Tamsin Cooke – Stunt Double Guest Post

I am thrilled to have the lovely and talented Tamsin Cooke on the blog today with a special guest post as part of the blog tour for her latest book ‘Stunt Double.’ I’m a huge fan of Tamsin’s first series ‘Cat Burglar’ and ‘Mission Gone Wild’ so I was intrigued to find out if ‘Stunt Double’ lived up to my high expectations and I can confirm that it has in fact surpassed them. When Finn is recruited as a stunt double he’s so desperate for fame that he doesn’t notice the warning signs that things are not exactly as they should be on the set of the film. Why would the notoriously eccentric director Novak hires a young boy as a stunt double and why is she demanding him to do more and more increasingly dangerous stunts. Pushed to his limits he’s in too far to back at now and finds himself mixed up in a deadly plot beyond the realms of his imagination. Full of danger and the unexpected this fast-paced action drama will leave you breathless. Tamsin Cooke really knows how to write thrilling and dramatic storylines that leave the reader wanting more and yet again she leaves us with an exciting hint of what’s to come next.

In this special guest post we learn more about she has developed these wonderfully, fascinating characters who make this story so compelling.

 

Out of your comfort zone – Tamsin Cooke

Characters are the life-force of a story. They drive the plot forward and evoke emotions.  You can have the most exciting story in the world, but if the reader doesn’t care about the characters or relate to them at all, everything will fall flat. This is why I spend so much time thinking about all the characters in my book, major and minor, making sure I know their backgrounds.  Life experiences shape us, so I want to know where they grew up, what are their likes, hates and desires. Each character needs a motivation, something that drives them forward.  Most of this will not be put in the book, but I know it.

I knew that I wanted a school age teen as my protagonist, but through research I’d learned you have to be 18 to be a stunt double (completely understandable considering the risks involved).  So I needed someone slightly rogue, who was wiling to break the law. That’s when Finn Gibson came to me.

Have you ever wanted something so badly it hurts? Finn is a fourteen year old boy desperate to be an actor.  Having won a scholarship, he’s spent his weekends and holidays at drama school. His mum scrimped and saved to pay for his karate and Free Running lessons, all in the hope that he can achieve his dream.

Finn only ever gets the role of an Extra. Jealousy eats at him from the inside. This is something I think we all can relate too – it’s an emotion we try to keep hidden from others, possibly even from ourselves. Finn’s envy is inflamed by the fact that his nemesis, Blake Saunders, born to Hollywood royalty, is the major star of a popular action movie franchise.

Finally Finn gets his big break, but it’s not what he was expecting. He becomes Blake’s stunt double.

On the surface, these boys look as though they have everything. Blake is a Hollywood superstar. Boys want to be him, and girls want to date him. But insecurity gnaws away at him. Hating that people think nepotism got him the role, Blake wants everyone to realise that he got the part because of his talents not because of who his parents are.

And now Finn is living the dream too – he’s a stunt double. He’s brave, adventurous, and physically very able.  But when you dig deeper, he is also filled with self-doubt. Desperate to prove himself, Finn will do anything the Director asks of him. Anything!!!!

So while I needed a teenage boy to break the rules, I also wanted someone to employ him. Therefore, I needed an even bigger rule breaker. I’d just read an article about filmmakers fed up with Computer Generated Imagery (CGI). They thought it was cheating and not pure authentic movie making. This gave me the perfect opportunity to develop Novak.

Novak is ‘old school,’ a director yearning for the golden years of cinema when human talent, props and set building were created and used.  Since men over 18 are too bulky to be disguised, women are often stunt doubles for children. Wide angled lenses are used to hide female curves. Novak is thrilled to have an authentic child stunt double, especially with Finn’s skills. Now she feels like her film is more authentic. But just how far is she willing to go to get that perfect shot? More importantly, how far will Finn allow himself to be pushed?

I throw these children into a dangerous world, and like Novak, push them to their utmost limits.  I suppose that means they wouldn’t like me very much, but they learn a lot about themselves. Their experiences change them and help them grow. And that is true of all characters, whether real or make believe.  When we’re thrown out of our comfort zone, that’s when we really discover what we are made of!

