Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Films Vs. Books - which is more terrifying?

Deborah White, author of Wickedness and Deceit has written us a spooktacular post that looks at which is more powerful at scaring us: films or the written word. Tell us what you think - which leaves you trembling n the dark? 

You’re at the cinema. You’re watching a scary film in the dark. There’s a sound track carefully crafted to ratchet up the tension. Pace, lighting and choice of location all serve to heighten the mood. Maybe it’s even filmed as if you’re the main character…you’re seeing the action through their eyes. Their jerky, gasping breath is YOUR breath. Their fear that at any moment something terrifying is about to appear out of the dark…is YOUR fear.

So when I saw the film of Susan Hill’s novel The Woman in Black I WAS for those few hours, the story’s protagonist…Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe). Fear had me holding my breath and even leaping out of my seat as Arthur Kipps and I unwisely spent the night at lonely, isolated Eel Marsh House! So powerful were the visual images that they are still crystal clear in my mind’s eye, months later.

Good grief, you say, how can the written word ever compete with that? Well, having been scared witless by the film, I was pretty sure the novel wouldn’t be nearly as frightening. And I confess I remember very few of the actual words. But I know that Susan Hill’s clever writing created an atmosphere so tense and chilling that I had to stop reading it late at night. Why? What seed of terror did Susan Hill’s words plant in my head? Why was I lying wide-awake in the dark, listening to every tiny sound; every crack and creak? Why were my eyes fixed on the bedroom door, expecting that at any moment the door would slowly yawn open and reveal something terrible? Why was I sure I could hear a voice whispering my name …feel a deathly chill on my skin? Is that what the written word does differently to film?

Daniel Radcliffe playing Athur Kipps
When you read the words, the story becomes wholly YOURS. You re-create the writer’s story in your own imagination…which is exactly what the writer expects you to do. Not like a film then, where the narrative path is laid out by a director who has very clear ideas about what he wants you to be feeling and seeing. Even better, you can read a book at your own pace and stop to think about what you’ve just read…examine the characters and their motivation…conjure them up in your mind’s eye (my Arthur Kipps looks nothing like Daniel Radcliffe!) You can appreciate the cadence and rhythm of the language and ask yourself why certain words and phrases have such power to fire the imagination. Film doesn’t allow you time for reflection. You’re catapulted helter skelter through the action.

Well that’s a relief then, because as the writer of Wickedness and Deceit…‘twistorical fiction with a touch of terror’, I’m pleased and relieved that my writing can do things that film can’t. Not that I’d say ‘no’ to a film adaptation with an actor of my choice obviously…so Johnny Depp…if you’re reading this…call me!

Deborah White's Wickedness is available to buy now and Deceit will be hitting shops January 2013... make sure you don't miss them... if you dare!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012


After spending a very comfortable night in the hold of the Duddle pirate ship last Friday - on what was a really dull and dismal day, we awoke to glorious sunshine on Saturday!  A few clouds scuddered across the blue sky, the wind was a fair westerly and all boded well for that days events with the GobbleDEEbook festival in Chester.

Swopping sails for wheels, Capt Duddle drove us into Chester in his trusty Morris Minor - and averaging at least 45mph on a downward hill with the wind behind us, we arrived at St Mary's - the venue.

It was a de-commissioned church and really lovely inside with a  play area, light refreshments, Waterstone's book shop and an event space that soared up to the rafters.

We met Simon for a quick coffee in the city centre and were amazed when a Roman legion, complete with urchins begging, marched past us on their way to the river.

Simon's event was a near sell-out and as ever, the children loved all his teasing and pantomime antics.  Book sales were terrific - and made Helen, the bookseller very happy.

Without pausing for breath - Jonny's event came up next and was in fact the last one that day, and closed the festival.

Not as many costumed pirates were in evidence as were at Cheltenham, but a good and hearty crowd nonetheless and Jonny was still signing books and posters an hour afterwards.

Great hospitality and friendly welcome from Harry, Emily and the team - and nice to meet Jessica who was my original point of contact all those months ago.  Thanks to you all!

Top 5 Books to Keep You Awake at Night

Helen Boyle, our commissioning fiction editor, runs through her top five scary reads that are perfect for getting you in the spooky mood for Halloween:

Breathe: A Ghost Story by Cliff McNish
Old house, boy with asthma, spirit trying to tell him something - properly creepy with a great spooky atmosphere and brilliant cover!

