Chatting to Aoife Walsh

Today on the blog I have been joined by the lovely Aoife Walsh, author of Look After Me and Too Close To Home as part of the YA Shot blog tour.

 Too Close to Home

Click on the book image to get to Goodreads.

Aoife Walsh lives in Oxford with her husband and three children. She quite likes cooking, and quizzes when she knows the answers, and reading, and excellent American television. And cakes and fine wines.

How long have you been writing for?

I used to write a lot when I was a kid, but I gave it up when I was about fourteen or fifteen and wanted to spend more time thinking about myself. About nine years ago I had two dreadful small children and needed to get out of the house, so I signed up for a Creative Writing evening course – and that got me going again.

What’s your favourite thing about being a writer?

There are so many fantastic things. We all seem to spend a lot of time on Twitter asking each other why we do it and it’s true, the pay is crap and it’s hard a lot of the time because I don’t really get any time off now. I mean, none. If nobody else is in the house or I’m not playing Uno or cooking food, I’m supposed to have my nose to the keyboard. However, nothing beats the act of creation. You don’t get that feeling all the time but when you do, it’s beautiful. Also, I get to work in my own house without wearing makeup or hurty shoes or having to drink tea with full-fat milk in it.

In Too Close To Home and Look After Me you write about complex families. What inspired you to write these books?

I’m not sure I can even imagine writing a book which isn’t intrinsically about family. That doesn’t have to mean parents-and-their-children, of course. The fluidity – or otherwise – of family borders and the harshness and safeness of family relationships are a big old area for me and my books to float about in. Also, I think it can be a vitally important issue for young people who may or may not feel at home in their own families but who can’t, generally, escape them yet; and who may be changing and growing out of their old roles within the family. Or not. You see what I mean, there’s a lot of space.

Do you see yourself or your loved ones in any of the characters you have created?

Ahem. Yes. Too Close To Home came in lots of ways out of my two eldest children, though they’re still much younger than my characters. Also, Minny has a fair amount of 14-year-old me in her – her more or less constant exasperation with everyone around her, for instance. Weirdly, my brother seems to work his way into everything I write. I wouldn’t tell him that, he already thinks he’s terribly important – but Adam in my first book was quite a lot like him; Minny has a bit of him and so does her bossy dad.

Minny from Too Close To Home loves English. What was your favourite subject at school?

English. Predictable. I loved Latin too, though, and I ended up doing History at university.

I loved the reference to literature in Too Close To Home. I love reading about characters who love books as much as I do. Who is your favourite book loving character?

This is a madly tricky and brilliant question. So many characters love books, and so many evil ones don’t – Matilda’s father ripping up her library book, and poor little Jane Eyre, getting her book thrown at her. Probably my most favourite characters are the ones I didn’t feel were more highbrow than me – I was always a bit intimidated by Sara Crewe with her flawless French and interest in history at the age of seven – she was like the 19th century version of Rory Gilmore. I love Francie Nolan from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Emily of New Moon, and Beezus Quimby and, it goes without saying, Hermione Granger.

Have you always been a reader?

Yes. I always have been. I remember as a kid wondering with awe and horror what people who didn’t read did with their time (I could understand it more these days, what with all the different Real Housewives options).

Do you prefer to read a ‘real’ book or an e-book?

I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m trying to be kooky, but I’ve never read an e-book. Not even a page of one. On the whole I feel pretty okay about sticking to ‘real’ books; I spend enough time looking at a screen while I’m writing, and I’d be afraid of dropping it in the sink while I was washing up. Besides – actual books are better.

Libraries have always been one of my favourite bookish places. Have you got any memorable experiences at a library?

I used to love my local library, mostly because they had an inexplicably brilliant selection of Astrid Lindgren books which were ungettable anywhere else – not just Pippi Longstocking but Karlson On The Roof and The Bullerby Children and Emil and Lotta and best of all, The Brothers Lionheart. My school library was great too, it had The Outsiders and the Alanna books and a ton of Cynthia Voigt, all of which changed my life; but I think other people’s – fictional people’s actual library experiences – stick with me more clearly than my own. Anastasia Krupnik and her obsession with the early symptoms of leprosy, Francie Nolan reading a book a day, all through the alphabet, and only allowing herself a children’s book on Saturdays – and her unsympathetic librarian. Who is the worst librarian, Francie’s – or Jessica Vye’s, who in A Long Way From Verona wrests Jude The Obscure from Jessica’s hands and replaces it with an awful ‘velvety-looking, thin sort of book’? Or Adrian Mole, re-shelving Jane Austen among the light romance novels? And who is the best – probably the marvellous Mrs Phelps in Matilda, or else Miss Laburnum in The Librarian and The Robbers, who ends up almost crushed beneath her books? There is a memorable library experience for you.

