Monday, 28 August 2017

The Lemon Tree Café Blog Tour

Hello everyone and welcome to my stop on The Lemon Tree Café blog tour! Today I have the lovely Cathy Bramley answering some of my questions on her writing process, Italy, and what she's working on next.

The Lemon Tree Café Q&A 

1.) Hi Cathy, welcome to the blog! The Lemon Tree Café was originally published as a four-part serial eBook, how is writing a story in parts different to writing a full-length novel?
Hi Jess, thank you for having me on your blog! I liken my writing process to television and film writing. If I’m writing a series, I tackle it as if it’s a four-part TV drama. I have a small celebration after finishing each part. For a full length novel which is not going to be serialised, I write it as if it was a film, with the drama building towards the end.

2.) What sparked the idea behind The Lemon Tree Café? 
When I was writing The Plumberry School of Comfort Food, I introduced a character called Rosie, who was the main character, Verity’s, housemate. I fell in love with her instantly and knew I wanted her to have her own book. She was from an Italian family and I knew her ‘nonna’ would be great fun to write too.

3.) Did you do any research for this book? What’s your writing process like?
I had to go to Italy to research part of the book – poor me! Rosie takes her nonna back to her home town to lay some ghosts to rest. I could have tried to do it using Google maps, but I wanted it to feel authentic. I went on my own in January for three days and packed some sun cream, when I got there it snowed!

I plan my books in detail before I start and then I write every day until it’s finished.

4.) Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Be resilient, don’t expect to write a perfect novel in the first draft and read, read, read.

5.) What was the last great book that you read?
I read two corkers on holiday recently: The Widow by Fiona Barton. I was totally gripped and raced through it. And Meet Me At Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell. I am a massive Jill fan and this, I think, is her best yet. I adored it.

6.) Can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on next?
I’m editing a new four-part serial at the moment. It’s called A Match Made In Devon and I’m really excited about it. It’s about an actress called Nina and her quest for fame, which inadvertently leads her to the sleepiest seaside village in Devon called Brightside Cove. It’s a story about letting go of what you think your life should be like and celebrating what you have. Also includes mermaids…

7.) And finally, what three words best describe The Lemon Tree Café? 
Un-put-downable, feel-good, fun!

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour!

Friday, 25 August 2017

Freshers Blog Tour: Q&A with Tom and Lucy

Hello everyone and welcome to my stop on the Freshers blog tour! I'm a huge fan of Tom and Lucy's books so I'm incredibly excited to be hosting a Q&A with them today all about writing together, uni advice and what they're working on next. Freshers is one of my favourite reads of this summer and you can find out my full thoughts on the book in my review here.

Freshers Q&A with Tom and Lucy

1.) Hi Tom and Lucy, welcome to the blog! As collaborative authors what is your writing process like? Do you always know what the other is going to write or do you surprise each other? 

Thanks for having us! Basically, the way we write is a bit like an over-elaborate game of Consequences - so one of us will write a chapter, then send to the other, then the other continues the story, and so on. We set out a few basic plot points before we start writing, but aside from that we basically just take it where we want to go, and the other person has to deal with that. So there are constant surprises along the way, but hopefully that's a good thing, as the reader will feel the same surprise we felt while writing it! Right from the start on FRESHERS we were surprising each other - there's a bit at the end of the very first chapter where the male protagonist (Luke) breaks down in tears - Lucy wrote that bit, and Tom thought it came completely out of left-field, but once he kept writing, it took the story in a really interesting and different direction. So, most of the time, the method works!

2.) What’s the best and worst thing about writing with another person? 

TOM: Best thing for me is the second and third draft, where we sit in the room together, reading through it all out loud, and try to make the jokes better, or the dialogue stronger. We do a thing where, if we come to a line we think could be funnier, we each go away for five minutes and write three alternatives. Then we come back and 'pitch' each other our three ideas, and the one that makes us both laugh most gets into the book. So that's very fun. In terms of the WORST thing, it's definitely that Lucy uses me as a human spelling and grammar check. So rather than simply hitting 'spelling and grammar' on her computer, she just sends me wild, typo-strewn chapters and expects me to clean them up. I constantly tell her how much that annoys me, and to be honest I think it just makes her do it more regularly.

