Friday, 3 April 2020

Q&A with Maggie Harcourt – The Pieces of Ourselves

I'm a huge fan of Maggie Harcourt's books, so I'm really happy to join the blog tour for The Pieces of Ourselves. For my stop on the tour, I have a Q&A with Maggie about her writing process.

Tell us about The Pieces of Ourselves.

The Pieces of Ourselves is about what happens when Flora, who left school after being diagnosed with bipolar (II) disorder and works in housekeeping for a local hotel, meets Hal – who is trying to uncover the story of a soldier who went missing during the First World War. It’s set mostly in the West Country, and although it’s technically a contemporary romance, there’s also a little bit of historical in there, and a mystery to be solved. It’s taken me a couple of years to write it, and because it’s full of the things I love 
 Somerset, old houses, history – it’s quite special to me.

Are you a plotter or a pantser, and how do you develop your initial idea?

Somewhere between the two! I usually have a plan… and end up abandoning it along the way. This book was slightly different from any other one I’ve written, because it felt like it kept adding bits onto itself and getting longer and longer. I think, in the end, I cut about 30,000 words from it between the first proper draft and the final book – and a lot of that was me writing my way through the process of discovering what it was meant to be. I did a lot of research for this book, too, because although the First World War is only a minor part of my story, it’s such an important period of history that I wanted to be confident I understood what it was like to live through it.

Do you have any writing rituals that help you get in the zone?

Not really: I tend to just get on with it. I’m quite boring, really. I keep notebooks with any ideas or snippets of dialogue that pop into my head, and sometimes I’ll put on specific music to help me focus. There’s usually a playlist for any book I’m working on, which will have tracks connected to the story or the characters. This time around, I listened to an album called “The Unfinished Violin” by folk musician Sam Sweeney: it’s new interpretations of songs which would have been familiar to soldiers in the First World War, played on a violin which was initially made for a soldier at the time.

How do you go about incorporating real and historical elements into fiction?

I like to have as many “real” elements in a book as I can: on the one hand, because I write contemporary stories, it immediately makes the story feel more rooted in our world… and on the other, because if you happen to know where the real places are, they become like little Easter eggs in the book. A lot of the inspiration for the big old houses mentioned in The Pieces of Ourselves came from National Trust properties I love: Dyrham Park and Stourhead in particular, as well as the house at Longleat. At the other end of the scale, a tiny vintage dress shop that also appears in the book is inspired by a real shop in Bath called Vintage to Vogue.

Historical elements were a bit trickier: I’m not really a historical writer, so it was a little daunting. Mostly, I did a lot of reading about the life of soldiers on the Western Front, and the lead up to the first few days of the Battle of the Somme, then tried to think about what would really matter to the characters who were involved: because they generally appear through their letters, it was more about how I could get a sense of what they were living through across, rather than turning it into a history lesson.

Given the current situation, do you have any advice for finding motivation when you’re working at home?

Lots of breaks! It takes a fair amount of focus to stay motivated if you’re working at home – especially if you’re more used to the rhythm and routine of an office. Make it easier on yourself by trying to stick to “office hours” – don’t work later than your normal end of day, or you might find it hard to switch off in the evening. Take a proper lunch break and read or watch something so that you don’t keep thinking about work: it’s important to give yourself a rest during the day. (Personally, I recommend The Great Pottery Throwdown. I watched an episode a day for a week or two and I was SO invested!)

Have you got any book recommendations for escapism or lifting readers’ spirits?

I love escaping into books: something by Jenny Colgan or Miranda Dickinson is perfect if you want warm, uplifting stories with romance. It’s pretty well known that Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke is one of my all-time favourite books: I would happily disappear into that for days at a time because it’s a whole world. If you want to be kept guessing, you can’t go wrong with Agatha Christie either: there’s a reason she’s one of the best-selling authors of all time. And if – like a lot of us right now – you need to laugh: Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. Even if you don’t particularly like fantasy, there’s probably a Pratchett book out there for you. “Guards! Guards!” is a great place to start.

Thanks so much, Maggie! It's so interesting to get an insight into how authors approach writing and I'm sure lots of people will appreciate escapist book recommendations at the moment.

