24 December: Horatio Clare

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Award winning author Horatio Clare joins our author calendar!

unnamedHoratio Clare’s first book for children, Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot, won the Branford Boase Award 2016. His previous works include Running for the Hills, an acclaimed account of a Welsh childhood, which won a Somerset Maugham Award, was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and saw Horatio shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year. Other books include Truant, A Single Swallow (shortlisted for the Dolman Travel Book of the Year), The Prince’s Pen and most recently the best-selling travelogue, Down to the Sea in Ships(winner of the Dolman Travel Book of the Year). His essays and reviews appear regularly in the national press and on BBC radio.

Name three things on your Christmas list this year! Hope, joy and patience…

Christmas is a time of family traditions – what are your best (or worst!) family traditions? Carol singing in the square, normally in sleet. Eating pheasant on
Christmas eve. Missing the days of great films on Christmas afternoon. Watching hours of television.

What is your favourite story to read at Christmas? A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas is wonderful.729e7bfbb0f70b93124962aba079e8c3

If you could have Christmas dinner with anyone (alive today or person from history) who would it be? William Shakespeare is the person I would most like to meet. I believe he was very good company, laughed a lot, and was the greatest listener and observer of all time. It was be great fun to see what he made of a modern Christmas.

Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot features a wonderful cast of characters from Aubrey himself to a talking bluebottle!  If you could describe the perfect cast for a festive story who would it include? You need a heroine: I think an extremely wild girl who had definitely not been good and was told she was not on Santa’s good children list would make an interesting lead character. And you need a villain. Donald Trump? There should be a buzzard with vertigo, a pirate with seasickness and an escaped prisoner, incarcerated for a crime he did not commit.

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You explore the very real and difficult issue of depression in Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot and yet the book is full of compassion and hope. What would you say to encourage someone suffering from depression particularly at a time when everyone is ‘supposed’ to be feeling jolly and festive? Loss of perspective is a killer. Depression tells you it’s all about you, it’s all your fault, and that you make people unhappy. All of this is untrue. If you can get up, say yes to everything and forget yourself, even for a minute, through involvement with other people, this is good. Kindness to oneself and forgiveness of oneself make a great difference. Service to others, just the smallest thing, helps you to forget yourself. Some of the happiest people at Christmas work for others – a friend of mine used to volunteer at a crisis centre. It was a genuine public service and it made her a great, giving person to be around. Conversation is a huge help – the Samaritans are busy at Christmas, for good reason. It is a sign of strength and recovery to search for people to talk to: you do not have to wait until you are in a desperate place to call them. They would much rather just speak to someone who needs a good listener who will not make judgements. Also, no one should feel bad about going to bed with a book or the remote and staying there. Sometimes it is a waiting game – depression does end, that’s the secret, and sometimes you just have to be kind to yourself, and let the light in. Doing things you don’t feel like -going for walks in vile weather, meeting people when you don’t think you are up to it – always brings unexpected reward, and relief.

(This is really heartfelt and heart warming – and full of hope).

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Reader’s question from the children at the Inkpots Writers’ Hut; we are often told persevering as a writer is really important. How many rejection letters did you get before you were published? It’s part of the game, as it is in all creative jobs. Ask an actor how many roles they auditioned for that they did not get! It is much worse for actors because they need someone else’s permission to practice their art. Writers can just get on with it. First I was rejected by an agent, on the strength of a bad manuscript. Then I found an agent, who sent it out, and the same bad manuscript, slightly improved, was rejected by about ten publishers. But the 11th met me and said this thing is rubbish, but you are a writer. Why don’t you write something that people will need and want to read? So by the time I had the first chapters of my next book ready that publisher had been sacked and his imprint shut down. But those chapters went on to become my first book. But when you are starting out you don’t need to worry about any of that. Write a lot, write for pleasure, write for joy, write when you are feeling thoughtful and write when your heart is full. At some point you will start writing for the story itself, for the readers it deserves, and that is when you cross over from wanting to be a writer to actually being one.

