Sunday, April 16, 2017

Importance Of Voice In Fiction

Voice is an important for YA fiction and fiction in general. It brings writing to life by making it feel like a person is actually telling a story. I’ve recently discovered my writing voice. It’s a quirky conversational voice. But I’m glad I’ve found my writing voice because interiority (thoughts/feelings of the character) makes the character feel fleshed out. A piece of writing can have great imagery, setting, and dialogue. Yet only using those three things emulates a journalistic feel. Voice therefore provides a balance between imagery, dialogue, setting, and exposition.
One way to achieve voice is to use both long and short sentences. A sentence can be one word or a couple of lines. Having varying sentence length creates voice by making a rhythm.
Including repetition can sometimes help. A character might use certain words or phrases a lot. For example, a character can think, “yeah” a lot. Yeah might be a simplistic. However, it goes back to style in the last paragraph because it can be used as a one word sentence.
Emotion is another way to create voice. But not only in terms of basic interiority. Sure. People feel different emotions at different times. Although people usually feel one emotion a lot. Sarcasm is the easiest emotion tool for voice. That means exaggerating something like if a character hates his job, he could say, “I just love my boss. I just so look forward to how my boss is always on my case. As if I don’t have enough to worry about already.” That’s just one example, but the point remains clear. The exaggeration adds a layer of meaning. The character isn’t saying the true meaning. It’s dressed up in the sarcasm, and breaks up the simplicity of writing, “I hate my boss because of him being strict since I already worry too much as it is.”
Clarity is the last element of voice. That means voice will have to be more polished than people talk. And that’s okay. For instance, too many uses of “I mean,” “though,” “plus,” etc. might make writing feel clunky. That isn’t to say those words can’t sometimes be used. They can. They reinforce a casual conversational tone. But they should be used in conjunction with conveying something precisely like, “Arguing was pointless because she would never shut up.” That example isn’t the most profound statement. Yet it’s clear and concise.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Easter Author Surprise!

Happy Easter everyone! As some of you might know, I live on the wonderful island of Cyprus (near Greece), and Easter is a very big deal over here, so it’s time for us to celebrate! For me, there’s no better way to celebrate than to tell you all about the release of my close friend’s (and CP’s) debut book: THE CASTAWAYS by Jessika Fleck. First off, just look at that cover.

Isn’t that the most gorgeous thing you’ve seen? It reminds me of Aslan from Narnia, and you can’t not fall in love with that. So, go ahead, read the blurb below, and be super lucky and pre-order. Trust me, this book will whisk you away (and I’m not just saying that because Jessika’s my friend. Her book is actually really good).


The Castaway Carnival: fun, mysterious, dangerous.

Renowned for its infamous corn maze…and the kids who go missing in it.

When Olive runs into the maze, she wakes up on an isolated and undetectable island where a decades-long war between two factions of rival teens is in full swing.

Trapped, Olive must slowly attempt to win each of her new comrades’ hearts as Will—their mysterious, stoically quiet, and handsome leader—steals hers.

Olive is only sure about one thing: her troop consists of the good guys, and she’ll do whatever it takes to help them win the war and get back home.

You can pre-order Jessika's wonderful novel at:

Right, we all want to know the juicy details from an author, but we want extra special questions since it’s Easter, right? Of course we do. So, let’s see what we can rustle up.

      Welcome to the blog, Jessika! Thank you so much for joining us. What we want to know is why did you choose YATopia. I’m sure some people think it’s simply promotion, but I know that isn’t true (see, I told you I know her). How is it we managed to entice you here?

First off, I’m so thrilled to be here and to have my lovely and talented friend, Fiona, interviewing me! Talk about win, win! I’ve been following YATopia for years now. I love the interviews (I’ve found some amazing books for my TBR list here!) as well as the posts on everything from craft to inspiration to editing to query etiquette!
      Well shucks, we’re happy you picked us. Alright, dual questions: Why did you write the Castaways? And what does it feel like to be pulled into such a dramatic world full of intrigue and danger?

