TeenBookHoots

Saturday, 5 August 2017

MOONLIGHT DREAMERS Q&A WITH SIOBHAN CURHAM


Siobhan Curham is an award-winning author, and motivational speaker. Her books for young adults are: Dear Dylan (winner of the Young Minds Book Award), Finding Cherokee Brown, Shipwrecked, Dark of the Moon, True Face, The Moonlight Dreamers and Tell It to the Moon.

Siobhan has written for many newspapers, magazines and websites, including The Guardian, Cosmopolitan and the Writers’ Forum She has also been a guest on various radio and TV shows, including Woman’s Hour, BBC News, GMTV and BBC Breakfast.

Siobhan has spoken at schools, universities and literary festivals around the world, including Hay, Cheltenham, Bath, Ilkley, YALC, YA Shot, London Book Fair and Sharjah Reading Festival.

In celebration of Siobhan's latest book release, 'Tell It to the Moon', (the sequel of 'The Moonlight Dreamers'), we have a Q&A with this lovely author, where she answers my questions about these wonderful books.

1. I adored all of the Moonlight Dreamer's differing but strong personalities throughout both of the books. What inspired you to create each character?

Thank you! I started with Amber, as I wanted to create a teen girl who was a bit different from the ‘norm’ but fiercely proud of being so. It occurred to me that I’d never read a book about someone with gay parents before, so I added that into the mix – but it was very important to me that this shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s only a big deal in the narrow minds of the school bullies. I also liked the idea of Amber loving all things vintage – including clothes – and so her look, dressing in vintage men’s clothes was born. Then, once I could picture her in her pinstriped suit and pocket watch, it seemed only natural to me that Oscar Wilde would be her hero.

Sky came next and she’s probably the most like me, in that she has an Irish dad and she’s a bit of a hippy. At the time I created the Moonlight Dreamers, I was living near a canal and had become intrigued by the people who lived in boats there. It seemed like such a blissful, peaceful life, surrounded by so much nature. So I decided to make Sky and her dad Liam live on a boat and her being home-schooled then seemed like a natural fit. I used to co-host a night at the Poetry CafĂ© in Covent Garden, so I drew upon a lot of real-life experiences with spoken word poets when creating that side of her character.

Rose came next because I wanted to give Sky a step-sister and make it the most unlikely and dramatic clash of worlds and personalities. For a long time I’ve wondered what it must be like to be the child of famous parents and how hard it must be to get through the challenges of young adulthood in the celebrity spotlight – especially when you haven’t chosen to be there. Rose was a lot of fun for me to write. I enjoyed trying to burst a few preconceptions about fame and beauty through her character. And I loved the argument scenes with Sky – which is why I could resist making them fall out again in Tell it to the Moon! I wish I could be a bit more feisty like Rose.

Maali was the last of the girls I came up with. I thought it would be too neat to have them all be the same age, so I decided to make her a year younger and kind of like a loveable kid sister. Initially, her main characteristic was her Hindu faith – religion is an area that I think gets a bit neglected in YA fiction – but she was coming across as a little too earnest. So I asked myself how I could make her character more fun and the idea for her being a hopeless (literally) romantic was born. I had so much fun writing her scenes with Ash. To be honest, it was a little like therapy as I’m similarly useless when it comes to talking to a guy that I like.

2. Why did you decide to use Oscar Wilde as an overarching theme throughout both novels?

Oscar Wilde was such an intrinsic part in the forming of the group – the inspiration behind the name and the ethos – there was no way I could drop him as a theme. Amber would never have let me! It’s been great fun introducing Oscar Wilde and his writing to a new generation of readers and, when I was writing Tell it to the Moon, I felt like his life story again had certain parallels with the girls’. Especially when Amber uses him as inspiration to stand up to her bullies.

3. Did you encounter any challenges when writing 'Tell It to the Moon', considering the success of 'The Moonlight Dreamers?' If so, how did you overcome them?

The main challenge – and maybe this is true for any sequel – is trying to keep the characters and the storyline as fresh as the first. When I first sketched out a rough plot for Tell it to the Moon, it felt like something was missing. And that something was the fire in my belly I felt for the first book. So, I revisited my ideas for the plot, this time asking myself the questions: What do I REALLY want to write about? What ideas would really fire me up? And I realised that I really wanted to write about how I think the school system is failing so many young people. I also realised that, with Sky starting high school after a life-time of home-schooling, I had a great opportunity to look at the education system through the fresh eyes of someone who’s never experienced it before – and can see all of the flaws. I ought to stress here that I don’t think teachers are failing young people – every teacher I know hates the changes that have been made to the education system in recent years and is finding their job increasingly hard to do. By making Sky become an activist – and be the change she wants to see in the world – I was also tapping into the anger I feel at so much of what is happening in the world at the moment. And my desire for young people to be inspired to take action. Over the past few years, I’ve given talks to students from all over the world and I always come away feeling so inspired by their compassion and desire for equality, justice and peace. Once the activism storyline was added to Tell it to the Moon, I felt the same burning desire to write that I’d experienced with The Moonlight Dreamers – it was like the missing piece of the jigsaw had slotted into place.