You can follow the other stops on the tour using the banner below. Thank you to Usborne for inviting me to join in!

Sunday, 1 March 2020

And the Stars Were Burning Brightly review

When fifteen-year-old Nathan discovers that his older brother Al, has taken his own life, his whole world is torn apart.

Al was special. Al was talented. Al had so many dreams ... so why did he do it?

Convinced that his brother was in trouble, Nathan decides to retrace Al’s footsteps. As he does, he meets Megan, Al's former classmate, who is as determined as Nathan to keep Al's memory alive.

Together they start seeking answers, but will either of them be able to handle the truth about Al’s death when they eventually discover what happened?

Content warning: suicide and intense bullying

And the Stars Were Burning Brightly is a stunning, important debut that is full of raw emotion and an honest look at the aftermath of suicide.

The dual narrative is beautifully crafted, with Al's brother trying to understand what happened to Al and his friend Megan working through her grief by celebrating his life. Both viewpoints are compelling and believable, and it's really effective how the stories overlap and also take their own directions.

I love that this novel is set in the north of England. The voice captures the accent and dialect of Manchester perfectly and it'd be great to see more YA novels so immersed in different communities. The setting is also vividly described and the plot of the story is very much woven into the sense of place.

This book deals with disturbing subjects very honestly and there are some violent scenes that are hard to read. At the same time, there is beautiful imagery and hope, particularly in the scenes that gave the novel its title. I appreciated how the book gives Al a voice and shows his lasting impact on the world.

And the Stars Were Burning Brightly is a moving, thought-provoking read and one of the most compelling contemporaries I've read for a long time. 

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for the review copy!

Monday, 10 February 2020

Yes No Maybe So review

Jamie Goldberg is cool with volunteering for his local state senate candidate—as long as he’s behind the scenes. When it comes to speaking to strangers (or, let’s face it, speaking at all to almost anyone), Jamie’s a choke artist. There’s no way he’d ever knock on doors to ask people for their votes…until he meets Maya.

Maya Rehman’s having the worst Ramadan ever. Her best friend is too busy to hang out, her summer trip is canceled, and now her parents are separating. Why her mother thinks the solution to her problems is political canvassing—with some awkward dude she hardly knows—is beyond her.

Going door to door isn’t exactly glamorous, but maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world. After all, the polls are getting closer—and so are Maya and Jamie. Mastering local activism is one thing. Navigating the cross-cultural romance of the century is another thing entirely.

Becky Albertalli is an insta-buy author for me and so is Aisha Saeed after reading this book (I just ordered Amal Unbound). It's a really engaging, romantic read that also raises topical points about what individuals can do to stand up for their beliefs.

I absolutely loved the dual narrative in Yes No Maybe So. Jamie and Maya are both fully fleshed-out characters with interesting back stories, as well as the overlapping story line of the election and their developing relationship (which is the absolute sweetest thing). Both narrators have a distinctive voice that is full of warmth and humour.

This book is perfectly timed for the current political climate, encouraging readers to think about what they can do to change things. It's very honest about prejudices different characters suffer and shows them acting against it.

I flew through this book and had so many thoughts and feelings by the end! It's the perfect read if you want something that manages to be both extremely fun and thought-provoking.

If you'd like to read another book to get you stirred up about politics, I'd recommend Laura Wood's brilliant MG book Vote for Effie.

Thanks so much to Simon and Schuster Children's books for the gorgeous review copy!

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Wranglestone review

Winter was the only season every Lake-Lander feared...

In a post-apocalyptic America, a community survives in a national park, surrounded by water that keeps the Dead at bay. But when winter comes, there's nothing to stop them from crossing the ice.

Then homebody Peter puts the camp in danger by naively allowing a stranger to come ashore and he's forced to leave the community of Wranglestone. Now he must help rancher Cooper, the boy he's always watched from afar, herd the Dead from their shores before the lake freezes over.

But as love blossoms, a dark discovery reveals the sanctuary's secret past. One that forces the pair to question everything they've ever known.

I can always rely on the Red Eye books from Stripes for brilliant writing and gripping plots. Wranglestone is another amazing YA horror and it ticks all of my boxes: it pulls together elements from my favourite genres, has a great cast of characters and a sinister setting.

