Making Hay with Neil Gaiman, Stephen Fry and Chris Riddell!

On Monday 29th May 2017, I had the good fortune to drive to the beautiful Welsh/Herefordshire border town of Hay-on-Wye and its world famous Hay Literary Festival. The Hay Festival is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, so it felt like an extra special treat. My reason for going, apart from the fact that Hay-on-Wye is a book lovers paradise, was because I had tickets to see Neil Gaiman in conversation with Stephen Fry on the subject of ‘Mythology’, two authors and people I greatly admire and a topic I love and am a little obsessed with – a perfect day out! 😀

I’ve been to Hay and its festival many times now but it always feels like the first time, that tangible sense of excitement and child like joy just stays with me every time. I’ve been wanting to see Neil Gaiman for ages but somehow had always missed him, often because I’d bought early bird tickets to see someone else before realising that Gaiman was appearing as well. As much as I love Hay it’s just too far to go twice in a week (every route there is fiddly as hell), and too expensive and booked up to even consider staying the night. Last time, I was at the festival to see Kazuo Ishiguro and his brilliant new book The Buried Giant and had once again missed Neil Gaiman. The irony was that Ishiguro was discussing the incredible snobbery he had encountered when he decided to write The Buried Giant, his first foray into fantasy, and how he had had no idea just what genre bias, prejudice and misconceptions there was in literary circles about fantasy. In fact, Ishiguro had been so taken aback by the level of snobbery towards fantasy that he ended up, with Neil Gaiman, writing a newspaper article about it!

So when the festival programme landed on my door two weeks ago and I saw Neil Gaiman would be appearing with another favourite of mine, Stephen Fry, it was a no brainer, I booked my ticket immediately. To my delight, a couple of friends had booked up the exact same event so we were able to meet up and sit next to each other. A shout out to the lovely Roz Clarke a brilliant fellow fantasy writer from Grimbold Books (who’s not only a great writer but is an amazing editor as well as being a lovely person) and Heather Ashley, another lovely mutual friend and her fabulous fringed blue shawl which I wanted to steal and two new friends I met on Monday, Ian Halverson and Amanda Beecham who was wearing the most gorgeous dress!

I drove to Hay hoping to avoid the predicted rain as well as all the poor squashed hedgehogs along the route. My accompanying soundtrack was Soundgarden’s Superunknown album, made all the more poignant by the tragic suicide of its glorious frontman and all round poetic genius, Chris Cornell less than two weeks before. The track ‘Feels Like Suicide’, a track I had always loved now seems too loaded with meaning and full of sadness to listen to. 😦

I arrived a little late (as usual), just after 1pm. Note to all people travelling to Hay-on-Wye, don’t EVER go through Hereford, REALLY not worth it! Anyway, after a security check of bags (a sad necessity these days especially post the horrific Manchester attack the previous Monday) and the armed police that were patrolling the festival, I met up with the gang in the Food Hall. What made it more joyous, is that only Heather had been to Hay before so for Roz, Ian and Amanda this was all a gloriously new experience. We wandered past the various tents, bunting and fluttering flags like Tibetan prayers to the gods, past the smells of barbecuing foods, coffee’s of every description, acoustic music, pan pipes, fiddles and the general hubbub caused by the thousands of festival goers.

We grabbed a shuttle bus into town and started our book crawl opposite Hay-on-Wye’s impressive ruined castle…by going to Shepherd’s Ice-Cream Parlour! Yes, ice cream came before books! 😀 Shepherd’s is an amazing place straight out of the 1930’s with it’s curved glass façade, mosaic floor and café chic vibe, but it’s ice cream…oh la la! The queues were totally worth it! Made from local sheep’s milk, for me, it’s the best ice cream outside of Italy. I was a little pig and had four scoops spread over two tubs! 😀

We began exploring Hay-on-Wye’s delights by visiting the famous Richard Booth’s bookshop – THIS is the sort of bookshop you dream about, all creaking dark wooden floors and interior and several levels to get blissfully lost in. Having the will power of a gnat, I succumbed and bought my first of many purchases of the day!

We went on to Addyman’s Books, Mostly Maps and one of my personal favourites, Hay-On-Wye Booksellers. The magical thing about Hay-on-Wye, is that it casts a spell over you so utterly that you lose track of time even if you’ve only been in a few of its wonderful bookshops. Which is what happened to us. We didn’t even get the chance to meander around Hay’s largest bookshop, Hay Cinema Bookshop with over 200,000 titles! Suddenly it was 5pm and with our Neil Gaiman/Stephen Fry event starting at 5:30 in the main Tata Tent, we had to move our arses. With the queue for the shuttle buses impossibly long we decided to chance walking the mile and a bit from the town centre to the festival. We made it in time and joined the expansive queue – in all my years of going to Hay, I’ve never seen a queue for anybody as long as that one! We eventually got into the Tent and in my exuberance to grab five seats together I virtually trampled on this poor woman who had sat herself at the very end of a line of empty seats. Oops sorry! :O

The event started and to our amazement we had an extra treat, up on stage joining Neil Gaiman and Stephen Fry was Children’s Laureate and illustrator extraordinaire, Chris Riddell (a FB friend of mine and someone I am in complete awe of). Chris was on stage throughout actually illustrating the conversation on the spot! Amazing! I have no idea how he does it!

