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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Distant Worlds – Welcomes Augusta Bruce!

As 2016 continues, so too does our series of interviews. These galactic travels to ‘Distant Worlds’ are a cool way of spotlighting the very best new speculative fiction along with its creators – those hidden gems that are so often ignored by the mainstream. So, as today marks the 4th year anniversary of this little blog, we celebrate with another gem…this time an editor of fantasy fiction!

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith, Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring, but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

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The Distant Worlds strand started last year, focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber-talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends. Check out their cool titles while they’re still at bargain prices! hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks 

Right, now to our nineteenth interview and one of the newest members of the Grimbold Books family, the mysterious editor at large and fellow cool cat…

Augusta Bruce

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Augusta, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

A kick-ass sword, a water-detector, an endless supply of raspberry jam and butter sandwiches, suncream, a light flowing scarf and a pogo stick.

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

My diary, my ink pen, my white rabbit, my guitar and my yoga mat (which transforms into a flying carpet).

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

I would definitely seek other life-forms for help, and try and make some friends along the way, but I also like the idea of trekking through arid deserts alone for a while.

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

Patrick Rothfuss’s ‘The Slow Regard of Silent Things’ – because Auri, the book’s main character, is alone throughout the book, and deals with it brilliantly – never losing hope. Neil Gaiman’s ‘Sandman’ series, as I would probably be in need of some delectable illustrations and dark humour. Maurice Sendak’s ‘Where the Wild Things Are’, for its sumptuous illustrations, as well as this book’s relevance for the person who finds themselves roaming a distant world. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s ‘The Little Prince’ for the same reason just mentioned. J G Ballard’s ‘The Drowned World’, for its gorgeous, surreal descriptions.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours, Ask the Deep’ by Sóley, ‘Play’ by Moby, ‘Nomade’ by Cat’s Eyes and ‘An American Prayer’ by The Doors.

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

Vodka, the Bison grass one, a little apple juice and a lime twist wouldn’t go amiss…

Random comet question: Which fantasy world would you choose to live in and why?

A world that looks like a cartoon – I’m thinking Neil Gaiman or Studio Ghibli… Where all the people are cats…

Which villainous fantasy character would you befriend or be?

I would befriend Bellatrix Lestrange, because I think she’d be a riot, and am convinced she has a softer side.

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go! 

N / A – I am a Grimbold editor!

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

Taking things really slowly, learning some new skills or crafts, learning how to converse with aliens, becoming bad ass at survival stuff and swordplay.

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

My family and friends, the Internet, mud and rain-sodden days (for some reason I always imagine other worlds as primarily desert!), old houses, sushi, art shops.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Fast food chains, tabloid newspapers, pollution, adverts, the loading icon on YouTube.

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

I wouldn’t necessarily change anything, but I would love to have the chance to live my life over and over again in different ways, taking different paths each time.

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

Not sure what constitutes indie…

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

Do things at your own pace, heed others’ advice, but don’t let them tell you what you should or shouldn’t do, live madly, follow your instincts, love deeply, always have faith in yourself.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!

12404160_10153282860087308_1051064583_n[1]Augusta in her own words…

I am a former Sims addict who now lives in London, where I hoard books and go on city jaunts. I edit the Advaya Magazine, an online quarterly specialising in arts, activism and ecology. When I’m not editing for Grimbold, I tinker away with my own writing webs. I like stepping back, seeing the world for what it is – strange, magical, and utterly surprising. I am inspired by the visionary work of Guillermo del Toro, director of ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and, most recently, ‘Crimson Peak’, as well as the work of Angela Carter.

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Bio:

Having graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Manchester, Augusta decided to take a break from institutional structures, to focus on creative writing. This brought her to a highland cottage in Wales, where the sheep did not take to her, despite her best efforts. Now she is based in London, where she edits Advaya Magazine, an online quarterly specialising in arts, activism and ecology. When Augusta is not working, she traipses the streets of London, nurturing her thirst for travel and adventure. The macabre, the eerie, the gothic and the outlandish all appeal to Augusta’s tastes. As a child she was addicted to Sims, and now she is a compulsive hoarder of books. She also greatly enjoys music, yoga, being helpful to others, and refrigerated macaroons.

***

Thank you, Augusta. Congratulations, you are survivor! A passing fleet of mining drones has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

Distant Worlds – Welcomes Andrea Baker!

This is the fifteenth outing of a new blog series, as I dabble my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews!

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

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The Distant Worlds strand started a few months ago, focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber-talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends. Check out their cool titles while they’re still at bargain prices! hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks 

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A World Of Their Own – an awesome anthology of fantasy, sci-fi and literary short stories, with ALL profits going to charity!

But now we’re branching out and will be zoning in on an extraordinary group of people, The Alliance of Worldbuilders (AWB), who I am also VERY proud to call close friends.