I wrote The Castaways when I had two ideas come together in a struck-by-lightning sort of moment (Sometimes, cheesy as it sounds, it really does happen like that!). Part one was the story of a girl being bullied. At the time, I had a friend whose daughter was being brutally bullied at school and their struggle was heartbreaking. I knew there was an emotional and important story there. Part two happened when, around the same time, we took our daughters to a pumpkin patch for Halloween and, of course, we went into the corn maze. We had to have been the only ones there because it was dead silent and when we decided to split up and race to the finish, my youngest daughter and I silently roamed the corn stalks. As we twisted around corners and hit dead ends, I was struck: what a perfect place to run away or hide. And then, inevitably, the what ifs began to spiral and the beginnings of The Castaways was born. As for what it’s like to be thrown into this dangerous fantasy world... I suppose I’m used to it. I definitely tend toward telling darker tales in strange settings. So, I was quite at home.

      What’s your favorite moment in the book? Why is it your favorite?

This is hard (especially without giving away spoilers), but I’d have to go with when Olive is tasked to take Bug to bathe in the springs. It was a fun, sweet scene to write.

Since it’s Easter, I’m going to ask…do you think the time of year you set your plot in helps mold your plot? Would the plot be different in Christmas/Easter/Thanks Giving/the summer holidays? Why or why not?

Definitely. The Castaways is set in the fall when carnivals and festivals are most frequent in the US. Also, I’m pretty sure corn, as a crop, grows in the summer, is harvested, and then, in some instances, the left overs are made into mazes in autumn. This book WOULD NOT work without the corn maze. If set in Easter, it’d have to be a tulip maze – not near as creepy. Thanksgiving might work, but the maze would be pretty dried out by then. Christmas would be too late (Pine tree maze? Probably not.). The summer is too hot, I needed a bit of bite in the air (even if set in Texas). Yeah, The Castaways had to be set in the fall.

      Do you have any “Easter Eggs” hidden in your plot? Can you give us a clue (no, seriously, we need a clue!).

I’m the worst at planting Easter eggs! Sometimes, I’ll admit, they show up unintentionally (that’s how truly bad I am at them). I do include Easter eggs across books. You’ll find some seriously recurring items or mentions... things like names and locations and pop culture references. Even sometimes made up plants from fantasy worlds. Hint: a plant from the island on The Castaways will resurface in my next YA novel, THE OFFERING.

      If you could add any one character from another book to your book who would it be and why? Or would you choose not add anyone else?

Hmm... I’m a big fan of animal companions (as you know ;) and I love polar bears. Now... I know, a polar bear would never work on an island, but you said ‘any one character’, so I’d love to have had Iorek Byrnison from the His Dark Materials trilogy there on the island (inserted interviewer's note: I adore your choice!). The kids definitely could have used a calm, voice of reason and a great big cuddle.

      We always ask authors what one piece of advice they would give an aspiring author (and of course we want to know that, too, so spill it!), but we have another question, as well: if you could go back in time before you wrote the Castaways, what would you have told your former self from your experiences?

My one piece of advice for aspiring authors is to persist. I know it’s like the author’s rallying cry, but it’s the biggest piece of truth I can offer: Don’t. Give. Up. As for what I’d tell myself if I knew pre The Castaways what I know now... Probably to get to the island sooner! I ended up cutting thousands of words from the beginning that, in the big scheme of things, just weren’t necessary and definitely slowed the pacing. I’d also tell myself to put my pantsing pants away and PLOT! 

      What was the hardest moment in writing your book? Why?

The hardest moment was finding a balance between the two very different sections of the book. Part of it takes place in modern day, small town Texas while the other is on a fantasy island. Eventually, (thanks to my editor) I figured out I needed to cut the beginning significantly and show more of Olive’s background throughout the book instead of up front. This worked wonderfully in regard to getting into the real action of the book as well as not bogging the reader down with erroneous details. Those editors... They know their stuff!

      Finally, how are you going to celebrate Easter (we want everyone to get to know you, not just one book – after all, you’re an author to look out for, as I know you have some very special books coming up soon!)?

My daughters aren’t little bitties anymore (they’re 10 and 12), but they still get baskets from the Easter Bunny who always leaves a sneaky scavenger hunt for them (which, incidentally, gets more and more difficult the older they get). Also, on Easter’s Eve, we’ll dye eggs per tradition
Now that we know all your secrets, I’m going to give you a tough one. Choose one of your characters (any one of them), and tell us how they’d celebrate Easter?
Bug! She’d be sure to trap a cave full of chickens and would gather piles of eggs herself. Then she’d forage for different plants and berries to use as dyes and hand paint each and every one, being sure to make a special egg for each of her fellow Lions. (She’d also be sure to stash a basket out of sight from Tilly so she and Charlie and Jude could have an extra-messy, secret egg fight!)