The conversation started with Stephen Fry asking Neil about how he first got into mythology, a subject they are both passionate about (Stephen Fry loves Greek Myths which he talked about a bit, whereas Neil Gaiman prefers Norse Myths – hence his new book, Norse Mythology). For Neil Gaiman it was Norse Mythology and its roots, not the Wagnerian Cycle stuff but the older original Eddas, tales of Odin, Thor, Loki and giant wolf Fenrir, of magic and cruelty, tricks and betrayal, that he loved so much. Certainly very inspirational stuff, no wonder Tolkien often plundered such tales for his own creations! Neil spoke eloquently about Loki’s children, particularly Týr and read a section of his new book, Norse Mythology, and how Odin had made the dwarfs make an unbreakable chain, Gleipnir, and had tricked Fenrir into being bound up by it because they were jealous of his strength and power. I won’t spoil the end of the tale for those of you who are not familiar. 🙂

Stephen Fry, as always, had a lovely relaxed style of questioning that made both men at ease, even under the intense stare of some 500 audience members and all the bright lights. Chris Riddell brought there conversations alive with beautifully drawn snapshots of both sitters and the various mythological characters they discussed, as well as some cheekily flamboyant moments of drawing hilarity!

The entire experience was utterly magical. I really wish I had brought a Dictaphone or something to record it all. It lasted just over a hour with some question and answer bits from the audience, including one girl asking if as writers did Gaiman and Fry ever feel like a God themselves? Clever question. Neil Gaiman replied “Yes, twice. Once when I was asked to write a Dr. Who script and I wrote… ‘Interior Tardis’, and once 30 years before that when I had to make Batman say something!” You can see the whole talk here.

Someone also asked if Gaiman would be interested in ever doing some Welsh Myths, like the Mabinogion…he didn’t say no! 😀 For someone like me, who ADORES any kind of mythology, but particularly Norse, Celtic and ancient Sumerian tales (Epic of Gilgamesh), this whole event was simply edible! 😀

After it finished I did my usual gazelle sprint to the festival bookshop, to queue up for the book signing. Despite my stumpy legs and swift weaving through the crowds, there were still about a hundred people in front of us, including the annoying serial fidget who was sitting next to me and could keep still for ore than a few seconds, making my chair move so much I was getting nauseous! But, we still managed to secure a good place, seeing as the queue snaked behind me by at least 2 or 3 hundred people!

Despite aching legs and complaining feet we queued and queued. Due to the number of people waiting Neil could only signed two books, but frankly he was amazing and ended up book signing for 5 hours! OMG! Anyway, being the naughty shit that I am and being a fan of his writing, I couldn’t resist in doing something cheeky. When it came to him singing the books I bought, his Norse Mythology and Stardust, I blurted out that I was a fan of his writing and wanted to give him a gift to say thank you. I wasn’t as eloquent as I wanted to be and slapped my novel, White Mountain, down on his table like a wet fish, but he was very gracious and seemed to love the cover. “Wow, lovely to meet a fellow author!” then to my amazement he stretched out his hand for a handshake! Gulp! What a moment, then he went and drew a doodle in one of the books!

After the book signing, exhausted but blissfully happy we said our goodbyes. It was nearly 8:30 but thankfully still light, so with the sun setting I left Hay-on-Wye and this my most favourite of festivals and taking a different route I drove through the majestic landscapes of the Golden Valley homeward bound.

What a magical day! 😀

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Here is my interview with Sophie E Tallis

Here is an interview I recently did for the lovely Fiona McVie on her brilliant blog. Many thanks to Fiona for being the gracious host. Check it out folks and all her other interviews! 😀

authorsinterviews

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Name Sophie E Tallis

Age 41

Where are you from Bristol, UK

A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc  

I grew up in a sleepy village just north of Bristol, dreaming of dragons and wild adventures. I’ve travelled the world having many of those adventures but now live in the Cotswolds with my family and four huge white wolves! I’m a published author, illustrator, painter and poet and am a member of The Society of Authors. I have BA (Hons) Degree in Fine Art and a Post-Grad in Education and was a teacher for 16 years and am now a librarian – a brilliant job being surrounded by books all day!

Fiona: Tell us your latest news?