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
A classic horror story of devils, possessed children and strange goings on. It's completely understated in the horror but a masterclass in building up a sense of menace and tension - totally terrifying.

Chris Priestley's Tales of Terror series
Collections of strange, spooky, short stories cleverly tied together with an overarching narrative. These are not ones to read on your own at night!

The Small Hand by Susan Hill
Atmospheric, truly creepy and brilliant - this little ghost story packs a scary punch. It completely spooked me once on a late-night train journey.

Ferryman by Claire McFall
Ok, so you'll have to wait til April next year for this debut YA, but it's worth the wait. Teenager Dylan must put her trust in a strange boy to guide her through a terrifying wraith-infested wasteland.

Let us know your thoughts, how would your list compare?

Friday, 19 October 2012

Guest post from Dave Lowe

Author of the Stinky and Jink series, Dave Lowe, has written us a hilarious blog about his recent trip to the UK

I was feeling an unusual combination of jetlagged, nervous and excited before my first ever event, which was at the Bath Children’s Literature Festival. I’d only arrived in England 4 days before, and came to Bath with my family on Saturday, ready for my event on the Sunday.

Two very exciting things happened on the Saturday:

Exciting thing number one: My kids had a bath. Don’t get me wrong, my kids aren’t quite so unhygienic that them having a bath is an exciting event in itself. No, the exciting thing was them having a bath in Bath. It’s like having a hamburger in Hamburg. Or going for a swim in Poole.

Exciting thing number two: Jayne, the lovely press officer at Templar, introduced me to Kelly Gerrard and Emma Dodd, the brilliant team behind ‘A Roman Rescue’ and ‘An Egyptian Escape’. They helped to calm my nerves, and signed their books for my older daughter, Rebecca (she’s 8). Rebecca was so engrossed by their books that she virtually ignored her pizza. Which was good news for me, because I got to eat most of it.

My event the next day was at Bath Library, and it was sold-out (which made me even more nervous). But I needn’t have worried – the kids (and their mums and dads) laughed in all the right places. Some of the children had already read My Hamster Is A Genius, and I was really happy to hear that they’d liked it, and that it had made them laugh out loud.

Over the next three days, I went to six primary schools in the West Midlands, where I was born. (I mean - I was born in the West Midlands, not born in six primary schools, which would have been impossible.)

The kids and their teachers were absolutely great. I got a VIP dinner at Graisely Primary School - their school dinners are better than my mum’s cooking (but don’t tell my mum I said that). I think they gave me extra potatoes and gravy, which is the main reason I wanted to be a writer. The kids at Milking Bank Primary had written their own brilliant stories featuring my hamster. The kids at all the schools had great answers to my questions, and asked some excellent questions of their own.

The hamster in my books is unfortunately called ‘Jasper Stinkybottom’ (much to his displeasure), so I always ask the kids if they have any pets with silly names. My favourites so far are a parrot called ‘Bogey’ and a goldfish called ‘Steve’.

The last event of the tour was at the Cheltenham Literary Festival. It was sold-out, too, and it was lots of fun. I was a lot less nervous by now. I signed lots of books (but not nearly as many as the amazing Jacqueline Wilson, who must have had a sore hand by the end, because she signed about a kazillion books at a nearby table.)

To top things off, I met Simon Bartram, the hugely talented writer/illustrator of the Bob, The Man On The Moon books. He’s a Sunderland fan, but is otherwise really nice. He also signed a book, this time for my younger daughter, Miriam (she’s 4). She was absolutely over-the-moon. (Forgive the pun.)

Writing can be quite a lonely job, sometimes, but I’m really glad I could meet so many book people over the last few weeks – readers, writers and publishing people. It’s been an absolutely wonderful experience.

If you have the giggle stamina, head over to Notes From the Hamster Wheel to read a hilarious interview with Dave and Stinky.

To find out more about the series and to pick up your copy of My Hamster is a Genius, click here

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Sunny Times at Cheltenham

Festival goers enjoying  the autumn sun

Well, they say the sun always shines on the righteous - not sure how righteous we all are, but certainly lucky with a bright, sunny weekend at Cheltenham for the Times Literary Festival.
Spread over two squares and in every theatre and town hall, the festival attracts thousands of visitors and this year was no exception.  Everyone who was anyone was there - including of course, the lovely Templar team!

