. So he’d picked the lock of Professor Hossenfeffer’s study, cracked the seven codes required to open the principal’s lock box, taken the flute, and was just about to leave when he heard the old boy coming. That’s when he climbed out of the window and found he was stuck. I came along and the rest, as they say, is history.
After the whole dangling-from-the-window- ledge event Henry and I became best friends. Although I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it’s because every hero needs a sidekick—or at least someone to tell the story of their adventures. Since then, Henry has said to me on more than one occasion: “Every Sherlock Holmes needs his Watson, Dolf, and you are mine.”
I had at first thought this wasn’t very flattering—everyone knows Dr. Watson isn’t the sharpest knife in the box—but I soon came to realize that almost no one is as bright as Henry Hunter, so I decided I could live with the comparison.
A few days after the incident of the flute, Henry came up to me in the quad and said in his rather high and nasal voice, “You’re Adolphus Pringle, aren’t you?”
I nodded, a bit surprised he knew my name—I hadn’t mentioned it during the windowsill rescue. “I just wanted to thank you for helping me out of trouble the other day,” Henry said, flashing me a toothy grin.
“You’re welcome,” I told him. “It was no problem.”
Henry and I stood in the corner of the quad, quiet for a moment—one of those rather awkward silences that sometimes happen when no one can think of what to say next.
Then Henry grinned again and said, “Listen, I’m just off to look for this rare bug. Like to come along?”
Looking back, I don’t know whether he really wanted me to come along or if it was just something to say, but that didn’t occur to me then and I jumped at the opportunity of doing something other than school lessons or homework. Of course he neglected to tell me that the bug he was looking for was a foot long and only found in the jungles of Africa, but that was Henry for you. I also didn’t know he’d charted a Learjet, hired some local natives as guides, and that he was carrying a $30,000 video camera with which he intended to capture it on film.
As we tore through the skies at 50,000 feet in the Learjet, Henry explained that everything strange about his life began with his name. Having the surname Hunter got him interested in hunting for things—but not for just anything, like a great new sandwich or a book by his favorite author—but BIG THINGS, like legendary creatures and items that no one believed in, such as aliens, the yeti, the Holy Grail, mummies, and the crown of Alexander the Great. At first it meant looking stuff up in books (Henry always did that instead of using the Internet—which he said made you lazy) but in time he graduated to mounting actual expeditions in search of particular things.
He could afford to do this and things like hiring the Lear, because his parents were rich— his dad had, years ago, invented the Cronos microchip, which revolutionized the gaming industry by making it possible for gamers to interact with their favorite characters more closely than ever before. Then he’d created the Cronopticon (voted Best Games Machine Ever for several years running) and after that the Cronopticon 2, the Cronopticon Gigantic and the Cronopticon Mini—until just about everyone in the world owned one of his consoles. His dad was clever—but not as clever as Henry who, by the time he was ten, had degrees in subjects most people have never even heard of. Astrophysics, lepidoptera, and callisthenics
are some of the ones I can remember.
Henry also told me that he could disappear on adventures like this because his parents weren’t around. His mother had suddenly got a bad attack of responsibility and decided that she and her husband should put their billions to good use. They were off in search of a particularly rare orchid, which it was rumored could cure half the diseases in the world. At first they came home every month or so to see Henry, but after a bit all he saw of them was an occasional email and a video call on his birthday and Christmas.
So that was how Henry had ended up at St. Grimbold’s, which may sound a bit tough on him, but he said he liked having parents who were off doing something useful and exciting—and it meant he had the kind of freedom no one gets when they’re twelve.
I didn’t have much of an opportunity to tell Henry about my background. Which is just as well, because I’m not super bright, and I don’t have an upper-class accent or designer clothes or any of that stuff. I just happen not to fit too well in the kind of school that insists on homework, the right kind of gym bag, and shirts properly tucked in. My last principal told me, “Pringle, you have an overactive imagination. It is not welcome here.” Luckily St. Grimbold’s has a trust fund to offer scholarships to kids like me, who are reasonably smart but whose parents are anything but rich, to get “a proper education,” as my dad calls it.
The Hunters were another matter; they forked over a pretty hefty sum to get Henry into St. Grimbold’s, and they made it pretty easy for Henry to indulge in his hobby.
Hunting.
You name it: Henry hunted it.
And most of the time, I was with him.
The rare bug adventure was actually pretty ordinary compared to some we’ve had since, though we did encounter a group of hunters who were just as keen as Henry to find the bug, and who were prepared to do anything to stop us. But, thanks to Henry’s amazing skill and encyclopedic knowledge of lepidoptera, we managed to escape, and film the giant bug, without getting killed. But that’s a story for another time.
For now, I want to start with a different adventure, one that’s more important for you to know about. A story that still gives me goosebumps. Not The Story of the Great Lizard of Jambalaya, or The Adventure of The Curried Frogs. It’s one from Henry’s files, an adventure that I think might contain some vital clues about Henry that I need rather badly. Of course I was there, so I know what happened, but, dear reader, I need your help.
So please keep your eyes peeled, your ear to the ground, your mouth wide. Because this is the first of . . .