Do you think libraries are evolving with the growing popularity of e-books?

I don’t know enough to answer this question, except by saying that everything I see about libraries suggests to me that they are run by people who love books and who expect to be able to get almost any information about anything from books – and who are therefore massively qualified to make their libraries do anything that library-goers need them to. It seems to me that the only threat they face has nothing to do with books or e-books; it’s from politicians who either do not understand their importance or who are still afraid of the possibly revolutionary impact that books can have on people who can’t afford to buy them.

Quick fire questions

Currently reading? The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor.

Book you wish you had written? Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

Favourite place to write? At my desk, in my sitting room, with work-related books (and the rest) piled up next to me and a map or two to look at on the wall.

Favourite author? SO HARD. Astrid Lindgren.

Fictional character you love to hate? Maybe Mrs Elton from Emma, or else Robbie from Dirty Dancing (can I have that?) – what he does to Penny is disgusting enough, but when he hands Baby a copy of The Fountainhead and says, ‘I think you’ll enjoy it, but make sure you return it; I have notes in the margin’ – what a giant, giant idiot.

My review of Aoife’s recent book Too Close To Home will be coming tomorrow!

Thank you so much to Aoife for such interesting answers to my questions! It’s also Aoife’s birthday today, so a massive Happy Birthday to her! ❤  

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Interview with Terri Bruce, author of Hereafter and Thereafter

ThereafterTourBanner_851x315 Book Description :

Nothing in life is free. Turns out, nothing in the afterlife is, either. When recently-deceased Irene Dunphy decided to “follow the light,” she thought she’d end up in Heaven or Hell and her journey would be over. Boy, was she wrong. She soon finds that “the other side” isn’t a final destination but a kind of purgatory where billions of spirits are stuck, with no way to move forward or back. Even worse, deranged phantoms known as “Hungry Ghosts” stalk the dead, intent on destroying them. The only way out is for Irene to forget her life on earth—including the boy who risked everything to help her cross over—which she’s not about to do.As Irene desperately searches for an alternative, help unexpectedly comes in the unlikeliest of forms: a twelfth-century Spanish knight and a nineteenth-century American cowboy. Even more surprising, one offers a chance for redemption; the other, love. Unfortunately, she won’t be able to have either if she can’t find a way to escape the hellish limbo where they’re all trapped.

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Today I welcome the lovely Terri Bruce to the blog for an interview. Terri is the author of Hereafter and Thereafter. Two books which I’ve recently read and really enjoyed. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to ask her some questions…

I’m so happy to be here today, thank you so much for inviting me, Chrissi! I actually met Chrissi through Top Ten Tuesday when we started commenting on each other’s posts and I’m a regular reader of her blog, so it’s an honor for me to be here today.

How long have you been writing for?

I’ve always written; in grade school, they had us write a story every year, which we then made into a book – we printed it neatly on nice paper, drew pictures to accompany the story, and then sewed it all together with a cardboard wrapped in wall paper for covers. I think that was my favorite thing we did all year and I still have those stories (thanks Mom for keeping them!). It wasn’t until 2001, however, that I really set out to write a novel “for real,” and that’s when I started working steadily toward becoming a professional author.

What inspired you to write Hereafter and Thereafter?

The idea for the Afterlife Series came to me one day while I was driving (as so many ideas do); I thought about how different all the stories are of what happens to us when we die. If all the stories stem from some common story or belief what might that original story look like? How could we reconcile all these different “truths” about what happens, and all the various superstitions related to ghosts and how to bury the dead and such, and what would the afterlife look like if all the stories were true in some way? Around the same time, the character of Irene came to me—a strong-headed, complex woman who isn’t really good or bad and who is just sort of treading water in life—and her struggle to deal with her early/unexpected death. The two ideas came together and Hereafter was born.

Can you see yourself in any of the characters?

LOL – well, none of the characters are “me” per se, but a lot of Jonah’s depression is pulled from my own memories and experiences as a teen. Whenever I hear someone say they wish they could “go back” to being a teen/kid and do it all again, I think, “NO.WAY.” I would never go back—being a teen was awful!

My husband, on the other hand, will tell you I’m a lot like Irene. When I’m doing the final editing of my books, I read the entire story out loud to my husband. When I’m reading Irene’s parts, especially when she’s losing her temper, he usually starts laughing and says, “And that’s exactly how you say it, too!” That usually gets a pillow thrown at him. 

Both books come across as very well researched about the afterlife. Did you have to research quite a bit or have you always had an interest in it?

