Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Countdown to 7th August Review + Author Q&A The Castle by Sophia Bennett (Children's, 10 years +, 10E/10E)

 7th August 2014, Chicken House, 300 pages, Paperback, Review copy 

Themes: thrills, army child, coping with death of a parent, suspicious circumstances, in hiding, big discoveries, yachts, money, friendships forged, safety (at the end!), enemies with guns, prisoners, 

Content: suspense in bucketfuls, adventure, some humour,

Summary from Chicken House 
A search for the truth about her father’s death takes schoolgirl Peta Jones to a dangerous place, where she discovers that what some people will do for money, she will do for hope ...

Peta Jones is an ordinary girl struggling with the loss of her father, an army hero who died in mysterious circumstances. When she receives clues that he may still be alive, but no one believes her, she embarks on a dangerous rescue across the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean to a cliff-top castle, home to a billionaire in exile.

Nayuleska's thoughts
I’m probably already biased because I adore all of Sophia’s other books (thus I'm a fangirl). She said that I’d find this book different – I’m reviewing it for this special post organised by Jim of Ya Yeah Yeah for The Countdown to the 7th August celebrating UK books being published on 7th August, and she was right.

Peta’s point of view is pretty funny, definitely my kind of humour. I mean, when I got to a really tense part in the final showdown, Peta out of the blue makes a comment making me snort with laughter at the timing of it all. It’s not an out-and-out comedy – there is a lot of tension and suspense which goes on for nearly the entire book. When everything gets revealed Peta wasn’t the only one going ‘oh’. (I don’t think she actually said that, but you get the idea). She is a quick thinker and talker, and creates friends with those she meets (some are enemies but they never were going to give her Haribo sweets which she’s addicted to).

Peta is really brave. She idolizes her father – or should that be idolised since he’s dead? Everything she does is for him, which is rather sweet. She makes some awful choices which are what makes the book so interesting. Getting butterflies from reading a book is a very good sign of it being AMAZING! Which this tale is. It’s full of adventure on a par with Sophie McKenzie (whose thrillers are epic in content, not in length), an author I’m another fangirl of. I kept expecting various stuff to happen, which had me on tenderhooks, so even when they didn’t happen when I thought they’d happen I was wowed by what did happy while at the same time still on edge for what was going to happen. If you understand that sentence, yay! I need everyone to buy it (The Castle, not my sentence) so Chicken House will let Sophia write a book 2, which she is getting ideas for so please spread the word! 

Find out more on Sophia's website

Question & Answer with Sophia

It is with much fangirl squee-ing that I can present some questions I posed to Sophia and present her replies. Thanks ever so much Sophia - this has made my August! 

Nayu 1) When chatting with you by email you said Peta's story was different to your other work, and boy is it different! All in a good sense, I promise. How did you come to the decision of trying a different type of book? And where did Peta come from? 
Sophia: I've always loved thrillers and adventure stories. Some of my favourite films are the Bourne movies and Die Hard, and everyone in my family is a thriller fan. So it was a bit strange to me when my first book, Threads, turned out as quite a gentle story set in the fashion world. I think I had to write at least one book with a thriller twist to see if I could do it, and The Castle was fun to write. I loved getting Peta into very difficult situations, and getting her out of them again. 

This is a story I've been thinking about for a long time, because I grew up as an army child and I always felt that if anything happened to my father, my family and I would be able to use everything we'd learned from the army to rescue him. When the Spy Kids movie came out, I thought Ah, - that's my story! (Yes, I've been thinking about it that long.) But Spy Kids has a strong fantasy element to it, and my story is more about a real girl, in a real situation, with absolutely no fancy technology to help get her out of it. 

Having said all of that, Peta is just like all my other heroines in many ways. She's funny and cynical, she knows what she wants, but she makes a lot of mistakes before she starts getting things right. She's the other side of me from the fashion-loving side: I love maths, codes, exploring, adventures, and showing I can do whatever a boy can do. Peta does all of that in spades.

