Friday, 16 May 2014

Egmont's 9 + Reader Blog Tour! Day 5

Today's blog tour is one with a difference. Egmont want to celebrate their 9 years + readership, which has some amazing books being published this year. 9 years + = Middle Grade = MG (not that that's confusing, or anything!) Naturally I jumped at the chance to take part in the tour, because at the moment I really like books for 9 years+. They often are funny, not too dark and grim (some are, lots aren't), and very fun to read. Additionally it turns out, from talking with other bloggers, that there is less of an emphasis on MG when it comes to reviews. 

I don't have any statistics, simply what I've heard. For health reasons I don't necessarily know what the most fashionable genre/age group is, but even I have gathered that Young Adult (YA) is extremely popular. My theory is that people in the intended age group for YA books are more inclined to blog, since a fair number of 9 year olds are probably less likely to blog about their book reviews, and may have limited internet time. Other people who read the books may be too busy. Either way, I think it's an excellent idea for Egmont to highlight the 9 years + readership. 

You are probably wondering where my book review is...there isn't one! Again, Egmont wanted to do something unusual. Rather than focus on 1 book/author per day of the blog tour, they've got all 4 writers -Sophia McDougall, Jason Rohan, Jane Hardstaff and Jamie Buxton, taking part to speak a bit about a set topic! For those desperate for a review I have read & reviewed The Executioner's Daughter by Jane Hardstaff (which is AMAZING, especially the swan cloak), who is one of the authors speaking below. 

Right, on with the post then! 

Note from Egmont: Freestyle! Our 9+ authors tell them something about themselves or their books which you might not otherwise know . . .


One of the things I wanted to do with The Sword of Kuromori, as well as tell an exciting story and introduce readers to Japanese culture, was to bring to life the rich mythology and folklore of Japan.

Some of the mythical creatures are already known to western audiences through Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, anime, manga and even Moshi Monsters, but few people know their origins. Fortunately, there are thousands of monsters in Japanese myth, so I have the luxury of being able to choose the more interesting ones, such as vampires whose heads detach and go hunting by themselves, or a river creature mentioned by Professor Lupin in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Some storybook monsters are so well known to readers – fairies, giants, trolls, griffins, unicorns, etc – that it can be difficult to find a fresh approach. Japanese folklore, however, is relatively unknown but has a long history and tradition, with many unique monsters which you won’t find anywhere else.

As always, the folk tales from a particular country provide an insight into the national psyche, and Japan’s stories are no different. The monsters reveal a deeply-felt devotion to nature, the merits of living a good life, and explain away natural disasters such as earthquakes, typhoons and floods, which used to regularly afflict the islands. What I’ve tried to do is bring it all up-to-date, with ancient enemies embracing modern technology to settle old scores. After all, what’s scarier than a bloodthirsty ogre? A bloodthirsty ogre with a huge gun!

Nayu: Thanks Jason - frequent readers of my blog know how much I love anime, some which include a much loved Japanese Kappa ^o^ 
Two cute kappas from random internet search (I can't talk anime wihout having a cute pic!)


Where does history stop and the story start?

It’s a question I guess every writer of historical fiction wrestles with. I can’t imagine writing a book set in the past without researching that period, but there is a point where history stops and story starts – where you make stuff up because… well, because you’re a writer not a history teacher.

There’s a bit of a debate going on at the moment about how much responsibility a writer has to be historically accurate. Given that you’re writing a work of fiction, some of what you write is going to be invented. I guess every author decides for themselves how much research to do, how much historical detail to include and where to depart from what they’ve discovered. Even in history books, there’s often a thin line between invention and opinion. You only have to read accounts of the last months of Anne Boleyn’s life to realize just how much disagreement there is among historians about what actually happened. Of course, we’ll probably never know. The best historians can do is gather evidence and speculate. The best writers of fiction can do is read the evidence, read the speculation, do their own research and find the place where they feel comfortable departing from what they’ve learned.