The genre elements were probably my favourite part. Wranglestone has the feel of a western, with its remote setting and characters a lot like cowboys, but also has truly terrifying horror and the sweetest romance at its core. The book executes all of those elements really well, so that the action is balanced out by lovely (and sometimes heartbreaking) moments between characters.

That leads me another thing I really loved: Peter and Cooper. They're great characters as individuals and I rooted for them so much as a couple! All of the characters are well-drawn and I think that's what engaged my emotions so much – I cared what happened to them.

I also have to talk about that location. A remote national park is the perfect setting for this novel, with the zombies lingering on the fringes of the community and the cold descending upon them.

I loved everything about this book and I'm so glad it's the first in a series!


Monday, 20 January 2020

Are You Watching? review

A page-turning new YA thriller for the social media age, perfect for fans of A Good Girl's Guide to Murder and One Of Us Is Lying.

Ten years ago, Jess's mother was murdered by the Magpie Man.

She was the first of his victims, but not the last.

Now Jess is the star of a YouTube reality series and she's using it to catch the killer once and for all.

The whole world is watching her every move.

And so is the Magpie Man.

I love a serial killer book and had a great time reading this one! It feels very current, and I raced through it because there wasn't a slow moment.

This book has such a great premise and the use of social media really added to the story. It's an utterly creepy idea that the things we post online could be used against us, and Are You Watching? executes the concept really well.

The plotting is another brilliant thing about this book. Every scene moves the plot forwards and the short chapters meant I couldn't stop reading. Just one, or seven more... There are plenty of clues and suspects to sift through and it was fun trying to solve the mystery as Jess did.

Jess is a really interesting main character. She definitely has agency rather than sitting back and letting events wash over her. She feels believable, making mistakes and getting in over her head.

This is a tense, fun read for YA thriller fans and I'll definitely look out for Vincent Ralph's next book.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Paper Avalanche blog tour

Ro’s mum is a compulsive hoarder... so Ro has become an expert at hiding: from social services, from friends, from having any sort of normal life. Staying under the radar keeps her ‘real’ life secret and her mum, Bonnie, safe - and she dreads to think what would happen to Bonnie without her.

Then Tanvi Shah turns up at school; full of life, and on a mission to make friends and Ro feels seen and heard for the first time ever. But if people can see Ro, they might see her secret too...

Lisa Williamson is one of my favourite contemporary YA authors so I'm thrilled to join this blog tour. Her books always have real heart, a brilliant voice and believable teen characters.

Paper Avalanche starts from the intriguing, heartbreaking premise of a girl who has had to grow up too fast and cope with her mother's compulsive hoarding. It's a subject I've never read about before and I thought it was great that the book explored hoarding from all angles, including what might motivate it.

The characters in this book are so realistic! I feel like I recognised a lot of them from my teenage years. Even minor characters are fleshed out until they feel like real people. Ro is a brilliant protagonist, as she's complex and relatable, but my absolute favourite is Tanvi. She just feels like a breath of fresh air and I would've loved to know her at school!

The voice of Lisa William's books is always so strong, and Paper Avalanche is no exception. The dialogue and narrative feel like they're coming from real people, especially the teen voices, and the book tackles a range of teen issues from family life to what it feels like not to fit in.

This book gave me exactly what I want from a contemporary, taking me on emotional ups and downs but ultimately leaving me feeling uplifted. Another excellent read from Lisa Williamson!

Thanks so much Ed PR for inviting me to join the blog tour! You can check out the other tour stops using the handy banner.

The God Game blog tour

Win and All Your Dreams Come True™!

Charlie and his friends have entered the God Game.

Tasks are delivered through their phone-screens and high-tech glasses. When they accomplish a mission, the game rewards them. Charlie’s money problems could be over. Vanhi can erase the one bad grade on her college application. It’s all harmless fun at first.

Then the threatening messages start.

Worship me. Obey me.

Mysterious packages show up at their homes. Shadowy figures start following them.
Who else is playing this game, and how far will they go to win?

As Charlie looks for a way out, he finds God is always watching – only He will say when the game is done.

And if you die in the game, you die for real.

