Spotlight On: Dan Walker

It’s time for another Spotlight On interview, where we catch up with one of our super talented clients to find out a few their favourite things and at least one of their darkest secrets. This time it is the turn of the wonderful Dan Walker, whose action-packed debut children’s book, Sky Thieves, publishes this week. Sky Thieves is a brand-spanking-new middle grade adventure series, filled with airships, floating islands, epic battles and a formidable young heroine called Zoya Delarose.
Daniel has a first class degree in English Literature from the University of Derby and his second book in the series, Desert Thieves is due to be published in August 2017. He is represented at the agency by Lauren Gardner.

What inspired you to start writing children’s books?

It sounds a little clichéd at this point, but the answer is I’ve always loved stories. From the first Hardy Boys books I checked out of our local library as a kid, to the first adult book I read – a novelisation of the 90s Judge Dredd movie – through to all the science-fiction books I borrowed from my cousin’s bookshelf as a teenager, then to all the cool books I read as part of my English degree. It seemed only natural to have a go at writing after all this reading, and children’s books seemed the right home for me. I like writing stories with a mixture of character and action, and I like the fantastical. Children’s stories have all of this and more.

What comes first: The character or the story?

Definitely the story. Stories tend to come at me as questions. What would happen if there were airships flying through the sky? What would it be like if people could fire energy from their fingertips? After that, I tend to expand this question into something more substantial. It’s only at this point that the characters start to reveal themselves – their personalities, their wants and needs. Sometimes, I tweak these characters to better fit the story’s theme, sometimes they arrive fully-formed, sometimes they go off in their own direction. That’s the fun of writing a story.

Where is your favourite place to write/ when is your favourite time to write?

I have a little office at home. It’s got a big TV and a bunch of video game consoles too, so sometimes it can be hard to fight off distractions. I try to write every day. I start at nine and carry on until about half-four, taking a decent break in the middle to let my brain recharge and get outside for some fresh air.

If you weren’t an author what would you like to be?

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a fireman. I always liked the big red truck, and uniform. (Rescuing people was an afterthought!) In my teens I wanted to be in a rock band, and taught myself the guitar so I could have a go. I actually joined a couple of bands in the end, although on a scale of 1-10, we maybe hit a -5. Maybe. Shortly before I became an author, I was teaching myself how to write computer software, and enjoying it. It’s complicated, mathematical stuff, but it gave me a lot of the same satisfaction as constructing a story – planning something and then executing it. So, I guess if I wasn’t an author I’d be a software engineer of some kind. A story-writing software engineer.

If you could collaborate with any writer past or present who would it be and why?

J.R.R. Tolkien. He’s by no means my favourite author, (although I do love him,) but the scope of what he created is immense. I’d love to see what he’d have achieved in the modern world, with fifty years of movies and games to inspire him. In terms of living writers, I’d love to work with Neil Gaiman. What an imagination!

Who is your favourite children’s book character, and why?

Definitely Lyra Belacqua from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I think a main character needs to propel a story forward, and Lyra did this in spades. She was like a terrier dog. When his new The Book of Dust trilogy comes out I’d love to see her take on more of a mentor role.

What is your favourite word/quote?

There are literally a billion quotes I could put down here. Mark Twain was particularly quotable, as was Kurt Vonnegut. Einstein was smart as well. Often, I read a quote from a famous writer, then realise a few years later that Einstein wrote the same thing in an even more poetic way. I’ll go with Shakespeare here, though. Mercutio’s my favourite Shakespeare character. So funny. Even when he’s dying, he can’t help but crack a joke. His response when Romeo suggests Mercutio’s injury isn’t so bad:
“No, ’tis not so deep as a well nor so wide as a church-door, but ’tis enough, ’twill serve. Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.”
Grave man. Chuckles.

What was your favourite book when you were growing up?

When I was fourteen, a friend’s family took me on a holiday to Ibiza. Halfway through the week, I fell ill and had to stay in my room. I had nothing to do. Knowing that I liked science-fiction, my friend’s aunt lent me a copy of Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson, which I devoured over the next few days. She let me keep the book. When I returned home, I got the next two in the series – Green Mars and Blue Mars – and devoured those too. I’ve read the series pretty much every year ever since, as well as all of Robinson’s other books. He’s my favourite writer, and I still have the original copy of Red Mars.

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

I once fell into a swimming pool fully-clothed. Don’t ask.

What has been your career highlight so far?

Receiving a school book review of Sky Thieves in the post from my publisher, sent in by a young man from Oxford. He gave the book a really good rating, and was particularly impressed with a part in the book I never thought would be anyone’s favourite part. I guess you never can tell how your readers will react. 

Bonus question: what other genre of writing would you like to do?

Everything. I like stories in all genres, so I suspect I’ll end up writing a bunch of different things in the end. Definitely science-fiction, and certainly more fantasy. They’re my bread and butter. I would also love to write a TV show sometime, and a video game. If only there were a few more hours in the day.