The AWB – a bunch of uber-talented fantasy and sci-fi writers and artists who met on the HarperCollins writing site, Authonomy, back in 2010. We formed The Alliance of Worldbuilders, a friendly, inclusive and wacky group and our collective friendships have seen us through some very hard times, including the sad loss of one of our own, Lindsey J Parsons. In honour of Lindsey, our dear friend who tragically died in January 2014, the AWB have created an awesome anthology of short stories, which was published in glorious paperback and e-book on 4th September 2015! It makes the perfect prezzie and ALL profits go to charity, the World Literacy Fund, fighting illiteracy around the world, so grab a great book and help a great cause too! Amazon UK & Amazon US

Right, now to our fifteenth author interview, and our third AWB interview, our very own fantasy castle of paranormal loveliness…

Andrea Baker

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Andrea, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

Oh there are so many unanswered questions about this distant world Sophie, and my first thought was my family, but as I wouldn’t travel without them they’d be right there with me! So, all that said…

  1. Water filtration system, with enough spares to keep us going for a while, until we could find suitable clean water to maintain life.
  2. Medical pack, being a practical person, making sure the flint is in there for starting a fire, as the difference between night and day can be hundreds of degrees.
  3. Books – the whole pod library if I could get it down there, I’d need something to take my mind away and allow me to dream.
  4. As much food as we could carry, to give us chance to check out the supplies on the planet first, rather than poisoning ourselves on day one.
  5. A communication system, so we can keep track of what is happening on Earth

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

That’s a difficult one, and some things would be with me anyway, so they don’t count in the five, do they? I’m thinking of the rings my husband gave me that I always wear. The others, let’s see…

  1. My photographs, a reminder of home.
  2. Plenty of notepaper and pens!
  3. My glasses. I normally wear contact lenses, but there would be no point taking those because I’d never get replacements. I need my glasses though, I’m very short-sighted without them!
  4. My daughter has made me lots of little “I love you” signs over the years, and I’ve kept them all, so I’d take these.
  5. Music – I’d make sure I’d got some sort of solar-electric power conversion to keep this going. I need music in my life.

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

I wouldn’t actively seek out others, I’m quite the introvert, so I’d stick with the close group I have to be honest. Having said that, I wouldn’t turn them away if they found us and were friendly.

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

Only 5!!!!!! I’m not sure I could live with only five of them! Oh well, here goes…

  1. Robin Hobb, probably the Rain Wild Chronicles
  2. Nora Roberts, The Cousin’s O’Dwyer series
  3. Neil Gaiman, Stardust is the one currently closest to me so it would have to be that if we’d crashed…
  4. Phillip Pullman, His Dark Materials
  5. CS Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia

Sorry, I admit they’re almost all series, so I guess I’ve cheated a little. 🙂

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

Again, with the 5…. This is really hard 😦

  1. The Muse version of ‘Feeling Good’, I adore it!
  2. Adele, the Album 21
  3. Ed Sheeran, X
  4. Amy Winehouse, Back to Black
  5. REM – The Best of

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

Vodka, although I’m not a heavy drinker of spirits, I don’t think I’d want to think too much about my predicament!

Random comet question: Marmite – love it or loathe it?

Loathe it, completely and utterly!

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go! 

My latest book is too raw to work this one through properly, so I’m going to focus on the current release, if that’s ok?

‘Leah’s nightmares are trying to tell her something, and will stop at nothing. When the dreams don’t get through, the message becomes physical in her waking life. What will it take for her to realise the truth?’

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

Once my immediate needs are dealt with (food, water, shelter, heat, I would spend my time reading, listening to music, and writing. This is suddenly starting to sound like bliss!

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

  1. Companionship from those closest to me, and our dog!
  2. My family, as I know only some of them would have travelled with me, and I’d miss the others dreadfully (I sound like Lady Mary from Downton Abbey there!). It sounds sentimental, but I’m close to my family, and being apart from them, unable to speak to them every day would be unbearable.
  3. The beautiful scenery of Scotland, I dream my most vivid stories there.
  4. Independence – the ability to walk, or jump in my car, and visit wherever I wanted without being restricted.
  5. The smells of home – Vanilla, my daughter’s hair when she’s just washed and dried it, my favourite meal cooking. All the normal things about life I suppose.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

  1. Politics! It drives me mad, you have each side accusing the other of manipulating the press, but of course everything that their own side puts out has to be the truth. As Billy Connolly once said, the desire to be a politician should automatically disbar you from ever being able to become one!
  2. Along the same lines, war and terrorism. I have my own belief system, and I know others disagree with that. I understand that is their right and have no intention of trying to “convert” them, or hate them for it. I can’t understand the desire to kill someone just because they’re ideas are not the same as your own. Having said that, I do believe that a country has a right to defend itself, and we have a duty to help those that are being victimised.
  3. Pollution – we’re slowly killing our planet, whether through fumes or the destruction of war.
  4. Traffic! I spend the best part of two and a half hours a day travelling, and most days am on the road for 06:45 in order to reach my clients at a reasonable time. I hate that this means I miss my daughter getting up in the morning, but it means I’m home for more hours with her in the evening.
  5. Insects – I’m an entomophobic, and am very scared of anything that crawls or flies. Having said that it stands to reason this new planet will be worse, because at least on Earth I recognise some of them…

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

That’s a really hard one, because of the ripple effect. We’ve just had Rememberance Sunday here, and I’d love to be able to stop so much death and destruction, but as history has proven, there is always going to be someone rising up trying to dominate the rest of the world. Perhaps I’d go back to the creation of man as we are today (however you believe we got her) and remove the gene that makes people hate one another and want to destroy anyone that disagrees with them! But then, perhaps we wouldn’t survive as a race then… Maybe I could wipe out the creation of guns and explosives…

If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

Yes, providing you guaranteed me being able to return home!

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

  1. Will Macmillan Jones, The Banned Underground series, great books, and give you a good laugh too.
  2. Tricia Drammeh, Spellbringers series. It’s no secret that I love paranormal, and Tricia is brilliant with this series – I’d recommend it to everyone, and wish there was more to it!
  3. Lisa L Wiedmeier, The Timeless Series. This is a difficult one to explain. Lisa’s books appear to be set in the “real” world like my own, but there are significant differences. I love the concept of the Timeless Clans, and the stories that unfold. I’m a severe sufferer of CATTS (chronic addiction to the timeless series), I admit and can’t wait for each book to be released.
  4. AFE Smith, Darkhaven. I remember reading some of this when I first joined authonomy, and it hooked me even back then, you know how some snippets of books just stay with you. AFE has polished it and it is now published by Harper Voyager.
  5. It would have to be our very own anthology, A World Of Their Own. What a great way to discover the fantastic group of authors that have contributed to this, and for such fantastic causes too!

