Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Emmy and Oliver Blog Tour: Robin Benway's Playlist!

Oliver's absence split us wide open, dividing our neighborhood along a fault line strong enough to cause an earthquake. An earthquake would have been better. At least during an earthquake, you understand why you're shaking. Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. But now Oliver is back, and he's not the skinny boy-next-door that used to be Emmy's best friend. Now he's the boy who got kidnapped. A stranger - a totally hot stranger! - with a whole history that Emmy knows nothing about. But is their story still meant to be? Or are they like the pieces of two different puzzles - impossible to fit together?

Simon and Schuster are publishing Emmy and Oliver this Thursday in the UK, and it sounds like a brilliant contemporary read for YA fans! As part of this blog tour, author Robin Benway has kindly shared her playlist along with notes - yay music!

Thanks to Robin for this piece and I hope you enjoy reading it!


Emmy & Oliver Playlist
by Robin Benway

Suburban War – Arcade Fire

“Now the cities we live in could be different stars / and I search for you in every passing car…”

“Oh, my old friends / They don’t know me now…”

This song is probably the reason why I started thinking about Emmy & Oliver in the first place. I had always sort of a vague idea in my mind about these two characters, but it was this Arcade Fire song (and frankly, this entire album) that started to solidify who they were.

Buzzcut Season – Lorde

“And I’ll never go home again / Place the call, feel it start / Favorite friend / And nothing’s wrong when nothing’s true / I live in a hologram with you…”

I basically listened to Lorde nonstop while writing Emmy & Oliver, since not only did the music sound right, but the lyrics seemed to summarize exactly what I wanted the characters to say to each other. I listened to this song over & over while writing the part where Emmy first teaches Oliver to surf.

Overjoyed – Bastille

“Oh I feel overjoyed when you listen to my words / I see them sinking in / Oh I see them crawling underneath your skin…”

When I first heard this song (thanks, Viral 50 on Spotify) I knew exactly what scene it would involve. I hadn’t even written that scene yet, but it was too perfect for the moment. It’s the first time that someone really listens to Oliver since he’s come home, and his friendship with Emmy grows because of it. If you’d like to read a snippet from that scene, continue on!

I Wanna Go – Summer Heart

“I had nothing to lose and I had no one to trust / and you were calling my name…”

I listened to this song obsessively when I wrote the surfing scenes for Emmy & Oliver. To me, it just sounded like summer and lazy days and the ocean. (Even though the book takes place during the spring. But whatever!) When I went online looking for information about this song, I found the most perfect fan-made video. If Emmy & Oliver had a book trailer (it doesn’t, sorry!) this is what I’d want it to look like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5V6GVrmN70

Ribs – Lorde

“This dream isn’t feeling sweet / We’re reeling through the midnight streets / And I’ve never felt more alone / It feels so scary getting old…”

Lorde comes through yet again. This song was, for me, the background for the friendship between Caro, Drew, Emmy, and Oliver, and the way friendships shift and change, especially when someone new enters them. I also liked how they’re all on the cusp of change (college, moving out of their parents’ house, or, in Oliver’s case, coming home) and how these changes both pull them apart and push them together. Being seventeen is scary sometimes. Lorde gets it.

If You Do, You Don’t – Cartel

“So take me out, and take me anywhere / I’m out of touch with everything and I don’t care / So I must be out of my mind / And all that I have to give to you is all my time / So I’ll stay with you…”

So waaaay back in the day, I had this song on a soundtrack that was for a book that will never see the light of day. (Never.) But I listened to it obsessively while writing a few certain scenes, and I was so disappointed when I realized that it would never be on a soundtrack for a book that didn’t exist. Enter EMMY & OLIVER. Thanks, kids!

Anthems for a 17-Year-Old Girl – Broken Social Scene

“Park that car, drop that phone, sleep on the floor, dream about me…”

Emmy & Oliver is my fifth book, which means that I’ve been trying to get this song on a soundtrack for one of my books for AGES! And it finally worked! I always envisioned this song sound like late nights and wet grass, when you feel like you’re the only person awake in the world, listening to that one song on repeat. This would be that song.