4. What is the best experience you have had that has originated from the publishing of 'The Moonlight Dreamers' series?

Without a shadow of a doubt it has been receiving messages from readers all around the world, telling me that the books have encouraged them to pursue their own dreams. I love thinking of Oscar Wilde’s words drifting down through time, inspiring the characters and in turn the readers, to dream boldly.

5. What are your top three writing tips for future novelists?
1) Write about the things you feel most passionately about. Not only will it make the writing process a whole lot more enjoyable, but it will make the reading of your work a lot more enjoyable too. The reader will feel the energy burning behind your words.

2) Don’t be put off by criticism – learn from it. Writing can be a very vulnerable experience – or at least, showing other people your writing can. But no-one is capable of writing a perfect first draft, everyone needs a fresh perspective. That’s why published authors have editors. When you’re starting out, don’t be afraid to show other people your work and be open and willing to learn from their feedback. It will make you a much better writer. I’ve learned so much from my editors.

3) Having said all of that, sometimes you will encounter people who criticise your work because they have their own agenda. Maybe they always dreamed of being a writer but didn’t have the courage to pursue that dream, maybe they’re just unhappy for some other reason and seeing you pursue your writing dream makes them feel resentful or insecure. If someone is mean about your work, in a way that isn’t constructive at all, remind yourself that it isn’t personal – even though it can feel extremely personal! Know that it is far better to be pursuing a dream and doing something that makes you happy, than bitching at others from the sidelines and wallowing in self pity.

6. What are your future writing plans?
I’ve just finished the first draft of a YA novel which is due to out next April, about a teen footballer from Syria and a budding musician from Britain. It alternates between the girl and boy’s point of view as their friendship forms. It’s great getting the chance to write from the point of view of a boy for once, and to write about the refugee crisis, something I feel really strongly about. It’s set in and around Brighton, which is always a really fun and colourful setting. At the moment it has the working title, Friends Like Us, but I think that may well change.

Thanks to Siobhan for answering my questions! Check out my reviews for both of 'The Moonlight Dreamers' books below, and you can visit the website here.

'The Moonlight Dreamers' Series Reviews:
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BOOK REVIEW- TELL IT TO THE MOON

TITLE: Tell It to the Moon
AUTHOR:  Siobhan Curham
PUBLISHER:  Walker Books
AGE GROUP: 12+
RATING:  5/5
SOURCE: Sent by publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
RELEASE DATE: 3rd August 2017.

PURCHASE THE BOOK FROM THE BOOK DEPOSITORY 
HERE.


SYNOPSIS

To make a dream come true, tell it to the moon! Tell It to the Moon continues the story of Moonlight Dreamers Amber, Maali, Sky and Rose, who are not like everyone else and don't  want to be: becoming friends gives them the courage to be themselves. After failing to find her surrogate mother, Amber is left unsure of who she is and what she wants to do; Maali's spiritual faith is tested when her father becomes ill; Sky, previously home-schooled, struggles to adapt to the pressures of the school system; and after having found the courage to come out, Rose begins to pursue her dream of becoming a patissier. Once again the four girls band together to help one another overcome their individual challenges and fulfill their dreams in this fabulous and heart-warming celebration of friendship.
I often find that with a sequel, it can be difficult to match the first book. But Siobhan Curham really did come back with full force- I tore through this book. I was delighted to be able to once again delve into the world of the Moonlight Dreamers, as I really had built up a strong connection with all of the characters, making me excited to get to feel their memorable personalities seep through the pages.

Each of the main protagonists has their own personal dilemma: Amber is unsure of her identity after failing to find her surrogate mother. Maali is questioning her faith in a family crisis and Sky feels restricted in the school system after previously being home schooled. After coming out Rose is determined to fulfill her dream of becoming a patissier. Will the girls overcome the challenges to achieve their dreams?

What I found interesting is how different each of The Moonlight Dreamers are, but I could still find parallels in myself within all of them. Once again, every issue that each one of the girls went through was is completely relevant to teenage life, and it is nice to see how each girl dealt with her problems differently. The perspectives from each of the characters flowed beautifully, and I adored reading all of the voices- there wasn't a character that I liked less than the others. The plot was perfectly paced, with fantastic sensory detail. It's so easy to feel like you are with Rose working on the cake stall, or watching Sky perform her poetry at a spoken word event. I honestly would not want to change one thing about this book.

'Tell It to the Moon' is just a heartwarming, stunning and unique novel. It really did make my heart happy. Summer, Autumn, Winter, it doesn't matter: along with 'The Moonlight Dreamers' this book can be read all year round, and I can guarantee that you will want to read both of them over and over.
My Reviews for Siobhan's Previous Books:
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Friday, 4 August 2017

DARE TO FALL BLOG TOUR- BOOK REVIEW

TITLE: Dare to Fall
AUTHOR: Estelle Maskame
PUBLISHER:  Ink Road
AGE GROUP: 13+
RATING:  5/5
SOURCE: Sent by publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
RELEASE DATE: 27th July 2017.


PURCHASE THE BOOK FROM THE BOOK DEPOSITORY HERE.