My epic fantasy novel, White Mountain, the first of my Darkling Chronicles trilogy was just published on 1st December 2014 by Kristell Ink Publishing, an imprint…

View original post 3,994 more words

An interview with Sophie E Tallis

I was VERY honoured to be asked by multi-talented fantasy writer and the maestro of interviews herself, Katrina Jack, to be featured on her wonderful blog/website. Katrina always has brilliant posts on all aspects of writing and publishing and I highly recommend visiting her website on a regular basis. Please check it out folks! 😀 xxx

Castle of Dreams…

Okehampton Castle

Apologies to all my lovely supporters for me being so absent in recent weeks. Still fighting illness I’m afraid so time on the computer is limited, but I will try to reblog interesting articles and get back to my normal blogging cycle. Scan0003

Inside Okehampton CastleAnyway, I was very honoured many months ago now, to be asked by the extremely talented writer, Andrea Baker, weaver of fantasy magic, to appear on her wonderful blog: http://rosewallauthor.wordpress.com/

Andrea and I are also fellow members of The Alliance of Worldbuilders, an amazing kick ass group of fantasy writers and artists: http://theallianceofworldbuilders.weebly.com/

Andrea Baker (Rosewall) is the author of the wonderful YA paranormal romance novel, Leah – Book One of the World’s Apart Series, which I would highly recommend you all to read!5127BRWJMNL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-67,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_[1]

http://www.facebook.com/WorldsApartLeah

Well, for those of you who are not yet familiar with this great book, let me explain that many of the locations in the novel, which inspired its creator, are real places. One of these is Kennilworth Castle. As such, Andrea who has always had a passion for castles and ancient structures, came up with the brilliant idea for a series of blog themed articles/posts about castles. Thus, her brilliant ‘Castle of Dreams’ blog posts were born, where invited authors shared their experiences of castles that have had a creative/inspirational impact on them or shared excerpts from their books! Scan0001 (3)

View from TintagelThis week it was my turn…

So here is the link guys, please check it out and the rest of her wonderful blog: http://rosewallauthor.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/castle-of-dreams-week-nine/

HUGE thanks to Andrea for inviting me to be a part of something so special, thank you honey! 😀 xx

Tintagel

So, which places inspire YOU?

😉 xx

Barren Island Books – My Eighth Interview!

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For those of you familiar with that lovely long-standing stalwart of BBC Radio 4, Desert Island Discs, let me introduce to you an idea of pure majesty…

Talented fantasy writer, blogger, interviewer, mathematical genius, vegetarian, mystery, enigma wrapped in a rather lovely riddle, new mum, piano playing, fellow member of The Alliance of Worldbuilders, multi-talented book lover – the wonderful A.F.E. Smith has created somewhat of a stir. http://www.afesmith.com/

Forget Desert Island Discs, we’re talking about books not music here…so let me introduce you all to her wonderful, magical ‘Barren Island Books’! What a stroke of genius! SUCH a clever idea! 😀 http://www.afesmith.com/1/category/barren%20island%20books/1.html

Anyway, I have been very honoured and rather humbled to be invited and interviewed by A.F.E Smith, my eighth interview and the first of 2013.

If YOU were consigned to a barren island, albeit a rocky sanctuary or a green haven in a sun-kissed and bejewelled ocean, what 5 books would YOU bring for company and to keep the hounds of tedium at bay?

Please check out my new interview and A.F.E. Smith’s wonderful blog! : http://www.afesmith.com/1/post/2013/01/barren-island-books-sophie-e-tallis.html

😀 xx

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Readathon UK – My seventh interview in the company of giants!

Nobody tells you, when you embark on this journey, how mesmeric it can be.

Exhausting, yes, hard work, always, painful with little or no obvious gain, sometimes, but also truly magical and inspiring and…well…life-changing! 😀

I often find that at profound moments in my life I am quite incapable of forming words, let alone coherent sentences. Emotions take over.  That guttural chord within us that lets us know in unequivocal terms, that we are in the middle of something special, a moment to cherish, to define our lives in a certain time and place.

Isn’t that what life is, after all? A series of connected and interconnected moments, and out of that messy melee, one or two fleeting moments suddenly catch fire and flare like stars against the grey. So in moments like these, I find myself through garbled speech and stuttering syllables, uttering inferences like “awesome” “cool” “wow” “amazing” like I’m an awestruck teenager!

Well, another one of those moments happened only a few weeks ago when I was approached by the lovely Debbie Young (http://youngbyname.wordpress.com/) of Readathon UK. In simple terms, Readathon UK is a national charity and reading scheme that gets children to read for pleasure, sparking a passion that can last a lifetime, whilst helping seriously ill children in hospital. What could be a better or more noble endeavour? – books, reading, inspiring young minds and helping sick children?