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

  • Never let someone tell you that you read too much – reading is the best way to understand the people and world around you. Personally I think it makes you more tolerant as well.
  • Writers, never give up. It doesn’t have to be perfection, write your story, that is what is important.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself and your inspirations!

12248781_920049701420680_491530867_nAndrea in her own words…

I’ve made up stories for as long as I can remember – if you think about it we all do as children, in the imaginary worlds we create with our toys. As I got older I would “live” in the world from the latest discovery from the library, making up many “what happened next” stories, and even though I stopped playing, I still lived in those worlds until my late teens.

Once I graduated however I forced myself to stop this, thinking I needed to “grow up”, and that is one of my biggest regrets, as I’ve lost so many great ideas as a result.

I read so many books it’s hard to name inspirations – at one stage when I was younger I’d read 12-14 books a week, so to name them all would be impossible. I’m married, with an eleven year old daughter and a cocker spaniel named Ellie. In real life I’m a management consultant, specialising in transforming public services, which sounds quite boring doesn’t it?

Bio:

Andrea Baker was born and raised in the beautiful English county of Warwickshire, where she lived with her parents and older sister. She left home to study at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, from where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science, with honours, in 1992. She now works as an independent management consultant, and lives less than five miles from the town and castle of Kenilworth, in Warwickshire, with her husband and their daughter.

Worlds Apart is a series of romantic fantasy books, the first of which, entitled Leah, was originally released on October 11th 2012. Since January 2014 it has been published by Rose Wall Publishing.

Writing History:  

I have made up, and written, stories for as long as I can remember, even before I could effectively write them down. Rose was a nickname that I had within the family as a child, and as a result, anything that I have written, has the pen name Rose Wall. Other than a few poems in student anthologies, none of my writing has been published.

The idea for Worlds Apart has been in my mind for quite a while now, and I often wrote ideas, and dream sequences down into a notebook. In 2010, I started converting these into a story, and completed almost thirty thousand words whilst still working full time, in a high profile programme run on behalf of the Department for Education.

The Programme was closed at the end of November 2010, and after managing the handover of outstanding matters to the Department for Education, I found myself unemployed in January 2011. During the next four months, while trying to find another job, I used my spare time to continue my writing, and this novel, Worlds Apart: Leah, and the outline for its sequel, is the result.

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Amazon UK

Amazon US

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Book Blurb

Worlds Apart: Leah

Nightmares are just dreams, aren’t they? They cannot hurt you.

It is simply your mind playing tricks…

Or are they?

Leah’s nightmares are trying to tell her something, something her mind is refusing to let her see.

At nineteen, Leah is still mourning the untimely death of her mother in an accident five years earlier. Her Father decides to move them both to a small Warwickshire town, for a fresh start. But Leah is plagued with terrifying nightmares, that seem to spill into her waking hours, and which somehow bring her comfort as well as fear. Conscious of the warnings in her dreams, and nervous of his growing temper, she deliberately withholds the details of these dreams from her Father.

One morning, Leah sets off up to the Castle, even though her Father would be furious that she had gone there alone. Settling down in her favourite spot, she dozes off in the sunshine, and for the first time experiences a nightmare outside the safety of her home. Disorientated from being awoken mid-dream, she instinctively distrusts the handsome young stranger, Ben, who had awoken her from her dream, yet is strangely attracted to him.

Over the next few weeks the two young people get to know each other better, and Leah finds herself more and more attracted to Ben. Her father finally discovers the relationship when she comes home late one evening. He attacks her, bruising her arm badly.

She fails to hide the injury from Ben the next day, avoiding the subject by questioning him about his music. As a thunder storm erupts they leave the shop at a run, racing together to his car. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a motorcycle skids in the rain, crashing into Leah and sending her flying into a wall.

Her recovery is hampered by her father’s temper and a break-in at the hospital, but this is tempered with the deepening relationship with Ben. Forced to move in with his family, Leah overhears mysterious conversations, her dreams begin to worsen and violent storms rage as she attempts to piece together the jigsaw of facts as they start to emerge.

A climactic event following a regional talent show final sees both Ben and Leah being severely injured, but they are saved by mysterious creatures. Passing out as a result of her injuries, and her discovery, Leah is transported back to the house, but when she awakes, Ben is missing. Forced into a journey of discovery, she finds hidden, surreal worlds within traditional English settings along with a truth about herself and her past that she can barely allow herself to believe, let alone understand.

***

Thank you, Andrea. Congratulations, you are survivor! A passing exploratory science vessel has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

Distant Worlds – Welcomes Ellen Crosháin!

This is the ninth post of a new blog series, as I dip my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews!

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

space-stars-planets-1920x1200[1]

To kick off the Distant Worlds strand, over the last few weeks I’ve been focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends.

Grimbold Books were also doing a fabulous ‘Summer Promotion’ from 31st July – 4th August, where ALL of its wonderful titles were priced at only 99p/99c across Amazon platforms. Now, although the promotion is now over, there are still great bargains to be had, so grab yourself something special before the prices go back to normal! Awesome fiction at awesome prices!!!! hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks 

Right, now to our ninth author interview…wonderful paranormal fantasy writer, the galactically awesome…

Ellen Crosháin

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Ellen, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

Knowing my luck, I’ll have crash-landed on a planet with blistering sunshine. Being Irish, and paler than a vampire, I’d need a sun hat. I’d need a notebook and a pen to record my last piece of artistic genius (giggles), a big bottle of grapefruit squash and some turkey jerky.

