An Interview With Lisa Williamson

Hey everybody!

Today, I have the great pleasure of interviewing the lovely Lisa Williamson, author of The Art of Being Normal.

Hi Lisa, welcome to my blog it is a pleasure having you here!

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I was born in Nottingham in 1980. My mum worked in a shop and my dad was a plumber. I have big sister who is now a nurse. I was a really shy kid and loved to draw and make up stories. When I got a bit older, I became a little less shy and got really into drama and through my teens I did loads of school plays and amateur dramatic productions. When I was 19 I moved down to London and did a degree in drama. I’ve worked as an actor ever since, appearing in plays, musicals and TV commercials. About eight years ago I realised I was craving an creative outlet I had a bit more control over and started writing again and rediscovering my passion for telling stories.
Funny, that is just like me! I am also really interested in my drama and have shows on the go all the time but I still crave to explore my creative writing side a bit more too! The trouble is, I never know what to write about…What is your inspiration for writing?
It could be anything – an article online, a snippet of conversation I overhear in the street, a memory that pops into my head – inspiration is everywhere (I try to carry a notebook with me at all times). I usually start out with a character and then try to put them into as many tricky situations as possible. I like to throw rocks at my characters!
That’s always the best way to write, I find! Sometimes I love to feel just as stuck as my character to before I find a way out of the situation I’ve created for them!What inspired you to write The Art of Being Normal?
 
In 2010, I got a job working as an administrator at The Gender Identity Development Service (an NHS service offering talking therapies for under-18s struggling with their gender identity). It was just meant to be a temporary thing between acting jobs but I ended up staying for two years! As part of the role I typed up notes from all the individual therapy sessions and heard all these incredible stories – happy, sad, painful, triumphant. I was writing something else at the time and it took a while for it to dawn on me that I had some incredibly rich source material at my finger tips and should perhaps be writing about that instead! I set about looking for fiction featuring trans protagonists and found very little. It quickly became very clear young trans people were massively under-represented in the arts and media, and I became very committed to doing something about it if I possibly could. I observed several group therapy sessions for trans teens, all of whom were as engaging and complicated and individual as any great YA hero or heroine. Collectively they inspired me to create a character who was struggling with their gender identity but not defined by it. They also inspired the tone of the book. Although several of the young people were having a really tough time, there was always so much joy and positivity and energy in the room at these sessions. I didn’t want TAOBN to feel like an ‘issue’ book or heavy or gloomy in any way. Although there are painful moments, there are also moments of magic. I wanted the book to have light and shade, and for the downs to be balanced with real ups, just like real life. 
 