I love mythology, especially the origins of myths. Throughout history, cultures borrowed from each other, building on each other’s mythology and stories. If you go back far enough, you can find the common origins of those stories—that’s the stuff I find really fascinating. When I came up with the idea for Hereafter, I thought about all the stories/myths related to what happens to us when we die that are out there, and how different they all are and I wondered what the common, underlying story(ies) were—what were the common, unifying threads? And to take it one step further, if all the stories were true, how could they be reconciled? That was the challenge I set up for myself with this series: to create a cohesive vision of the afterlife that included ALL of the myths from every culture and religion on Earth from throughout all of history. So the research has been quite extensive and incredibly interesting; I have a giant three-ring binder full of my research and I’ve worked as much of it as I can into the series.

If Hereafter and Thereafter were made into movies, who would you cast as Irene?

This is a really tough question, actually! For three years now, ever since Hereafter was first published, I’ve been racking my brain, trying to come up with an actress to play Irene. It’s tough. I think I’d have to go with an unknown because I don’t know of anyone who fits the bill. Alison Scagliotti might be perfect if she was just a little older (Irene is 36). Jaime Murray and Alicia Coppola would be almost perfect (the right mix of sweet and snarky) but they are a little too mature—and I don’t mean to say that they’re too old; I mean, when you look at their faces and in their eyes, they are mature, grown-up, thoughtful women. Irene is very immature. You’d never mistake her for someone’s mother or someone who could be maternal.

I don’t know—readers, what do you think? Any suggestions on who should play Irene?

What’s your favourite scene in Thereafter and why?

There’s a couple of scenes that I really like, for different reasons. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the creation of the horse because I feel very clever for making the Chinese myth of burning paper items to send them to the dead true/literal and because…HORSE! Can you think of a WORSE traveling companion for Irene than a horse? Writing Irene’s reaction to the horse was a lot of fun.

I love the initial letters from Jonah to Irene because of what he doesn’t say. In Hereafter and Thereafter, Jonah is a bit of an iceberg in that most of what’s going on with him is below the surface. He doesn’t give up how he’s feeling very easily and the reader has to work for it a bit. Spoiler alert but that changes in Book #3.

And finally, I really love the scene where Andras comforts Irene outside the hotel. I thought I managed to hit just the right tone with how Andras responds to Irene’s distress and how Irene responds to him.

What’s next for you writing wise?

I’m working on finishing up Book #3 of the series (there will be six books total) and I’m working on a science fiction story that’s sort of Firefly meets Battlestar Galatica—that is, cowboys in space who must look for a new home when theirs is destroyed.

Quick-fire questions!

Currently reading?: Weight of Worlds by Alma Alexander (short story collection) and re-reading Federica by Georgette Heyer.
Favourite author?: I have to pick just one?! That’s a toughie, but I have to say Terry Pratchett—if I see his name on a book I buy it, even if I don’t know what it’s about.
Favourite place to write?: I imagine out story lines in the shower and car, but I jot notes anywhere I am (I keep a notebook on me). I do most of my typing on my laptop while sitting on the couch in the living room.
Favourite fictional character?:Ooooh, another toughie! Hmmm…I don’t know. I don’t think I can pick just one. Possibly Lord Vetinari from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Books.
Book you wish you had written?: The Night Circus; the writing was really gorgeous in that book. I wish I could write that lyrically.

About Terri and where to find her:
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Terri Bruce has been making up adventure stories for as long as she can remember and won her first writing award when she was twelve. Like Anne Shirley, she prefers to make people cry rather than laugh, but is happy if she can do either. She produces fantasy and adventure stories from a haunted house in New England where she lives with her husband and three cats.

Email:      tbruce@terribruce.net This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Website/Blog:     www.terribruce.net
Goodreads:    www.goodreads.com/TerriBruce
Facebook:     http://www.facebook.com/authorterribruce
Twitter:     @_TerriBruce

Book Buy Links (available at all major book retailers)
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Thereafter-Afterlife-Series-Volume/dp/0991303628/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8
Barnes & Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/thereafter-terri-bruce/1115324247?ean=2940149344697
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/423765

Click HERE for an amazing giveaway including

2 $50 Amazon gift cards
5 signed paperback copies of Thereafter (U.S./Canada Only)

Interview with Denise Deegan, Author of The Butterfly Novels

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Today I am joined on the blog by the lovely Denise Deegan, author of The Butterfly Novels which I have reviewed over the last three days. If you haven’t read my reviews and want to, please click on the image of the book.

What inspired you to write The Butterfly Novels?