I admit, to my shame, that I had never heard of Readathon UK before, a fact I find astounding not only due to the close proximity of Readathon’s UK headquarters (only a mile from the school I have taught in for the last eleven years and close to where I used to live!) but due to the long glittering line of literary giants associated with it!

Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake, Michael Morpurgo, Michael Rosen, Julia Donaldson, Anthony Horowitz etc etc…then…ahem…ME?!!!! How bizarre and wonderful?

Check out my interview on Readathon UK’s wonderful website http://www.readathon.org/blog/2012/11/author-teacher-joins-forces-with-readathon/

“When we discovered via our local high street bookseller,The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, that a teacher at one of the schools closest to our office had just published her first book, we had to meet her!

And so it was that Sophie E Tallis, author of fantasy novel White Mountain, came to visit us during the half term break, fitting us in between a whirlwind tour of local bookshops, where she is in demand for book-signing events.

Sophie is delighted to be associated with Readathon, being an avid reader who has just installed the twelfth bookcase in her home!”

*****

“It’s great if you can read but the question is: do you read? If you do the world is yours. This is what Readathon is all about.” Michael Rosen, Children’s Laureate 2007-2009

Authors, poets and illustrators love Readathon because it encourages children to enjoy reading for pleasure which brings them many joys and advantages that last a lifetime.

Readathon’s first ever Honorary Chairman was the legendary Roald Dahl, which is one the reasons we now raise money for the charity founded in his memory: Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity.

After the sad death of Roald Dahl in 1990, this role was taken up by his long-time collaborator Quentin Blake, who the following year was named Children’s Laureate.

The current Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson is also an ardent supporter. She says “Inspiring children to read is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. I’d recommend Readathon to any school or group.”

“Apart from developing the creative powers of the imagination, reading as a teenager helps you to come to a sense of who you are, to define your own identity.” Sir Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate 1999-2009 & Chair of Selection Panel for Children’s Laureate 2009-11

“Books open up the windows of the mind while habitual television can brick them up. The more books children read the better. Reading is like jogging for the brain. Get your feet up, kids, and get reading! Good luck to Readathon.” Spike Milligan

“I didn’t discover the joys of reading until late in life because I am dyslexic. I feel I missed so much because of this, so I’m naturally whole-heartedly behind Readathon. It is a wonderful way of encouraging children to read.” Susan Hampshire

“I wish somebody had sponsored me for the hours I spent reading when I as a lad… It is such a good idea to sponsor children reading… The point about Readathon is that it is both an enjoyable and beneficial sponsorship for those taking part – no hardship, no sore feet, no wet clothes, just lots of lovely books, knowledge gained painlessly and unconsciously and enjoyment all the way.” Frank Delaney

“At the heart of every child, new-born, is a unique genius and personality. What we should be doing is to allow the spark of that genius to catch fire, burn brightly and shine.” Michael Morpurgo, children’s author, Children’s Laureate 2003-5

Readathon proudly supports both CLIC Sargent and Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity.

CLIC Sargent: Every day 10 children and young people in the UK are told they have cancer.  CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people, providing care and support for them and their families from diagnosis, during treatment and beyond. We think they’re amazing. You can find out more here.

Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity: This charity was set up by Roald Dahl’s widow in 1990. It specialises in helping children with serious neurological or blood conditions, providing children’s nurses, equipment, carers and toys, working with hospitals and care organisations or directly with patients. This charity is as marvellous as the children it helps. You can find out more here.

Please do check out Readathon Uk’s website and perhaps even get involved yourself! :  http://www.readathon.org/

A HUGE thank you to Debbie Young and Readathon UK for showing such interest in a local author and inviting me to part of the magic! 😀 xxx

UPDATE!!!

A wonderful post about the interview on Debbie Young’s other website: http://offtheshelfbookpromotions.wordpress.com/

Authors to watch – My third interview!

Wow! What a day?!

The publication day of my debut novel, White Mountain – Book 1 of The Darkling Chronicles, or “Happy Book Day!” as one friend put it, and my third interview with the lovely Tricia Drammeh, as part of her ‘Authors to watch’ interview series!

Tricia Drammeh, a fellow fantasy writer, blogger and interviewer extraordinaire very kindly interviewed me about my book, influences, research, writing communities and processes in general and even my future projects.

Check it out folks! :

http://www.authorstowatch.triciadrammeh.com/2012/09/interview-with-sophie-tallis.html

😀

Please check out Tricia’s fantastic blog, featuring her writing, other author interviews, her wonderful fantasy novel, The Claiming Words, and writing tips:

http://www.triciadrammeh.com

http://www.theclaimingwords.triciadrammeh.com/2012/01/claiming-words-series.html

A MASSIVE thank you to Tricia for such a wonderful and fun interview!

Happy days! 😀