Thank you so much Jessika for joining us on YATopia. It’s a pleasure to see such a great debut author about to make it big on our blog, and we’re super excited to see how everyone will love THE CASTAWAYS!

Wait, hold on a minute (oh come on, you can’t get away from us that easy!). Bonus round: Give us a paragraph, one that’s not in your book, that never made it in there, but you still love!
It’s been my pleasure being here—thanks for having me! <3

Okay, this is fun! Originally, I gave a glimpse into how Olive and her BFF, Tawny met. Here’s a snippet of that elementary school meeting:

              ‘“I’m Tawny.”
”My name’s Olive.”
“Oh!” Her face lit up and I braced myself for her to flee. Instead she zipped open her lunch bag, ferociously dug through it, and pulled out a small container of black and green olives, setting the jar between us.
              “Want some? They’re my faaavorite.” She smiled, removing her pink sparkly retainer and setting it on a napkin.
              We laughed, divided up the olives, and have been sitting together since.”


Jessika Fleck is an author, unapologetic coffee drinker, and knitter — she sincerely hopes to one day discover a way to do all three at once. Until then, she continues collecting vintage typewriters and hourglasses, dreaming of an Ireland getaway, and convincing her husband they NEED more kittens. Her YA debut, THE CASTAWAYS (Entangled TEEN), releases 4/3/17. Her next YA novel, THE OFFERING (Swoon Reads/Macmillan) is due out in the fall, 2018. Jessika is represented by Victoria Marini of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Agentopia: Kate Testerman and Linda Camacho

Welcome to the April edition of Agentopia! This month we have Kate Testerman and Linda Camacho in the spotlight.

First is Kate Testerman from kt literary

About Kate:

After a dozen years working in publishing in New York City, Kate moved to Colorado and formed kt literary in early 2008, where she concentrates on middle grade and young adult fiction. Bringing to bear the experience of being part of a large agency, she enjoys all aspects of working with her authors, offering hands-on experience, personal service, and a surfeit of optimism.
Her clients include Maureen Johnson, Ellen Booraem, Stephanie Perkins, Carrie Harris, Trish Doller, and Matthew Cody, among other exciting and acclaimed authors. Kate is a graduate of the University of Delaware’s Honors Program, a former cast member of the New York Renaissance Faire, and an avid collector of shoes, bags, children, and dogs. Her interests cover a broad range including contemporary drama, urban fantasy and magical realism, adventure stories, and romantic comedies. She is an active member of the SCBWI and AAR.

What is currently on your wish list?

Diverse stories, particularly Own Voices. Like so much of the country right now, I'm feeling an urge to protest and resist, and would love to be part of a novel like THE HATE U GIVE by Angela Thomas, that shines a light on the stores that make up our multicultural world.

What's a personal turn-off in a query which is guaranteed to get the author rejected?

I'm willing to grant querying authors a bit of leeway, but racism and sexism are definite turn-offs.

Do you google authors and if yes, what are you looking for?

If I like a manuscript and want to set up a call with the author, then yes, I will do some googling and pop around on their social media channels. But I don't spend a lot of time seeking out authors.

To submit to Kate, email your query letter and the first three pages of your manuscript in the body of the email to 

Full submission guidelines and query letter examples can be found here

Twitter: @DaphneUn

Next up is Linda Camacho from Prospect Agency

About Linda:

Linda Camacho joined Prospect Agency in 2015 after nearly a decade in publishing. After graduating from Cornell University, Linda interned at Simon & Schuster and Writers House literary agency, and worked at Penguin before happily settling into children's marketing at Random House. She has an MFA in creative writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Unofficially, Linda loves chocolate, travel, and far too much TV. 
In terms of submissions, she's pretty omnivorous. She enjoys a variety of categories and genres, ranging from picture book to adult, from clean and lighthearted contemporary to edgy and dark fantasy.

What is currently on your wish list?

I’m looking for high concept YA of all kinds, like maybe a thriller, a western, or a fantasy (preferably set in a non-European world). Surprise me! And I’m dying for more adult romance, particularly contemporary (would love one with a plus-size protagonist). Frankly, I’d love to see a plus-size protagonist in anything having nothing to do with weight loss, like in Sarai Walker’s Dietland, which is terrific.