Sky Thieves is published by Oxford University Press and you can buy your very own copy here.
To keep up to date with Dan and Sky Thieves, you can follow the action on Twitter @sky_thieves, or visit his website!

Happy Publication Day to The Jungle by Pooja Puri

There was a story Jahir used to tell me. About how the first humans were born with wings. Can you imagine what that would be like? To fly anywhere in the world without worrying about having the right papers? 

We are wishing a very happy publication day to The Jungle, the debut novel from the super talented YA author Pooja Puri!

Mico has left his family, his home, his future. Setting out in search of a better life, he instead finds himself navigating one of the world’s most inhospitable environments – the Jungle. Unable to buy his way out, Mico is alone, desperate, and running out of options.

But when Leila arrives at the camp one day, everything starts to change. Outspoken and fearless, she shows Mico that hope and friendship can grow in the most unusual places, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll show you the way out as well.

This extraordinary YA story is set in one of the most contentious places of our time – the refugee camp in Calais known as The Jungle. Through her characters Mico and Leila, Pooja takes us on a challenging and unforgettable journey through a world filled with ‘Ghost Men’, lost children and the hope for a better life.

The Jungle is the first title to be published by Ink Road, the exciting new YA imprint from Black and White publishing, and you can buy your very own copy here.

You can keep up to date with Pooja by following her on Twitter @PoojaPuriWrites, and you can read what she has to say about her writing in our recent Spotlight On interview!

Spotlight On: Pooja Puri

It’s time for our latest Spotlight On interview and this time we are catching up with YA author Pooja Puri whose debut novel The Jungle, a brave and beautiful narrative about two teenage refugees in Calais, publishes tomorrow.
Pooja first tasted publishing success with her short story Chess, and later graduated from King’s Collge London with a first Class degree in English Language and Literature. In 2014, she was chosen as a winner of the Ideas Tap Writer’s Centre Norwich Inspires competition. She will soon be embarking on a MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University. She is represented at the agency by Lauren Gardner.

1)      What inspired you to start writing children’s books?

I’ve wanted to write children’s books ever since I was a child. For me, there was always a kind of magic held in the pages of a story. Being able to create whole worlds from a handful of words – what could be more magical than that!

2)      What comes first: The character or the story?

Character – always!

3)      Where is your favourite place to write/ when is your favourite time to write? 

I have a few places where I like to write – my desk, the kitchen table, the sofa. I don’t have a particularly strict schedule when it comes to my writing so try to write whenever I can.

4)      If you weren’t an author what would you like to be?

Being an astronaut would be incredible! Though I’m not so good with heights so perhaps it’s not the best alternative career choice.

5)      If you could collaborate with any writer past or present who would it be and why?

This is a hard one! Although she didn’t write for children, I think it would have been great fun to work with Jane Austen. I’d also have loved to work with Roald Dahl.

6)      Who is your favourite children’s book character, and why?

I’ve lots of favourite book characters, but one of my favourites has to be Matilda. A bookworm with magical powers – you can see the appeal! On that note, I’ve always thought of Miss Trunchbull as one of the best villains ever created.

7)      What’s your favourite word/quote?

‘You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think’ – Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne.

8)      What was your favourite book when you were growing up?

When I was younger, I loved Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It’s difficult to choose one book, but I had lots of favourite authors: Nina Bawden, JK Rowling, Malorie Blackman, Philip Pullman, Eoin Colfer, Jamila Gavin – to name but a few!  

9)      What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

I play the guitar. Though I think I write better than I play (perhaps why most people don’t know about it!)

10)   What has been your career highlight so far?

Holding my first book in my hands!

Bonus question: what other genre of writing would you like to do?

My second book is a historical fiction novel – a very different writing experience to The Jungle!


The Jungle is the first title to be published by Ink Road, the exciting new YA imprint from Black and White publishing, and you can pre-order your copy here.
To find out more about Pooja you can follow her on Twitter @PoojaPuriWrites, and for a sneak peek of The Jungle, click here to hear Pooja introduce the novel and do a reading.

Happy Book Birthday to Goodly and Grave in a Bad Case of Kidnap

Something’s afoot! We are wishing a very Happy Book Birthday to Goodly and Grave in a Bad Case of Kidnap, written by Justine Windsor and illustrated by Becka Moor.

Lucy Goodly is the new boot girl at Grave Hall, working for the cold, aloof Lord Grave.

But Lucy soon notices that strange things are afoot in her new home. There are moving statues, magical books and Lord Grave has a secret.

Meanwhile, all over the country, children are vanishing. Could the mystery of the missing children be linked to the strange goings-on? Lucy is determined to find out.

Justine’s witty text is in wonderfully creepy cahoots with Becka’s spooky illustrations, creating a story which is a treat for readers who like a wickedly old-fashioned mystery … with a magical twist.

This is the first adventure for Goodly and Grave in the an exciting new middle-grade fiction series. The second book, Goodly and Grave in a Deadly Case of Murder is due for publication in July 2017.

Published by HarperCollins Children’s Books you can buy your very own copy here

… and to find out more about Becka, visit her website or follow her on Twitter @BeckaMoor!