First off on Sunday morning - a 10 am start, but queues all down the road to get into Dave Lowe's My Hamster is a Genius event.  Over 60 tickets sold beforehand, but with at least that number again turning up on the morning, it was packed and Dave really enjoyed the banter from the children (and their parents).   The quiz once again generated lots of laughs and furrowed brows and the winning child got to take home their very own Stinky toy.

All the event stock was sold with lots of parents asking when the next one was out - and teachers commenting on what a great series it was for their 7-9 year old pupils.

Young fans

After a quick coffee, it was time for Simon Bartram's event - and once, again, families queued around the block with a rush for the front seats.  Though one family who came with their  children clutching the two largest balloons ever weren't that popular - until, of course, the balloons ended up floating up to the very high ceiling.

The audience were treated to a whistle-stop tour of the 10 years of Bob and it ended with Simon reading aloud The Moontree - with an ending that satisfied everyone.

Making sure Simon spells her name correctly!
It was a bit daunting for Simon sitting alongside Jacqueline Wilson in the signing area (she had been there all the time he was doing his event) but the Bob fans were as enthusiastic and delighted to chat to Simon.

 The Waterstone's staff were thrilled when Simon  drew them a special alien for their display wall of fame!

Finally we ended the day with a raucous pirate event led by Jonny Duddle.  Most of the children and some of the adults came dressed in pirate costumes and they all loved seeing his images and hearing him read the Pirates Next Door.  Jonny was also very proud of his new hat with a lovely feather.

Group aaaargh
Even mummy pirates came along

A happy and fun filled day and thanks to all at Cheltenham who made it so!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Bath Kids Lit Fest weekend

In keeping with the Regency theme of our recent blogs,  Templar's lovely authors and illustrators had a great first weekend at this year's Bath Festival of Children's Literature. 

On Saturday afternoon it was a Graphic Novel Workshop with Emma Dodd and Kelly Gerrard (aided and assisted by Martin Brown, of Horrible Histories fame) and children, adults, librarians and Bath Festival volunteers got down to the serious business of making their own graphic novels.  This time Emma and Kelly also brought along some blank booklets for the children to really develop their ideas.  We had two hours and it flew by!  Amazing ideas as ever from the children - one had a brilliant pencil case hero, chasing after rogue rulers and evasive erasers.  Space, aliens, robots all appeared as their imagination showed no limits.

 Sunday morning at the beautiful Holburne Museum for a masterclass with Grahame Baker-Smith.  What a wonderful experience for all those who came along - again, a full house!  Grahame showed us his early sketches and notebooks for Farther, along with paintings and revealed how he used photo shop to create his magical images.  The adults were just as fascinated by his creative processes and we all loved looking at his original artworks.  We were also treated to a sneak preview of the new book, A Winter's Child - so looking forward to seeing it published. 

Around lunch time it was Dave Lowe's chance to show off Stinky - his genius hamster, but beforehand he had to have  a publicity shot of Stinky and the Puffin Club puffin called Stuffin ... think Stinky and Stuffin weren't too sure of each other.
Dave's event was a sell out - which is brilliant for an author  (he lives in Australia) with his first book just out.  What a delightful event - the children were in stitches over the antics of Stinky and came up with all sorts of ideas for what Stinky could do next.  Dave wasn't too sure about a football themed story, saying Stinky would make a rotten goal keeper ...

 And finally, it was Simon Bartram's turn to raise the Guildhall roof with his Bob's 10th Birthday event.  As ever, the children roared and shouted and pointed out every alien to a somewhat bemused Simon, who kept up the mantra that "aliens don't exist" for a while, until he got shouted down.

It was lovely to hear him read out The Moontree Mystery, with the last page making everyone go "aaahhh".

Thanks to all at Bath for their help and support - and as ever to team Templar for lots of laughs and fun.

Stephanie Burgis Guest Post

Author of the magical Kat Stephenson series, Stephanie Burgis, has written us a special guest post to mark the occasion of the third book in her trilogy publishing this month!