What's a personal turn-off in a query which is guaranteed to get the author rejected?

A big turn-off is when the writer slams the category/genre in which they're querying me for and saying that their work is the exception. I can't tell you how many "All YA is trash, but mine rises above that" I get in my in-box!

Do you google authors and if yes, what are you looking for?

I definitely do Google authors. If they don't have much online presence, I don't hold it against them. If they are online (i.e., on Twitter), I tend to look at the things they've said, if they're professional or not, if they'd be a person I'd want to work with. A person ranting on social media about how they think agents are mean and dumb, for instance, would certainly make me pause.

Prospect Agency accepts online submissions. Please include a query letter, synopsis and the first three chapters (or first 30 pages) of your manuscript.

Twitter: @LindaRandom

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


*Phone rings*
*Glances at number*
*Recognizes a NYC area code*
*Imagines the feelings of bliss you're about to feel*
*Presses answer*
Me: Hello?
Caller: Hi, I saw that you had recently inquired into...

NOOOOO! But I can't be the only person this has happened to. An excited writer waiting for "The Call" and getting a salesperson who so cruely is calling from New York City.
April Fools Day indeed.

It can be so easy at times to feel like that call is never going to happen. To feel like you're drowning in a sea of "no's" or "almost-but-not-quite-theres."

In an effort to live a life of transparency, I'm going to be honest and say I've been struggling with my motivation hard core. I poured my heart and soul into a book that has failed to capture that "yes." I've gotten a lot of "almosts," so many that it can break your heart much more than if everyone was just a big ol, "nope."

I've been trying to focus on my next book, but my self-confidence and motivation have taken a beating over the last few months. Trying to refill the well, I picked up Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.

It slapped me around with the truth that creative living is not tied to goals, it's tied to a journey. A journey I'm privileged to be on. I loved this excerpt:
“Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified, and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege. Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us. Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise—you can make anything. So please calm down now and get back to work, okay? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.” 
Good stuff, huh? Then you add it to this:
“But to yell at your creativity, saying, “You must earn money for me!” is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.” 
 Love that!

So here's where we're at now: Creativity can't be tied to a goal. It can't be forced to perform on demand. It must be fed. It needs to allow you to feel.

So if you're running on empty, it may be time for a perspective change.

Want to connect?
or follow me on Twitter or Instagram: @destinywrites

Sunday, April 2, 2017

How’s the Weather?

What do you talk about when you can't think of anything to say? The weather, of course! Seriously though, weather has been on my mind a lot. Or affecting my mind.
While the calendar says spring arrived over a week ago, in interior Alaska, we still have snow. Like a lot of snow. Like you could lose a full-grown Labrador in the snow. But last week, the sun appeared and so did puddles, and I started to feel sunny inside too. Then the clouds came back.
After nearly nine years of living in Alaska and experiencing the extremes of sunshine-all-the-time and darkness-all-the-time, I’m beginning to see how the weather affects me. January and February are tough months if I don’t have plans to leave the state for warmer, sunnier climates. Last week, when the sun was shining, I felt happy and energetic. Then when the clouds returned, I felt lazy, listless, lethargic.
I’m so moving to Hawaii someday.
Anyway, what does this have to do with writing? In high school English, we talked about weather being used as symbolism. At the time, I thought that was dumb. The weather occurs regardless of how a person feels. It doesn’t rain when I’m sad or depressed. The sun doesn’t shine just because I’ve gotten good news. And to an extent, I still feel that way. The weather doesn’t mirror my emotions.
But from experience, I know weather does affect a person. When I’ve had bad news, a sunny day makes me angry. An overcast day zaps my energy and pulls me down, even if everything else in my life is happy and positive. And today, with the sun shining again (despite SNOW this morning!), I don’t feel the pull to lie around napping all day like I have every other cloudy day this week. 
So the weather should be considered in our characters’ lives. Besides the obvious—one doesn’t go cross country skiing on the river in the summer—how is weather impacting the plot? What would a scene look like on a rainy day versus a sunny day? What if the day were windy? Humid? Dry? And how is the weather impacting the character’s mood and behavior? Good news on a nasty-weather day? Bad news on a sunny, blue sky day? For a character who deals with stress by gardening or running might like bad news on a sunny day, and bad news on a stormy day for that same character could send her into a desperate situation if caught outside in the rain, thunder, and lightning. 