(Brilliant advice- thank you)

Turkey or goose? Goose! Turkeys deserve a break, and geese have it all their own way
most of the time.

Real or fake tree?  Real! You need that smell of pine needles. And there is too much plastic in the world.

Mince pies or Christmas pudding? Mince pies! Christmas pudding is more like a weapon than a foodstuff.

Stockings – end of the bed or over the fireplace? Over the fireplace. No one needs to wake up to find a man with a beard getting tangled up at the end of the bed.

(Hilarious *laughs out loud*!!)

Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve? Christmas Eve! Flying reindeer are so much more fun than hurtling police cars…

Thank you for participating in our author advent and have a very Happy Christmas!

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Find out more about Horatio at www.firefly.co.uk and follow Horatio on Twitter @HoratioClare 

23 December: Jo Franklin

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Help! It’s  Jo Franklin!

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Jo Franklin went to a boarding school, which was nothing like Hogwarts. She did however, have plenty of time for reading and making up stories in her head. After ten years of making camps in the woods with her own children, Jo wrote Help! I’m an Alien and like all true aliens, she is aiming for world domination with two more titles to come in the Help! series

Name three things on your Christmas list this year! Chocolate Cherry Liqueurs – I ate five boxes last year, because I kept buying them ‘for Christmas’ and eating them before December. So this year I’m going to put them on my list and not buy any cgj3bc8w0aalu6cmyself. Hopefully that will limit me to one box only. A signed print by Chris Riddell – no one in my family would ever have thought of buying me this, so I have cheated and bought it myself. It’s currently at the framers. ‘Set the Boy Free’ Johnny Marr’s autobiography. Johnny was the guitarist with The Smiths – my favourite band of all time so I can’t wait to read this.

Christmas is a time of family traditions – what are your best (or worst!) family traditions? We don’t do Christmas in a big way, but we always have pancakes for breakfast and a roast dinner. I’m vegetarian so I will have cauliflower cheese instead of the meat. I love Brussel sprouts, parsnips and roast potatoes, so I really enjoy Christmas lunch.

There are wonderful stories shared at Christmas time. What is your favourite story to read at Christmas? I make a point of reading two books every year between Christmas and New Year. They aren’t exactly stories but gear me up for the new year – On Writing by Stephen King and Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott. They both give their view of being a writer. I find them totally inspirational.

If you could have Christmas dinner with anyone (alive today or person from history) who would it be and why? Morrissey – he is the reason I became vegetarian 30 years ago so we could share a vegetarian feast and talk about books and music.

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In ‘Help! I’m an Alien!’, Daniel has some very unique best friends, Gordon the Geek and Freddo. What gift would he give them at Christmas?  Freddo is easy. He would like a life time’s subscription to Walker’s Crisps. Daniel would probably buy Gordon a new tie, but instead of using Christmas wrapping paper he would have it sealed in a sterile atmosphere to ensure that there was no chance it was contaminated.

(*Laughs out loud*)

You do loads of brilliant author events! If you could plan the perfect author event to celebrate Christmas AND reading, what would it be like and who would be there? I love to spend time with other writers and enthusiastic readers. My idea of heaven would be to spend a day in a massive log cabin, cut off from civilisation by heavy snow. The cabin has a roaring fire with an endless supply of logs. Each person reads out a chapter from their favourite book and gives a copy of that book to everyone else at the event, so at the end of it we all leave with a massive pile of books to read. Sharing a passion for reading and writing is a great way to make friends.

(This sounds perfect!)

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Reader’s question from children at the Inkpots Writers’ Hut; do you write in silence or do you need some noise around you? I like to listen to music. At the moment I have put my whole catalogue of music on shuffle and am working my way through it. Right now I’m on track 1183 of 3248 which is by The Pale Fountains. I love guitar bands, mostly from the Eighties but also up to date bands like the Arctic Monkeys.

Turkey or goose? Cauliflower cheese – see above!

