Guest Post: Catherine Johnson – Where I Work

Today I am super excited to be taking part in The Lady Caraboo Blog Tour.

Caraboo Blog Tour Poster v5


I am very pleased to welcome author Catherine Johnson, who is doing the first ever guest post on my blog (squeal!) and is talking about where and how she writes her wonderful books.

So without further ado… welcome Catherine!


Good morning! Come and sit down and have a cup of virtual coffee! There’s toast too and I have some really good apricot jam….

Hello and thanks for the invitation to your blog. I have been a writer quite a long time – my first paying job was in 1991, I think – a film treatment which never got made but did open the door in my head marked ‘stories’.

Where do I write? How do I write? Well until the year before last I wrote all my books (and scripts) on a computer at a table in my bedroom. We lived in a tiny house – here’s a picture of my old street in Hackney:


– and we have two kids. They’re grown up now (28 and 24 I am so old when did that happen?) and moved on and it’s only since we left of London a couple of years ago that I’ve had a room of my own. This is me not long after we moved in showing off a jumper I knitted, I am a manic knitter by the way, I used to have a stall in Portobello Market and sell Fair Isle hats when I was a student.


Photo on 09-06-2013 at 11.23 #2

Anyway now I have a view of my own too – lookit here!

And I will also tell you the one joke I know about writers;

Q: Why shouldn’t the writer look out of the window in the morning?

A: Because then they’ll have nothing to do in the afternoon!

I didn’t say it was good.

I think we can often put up a lot of barriers to writing; I can’t work at home, only in a café, I need space, or I need to be on the train or in a certain spot. I have to have a special notebook or a lucky pen. And I sometimes I feel like that too, (especially about trains) but I think it’s important to remember that writing isn’t magic. It’s work, and although it’s lovely to find a story that makes it feel like you’re simply channelling the characters, and can’t type fast enough to keep up, sometimes it can feel like pulling particularly painful teeth. Caraboo took a gazillion drafts. I tried writing it in first person, (which is very hard when your character only speaks aloud in a made up language), letters, multiple viewpoints, I wrote the story so many different ways before I found a way that works. Whereas other stories – Sawbones for example – was one of those word vomits that took weeks.

One thing I find helpful when I get stuck is moving, walking or swimming. And since my job involves sitting down all day it’s not a bad thing. And it does help that there are loads of good places to walk round here.

I must admit having a writing room feels like a huge luxury. And last Christmas I got a white board of my very own! It is brilliant for working stuff out on and reminding me about things that I am often forgetting.


Above my desk I’ll have helpful pictures. Until recently when I was working on the sequel to Sawbones, I had a map of Paris and a picture of General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, brilliant brave hero of the French Revolutionary army and inspiration to his son Alexandre, who went on to write The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.

At the moment I’ve a picture by Degas of Miss Lala at the Cirque Fernando she was a black performer in fin de siècle Paris, and pinned to the white board is a story maze I did of my work in progress. I’ve never done this but a friend, Teresa Flavin, gave it to me and I filled in the gaps and it’s been a little bit of an inspiration.

I have loads of books. LOADS. Did I mention I have LOADS of books?

I tend to have a routine that goes like this.

Early start. I am so a morning person. If I’m on a script deadline it might be as early as 5 or 6. I’ll work for an hour or so then go off for a swim and come home and have breakfast. Then I’ll write some more – with breaks for food or if I am stuck, a walk by the sea and then more work until 4 (or if it’s a script until it’s done).


Of course I have days when I visit my friends and eat cake or my friends visit me and eat cake, but it is a job and I do feel very guilty if there are no words. Apart from the odd bit of teaching this is all I do this for a living.

If I’m working on a book I will try and hit word counts for a week – usually if I’m working every day that’ll be 10-12k. But some weeks I’ll have school visits or other work – and then you find yourself out of the story loop, which can be a little bit difficult when you want to get back in.

At the moment I am working on one book (a contemporary supernatural YA which is a whole lot of fun), a film project currently in development and a TV drama which is very, very, exciting – but really don’t want to say more in case I jinx it!