Los Angeles – Denison Witmer

“All of these homes are lined up so straight / But here on the inside, it’s not that way / I gave you my life and more / From sadness to sunshine, I’m yours…” 

I’m starting to realize that the subtitle of the Emmy & Oliver soundtrack could easily be “All the Songs that Robin Wanted to Put on a Book Playlist But Never Could.” Because here’s another one! I’ve loved this song for years, and when I wrote a Book That Will Never Be Published (you’re welcome), I loved this song for two of the characters. But with Emmy & Oliver, it just fits them so well. If only they actually lived in Los Angeles.

But it also fits their families, too, and the idea of trying to keep up appearances when you’re falling apart.

Silhouette (feat. Ellie Goulding) - Active Child

“Tell me that you’ll stay, even when I’m far away / My voice will carry through / Until the end it’s me & you / We can make it if we try / All that I’m saying is you’re home / You’ll never be alone…”

So this song pretty much wrecked me while I was writing one of the scenes toward the end of the novel. I first heard it in the car and I started crying because I knew it was basically Emmy and Oliver talking to one another. (Sometimes when you’re writing a book, you can get a smidge emotionally involved with your characters. Ahem.) I wanted to wait a few days after the book came out (now available for purchase at all fine bookstores, hooray!) because there are potential spoilers here. Not big ones, though. But still.

Say Something – A Great Big World

“You’re the one that I love / And I’m saying goodbye…”


 [Click to enlarge]

Saturday, 11 July 2015

The Lost and the Found Blog Tour: Cat Clarke's Writing Essentials!

When six-year-old Laurel Logan was abducted, the only witness was her younger sister. Faith's childhood was dominated by Laurel's disappearance - from her parents' broken marriage and the constant media attention to dealing with so-called friends who only ever wanted to talk about her sister. 
Thirteen years later, a young woman is found in the garden of the Logans' old house, disorientated and clutching the teddy bear Laurel was last seen with. Laurel is home at last, safe and sound. Faith always dreamed of getting her sister back, without ever truly believing it would happen. But a disturbing series of events leaves Faith increasingly isolated and paranoid, and before long she begins to wonder if everything that's lost can be found again...

Quercus have just published Cat Clarke's new YA novel, The Lost and the Found, in the UK on July 2nd. It looks set to be as good as her previous books, my favourite of which is still Undone!

As part of this blog tour, Cat has written a great post about writing essentials - thanks, Cat! Do check out the previous stops on this blog tour, which you can see on the banner below.


My Top Ten Writing Essentials 
by Cat Clarke

You might think that all a writer needs in order to do their job is a computer, or a pen and some paper. And you might well be right. I would love to be one of those writers. But I’m not, so here are my writing essentials*. 
1. Tea 
The tea has to be in the right mug. A writing session calls for a mug of considerable size, and should ideally be one that also makes me smile. I have no time for boring mugs. Oh, and the milk ABSOLUTELY must go in first. (I’m fully aware of how controversial this is.) 
2. A sofa or a bed 
I used to write at a desk but that felt a bit too much like proper grown-up work. Now I tend to write on the bed in the morning (NB: not actually IN the bed... very important distinction there) and on the sofa in the afternoon. This way I can trick myself that I’m just messing around on the computer and not doing actual work. Let’s just ignore the fact that for a large part of the day, I am indeed messing around on the computer and not doing actual work. 
3. Pets 
Ideally a dog snoozing on either side of me and a cat looming above in a slightly menacing fashion. Optional extra: additional cat sitting in the hallway making sounds like a baby in distress. 
4. An open Word document 
I like to have the document open, even if I’m not quite ready to start writing. This makes it easier for me to sneak up on the story and get started without really making a conscious decision to do so. This is VITAL if I’m going to get anything done. 
5. Music 
I used to listen to music when I wrote, and was convinced that it wasn’t possible for me to manage without it. These days I tend to write in silence. But I like to listen to certain songs on repeat while I’m gearing up for a writing session. I nicked this idea from Keris Stainton – thanks, Keris! My current favourite is Peter von Poehl’s The Story of the Impossible. 
6. Lunch or dinner already planned 
There is absolutely no way I concentrate if I don’t know what my next meal is going to be. It also helps if the prospective meal has the potential to be extra delicious. 
7. A good book This can be problematic if the book is TOO good. Because then I just want to read all day and leave the writing till tomorrow. So it has to be a book that I can put down, even if I don’t particularly want to. 
8. No plans for the rest of the day ESPECIALLY not a scheduled phone call. Phone calls are the worst. Well, actual phone calls are usually fine, but the prospect of them? Not so much. 
9. An idea of what I’m going to write next If Past Cat has been kind, there will be a few sentences in the Word document, outlining what should happen in the next scene. I’ll often ignore these suggestions, but it’s comforting to have them there nonetheless. 
10. Oh dear… 
This is all getting a bit ridiculous, isn’t it? After all, it’s just making stuff up. How hard can it be? Instead of telling you about number 10, I’m going to go away and WRITE. (And by ‘write’, I mean ‘make sure all the essentials are in place so that I can begin to start to think about maybe, just maybe, getting some words done’.) 
*Correct at time of going to press. Subject to change on a daily basis, annoyingly.