Nayu 2) The reader (me) has to wait with bated breath every time that Peta almost gets caught, which took much longer than I'd expected but was awesome when it did happen. Had you considered having her caught sooner, escaping, and then 'stuff' happening? 
Sophia: I didn't really think about Peta getting caught sooner until you started reading the book, and then I thought - Augh! Maybe I could have done it differently ...

But to me, the book is all about Peta's relationship with her dad. Everything she does is to do with finding out where he is, and why, and what happened to him. That's where the tension is for me, and the emotional roller-coaster of the ride. And when she does finally get caught *spoiler alert - she does, big time*, I hope what happens next makes up for the wait. The flock of butterflies in your tummy that you mentioned suggests that maybe it does ...

Nayu 3) Peta has a lot of issues surrounding the death of her father, which pop up at unexpected and inconvenient moments. Did the issues automatically increase Peta's tendency to take risks and just go for things, or was this already a big part of her personality? 
Sophia: That's such an interesting question! And not one I'd thought about in quite that way until now. I think that Peta, like her dad, is a natural risk-taker, but she's had such a safe, normal life up until now that she's never realised what she's capable of. The only clue is that she's very good at playing Forza online, and for me that's because she's good at going for it and taking risks on the racing track. 

When her dad dies, she's in emotional turmoil. Then suddenly she thinks she has the chance to prove he's not dead after all. That definitely forces her to take risks she wouldn't take otherwise. She enjoys it, but she does a few really stupid things she comes to regret. She slowly has to learn to balance her natural tendency to do something dangerous in an emergency with her ability to plan for it, so she has some chance of getting out alive, and not hurting other people in the process. 

Nayu 4) I love clothes in novels because it can say a lot about a character and can be both a help and a hindrance, as Peta discovers in some of the swankier clothing she ends up wearing. What made you settle on her clothes and accessories? 
Sophia: Well, I didn't leave Threads and The Look [Sophia's other books, links here in & in previous paragraphs lead to my reviews] behind completely! I had such fun working on the swanky stuff towards the end. There's a bit of an Audrey Hepburn thing going on, so I was kind of mixing Die Hard, The Bourne Identity and Breakfast at Tiffany's in my mind. Which would make the perfect Sophia Bennett movie, I think. 

I was inspired by my elder step-daughter to use Audrey. Emily has a huge poster of her up in her room. I've always loved Audrey Hepburn, but I wasn't sure if today's teenagers still do too. I asked on my Facebook page to see if this was generally true, and everyone said Yes - use her! So I've recreated the Breakfast at Tiffany's outfit in a thriller setting. It's uncomfortable and impractical in the circumstances, and just funny, really. It also brings out the fact that Peta's a girl in a spy world that is often dominated by men. Girl power. In a tiara. Yesssss.

Nayu 5) Where do you like writing? What do you like eating and drinking to keep you going?
Sophia:  I love writing all round the house, if it's cold - including in bed, if it's really cold - and in my shed if it's warm and sunny, like now. Here's a picture of it: 
It looks so enticing!
I also use local cafes and libraries, and occasionally the cafe at the V&A. Eating and drinking while writing is essential. Americano coffee, or tea in my Cath Kidston thermal mug if I'm in the shed. Almonds if I'm feeling healthy, or the odd Twirl if I'm not. It's not a bad way to spend the day.  I love my job! 


Anonymous said...

Hi Nayu. Thanks so much for the interview. It was fun to do! I really enjoyed your live tweets of The Castle while you were reading it. You were scared and excited in all the right places! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Fingers crossed that your readers do, too. Sophia xxx

Nayuleska said...

Hi Sophia, it was such a pleasure reading The Castle, and thinking up questions for you. I had heaps of fun tweeting it! Glad I got the right emotions in the right places. I'm sure everyone else will love it!

Anonymous said...

Hi Sophia. The castle is a wonderful story that should be read by everyone!!! Thanks for giving us such a gift.