 

Thank you Tamsin for giving us a real insight into the characters in ‘Stunt Double’ Also thanks to OUP for inviting me take part in the blog tour, why not join in with the rest of the tour for reviews and more exciting guest posts.

 

The Never-Ending Birthday – Katie Dale

Today it’s my stop on ‘The Never-Ending Birthday’ blog tour. I’m a big fan of Katie Dale’s ‘Mumnesia‘ so I was excited to get my hands on a copy of her new book ‘The Never-Ending Birthday’. It’s twins Max and Anni’s 13th birthday and when they wake up to a breakfast of burnt bacon little do they realise that their day is going to get a whole lot worse. Max manages to miss a vital goal in the football Cup Final whilst Anni gets dumped by her best friend after a party goes wrong. To make matters worse they end the day being grounded FOREVER! As they blow out the candle on their birthday cake that might they both commiserate and make a wish to start their birthday all over again.  But little do they realise that their wish is going to come true – just not exactly as they might have imagined and they are going to have to relive their birthday again . . . and again . . . and again.

The idea of a never-ending birthday may seem like an ideal scenario for any child, who wouldn’t want to enjoy their birthday over and over again. But for Max and Anni with each day their life becomes more and more complicated and having prior knowledge of the day’s events is causing more harm than good. Katie deals brilliantly with the problems teens have when they’re growing up, from insecurities about their looks, friendship problems and the complexities of dealing with family life, which plays out against the background of a genuinely warm and funny story. I found it really interesting to see how Max and Anni both face very different peer pressure and experience a whole rollercoaster of emotions despite their contrasting personalities. The preconception that popular, seemingly confident children find life a lot easier is shown to be a myth as Max seems to struggle just as much as Anni. A story full of the unexpected, poor Max and Anni’s attempts to make their birthday enjoyable have the most bizarre consequences and their lack of control is brilliantly entertaining although at times quite sad. An energetic and entertaining read I devoured it in on sitting.

Blog Tour

Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for more reviews and guest posts.

Thank you to Katie for inviting me to join in with the blog tour and Macmillan for sending me a copy of this hilarious book.

Paula Harrison – The Darkest Dream Guest Post

Paula Harrison is back with the next book in the action packed ‘Robyn Silver’ adventure series. I loved ‘The Midnight Chimes’ and ‘The Darkest Dream’ is equally as entertaining. The boldest, brightest new heroine has returned: and Robyn Silver’s life hasn’t got any quieter since defeating the evil vampire Pearl in The Midnight Chimes. She’s now a fully fledged Chime Child and monster-hunter-in-training alongside best friends Aiden and Nora. The three suddenly start seeing nightmares – in the form of black beetles – appear around town. Who wants the people of Grimdean to be losing sleep – and why?

To celebrate the release of ‘The Darkest Dream’ I have a special guest post from Paula Harrison about sibling relationships.

 

Sibling relationships: Why I wanted to write about a family with five children in Robyn Silver: The Darkest Dream – Paula Harrison

Robyn Silver is the third in a family of five children and describes herself in the first book as “being smack in the middle, like the meat in a sandwich”. I decided to set up her family this way for several reasons. I knew writing about a large family would be great fun. My dad was also one of five and the tales he told of sibling rivalries and general mischief helped to inspire the Silver family. The chaos and disorganisation in the Silvers’ house is magnified by the number of children and this works well for the plot. Robyn has to deal with familiar family issues such as competition for the bathroom alongside her monster-fighting duties. I wanted to weave in the fantasy and gothic elements of the story with the everyday to make the story more real to the reader.

There are books with large families that helped to provide inspiration for the Silvers too. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is probably one of the best known. So many readers have come to know and love the close relationship between Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy. Louisa May Alcott draws their different personalities beautifully and shows us how they comfort and annoy each other as siblings do. She also shows how the differing ages of the girls effect their bond – how the youngest can become frustrated by their role as the baby and how the older ones can be patronising and impatient.