The God Game is a thoroughly engrossing, unsettling book and was a brilliant first read of 2020! It's the first adult fiction I've read for a while and has definitely made me want to read more in a similar vein.

It draws together different genres to create something that feels completely unique. The overarching structure is a tense thriller but it also takes the best elements from horror and sci-fi. 

I really liked how it delves into the perils of technology in a way that feels authentic, but also accessible for someone who isn't technologically inclined. It's a rare book that can make you think about human nature, morality and religion at the same time as staying at a thrilling pace.

Another real strength of this book is the characterisation. I loved getting to know these characters, flaws and all. Their group dynamic and the characters themselves are very well-drawn and believable. The plot pushed each of them to extremes and it was fascinating to watch their responses.

This is one of those books that will stay with me, and has made me think as well as being a fast-paced, entertaining read. 

Thanks so much to Gollancz for including me on the blog tour! You can check out the previous stops using the banner below.

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Storm of Ash blog tour review

The brand new novel from Michelle Kenney, author of the Book of Fire and City of Dust!

As Talia treks back through the treacherous North Mountains, she knows only three things:

Pantheon has stolen nearly everyone she loves;
Her blood is the only control over the Voynich’s oldest secret;
And Cassius won’t stop hunting Arafel until every last outsider is destroyed.

Will Talia finally face her legacy and defeat Cassius before it is too late?

I'm really pleased to join the blog tour for Storm of Ash! I only started this series recently and it's been so lovely to read all three books in a short space of time. I feel like I really got to know the characters and got absorbed in the world.

A real strength of this trilogy is that the action builds through each book and new details about the mythology are revealed. Storm of Ash wraps everything up and will take you through every emotion! These books balance different elements really well, from world-building and tense action to romance.

Talia is probably the hardest part of this series to let go of at the end. She grows so much and is such a decisive character with plenty of agency. I loved the relationships she developed with different characters through the series. There are so many memorable characters in this books (Unus and Eli are two of my favourites!)

I'd definitely recommend these books to fantasy fans and I can't wait to see what Michelle Kenney writes next!

Thank you to Harper Collins for the review copy and including me on the blog tour! My post wraps up the tour but you can still check out the previous posts using the banner below.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

A Throne of Swans by Katharine & Elizabeth Corr

When her father dies just before her birthday, seventeen-year-old Aderyn inherits the role of Protector of Atratys, a dominion in a kingdom where nobles are able to transform at will into the bird that represents their family bloodline. Aderyn’s ancestral bird is a swan.

But she has not transformed for years, not since witnessing the death of her mother - ripped apart by hawks that have supposedly been extinct since the long-ago War of the Raptors.

With the benevolent shelter of her mother and her father now lost, Aderyn is at the mercy of her brutal uncle, the King, and his royal court. Driven by revenge and love, she must venture into the malevolent heart of the Citadel in order to seek the truth about the attack that so nearly destroyed her, to fight for the only home she has ever known and for the land she has vowed to protect.

I loved everything about this book! The writing is gorgeous, the characters are memorable and the world is well-crafted. It's one of my YA fantasies of the year, if not the last few years.

It's one of those books that I tried to read slowly because I was enjoying it so much. I think a lot of that is to do with the first-person voice, which feels completely believable and full of lyrical descriptions.

I thought the plotting was great too: it kept my attention and I enjoyed trying to put the pieces together alongside Aderyn. She's an interesting character, who has agency and makes mistakes. I'm looking forward to seeing how she develops in the second part of the duology.

I also really enjoyed the world building. The history of the world is well thought out and it made me wish I knew more about Swan Lake so I could fully appreciate all of the references!

The e-book is already out and the paperback will be released on 7th January. It's available to preorder now and I highly recommend it! I can't wait for the second book and I'm sure I'll be rereading this one in the meantime. 

Thanks so much to Hotkey Books for the review copy and lovely goodies that came with it!

Monday, 25 November 2019

CTRL + S blog tour review

Life in the near future's NOT ALL BAD. We've reversed global warming, and fixed the collapsing bee population. We even created SPACE, a virtual-sensory universe where average guys like Theo Wilson can do almost anything they desire.
But ALMOST ANYTHING isn't enough for some. Every day, normal people are being taken, their emotions harvested - and lives traded - to create death-defying thrills for the rich and twisted.
NOW THEO'S MOTHER HAS DISAPPEARED. And as he follows her breadcrumb trail of clues, he'll come up against the most dangerous SPACE has to offer: vPolice, AI Bots and anarchists - as well as a criminal empire that will KILL TO STOP HIM finding her...