Real or fake tree? Real. I wouldn’t bother if I couldn’t have a real tree.

Mince pies or Christmas pudding? Christmas pudding with brandy butter AND brandy cream.

Stockings –  end of the bed or over the fireplace? End of the bed although we leave mincepies, beer and a carrot by the fireplace.

Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve? I’ve never understood the joy of New Year’s Eve. I’m not a great fan of parties and don’t like getting drunk, so I prefer to stay in reading a good book. Christmas Eve is usually a frantic wrapping frenzy.

Thank you or taking part in our festive Q & A! Merry Christmas! 

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Find out more about  Jo on her website www.jofranklinauthor.co.uk and follow her on Twitter @JoFranklin2

 

22 December: Sophy Henn

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Amazing author and illustrator Sophy Henn on Day 22!

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Sophy Henn writes and illustrates children’s books in her studio, with a large cup of tea by her side, and can’t quite believe her luck! Where Bear?, her first book, was nominated for both the Kate Greenaway Medal and shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize in 2015. Pom Pom Gets the Grumps won Junior Design Awards Best Book of the Year 2015, and Sophy won Best Emerging Talent (Children’s Author).  Sophy was delighted to be spokesperson for Save the Children’s Read On, Get On campaign, focusing on pre-school. She was also the World Book Day Illustrator for 2015 and 2016.

Name three things on your Christmas list this year! Slippers, I’ve got my eye on a rather lovely silver sheepskin pair. Yes, silver! A nice, comfy, baggy jumper. Books – A big Eames coffee table one, an Angela Thirkell, a curry cookbook and Mistletoe Murder!

Christmas is a time of family traditions – what are your best (or worst!) family traditions? My daughter and I make crackers for everyone around the table. It was fun at first, we started about five years ago, filling the crackers with fake moustaches, a little gift, jokes and a charade, each tailored for the recipient. It was very hilarious to see nieces, nephews, grandparents, in fact everyone around the table tucking into Christmas dinner wearing a variety of moustaches! It’s pretty labour intensive though and one member of the party was unnecessarily critical of the jokes (how can they be too cheesy??) last year so I think it’s my best and worst tradition all rolled into one!

(Brilliant – Christmas moustaches!!)

We also have a Christmas eve tradition of new pyjamas, one I am VERY happy to maintain.

What is your favourite story to read at Christmas? The GRINCH. Dr Seuss nails it again! I am utterly guilty of being over sentimental at this time of year, it’s easy to do. But Dr Seuss manages a hilarious adventure, packed with meaning, centred around Christmas without being at all smushy. Genius!

If you could have Christmas dinner with anyone (alive today or person from history) who would it be and why? Obviously Father Christmas. I’d like to know how he get’s so much done in such a short space of time, I could use some of that magic!

Your illustrations bring to life your stories beautifully. If you could illustrate and bring to life a festive story of your choice, which one would it be and why? Thank you! But this is SUCH a hard question! Well I’m not going anywhere near The Grinch as Dr Seuss has that one covered. One of my other favourite Christmas stories is The Tailor of Gloucester, but again Beatrix Potter’s beautiful illustrations are such a big part of why I love it so I don’t think I could go there either! Maybe it would be A Visit from St Nicholas by Clement C. Moore which contains the magical line… “Twas the night before Christmas, when all
through the house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse”. 
Just those 51b1m98zm8ltwo lines send shivers of excitement down my spine, its a very magical Christmas story. Or possibly Agatha Christie’s The Adventure of The Christmas Pudding. I’d like to have a go at illustrating a longer text and I think a collection of murderous texts by one of my favourites could be a good place to start!

(LOVE The Tailor of Gloucester -still have my edition from when I was little. And LOVE Agatha Christie – I think you should definitely do that one!)