 [Click to enlarge]

Friday, 10 July 2015

Did I Mention I Love You Blog Tour: DIMILY in Pictures!

When sixteen-year-old Eden Munro agrees to spend the summer with her estranged father in the beachfront city of Santa Monica, California, she has no idea what she s letting herself in for. Eden's parents are divorced and have gone their separate ways, and now her father has a brand new family. For Eden, this means she's about to meet three new step-brothers. The eldest of the three is Tyler Bruce, a troubled teenager with a short temper and a huge ego. Complete polar opposites, Eden quickly finds herself thrust into a world full of new experiences as Tyler's group of friends take her under their wing. But the one thing she just can't understand is Tyler, and the more she presses to figure out the truth about him, the more she finds herself falling for the one person she shouldn't her step-brother. Throw in Tyler's clingy girlfriend and a guy who has his eyes set on Eden, and there's secrets, lies and a whole lot of drama. But how can Eden keep her feelings under control? And can she ever work out the truth about Tyler? Did I Mention I Love You is the first book in the phenomenal DIMILY trilogy, following the lives of Eden Munro and Tyler Bruce as they try to find their way in an increasingly confusing world.

Black and White published Did I Mention I Love You in the UK on July 1st, and it sounds like a great YA contemporary read. I'm looking forward to getting stuck in when I return from my little reading break!

As part of the blog tour, author Estelle Maskame has created a cool post - DIMILY in pictures. Thanks Estelle!


DIMILY in Pictures
by Estelle Maskame

1. Tyler's car – Audi R8 Image 

2. The Hollywood sign that Eden and her friends break into

3 & 4 – Google street view and image from The Refinery Café in Santa Monica, where Eden hangs out 

5 – Santa Monica Pier

6 – Santa Monica beach

7 – Eden jogging through LA


Friday, 3 July 2015

The Potion Diaries Blog Tour: Interview with Main Character Samantha!

When the Princess of Nova accidentally poisons herself with a love potion meant for her crush, she falls crown-over-heels in love with her own reflection. Oops. A nationwide hunt is called to find the cure, with competitors travelling the world for the rarest ingredients, deep in magical forests and frozen tundras, facing death at every turn. Enter Samantha Kemi - an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent. Sam's family were once the most respected alchemists in the kingdom, but they've fallen on hard times, and winning the hunt would save their reputation. But can Sam really compete with the dazzling powers of the ZoroAster megapharma company? Just how close is Sam willing to get to Zain Aster, her dashing former classmate and enemy, in the meantime? And just to add to the pressure, this quest is ALL OVER social media. And the world news. No big deal, then.

The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward was published in the UK by Simon and Schuster this week, and it sounds like a must-read for fantasy fans. As part of the blog tour I have an interview with the main character, Samantha, for you all to read. Hope you enjoy it, and thanks to Amy for writing it!


Interview with my main character 
By Amy Alward

Hello everyone! My name is Amy Alward and I’m very excited to interview Samantha Kemi for the Kingstown High School yearbook.

So Samantha, you’re definitely what I would call a legacy student around here- everyone knows you by your last name. Do you think you’re going to follow in your family footsteps? 

Wow, talk about jumping me straight into the deep end! Of course, I’m so proud of my family’s legacy as Kingstown’s (best) alchemists, but I also don’t like the idea that my destiny is already laid out for me and I don’t get a say. I guess the short answer is: I don’t know yet! I want to see where life takes me.

Speaking of life taking unexpected turns, what did you think when you first heard the Princess’s news that she was poisoned by a faulty love potion?