I hadn’t planned to write for teenagers. I had finished a two-book deal with Penguin for contemporary books for adults. An artist friend and I decided that we’d like to work together on a picture book for small children. We met in a coffee shop and brainstormed.  One of our ideas was for a book featuring a dad who would go abroad to work, come home and tell his little girl about the country he had visited. We both decided that it was too politically correct and boring. My friend went to the loo. While she was gone, this voice came into my head. It was a teenage girl giving out to her dad. She was so angry and sarcastic but underneath it all there was a huge vulnerability. I didn’t know where it would take me- whether it would be a short story, a novel or nothing at all. As I was not under contract and I wanted to have fun, I decided to listen to the voice and see where it took me.

It came to me that this girl’s name was Alex. The reason she was angry with her dad was because she had lost her mother to cancer six months previously and her father had not been there for her physically or emotionally. I realized then that the whole idea for the novel had come from my subconscious. It was reacting to the picture book idea and telling me that it’s not necessarily a good thing when a parent isn’t around. That scene is in the first chapter of And By The Way.

I am so glad I listened to Alex’s voice. The reaction to the Butterfly Novels has blown me away. Teenagers are so amazing. They get in contact with me every day through Facebook and twitter to let me know, not just how much they love the books, but how their lives have been affected by them in so many positive ways. I appreciate that so much.

Did you have the idea planned out for a trilogy, or did it naturally progress that way?

Initially, no, I did not plan a trilogy. After finishing the first book, And By The Way, I really wanted to write books from the points of view of Alex’s friends, Sarah and Rachel. When I was a teenager, I believed that everyone thought like I did. It was really only when I first fell in love, I realized that we are all so different. I wanted to show how different the same world can be from someone else’s point of view.

In the first book, And By The Way, Sarah is the least likable character. I knew that some people who had loved And By The Way would want the next book to be about Alex again. It was kind of brave and maybe a bit mad to chose Sarah but that’s what I wanted to do and, as a writer, you have to be true to yourself. It was the best thing I ever did. I came to love Sarah so much and so did Butterfly fans. For many, And For Your Information is their favourite book.

( I have to admit it’s my favourite! )

Do you identify with any of the characters?

Rachel. Of the three girls, Rachel is perhaps the most sensible and certainly the best friend. For me, she was the hardest to write because we are so alike. The third book, And Actually, was the most challenging for that reason. How can you write about someone who is so together? The answer, I found, was to take them apart. *cue evil laughter*

If the novels were to be made into a film (which they totally should 😉 ) who would you cast as Alex, Sarah and Rachel?

So many of my fans have asked me if the Butterfly Novels are going to be made into a movie. So what I would LOVE is for one of my fans to, one day, make the movie. I would also love for that person to ask their casting agent to hold open auditions so that any of my fans that wanted to could audition. That is what I would love.

(Excellent answer. If only I had the talent to make a movie 😉 )

The Butterfly Novels were an incredibly emotional series for me to read. I particularly felt moved by And For Your Information.. Is it hard to write such emotional pieces of work?

When I write, I become the main character, so for me, too, it’s emotional. And For Your Information broke my heart, more than once but I fell in love with Sarah who proved to herself, to me, and to Butterfly fans just what and amazing person was hiding inside. I feel very emotionally attached to The Butterfly Novels. I find it hard, for example, to pick a favourite because choosing one over the others would be like a mother choosing a favourite child.

Please tell me you’re writing something else! What’s next for you writing wise?

Yes, I am editing two books at the moment. The first is a love story set in the past. I love the two main characters, Maggie and Daniel. And I have loved dropping them into history to see what happened.

I am also editing a YA thriller which I am dying to get out there. I wish I could write faster.

What do you hope to achieve in 2014?

I would like to get both my historical love story and the YA thriller out into the world. I am very, very tempted to self-publish. I think it would be a whole new adventure.

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Quick fire questions:

  • Favourite author? Darren Shan
  • Book you wish you had written? The Book Thief
  • Favourite book character?  Can I pick more than one? ( Oh go on then… 😉 ) Rudy- The Book Thief, Zach-Goodnight Mister Tom,  Sarah-And For Your Information.
  • Favourite place to write?  That would be in Sardinia by a pool but *sigh* it is usually on my dining room table or in bed.
  • Favourite book character that you love to hate?  Miranda Priestly, The Devil Wears Prada.
  • Favourite book series? The Hunger Games
  • Hardest book to write in the Butterfly Novels series?  And Actually because I’m so like Rachel.

Thank you so much to Denise for taking the time to answer my questions. I’ve been fascinated by your answers.

I can’t recommend The Butterfly Novels enough. Go check them out!

As a celebration of the wonderful Butterfly Novels, UK readers can enter to win a signed copy of And By The Way. Sorry that it’s UK only, if you’re outside of the UK, I seriously recommend that you check out this series if you can. You won’t regret it.

Win a signed copy of And By The Way.. UK only