Monday, 31 October 2011

Author Visit: Rebecca Makkai

I read 'The Borrower' earlier this month and completely fell in love with it. I had to get in touch with Rebecca and ask her to come along and talk to you all about it, and she said yes. Hurrah! So, here she is. Make yourselves comfortable.

All who reply to this post by the 15th November will have their names put into a hat. The name pulled out of that hat will win a copy of Rebecca's book. [Doesn't matter which part of the world you live in!]


Rebecca Makkai is a Chicago-based writer whose first novel, The Borrower, is an Indie Next pick and has garnered rave reviews in O Magazine, BookPage and Booklist among others. Her short fiction will appear in The Best American Short Stories this autumn for the fourth consecutive year, and appears regularly in journals like Tin House, Ploughshares, New England Review and Shenandoah. 

Hi Rebecca! Welcome to my blog. Make yourself at home. Have a biscuit, take a seat.

Hello! Delicious biscuit, by the way! [Why thank you]

Sum up 'The Borrower' for those who haven't got their hands on it yet.

A librarian inadvertently kidnaps a ten-year-old boy. Or, a ten-year-old boy blackmails a librarian into kidnapping him. Depends on your mood.

What sparked the idea for the book? A particular character, a storyline?

Ian, the boy in the book, has been enrolled by his mother in an anti-gay class because she fears he isn’t masculine enough. About ten years ago I found out that such classes exist, and that was the original spark for the novel.

What's your writing routine?

It mostly involves getting out of my house. I’ve got two toddlers, so escape is mandatory. Beyond that, I’m not very superstitious. I just sit and write. (I think a lot of writers try to tell a big story about routine as part of their mystique. I’ve even heard one writer claim she keeps a bowl of water on her desk, and when she sits to write she runs her hands through it to calm herself. I call that malarkey for several reasons, the most important being that no writer would ever in a million years put water next to her computer. Right?)

What was the most exciting part of the publishing process for you? Where were you when you found out the book deal was confirmed?

I was incredibly fortunate in that there were several editors bidding on my book, and I knew this ahead of time. The day it went to auction I was teaching (I teach elementary level at a Montessori school), and I sneakily checked my phone every hour or so to see what my agent had texted me. Then I just went back to triangles and verbs and whatever else we were doing that day. I think I’d have been ripping my hair out if I’d just been sitting around at home.

The most exciting thing, though, was probably back on the day I first signed with my agent. I knew she was good enough to sell the book, so that was the moment when I felt like it was all going to happen.

Have you come across parents like Ian's in real life [I know I have], and have you ever known a boy like Ian you wanted to save from their parents' oppression?

Although quite a few adult friends have told me about growing up in households like this, I’ve fortunately never had to encounter parents like that firsthand. I certainly wouldn’t react as fecklessly as Lucy does, but I also wouldn’t be able to keep my mouth shut.

Have you had any backlash from people or organisations such as Exodus International since the publication of your book?

No. Somehow I doubt that they’re big readers of contemporary literary fiction... There have been a few reviews on Amazon and the like (which, for the sake of sanity, I’ve long stopped looking at) where readers said things like “I’m not a bigot or anything, but I didn’t like the blatantly pro-gay agenda,” then gave it a low ranking. I don’t mind them not liking my book (I probably wouldn’t like theirs), but I wonder if they know how ridiculous and transparent those statements are.

Tell us about The Trevor Project.

I’ve linked to The Trevor Project on my website and elsewhere, and it’s an organization we can’t highlight enough. They’re a counselling and suicide-prevention lifeline for LGBTQ youth, and they were the first ones to do something like this on a major scale in the US. I’d always assumed it was named after someone we lost, but in fact Trevor is the character in the Oscar-winning movie of the same name.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading another debut novel, The History of History, by Ida Hattemer-Higgins, and it’s wonderful so far. I’m also picking my way through The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean, about the periodic table.

What are you up to when you're not writing?