SYNOPSIS

MacKenzie Rivers seems like she has it all figured out. She has great friends, she’s doing well in school and her handsome ex-boyfriend is desperate to win her back. But something is missing from her life in Windsor, Colorado. And as much as she hates to admit it, that something might be Jaden Hunter. Tall, blond and athletic, a year ago Kenzie was falling fast for him and his crooked smile. 


Twelve months later, everything has changed. A tragic accident has destroyed Jaden's family and, despite the way she feels, Kenzie has no idea how to talk to him anymore. She is all too familiar with the impact family tragedy can have on the people she loves, and she can’t bear to go through it again with Jaden.


She does the only thing she knows how to do: walk away. When the pair meet again by chance one night, Kenzie realizes that she can’t ignore her feelings for him any longer. But as she is drawn back into Jaden's life, she finds herself caught between her increasingly volatile best friend, her interfering ex-boyfriend and her own fears about opening up to Jaden. Will Kenzie 
dare to fall for the one person she’s so afraid of growing close to?
After completely adoring the 'Did I Mention Series', I definitely wasn't disappointed at Estelle's next book 'Dare to Fall', which there is always is a danger of. The phrase of  'getting lost' in the book is overused sometimes, but this really rings true with Estelle Maskame's writing. It flows beautifully, making it indulgent, impressionable, and a pleasure to read. If my writing could be as perfectly crafted as Estelle's, I would be very lucky. Can we just talk about the beautiful cover too? Even if you were unaware of Estelle's books, the cover stands out and would definitely draw you in- then as soon as you open the first page, you would quickly become an avid fan.

Kenzie was falling for Jaden and his crooked smile, but the dynamic of their relationship has changed. After Jaden's and his sister Danielle's parents died in a car crash, Kenzie doesn't know how to talk to him anymore. She knows what grief does to people. But once Kenzie and Jaden meet up again for the first time in months, they both realise that their feelings for each other are still there. But will she dare to fall for him again?

One element of Estelle's writing that really stood out for me was her description of settings, which is so perfectly done in all of her books. I have never been to America before, but I felt like I knew Windsor so well by the end of the book, all thanks to Estelle's compelling and vivid style. The characters became so alive and were coming out of the pages, all because of how relatable their inner feelings were. The book covers certain sensitive issues such as alcoholism and grief, tactfully, and in the right way.

'Dare to Fall' is a fabulous summer read, along with Estelle's 'Did I Mention Series'- they all need to go on your TBR pile now. An easy 5/5, 'Dare to Fall' has a fast paced plot, realistic characters and will leave you desperate for more of Estelle's writing. Estelle Maskame is the fresh voice on the YA shelves; she is an inspiration to young aspiring authors.
My Reviews for the 'Did I Mention' Series:
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Thursday, 6 July 2017

BOOK REVIEW- NOAH CAN'T EVEN

TITLE: Noah Can't Even
AUTHOR:  Simon James Green
PUBLISHER:  Scholastic
AGE GROUP: 14+
RATING:  5/5
SOURCE: Sent by publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

PURCHASE THE BOOK FROM THE BOOK DEPOSITORY HERE.


SYNOPSIS

Poor Noah Grimes! His father disappeared years ago, his mother's Beyonce tribute act is an unacceptable embarrassment, and his beloved gran is no longer herself. He only has one friend, Harry, and school is...Well, it's pure HELL. Why can't Noah be normal, like everyone else at school? Maybe if he struck up a romantic relationship with someone - maybe Sophie, who is perfect and lovely - he'd be seen in a different light? But Noah's plans are derailed when Harry kisses him at a party. That's when things go from bad to utter chaos. 


It is refreshing to have a hilarious and lighthearted book like 'Noah Can't Even', on the YA bookshelves, but it actually covers some really important topic. Easily addictive, and a relatable read for teenagers, I finished 'Noah Can't Even' in one sitting.

15 year old Noah Grimes is awkward teenage boy, and with his distinctive personality he sometimes finds it difficult to be accepted by others at school. Frequent mishaps for Noah occur when he is desperately trying to impress Sophie, a girl who he likes. But his best friend Harry kisses him at a party, things are about to get a lot more arkward.

Noah's personality just seeped through the page, so that you can't help but adore him. Also, I felt that Green created character's that perfectly contemplated each other- it was a great mix. Every character had flaws, and they learnt from them, which is real life. Noah's Gran was definitely one of my favourite characters, as she gives Noah a lot of great advice.  I loved how nothing was spared when talking about sexuality- all of the awkward, real life parts were left in. All teenagers can relate to Noah's confusion, as we have all questioned ourselves in many aspects at some time.

There are just certain little corkers that Noah comes out with that will honestly have you laughing out loud- I haven't laughed at a book for a long time. Noah and his Gran will always stick in my mind. The plot was perfectly fast-paced, there is no way anyone could get bored reading this one, especially when Noah jumps from one predicament from the next. I will be eagerly waiting for the sequal; 'Noah Can't Even' is perfect if you are in search of a feel good read. It is a fantastic mixture of everything you want in a book.
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