I think you know it’s going well when you can’t stop thinking about the characters and the world – in fact it’s a little (a lot!) like being in love!


Massive thanks to Catherine for being here and chatting on my blog today – I love hearing the ways writers work, it’s always so different from one to the next!

There are still more stops on The Lady Caraboo tour, so check the picture to see where to head to next, or to catch up with the previous posts.

I’ll be posting my review of the book on Friday (spoiler alert: I thought it was wonderful) and you can pre-order your own copy from Waterstones, Hive, WHSmiths, and Amazon.

Lady Caraboo hits shelves on July 2nd and I’d really recommend it.

Book Review: The One (Kiera Cass)


 *I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 323
Release Date: May 6th 2014
Summary (From Goodreads):
The time has come for one winner to be crowned.

When she was chosen to compete in the Selection, America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown—or to Prince Maxon’s heart. But as the end of the competition approaches, and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realizes just how much she stands to lose—and how hard she’ll have to fight for the future she wants.


I really don’t know why I like these books so much. There’s a lot to dislike about them, not least being America, the main character who is incredibly irritating and, to be honest, didn’t really do a lot towards the climax of this book. But somehow, they’ve hooked me in, and the nearly two month wait I had to get this on NetGalley (I know I could have bought it, but I’m very poor…) was torture.
Once again, I raced through this book, even though I was pretty sure I knew where it was going: I’ve already read a bit if The Heir so I knew who won the Selection, and it was kind of obvious from the start really, wasn’t it?
Still there were some surprises along the way. I really liked the lengths the King went to trying to manipulate America and make her do things she didn’t want to. It was such an awkward position to be in, I really didn’t know what she was going to do, or what I would have done in her place.
There was plenty of heartbreak in this book too, and one of them was quite surprising – a death near the end took me by surprise, not only within the plot, but I was surprised I cared so much as well. A lot of characters have changed since the beginning of the books: be prepared for your feelings to change.
I was a little concerned that it got very close to the end of the book and America still hadn’t told Maxon about Aspen. I thought maybe he wouldn’t find out, which would have been a terrible basis for their relationship. I knew he’d have to find out, but I dreaded it too, as I didn’t know how they’d recover from that.
The book was full of the usual America/Maxon ups and downs, which were super frustrating and I just wanted to bang both their heads together and tell them to get on with it. In a loving way, of course.
As mentioned before, I think the only thing that let this book down was the ending, as America is basically whisked off to a safe room and spends the climax there. A lot of stuff goes down while she cries and hits a metal door: it’s a shame she couldn’t be more involved in what was going on.
This was a fast paced, exciting end to the series (or this part of it anyway) with some great curve balls thrown in, even if everyone really knows how it will end. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into The Heir really soon.
My Verdict:
Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!

Book Review: Lying Out Loud (Kody Keplinger)


 *I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*
Publisher: Hatchette Children’s Books
Pages: 309
Release Date: July 2nd 2015
Summary (From Goodreads):
Sonny Ardmore is an excellent liar. She lies about her dad being in prison. She lies about her mom kicking her out. And she lies about sneaking into her best friend’s house every night because she has nowhere else to go.