Teaching, being a mother, cooking, yoga, gardening. Most of the writers I know are drawn to things like cooking that are very tangible and finite. When you’ve been working for a year on something that’s just a computer file and a story in your head, and you don’t know if it will ever amount to anything or if you’ll even finish, it can be very therapeutic just to make some soup. It’s done in one evening, and you eat it, and there’s very little angst involved. And you can’t go back and revise it the next day.

Are you allowed to tell us about your second novel, The Happensack?

I’m allowed to, but I’ve been warned by other writers not to ruin it by talking too much. I’m saying the same thing to everyone, which is that it’s the story of a haunted family and a haunted house, told in reverse.

In The Borrower, you say that books save us. [That part made me cry, by the way.] I couldn't agree more. What books have saved you?

To name one: When I was six years old, my teacher read us The Twits by Roald Dahl. It’s one of his typically ridiculous stories, a really violent one in fact, but it was the first time I’d ever heard of a deeply dysfunctional family other than my own. That book meant so much to me that I copied the entire thing out by hand.


"This story - often fun, sometimes sad, always bookish - deals with big issues... Rebecca Makkai's literary debut will appeal to young adults and readers of adult literary fiction."--We Love This Book

"Ian is a little star. His many sayings and observations that he'll burst out with are endearing - and often funny. It's clear that Lucy is smitten by her favourite 'borrower.'"--The Bookbag

"Makkai takes several risks in her sharp, often witty text, replete with echoes of children's classics from 'Goodnight Moon' to 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz', as well as more ominous references to Lolita...the moving final chapters affirm the power of books to change people's lives even as they acknowledge the unbreakable bonds of home and family. Smart, literate and refreshingly unsentimental."--Kirkus

"Rarely is a first novel as smart and engaging and learned and funny and moving as 'The Borrower.'"--Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning and bestselling author of That Old Cape Magic and Empire Falls

"The Borrower's out and out charm is heightened by its furious, righteous heart and conviction that books offer salvation and hope when life is messy and near-unbearable"--Marie Claire

The Borrower

Monday, 24 October 2011

Author Visit: Jane Davis

All who reply to this interview by the 8th November will have their names put into a hat. The name pulled out of that hat will win a copy of Jane's book 'Half-Truths and White Lies.'


Jane lives with her partner of ten years in Surrey, in a ridiculously impractical timber-framed house that they love, and have sunk a small fortune into. If they ever move, it will be because they have run out of space to house their CD collection.

She had written as a hobby for a number of years, whilst pursuing a career in insurance, but recently took a leap of faith and 'retired' from full-time work, just at the onset of a major recession. 

In October 2008, her first novel, Half-truths and White Lies, was selected as the winning title of the Daily Mail First Novel Award. 


Hi Jane! Welcome to my blog. Make yourself comfortable.

Hi Jen, and thank you. I have my pint of coffee and I’m ready to go...

Tell us about ‘Half-Truths and White Lies’

My working title for the book was ‘Venn Diagrams,’ born out of a request from a colleague to draw a diagram to represent my (somewhat complicated) network of family and friends. Transworld quite rightly pointed out that the phrase was coined in the 50’s and might not mean anything readers of a certain age, and that others might confuse the book with a mathematical textbook. But for me, overlapping circles remains a far better way of illustrating modern families than the traditional tree.

Half-truths and White Lies was my second attempt at writing a novel. My first, having drawn on my own life a little too often, remains buried in that special bottom drawer reserved for dusty manuscripts. The only decision I made was to write about a family as far removed from my own as possible: a father, a mother and one daughter – so I didn’t have too many characters to play around with. And then by the end of chapter three, I had managed to kill two of them off.

From this you can probably gather that I am not a great plotter. I get to know my characters and then I rely on them taking me along for the ride. This approach does tend to result in a crisis three quarters of the way through when I have to work out how to get from C to D.

There is a school of thought that tells you that must have a detailed plot before you start writing. If that was the case, I would never have put pen to paper. I choose to take the advice of authors who say exactly the opposite:

Debby Holt claims that there are plot-driven novels and character-driven novels. Hers fall into the latter category and I’m with her.