A more modern story that also features four sisters is The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall. This story has lots of hilarious moments and the delineation of the different sisters’ personalities is spot on. In The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, Will Stanton is the youngest of six children and the contrast between the everyday goings-on in the Stanton household with the fantasy plot brings the book alive. The sibling bond is one of the first relationships that many children form. It’s also one of the most rewarding and most fraught relationships there is. Young readers love to recognise their own experiences in stories and I hope many recognise Robyn Silver’s relationship with her brothers and sister in Robyn Silver: The Darkest Dream.

Paula Harrison

Paula Harrison is a best-selling children’s author, with worldwide sales of over one million copies. Her books include The Rescue Princesses series. She wanted to be a writer from a young age but spent many happy years being a primary school teacher first.

To find out more about Paula you can visit her website or follow her on Twitter @P_Harrison99

Thank you to Paula for stopping by the blog and to Olivia and Scholastic for my copy of this fabulous book.

The Accidental Billionaire – Tom McLaughlin

I’m a huge fan of Tom McLaughlin’s Accidental series. ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ was one of the first books I reviewed on my blog and I reviewed ‘The Accidental Secret Agent’ with some of the children at my school for the TES Class Review. So when I heard there was a new book coming I knew that I must get my hands on a copy as soon as possible, and luckily for me the lovely people at OUP sent a copy for me to devour and devour it I did!  What would you do if you became mega-rich over night? Well that’s exactly what happens to Jasper Spam when he accidentally invents the world’s first talking cat with the help of a crazy experiment involving a shed, a mallet and a poorly aimed laser beam. People desperate to get their cats to talk, start handing over huge wads of cash and before he knows it he’s a billionaire. But having every thing you ever wanted doesn’t guarantee happiness and soon his new life starts to unravel.

Yet again Tom uses an irresistible combination of slapstick and subtle humour to entertain and amuse the reader. Stuffed full of amusing episodes we see the chaos unfold as Jasper is let loose with money to burn. Furniture from IKEA is obviously not good enough for his new mansion so a trip to The British Museum with his very own personal shopper to buy accessories has to be de rigeur for any own young billionaire. The reader revels in the ridiculousness of Jasper being dressed from head to toe in gold and diamonds which make it too heavy for him even to walk but it has to be only the best for him even if it’s uncomfortable and unpractical. But playing against the background of his newly acquired fortune there are some unexpected circumstances. and a world full of talking cats soon proves to be problematic. We all know that they are incredibly intelligent and cunning creatures but who could predict that a bunch of cats who could suddenly talk would create the most disturbing plot?!?!? Tom’s fantastic and witty illustrations capture this rollercoaster of a ride that Jasper faces as he’s unexpectedly thrown into this bizarre and uncontrollable situation. This is a truly laugh-out-loud book, which is guaranteed to entertain and amuse both children and adults alike. A must have read, it is one of the funniest books I have read this year.

Thank you to Hannanh and OUP for sending me a copy of this hilarious book I know it will be a huge hit in my school library.

Jonathan Meres – The World of Norm Q & A

To celebrate the publication of the 12th and final Norm book ‘Must End Soon’ I am delighted to welcome Jonathan Meres to my blog for a special Q & A.

Jonathan Meres – Q & A

  1. So ‘The World of Norm: Must End Soon’ is the twelfth and final book in the ‘Norm’ series did you ever envisage when the first book was published that there would be 12 in total?

Absolutely not.  I honestly didn’t envisage there’d be three, let alone twelve!  I knew there were going to be two.  And quite frankly I’d have settled for that.  Because at that point, I hadn’t had a new book out for about three years.  To say that publishers weren’t exactly beating a path to my door, would be an understatement.

  1. How do you feel now that the series is ended, will you miss writing ‘Norm’?

To be perfectly honest, it still hasn’t sunk in.  And at the time of writing, I’m about to go on tour, promoting Must End Soon, for a couple of weeks.  So, I’m still in full Norm-mode.  Once that’s over – and I’ve done a few other bits and bobs, it might begin to sink in.  Will I miss writing it?  Not sure.  But I definitely won’t miss the deadlines.  Two books a year, for the past six years, has been pretty intense.  But as problems go, it’s been a very nice problem.  So I’m definitely not complaining.  Honest!