Amy Rush might be the only person Sonny shares everything with— secrets, clothes, even a nemesis named Ryder Cross.
Ryder’s the new kid at Hamilton High and everything Sonny and Amy can’t stand—a prep-school snob. But Ryder has a weakness: Amy. So when Ryder emails Amy asking her out, the friends see it as a prank opportunity not to be missed.
But without meaning to, Sonny ends up talking to Ryder all night online. And to her horror, she realizes that she might actually like him. Only there’s one small catch: he thinks he’s been talking to Amy. So Sonny comes up with an elaborate scheme to help Ryder realize that she’s the girl he’s really wanted all along. Can Sonny lie her way to the truth, or will all her lies end up costing her both Ryder and Amy?
I was actually quite surprised how much I enjoyed this book.
I read The Duff a few months back and enjoyed it but was not wowed by it – some of it was a little cheesy for me and I didn’t always connect well with Bianca.
I preferred this companion book a lot more. I felt really connected with Sonny, despite her being a massive liar. Her friendship with Amy was really touching and it I did wish that would take centre stage a little more, rather than the romance. But I guess that was kind of the point of the book…
The misunderstanding that starts everything off was really smooth – I didn’t see it coming, but once it happened it was totally obvious. And it was easy to see how it continued at first: how one lie leads to another and suddenly you’re caught up in something that”s getting out of control.
But after a certain point, anyone could see that the lying had to stop – but Sonny carried on. That’s when I started to disconnect a little. I know it was for the plot, but it just made it become less and less believable, especially as she had so many chances to tell the truth.
The relationship between Ryder and Sonny was really sweet and I loved watching it develop. There was obviously such a connection there, it’s strange how he couldn’t tell it was really her and not Amy talking to him after a while. I did find myself liking Sonny a little less as the book when on and she kept using Amy to get Ryder, or ditching Amy for Ryder. It’s sad to see someone jeopardise a great friendship over some boy they barely know.
This was a quick, easy read and an enjoyable one that I’d recommend for any fans of The Duff – especially as Bianca and Wesley make a few guest appearances.
My Verdict:
Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!If you enjoyed this, you might like The Duff, also by Kody Keplinger

Soundtrack Saturday: The Accident Season (Moira Fowley-Doyle)


Soundtrack Saturday is a weekly meme created and run by Erin at The Hardcover Lover.

Last week I chose to make a soundtrack for Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway.

This week I decided to do one for The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle. This was a really magical book with such vivid descriptions and I just loved it. There were some moments when I was reading and listening to music and the songs just lined up perfectly, so I knew it would be my next soundtrack.
23346358Shake It Out – Florence + The Machine

Regrets collect like old friends
Hard to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play
And every demon wants his pound of flesh
But I like to keep some things to myself
I like to keep my issues drawn
It’s always darkest before the dawn

24 – Emmy the Great

They say one man is the accident
The other is the hand that stops the blood
And I am looking for the other one
For a hand to stop the blood.

Wait It Out – Imogen Heap

Where do we go from here?
How do we carry on?
I can’t get beyond the questions
Clambering for the scraps
In the shatter of us collapsed
It cuts me with every could-have-been
Pain on pain on play repeating
With the backup makeshift life in waiting

Under the Influence – Elle King

Just another morning
With shaky hands, pounding head
Guess I did it again
Try to leave but I can’t stand
Start to think that I’m better off dead
I’m sick if this condition
Your kiss is my addiction
I can tell you cast a spell that knows no moderation
It’s dangerous, the things we do…

Wake Me Up When September Ends – Green Day

(It would have been so perfect if it was October!)

Here comes the rain again
Falling from the stars
Drenched in my pain again
Becoming who we are
As my memory rest
But never forgets what I lost
Wake me up when September ends.

Falling – The Civil Wars

Haven’t you seen me sleep walking?
‘Cause I’ve been holding your hand
Haven’t you noticed me drifting?
Oh, let me tell you, I am
Tell me it’s nothing
Try to convince me
That I’m not drowning
Oh, let me tell you, I am.

Blood I Bled – The Staves

Calm the quickening feet that fall
Hide behind you
Calm the gathering rain
Suffering as I suffer
Will be tied in the river
You when you speak of pain
If I was, if I am, if I did, if I have.

Book Review: Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls (Lynn Weingarten)

*I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

Publisher: Electric Monkey

Pages: 352

Release Date: July 2nd 2015

Summary (From Goodreads):

When June met Delia, she was a lifeline. Their intense friendship gave her a sense of belonging, of security, that she’d never had before. She felt braver, smarter, funnier, more attractive when Delia was around. But then something went wrong, and Delia and June haven’t spoken for a year when an announcement is made at their school that Delia is dead.

June barely has time to mourn before Delia’s ex-boyfriend convinces her that Delia didn’t kill herself but was in fact murdered, and June is fast swept into a tangle of lies and deceit – and a conspiracy she can barely conceive of, never mind believe.


