Friday, 28 August 2015

US Superstar Author Michael Grant Chats Books, Success and Mayhem

Michael Grant is the best-selling author of the Gone series, Messenger of Fear and the BZRK trilogy and co-author of Eve & Adam and the Animorphs series with his wife, Katherine Applegate.

Follow Michael on Twitter: @MichaelGrantBks
Buy 'Gone':

-  Amazon
-  Foyles
-  Waterstones

The interview
For those that haven’t read it, can you sum up the FAYZ series in a tweet?

Every adult, every rule, every limit: Gone. 332 trapped kids struggle to survive in a mad, violent world. By the end many of them will also be: Gone.

Not sure if that’s under 140 or not. But it’s close, right?

Sure! The FAYZ is an incredibly brutal and violent world. How would you respond to parents that say that your books are too graphic; that children should not be subjected to that kind of brutality? Has this ever been an issue?

Well, we aren’t subjecting kids to any sort of brutality. I only rarely beat actual children with a baseball bat or use my telekinetic powers to toss them off of cliffs.  

The Gone series are six books. Books do not cause injuries. Books do not cause psychological trauma. The number of people killed by speculative fiction remains: zero. Relax, people, relax. Your children are on the internet, you’ve already lost control of what they see and hear and read, stop kidding yourself. Drawing the line at a book - any book - is silly and counterproductive assuming you’d actually like your children to read. 

The words “don’t read that,” should never cross the lips of any adult who wants kids to read. Don’t erect barriers, it’s hard enough to hold onto any audience that has an iPhone, an iPad, a laptop, cable television and a movie theater.

Where did the premise for the FAYZ series come from and how did it evolve?

It started not with Lord of the Flies, which people sometimes assume, but with the TV show Lost. I didn’t even spot the rather obvious LOTF connection until I was halfway through writing Gone.  

The Gone series is most basically a Robinson Crusoe story. Civilized humans suddenly deprived of all the tools and institutions of civilization. There is no authority in the FAYZ universe, no one in charge, no one to turn to. The teens and younger children isolated inside the FAYZ dome are presented with chaos - some kids are developing bizarre powers, animals are mutating - and must manage that chaos as best they can. 

My favourite thing about the FAYZ is the characters. Most of your characters cannot be boxed into binary categories like “good” and “evil”. There are layers and qualities that you develop across the series and the characters change all the time and surprise the reader. Which character did you most enjoy writing?

First, thanks. My characters are defined obviously by my own world view, my own observations and experiences. I have never met a saint. I’ve met some hypocrites pretending to be saints, but never the real thing, the human with virtues unbalanced by vice. I’ve also met some sons of bitches, but even they generally had one or two pleasant character traits - wit, perhaps, or limited degrees of kindness.  

The humans I’ve known - including myself - exist on a moral spectrum, some closer to saint, some closer to devil. To me motivations are always plural never singular. Actions taken may be admirable, even altruistic, but it’s a very rare person who would take even an altruistic action without considering the costs and benefits to himself.

My standard of sainthood are those we call the Righteous Among The Nations. These were the people who despite terrible risks sheltered Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust. I am certain that many of those men and women had mixed motives, and some may have seen advantage for themselves or at least rationalized in that way. It doesn’t matter. I don’t need a person to be pure all the way down to the bone, I only need for them to do the right thing in the end. Doing the right thing at a time when doing so meant risking your life and the lives of your family is a level of moral courage that leaves me amazed and abashed.

Did you know when you started the series that it would be a six-book series? Did you know from the beginning the trajectory that each of your characters would take? 

Yep, I pitched it and sold it as a six book deal. My explanation to the acquiring editor was that “it feels like six books.” Not exactly science at work there, just instinct and experience.  

No idea of the character arcs or indeed of the story. I’m an improviser not a planner. I make it up every day when I sit down and grab my laptop. This makes it a bit scary for me, but also unpredictable for readers. I like being unpredictable.  

The FAYZ series has been a phenomenal success. Do you feel a certain level of pressure when you approach a new series or project?

The pressure is always the same: to produce a good read. I’m here to amuse and frighten and engage readers. If I accomplish that then I’ve done my job.  

Work has a special place in my life. I found my upbringing and my education absurd and irrelevant. I didn’t find meaning in my life until I dropped out of high school and took my first job at age 16. Toys R Us, during the run-up to Christmas. I liked that it was hard, I liked that I was able to outperform adults, and most of all I liked the rationality of it: I give them an hour’s work, they give me an hour’s pay.  