I once heard an author say that the most important quality for a writer to have is empathy.  I really do believe that is true. Whether it’s a fictional or a historical character, it’s empathy and a degree of imagination that will bring them alive. I suppose if I feel any responsibility at all, it’s towards my characters. Because if they’re lifeless, then the story is dead too.

Nayu: That's absolutely right. I know your books are definitely not dead - nor are anyone else who I feature on this blog!


Where am I now? My latest book, Temple Boys, is just out; I’ve just finished another one set in ancient Egypt so now I do my favourite thing: dream up ideas without the inconvenience of having to turn them into books: yet.

The process goes like this ... What haven’t I written about? Vikings. Hmmm. Don’t much like Vikings. Vicious bunch - bullies. All of them? Couldn’t be. A nice Viking? A peaceful Viking? Is that possible – like being a vegetarian wolf? Concentrate. A good Viking who doesn’t have friends because he refuses to pillage. He’s chased by the bad Vikings. How? In a boat! Idiot. What boat? A boat he steals. Good Viking steals boat and is chased by bad Vikings. Where? Maybe I should make myself a cup of tea and do some research ...

Trouble is, instead of thinking about that, I’ve dreamt up a great title for a book but can’t think of a story. The title came when I was watching “Snakes on a Plane” But it’s not about airborne reptiles; it’s about epistolary supernatural beings... There’s a Ghost in the Post. Special delivery spooks? Mail order manifestations? Better have another cup of tea while I’m pondering.

Then, as the kettle boils, for no good reason at all, the words Morse the Horse, the Greatest Detective in the Stable pop into my head. Now, suppose he had a friend called Tony the Pony...

Nayu: *shakes head* Sigh. Someone would have to mention the dreaded sn*kes, wouldn't they? Post with ghosts does sound rather entertaining! I doubt the postal companies would agree though...


Mars Evacuees is about two girls, two boys and a flying American blue-eyed fish robot, all trying to stay alive on Mars while invisible aliens invade Earth. As I’ve mentioned earlier on the blog tour, I’ve had a version idea knocking around in my head for many, many years now, and one of the best things about it finally being published is that I get to go into schools and meet the people who I wrote it for. It’s wonderful when people tell me they’re excited about the idea of being evacuated to Mars. I love that I see girls and boys saying they like the book. Boys and girls saying they laughed at the jokes, and were excited to know what would happen next.

There's a myth, even in publishing, that “Boys don’t read books about girls, and girls don’t read books about space.” I think that’s such a depressing thing to believe about both boys and girls.

If you were an alien trying to work out what Earth was like by TV and film, you’d assume the human species was 75% male, 25% female.  And people act as though it has to be like that, as if the proportions of the actual human race need a justification or an excuse. I think that’s wrong. I think that's saying to half the people on this planet "You only half-deserve to exist or be noticed" and to the other half "You're too stupid to cope with reality." So I stuck to my original concept of characters - this was and is a book about two girls, two boys, a flying American blue-eyed fish robot and this is how it's been published.

And no boy has said to me “I’m not interested in this book, because there’s more than one girl in it” and no girl has said “I’m not interested in space.”

(Because really, NO ONE’s not interested in space.)

Nayu: I'm so with you Sophie on boys and girls can read any books they want. I happen to prefer books with female protagonists, but I've read many with male protagonists: it's just my particular taste. When I was under 10 years old I was reading Thomas the Tank Engine magazines, Batman and Superman comics alongside stories about princesses and female knights. 

We are all free to read whatever we like, rather than what society thinks we should read simply because of who we are. I'm an adult, yet I read predominantly children books as they are fun and often but not always cheerier. I have no problem reading children's books in public - I'm a reviewer, I read anywhere and almost always have a book in my bag. I'm glad that Egmont has chosen to highlight the awesomeness of books for 9 years + because they are hidden gems that so many people are currently missing out on. Go on, try a 9 years + book out - you won't regret it! Unleash your inner child which never ever leaves us. Ever! 

Be sure to check on other stops in the tour including yesterday's over at Library Mice

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