  1. I know this is like asking to choose which is your favourite child but do you have a favourite book in the Norm series?

I know there’ll be plenty of people who beg to differ, but I honestly think the books have got better and better as the series has gone on.  I narrated the first four quite recently, for the audio book versions and there’s so much I’d change now, if, like Cher, I could turn back time.  Having said all that – and this is stating the obvious – if it hadn’t been for the first one, May Contain Nuts, the other eleven wouldn’t have happened, they wouldn’t have been translated into fifteen languages, or sold nearly a million copies.  So, I guess it can’t have been all that terrible.  Oh and if anyone’s wondering?  My favourite child is my youngest.  The other two are rubbish.

  1. Who if anyone inspired the characters in the series and how do you dream up the crazy escapades that Norm finds himself in?

Well it’s no coincidence that Norm has two brothers and that I have three sons.  Or that my sons were aged about thirteen, ten and seven when I first came up with the idea.  Or that my boys were all into mountain biking, at the time.  But it’s not as simple as saying that my eldest is Norm, my second eldest is Brian and my youngest is Dave.  Yes, there are elements there.  But basically, everything went into the pot, I added a good dollop of myself and gave it all a good stir.  So the premise is very loosely based on my own family.  Occasionally one of them will say something and I’ll write it down.  But the vast majority is completely made up.  Norm’s a universal character.  There’s a bit of him in all of us.

  1. The series is brilliantly illustrated by Donough O’Malley. Was it important to you that your book featured illustrations?

Honestly?  I had no idea whatsoever that it would even be illustrated.  As I said earlier, it had been a while since my last book.  There was no guarantee that May Contain Nuts would ever be published.  Far from it!  And I genuinely had no idea that the vogue at the time (2009/10) was for funny MG fiction with cartoon style doodles a la Wimpy Kid etc.  I just wrote it.  No thoughts at all about what was popular, age groups, word counts or any of that stuff.  But you’re right.  Donough’s illustrations are brilliant.  I can’t think of Norm any other way now.

  1. If children have loved the ‘Norm’ series do you have any recommendations about what they can read next?

Comedy answer = Yeah, they can read my next series.

More serious answer = I’ve made a point of not reading anything even vaguely in the same ballpark as Norm.  For the simple reason that there’s no danger of me ever being subliminally influenced and ripping anyone off.  If I do read other children’s books – and to be honest, I rarely do – it tends to be something a million miles away from what I’d write, myself.  So – and I’m sorry if this is a bit of a cop out – but I’m actually not the best person to ask.

  1. What have you got planned next? Are you able to tell us about future books?

Another series with Orchard/Hachette.  I can’t tell you too much, at the moment.  Partly because I don’t know too much, myself, at the moment.  Even though I’ve already started writing it.  Which is a bit scary.  I can tell you that it will be for roughly the same age group as Norm ie quite broad.  And that it will be funny.  Well, hopefully it will be funny.  There’ll definitely be words in it.  And characters doing stuff.  Who knows?  There may even be illustrations.

  1. Having seen the hugely positive impact on children at my school when we have had author visits, what have been your experience as an author and how do you feel children have benefitted?

I’ve done literally hundreds of school visits, in my 19 years as a published author.  Many of them, before the first Norm was ever published.  When nobody knew me, or my books.  I just used my skills (I use the term in the loosest possible sense) as an actor and (former) comedian, to engage with kids and get them fired up about books and reading – and maybe, just maybe change one or two perceptions about what authors are supposed to be like.  I have had some amazing experiences, performing to children.  Whether that’s an audience of 25, in a library, or 2500 in an enormous theatre.  There’s no shadow of a doubt that children of all ages respond to seeing a live author.  As opposed to a dead one.  And I’ve said it before, but the biggest compliment I can be paid, is hearing about a child who wouldn’t normally go anywhere near the school library, going as a result of one of my visits.  Even if it is to borrow a book by David Walliams.