Obviously the weather isn’t a consideration in every scene, but give some thought to how the weather could add conflict to a scene or within a character, and have some fun considering the possibilities!

Friday, March 31, 2017

GUESTOPIA: Kidlit Author Anne Booth

Anne Booth

Today, I am delighted to welcome the super talented children’s author Anne Booth to Guestopia! It’s a double celebration for Anne right now; not only does she have a brand new picture book out, but this month she’s celebrating the three year anniversary of her middle grade novel Girl with a White Dog. And it’s this novel we’re going to find out more about. 

Anne lives in a village in Kent with her husband and four children. She has two dogs called Timmy and Ben. She is not afraid of spiders, so is a good person to ask if you need one removed from your room! Her lovely author agent is called Anne Clark!

Right, let’s get started with the interview so you can find out more about Anne and her books.

Was Girl with a White Dog (GWWD) your first published book?


Which genre is it?

It is middle grade, which is officially 9-12, but I have had letters from 14 year olds who loved it, and Jessie and Kate are in Year 9 of secondary school.

Is it a series or standalone?

It’s a standalone. My other MG book, Dog Ears, is also standalone.

How did the first idea for GWWD book sneak up on you?

I think it was a combination of things, including  a conversation overheard in my local post office, my worry about the headlines in the newspapers, my MA in Children’s Literature where we had studied Nazi Children’s books, my time caring for mum who had dementia, my love of fairytales, and a book called Amazing Dogs by Jan Bondeson, which set me off on a historical detective quest to find out more about dogs in Nazi Germany.

How long did you plot/plan until you started writing it?

That’s hard to say. I read lots and lots of books - as many children’s books about the second world war as I could - both ones I remembered from my childhood and present ones, before and during and after writing all the versions. I read lots and lots of history books about Germany in the 1930s, and I also read lots about dementia, and I kept changing my notes and trying out sample chapters and plan as I went along. Whilst still working on it I went to Munich for the weekend with my friend, and things we found out there changed the story, and I went to The Wiener Library to see an exhibition of Nazi German books, which was crucial. I would say the whole process before getting an agent took about two years in any spare time I had whilst caring for my mum and family.

Once you started, did the story flow naturally or did you have to step in and wrestle it into submission?

The first version flowed a little too naturally, in that I set it in the third person, in 1930s Germany, with a very young protagonist and a fairy tale feeling from the beginning, but it didn’t work. I found this version very easy to write, and loved many elements, but it had a big problem, which was pointed out to me by a publisher very early on. The publisher loved the lyrical elements, but she said, because of the young main character and the style, that it read as if it was written for 5-8 year olds, and  she felt the subject matter was too scary and serious for that age group in the way that I was dealing with it.  So then I had to think again about how to approach it, and decided to set it in Britain today, and make the heroine the age of my youngest girls, who at that time were in year 9.

How many drafts did you write before you let someone read it? Who was that someone?

My children were my first readers - or rather, listeners - right from the start. They were very patient and let me read out extracts to them and then commented whether my Year 9s were believable or not.  My husband, a secondary school teacher, gave me good advice too about the structure of a school day. I realise writing this, that reading my work out loud is very important at the beginning of a book, so it is first about getting people (my long- suffering family!) to listen to it.

Did you employ an editor/proofreader or did you have critique partners/beta readers before you started querying?

I didn’t employ an editor but I was very grateful for the detailed feedback from the publisher who rejected my first draft. I  sent various versions and bits of versions to friends, and I especially cried on the shoulder of another unpublished writer friend,  Virginia Moffatt, who was thinking about similar things whilst working on a novel for adults about different generations affected by war. (I am glad to say her novel is going to be published this year with Unbound and is called Echo Hall).

I also remember going for a respite break from caring, down to ‘Retreats for You’ in Devon and reading out a bit to Shelley Harris, the novelist, who was down there working on her own book. Shelley had been a secondary school teacher and kindly gave me feedback about whether a particular English teacher in a scene was believable.

