World Building

When reading fantasy or sci-fi, the writer is usually presenting you with a new world, which may resemble our own, or be very different. To make it work, the reader has to understand that world, and more importantly, have to believe in it.

Some writers choose to throw you straight into their world, finding ways to provide you with background, history, and rules as the story progresses. I’ve read books in which this fails to work for me – often I find myself so concerned with trying to figure out the world, that I fail to concentrate fully on the story.

I’ve experienced two books recently which make this work – the first is the Dark Tower series, which I once thought I’d never read. I gave it a try when it came out in audio, and I’m hooked. I believe fully in Roland’s world, and even it’s connection with ours.

I’ve also just finished a new YA fantasy book, A Throne of Glass. This one takes a while to build up it’s world, and I do think it slows down the book at the beginning, but it pays off – once you’re settled in the world, the story really kicks off.

Then there’s the prologue idea – and this is what prompted this post. I’ve just picked up my ARC of Katya’s World, from a new imprint, Strange Chemisty. The prologue, which tells you the world’s history over a few hundred years, is only a few pages. And yet in those few pages, I feel I understand the world’s origin, and something of the people living there. Just a few pages, and I’m ready to lose myself in the story. I’m impressed.

So, what do you prefer – a slow build, or a good prologue? Any good or bad examples of either?

Review Books

I’ve collected together the main books which I have to review at the moment. From the top down..

Amity and Sorrow – this one is from the new Headline imprint, Tinder Press. This one isn’t out for a while, but I did make a start the other day. And if this one is anything to go by, it’ll be an imprint worth watching!

Neptune’s Tears – from Piccadilly Press. Since taking the photo I’ve manage to finish this one. It’s an interesting sci-fi tale for teens, will link to full review once done.

Poltergeeks / Katya’s World / The Assassin’s Curse – these three were sent to me from another new imprint, Strange Chemistry. I’m really excited about these books, and about Strange Chemistry in general, as they seem to have some great looking titles lined up. I’m half-way through Poltergeeks, and as loving it so far.

Deathless – this is from Corsair, yet another brilliant imprint. I’ve reviewed a few for them now, and they’ve all been good, and I love this author’s children’s book.. I’m excited to see how she handles an adult’s book.

Struck / This Is How It Ends – both from amazon vine. I’ve read some of TIHIE, but it’s failing to grip me.

The Dog Stars – a surprise send from Headline. :)

I guess I need to get one with my reading!

I’ve probably just confused people on twitter, so this is an easier way of doing it! Over on my forum, we have quite a few author interviews, and in the past we ran ‘Featured Author’, where we invited an author to register and hang around for a month whilst we threw questions at them! ;)

This feature became quite hard to organise, and I ran out of time for it all. Recently I’ve restarted ding interviews, but I much prefer to do these if I’ve read one of the author’s books – I prefer to make them personal, instead of a list of stock questions.

I’ve also tried this week to do the Featured Author section a little differently, making it more informal. I’ve renamed it ‘Author Chat’, and the duration of each can vary, depending on how busy the individual author is.

See the various ideas in action here - http://www.bookclubforum.co.uk/community/index.php?/forum/28-author-interviews-and-forum-visits/

I’m aware that the more popular authors tend to be too busy for little forums like mine, and I’m also very keen to help newer authors get themselves known. However, I’m concerned that my forum members may not chat to authors if they haven’ read their books, or heard of them.

I’ve asked the forum members about it, and you can read about that here - http://www.bookclubforum.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/10526-question-for-you-all/. What I also want to do is collect some opinions from authors, publishers etc – but you don’t need to register on the forum to give me your feedback.

Please leave me a comment here, or tweet me. I really want to know what everyone feels, so I can provide something everyone will appreciate and enjoy.  Would you be interested in popping in for a couple of weeks, and chatting to the forum members, and would it bother you if the response was low? Publishers, is this the sort of thing you would encourage your authors to get involved in?

All thoughts and ideas appreciated! :)

Box of Books!

On Wednesday, the lovely people over at HarperCollins had a clearout in the children’s section office, and they did some give-aways on twitter. I managed to snag myself a box of teen books, and they arrived today…

The Louise Rennison books will be put aside for if/when my girls want to take a look, and I’m excited to find some Robin Jarvis in there – Dancing Jax was a very interesting read, and I didn’t even realise the 2nd book, Freax and Rejex was out. There’s also 2 books from his Wyrd Museum series there.

That leaves a few doubles, and some Garth Nix books – I’ll have to decide what to do with those!