Over six years ago, I heard a girl’s voice start whispering in my head: “I was twelve years of age when I chopped off my hair, dressed as a boy and set out to save my family from impending ruin. I made it almost to the end of my front garden…”

They were the first lines of A Most Improper Magick. I dropped my knife (I’d been chopping onions in my kitchen at the time!) and ran to find a notebook and get the lines down before I could forget them.

Between then and now, so much has happened. I had a baby, and I moved from Leeds to Wales. I finished the book, and I found an agent. He sold it as the first book of a trilogy, the Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson. When I found out that it had sold to Templar in the UK, I laughed out loud with pure joy and delight. I got to attend my first publishing party in London, got to actually meet my editor. I got to see my books on the shelves of my local bookstore, one of the biggest miracles in the world.

I wrote the three Kat books sometimes lying on my couch, typing with my laptop on my legs (and Adam & the Ants’s “Stand and Deliver” blasting through my speakers), and sometimes sitting in my favourite coffeeshop, eating hazelnut-chocolate brownies and drinking endless lattes as I typed. I dragged my husband around every Regency-era house/museum I could find in England, Scotland, or Wales.

I’ve met so many smart, curious, inspiring girls and boys through Kat’s adventures. A Most Improper Magick won the Waverton Good Read Children’s Award, and on one of the best days of my life, I got to travel to Waverton to meet and talk to the fantastic kids who’d voted for Kat.

And I finished the last book in the trilogy. A Reckless Magick made me laugh out loud as I was writing it at a few points, as Kat gleefully threw herself into trouble, but it also made me cry, as she faced her biggest fears. This book pushed Kat to her utmost limits, and it pushed me to mine, too.

It finishes Kat’s story, at least for now. I really hope you like it.

When my author copies arrived, I got to hold all three books in my hand, together. I cried again, this time from happiness. Here they all are! They’re a trilogy. And they’re mine. Thank you so much for sharing them.

Keep up to date with Stephanie's news on Twitter @stephanieburgis or on her website

Monday, 1 October 2012

Happy Publication Day to A Reckless Magick

Today the third, and final, book in Stephanie Burgis's wonderful Kat Stephenson series is published. We talk to Steph's editor, Emma Goldhawk, about her experience working on the books

A Lovely Sort of Magick 

I share few similarities with Kat Stephenson - my dad's not a vicar, I don't live in 1804 and last time I checked, I couldn't do magic. BUT, I did take a pair of scissors to my own hair I was a kid, just like Kat does in A Most Improper Magick, so when the manuscript of the first of The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson landed on my desk, I instantly liked this feisty, funny, tomboy heroine.

What a pleasure it was, then, to discover that Kat's creator, author Stephanie Burgis, was as instantly likeable as her central character. Over coffee and brownies in Stephanie's local cafe in Abergavenny, just before the launch of A Most Improper Magick, she and I talked Austen, a shared obsession with CBBC’s Horrible Histories and most importantly, what was coming next for Kat and the series. It was 2010, and I've thoroughly enjoyed every minute of working with Stephanie since.

Each of the Kat manuscripts have come in at around 80,000 words and I know how carefully Stephanie will have considered each and every one of these words on the page. It’s an editor’s job to help an author make her book the best it can possibly be, not tell her what to do, so we would bandy ideas back and forth, suggesting different ways for teasing out more complex sentences or weaving in detail from previous books. We’ve also debated fun things like Mr Collingwood’s first name (Is ‘Reginald’ quite right for the gentle, romantic but shy young man who woos Kat’s eldest sister…? We eventually settled on ‘Peregrine’.) and whether we should use the word ‘garderobe’ instead of the rather more boring, but easier for readers to understand, ‘toilet’. (We kept ‘garderobe’ – it was historically accurate, and besides which, we decided it would be a delicious word to introduce to the reader.)

Having worked on these books over a period of two years, it was definitely bittersweet when I signed off on Kat’s third and final adventure, A Reckless Magick. I was proud of Stephanie’s achievement and the hard work she had put into the trilogy was something to be celebrated, yet I wanted more time with her characters and their stories. So, for now, I’ll have to leave Kat to get on with creating magical havoc in Regency England, while I look forward to what I might get to work on with Stephanie next!

Sign back in tomorrow when we will be hosting a guest blog from Stephanie Burgis herself!

Find out more about the series here or buy online from Amazon