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

My favourite wedding photo, a photo of my daughter, a photo of my guinea pigs, my current WIP and Pickle, the teddy bear I made for my little girl.

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

I’d like to say I’d seek out other life-forms for help but given what I’ve been researching and writing for my current WIP I’d be afraid they might eat me!

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

  1. Jim Butcher – Ghost Story (The Dresden Files) as I am currently listening to this. I have fallen a little in love with Harry Dresden during my pregnancy. He is a wizard detective and is a really interesting character. He is also a huge nerd and loves things like Star Wars and LOTR.
  2. Neil Gaiman – American Gods. I love, love, love mythology and this novel is just amazing. It takes the traditions of loads of different mythologies and does something new and exciting with them.
  3. J.R.R Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings simply because it tells us that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things no matter how scary the enemy is.
  4. Jim Butcher – Blood Rites (The Dresden Files). This is probably my favourite of the series. Poor Harry, who is still quite young at this stage, is very easily embarrassed and hasn’t had sex in a while, is asked to investigate some spooky murders on the set of an adult film. This a typical example of Butcher’s ability to balance humour, drama and pathos.
  5. Derek Landy – Skullduggery Pleasant. A skeleton detective, a powerful female protagonist, magic and set in Ireland. Enough said.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

Oh, this is a hard one as I have such eclectic taste. At the moment I am loving Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Invincible’ as it fits Áine my main female character from my current WIP. It’s on repeat as I write. I am a massive fan of musicals as well and my favourite is ‘Phantom of the Opera’ so I’d need that sound track. I love Classical/Baroque music so I’d need my disc that has Vivaldi’s ‘Four seasons’, Pachebel’s ‘Canon in D’ and Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’. I love Bon Jovi, especially the 90s stuff so I’d need them and finally my Edith Piaf CD ‘La vie en Rose.’

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

VODKA…ahem. Sorry, I haven’t had a drink in 9 months. Also vodka is good for cleaning wounds and I am very clumsy so would need to clean wounds.

Random comet question: Ellen, as well as being a phenomenally talented writer, you are also an English teacher and a new mum. How have your experiences of being an English teacher, reading and commenting on so many stories from your pupils as well as being a mum, influenced your own writing? 

I adore teaching English and unsurprisingly creative writing is my favourite thing to do. But there are some issues with teaching it. First off, basic literacy can be a nightmare. Top tip: read to your children. If they cannot read or write they are going to spend their whole school career, and beyond, struggling and having their natural curiosity and joy slowly eroded. Kids also really struggle with being free in their writing. They always ask how long should it be or if they are allowed to have vampires or monkeys or whatever in their story. I always smile and say ‘Do what you want. It’s your story. As long as you follow the basics of literacy, I’m happy.’ Once they get that they can be free with their words (and oy vey, do they need constant reassurance that they are allowed to be, that what they are doing is ok) amazing things happen. Kids have incredible imaginations and are naturally curious and their ideas for stories are often so much better than anything I could come up with. They see things from a new angle that I would not have seen and they have incredible ideas. For example, one year 11 who was struggling to rewrite a fairy story, asked if it had to follow the happily ever after pattern. I said it could be whatever he wanted. He turned Goldilocks and the three bears into a story about a jewel heist. When I see stuff like that, I am inspired to take risks with my own writing and just to try it. For example, Faroust in the sequel to ‘Cruelty’ is radically different to the creature we met in the first book. It might work, it might not but it’s fun seeing where it goes.

As for being a new mum, wow. I am in awe of the little creature who is sleeping in my living room as I type. I never want to stop looking at her, but I really should nap when she does. When I found out I was having a daughter, Áine, my female protagonist, took on a new meaning. I am unashamedly a Feminist, one that believes that Feminism allows a woman to be whatever she wants, from a pageant contestant to a neurologist and I want my daughter to live in a world where fiction represents that you can be both strong and gentle, frightened and protective, angry and powerful, unafraid of emotion and aware of limitations. Hopefully, Áine will be able to balance all of this.

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go!

Ooh, right. I’m writing the sequel to ’Cruelty’. It’s about 25 years later and Eliza and Cornelius have two children, Áine and Caolán. Life seems pretty good until the Veil tears open and the two children are stolen by the Fae. Why, you ask? Hah, spoilers. But we see the return of Faroust and we wander into the Otherworlds, where we meet the Queens of the two Faerie courts, changelings and a few disgraced High Lords and Ladies of Sidhé along the way. It’s on a much larger scale than ‘Cruelty’ but it fits.

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

I would explore, gathering inspiration, and if the residents are nice and not likely to eat me, I would find out about their experience of life, their traditions and histories.

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

My daughter, my husband, my guinea pigs, chocolate, tea.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Rudeness, green peppers, housework, bills, bananas.

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

There is one thing but it would depend on the other person.

If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

Oh yeah. You have to take risks and chances.

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

All of the Grimboldians! Because we’re doing fantasy our way. We’re an eclectic bunch of talented people who have a wide range of interests and experiences which makes for new and exciting fiction. Here’s my top 5 of our catalogue:

  1. Sammy HK Smith – In Search of Gods and Heroes.
  2. Joanne Hall – The Art of Forgetting
  3. Joanne Hall – The Art of Forgetting: Nomad
  4. Sophie E Tallis – White Mountain
  5. A.J Dalton – Book of Orm

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

You have to read. There are so many adventures to be had and things to experience. You can live a thousand lives, experience things you never would do otherwise. Reading makes you a better writer. And don’t stick to just one genre; be brave and jump into something new. You never know how much fun you’ll have!