I’ve seen this book described as Gone Girl meets 13 Reasons Why, and as I have read neither of those, it meant nothing to me, but I’ve heard other people say the comparison basically leads to some massive spoilers and ruins the plot twist. So now I think I know what happens in Gone Girl

This book was quite a rollercoaster, of action and emotions. It moved pretty quickly from one thing to the next and never failed to keep me engaged. The story was told in a mixture of present day action and flashbacks, which I thought worked really well. The flashbacks gave a great insight into June and Delia’s friendship – this made it easier to understand June’s grief. It can be hard when one character starts off dead to really see the bonds, but the little snippets from years back showed that perfectly.

I thought I had the book sussed out and had all my theories sorted when suddenly – WHAM CRASH BANG – everything changes. I wasn’t entirely sure about the twist at first, as I’d been quite happy the way things were progressing and it kind of turned it into a different book for me. But as it got towards the end I settled down with it and really enjoyed just how damn crazy things had gotten.

The ending really took me by surprise. It felt very subtle, and a natural – although sad – progression of events. I thought it could be interpreted in different ways as well, and I quite enjoyed that, rather than having everything spelled out for you.

The writing was really beautiful too. It just flowed and created very powerful pictures. This was a really easy read with an intense plot and some really special relationships explored.

My Verdict:


If you enjoyed this, you might like The Memory Hit by Carla Spradbery

#RandomReads June Discussion


For the final post in June’s Random Reads, I’m going to be chatting about this month’s two Random Reads books in a bit more detail.
Our theme for this month was the contemporary genre. I’ve read quite a lot of contemporary this year, but before that it was something I avoided, to be honest. I was so hooked on fantasy I thought anything set in the real world must be a little bit boring. I’m fully prepared to say that was silly of me and I enjoy a lot of contemporary now, and this months reads were interesting choices.
I wanted to chat a little about characters, because I feel that both books this month had some truly wonderful characters.
My choice for Stacie was If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch. I absolutely loved this when I read it a few months back, and while it was an interesting story, it was really the characters that made it. I have honestly never fallen in love with characters the way I did with Carey and Jenessa. They are absolutely my favourite fictional sisters: I loved how much Carey cared for Nessa and what she would do to keep her sister happy and safe. I feel that way about my sisters (though thankfully I don’t have to look after them the way Carey does) and I really related to that pure sibling love.
Stacie’s choice for me was Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I’d heard of this book before (mostly because of the film that came out a while back) and I didn’t really think it was my cup of tea. I was right – for me it’s a little too slow/romance heavy – but one thing I really did love was Jacob’s character, particularly when we see him as an old man.
Jacob’s confusion and irritation really affected me as I read this – it made me see things from my grandparents perspective, just a little bit. My 90 year old Grandma lives with me and my Nan and Grandad live in a care home like Jacob does. Both the women have varying forms of dementia and my Grandad, although still sharp as a tack, is almost completely deaf. I know they get confused at times and it can be really hard to know how to do what’s right for them. And, though it’s not nice to admit, it’s easy to get frustrated with them as well. I felt it was really good to be able to read Jacob’s story and put myself in their shoes for a little while.
This month’s books were very different for me, but I liked reading out of my comfort zone, and I’ll be passing Water for Elephants over to my sister as I think she’ll enjoy it.
I’m really excited to see what next month has in store for us!
See Stacie talk about If You Find Me in more depth over at her blog.

Book Review: The Accident Season (Moira Fowley-Doyle)

*I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*


Publisher: Corgi Childrens

Pages: 323

Release Date: July 2nd 2015

Summary (From Goodreads):

It’s the accident season, the same time every year. Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom.

The accident season has been part of seventeen-year-old Cara’s life for as long as she can remember. Towards the end of October, foreshadowed by the deaths of many relatives before them, Cara’s family becomes inexplicably accident-prone. They banish knives to locked drawers, cover sharp table edges with padding, switch off electrical items – but injuries follow wherever they go, and the accident season becomes an ever-growing obsession and fear.

But why are they so cursed? And how can they break free?


I was completely intrigued by the idea of this book – the accident season, the one month in the year when one family is suddenly plagued with falls down the stairs, bumps to the head, and some more serious accidents too.