Pom Pom is a wonderful character whose stories young and old alike can identify with! How do you think Pom Pom likes to celebrate Christmas?  I think Pom Pom would do what I did as a child, wake up at about 3am and run into his parents room bursting with excitement! Pom Pom would probably tear through his presents, talking at a hundred miles an hour because Christmas is SO EXCITING! Then I think he would probably slightly regret opening his presents so quickly, sometimes it’s good to savour your presents a bit! After presents Pom Pom would definitely sneak some gold coins in before lunch and cover the floor with all his toys! But alongside all of this very ‘busy’ behaviour, Pom Pom would be giving out lots of lovely Christmas cuddles and probably be fast asleep by 4pm!

winter-1027822_1920Reader’s question from students at Warden Park Academy; when you are creating a story do you draw it or write it first? My stories tend to start with a character. I think that’s my favourite part of my job, the thinking up characters part! Once I have sketched out my character, from all angles and doing different things, their personality starts to shape. Then a story will develop from their character or I will remember a story I have scribbled down in one of my notebooks that would suit them (then I have to find it!!! Not easy when you have a least a million notebooks!). Once I know who and what the story is about then I start to write. Then re write. Then edit. Then re write again. Then think the whole idea is rubbish, at which point I show it to someone else as I can’t see the wood for the trees. Then re write it all over again. Once I am happy with the words I sketch out each page VERY roughly. Then re sketch it, etc etc. And FINALLY when I am happy with the sketches I get cracking on the illustrations.

Turkey or goose? TURKEY

Real or fake tree? REAL

Mince pies or Christmas pudding? JUST MORE CHEESE PLEASE (spiced fruit is not right)

Stockings –  end of the bed or over the fireplace? END OF THE BED

Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve? CHRISTMAS EVE – all the lovely anticipation and zero pressure to have “the best night of the year”.

Thank you for taking part in our festive Q & A! Have a very Happy Christmas!

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Find out more about Sophy www.sophyhenn.com and follow her on Twitter @sophyhenn.

 

21 December: Nikki Sheehan

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Delightful author Nikki Sheehan on Day 21!

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Nikki Sheehan is the youngest daughter of a rocket scientist. Following a career as a feature writer, her first novel Who Framed Klaris Cliff? won the North Herts Book Award for 2015. Her second, Swan Boy is one of The Guardian’s Best New Reads for this year and has been nominated for the Carnegie Medal 2017. She is also a story mentor for Little Green Pig (part of the Ministry of Stories) taking creative writing into schools in Brighton, where she lives with her family and too many pets.

Name three things on your Christmas list this year! Socks. I’ve developed a bad new sock habit and I still have a small amount of space in my sock drawer.Books. Natch. An editing robot.

Christmas is a time of family traditions – what are your best (or worst!) family traditions? Hmm… New pyjamas for Christmas eve is the best. The worst, which we discontinued immediately, was when we made a huge best-shaped thing which combined meat and nut roast for the vegetarians. It looked great, but didn’t cook properly

What is your favourite story to read at Christmas? A Christmas Carol, The Grinch, and of course, at bedtime The Night Before Christmas.

If you could have Christmas dinner with anyone (alive today or person from history) who would it be and why? Michael Buble so he could sit in the corner and sing all day.

(Ahh, the romance!)

In Swan Boy, swans bring a wonderful magical element to the plot. If you had to choose an animal or living creature to represent Christmas what would it be and why? A white stag I think because, like Christmas, it’s magical and elusive but, most importantly, because it would look great with tinsel around its neck and baubles hung from its antlers

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You do lots of work with Little Green Pig helping children with creative writing. During the busy festive season what would be your best advice for aspiring writers on how to get any work done?! Many writers write every day, even if it’s just a few lines, because once you stop it can be hard to get going again. But as it’s Christmas and you’ll be full of turkey and chocolate, maybe just before bedtime try to capture what the day was like in a poem?

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Reader’s question from children at the Inkpots Writers’ Hut; are any of your characters based on real people?  Ooh, yes, but I sort of harvest attributes from various people. I used to know someone with a white streak like Johnny, and Mojo is a bit like one of my children. As for the frazzled mum, I’ve literally no idea where I got her from…

 

Turkey or goose? Neither – I’m veggie!

