Today I'm really excited to welcome Middle Grade author, H.J Blenkinsop to the blog. If you haven't already, you can check out my review of her awesome debut - Kitty Tweddle and the Wishing Well - HERE.
Not only is it a fantastically magical read - but for the next few days (Feb 19t to Feb 20th) you can grab it for FREE. What are you waiting for my pretties, go go go!
First off, let me offer you a warm welcome to my blog. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions.
So let’s jump right in. For anyone not familiar with your book, can you tell us a little bit about what it’s about?
Thanks for having me! Kitty Tweddle and the Wishing well is a coming of age story about a young girl who discovers she has magical powers, and how she uses them to save the world.
Complete with talking cats, secret passageways, enchanted libraries and a gateway into Fairyland, it’s a story about courage, self confidence and resilience in the face of overwhelming odds. Although it’s aimed at middle-grade readers, I’ve had a great response from a much older audience too!
What was the inspiration behind Kitty Tweddle? And what came first, the story or the characters?
Both - but separately. The story was inspired by real events. A few years ago, while a doctoral student at the University of Edinburgh, I rented a basement apartment just outside the city. My landlords told me the story of the old well - the remains of which were still visible at the bottom of the garden. They also said that the underground stream feeding the well ran right under the house.
One very rainy summer, it flooded the basement flowing down the hallway and out the back door! I started writing before it was dry.
Kitty’s character, however, came about following a research project with a colleague called “The Cult of Hotness”. We explored the phenomenon of ‘hotness’ in western society and our findings were grim indeed.
Not only does a woman’s worth appear to be tied to her perceived ‘hotness’ as opposed to her intelligence, creativity, contribution or even beauty, but this emphasis on hotness begins long before puberty.
Pink princess culture, our research indicated, is a precursor to hotness culture, priming young girls to emphasize physical appearance and a very narrow definition of attractiveness. We were horrified!
I wanted to do something to turn the tide. It wasn’t until years later when my Edinburgh basement flooded that the idea clicked into place. Create a protagonist that young girls will want to know. Create a cool girl who is everything pink princess culture isn’t. But also a girl who is real and has feelings, who makes mistakes and has to fix them. Someone readers can identify with. That was the inspiration behind Kitty’s character.
Can you tell us a little about you’re writing process? Any quirks or daily rituals that contribute to getting words on a page?
Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. A feline muse or two really helps, too. But I don’t wait for inspiration. Once the mug is full and the cats are positioned. I just start writing. Anything, it doesn’t matter. Open a blank and just start writing. If I don’t know what to write, I write a questions for myself, ‘what would Kitty do next?’ and start answering it. It’s awkward at first, but usually, the words start flowing.
There are a lot of myths and folklore in your novel - just how much research went into Kitty Tweddle?
Quite a bit - not just folklore but local history too. While the village of Dribble is a fictional name, it’s based on a real community just outside Edinburgh. I researched the local area and wove the history and folklore into the book. The well, the local library built on the foundations of a crypt, the old nunnery, it’s all real.
What you are working on now? Any surprise projects we can expect from you?
Book two in the trilogy - Kitty Tweddle and the Secrets of Smugglers Cove - is due for release in a couple of months! I’m working hard putting the final touches on Smugglers right now. I also have plans to publish one or two companion stories later on this year.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to aspiring writers?
Learn from others who have already done it. Join a group and get a good critique partner - I have one of the best! My writing wouldn’t be where it is without her. Develop a tough skin and don’t take the critique personally. Remember, critiques make your writing better. Also, learn the basics of grammar and expectations for your chosen genre. Finally, realize that your book will probably take many more drafts than you would like before it’s ready.
And for a bit of random….
Who is your favourite childhood villain?
The troll under the bridge in the Three Billy Goats Gruff. My sister and I had a set of Ladybird Books - Well Loved Tales. I loved to see the Billy Goats outfox the troll and then banish him back under the bridge where he belongs.
If you were to have a tea-party with fictional characters - who would make the guest list?
Professor Moriarty, Bellatrix Lestrange, Raynard the Fox, Saruman, and Catwoman. Might be a bit of a murder party...
Tea of coffee?
Given the list above, probably poison!
Cheese or Chocolate?
Can we have both? Please?
Favourite Middle Grade or Young Adult Book of all time? If you can’t choose, tell us about a book you read and enjoyed recently …
One of my favourites, is the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix. Such a unique story line. The gates of Hell, a magical wall, a private girls school, talking animals, zombies, demons, and a set of bells that control it all. Utter genius!
So great. Thanks very much HJ for answering my questions :) I always love getting a look inside an authors head!
Meanwhile if anyone would like to find out more about HJ or her books - follow the links below.
Talk to me: Has anyone else read Wishing Well yet? If so I would love to hear your thoughts below :)