  1. What’s the one piece of advice you would give to young writers who may be struggling with their writing?

Keep going.

  1. And finally would you rather write a book on the back of a camel or on a rollercoaster?

Seriously?  Camel.  Every time.  Preferably Bactrian.  One hump to lean back on and the other to lean on.

 

The World of Norm Complete Series Giveaway

How would you like to win the complete series of ‘The World of Norm’ books, well luckily for you the lovely people at Hachette have given me the whole of the series, all 12 books to giveaway to one lucky winner! To enter simply comment on this blog post or pop over to my Twitter page, ends 7th July UK only.

 

A huge thank you to Jonathan for stopping by the blog today and participating in my Q & A and to Dom from Hachette for inviting me to host this fabulous giveaway.

George – Alex Gino

I am delighted to be taking part in Scholastic’s #ReadwithPride campaign with a review and giveaway of the marvellous ‘George’ by Alex Gino. When people look at George, they think they see a boy but George knows she’s not a boy, she’s really a girl. George doesn’t know how she can tell her friends and family that she’s a girl and thinks she will have to keep it a secret forever. But an opportunity presents itself when George’s teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. She is desperate to play the part of Charlotte but the teacher refuses to let her try out for the part because she’s a boy. With the help of her friend Kelly, George finds a way to show the world who she really is!

‘George’ is one of the most beautiful and wonderful stories I have ever read. By using female pronouns from the beginning of the story it is quite clear to the reader that George is really a girl even though everyone who surrounds her fails to recognise that. I found it truly heart breaking the internal struggle she faces in how she can possibly share this truth with her family and friends without them rejecting her. Her friendship with Kelly is probably her salvation that gives her the strength to try and tell her family how she truly feels. By allowing George to play Charlotte, Kelly allows everyone to see for the first time that George is actually a girl and not a boy. Her joy at being given this opportunity filled my heart with joy and brought tears to my eyes, This is one of those stories that needs to be in every school library, a perfect empathetic read which introduces children to the incredibly difficult situation that transgender children find themselves in. But it is more than this, it truly is a tale for anyone who has felt that they don’t belong and craves acceptance, who struggle to fit in with the expectations that the world places upon them. Thoughtful and moving a definite must have read.

 

Thank you to Olivia and Scholastic for sending me a copy of this book and inviting me to take part in the Scholastic’s #ReadwithPride campaign. If you would like to win a copy of ‘George’ leave a comment on my blog or head over to my Twitter page, ends 7th July UK only.

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World – Kate Pankhurst

Today, July 2nd is the anniversary of the Representation of the Peoples Act (1928) – this is the act which gave women electoral equality with men. To celebrate this historic day I am hosting a giveaway of the brilliant Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World by Kate Pankhurst. To enter simply leave a comment on this blog post and for an extra chance to win pop over to Twitter and retweet the pinned tweet on my page.

‘Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the World’ is a perfect introduction to learning about some incredible women and their achievements who helped shape the world we live in. Kate Pankhurst, descendant of Emmeline Pankhurst, has created the most wonderful book which takes readers on an exciting journey where they will meet extraordinary women who have managed to achieve the most amazing things. Fly through the sky with Amelia Earheart, swim the English Channel with Gertrude Ederle and walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs with Mary Anning. Stuffed full of stunning, detailed illustrations and astounding information this provides a perfect introduction to some of the women, who have changed history. An exceptional read, it was one of my favourite non-fiction books of last year and it deserves to be in every primary school library.

 

Kate Pankhurst

Kate Pankhurst illustrates and writes from her studio in Leeds with her spotty dog, Olive. She loves a good story and gets her best ideas by doodling in her sketchbook; because even quick wonky drawings can spark ideas for amazing plots. As a child Kate spent most of her time drawing silly characters and thinking up funny things for them to do, she feels very lucky that this is now her job!

Thank you to Liz and Bloomsbury for inviting me to host this giveaway.