THE HENRY HUNTER FILES:
The Beast of Snagov

.

Interview with Jaleigh Johnson

Author Interview, Uncategorized

Meet Jaleigh Johnson.

Jaleigh Johnson.jpg

Photo credit: Mark Jones

 

Jaleigh Johnson is the author of the New York Times Bestselling novel The Mark of the Dragonfly, and The Secrets of Solace, from Delacorte Press.  She has also written for the Dungeons and Dragons Forgotten Realms fiction line. In her spare time, she is an avid gamer and also enjoys gardening, reading and going to the movies with her husband.  Visit her online at www.jaleighjohnson.com or on Twitter @JaleighJohnson. 

 

Now onto the interview…

 

Did you sketch the World of Solace before even writing the first novel, The Mark of the Dragonfly?

“I sketched a lot of it out beforehand, yes.  For this series, the world of Solace came first.  It came with questions like, what if you had a world of forgotten objects and limited resources?  What if two kingdoms fought over them?  With so much focus on the world, I had to sketch out where the Dragonfly territories were, how big the Merrow Kingdom was, what was the 401’s route—things like that.  It helped me see the shape of what I was creating.  It was also a lifesaving reference tool the further I got into the plot.”

 

What was your main inspiration in creating the World of Solace?

“The 401 train will forever be my biggest inspiration for Solace.  The steam train in the novel is loosely based on the real 401 Southern steam locomotive at the Monticello Railway Museum in Monticello, Illinois. You have to understand, I have a pretty serious train crush.  The travel, the romance, the technology—trains are just amazing to me.  And the 401 is one of my favorites.  I can remember standing at the depot when the engine pulled away, steam clouds billowing, that classic chug chug chug you can feel vibrating in your chest.  That’s enough to make anyone want to build a story around it, but I was always fascinated by the idea that the 401 could have very easily been a forgotten piece of technology from another era. Volunteers at the railway museum restored it and preserved it, but that idea of beautiful, forgotten things stayed with me, and Solace became a whole world of beautiful, forgotten, abandoned things—and people. ”  

 

Your Things I Love page on your website is fun and interactive. Can you pick one thing out of your list that you go to more than the others when you have writing woes?

“Thank you!  I always return to food (no big surprise to those who know me) when I have writing woes.  Baking is one of my go-to hobbies when I need to step away from the computer and refresh the brain.  Something about the meticulousness of the process is very soothing to me, and it lets my mind work story problems while my hands are occupied.  Also, at the end of it, there are treats.  Treats are good.”

 

Did you ever write any fan-fiction inspired stories for the games that you’ve played?
“I’ve never written fan-fiction stories for the games I’ve played, but I have delved into the fan communities for games I’ve loved like Dragon Age and Mass Effect.  The art, the gameplay anecdotes, the lore discussions—I love how the internet creates spaces where fans can come together and express their passion. It’s a wonderful thing, and it energizes me to work on my own world when I see all the cool things creators are doing.”

 

How did you transition from your older teen/adult fiction novels to a younger audience? Describe the process if possible.

“*grins* It wasn’t so much a transition as feeling like I tumbled face first into it.  All I knew going into the Solace series was that the characters were not adults.  They were children who had been lost/abandoned/broken in one way or another, and they had to rely on themselves to survive in the world.  From there it was…I wouldn’t say easy, because it definitely wasn’t, but the territory was familiar, if that makes sense.  I still needed to write a story that held readers’ attention, create a world that felt alive, and so I just told myself to write something that *I* loved and trust that younger audiences would love it too. It helps that most of the time I feel like a twelve-year-old masquerading as an adult!”

 

Is there anything else to share today? 