Stephen King’s advice from his book On Writing: is to start with a single question and see how that idea develops. The question always begins ‘what if?’

Sir Terry Pratchett uses a method that he calls The valley of the Clouds. In the valley of the clouds there are mountains but you can only see the very tops of the peaks. It is your job as an author to work out how to get to the mountains.

As often happens when something I am working on is nearing completion, I found that someone else had got there first – except that this was not another author: it was a news report describing almost the exact same scenario.

To give you a taste of what Half-truths is about, firstly, it’s the struggle of a young woman to find her own identity after she loses her parents in a horrific motor accident. It’s also a story of two sisters who were treated very differently by their parents, one labelled as beautiful and one labelled as clever, and the impact that those labels had on them. It’s a story about that very confusing word called love, and that particular situation when we cross the line between friendship and something more, and all of the messy repercussions that follow. It’s about the choices and decisions we make and how the impact of those decisions resonate through time. It’s about the secrets between a group of family and friends, and the lengths that they will go to to keep them hidden. It’s the story of what one man will go to undo the damage he’s done. And it’s about forgiveness, because it’s amazing what friendship is capable to surviving. But, of course, there’s no one character who knows the whole truth at the beginning. And our starting point is this very volatile situation in the aftermath of the accident when the characters are at their most vulnerable and anything could give. It’s a bit like my house which is very old and decrepit: my partner Matt will start tapping a patch of loose plaster and suddenly he finds himself with a pile of rubble where the wall should be.

Chance played a great role in my route to publication. It was by chance that I heard about the Winchester Writer’s conference a week before it was held in 2008. And it was by chance that I chose to attend a lecture held by Jack Sheffield of Teacher Teacher fame. Because if those two things hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have learned about the Daily Mail first novel award – two days before the deadline for entries.

How long did it take you to write?

Considering that I was working full-time, not very long at all! My first attempt at a novel took four and a half years with a very stop-start approach. Working two evenings and week and the mornings of my weekends (with occasional time off for good behavior) the first draft took me a year.

Giving up your job in insurance to pursue your writing career must have been an exhilarating and terrifying thing to do. Talk us through that.

Yes and no. It was a job I had been in for 23 years, having seen an embryonic team grow into a medium-sized business that still had a family feel, but then had to be sold to a large corporation in order to allow the Managing Director to retire. The last year had been hard – I have always accepted the need to fire people, but making a large portion of the staff, some of whom I had worked with for 20 years, redundant was soul destroying. Until I left, I didn’t realize how much the role of Deputy MD had hardened me and how much I had begun to dislike myself. So I’m a lot more comfortable with myself now and that’s a good thing.

The lack of money, the lack of a monthly pay packet was another thing. I am not one of life’s natural risk-takers. I like security and I have what I think of as a healthy fear of poverty. I had grown very fond of adventurous holidays and L K Bennett handbags. I have since found that neither of these things is essential.

My contract prevented me from working for the competition for two years, so I planned on giving myself a two-year sabbatical, with the challenge of trying to get my work published. With only vague memories of the word Recession, a few weeks in, with doom and gloom in every news report, the honeymoon period was well and truly over. I began to think that I had made a serious mistake. And then on 15th October, two days before my birthday, I got the call that changed everything.

Where were you when you heard you’d won the Daily Mail First Novel Award? What went through your head? Who did you tell first? How did you celebrate?

I received the call from Transworld when I was at home on my own and, because I was alone, I wasn’t quite sure how to react. There was no one to ask, ‘Did that just happen?’ I can completely understand the sentiments of Myrrah Stanford Smith who, at the age of 82, signed a three book deal with Honna. Receiving the news by telephone (as I did), she says that she was 'Gob-smacked. She insisted on putting down the phone, pulling herself together and ringing them back to make sure it was true. She had expected the manuscript to be returned with a rejection letter. Myrrah also summed up what it means to see your work in print beautifully. She said "To have my book, my words, in my hands as my very own book - it was wonderful."
I tried to phone my partner who was in a meeting. I phoned a friend who I thought would be at home, but wasn’t, so I left a message. Even my mother was out. But word soon spread through the wonders of modern technology and the phone started ringing. And there was champagne. Quite a lot of champagne.