That’s such a fantastic inspiration to get! Just shows that it can come from anywhere. That must have been so interesting to learn about! You are completely right with the tone of the book. I really enjoyed reading about such a taboo subject in such a normal sounding way, if that makes sense… The amount of joy in the book made it stand out against most of the other YA contemporaries out there that tend to opt for the sadder route. What are your ambitions for your writing career?
To keep writing, take risks and touch as many as people as possible through my books. I’d also LOVE to see a film version of TAOBN. That would be awesome!
A film would be so fantastic! It would really bring the book up and give it a whole new meaning as well as bringing a generally taboo subject out into the open and into the light. It could really teach us all and I think it would be a great laugh as well! Your characters are by far the most hilarious they can be and I really appreciate that. Give us an insight into your main characters. What do they do that is so special?
TAOBN is told from the point of view of two main characters – David and Leo, and I love them both! David is 14 and is starting to realise the desire to be female he’s had since a small child is not going away (if anything it’s getting worse). Despite his distress at his changing body, David is upbeat, kind and brave. Leo is 15, a grumpy loner, and the new kid at school. Having transferred from his old school under mysterious circumstances, he’s keen to keep his head down and avoid getting close to any of his new classmates. He certainly doesn’t bargain on falling for the most gorgeous girl in year 11. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms and they impact on one another’s lives in ways neither of them anticipate.
I loved all of the different situations you chuck your characters into, I think it gives them a real depth which you don’t normally see in YA contemporaries. How do you write? Full-time or part-time? Every day or three times a week? Do you have a structured plan for your writing?
I’m lucky enough to write more-or-less full-time. I continue to act in TV commercials but as the shoots tend to be quite short, the work fits round my writing really well. I work at home but occasionally venture out to work in a cafe or library for a change of scenery. I try to write every day if I can and have no set finish time. If it’s going well, I’ll work until my boyfriend makes me stop and eat something! I always intend to plan but invariably the plan falls apart the moment I sit down to write (my characters tend to be pretty bossy about what they want to happen and I regularly sit down to write one scene and it turns into something entirely different).
I should probably create a schedule for my writing too! I usually use my writing as a procrastination tool for when I have GCSE’s to work on! Tell us about your book covers. They represent the book in such a strong way.
I absolutely love the cover for TAOBN. The illustration is by Alice Todd, a young graphic illustrator based in Brighton. When my publishers sent me over her initial ideas, I was so chuffed! I love that she’s created such an iconic image and am thrilled we’re sticking with it for the paperback edition (out in January).
I love how deep a meaning they give to the book without you even realising- I didn’t realise how powerful the image was until I’d finished the book. What is the hardest thing about writing?
The days when it doesn’t come naturally and you start to feel like a fraud! Writing can be a very lonely profession and self doubt can creep in. That’s where the amazing UK YA community comes in. Over the past year I’ve connected with loads of fellow authors and taken advantage of their wisdom and experience, as well as made some great new friends.
Did you ever get Writer’s Block? If so, do you have any tips?
Yes! Sometimes you just need to get away from your desk – go for a walk, go to the gym, watch a film – just do something different and let your thoughts untangle themselves in their own way and at their own speed. Other times though, you need to battle through and just get words down on the page. I suffer from perfectionism and often feel I can’t move forwards until what I’ve already written feels polished, which incidentally is a really silly way to write! I’m trying to get better at being brave and not caring about writing badly. As someone very wise once said, you can’t edit an empty page. Free writes are a great way of getting into the right mindset to write.
Do you have any advice for inspired authors out there?
Write as much as you can (even if it’s just a few lines per day). Writing is a muscle and like any skill, you need to put the practice in to get better. I kept a diary growing up and it was a great way of getting used to expressing myself on the page. If you’re worried about it being found, set up a dedicated email address and email yourself instead (this is what I do). I would also recommend reading as widely as possible. I learn so much about plotting and characters from reading other books. Occasionally it’s intimidating when you read something amazing, but mostly I just find it really inspiring to read wonderful books. Another great advice I was recently given was to create tension but taking things away from your main character. I’ve tried it on my latest protagonist and it completely works. As I said earlier, I like to throw rocks at my characters! Finally, be true to yourself and the story to have to tell and follow your instincts.
How can readers find out more about you and your books?
Follow me on twitter (@lisa_letters) or visit my website – www.lisawilliamsonauthor.com. You can also find out more info via my publishers – http://www.davidficklingbooks.com
Thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview with me, it was lovely to speak to you!
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The Middle of Nowhere by Geraldine McCaughrean Review (No Spoilers)

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When her mother dies from a snakebite, Comity’s life in the Australian outback changes forever. As her father retreats into his work, Comity turns to Fred, the Aboriginal yard boy, who becomes her only friend. But then a new assistant arrives who delights in playing cruel games. As Fred becomes his target, events spiral dangerously out of control.

This is the third Carnegie book I have read so far and although I’m not allowed to say which book I think should win the award but I think eventually you’ll be able to figure out which one I like best.

On the whole, I really enjoyed this book! It really had its highs and its lows but the lows really made the highs worthwhile. I will go into a lot more detail now don’t you worry.

Contradicting myself above, there isn’t really a lot I can say about this book. It took me a long time to read. A lot longer than it should’ve done in comparison with another book the exact same size. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, I think half of the plot was a bit irrelevant and we could’ve done without it. Also, that would’ve left so much room for stretching out the end scenes which I really enjoyed.

One thing I’d really like to point out is, at the beginning of the book, there is a picture of a grave and I really liked that (not that there was a grave, the fact that there was a picture.) However, that seemed to be the only picture in the book and I found that to be such a shame as that would’ve been a really great addition to the book. That might have just been my school’s copy of the book because I’ve heard there are too editions. I was disappointed with the lack of pictures but let’s focus on the writing now shall we?