I really enjoyed the Inventory series by Andy Briggs and this is another imaginative sci-fi novel but for an adult audience.

I liked the fact that this reads a lot like YA in places and generally feels accessible for someone who doesn't read a lot of sci-fi. The world is so creative – I love the idea of SPACE and the scope for good and evil that comes with such a system. I also thought the book deals with the concept of rights for forms of artificial intelligence in a really fresh, interesting way. 

The book delves into some dark subjects that I found really gripping and disturbing at the same time. It made me think a lot about the terrible real-world situations where people are treated as commodities.

I also liked the interactions between Theo's friendship group and the insights into their viewpoints that the narrative style offered.

This is a smart, creative and thought-provoking book and I'll continue to read whatever Andy Briggs writes next.

Thank you to Gollancz for inviting me to join the blog tour and gifting the review copy!

You can check out the other tour stops on the banner below.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

The Sky Weaver blog tour – review

At the end of one world, there always lies another. Safire, a soldier, knows her role in this world is to serve the king of Firgaard—helping to maintain the peace in her oft-troubled nation.

Eris, a deadly pirate, has no such conviction. Known as the Death Dancer for her ability to evade even the most determined of pursuers, she possesses a superhuman power to move between worlds.

Now Safire and Eris—sworn enemies—find themselves on a common mission: to find Asha, the last Namsara. From the port city of Darmoor to the fabled faraway Star Isles, their search and their stories become woven ever more tightly together as they discover that the uncertain fate they’re hurtling toward just may be a shared one. In this world—and the next.

It's a rare series that keeps my engagement this consistently high. If possible, I liked this book best of all. 

I'm not always a fan of shifting the focus character in subsequent books, but in this series it works really well.The characters from the other books still play an important role but this device enables the plot to go off in different directions. That way, we get pirates and dragons in the same book!

Another thing I love about the Iskari books is the rich mythology. Short extracts between the main plot build into a story with all of the darkness of the best fairy tales. I enjoyed trying to work out how these stories would impact on the main plot.

This book also has a great balance of action, fantasy and one of my favourite recent F/F romances! I won't say any more because of spoilers, but it was definitely my favourite thing about the book.

This is such a brilliant series and definitely one I'll come back to. The writing is gorgeous, the characters are memorable and the plot is gripping.

Thank you so much to Gollancz for including me on the blog tour! Check out the banner below for the other tour stops.

Iskari books - is that what they're called?

Friday, 8 November 2019

Book of Fire by Michelle Kenney – review

An unexpected forest raid forces Talia into a desperate mission to rescue her family while protecting the sacred Book of Arafel from those who would use it as a weapon. As Talia and her life long friend Max enter the dome, she makes some unexpected discoveries, and allies, in the form of rugged Insider August, that will change the course of her life forever.

She’ll stop at nothing to save her family but will she sacrifice her heart in the process?

I love discovering a great series late because it means there are already more books to read! This series has the epic feel of my favourite dystopians but uses elements from history and science-fiction to create something entirely new.

The world building in this book is brilliant and I think the historical touches have a lot to do with that. I really liked how the world is build around the Roman Empire, with other historical elements woven in. It was great fun trying to spot the different references!

I also found the pacing really strong and I think that's in part to do with the plotting but also the characters. The action definitely builds as the book progresses and I was tearing through it by the end. I also really liked the interactions and relationships between characters that build through the book. It wasn't always easy to pick out the trustworthy characters, and I love that!

Book of Fire is an exciting start to the series and I can't wait to pick up the next two instalments.
Thank you to HQ Digital for the review copy!

Sunday, 3 November 2019

The Dragon in the Library by Louie Stowell – review

Kit can’t STAND reading,

She’d MUCH rather be outside, playing games and getting muddy, than stuck inside with a book. But when she’s dragged along to the library one day by her two best friends, she makes an incredible discovery – and soon it’s up to Kit and her friends to save the library … and the world.