The idea of work, the idea of a job came to be quasi-sacred to me. It became the organizing principle of my life, I suppose. I work hard, I try always to do my best. That’s the only pressure I really care about. Well, that and money. Let’s not forget the eternal need for money.

How did you find the manuscript to book publication process the first time around with Gone?

Painless. I wrote Book #1 on spec - without a contract. When was done I submitted it to half a dozen publishers and got offers from 5 of 6. I took the best offers. 

BZRK was an incredible transmedia project. How did you find it? And do you feel this is something that may help build a stronger community around teenage readers in the future?

The transmedia elements turned out to be a distraction, really. What excited me about BZRK as a story, as a concept, was that I knew I had never read or seen anything like it. I felt complete freedom, complete indifference to the usual tropes. BZRK actually changed my world view, I saw all of reality in a subtly different way. I’ve never before had that happen, that one of my own books would change my understanding of reality. BZRK is scary in a whole different way than GONE and in a whole different way than people expect and it honestly scares me still. That just occurred to me in writing this answer: BZRK is the first time I scared me.

Tell us a little bit about Messenger of Fear. Where did the ideas and mythology come from

Messenger of Fear is a bit personal in that it deals so much with flawed characters and their redemption — personal in that I’ve required some redemption myself. It’s basically a grim reaper story, tangentially inspired by the movie, The Seventh Seal.  

Just a moment ago I received a very nice review from Kirkus of book #2, The Tattooed Heart, which is very nice to get.  

My favourite book of yours is actually Eve and Adam. The narration, the plot, the characters – I loved it everything about it. The book itself feels very uniform, like it was written by one author. What was it like to co-write a book with your wife? Was it a harmonious process? 

I had worked with my wife on various series including ghostwriting, creating our own teen romance series, then Animorphs, so we sort of knew how to do that, to work together. In the case of Eve and Adam I built the bones and put some muscle on it, Katherine added the flesh.

Which of your books are you most proud of and why?

As a sort of technical challenge, the Gone series was the most complex, the one requiring the most creativity and nerve on a daily basis. I felt I pulled it off as a series, in other words as one long narrative. Readers liked each book a little more than the one before until by the time we reached LIght it was almost unanimous support. That’s not always the case with series, so I was pleased that I had pulled it off.  

In terms of commercial success, and in terms of long-term impact on kids, the Animorphs series stands head and shoulders above anything else I’ve written or co-authored.  

But like most authors my most recent book is my favorite. It’s called Front Lines and will be out next spring. That was a hard write, well outside my usual comfort zone, but I felt I did a good job, and of course that’s my goal.

You’re on Mars and you have meagre food reserves. You have no communication with Earth, no battery life for your Kindle and you’re down to your last two canisters of oxygen. You have just enough time to read five books. What five would you choose?

I doubt very much I’d be reading, I’d be looking for a way to survive. Like that great philosopher, James T. Kirk, I don’t believe in no-win scenarios. But if I did read it would probably be a Flashman book for the laughs, or one of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series. Or maybe Lee Childs because surely Jack Reacher (Childs’ best-known character) would know how to survive an airless planet.  

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us, Michael. Michael's new book, Front Lines will be published on 28 January 2016 by Egmont Books so mark it in your calenders now!

Monday, 17 August 2015

Author Interview: Melinda Salisbury

Melinda Salisbury is the debut author of The Sin Eater’s Daughter, the first in a new YA trilogy. She lives by the sea, in England, and saw The Grand Budapest Hotel (great film!) ELEVEN times at the cinema.

Follow Melinda on Twitter: @AHintofMystery

Buy 'The Sin Eater's Daughter':

-  Amazon
-  Foyles
-  Waterstones
The interview

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.

1. For those that haven’t read The Sin Eater’s Daughter, can you sum it up in 140 characters?

Executioner of traitors. Embodiment of a Goddess. Betrothed of a Prince. Puppet of mad queen. Take away her duty and who is Twylla?


2. Were there any books, in particular, that influenced or shaped the story? 

Originally I’d planned it as a re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood, but instead of a young woman navigating a forest, she’d have to move through castle politics, where the wolves were the people around her. That motif was largely lost, as the story grew, though it still has a very fairy-tale theme to it, which I like, as I have such a love for the traditional fairy-tales – the darker the better. The Pied Piper of Hamelin and Sleeping Beauty all play a massive part in building the foundations of the world, though both have been distorted to suit my needs.