Thank you @HarperCollinsCh :)

James is the author of Hollow Pike, one of my top reads this year. He’s also very passionate about reading and writing, and he’s shortlisted to be Queen of Teen! James was kind enough to answer a few of my questions…

Q. Let’s start at the beginning.. what can you tell us about your book, Hollow Pike?

A. It’s been described as ‘Mean Girls with witches’, which works for me. It’s about a girl called Lis who moves to a small town called Hollow Pike only to discover it has a dark history. She think the witchcraft rumours are nonsense, but when a girl is murdered, she starts to think she might be next…

Q. How long have you been a writer for?

A. I’ve written for years. I used to write stories for my Grandma and then later wrote music reviews and interviews for papers and magazines. Hollow Pike was my first attempt at a novel.

Q. So what was your inspiration for Hollow Pike – where did the ideas come from, and how did they develop?

A. I really wanted to write about school. I think anyone who went to school will recognise Hollow Pike. Moreover, I wanted to write about people like me and my friends – I wasn’t seeing characters like us in other YA books.

The supernatural has always fascinated me too. The idea that in very ordinary villages, there are mysterious happenings! As the novel developed I looked to things like The Crucible and The Malleus Maleficarum for inspiration.

Q. There are some great characters in your book – go on, be honest, are they based on anyone you know?

A. Absolutely! All of the characters are versions of my friends or composites of people I know. That’s what writers do -beg, borrow and steal!

Q. Considering the success of other books, were you not just a tiny bit tempted to add a vampire? ;-)

A. Not in this one. I do hope the vampire genre can come back post Twilight though as one day I’d love to tell a vampire story. But not this one, no!

Q. What comes next for you – will we hear any more from Hollow Pike, or are you moving on to other things?

A. I’d love to go back to Hollow Pike and explore the town in more detail at some point, but the next book will be something completely different. It’s still for YA readers and is even twistier and turnier than Hollow Pike.

Q. You’ve been shortlisted for ‘Queen of Teen’, tell us a little more about the award, and what it means.

A. The Queen of Teen is great because it’s all voted for by young readers. It doesn’t take itself too seriously either. The winner gets an ACTUAL CROWN.

Q. What would it mean personally to you if you won.. what would you do with the title?

A. It would be fantastic because I really hope that Hollow Pike (and my next book) captures what it’s like to be young. Getting an award from young adult readers would be a seal of approval.

If I won, I’d be able to visit schools as ‘the Queen of Teen’ instead of ‘another author’, which would be great because I could share my books and love of reading far and wide.

Q. Do you enjoy attending events, chatting to readers on twitter etc, and how important do you think this is?

A. I really do. Writing can be a solitary career so getting out and about is hugely important. For authors, Twitter is the watercooler.

Q. Finally, what do you like to read yourself.. who are some of your favourite authors, and who’s on your bedside table right now?

A. I am a YA reader AND writer. I love the pace and edge of YA books. I love Patrick Ness, Philip Pullman, Malorie Blackman and Maureen Johnson. At the moment, I’m reading Miss Peregrine’s Home of Peculiar Children by Ranson Riggs.

James would be thrilled if you could vote for him at www.queenofteen.co.uk/vote

Choosing books….

I took Amy (8) for a trip to Waterstones the other day, and suggested many books to her, but this was her final choice…

The two at the bottom obviously don’t push her at all, and she’s read them very quickly. The top two were, I think, only chosen because they mentioned ‘Jubilee’ and ‘Olympics’, two subjects they’re discussing at school, and I’m not sure they will get read.

I really wanted to be able to say that she’d chosen some more difficult books, as I know she’s technically a good reader. I want to feel she’s pushing herself, and developing her reading.

But then I had a turn-around. She’s only 8, and has loads of time to develop. What I really want to do is encourage and nuture that love of reading and books which I have. I want her to *choose* to read, and to enjoy it, rather than trying to manage a more difficult book just because her mum says she should!

So how do you feel about your children – do you encourage them to read more difficult books, or just enjoy what *they* choose? And readers.. how was your childhood, and did it affect how you feel about books/reading today?



Authors are a lovely bunch! My youngest, Amy, is a keen reader, but recently she’s been very attached to the Tom Gates books – re-reading them almost constantly! I wrote to Liz, to let her know, and also to enquire about how to get a book signed.

Not only did she sent Amy a signed sticker to put in her book, but also a signed postcard and a personal note for her. This made Amy very happy, and hopefully has increased her love of all things bookish!

So thank you very much to a lovely author!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.