Gertie Grimthorpe comes from a long line of witches. Unfortunately, she hasn’t really got the hang of it. Being blonde haired, blue eyed and free of warts isn’t much of an advantage. Try as she might, Gertie’s spells fall flat. She manages to give her bat-headed umbrella the ability to talk, but then wishes she hadn’t when all he does is complain and insult people. Even finding an owl to be her Familiar doesn’t help. Then again, he is extremely shortsighted…Gertie is sent to The Academy to improve her spell casting skills. She soon has a best friend in the form of Bertha Bobbit, a big girl, with a matching appetite. Add to that a Moat Monster with a flatulence problem, the weirdest array of witch’s Familiars possible, and a warlock determined to ruin Gertie’s chances of success, and the story unfolds. Not to mention the demon…
A children’s sword and sorcery fantasy novel aimed at the nine years of age to mid teen market. Zac is a fifteen year old stable boy whose life is turned upside down when he finds himself in the midst of demons, magic and a perilous quest. The land around Albemerle castle is under attack, and the only hope of survival for Zac and the people he loves is to find the great wizard, Aldric. Men have already died trying. Strange dreams mark the beginning of Zac’s life changing events. Armed with a magic sword, ring and crystal, he sets out with a group of soldiers to find Aldric. Demon attack almost ends Zac’s quest as soon as it begins. Zac refuses to give up, and soon finds himself accompanied by unusual travelling companions. Many dangers bar their way. Only Zac’s determination and the unexpected help he receives can make it possible to find and free Aldric, and return for the final battle to save the land…
Gertie Grimthorpe comes from a long line of witches. Unfortunately, she hasn’t really got the hang of it. Being blonde haired, blue eyed and free of warts isn’t much of an advantage. Try as she might, Gertie’s spells fall flat. She manages to give her bat-headed umbrella the ability to talk, but then wishes she hadn’t when all he does is complain and insult people. Even finding an owl to be her Familiar doesn’t help. Then again, he is extremely shortsighted… Gertie is sent to The Academy to improve her spell casting skills. She soon has a best friend in the form of Bertha Bobbit, a big girl, with a matching appetite. Add to that a Moat Monster with a flatulence problem, the weirdest array of witch’s Familiars possible, and a warlock determined to ruin Gertie’s chances of success, and the story unfolds. Not to mention the demon…
What gave you the incentive to write this book?
I love humorous fantasy, and have read a lot of it. The master of this genre is of course, Terry Pratchett, and I would like to think that Terry has inspired my writing in many ways. Gertie began many years ago simply with an idea, and though the theme of a witch going to a witching school has been likened to Harry Potter, my book was in the process of being penned long before JK became famous. Once I began the book, the characters took over and worked their way through the rest of it. I love Gertie as a character, and I hope others feel the same about her! I would like her to return one day…
Can you sum the book up in one sentence?
A light hearted and very funny excursion into children’s fantasy
Have your characters or writing been inspired by friends/ family or by real-life experiences?
I doubt if there are any writers out there who do not rely on at least some of their life’s experiences in their writing. Characters with Lancashire accents have a habit of creeping into my novels, especially when writing humour. I believe I have that off to a fine art…Then of course there’s the animated umbrella in ‘Gertie Gets it Right (eventually)’ inspired by a true incident that happened to my Mother with her wooden-headed umbrella, but that’s another story.
What is your favourite scene in your book? Can we have a snippet?
It’s very difficult to pick out one favourite scene because there are so many I enjoyed writing. Since I mentioned this in an earlier question, I will choose one from the early chapters when Gertie learns how to animate her umbrella. It is an impressive black one with the head of a bat as the handle…
Gertie concentrated even harder, and tried again. She had no reason to wonder why it shouldn’t work, so she believed with all her heart.
This time, she felt sure she saw the bat’s little nose quiver. Encouraged by this, Gertie tried again. She wasn’t one to give up easily.
Do you have an agent, or have you gone alone?
No, I don’t have an agent, but if there are any out there reading this with interest, please get in touch! I was simply lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time (which had to be a first for me) when the writers site ‘You Write On’ gave the opportunity for publication. I thought about it carefully for at least five seconds before I snatched their hands off!
I would perhaps use them again, because my only disappointment was a very plain cover for both my books. You can’t judge a book by its cover, and all that, but Gertie and Zac deserve much more interesting and colourful ones! I would initially try to gain the interest of an established publisher who would give me the necessary backing to promote my next book more. It is an arduous task!
What marketing have you been doing to help sales?
I will try almost anything to promote my books! I am always happy to do interviews like this, I have my own website and blog, an Author page on Amazon UK, and copies of my books are available in my local library. If anyone has any more promotion ideas, I will be pleased to hear them!
How long does it take you to write a book? Have your written other books (give titles)?
My first two published books were long in the writing, because my writing skills have improved considerably over time. The first draft of Gertie was written many years ago when I naively believed that if you write a good story, someone will want to publish it. I didn’t, at the time, know all the ‘rules’ involved in writing a good book, and that has come over many years. The published version of Gertie is many drafts away from that first completed story…
My other published book is a children’s sword and sorcery fantasy,‘Zac’s Destiny’, and I am currently writing a very different humorous children’s fantasy, ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’, and a fantasy for adults, ‘Dimensions’.
Which comes first for you – characters or plot?
I think I would have to say plot, though characters come a very close second. For me, the initial ideas for the book have to come first, but it doesn’t take long before the characters take over a lot of the writing. I get to the point where I will think, no, Gertie wouldn’t do or say that. At that point the characters determine what comes next in a way, but they still follow a meandering version of my original plot.
How did you get into writing? Did you always want to become a writer?
I began to write while I was temporarily out of work after completing a psychology degree. I have wanted to write for as long as I can remember, but a lot of the problem is making enough time to do it while holding down a full-time job. Writing is my life, and ultimately is all I want to do as a career. I just need to pen that best seller!
You mentioned other books that you are working on. Tell us a little more about them.
Yes, I am working on two books. Strangely, that is how I seem to write best. One is humorous, the other serious. If I am not feeling particularly humorous, I write the serious fantasy. If I feel inspired to humour, then I write that one. They are such very different books, fortunately I never get mixed up!
The humorous book is another children’s fantasy, ‘Be Careful What You Wish For.’ Here is a brief synopsis:
A brief synopsis for Dimensions follows:
And a snippet from the early chapters:
What mistakes do you see new writers make?
I think, like myself, it is easy to believe that a good book will be snatched up and published. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Writing does not just involve an inventive mind. If the tale, no matter how good, isn’t written to the agreed publishing format and standard, then publishers will not consider it. New writer’s need to face this and address it. The fantastic idea for a story is just the beginning.
What advice would you give aspiring authors.
Don’t give up. You are very unlikely to have your life’s work snatched up by the first publisher or agent you send it to. Be prepared for the long haul, but believe in yourself, and don’t lose hope. There could be someone out there just waiting for your book to drop on their desk. The hard part is finding them…