A Look Behind The Book With C G Stewart.

IMG_1261A little panda looking for a big adventure takes centre stage in the first children’s book by C G Stewart.

The father of two wanted to write a tale that his sons would enjoy – and it was after they were tucked up in bed that he got to work on creating Braw.

When Chris got in touch about his story I knew I had to interview him for Behind The Book and luckily he was happy to take part.

As it’s our half-term this week I thought the timing was perfect.

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The Lost Panda is your first book. Can you tell us what it’s about? What age is it for?

It’s a story aimed at 7-11 year old’s and set in an animal world that is unknown to humans. Braw, a little panda, yearns for a life outside the confines of the zoo, however, he is unaware of the potential he possesses and the danger this puts him in. What follows is a tale of adventure and excitement with our little panda getting a lot more than he bargained for, particularly when he falls into the clutches of the evil Mr. Yeung.

What made you want to write it?

My own children love reading and I wanted to write a story that they would enjoy. One that would excite them and take them on an adventure that we could share together. They both really enjoyed The Lost Panda.

You describe yourself as an ‘occasional writer’, would you like it to be more than occasional? What do you do for a day job?

My day job is marketing and I am also opening my new business venture, a children’s play café in the town that I live. I have two kids with a third due in February so I’m kept  pretty busy. I always make time to write though and once everyone is in bed it’s my time to get to work on my next book.

Can we go right back to the beginning? When did your love of writing start? Have you always wanted to write a children’s book?

I was an avid reader as a child and would write short stories to share with my parents but I honestly never seen writing as something I would take up seriously. It was through sharing stories with my kids and revisiting my old favorite’s such as Roald Dahl that got me back into writing and creating The lost Panda.

Who were your favourite authors as a child?

Roald Dahl by a mile. I loved The Twits, The Witches, BFG and Matilda.

Chris_Stewart_5-683x1024When it came to publishing your book, can you talk us through why you decided to go down the route you did? Did you submit to agents/publishers first?

I had initially looked at the ‘traditional’ methods and sent my manuscript off to a few agents and publishers, however, I have never been very patient and the thought of waiting months, potentially to receive a no, didn’t really appeal to me. Amazon publishing was an easy choice for me – quick and easy! I then just had to put my marketing experience to good use.

Did you learn anything from the experience?

Investing in a good editor and cover designer is essential. It’s sometimes hard to see the errors when your immersed in your own story so pay someone with the skills to do it for you. Freelance editors and graphic designers are always looking for new customers. Use an online platform to connect and pay attention to their reviews.

What did you love most about writing your book?

The excitement of the story coming together. I loved the unexpected twists and turns that I hadn’t planned. As clichéd as it sounds, sometimes the story writes itself as the action unfolds.

Any plans for a second children’s book? Or maybe adult fiction? Are you working on anything at the moment?

Yes I’m currently working on a young adult sci-fi novel that should be my next release. It’s a story that has been knocking about in my head for a while that I’m really excited about. I also have a few ideas for some adult fiction which I will start working on at some point. Watch this space!

Can you share a top tip for anyone wanting to write for children?

Tell the story. Don’t try and water it down to the level you think children may be at.

CG Stewart quote

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Thank you to Chris for taking the time to answer my questions. Best wishes for your second book baby and your third actual baby next year. We’ve been reading to Freya since she was tiny (and now she’s starting to read to us) so I’m looking forward to sharing The Lost Panda with her in a few years.

If you’d like to find out more about Chris you can visit his website, follow him on Twitter and Facebook and, of course, buy the book in paperback or on Kindle via Amazon.

Have you ever thought about writing for children? I know it’s much harder than it looks.

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Book Review And Blog Tour: Another Day In Winter.

ARIA_LOW_ANOTHER DAY IN WINTER_EIn her latest book, Another Day In Winter, Shari Low gives a masterclass in how to seamlessly weave multiple plot lines into one exciting, charming and emotional story.

Just as she did in the first book in this series, One Day In December, she takes four characters, in this case Shauna, Tom, Chrissie and George, and tells their stories over a 24 hour period.

Opening the book is like being pulled into a whirlwind; once the words start spinning around you, there’s no way out of the vortex – at least until you reach the end, feeling slightly windblown but very happy.

Here’s the blurb:

One day, four lives, and a wintery web of secrets and lies.

On a chilly morning in December forever friends Shauna and Lulu touch down at Glasgow Airport on a quest to find answers from the past.

George knows his time is nearing the end, but is it too late to come to terms with his two greatest regrets?

His grandson Tom uncovers a betrayal that rocks his world as he finally tracks down the one that got away.

And single mum Chrissie is ready to force her love-life out of hibernation, but can anyone compare to the man who broke her heart?