Real or fake tree? Real!

Mince pies or Christmas pudding? Both please!

Stockings –  end of the bed or over the fireplace? Hung on the bedroom door handles.

Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve? Christmas every time!

 

Thank you for joining our festive Q & A! Merry Christmas!

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Follow Nikki on Twitter @NicoletteShhh

 

 

20 December: Rhian Ivory

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YA Author Rhian Ivory joins our festive countdown.

Rhian Ivory studieauthor-photo-by-jo-cotterilld English Literature at Aberystwyth and trained as a Drama & English teacher. She wrote her first novel during her first few years in teaching, securing a publishing deal with Bloomsbury who published her first four books.   Rhian’s fifth book, The Boy who Drew the Future has been nominated for the Carnegie Medal 2017. She is a National Trust writer in residence at Sudbury Hall and the Museum of Childhood.  She currently lives in Rutland, the smallest county in the country, with her family and their two very lively spaniels.

Name three things on your Christmas list this year! When I was little I’d ask my Dad that same question and he’d always answer with “Two good children” and my brother and I would groan.51obi7fwfwl So I’m going to say “Three good children” just to annoy my three little angels. I’d also like snow, lots of it. Deep enough to build a snowman and have a decent snowball fight. And maybe build an igloo. And then…let’s not pretend I haven’t got a book wish list but if I had to pick just one title it would probably be To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey. I adored her first novel, The Snow Child and I’m guessing this next one will be equally wonderful.

Christmas is a time of family traditions – what are your best (or worst!) family traditions? Best one is all of us sit and read the most stunning pop-up book version of The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore published by Simon and Schuster. It is a thing of beauty and we all love it. My mum bought it for me years ago and it has been well loved. Worst one is watching the Christmas movies with the kids, there’s a lot of (loud) discussion about who gets to choose the film this year. It can (and often does) end in disaster on Christmas Eve.

What is your favourite story to read at Christmas? A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan729e7bfbb0f70b93124962aba079e8c3 Thomas with those gorgeous illustrations by Edward Ardizzone. I hear those opening lines and feel like Christmas is about to properly start. “…I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.” Magic.

If you could have Christmas dinner with anyone (alive today or person from history) who would it be and why? That’s easy! Louisa May Alcott. I’d have to ask her about the Laurie/Professor Bhaer decision and get her version of events, then I’d report back so that we can all be put out of our misery. Why, Louisa? Why?

rhian2_0In The Boy who Drew the Future you brilliantly connect two characters that live hundreds of years apart. How do you think a child from the 1800s would react to the way we celebrate Christmas in 2016? Why thank you. Honestly? I think they’d be horrified as I am when I force myself to go a shopping centre from October onwards. *shivers as the prospect of Christmas shopping*. The best part of Christmas last year for me was all the village gathered on the green to sing carols by candlelight and lanterns. My 5 year old was bored senseless but I was transported, probably back to the 1800s.

Your Year 9 class persuaded you to send off your first novel (brilliant!). How would you persuade a class of Year 9 reluctant readers to pick up a book for the festive season?Thank you. They were a brilliant class. I think I’d go for the simple option and just read to them. I think the words from any good story would do all the talking for me. I’d do all the voices and accents and really bring the story to life for them rather than try to persuade them with reasons or statistics. Of course there are statistics aplenty about how reading improves your health, your ability to empathise and gives you knowledge which in turn gives you power. But even more important than that reading gives you choice and that’s something we should all have and not just at Christmas.

(Absolutely agree!)

winter-1027822_1920Reader’s question from children at the Inkpots Writers’ Hut; how long does it take you to write a book? Each book is different, which is really annoying because it makes it hard to plan. On the whole I’d say most of my books have taken 8 months apart from The Boy who Drew the Future which took 7 years. Yes, 7 years! But there was a lot of moving house and having babies and living in a caravan in the snow with frozen water pipes (don’t ask) and generally life getting in the way so don’t picture me sat in front of a computer for seven years solid. That would just be silly!