To be honest, I didn’t know what to think! I’m actually pretty impressed that she was able to figure out a formula for a love potion that’s been banned for over two centuries. That is quite a complicated formula. She always seemed to…let’s say…disguise her intelligence on the newscasts and TV programs that I’d seen on before.

Apart from that, I’m pretty excited that I’ve been called to participate in the Wilde Hunt to find the cure! It isn’t something that I expected to ever happen in my lifetime. It’s great that all the ingredients have to be natural too- although I respect the synths, I do believe that there is more potency in Wild ingredients than the ones made in the lab.

Ooh, a bit of a controversial opinion there. Speaking of synth potency, tell us about your competitor, Zain Aster- he’s a bit of a hottie, isn’t he? 

Is he? I hadn’t really noticed…

Sure, Sam, sure. You didn’t notice those dreamy blue eyes? That swarthy black hair? Those burly muscles?

Look, he’s on a different team to me, so it’s not like we’re exactly the best of friends. But I don’t want him to fail. I’m hoping we ALL do well, actually. If none of us manages to figure out the formula, the consequences could be real dire not just for the Princess- but for the whole of Nova. 

Well, good luck Sam and thanks for this awesome interview! We’re all rooting for you…Will you just answer a few of these rapid fire questions before you go? 

Books or Adventure? Books!

Unicorns or Mermaids? *shudders* Unicorns
Planes or Mirrors? Planes
Truth or Dare? Truth
Blue eyes or Brown? Blue

Amy Alward is the author of The Potion Diaries and editorial director for a leading children’s publisher. She is addicted to coffee, books and adventure. Get in touch via Twitter: @amy_alward or Instagram @amyalward!


 [Click to enlarge]

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Windsnap Wednesday #1: Liz Kessler's Poem and The Tail of Emily Windsnap + Giveaway!

In August, Orion Children's Books are set to publish the sixth book in the Emily Windsnap series, Emily Windsnap and the Ship of Lost Souls, alongside a brand new cover look for the previous five instalments.

This weekly meme, titled Windsnap Wednesdays, is your one-stop place for Emily Windsnap and author Liz Kessler, and I'm excited to be kicking things off today! Over the next six weeks or so each Emily Windsnap book will be highlighted, with posts from both UK and US bloggers.

Today's content is a poem from Liz herself, all about an adventure that inspired the Emily Windsnap series. Hope you enjoy, and don't forget to follow all the fun on Twitter using #windsnapwed.


Windsnap Wednesdays #1
by Liz Kessler

Picture the scene: It’s early in the new century and late in the summer. I’m sitting on my narrowboat on the canal, looking out of the window at fields and sheep and a big blue sky. The boat is rocking gently, and a few lines of a poem drift into my mind.

Mary Penelope lived on a boat,
Which was all very well, but it didn’t quite float.
It wavered and wobbled and fell on its side
Whenever she tried to go out for a ride.

I am hooked. (Forgive the pun.) I grab a pen and get to work. And as my boat rocks, the poem unfolds…

…Now Emily, Mary Penelope’s daughter
Often felt sick as she didn’t like water.
Except, if I’m honest, that isn’t quite true.
(Although this is strictly between me and you.)

In fact, it fills my mind for the next few weeks. The story of a girl who lives on a boat with her mum and has a big secret: she is a mermaid. By the end of the poem, her secret is out, Mum is proud, Emily is free and everyone is happy.

Shining and beautiful out on the sea
Emily whispered, ‘It’s nice to be me.’
And, glad that her secret was finally told,
She swam with the mermaids, happy and bold.

But it turned out Emily didn’t want to be a poem. Luckily for me, I had a good writer friend (Lee Weatherly, still one of my best writer buddies) who, along with her editor David Fickling, gave me some fabulous feedback, which resulted in my decision to try writing the story of this poem as a novel instead.

And so, Emily Windsnap was born.

Back then, I had no idea where my adventures with Emily would take me. Now I can tell you this: they have taken me to Bermuda where I snorkelled with hundreds of beautiful fish; they’ve taken me to the midnight sun of an arctic summer; to magical castles, mystical caves, to hidden coastal paths and mysterious pools, ponds and waterfalls.