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!

profile-300x300Ellen Crosháin in her own words…

My inspirations are really varied: from Irish mythology to romance novels, horror films to metal music, walking by the sea to lazy Sunday afternoons, I find inspiration in mostly everything in my life. I am interested in everything. I have a really lively imagination and it needs to be fed.

My book, ‘Cruelty’, is published by Kristell Ink, an imprint of Grimbold Books. We really are like a family. Not only are Sammy and Zoe publishers but they are writers too. They are really good at spotting a good idea and nurturing it into something amazing. Their advice is always designed to be helpful. The other Grimbold writers are really supportive as well; we read each other’s books, post reviews, share blogs and work together to get the word about Grimbold out there.

Well, I’m from Northern Ireland but I live in Wales. I teach English for a living at an amazing secondary school but am currently on maternity leave. I live with my lovely husband and my 6 guinea pigs, all of whom are girls. Poor husband is overrun by ladies.

Bio:

Ellen Crosháin grew up in Northern Ireland but despite the fact she has a proper Irish Mammy hailing from Dublin and a Northern Irish father, her accent is so slight, it can only be caught in snatches. She says it makes her work as a spy much easier as no one actually knows where she’s from.

Her love for story telling was cultivated by both her parents as they would spend hours most days reading to her and her three younger siblings. She would spend hours herself entertaining them on the long trips they had to take when her father joined the army and they moved from place to place.

Waterstones

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Cruelty

Book Blurb:

Once a year, in the caves deep below the house, the Family gathers to perform a ritual to appease their god. But Faroust only accepts payment in blood. Eliza MacTir, youngest daughter of a powerful Irish family, was born into fae gentry without the magical gifts that have coursed through the Family’s veins for millennia; she was an outcast from her first breath. Desperate for freedom, Eliza’s flight from rural Ireland is thwarted by the Family’s head of security. The only weapon she has to fight her captor is her own awakening sexuality. Drawn into the world of magic and gods, Eliza must find a way to break free, even if it means breaking the hearts of those she loves, and letting her own turn to stone. Cruelty, it runs in the Family.

***

Thank you, Ellen. Congratulations, you are survivor! A passing science frigate has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

Distant Worlds – Welcomes Steven Poore!

This is the second of a brand new blog series, as I dip my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews.

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch series, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author series to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

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To continue the Distant Worlds strand, over the next few weeks I will be focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends. Grimbold Books are also doing a fabulous ‘Summer Promotion’ from 31st July – 4th August, where ALL of its wonderful titles will be priced at only 79p/99c across Amazon platforms. Check it out guys, awesome fiction at awesome prices!!!

hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks 

Right, now to our second author interview…the fantastic…

Steven Poore

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Steven, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

Swiss army knife, one of those tents that spring up straight from the bag, jar of Marmite, and notebook and pen. You won’t get anywhere without a to-do list…

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

To be honest, I’d probably end up burning to death before I managed to make any sort of decision. As long as I’ve got the ipod, Kobo, wind-up charger, and the cat, I think I’m sorted.

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

Friendly aliens? That never ends well…

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

  • The Martian (Andy Weir) would be an obvious choice, but I’d go more for The Barbed Coil (JV Jones).
  • Lord of the Rings (yep, him).
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (Susannah Clarke) because I’d actually have time to read it.
  • Dune (Frank Herbert) for a laugh.
  • …and either Wyrd Sisters or Guards! Guards! (Pratchett, of course).

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

  • Brave by Marillion.
  • Kind of Blue by Miles Davis.
  • Disintegration by The Cure.
  • The Inception soundtrack by Hans Zimmer.
  • …and The Stone Roses.

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

I have previous with vodka, so I’d prefer a self-replenishing supply of the Thornbridge Brewery’s wonderful Jaipur IPA (*dry cough*).

Random comet question: Marmite – love it or loathe it?

Oh, love it – the yeast must flow…!

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go!

Storyteller’s daughter Cassia joins a quest to resurrect the power of an ancient Northern kingdom, hoping to become a famous storyteller herself. But her new companions haven’t told her the truth, and the curse wards around the kingdom really should never be broken, and… my, those are really big teeth… and if she isn’t careful then Cassia is going to make a very big mistake. You look hungry. Marmite on toast?

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

Trying to find the cat, with my luck…

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

Roast potatoes, bacon, conventions, narrowboats, and Marmite.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Conservatives, West Bromwich Albion, ITV Be, Sad/Rabid/Vichy Puppies, and that stupid fashion of wearing your jeans below your arse.

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it? What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

Yes, so I could have another chance to turn back time and change the fact that I hadn’t gone on this deep space adventure, otherwise all my chances to turn back time and change things would never have happened! (Possibly)

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why? (ahem…Steven chose more than 5, but hey, they’re GREAT choices!)

Jo Thomas – 25 Ways To Kill a Werewolf (Fox Spirit Books). Inventive and very comprehensive. Ian Sales – Adrift on the Sea of Rains (Whippleshield Books). Claustrophobic alt-history. It won a BSFA Award for a reason. KT Davies – Breed (Fox Spirit Books). Sweary and brilliant. Andrew David Barker – The Electric (Boo Books). Like a Midlands Bradbury. Andrew Reid – Kingdom’s Fall (Wattpad). Episodic epic fantasy from a constantly epic chap. David R Lee – The Road To Thule (via Amazon). I’m cheating – intense post-apocalyptic techno-heathenry from a fellow Sheffield writer.