Turkey or goose? Turkey so my 5 year old could talk to the Turkey. He does such an ace Turkey impression. What? I’m not eating it!

Real or fake tree? Real. Every single time.

Mince pies or Christmas pudding? Both, obviously.

Stockings –  end of the bed or over the fireplace? Fireplace. I’d just kick them off the end of the bed and so would the children. Also, I like to make Santa’s life as easy as possible for him.

Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve? Christmas Eve. New Year’s Eve has always been a massive let down. I love the anticipation of Christmas Eve, it is special and everything is about to happen but hasn’t happened just yet so you can savour it and really appreciate what’s to come.

 Thank you for participating in our author advent. Happy Christmas!

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To find out more visit www.fireflypress.com and follow Rhian on Twitter @Rhian_Ivory.

 

19 December: Joanne Owen

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Day 19 features fantastic author Joanne Owen.

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Joanne was born in Pembrokeshire and studied at St John’s College, Cambridge. Following a career buying and marketing children’s books, Joanne now combines writing with working on Scoop magazine as Marketing Director and a content creator. Joanne has written fantastical, historical, folklore-infused adventures and she has a new iscoop-coverillustrated series for 6+ year olds in 2017. Joanne is also working on a YA novel inspired by Caribbean folklore and history, and has written a football-themed short story for the NLT’s Premier League Reading Stars scheme.

Name three things on your Christmas list this year! I LOVE surprises so I don’t actually have a list. Having said that, I’d be delighted if I were gifted the surprise of a new pair of scarlet shoes to add to my collection. Oh, and Arsenal winning the league this season would also be a pretty great present (and I wouldn’t mind waiting until May to receive it!).

Christmas is a time of family traditions – what are your best (or worst!) family traditions? My husband and I have a tradition of creating a kind of indoor forest in our flat! We collect fallen branches to put up in our hall and living room, and decorate them with twinkling lights and dozens of feathery birds. I especially love our toucan, which adds a tropical touch to our winter wonderland.

(This sounds amazing!)

What is your favourite story to read at Christmas? Having spent all my childhood Christmases in Wales, Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales is always a fine gem to return to. “Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills”; such intense, evocative writing.

If you could have Christmas dinner with anyone (alive today or person from history) who would it be and why? Nothing beats tucking into Christmas dinner with my family, but I reckon the actor and adventurer Brian Blessed would make a great wildcard dinner companion! He’d have plenty of exuberant after dinner tales to tell in his big, booming voice, plus he bears more than a passing resemblance to Father Christmas himself!

Your books often have wonderful historical settings. If you could travel back in time to celebrate Christmas in any time period when would you choose and why? I imagine that Christmas in Prague in the late nineteenth century (which is when my first novel, Puppet Master, is set) would have had a marvellous atmosphere – snow softly tumbling onto the city’s spires, people bustling around Old Town Square, the Vltava River sparkling with ice beneath the stately Charles Bridge. As it happens, the carol ‘Good King Wenceslas’ is based on the real-life Bohemian duke, Wenceslaus I, who lived way back in the 900’s and became known (and sainted) for his generosity to the poor. But actually, I think I’d most like to travel back to Pembrokeshire in the 1980’s, when I enjoyed the most amazing family Christmases.

In your author workshops, you talk about every object being able to tell a story. If you could write a story about one Christmas object what would it be and why? How about a Christmas cracker that opens a gateway to another world when it bangs? Or a sprig of mistletoe that enchants (or curses…) those who kiss beneath it? Or an advent calendar whose doors contain riddles that have to be solved in order to avert some kind of Christmas calamity…?  Sorry – couldn’t stop at one!