I can definitely understand why Geraldine McCaughrean was chosen to write the sequel to Peter Pan as they way in which she writes is very fluid and descriptive. The descriptions she wrote in The Middle of Nowhere were really true to the Australian terrain and I think she did a really good job of making a book that is set in a deserted place seem really interesting!

I am generally not such a big fan of books that are set in Australian or African communities as I find them really hard to visualise and unfortunately I had that problem again, perhaps that’s just me but I really tried this time! I think I found the sheer number of characters the hardest thing to visualise as none of these side characters had any traits about them, they were simply just names that the reader was expected to remember. I didn’t find myself attached to any of the characters which is a shame as I think if more time was spent evolving the scenes instead of constantly referring back to the same old thing.

One thing I really enjoyed about this book was the amount of history and culture that was encased in this book. At the beginning of this book was a whole other language that was really real and was woven seamlessly into the stories. I really enjoyed flicking back and forth between the language translator and the actual story. It really added another layer to the story.

I think this story was really good for a lesson about morals for children but personally, for me, this wasn’t my cup of tea. I gave this a 3/5 stars because I really loved and appreciated all of the effort that went into researching this book. Thank you so much for reading this! All of my social media links are down below, including the Goodreads link for The Middle of Nowhere so go and check those out!

I will have another post up really soon! Talk to y’all later!

The Middle of Nowhere Goodreads- http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18684394-the-middle-of-nowhere

My Goodreads- https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/38362004-caitlin

Twitter- @proudfangirl100

Instagram- _proudfangirl_

The Rain by Virginia Bergin Review (No Spoilers)

 
JUST ONE DROP WILL KILL YOU

I will try to be honest and tell everything as it was, but I will not swear, because my mum hated swearing. I hope you’ll understand. I’ll write something beautiful instead. I’ll write Butterfly. For my mum.

Everything is Butterfly. The whole world is Butterfly, because there’s something in the rain that kills you if you get just one drop on your skin. I’ve survived this long – I don’t know how. I’ve got really good at watching the sky.

And the worst thing? I’m stuck with someone I wouldn’t kiss if he was the last boy on earth.

Which he kind of is.

Butterfly. Butterfly. Butterfly.

Okay guys, just as a disclaimer, where there are spaces there is meant to be a cute little butterfly. I have no idea how to get that butterfly and I’m not going to insult Virginia Bergin by trying to source one… But if you go on her website you’ll see what I mean, here’s the link:

http://virginiabergin.com
Okay, I actually read this book a while before I started blogging but so many exciting things are happening regarding this duology and I thought I would review the first book for you so you can be persuaded to buy this amazing book!

Like I always do, let’s start with a cover review. This cover is so, so beautiful! It really relates to the story and I love the colours and just everything about this cover is fabulous. It’s my favourite….

Now let’s talk about the actual book..

The plot for this book is so vividly thought out and it tricks you into thinking that this is just some story about a stupid girl who makes stupid decisions. But it’s not. This story has so many twists and turns that catch you off guard and they are all driven by the characters and their sometimes stupid decisions. The storyline is so detailed and fluid that I had trouble putting it down because I was whisked away into this intriguing world of post-apocalyptic madness. The world building is done in such a clever way because you can visualise everything so clearly but there isn’t and extensive amount of description. The balance is perfect. I think Virginia Bergin did a fantastic job of making an empty post-apocalyptic world seem full of excitement and mystery.

The characters…

The characters of this book are probably the most interesting characters I’ve ever read about and right now I miss them. I wish there was another book I could sink my teeth into just to relive the amazing characters in this book. The main character Ruby is so witty and funny and smart and her perspective gives such a refreshing take on young adult literature. Her attitude is snarky and irrational but that is only because she’s frightened- and who wouldn’t be in a world where the rain can kill you? Her decisions are based purely on what she wants to do regardless of what anyone else thinks and this gives her the edge above everyone else. Another character I absolutely adored was Darius. I think I loved him so much I could put him on my fictional boyfriend list. His ideas and attitude is so different to Ruby’s that they clash in a great way. They bounce off each other and despite the fact that they are so different, they are so compatible and are driven by exactly the same motives. I love the way Ruby talks about him too, and the way her opinions subtley change throughout the book- that was fantastic and very funny to read.