3. What made you want to write this story and in particular, why the fantasy genre and (young adult) audience?

When I was a little, almost all of my games involved very elaborate world building. At my Nana’s house I’d play with the decorative glass stones she’d bought for her garden, organising them by colour into factions; red for the royals, yellow for servants, blue for the armies, and green for villains. I’d play out childish versions of love affairs between princes and witches, and queens and jesters. I was the same with normal toys, preferring ones with lots of characters, where I could spin the game out for days, if not weeks, until it became a self-supporting world of its own.
The same thing happened with The Sin Eater’s Daughter – I never consciously chose to write it, it just developed out of the materials in my head – a love of poison, and medieval history, and darkness, and fairy tales. Fantasy has always been my favourite genre, because I find it difficult to be entertained by ‘reality’. I don’t like to read or watch things that I could be doing myself – soap operas and any kind of reality based television has no appeal to me, because I feel almost wasteful watching people live a life that is very similar to mine, or doing things I could be doing. I tend to want something different – like Vikings, or The Musketeers, for entertainment. I want to experience lives that are vastly different from mine and fantasy offers me a way to do that.

As for why YA, because quite simply it’s what I prefer to read. YA novels, regardless of genre, are always breaking new ground and pushing boundaries in ways that challenge the reader without alienating them. They are stories filled with people figuring out who they are and how they fit in, and I think deep down that’s how most people feel all the time. I’ve technically been an adult for a while now, but I still feel as though I’m on a learning curve and YA is a great reminder I’m not alone in that. I’m writing what I feel I know. And what I love.

4. Where did the idea for Twylla’s story come from? How did you go about creating the mythological framework for the story?

It started with a small, idle idea in the shower and grew from there. I was singing away to myself and suddenly wondered what it would be like if I had to sing for a king, was taken from my home to do it, and my family’s lives would be at stake if I didn’t? What if I’d originally seen this as an escape, only to find it was even worse? What if my whole life was designed around me and I had no choice in it? The plot grew from there. I knew there would be a queen and she would be a bad person. I knew my heroine would be forced to choose between love and duty, and I knew that every single character – even the good ones – had an agenda.

I also knew religion would be a huge part of it, because it’s the cornerstone of every world, including ours. It determine a lot of the laws, and rules, and behaviours of a people and so I spent a lot of time developing those and making sure they were both ‘realistic’ and solid. Civilisations have risen and crumbled in the names of gods. Countries have been invaded; populations decimated – all in the name of gods. For any world to be fully realised, whether we like or not, it needs some kind of higher power, a rallying or rebellion point for its people.   

And because kings and queens are traditionally the gods’ representatives on earth, regardless of century, country or people, Gods and kings (or queens) are inextricably linked. Therefore if I was having a royal family, I needed gods, and vice versa.

So I created my gods; the female, Næht – death, darkness, temptation, and her counterpart Dæg - life, light and strength. I can’t say, without revealing part of the plot of the next book, why there are dual gods, and how they came to be worshipped in Lormere, but that mythology exists, and will come to the fore.

As for fairy tales and mythology, I’ve always believed those are the tools we use to make sense of the world around us – the monster in the woods, the wicked witch. It’s how we learn, and teach. Again, as with religion, a fully-developed world needs its own folklore.

5. Twylla: where did her name come from and how did you build her identity?

Twylla was the name that came to me when I imagined her! It was never a choice; I’d never heard it consciously before, but I must have picked it up from somewhere. I just knew that was her name, and I never questioned it. I later found out though that ‘Twyla’ is the Cherokee word for ‘twilight’ and loved how that fitted with her being Daunen Embodied (Daunen is Old English for dawn) and Naeht and Daeg (Old English for day and night). It felt right, somehow.

I built her identity out of my own experiences at her age! I had tremendously strict parents, my weekend curfew at age seventeen was 11pm, I wasn’t allowed a key for the house and was rarely allowed to remain in the house unsupervised, (I would often spend the day at the library if it was raining, or in the woods if it was sunny, taking food and books with me). I was very, very rarely allowed to sleep away from home, I had to fight tooth and nail for almost every freedom and it really isolated me from my peers, who were experimenting with boys and girls and drinking and basically being “normal” teens.

I lived a double life at home and at school, keeping so much of who I was a secret from everyone in my life. And I also had a very strained relationship with my family. So it wasn’t at all hard for me to put myself in the shoes of a seventeen year old who is disconnected from the world around her, and who has little love and support in her life. I was better off than Twylla in many ways, but there’s a lot of me at seventeen in her. All her naivety, and her fear of questioning the status quo comes directly from my experiences and my fears. So I built her around that – at her core is a confused, frightened and lonely young woman who doesn’t know who she is or what she should do.