Which bookshop did you first spy your book in?

I wasn’t the first. Even before the book signings on the first day of release, my sister Anne was visiting our nieces in Brighton and spied it in Waterstones. She texted me a photograph to prove it.

What’s your ‘writing routine’ – if such a thing does exist.

I am used to long days at work so I try to treat writing as if it is a job. A typical day will be half an hour’s reading over the breakfast table – at the moment Karoo Plainsong by Barbara Mutch - on goes the coffee pot and then a good four hours work, a five-mile walk to get more oxygen to the brain and another four hour session. At the moment I am editing rather than writing, which is perhaps not so enjoyable, so this is where the discipline acquired through my working life comes to the fore.

I notice that you say your music collection is threatening to take over your house. Do you find music influences your work? Who are your favourite artists?

Music if one of those things that instantly transports you to a time and place in your life so, although I find I difficult to work with any background noise, it is a source of inspiration. At the moment I’m working on a piece based in the 80’s so my playlist has consisted of The Cure’s Just One Kiss, Japan’s Nightporter, Eurhythmic’s Here Comes the Rain Again and INXS’s Need You Tonight.

In terms of favourites, so many to choose from but David Sylvian and Peter Gabriel (my favourite male vocalists), The Sundays, Kate Bush, The Cure, Dr John…currently Elbow (God bless you, Guy Garvey: you are a poet), Radiohead, Goldfrapp, Florence and the Machine, Two Door Cinema Club (makes me feel 14 again), XX. I’m off to see The Specials at Brixton the end of the month which I’m very excited about. For once, I may not be the oldest person at a gig.

You put a lot of quotes about reading/bookselling up on your blog. Give us some of your favourite ones.

I think the one from Churchill (apologies, Sir, if I misquote you) – Give me four hours and a blank sheet of paper.

On my Book Forum, we have The Book Tree, where members choose their favourite book, and post it round to other members. Everyone writes comments in the books as they read. If you were to pick a book for The Book Tree…

Just one book? Surely that’s torture? The book that I have returned to most often is The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy. If you have seen the film, forget it – there is no way that this epic story could have been successfully condensed into 2 hours of screen time. This is beautiful writing, rich and soulful and heartbreaking. It transports you instantly into the mind of its narrator and the deep south.

What are your plans for the future?

The fact that the publishing world is in turmoil is beyond my control, but these things are cyclical, so I will simply keep writing and build up a body of work that I feel proud of in the hope that I will be well-placed when the planets come into alignment.  


You can find 'Half-Truths and White Lies at your local bookshop (and via Hive). 

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Author Visit: Steve Stack

Everyone who replies to this topic before October 31st will have their name put into a hat. The name pulled out of that hat will win a copy of 21st Century Dodos. 


Happy Saturday morning, folks! A while ago I thought it would be a good idea to let this man loose on my blog [I was no doubt drunk at the time. In fact, he probably spiked my drink]. I should have known he wouldn't behave. This is man is in charge of the excellent blog meandmybigmouth. You should definitely check that out.

He has written a book called 21st Century Dodos - a very funny collection of things that have gone out of fashion/no longer exist. The book is a fond farewell to the many inanimate objects, cultural icons and general stuff around us that find themselves on the verge of extinction.

Yes. And now he's here to talk to you all about it. HOWEVER, instead of a Q&A session I asked Scott -I mean, Steve [blimey it's confusing, but I'm fairly sure he answers to most things]. Anyway, yes, I asked him to imagine that the year is 2100, and to write about five cultural things in the past 100 years that have now become extinct. And this is what he said.



Jen has let me loose on her blog. The fool.

I am here to promote my book, 21st Century Dodos. It is one of those mildly amusing toilet books. You know the sort of thing: you get given it for Christmas, stick it on top of the cistern to read when you are having a poo (ladies, don’t pretend it is just us men who do that) only for it to remain half-read and amass a collection of colourful splashes and stains. [Jen: Nice...]