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

Will Wheaton said it best: don’t be a dick.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!

GetAttachment[1] (3)Steven Poore in his own words…

I’m an Epic Fantasist and SFSF Socialist! Heir to the North is the first part of Malessar’s Curse, and will be followed by The High King’s Vengeance next year, both released by Kristell Ink. I’m also working on a fantasy set on a narrowboat. Some of my short stories will be featured in forthcoming Pocket anthologies from Fox Spirit Books. I live in Sheffield with my partner, an artist and crafter. We have a three-legged cat and an ever-increasing mass of books.

If you want to know more about me, you can find me on Twitter@stevenjpoore, and on the net at stevenpoore.wordpress.com. If you’d like to know more about the SFSF Social Club, that’s on Twitter too, @SFSFSocial, and online at sfsfsocial.wordpress.com.

10382072_10155105102395375_5143104779488378448_o[1]Blurb:

The North Will Rise Again

The Warlock Malessar destroyed Caenthell centuries ago, murdering theHigh King Jedrell and his bride, and cursing the land itself. Since that time, the mountain kingdom has become little more than a dark legend, and the bloodline of the High Kings has been lost.

Until now.

Old soldier Baum and heroic warrior Meredith seek to defeat Malessar and his foul curse. Conscripted into their quest, young Cassia quickly realises she could make her name as a storyteller by witnessing such an epic confrontation. But neither of her companions are quite as they appear, and the truth lies deep within stories Cassia has not yet heard.

By the time she discovers that both Baum and the Warlock have hidden devastating secrets from each other for centuries, it may be too late. Cassia must decide which side she will stand upon and for whom she will fight – for Malessar, or for The Heir To The North.

***

Thank you. Congratulations, Steven, you are survivor! A passing deep space explorer has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

Distant Worlds – Welcomes Kate Coe!

Drum roll please…

This is a VERY exciting blog post as it heralds the beginning of a brand new blog series – as I dip my toes for the first time into the mysterious waters of author interviews.

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch series, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’sMeet the Author‘ series to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

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To kick off the Distant Worlds strand, over the next few weeks I will be focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends. Grimbold Books are also doing a fabulous ‘Summer Promotion’ from 31st July – 4th August, where ALL of its wonderful titles will be priced at only 79p/99c across Amazon platforms. Check it out guys, awesome fiction at awesome prices!!!!

hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks

Right, now to our very first author…the awesome…

Kate Coe

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Kate, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

Water purification tablets, some kind of shelter (a sleeping bag if not a tent), some kind of emergency ration bars, a knife and some duct tape – yes, I live with an engineer!

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

I would say my laptop but only if it had some sort of portable power source! Let’s go with a notebook and pen, books (multiple books count as one item, right?), my favourite jumper, and probably my two cats as they’re daft enough to not jump out when the ship crashes.

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

Definitely seek help – who knows what you might find out there?

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

  • China Mieville’s The Scar. I took this travelling round the world with me, and it kept me going for three months – it’s readable and re-readable and read-again-able!
  • Gaiman & Pratchett’s Good Omens, because the humour always makes me laugh, and it’s a fun read.
  • Diane Wynne Jones’ Deep Secret. I love the characters and the world she’s created, and it makes me smile – “Eyenose cuzidin lyebeans” is possibly my favourite phrase ever!
  • Frank Herbert’s Dune. I love the universe, the hints of politics and meanings and plotlines that aren’t explored, the people and worlds created that are so alien yet so realised. It’s something I have read multiple times and can always pick up again
  • And finally, one new book! The next in my TBR pile is The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, so I’d probably take that as something new to keep me occupied.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

  • Skylarking by BT; it always makes me smile
  • The Joshua Tree album by U2 – an old favourite.
  • Pachabel’s Canon – also an old favourite. It sent shivers down my spine the first time I heard it as a child, and it’s always been something special for me.
  • Send Me On My Way by Rusted Root; it was nearly the first dance at my wedding but it has a lot of good memories, and always makes me want to dance.
  • And whatever I’m currently writing to. At the moment it’s Forget It by Breaking Benjamin but it tends to change by the day.

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

I’d love to choose vodka, but the hangover ain’t worth it…let’s stick with water.

Random comet question: Marmite – love it or loathe it?

Sort of meh, actually – it’s ok but I can usually find something nicer to eat.

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go!

Catter’s trying to find a legend, and when the Lord-turned-inventor Toru Idalin offers to take him up in his flying machine, he thinks it will solve his quest. But their crash in the mountains is only the start of Catter’s problems, and Toru’s soul-bond to a dying Healer creates even more trouble…

The book is the first in a world of magic that’s just discovering technology, and the changes that electricity, flight and communication bring to the characters and their lives. The series follows a range of people across multiple lands as they adapt, grow, love, grieve and fly.

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

I’d probably flit between reading, writing and exploring.

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

The changing skies, my friends, a reliable source of power for my laptop, the availability of multiple books, and chocolate.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

People, the dark underbelly of the Interwebz, the irritating weather, having a job (more writing time! Wooh!) and having a building site next door.

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change? If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

Not a Dr Who fan, unfortunately…but I’m always up for an adventure.

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

Brave New Girls by Mary Fan & Paige Daniels (eds) – a wonderful collection of stories.

I really like Fox Spirits (publisher) – I’m currently working my way through their publishing list! They always have something interesting and some very good writing.

Vermillion by Molly Tanzer – very good writing and an entertaining story.