I have been interested in online discussion recently about sensitivity readers. For Girl with a White Dog I asked my friend Helen, a primary school teacher who has a disability and has played sitting volleyball for  Great Britain and narrowly missed being in the paralympics for both swimming and sitting volleyball , to check out my depiction of the disabled character Kate. I was really grateful for her feedback as otherwise I would have been really worried that I might have inadvertently written something patronising or hurtful because of my own lack of experience being disabled.

Roughly how many drafts did it take before you sent the manuscript off into the real world?

So many! I had nearly a complete book written as a fairy tale, then I tried out lots of different versions of different chapters and plot twists for the final version. Once I did decide I wrote the book quite straightforwardly.

Did you receive many, if any, rejections before you were snapped up by your agent?

I remember that initial feedback after the rejection of the first version by the publisher. Then I can’t remember - I think perhaps four or five but it may well have been more. I sent to some agents but also to publishers who were taking direct submissions from writers. I remember being very disappointed when there was one publisher whose editors really wanted to take it but then it was turned down at the end by marketing. That ended up being a blessing, as I was so depressed I sat down and wrote the picture book ‘The Fairest Fairy’ to cheer me up, sent it off and it was accepted by Nosy Crow! Then I had the good luck to read  a tweet from ‘the Bookseller’ on Twitter that Anne Clark was setting up an agency.  I was so lucky to have Anne, as she had been an editor, and she  saw the potential in my manuscript and helped me prune it before we sent it off.

Which publisher signed this book?

Catnip Books.

How many drafts until it was published?

That’s hard to say. Anne had done a great job editing the version we sent in, then Non Pratt and Liz Bankes, the editors  at Catnip at the time, suggested extra scenes and some further culling of sub plots, all of which really improved it.

Has the book changed dramatically since the first draft?


Are there any parts you’d like to change even now?

I don’t think any writer will ever be 100% satisfied by any book - but I think I had so much excellent editing from Anne and Non and Liz that I think that, as a work, it is as good as I could make it and wouldn’t benefit from any further tinkering. Sadly, I feel  everything in Girl with a White Dog is still relevant for today, and I feel passionate about telling that story and going into schools to talk about how and why I wrote it.

How involved were you/have you been in its publishing process?

I felt very involved even though I don’t think I changed anything - Catnip sent me, for example, the designs for the cover, designed by Pip Johnson and illustrated by  Serena Rocca and Non even told me about the font they were going to use. I thought it was all amazing. I think my actual contribution to process was to say the cover was absolutely lovely and suggest the dog was a little smaller, and the rest was just me feeling overwhelmed by admiration and excitement!

Do you have another job?

At the time of writing I was a registered carer for my mum, and also supporting my elderly dad. Now, since my mum’s death, I still support my dad but I am not an official carer. Instead, supported by my husband, who is a teacher, I am working full time as a writer.

What part of being a writer do you find the easiest?

Discovering stories and having ideas - I love the way that so many things can inspire a book - a news article, a conversation with a friend or overheard on a bus, a book, a film, a tweet,  my own or friends’ experiences. I love the reading and research and I love opening a notebook and jotting down ideas and extracts. I also love working across the age range and with illustrators - my next picture book ‘I want a Friend’ is coming out this month - it is illustrated by Amy Proud and I love seeing what she has done with the characters I imagined.

What part do you find hardest?

I think controlling all my ideas is hardest - I can try to place too many plot lines into a story and I am very grateful for my agent and wise editors - it is lovely to see an overgrown story expertly trimmed, even if it can be a bit painful during the process.  I think I am learning from the advice and  getting better at not overloading a story - I hope so anyway. I have even recently been asked to add things, which, thinking of that unwieldy manuscript  Anne received, made me smile.

Do you push through writing barriers or walk away?

Both really. I am very lucky to have two dogs, and walking them can help. Sometimes I go away and read a children’s book or some fiction from another genre from that I am working on, or read history or other non-fiction, or watch a film or a comforting detective programme on TV. I can get  inspired and also a bit distracted by twitter and Facebook too. But  ultimately you always have to come back, sit down and write and re write and have a cup of tea and re-write again. It is both fantastic fun and hard slog.

How many projects do you have on the go at the same time?

It is best for me to get my head down and work on one project at a time per day or week, but sometimes you can be working on one book and get sent urgent edits for another, or have a great idea for a picture book when working on a middle grade, or another book from the same genre. Ideas for new books are always occurring to me, and I jot them down in notebooks to come back to later.