The handful of people who read it all the way through will discover over 130 articles on inanimate objects (and other stuff) that are on the verge of extinction. Things like audio cassettes, rotary dial telephones and white dog poo.

But enough about my actual book, Jen has asked me to write about an imaginary book. I am to pretend the year is 2100 and I have written a book called 22nd Century Dodos (shit name, that). What five things do I think will be extinct by then?

Here goes.

Bookshops. [Jen: SEE, I KNEW THIS WASN'T A GOOD IDEA.] It doesn’t make me happy to suggest this but will they still be around in the next century? [Jen: *sob*] We are already reading about the death of the independent bookshop with seemingly dozens closing every month, Waterstone’s have decided to end the 3 for 2 and start putting their promotional stickers on the back of books (does that strike anybody else as a bit odd?) and Amazon command over 50% of the UK market. Surely at some point in the distant future bookshops will be a rare sighting on the high street? [Jen: *sniff*]

Except for secondhand bookshops, I reckon they’ll still be around (we need somewhere to get rid of the contents of our toilet library.) As will Jen, standing behind the counter, 124 years old [Jen: Ahem, 113], listening out for weird things customers say. But they'll have to speak up a bit. 

3D Movies. Sitting in a darkened room wearing sunglasses is just fucking stupid. At some point other people will realise this.

Marmite. Those plucky Danes have led the way by ‘banning’ the Devil’s sputum. In the coming century the rest of the world will follow suit. I mean, whose idea was it to extract anything from yeast? And what idiot then decided to eat it?
Then we can start on peanut butter. And Ribena. [Jen: But but but I love marmite and peanut butter! I will keep a secret stash in my cellar.]

Alphabetical Order by Surname. Apple’s insistence on listing music on our iPods in alphabetical order by first name will slowly take over all filing systems. By 2100 William Shakespeare will be alongside Will Self, Martin Amis will nestle snugly next to Martina Cole and Kate Atkinson will be sharing a shelf with Katie Price.

Knives, Forks and Spoons. The spork will rule the world!

There you go people, some ideas for a sequel to my attractive and reasonably priced volume of nostalgia. To be written by someone in 89 years time. Please alert your grandchildren in your wills.


You can find 21st Century Dodos at your local bookshop. You can also find it over on Amazon

Thursday, 13 October 2011

a little video of me talking about things.

Hello! If you've reached this post and don't know who I am: my name's Jen [hi!] and I'm a writer and bookseller living in London. I've had my poems and short stories published in various places, and I'm also the author of 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops.' I also have EEC Syndrome, which is a rare form of Ectodermal Dysplasia. A couple of months ago I was told that, because of this condition, I might lose my sight in the next fifteen years [how careless of me]. So, I'm doing a fundraising event to raise money for research centres who are looking for a cure for this, and who are also doing research into better understanding and helping out in other areas affected by EEC. My fundraising challenge: writing 100 Poems in just one weekend. [5th and 6th of November]. When I write the poems, they will be posted online over on this website.

Here's a little video where I explain everything about it.

CLICK TO DONATE [and to read a bit more about it]  ETA: The donation page has now expired, but you can buy a copy of the poetry collection over here. Over £4000 has been raised so far, thank you to everyone who has donated and spread the word. xx

Thank you. Lots of love xxxxxxxxx

Saturday, 8 October 2011

weird things customers say in bookshops team

[The 100PoemChallenge: Happy weekend. Just a little post to say that I've set up a separate blog for my 100 poem weekend challenge. All the details are over there. I'll set up links for donations when I've set the dates, but for now you can subscribe to the blog if you want to [I'd love you long time], so you get notified when I have more to say about the project. At the moment Cristina [who runs EEC International] is trying to get the charity up on JustGiving, as that would make everything very easy. If not, then it'll have to be donations through paypal. I'm very excited about the challenge. No doubt I'll never want to see another poem as long as I live afterwards [no, that could never be true], but yes, I'm excited. I also received an email from the RNIB yesterday asking if I'd help out with some poetry workshops because of it, so hurray for poetry and charity.]