6. What was the most difficult part to write?

I didn’t find any of it difficult! I don’t know whether it was because I didn’t feel under any pressure when writing it, but the words just flowed, I didn’t get at all stuck during the first draft. At times it was almost as though I wasn’t in control of the story at all, it happened without any planning, or real thought – it just happened. Of course, the first draft was kind of a hot mess because of that, but there was a lot of stuff in there that made it to the final version. 

7. The ending to The Sin Eater’s Daughter is a definite nail-biter. What can we expect from the next book?

I can tell you that it’s set in Tregellan, and is based around a new character, and their life and the challenges they face in the aftermath of The Sin Eater’s Daughter. There is more danger, more treachery, and more death; we’ve said goodbye to some characters and we’ll say hello to some other new ones. It’s always been an uncertain world, and it continues to be so. What happened in The Sin Eater’s Daughter set off a chain of events that reaches far across the realm, and things are changing for everyone. 

8. How did you find the writing-to-publication process? 

Surprisingly pleasant! I went down the traditional route of finding an agent, working with her, and then submitting to publishing houses when we thought it was ready. Thanks to her expertise the whole thing was very smooth, and easy to participate in. 

I found my agent because I submitted a different book to her, but whilst I’d been looking for an agent I’d begun to write The Sin Eater’s Daughter as way of keeping myself occupied. My agent came back to me after reading the full MS of the original book to say she loved my writing, but the story wasn’t anything new or exciting, and then she asked if I had anything else. By coincidence, I’d finished the very first draft of The Sin Eater’s Daughter the day before, so I told her about it, but warned it was unedited. She read it anyway, loved it, though felt it needed some work, and eventually we both got it to a place where she felt she could try and get it onto publisher’s desks. And boy did she! 

I’ve been incredibly fortunate that both my agent and my editors have loved the story as much as I do, and have so much faith in me. I’m very privileged and honoured to work with the team I do; there is a lot of expertise and creativity – but more importantly, a lot of trust and support from them and it makes writing an absolute pleasure.

9. Do you have any unusual or strange habits while writing?

No. I’m really dull! I free write at first, and pretty much just let the characters do what they like! I loosely map the ending, and the beginning, and who the main characters are, and what they are to each other, but in between I give them free reign to do their thing while I build the world around them. I keep a notebook with me all the time in case I have an idea, and I like to get it down on paper, as a starting point, as soon as possible. I love editing, I prefer it to writing. I like making things pretty, the hard work bit at the start is my least favourite.

I am a night-time writer. Between 7pm and midnight is my best time for writing. I tend to start by re-reading the last passage I wrote, and making alterations, which helps ease me back into the story, and then the new writing tends to come between 9pm and 11pm. Then I read back again for a bit. I’ve tried working in the day, but I get distracted by the outdoors very easily, so it’s better for me to work at night, when the light is gone. I like to have a cup of tea going cold beside me, and I can’t write to music, but that’s about it.

10. You’re on Mars (because that’s what authors do, right?) and you realise that you only have 48-hours of oxygen left in your canisters. You reach for your emergency kit filled with five books (apparently, there was a food shortage, you’ve lost communication with Earth and no Kindles!). What five books are they?

The Girl With Glass Feet by Ali Shaw

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Snow Spider by Jenny Nimmo

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher


Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us. We, at YAfictionados, wish you all the best with the book and your writing career.


Wednesday, 5 August 2015

'The Mime Order'

'The Mime Order' by Samantha Shannon
Review by Laura
Paige Mahoney has escaped the brutal penal colony of Sheol I, but her problems have only just begun: many of the fugitives are still missing and she is the most wanted person in London. As Scion turns its all-seeing eye on Paige, the mime-lords and mime-queens of the city’s gangs are invited to a rare meeting of the Unnatural Assembly. Jaxon Hall and his Seven Seals prepare to take center stage, but there are bitter fault lines running through the clairvoyant community and dark secrets around every corner.

Then the Rephaim begin crawling out from the shadows. But where is Warden? Paige must keep moving, from Seven Dials to Grub Street to the secret catacombs of Camden, until the fate of the underworld can be decided. Will Paige know who to trust? The hunt for the dreamwalker is on. 


There is no question over whether or not you should pick up The Mime Order. It is a MUST. In the sequel (to The Bone Season), Shannon’s story well and truly settles itself in your memory, gripping you, demanding a place on your ‘favourite’s shelf.

The Bone Season concluded with Paige escaping Sheol 1. The Mime Order immediately follows this so straight away, you're hauled in to Shannon's world until your gripping the page, white-knuckled. The first had a lot of information to take in but with The Mime Order you can slip right in and feel comfortable minus the info-dumps. 