Do you think you’re born with the talent to write or do you think it can be learned?

I think people are natural story- tellers, but I think you can always learn how to tell stories better, and not everyone will want to turn their stories into books. To be a writer in particular you need to love writing (I know that sounds obvious but I think some people love the idea of being an author but not so much the idea of being alone, putting words on paper or on a screen), and first of all I think a writer must be an enthusiastic  reader of the type of books they want to write. I think writers must be open to learning from reading the work of other writers, and to be a published writer I think you also need to be open to editing and also aware of what else is currently being written and published in the genre and on the subject you are writing about. I read a lot of wonderful children’s books about the second world war before I was satisfied that my book was adding anything new to the body of work and so would have a chance of being published.

How many future novels do you have planned?

SO many! I have to keep calm and deal with one idea at a time, but I have so many ideas. Luckily my agent is very good at keeping me on track and focused on projects, or I could go off on too many paths.

Do you write other things, such as short stories, articles, blogs, etc?

I  have written non fiction articles about being a carer and other things, and I have had a short story for adults long listed for the Bridport Prize and later published online, and won 3rd prize in a flash fiction competition. My Creative Writing MA is in adult fiction, and I have an adult novel I wrote which I am looking at again when I have the time!

What’s the highlight of being published so far?

I have loved so much about it. It’s been wonderful being short listed for awards and getting lovely reviews and very exciting, for example, being asked to the Edinburgh Festival. I also absolutely love seeing my words illustrated, and it has been amazing seeing the work of the illustrators  Rosalind Beardshaw and Sam Usher and Sophy Williams (and Amy Proud and Ruth Hearson in books to come).

I think the highlight though, has to be hearing from, or meeting, real live children who have read a book I have written and tell me they have loved it. That makes everything worthwhile! I love getting letters and I love meeting children in schools. I  enjoy planning the presentations and getting props and costumes together - I have a very cute little blackbird which whistles, for example. I really enjoy chatting to children and hearing their very interesting questions, and because I write across the age groups I can have so many fascinating and fun experiences. On World Book Day, for example, I started the day dressed as a fairy, talking about fairies and making friends and helping reception children paint rainbows and sing songs, then I went on to Years 3 and 4 and talked about rescuing animals and writing stories, and ended the day presenting a show about ‘Girl with a White Dog’ and ‘Dog Ears’ with years 5 and 6.  I couldn’t do that every week and I felt exhausted after it, but it was so great working with each age group and felt that I was the luckiest person in the world to work across the age range. I have been to some amazing schools and met such wonderful inspiring children and staff since being published, and I still find it amazing seeing children with books with my name on!

I have just remembered a different highlight - seeing my story Refuge become the beautiful Nosy Crow book illustrated so sensitively  by Sam Usher. I am proud it is raising money and awareness for refugees , and so happy that because of it, I got to do a BBC radio interview and meet the lovely Syrian picture book writer and illustrator, Nadine Kaadan. Being published has given me so many interesting experiences.

Give me one writing tip that works for you.

Write things down in longhand in a notebook you like the feel of - draw diagrams, cross out, experiment, have fun.

And one that doesn’t.

I can’t plot everything in great detail before hand - I have to have a basic framework but I have to allow the characters and story to change as we go along. I also don’t like to show too many people what I am doing as my confidence can be easily rocked or the story ruined at an early stage.

Can you give us a clue or secret about the next book?

Hmmm … for middle grade I think it is about the power of story again…the one I am working on has more action than my previous middle grade books but a similar idea of looking beyond the initial story you are given. For 5-8s - more magic and nature. And for picture books - some new characters I am really looking forward to introducing to children.

What question have you always wanted to be asked but never have? What would the answer be?

I can’t think of any - except perhaps ‘can we turn your book into a film or animation?’ My answer would be ‘OOH Yes - but let me ask Anne my agent first!’

Another question could be ‘ Would you look after these rescue donkeys if we give you and your family  a cottage in  a beautiful part of Ireland, near enough to somewhere with bookshops and lots of music, and with you having enough time, and money to live on, so that you can keep writing lots and lots of books?’ But nobody has asked me that either yet. The answer is  ‘yes’!

Fantastic! It's been so wonderful to offer you the chance to get to know more about this wonderful author. To follow Anne and discover more about her incredible books, these links might help!