In case you didn’t know, I loved this book. 5 out of 5 stars 100%. This is one of my favourite books, it was amazing and if you think this sounds good, you should check out the sequel- The Storm. It is absolutely amazing and in my opinion, better. Keep your eyes peeled for some exciting posts about this coming really really soon! Hope you guys enjoyed this review- if there are any other books you would like me to review just let me know in the comments down below. All my social media links are down below so go and check those out along with the Goodreads link for this book! Thank you guys so much for reading this!

Talk to you soon!

The Rain Goodreads- https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21116887-the-rain

My Goodreads- https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/38362004-caitlin

Twitter- @proudfangirl100

Instagram- _proudfangirl_

The Territory by Sarah Govett Review (No Spoilers)

The territory cover

5th June 2059

Noa Blake is just another normal 15 year old with exams looming. Except in the The Territory normal isn’t normal. The richest children have a node on the back of their necks and can download information, bypassing the need to study.

In a flooded world of dwindling resources, Noa and the other ‘Norms’ have their work cut out even to compete. And competing is everything- because anybody who fails the exams will be shipped off to the Wetlands, which means a life of misery, if not certain death.

But how to focus when your heart is being torn in two directions at once?

Once again, let’s start with the cover. I love this cover, I love the colours, the title, the meaning. Usually you’ll get a cover with a face or a girl- usually a girl- and it will have no significance to the story inside. But this cover bears so much resemblance to the story inside. I don’t want to say too much otherwise I’ll spoil the story and we don’t want that.

Anyway, enough of covers, I feel like my reviews all start with the same thing about covers. Maybe I need to read a book with bad cover. Then you’ll see what I have to say about that.

Just as a little side note, I am 15 years old and- like Noa- I also have exams looming. I’ve been reading way too much and not revising- I should fix that. This book has been relatable but terrifying at the same time. I found myself wanting to put the book down so I could revise but, at the same time, fighting with myself because this book was so good!

Sorry, I should’ve mentioned at the beginning what I thought about this book! Well I’m mentioning it now! This book was absolutely fantastic, completely captivating, utterly enthralling. Okay maybe I went a bit overboard then but honestly this book is amazing! I have never managed to read a book in a day but with this I read it straight through in one day and I am so proud of myself! I was up all night crying my eyes out over the ending which is the reason I didn’t post a review sooner…

When I started reading this book I didn’t think much of it and I was afraid I would have to post a negative review but honestly I have never been so happy to be proved wrong! The way Sarah Govett writes is so so unique! Her writing style keeps you captivated with what you think is a predictable storyline and then it just whisks you off and plays with your emotions. Honestly guys the feels were raw with this book, it literally left me sobbing and rolling around on the floor like a little baby. I have never been so affected by a book before…

I think the characters were my favourite part of the story. Each one was so different and they were all developed so well. Noa, for example, she was developed so well but I found some of her decisions so stupid and I was sat there screaming at my book because of her actions. I was so tempted to throw my book across the room and I would’ve except I love this book so so much! Another part of the reason I got angry at this book (in a good way) was Raf. I don’t want to say too much because of spoilers but honestly? I hated him. But I think Sarah Govett wanted us to hate him. I can just sense something is up with him. All I’m saying is I love Jack and Noa. End of story. Let’s talk about Daisy. Wow, she was a beautiful character. I loved how different all three of the friends are and that really just gave the story a lot more depth. Daisy was my favourite character after Jack.

Okay, let’s wrap things up! I loved this whole story, every single part of it was thought out so well and the storyline had such a great fluidity and the plot-twists were insane, they caught me off guard. I actually had to put the book down for a full minute to be able to comprehend how big the plot twists were. I loved every second of this book it was phenomenal. It left my crying and speechless and terrified for my exams. So, thank you Sarah Govett for making me believe I will die if I fail my exams. I cannot wait for the sequel, I can guarantee it will be incredible!

This is the first new book in a brand-new dystopian trilogy that comes out on the 14th of May, so go and pre-order it now!

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed my review! I will be back really soon for another post! Leave any suggestions for anything you’d like to see in the comments box down below! All my social media links are down below along with the Goodreads link for this book!

Talk to y’all later!

The Territory Goodreads-https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24644285-the-territory?from_search=true&search_version=service

My Goodreads-https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/38362004-caitlin

Twitter- @proudfangirl100

Instagram- _proudfangirl_