The story is incredibly well crafted: all the different plot lines laced together well, and everything felt plausible, despite the idea the accident curse. But what really drove the book was the relationships. I enjoyed the romance ones as they were delicate and real (and awkward in some cases) with no insta-love to be found. But I loved that at the heart of it were the siblings and their relationships with each other.

While we’re on the relationships, I did find one (I won’t name it, but you’ll understand when you read it) a little odd and awkward at first, but the way it was written was so touching and tender that I was completely rooting for them to get together, despite the obvious barriers.

This book was recommended to me after mentioning I liked to see LGBTQ+ relationships and characters in stories that aren’t all about ‘coming out’ – don’t get me wrong, I think those kind of stories are important, especially within YA, but I love it when those types of characters are in a story and it isn’t all about their sexuality: that’s just part of who they are, rather than what the story is about. And that’s what happened in this story, and I really appreciated it.

There was a bit of a mystery feel to this as Cara tried to find the elusive Elsie, and I loved how everything tied together towards the end in a way I didn’t expect and was also very satisfying. Some of the scenes were just spectacularly written: the party scene in particular felt like a perfect depiction of that drunk feeling where nothing seems to happen in the right order and everything moves too fast.

The magical elements of the story were a little odd to me at times. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy them, and some of it certainly added a creepy feeling to the proceedings, but it was the kind of thing I didn’t want to overthink too much, as if trying to analyse it would just confuse me.

This is a wonderful story with some of the most beautifully crafted characters I have read in a while, and I can’t recommend that you read it enough.

My Verdict:


Top Five… Fathers and Father Figures


Since I did a post on my favourite mothers/mother figures a while back, it seemd only fair to do the same with fathers/father figures, and when better to do it than around Father’s Day? I’ve realised a lot more this time are the figure kind ratehr than the actual fatehr kind, but sometimes these are the best.



Markus Zusak
Hans was easily my favourite thing about The Book Thief. His quiet solidness and love for Liesel is just inspiring, as are his attempts to do what’s right in the face of so much evil. He’s the kind of dad that you just want to hug you and neer let you go.
Papa S (Seed)
Lisa Heathfield
Controversial one here! I don’t think he’s a good guy, I don’t like him at all (in fact, he creeps the hell out of me) but Papa S is a one of a kind father figure. When you think about how Pearl feels about him at the beginning of the story, it reminds me of a young child’s all encompassing worship of a parent. 


Sirius Black (The Harry Potter series)
J. K. Rowling
Not only is Sirius Black Harry’s dad’s best friend, he’s Harry’s godfather and a damn fine fatehr figure to Harry (after that whole ‘I think he wants to kill me’ stuff is over, naturally). I always find it so sad when Harry thinks he’s going to be able to live with Sirius and then it’s all snatched from him before it’s begun. 


Mr Benskin (If You Find Me)
Emily Murdoch
His partner Melissa made it into my mothers post, and now Mr Benskin is here as one of my favourite father figures. I didn’t expect him to be as wonderful as he was and he was just what the girls deserved. I loved how much he took to Nessa, even though she wasn’t his own child: it just didn’t matter to him.

Pearl’s Dad (The Year of the Rat)
Clare Furniss
This relationship just breaks my heart, and I think it’s all the more because he’s not Pearl’s real dad, but sometimes a step dad is as good as, or better. I love that, even though Pearl tries to push him away in her grief, he’s still there for her and is trying to keep everything together for her and Rose (aka the Rat).



Happy Father’s Day to all real and fictional fatehrs and fatehr figures out there!


Book Review: Fire Colour One (Jenny Valentine)

*I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 256

Release Date: July 2nd 2015

Summary (From Goodreads):

A teenage girl will soon discover, there are some things which burn even brighter than fire.

Iris’s father Ernest is at the end of his life.

Her best friend Thurston seems like a distant memory to her.

Her mother has declared war. She means to get her hands on Ernest’s priceless art collection so that she can afford to live the high life.

But Ernest has other ideas.

There are things he wants Iris to know. Things he can tell her and things that must wait till he’s gone.

What she does after that is up to her.