Now: back to 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops'. Greg is working away on the black and white illustrations for the inside of the book and they're looking marvellous. The manuscript for the book is being sent out to other countries now, which is very exciting, too. I'll keep you all posted on any developments.

This week has been a bit of a 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops' team meet up in the bookshop, what with Greg visiting on Monday, and today Charlie [my agent] stopped by, followed by an unexpected visit from Hugh [my editor] this afternoon. Charlie discovered that our local deli has a croissant happy hour [always good to know], and he also signed some books [<--here's a photo to illustrate that fact] - you've still got two days left for the chance to win one of those. If you bought one from the shop and wanted it shipped, your book will go in the post on Monday.


Also, also, last night I contacted successful contributors to the back of the book, for the 'Weird Things Customers Say in Other Bookshops' section. There were some really really wonderful entries, thanks so much, guys. S'all coming together very nicely. xx

Thursday, 6 October 2011

national poetry day - and a poetry-writing-fundraising challenge

Happy National Poetry Day, folks! In fact, John Hegley stopped by the shop this morning to have a rummage through our poetry shelves in celebration. He'll be performing tonight at The Bloomsbury, if that tickles your fancy. Also, to celebrate the day, Templar are very generously giving away 250 poetry pamphlets. You can choose from their short collections [at the bottom of this page here], and simply email with your choice and your address so they can post it out to you. Hurry, quick, before they all go!

You can check out some of my poetry, if you like, over at Agenda. The rest are in print publications, and there's a list of those over to the left *points* You could even write a Poem in a Pile if you like.

At the moment I'm reading Salt's 'Best British Poetry 2011' and can't recommend it highly enough. It's edited by Roddy Lumsden, and has an amazing selection of poetry which he chose as the best published in literary journals over the year. I'm falling in love all over again with poets I already adore: Liz Berry, Sophie Mayer, Emily Berry, Andrew Philip... and discovering poets I'd never stumbled across before. Do it. Buy it. IT'S NATIONAL POETRY DAY, FOR GOODNESS SAKE. Ahem.


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Bookshop Visit - Greg McLeod

Look who came to the bookshop! Bloggers meet Greg McLeod [illustrator of 'Weird Things']. Greg, meet bloggers.

Greg is lovely, and you can spy a rough black and white sketch there, which will be one of the illustrations for the inside of the book. That sketchbook is where it all happens. Yes.

The two of us are plotting and planning to bring you all some very nice things. Watch this space. x

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

thinking caps

Right, everyone, pay attention. Last month I wrote a not so happy blog post about the likelihood of me going blind. So, I'm going to do some kind of fund-raiser to raise money for EEC International, who fund the research centres, which are looking for a cure for this blindness problem using stem cell research and all that science-y jazz. They do a lot of work for the rare freaks, like me.

I want you to get your thinking caps on. What should I do? Should I bake a bazillion cakes? Should I swim to the moon? You can suggest I be creative for charity, you can suggest that I be absolutely outrageous [no jumping out of planes etc, though, please, thank you!]. I am contemplating running the marathon wearing nothing but sellotape, but not sure how practical that is... hmmm.

Answers on a postcard [or in the comments section below], please! Thanks xx

Monday, 3 October 2011

Author Visit: Andy Briggs

All who reply to this topic by the 20th October will have their name put into a hat: the name pulled out of that hat will win a copy of Andy's book. 

Andy Briggs is officially rebooting Tarzan: The Greystoke Legacy in time for the icon’s 100th birthday next year. The world’s first eco-warrior now returns as a 21st century legend for a new audience.


Andy started writing on movie projects such as “JUDGE DREDD” and “FREDDY VS JASON” and “FOREVERMAN” for Spiderman creator Stan Lee and legendary producer Robert Evans.

Andy went on to work with Gregory Novac and Bruce Timm on Warner Bros. “AQUAMAN” - while at the same time landing an eight-book deal with Oxford university Press for “HERO.COM” and “VILLAIN.NET”.