(Brilliant ideas – you’ll have to write one!)

winter-1027822_1920Reader’s question from students in Year 10 at Warden Park Secondary Academy; why do you write children’s books instead of for adults? I think younger readers are generally much more curious and open-minded than most grown-ups, and have a greater sense of wonder about the world, all of which means that writing for children is incredibly exhilarating, satisfying and full of freedom. I love writing – and reading – about inquisitive young characters who are on exciting paths of discovery, unearthing and experiencing things for the first time as they travel their story trails. I also think that the books you love as a child stay with you forever; they become part of who you are and how you see the world, which makes writing for children a very special thing indeed.

Turkey or goose? Turkey

Real or fake tree? Real

Mince pies or Christmas pudding? Mince pies, if I must choose only one!

Stockings –  end of the bed or over the fireplace? Fireplace

Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve? Christmas Eve

Thank you for taking part in our festive Q & A and have a Happy Christmas!

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Find out more about Joanne on Facebook JoanneOwenBooks and Twitter @JoanneOwen

18 December: Huw Davies

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Huw Davies joins our festive Q & A.

Huw Davies grew up in Nantyffyllon, near Maesteg and teaches English. He has an MA in Script-writing from the University of Glamorgan. As an English huw-daviesteacher, Huw came to realise that there was a lack of what he called ‘daft books for boys’, and started work on Scrambled. He lives in Carmarthen with his wife and three children.

Name three things on your Christmas list this year! When I was young I used to be disappointed to open a present to find it was pants or socks, but now I’m absolutely delighted when I get them – I think this is one of the defining things about being old. So pants, socks and an EpiPen (more about that later).

Christmas is a time of family traditions – what are your best (or worst!) family traditions? I’ve got a nut allergy, so Christmas is a bit of a risky time. It doesn’t seem to matter how careful I am, but pretty much every Boxing Day for the last ten years I have gone into minor anaphylactic shock, when my face turns beetroot red and my head swells to the size of a melon. My wife is starting to think that I’m not allergic to nuts but I’m actually allergic to Boxing Day itself!

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What is your favourite story to read at Christmas? It’s not a Christmas story as such, but I love the part in Louis Sachar’s Holes where Stanley thinks he is going to die, so he thinks back to a happy memory, and he thinks about falling down a hill in the snow with his mother. When I’m reading it in class I have to get the kids to read it because I’m in bits.

If you could have Christmas dinner with anyone (alive today or person from history) who would it be and why? I’m lucky because I’ll be having dinner with Mrs Davies and our children who are the people I’d most want to be with. Our children are quite young so there will be a bit of food flying about. So I’d like to have Barack Obama, obviously because of what he achieved in becoming the first African American President, but also he seems quite tall on TV so he could help me when I’m scraping mashed potato off the ceiling.

scrambled-v2-2flat_0In Scrambled, Davidde is unfairly labelled a troublemaker. Were you a good boy at school and did Father Christmas always visit you? I was quite shy and reserved at school – I didn’t have a nick-name, which was usually a good indicator of extroversion/naughtiness. Father Christmas always came to visit me, but I’m not so sure if he visited Pickle, Fungus or Teabag.

Scrambled features amazing motorcycling. If you could choose a method of transport for Father Christmas other than the sleigh what would it be and why? Definitely a Fiat Doblo – it’s like the van from Postman Pat.

winter-1027822_1920Reader’s question from children at the Inkpots Writer’s Hut; where do you get your ideas from? I’ve worked at a number of schools, but there was one in particular where crazy things seemed to happen all the time. For example, one Monday morning I drove into the car park and there was a car that was perfectly parked, except that it was upside down, on its roof. You just accepted it as normal. When I use these ideas I have to tone them down a bit.

Turkey or goose? Might be doing fish this year – controversial.

Real or fake tree? Both – how posh is that?

Mince pies or Christmas pudding? I’ll refer you back to question 2 for an answer to that.

Stockings –  end of the bed or over the fireplace? Rugby sock (washed) on bed.

Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve? Wedding anniversary on the 29th – can’t forget that!

Thank you for joining our festive author Q & A! Have a Happy Christmas!

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Find out more about Huw at www.fireflypress.co.uk and follow him on Twitter @huw7777