If you like Steampunk, Tales from the Scriptorian Vaults is a brilliant collection.

And I’m going to have to give a shout-out to Grimbold Books, and particularly a new book by Kate Coe…

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

Write and read what you love, make sure your oxygen tank’s full and working before you step out of the spaceship, and don’t eat the green wobbly bit.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!

I’m an accidental librarian, DIY enthusiast and write when the cats give me a moment. My inspirations…Terry Pratchett, China Mieville, the sky on a windy day, Redwood trees, anyone and everyone I meet, my oldest friend, Renaissance technology, clockwork…anything and everything, really!

My publishers are the awesome Grimbold Books, with a range that includes fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk, dark fiction and anthologies (about cats, too!). Check out their range at http://www.grimboldbooks.com.

***

GetAttachment[1]Kate Coe in her own words…

I’m a librarian with a background in classics and law, I live with an engineer and very grumpy bearded dragon, and I fill my spare time in between writing with web design, geeky cross-stitch and DIY (which may or may not involve destroying things). My favourite character is a sloth with a speed addiction, my best writing moment was when one of my characters fell in love and completely changed the plot, and I write because I can’t imagine not doing it – and it gets the voices out of my head for five minutes…

Kate’s Links – the best place to find out more about Kate and her wonderful writing!

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Kristell Ink

Green-Sky-Final-Front-1Blurb:

In a world of magic, wind, and electricity, Catter Jeck is offered the chance to explore a myth. Travelling from city to city, his search for the centre of the magic catches others in its coils. When the Lord Heir of Meton offers to continue the search in his flying machine, the consequences of their crash—and Toru’s accidental link to a dying Healer—suddenly become of central importance to all of their lives.

If you haven’t grabbed yourself a copy already, I can highly recommend Kate Coe’s new novel, Green Sky & Sparks. A beautifully written and brilliantly original read! 😀

Thank you, Kate and congratulations, you are survivor! A passing freighter has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

Great days are made of Hay!

Firstly, apologies for the length of this blog post…but I had so much to share…!

On Sunday 24th May I had the great fortune to visit my beloved Hay-on-Wye again, nestled deep in the Welsh and Herefordshire countryside (it straddles the border between England & Wales), for their world-famous literary festival, The Hay Festival.

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It was a truly wonderful and exhausting day, tinged with great delights and just a little bittersweet sorrow. For it was almost exactly three years ago that I last visited the Hay Festival, as I did on Sunday, with my good friend and fellow fantasy writer, Will Macmillan Jones, and it was on this occasion, three years ago, that we saw the wonderful Sir Terry Pratchett on what turned out to be his very last appearance at Hay and one if not the, last public appearance before his untimely and sad passing earlier this year. I remember the event well, Will being a truly gifted comic fantasy writer akin in many ways to Terry Pratchett, his hero, was particularly excited to see the great man as was I. Sir Terry was witty, erudite, bracingly honest and, quite understandably given the nature of his condition and imminent demise, more than a little wistful and reflective. We noted that trademark and cutting sense of humour which was so prevalent in his work, but was now tinged with a grimness, a reality of the brevity of life perhaps. And so, coming back to Hay for the first time since that auspicious visit, brought the enormity of losing such a literary giant into clear focus. He was a man of many talents and his legacy will outlive us all.

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For this year’s visit, despite the sad memories of three years ago, I was very excited to see one of my favourite writers, Kazuo Ishiguro. I had read ‘Remains of the Day’ and ‘Never Let Me Go’, some time ago, and yes, saw the ubiquitous movies, and loved them. I was not to be disappointed. Kazuo Ishiguro proved to not only be an extraordinarily talented writer, but a genuinely lovely human being. Honest, warm, and completely open, he seemed amazed and genuinely humbled by his own success and quite baffled about how he has arrived where he has. Not a hint of complacency or arrogance.

SAM_7052He spoke in the main Tata Tent on stage to TV & radio presenter, Martha Kearney, a woman I knew well from various arts programmes and the whole conversation was televised. I was pleased to be sitting at the back behind the whirling TV cameras, and despite being so far away from the stage, we had a great view!

SAM_7054Kazuo Ishiguro spoke about his newest book, ‘The Buried Giant’, and the elements which permeate his work, the quietness, stillness with emotions bubbling under the surface, which is the trademark of his writing. He spoke about things unsaid, how we all have such buried giants in our lives, and whether we should speak about such experiences openly, good and bad, or self-censor ourselves, a kind of collective amnesia to allow us to continue in our daily lives rather than be caught up in the pains of the past. Should we remember everything regardless of the consequences? It’s a powerful notion. After all, although ‘The Buried Giant’ is not an overtly allegorical tale, none the less, the author spoke about conflicts such as the Rwandan Genocide and the Yugoslavian War, where neighbours had lived in relative peace despite their religious or cultural differences for years until suddenly a catalyst, a memory, an event had sparked hostility long harboured but buried, and the outcome of that Buried Giant was the slaughter of thousands and the disintegration of the country.

SAM_7056Is it good to remember or better to forget?

Interesting notions to be sure. I found myself conflicted over it. Certainly I have witnessed and been a part of a very traumatic past, full of personal tragedies and barbarity, things that scar, things that are best forgotten in order to try to move on and form some semblance of a future, of a future happiness. Churning up such painful memories for me, are not entirely helpful. I lived those events that made me who I am, I survived them and talked about them infinitum afterwards, but at some point a form of amnesia is helpful, a means of wiping the slate clean and starting again. In my case, new home, new location, new name. But certainly I found it a mesmeric and remarkably personal talk.