It again starts with a long cast list but I’ve learnt not to be daunted by this and to put my faith in Shari’s skills as a storyteller. She’s never let me down. I would love to see how she plans her books. I imagine something like the police investigation boards you see on TV sometimes, with little photographs of suspects and lots of red squiggly lines which eventually all point toward the same conclusion. And that’s what ultimately happens, the individual tales nearly touch, converge, pull away again but the reader knows where it is heading – or at least they hope they do. The only trouble is, it creates a battle between wanting to read it as quickly as possible to find out the ending and slowly savouring every page.

Her characters feel real, which means I laughed and cried along with them. While the main four are all new, it was lovely to see some familiar faces from book one return – a bit like meeting old, cherished friends again.

Not to jinx anything but this engrossing tale has all the makings of a best-seller. I really hope there is at least one more in this series (and then spring, autumn and summer follow). That’s not asking too much, is it?

Format: Kindle.

Price: £2.48 (via Amazon).

My rating: Five stars.

To find out more about Shari please visit her Facebook page , website or follow her on Twitter.

With thanks to Aria (via NetGalley) for the ARC and the opportunity to be part of the tour.

Also, don’t just take my word for it, find out what the other fabulous bloggers on the tour thought.

Another Day in Winter blog tour poster (2)

 

Book Review: Bloody Brilliant Women.

BloodybrillwomenMark recently bought Freya the children’s book, Fantastically Great Women Who Made History, written by Kate Pankhurst.

After reading it with her I remember thinking two things ‘yay for Mark’ and ‘I wish there was something like this for adults’.

BEHOLD, Bloody Brilliant Women.

Journalist and presenter Cathy Newman has plugged a gap in the market and I, for one, am incredibly grateful.

I can’t remember learning about any women in my humanities lessons, although I’m sure there were some – it was 30ish years ago and my memory isn’t what it was.

This book goes further, though, not just highlighting already well known women in Britain but “…the pioneers, revolutionaries and geniuses your history teacher forgot to mention”.

It’s a lively book that isn’t just readable but relatable. It’s also funny in places and definitely makes you think. Suggesting the Bayeux Tapestry could be a precursor to the Daily Mail’s ‘side bar of shame’ is just one example.

It reminds me of a book version of the fantastic programmes by Lucy Worsley or Kate Williams which are as engrossing as they are engaging. In fact, I hope it can somehow be made into a tele series. We need it.

Here’s the blurb:

A fresh, opinionated history of all the brilliant women you should have learned about in school but didn’t.

In this freewheeling history of modern Britain, Cathy Newman writes about the pioneering women who defied the odds to make careers for themselves and alter the course of modern history; women who achieved what they achieved while dismantling hostile, entrenched views about their place in society.

Their role in transforming Britain is fundamental, far greater than has generally been acknowledged, and not just in the arts or education but in fields like medicine, politics, law, engineering and the military.

While a few of the women in this book are now household names, many have faded into oblivion, their personal and collective achievements mere footnotes in history. We know of Emmeline Pankhurst, Vera Brittain, Marie Stopes and Beatrice Webb. But who remembers engineer and motorbike racer Beatrice Shilling, whose ingenious device for the Spitfires’ Rolls-Royce Merlin fixed an often-fatal flaw, allowing the RAF’s planes to beat the German in the Battle of Britain? Or Dorothy Lawrence, the journalist who achieved her ambition to become a WW1 correspondent by pretending to be a man? And developmental biologist Anne McLaren, whose work in genetics paved the way for in vitro fertilisation?

Were it not for women, significant features of modern Britain like council housing, municipal swimming pools and humane laws relating to property ownership, child custody and divorce wouldn’t exist in quite the same way. Women’s drive and talent for utopian thinking created new social and legislative agendas. The women in these pages blazed a trail from the 1918 Representation of the People Act – which allowed some women to vote – through to Margaret Thatcher’s ousting from Downing Street.

Blending meticulous research with information gleaned from memoirs, diaries, letters, novels and other secondary sources, Bloody Brilliant Women uses the stories of some extraordinary lives to tell the tale of 20th and 21st century Britain. It is a history for women and men. A history for our times.

Maybe, because I had been reading Freya’s book, I assumed it would take a similar format; an extended look at one woman at a time. That’s not the case. The eight chapters are on broad themes such as education, women between the wars and a final one bringing things up to the present.

Once I had worked out that I wasn’t just reading a really long introduction, it was fine, possibly even better because it features many, many more bloody brilliant women – although it did require a higher level of concentration than the hour before bed afforded.

As I was reading this book, I felt the might of their power behind me and, as a result, I felt empowered. I definitely think this should be required reading for high school students, of both sexes.

I will be getting a paper copy for Freya’s book shelf because, even if history lessons have improved since my day, I think it will be essential reading when she’s older.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £9.99.

My rating: Four and a half stars.

With thanks to Harper Collins UK/William Collins for the ARC (via NetGalley) in return for an honest review.