I had a great time at the launch of this book in June but it somehow got lost in my TBR pile until now. The Dragon in the Library is just as good as it sounds and I devoured it in one sitting. It has memorable, diverse characters, a strong voice and a message about the power of reading and libraries.

The writing in this book is brilliant! It's funny, fast-paced and quirky, with a plot that kept my interest and took me by surprise. It's perfect for the target audience of 5 to 8 year olds but an engaging read for all.

Davide Ortu's illustrations are gorgeous too. The characters are distinctive and expressive and the illustrations bring the vividly described settings to life.

I also loved the characters. Kit is a brilliant protagonist who has agency, makes mistakes and grows through the book. She makes a great team with her friends, who are also well-developed and interesting in their own right. My favourite character is Faith. It's so refreshing to have a fleshed-out, likeable adult character in a book for this age range. She's smart, cool and has a definite Giles-from-Buffy vibe.

It's great that this book leaves readers with such positive messages too: libraries and reading are vital and it's up to individuals to make a difference.

I can't wait for the next instalment in this series and will read anything Louie writes.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Black Canary: Ignite by Meg Cabot – review

Thirteen-year-old Dinah Lance knows exactly what she wants, who she is, and where she's going. First, she'll win the battle of the bands with her two best friends, then she'll join the Gotham City Junior Police Academy so she can solve crimes just like her dad. Who knows, her rock star group of friends may even save the world, but first they'll need to agree on a band name. When a mysterious figure keeps getting in the way of Dinah's goals and threatens her friends and family, she'll learn more about herself, her mother's secret past, and navigating the various power chords of life. Black Canary: Ignite is an inspirational song that encourages readers to find their own special voices to sing along with Black Canary!

I think this is my first ever middle grade graphic novel and I devoured it in one sitting. The writing is addictive, the illustrations are stunning and it's a fun origin story for Black Canary. 

Dinah is a great main character and one I can definitely see growing into the role of Black Canary. Even though the graphic novel is short, I really got to know her as a character and loved that she's in a band! 

The plot is engaging, with all of the ups and downs of friendship and family life woven into the overarching mystery. Without giving too much away, I enjoyed how the story alluded to the hero Dinah will be.

Cara McGee's illustrations brought the whole story to life. The pink and purple tones of the book are gorgeous and the characters' facial expressions complement the dialogue perfectly.

Black Canary: Ignite is a light and uplifting story that is perfect for fans of superheroes and Meg Cabot's writing, or anyone who is looking to get into graphic novels.

Thank you to Penguin for the review copy!

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Angel Mage blog tour – review

More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.

It’s a seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, summoning angels and forcing them to do her bidding. Four young people hold her interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, a glory-seeking musketeer; and Dorotea, icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic.

The four feel a strange kinship from the moment they meet but do not suspect their importance. And none of them know just how Liliath plans to use them, as mere pawns in her plan, no matter the cost to everyone else...

This was my first Garth Nix book and I was completely swept away by the worldbuilding, characterisation and intricate plot.

The scope of this world is incredible! I was sad to hear that it's a standalone as I feel like there are so many stories that could build on this framework. I loved how the story centred around a feminist slant on The Three Musketeers and it's so refreshing to read a female-driven adult fantasy novel. I also thought the magical system based around angels is very clever and original.

Another thing I really liked was the characters. I enjoyed looking out for familiar ones from The Three Muskateers and the third-person narrative offered interesting insights into different characters. The slower pacing of the plot initially really allowed for character development, so I cared about them when the action ramped up.

This is a memorable adult fantasy and I'll definitely be picking up Garth Nix's books for younger readers.

Thank you to Gollancz for including me on the blog tour! Check out the rest of the tour using the banners below.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

The Unadjusteds blog tour – guest post

Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Unadjusteds, the first of an epic new dystopian series by Marisa Noella. Marisa has more ideas for books than just about anyone I know, so I'm excited to share her thoughts about writing inspiration. 


Everyone has a book in them.

That’s the common expression. I’m sure it’s true – everyone has a story to tell – but I do giggle when I hear it. When I think of the learning curve of everything that needs to be learned.