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Another of Kazuo’s wonderful observations and one which most of my fellow fantasy writers will wearily nod their heads in agreement at, was the acute prejudice Kazuo Ishiguro faced when he told people that his next novel was going to be a fantasy book! He injected the conversation with humour, saying how unprepared he had been for the sheer level of prejudice he found against ogres. He talked about the inherent dangers in people being pigeon-holed into only writing in a certain genre, and how freeing it was and necessary to cross those invisible genre boundaries. Quite rightly, he talked about how people took the ‘rules’ of their chosen genre far too seriously and that he didn’t want to adhere to any restrictive and creative constrictive rules. Good for him! Yes, I see myself as primarily a fantasy writer, but I also write sci-fi, literary, children’s and poetry, and I hate some of the rigid made up ‘rules’ which others always want to adhere to those of us who write in those genres. I love the freedom of Ishiguro, that he defies such constrictions and instead writes about themes which inspire him, whether it falls into the category of literary, historical or sci-fi fiction. These genre boundaries are primarily there for marketing purposes by publishers after all.

SAM_7048It was refreshing and enlightening to hear. But yes, myself and Will certainly pricked our ears up when Kazuo described the snobbery and prejudice against the fantasy genre, as of course, most fantasy writers have experienced this, how somehow the fantasy genre is frowned upon as being a lesser form of writing than crime, sci-fi, historical etc., that somehow it is only the domain of the childish and illiterate.

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SAM_7002After the event, Will and I raced to the festival bookshop to meet Kazuo in person. While he was graciously signing my books, I asked him the question again and he elaborated, that yes, he had been hugely taken aback by the level of prejudice in the book industry against the fantasy genre and fantasy writers, that so many people had been surprised by his wanting to write in that genre! In fact, Kazuo went on to say that he was actually writing a newspaper article about it along with a prominent fantasy writer! SO great to have a light shone on this subject at last. SAM_7075

Great writing is great writing, regardless of genre!

Lol, anyway, I digress. It was fantastic meeting Kazuo and being able to chat to him for a little while, a real gentleman and such a genuinely lovely person. I marvel at his talent, and certainly hope to achieve even a little of his quality and success in my own writing.

Another funny moment, was Ishiguro talking about how he had always thought that writers peaked at 45 (so I only have a few years left!), and that all their greatest work, their seminal pieces had been written before this time…he then went on to say, that as he had now passed 60 yrs, he was rethinking this! 😀

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After our fabulous Kazuo Ishiguro event, we continued to wander around the Hay Festival. So many events going on, the whole place was buzzing. Musicians on tom-tom drums, SAM_7023Romany caravans, fluttering flags that gave the whole place a Tibetan feel, bohemian artists around every corner and to suit every taste, from street art to posh galleries, children events to the most intellectual fair. A heady mix of art & culture under canopies of white. The sky threatened rain, but the rains held off and in dazzling moments of perfect sunshine, I defy anyone not to think they had risen to Elysium!

SAM_7007Just before we left, to take the shuttle bus into the town itself and ensconce ourselves in their beautiful bookshops, I took a photo which for me perfectly encapsulated the Hay Festival experience – a woman fast asleep in a deck chair in the blustery sunshine, surrounded by bibliophiles of every age, total heady exhaustion!

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We headed into Hay-on-Wye. The first sight was a little dismaying though, for amongst the plethora of bookshops which over the years I have visited so many times, there were noticeable gaps. Yes, even in a book heaven and haven like Hay, at least two bookshops had closed, replaced by clothes and odds & ends shops. We’ve all heard the disturbing news of bookshops closing around the country, but to have at least two (I suspect three) independent and antiquarian bookshops close in Hay-on-Wye of all places, filled me with dread. I ask all of my friends out there, by all means by your kindle editions from Amazon, but please, PLEASE support your local independent bookshop! If you don’t support your local bookshop, frankly, it may not be there for many more years and what a poorer world we would have as a result!

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We wandered in and out of the bookshops, the posh expensive one, the cheap as chips one, the Hay castle one (on a wonderful honesty basis), and my favourite, The Hay-on-Wye Booksellers! Yes, I totally blew my book budget and bought loads! I couldn’t help it. Although my feet were aching with a dull persistence, the nooks and crannies of this shop held me in sway, around every corner was a little gem, a little undiscovered beauty…ah! I wish you could see and smell the pages, the leather bindings, gold leaved embossing, the parchments, the buckram coverings, the slightly imperfect spines, the whole experience….sheer book bliss!

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What a thoroughly lovely day….I must mention that we popped into Shepherds, the most gorgeous ice-cream parlour, something straight out of a Neapolitan street, all rounded art deco glass front, high lacquered countertops and mosaic tiled floors, with the scent of espresso in the air! It was, without doubt, the best ice-cream I have ever tasted outside of Italy itself, only later did I find out that this family firm was venerated by many others (besides my taste-buds) and made their delicious ice-creams from sheep’s milk! Wow and yummy! SAM_7096

All in all, it was one of those magical days that come along so seldom. Great company and great culture colliding into one utopian day that left me utterly exhausted but on a high all the way home. Thank you, Hay, I SHALL be seeing you again, very soon! Next year, I have my sights on the wonderfully talented, Neil Gaiman (appearing at Hay this Friday 29th May). SAM_7084

See you all next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and the year after… 😀 xxx

P.S. For other Hay Festival experiences, including the amazing Sir Terry Pratchett event, see previous posts: https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/make-hay-not-war-a-tribute-to-hay-ray-and-sir-terry/

and

https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/make-hay-while-the-sun-er-shines/

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