Hi Andy. Welcome to my blog, make yourself at home. Grab a cup of tea and a biscuit.

As long as there is some shortbread in there. I may make lots of crumbs...

So, how did you set about creating a new Tarzan adventure? What inspired you to do that?

For me, Tarzan invokes my childhood summers, bank holidays - and every other day I was off school. It was a chance to escape from Liverpool and journey into darkest Africa. Now, as an alleged adult, I was shocked to discover very little in the way of new Tarzan stories around. From my time doing school events I realized that children across the country are very aware of Tarzan - even if they have never seen a film or read a book - he is an iconic character. Sadly, the books and films are so old that the new generation tend to shy away from them so Tarzan was facing extinction. I saw an ideal opportunity to reinvent (or reboot, to use Hollywood parlance) the character.

Tell us a little about the books themselves.

I feel that Tarzan is more relevant now than he ever has been. He was the first eco-warrior in a time when nobody cared about the environment, and he does it in such a way that it doesn’t feel preachy.

My take on Tarzan was to modernize the story, set it now in the heart of the Democratic Republic of Congo - which is an ideal wild setting for the character, and allows an exciting canvas for modern jungle stories. Updating the characters was important - making Tarzan a darker more feral, unpredictable character and turning Jane into a modern tough girl who is a mental match for Tarzan’s untamed brawn.

Then is was a case of spinning a new exciting tale that felt like classic Tarzan, with plenty of links to the traditional story... while making it completely new and fresh...

You started off in film, I believe. How did you make the transition between that and novel writing?

I find it a great pleasure to swap between writing platforms. Writing movie scripts requires great discipline - you have to streamline characters, you can’t investigate internal conflicts, you have a limited page count (90-120 pages on average) to tell the entire story, whereas books allow you an almost endless canvas to tell the story and it’s extremely liberating to enter the heads of your characters and explore their inner most thoughts...

Which bookshop did you first spy your book in?

It’s always a huge thrill seeing your book on a shelf - and I think I saw it in WHSmiths... I was too excited to really note where I was!

You’re touring at the moment; how’s that going?

It’s exhausting! I perform an hour-long interactive presentation that ends in a very loud Tarzan survival quiz in which I get the group (usually whole year groups) to scream and shout. Usually my voice gives up during the book signings at the end.

I love touring, it’s the only chance writers really have to talk to their readers - find out what they like, what they are expecting, and equally important, what they don’t like. It’s all good research to improve the next book.

Which were your favourite childhood books?

I was a comic lover, so enjoyed Spiderman, X-Men and almost every other Marvel titles I could lay my hands on! I was also a role-playing geek (can you believe that?) and loved the Fighting Fantasy books! I read The Hobbit multiple times... and of course, Tarzan of the Apes!

Tell us about ‘Trapped by Monsters.’ Who are some of your favourite monsters in fiction/children’s books?

I blame Tommy Donbavand! It was his great idea to bring together a group of children’s authors to blog about anything we wanted. Not just each other’s books, that would be dull, but any other books, films - anything - that we were interested in. It now serves as a wonderful place were we can fire off our collective thoughts, meet new author friends and chat amongst ourselves as an authorly self-help group!

On my book forum we have a Book Tree, where members choose their favourite book and post it round to the other members. Whilst reading the books, everyone writes comments in them as they go. If you were to choose a book for the book tree, which would you pick and why?

Easy - Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”. It’s a wildly imaginative and totally original story that is endless fun no matter how many times you read it!

What are you working on at the moment?

If my editor is reading... the edits of TARZAN 2: THE JUNGLE WARRIOR, out next summer. I have also finished a new spec script that will go out to Hollywood studios later this year (it’s a family Christmas film!) and am working on... a secret project!

Now I’m heading off to finish your biscuits...

Exciting stuff! [the film etc, not the biscuits....]

You can buy Tarzan: The Greystoke Legacy over on Amazon

You can find Andy: at his website / on Facebook / on Twitter

His other series of books - andVillain.netTrapped by Monsters is over here