But as authors, if we want to make a career out of it, we need more than one idea. So where does inspiration come from?

The answer is a variety of places. Book ideas can come from eavesdropping on conversations, to learning about a strange career. Far-flung vacations can give us cool settings and an argument can gives us ideas for a central conflict. Some recommend extreme experiences or putting yourself in a situation that takes you out of your comfort zone. But you don’t need to live in an Ashram or climb Everest or swim with dolphins to generate ideas.

My own inspiration has come from a great many places. One of the novels sitting on my laptop was created when one word was spoken to me: “plastic.” I knew I wanted to create something in the style of Peter Benchley’s Jaws, but with environmental impact. This book has evolved into something like Dean Koontz’s The Watcher’s X Stranger Things X Jaws, with a floating trash island that combines with a genetically altered algae to give rise to a terrifying monster. My forthcoming mermaid book, due out Spring 2020, which is the first of a series of five, was born from listening to Train’s Mermaid song. I listened to the song on repeat for over a year, without getting bored of it, and the whole feel of the novel, plot and characters came to me. That song has become the backbone of the entire book. Sometimes a setting will come first, or a character, or even the central plot. And then I pick and pick at it until I have all three. Only then do I know if the idea is strong enough to spend weeks writing out.

Productivity, determination and a thick skin are all important for developing a career in writing, but none of it would matter if we didn’t have an idea. My novel, The Unadjusteds, will be released on November 1st and one question I get a lot is where did I get the idea?

The answer – a few different places.

The novel is about a world where 80% of the population has had some form of genetic modification. Wings, super speed and high intelligence all exist. But there are the remaining 20%, the unadjusteds, who want to stay the way they are.

I was a bit of a science geek at school. I studied Biology through A-level and really enjoyed figuring out how the body works. We touched on genetics and it fascinated me how things are passed down to from one generation to the next.  How a baby with red hair can pop out after generations of its absence. Or how a person might come to have two different coloured eyes. Mutations were even more interesting. I researched anything from albino snakes to two-headed frogs and everything in between.

In the mid-90s, Dolly the Sheep was cloned.

I had so many questions. Where did they grow it? How? Did it have a soul? Did it have anything to do with God? Did God even exist? (BTW – asking a series of questions like this is a great way to generate ideas).

My wandering contemplations kept the questions alive for several years. When the concept of designer babies was born, I had more questions about the ethics and morality. It’s all well and good to be able to grow a spare organ on a rat’s back and eradicate sickle cell anemia with genetic tampering, but choosing the sex of a baby? Its eye colour? Its intelligence level? This aspect felt wrong to me. But who was I to decide where to draw the line?
And so the concept of The Unadjusteds was born – a novel to explore the full genetic potential of our species, but also where those ethical lines should or could be drawn and how they might be ignored. What would be possible if we had a power-hungry president who wanted to ignore those boundaries? Sounds a little scary, doesn’t it?

I’m lucky enough to have a genetic scientist for a brother. I don’t understand half of what he lectures about, but he was my sounding board for the science stuff: the what if questions, the plausibility and authenticity of the genetic modifications. Talking with him sparked more ideas and more questions about this world I was building and I couldn’t write the book fast enough. My character came to me fully formed in a dream and I knew exactly who she was.


I wrote the first draft in six weeks, often typing away in the evenings while my husband watched TV. I was hugely pregnant with my third child and wanted to get the book out before he arrived. But the more I wrote, the more I realized one book wasn’t enough for this story. I hadn’t planned to write a trilogy. But when I typed The End on that first draft, I knew Silver’s story was only just beginning. The next two installments in the story came to me very quickly and combined my love of science-fiction, fantasy and horror. I’ve always devoured books by Dean Koontz, Stephen King and Michael Crichton and I like to think The Unadjusteds trilogy has elements of them all.

Do look out for giveaway competitions on my twitter page @MarisaNoelle77 and if you want to learn more about The Unadjusteds, there is a dedicated website with lots of fun quizzes and info –

Good luck to all of you and may you find inspiration!

Thanks so much for your insights Marisa! The Unadjusteds will be released on 1st November and I can't wait to pick up a copy.

To check out the launch post and follow the other tour stops, follow this link to Shut up, Shealea's website.