“You can learn more about the world of Solace at my website: jaleighjohnson.com and you can find me on Twitter @JaleighJohnson where I mostly tweet about books, food, travel and gaming.  Come say hi!”

 

Interview with John Claude Bemis

Author Interview

Meet John Claude Bemis.

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John Claude Bemis is the author of Out of Abaton: The Wooden Prince, the Clockwork Dark trilogy (which includes The Nine Pound Hammer), The Prince Who Fell from the Sky, and the picture book Flora and the Runaway Rooster. John received the Excellence in Teaching Award from UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Education for his work as an author-educator in schools around the state. He served as the Piedmont Laureate in 2013, promoting the literary arts and shining a light on the importance of children’s literature. He lives with his wife and daughter in Hillsborough, NC.

 

Now onto the interview.

 

On your website bio it says, “My passion for reading grew into a passion for writing, especially creating fantastical stories that I imagined my students would love.” Why do you think fantasy stories are more attractive to younger readers?

“Young readers naturally view the world in a much more magical way. That’s not to say they don’t know the difference between fact and fantasy. They do. But they see things through this lens of wonder and curiosity. Their imaginations are cranked up high. Their suspension of disbelief is low. They crave stories that activate the curious, wondrous sides of their thinking. Fantasy is perfectly suited this.

The other thing I think draws young readers to fantasy is that they want stories where they can see kids engaging in the kinds of dangers and challenges that they wouldn’t necessarily want to have happen in their real lives. It’s fun to see how someone else might confront the Big Bad Wolf or Voldemort. They wonder about what they might do if they were in that position. Fantasy as a genre lends itself easily to kids being in situations without many adult guardians watching over them, where characters can get into big trouble in exciting, magical situations. What’s not to love about that?”

 

Was there a specific Native American creation myth that helped inspire your novel The Prince Who Fell from the Sky?

“Not one in particular, although I’ve always been particularly drawn to the Haida tale of Raven bringing light to the world. It’s very Prometheus—the trickster hero! Many Native American myths have animals as these anthropomorphized figures inhabiting a world that feels ancient and timeless. This was the feel I was aiming for with The Prince Who Fell from the Sky. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic Earth, but one without humans where animals have more power and sophistication.”

 

Is there a go to myth, legend, or fairy tale that you visit if you are having trouble writing?

“My shelves are stuffed with books on legend, myth, and folklore. And yes, I often go to those stories when I’m in need of a bit of inspiration. The Norse Myths and African/African-American trickster tales are great for picking up ideas on characters with cleverness, humor, and heart (my favorite types of characters). And I’ll often look at the Finnish Kalevala or Japanese legends for wildly inventive world-building and idiosyncratic plot twists.

But often I’ll just randomly wander through these books just to see if they spark new ideas. It’s how I fell upon the ideas that led to my latest book The Wooden Prince. I’d been reading about the Medieval European legend of Prester John around the same time I was looking at Carlo Collodi’s original Pinocchio. All this cross-pollination of ideas occurred, which helped me re-imagine Pinocchio in a Da Vinci-punk Venetian Empire where magic from Prester John’s kingdom has sent Italian history down a different path. You never know what will ignite an interesting idea. Looking at old stories with fresh eyes can be just the spark.”

 

What is the biggest difference you find when writing a picture book, like Flora and the Runaway Rooster, compared to writing a trilogy like The Clockwork Dark?

“For a picture book, I want a stream-lined story focusing on a single event that reveals how a character might be transformed. The story needs to be told in a minimum of words. While The Nine Pound Hammer and the Clockwork Dark trilogy also has an emphasis on character transformation, the events are more sprawling, more layered, building a large story arc out of many smaller ones. There’s a lot more room to flesh out the characters and the story and allow the readers to go deeply into the world of this America of legend and magic.

At their hearts, both are adventure stories with characters I wanted readers to connect with emotionally. But there’s a difference in the stories’ intents. I wrote Flora after visiting Rwanda and learning about Heifer International’s work to relieve hunger and poverty around the world. So the aim of the story was to give young readers a sense for what life was like for a child in rural Africa. My middle-grade novels tend to be big fantasy epics, so the goal with these is primarily to entertain. I want them to be pure fun, full of wonder and excitement. Hopefully both challenge readers to see themselves and their worlds differently.”

 

What are you currently reading? Will we be seeing any references, or influences, to this read in your upcoming novel Lord of Monsters?