I was a little concerned about how Shannon would keep the storyline running for her predicted seven books. The first is so jam-packed and fast-paced. I didn’t know how her ideas would stretch out for all those books. Now that I have read The Mime Order, I am not at all worried.. Seven books suddenly seems a lot more realistic now. I’m confident in Shannon’s amazing writing.

Also, SEVEN BOOKS! Looks like we won’t be saying goodbye to Paige for a while yet, yay!

In The Bone Season we got to experience the inside of Sheol 1 with only flashbacks and a little hint of the Cohort Districts, teasing you almost. The Mime Order introduces a whole new range of places in the Cohorts. Shannon’s world is so vivid and rich, everything is seen so easily and so, once you start the book, it’s very hard to pull yourself back into reality! The unique spin on a 2059 London combined with the idea of clairvoyants really sets Shannon’s book apart from anything I have ever read. That's what makes it so special and personal.

We get to know the other members of The Seven Seals a lot more which is great as there are some wonderfully imagined characters in the group.

Jaxon Hall is an especially brilliant character. He seems to walk the fine line of love and love-to-hate for me. Paige is very much cemented as one of my favourite heroines now. I have so much respect and love for her after this book. It’s wonderful to read about such an intelligent character, you never feel exasperated towards her for being naïve, for example.

The cover and chapter headers, of course, like the first, carry special meaning within the book, which is always fun to look out for.

If you like The Bone Season and maybe have trouble envisioning the characters, or if you just want to see some cool fanart, check out and The Bone Season wiki. There are amazing drawings to gawk over. 

And boys and girls, I would prepare yourself for the ending of this book.

Rating: 5/5 Stars  ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Monday, 3 August 2015

'The Bone Season'

'The Bone Season' by Samantha Shannon
Review by Laura


Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people's minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.

The Bone Season is the gripping, debut novel from Samantha Shannon. The pages really do turn themselves. You get swept up on page one and you're not released until you’re finished, where you’re left reeling and eager for the next ride.

Samantha has been named the next JK Rowling by some critics, which is enough for anyone to be encouraged to pick up this book. The subject of the book is very different to that of the Harry Potter series but Samantha’s talent for writing at such a young age in her first book promises amazing things to come. She has a beautiful writing style that is a joy to read. The book has a very British feel to it which I love. It feels great knowing that a young British woman has written this - not much older than me. She’s really carving a path for young, aspirational, female authors.

The world of The Bone Season is so vivid and feels real. You feel as though the world could really be like this in 50 years as she blends modernity with new, futuristic imagery. Samantha has clearly thought a great deal about the world, evident in the hierarchy of Clairvoyance, which are shown at the beginning of the book. What I like is that the detail is there for fans to enjoy and yet, it isn’t totally essential for the book. You don’t have to try to learn all the names and what they mean to read the book; you can enjoy it without them. It really helps to have that part of the book separate from the story as many readers don’t like to have information dumped on them heavily throughout. The very start does info-dump as it lays down the foundations but the odd thing you may not understand isn’t crucial to the storyline.

Any questions concerning the content of the story can be referenced in the Glossary at the back of the book which helps with the world-building. The storyline really sticks in your head due to its unique spin on the genre. It doesn’t feel like another overdone storyline but rather something fresh and new.

The main character, Paige, is very likeable and relatable, and you really get behind her on her journey. As the story evolves, you see more and more of her and as you see the layers peel back and the past dug up, you really admire her endurance and strength.

The growing love story between Warden and Paige is subtle, well-paced and doesn’t totally overshadow the actual storyline. You never think it unbelievable or too rushed, but just enjoy the ride. It isn’t a big romantic story, which it may grow to be, but the very start of what could develop into an epic love. 

The book series is supposed to be seven books, at the minute I don’t know how the story will last that long, but hopefully that promises an expanding storyline that we will encounter in the second book. 

I hope the sequel will bring alive the more secondary characters in the story as they feature more to develop the story and act as expendables who help develop Paige and Warden’s characters at the minute. I’m fairly certain this will happen with characters like Jaxon and Nick on the scene who have GREAT potential to become favourite characters. The spark is there. 

The end of the book leaves you with questions and whets your appetite for the next instalment, The Mime Order. I would highly recommend The Bone Season. It is a fantastic story with a promising future, and with the rights to a film having been picked up by Andy Serkis’s company, Imaginarium, you really need no excuse to grab this book now.
Rating: 5/5 Stars  ★ ★ ★ ★