Emily has been part of my life for over a decade. Each time I write a new book in this series, I feel that I am going on an adventure myself. I am indulging my love for the ocean, exploring its mysteries and uncovering a few more of its secrets.

Sometimes, readers ask which is my favourite out of all the books I’ve written, and I often find this a difficult question to answer. But one thing I can say without hesitation is that my first book, The Tail of Emily Windsnap, will always have a special place in my heart. It is where it all started for me. 

Some people think that a writer makes up stories. I’ve never felt that way. I’ve always believed that our stories kind of exist in some sort of way, and it’s our job as writers to find them. I believe our characters exist in some sort of way too – and they choose the writer who they think is the best person to tell their story.

I am grateful that Emily chose me.

I hope I’ve done her justice. So here’s to mermaids and Emily and all that is swishy in the sea, and I look forward to focussing on each book of the series over the next few weeks, with Windsnap Wednesdays. And of course, at the end of all that, I am REALLY looking forward to Emily’s sixth adventure, Emily Windsnap and the Ship of Lost Souls, which comes out in August. Hope you’ll join me and Emily for the #WindsnapWed adventure and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we’re going to!

Swishy wishes!
Liz :)



Thanks to Orion, one lucky winner will win whole set of all six Emily Windsnap books, with the brand new sixth book to be sent to the winner upon publication in August. To enter all you have to do is fill in the form below.

This giveaway will end on July 8th, 2015, is open to UK and Ireland residents and is one entry per person. Good luck!

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The Baby Blog Tour: Nicola's Extract!

When Olivia opens the bathroom door, the last thing she expects to see is her best friend Nicola giving birth on the floor - and to say Nicola is surprised is an understatement. She's not ready to be a mum, and she needs Olivia's help. But Olivia has her own problems - specifically her bullying boyfriend, Jonty, and keeping an eye on younger sister Alice. And then there's Nicola's friend Ben, who's struggling with secrets of his own.

Lisa Drakeford's YA novel The Baby is published in the UK this Thursday, July 2nd, by Chicken House. It promises to be a great, emotional read, and I for one am looking forward to getting stuck in!

As part of this blog tour I have an extract to share with you all, which I hope you enjoy reading. It's part of a series of five extracts - see the banner below for details of where to find the other snippets!



This would be the first time that her mum had shown interest. She can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times her mum has even looked at the baby. 
Nicola swallows and allows a faint wisp of hope to slide up her throat. ‘I think she might be starting to get used to the place.’ 
Her mum purses her lips. ‘So you want this Ben up here?’ She looks doubtfully around the room. 
‘Please.’ Nicola nods. 
Her mum sighs and stomps down the stairs. 
A matter of seconds pass by before she hears Ben leaping up the stairs. Then he is striding into her room. He has his usual grin and something in a carrier bag. Nicola cannot begin to think how she could have coped without his visits. He is the one person in all this chaos who has made her feel vaguely normal. The one person who appears to have stuck by her. Everyone else, apart from Alice, has dumped her. Like she makes everyone feel awkward. 
‘How is she?’ Ben whispers, peering over the Moses basket. 
‘The health visitor says that we should talk normally around her so that she gets used to sleeping with noise.’ Nicola screws up her nose. ‘But right now I’m just grateful that she’ll sleep. I’m willing to live in a soundproof vacuum if it means I get four clear hours.’ 
Ben grins and turns back to her. ‘Dig the leggings, by the way, Nic. You aiming for a tie-dye design?’


 [Click to enlarge.]

Friday, 12 June 2015

EXCLUSIVE: Cover Reveal - Millie vs the Machines by Kiera O'Brien

The lovely people at Quercus are publishing a brand new middle grade series by Kiera O'Brien, which starts with Millie vs the Machines, in August, and today I'm revealing the cover!

Here's a synopsis of the book which I think sounds great!

Boarding school, 2099. Robots are part of everyday life. Until pupils start going missing. One. By. One... 
Within the confines of Oaktree boarding school, Millie Hendrick and her friends are privileged kids in a future world, where robots are hired help for everyone. 
But Millie has never trusted the Units. They're just... creepy. 
When pupils start disappearing, and no one else shares her increasing terror, how can Millie find out whether she is the only person who can see the truth, or is simply going crazy? 
Who can be trusted - and who will be next?

And here's the cover! What do you think? I'm really looking forward to this one!