“I’ve finished Lord of Monsters (although there are still revisions to be completed). But when I was writing the first draft, I was reading books with high fantasy worlds and lots of monsters and magic—everything from Leigh Bardugo’s The Grisha trilogy to Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story (an umpteenth repeat-read, since this is one of my very favorites), a bunch of Diana Wynne Jones, William Joyce, and return trips to C. S. Lewis. I find that I can read books in a similar vein without worrying I’m going to unconsciously steal ideas. They become influences, inspirations. They help me guide the story like pole stars while also letting me steer my story on its own unique journey.”

 

You can find John Claude Bemis, and say hi!, at the following places:

Author website: http://www.johnclaudebemis.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/John-Claude-Bemis-34934544469/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH_hbxiSnrSBF5ucwTz7_Ww

Thanks John Claude Bemis for the interview!

Interview with James Riley

Author Interview

Meet James Riley

James Riley.jpg

James Riley is the New York Times bestselling author of the Half Upon a Time and Story Thieves series, as well as many books too unwritten to count. He’s met thousands of imaginary people, most of whom are more polite than you’d think, but less interesting than you’d hope. He doesn’t believe fairy tales actually happened, mostly because he’s never had tiny elves do his work for him at night, despite them promising several times. James currently lives outside Washington, DC, but it’s not like he’s special that way … so do a lot of other people.

 

Now onto the interview!

 

It seems fairy tales are making a comeback in the current market. Why did you decide to write a fairy tale based story for children?

“Fairy tales in literature are almost like pop music: Even if you don’t seek it out, you can probably still hum along with the biggest songs. Everyone knows the stories generally, so I thought it’d be fun to use that knowledge base as a starting point, then tweak it, hopefully in a fun way. It’s a great source for misdirection, which can lead to some interesting plot twists.”

 

In your opinion, how do you think fairy tales benefit children?

“I’m not someone who thinks fairy tales are morality tales designed to teach children how to behave. I might just learn the wrong lessons, though, since in spite of the result, I stand by Hansel and Gretel’s decision to eat from a house made of candy. Who wouldn’t give it a taste? Mainly I think fairy tales are just a great introduction to story in general, and create building blocks for storytelling for the rest of their lives. Fairy tales are like Latin to romance languages: You can see their influence in all kinds of stories.

Maybe I should stop comparing fairy tales to things.”

 

Life is boring when you live in the real world, instead of starring in your own book series.” How does this quote summarize/explain not only your new series Story Thieves, but your other series Half Upon A Time and your philosophy on writing?

“Basically, we’re misled all over the place by children’s books. We’re taught from an early age (including with fairy tales) that being clever and good will result in finding love, respect, and ideally, our own kingdom. So I thought it’d be fun to have a character waiting for the excitement and adventure promised by stories to finally show up. Then it all goes hideously wrong, of course, because what we wish for is almost never what we actually need. That idea plays the opposite role in Half Upon a Time, as the hero, Jack, is told that he needs to embrace the adventurous life if he wants to get anywhere. But he’s far more interested in just being normal, after growing up in the midst of magic inherent in a fairy tale world.

So I guess my philosophy on writing is to give my characters what they want, then laugh in their faces when they realize it’s the wrong thing? Wow, I’m a horrible person!”

 

What is one thing you want every young writer to know as they explore their own writing?

“DON’T JUDGE IT UNTIL IT’S FINISHED. Granted, I still want me to know this, because I do it all the time, but the easiest way to not finish a story is to worry about how good or bad it is while writing it. That’s what the editing process is for, and you need to finish the story to truly know what needs fixing, so give yourself permission to write something truly terrible. You can always make it better later.”

 

Why did you decide to write for younger audience versus writing for YA or adult?

“I’ve actually got ideas for both YA and adult books, so it’s maybe more a matter of what came first. I’ve got the sense of humor of a 12 year old, so that might have played a part. But I think it came down to me finding a welcome sincerity in books for kids (or all-ages appropriate, as I tend to think of it). You can tell big stories about epic emotions and not have to apologize for it. Though I AM sorry.”

 

Is there anything else to share you want to share today?

 “I take questions on my blog/tumblr/whatever it is at jamesrileyauthor.com, so feel free to ask me anything there, on twitter @_jamesriley_, facebook (jamesrileyauthor) or if you see me on the street!

 

To the survival of fairy tales!

Thank you for the interview!