After reading this book and before writing this review, I Googled the painting by Yves Klein that this book is named after. It’s a really stunning piece and I’d recommend having a look if you’re reading this book. The book isn’t about the painting but it is mentioned a fair bit, and it helps to know what it looks like.This is another of those books that hits you right in the feels as we see Iris finally getting acquainted with her father, just as he’s about to die. You know from the start that he’s dying, but it’s still upsetting when he does, but the revelations after his death made the wound even more tender.

This book is beautifully written with some really vivid descriptions and spectacular characters. Seriously, the way they’re written is so real I wanted to reach out and hug some and slap others. Iris’ mother and step father, Hannah and Lowell are truly horrid creatures and their blatant money grabbing and carelessness in the face of Ernest’s death was really infuriating. Iris’ best friend, Thurston, on the other hand is wonderfully weird and I loved reading the ‘moments’ he creates for people, even if they did seem a little too marvellous to be true.

It was also interesting to see Iris’ pyromaniac antics from her point of view. Although it’s not something I’ve thought about much before, when I have, I’ve never really understood the appeal of making fires: I thought it was for trouble makers and attention seekers, which is a pretty narrow minded view (I think I’ll do some research into it, actually). But seeing why she started fires and how they made her feel made me see it in a whole new light.

I loved that the book surprised me at the end: I thought I knew where it was going, but it sure fooled me. It was wonderful to see Iris really learn about her father, even after he was gone, and (minor spoiler here beware!) I loved knowing that Hannah and Lowell didn’t get the best of him after all.

While a book about the death of a parent is bound to be sad, I did find it quite uplifting too: it’s not depressing, just emotional, and a whole different range of emotions at that. It’s beautifully written and very touching, and I’d definitely recommend.

My Verdict:


Book Review: The Fire Children (Lauren M. Roy)


 *I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

Publisher: Ravenstone
Pages: 272
Release Date: June 30th 2015
Summary (From Goodreads):

Two children escape the darkness of their underground dwellings, to find adventure, magic and terrible danger await anyone who ventures above ground.



Fifteen years have passed since Mother Sun last sent her children to walk the world. When the eclipse comes, the people retreat to the caverns beneath the Kaladim, passing the days in total darkness while the Fire Children explore their world. It’s death to even look upon them, the stories say.



Despite the warnings, Yulla gives in to her curiosity and ventures to the surface. There she witnesses the Witch Women — who rumors say worship dead Father Sea, rather than Mother Sun — capturing one of the Children and hauling her away. Yulla isn’t the only one who saw the kidnapping; Ember, the last of the Fire Children, reveals himself to Yulla and implores her to help.
Trapped up above and hunted by the witches and the desert wind, Yulla and Ember must find a way free his siblings and put a stop to the Witch Womens’ plans, before they can use the Fire Children to bind Mother Sun herself.


I didn’t really read the blurb or anything going into this so I had no idea what it was about. Overall, I did enjoy it, but I wasn’t really bowled over.My favourite thing was the world it was set in: there was so much folk-lore and history dropped about (not info-dumpy at all) and I just wanted to know more about it.

The book started off strong for me. It was easy to get into and I found it fascinating just to see the way they prepared for and got used to spending long periods of time in absolute darkness. It’s such an interesting idea. I enjoyed Yulla’s narration and found her to be a very realistic and likeable character. Her relationship with her sister was my favourite – as someone with three sisters, it felt very real: bickering and teasing but with a lot of love underneath it all.

I started to lose interest a little when Yulla came above ground. It’s a shame, because this should have been the really interesting, exciting part, but I found it a little action heavy and hard to follow, and had to force myself to get through some bits.

I thought the actual Fire Children were really fun to read about, especially seeing the way Ember and Yulla interacted with each other, as he’s basically a demi-god to her. But the romance side of their relationship felt a little weird and quite sudden: not really insta-love as such, it just moved from awkwardness to kissing pretty quick.

This is an enjoyable fantasy read with a brilliant, beautiful setting in  a world I’d really like to read more of. The adventure side of it fell a little short for me, but I think others will really enjoy it.

My Verdict:

I enjoyed – give it a read

If you enjoyed this, you may also like Song Quest by Katherine Roberts