LUCY: I agree about the second and third drafts. We spend ages thinking about what is intrinsically funnier about certain words… like how monster munch is just a naturally funnier crisp than say, walkers salt and vinegar. We sometimes spend whole afternoons just trying to make each other laugh and those times make all the other times we are finding it hard, worth it. Tom is always early to everything and then gets angry and makes out you are late, when you're actually just there at the agreed time, and that makes me hate him.

3.) What’s been your favourite author moment so far?

TOM: There have been lots of amazing moments. Maybe the most scary and exciting was last year, when we went to Holland to speak at a big Dutch YA festival, alongside people like Stephanie Perkins and Ransom Riggs and Becky Albertalli. There were more than 400 people in the audience - by far the biggest crowd we've ever spoken in front of us - and that definitely made us feel like superstar authors (for about an hour!)

LUCY: Mine was when someone came up to us at YALC and said that Negin in Freshers, who is muslim and so doesn’t drink, made them feel more confident about going to uni and not drinking. When moments like that happen, it’s amazing.

4.) What sparked the idea behind Freshers? Are any scenes in the book inspired by your own time as students?

We had the idea to write something about the first term of university from very early on. Our first book, LOBSTERS, is about the summer between finishing A-Levels and starting uni, and we always wanted to write a kind-of sequel (with different characters) about the term that follows that summer. We came up with the basic plot one morning when Tom was helping Lucy set up a baby shower for her best friend. We drove across London - from west to east - and in that hour or so in the car, we mapped out pretty much the skeleton for FRESHERS. And yep, plenty of the characters are based on real people we were at university with, and there are lots of bits in there inspired by real-life events. There's a bit where the girl protagonist (Phoebe) is sitting opposite the boy she fancies (Luke) in a seminar, and writes a text to her friend saying 'LUKE TAYLOR IS THE HOTTEST BOY IN THE WORLD'. And then - to her immense horror - she accidentally sends it... to Luke Taylor. And that same thing happened to one of Tom's friends at university. It's been 12 years, and the memory of it still haunts her...

5.) Is there any advice that you would give to somebody about to start uni? 

TOM: Apart from 'Have fun!', I would say it's important to remember that everyone else is just as nervous (and excited) as you are. So, even if it looks like everyone is immediately fitting in and having the best time ever, they may not be. Don't panic if you don't instantly feel this is the greatest period of your life - everyone talks about how amazing freshers' term is, but in my experience, I had the most fun - and made my closest friends - during second year, when I had settled in a bit more.

LUCY: Don’t feel like you have to decide who you are going to move in with in the first term. The pressure is real but you do not have to succumb to it! If you are not sure you want to move in with the people who ask you first, then don’t just say yes out of panic or to be polite.

6.) What books would you recommend to fans looking for similar stories to your own?

TOM: Anyone from the UKYA community writing funny, realistic teen stuff - so people like Holly Bourne, Juno Dawson, Non Pratt, Lisa Williamson. Also, in terms of campus-set books, Fangirl is obviously very good, and David Nicholls' first novel Starter For Ten is really great, too.

LUCY: For more classic stuff I think Nancy Mitford is hilarious. I just read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and whilst it is totally totally different to our stuff, it really gets mixing the dark with the comic and I absolutely love that.

7.) Can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on next? 

TOM: I am trying to start writing something on my own, but me and Lucy also have another co-written book we want to have a go at pretty soon. It's dual narrative, but a bit darker and more dramatic, and set in the 90’s.

LUCY: I am finally writing the historical middle grade novel I have been banging about doing for ages. And also excited for our 90’s book too. It’s more ambitious than our other books, so will be a challenge but I think it will be fun too.

8.) And finally, what three words best describe Freshers

TOM: I'm stealing this wholesale from the back of the book, but... HONEST, FUNNY, MESSY!


Don't miss the rest of the blog tour!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Editing Emma Blog Tour

Hello everyone and welcome to my stop on the Editing Emma blog tour! Today I have a brilliant guest post from Chloe Seager on growing up online and I'm giving 3 of my lucky readers the chance to win a copy of the book over on Twitter.

Online Pressures For This Generation by Chloe Seager

When I was a teenager, I don’t think I realised just how new or strange a thing social media really was. I was part of the first generation who grew up with it, and everything in my life being public seemed pretty normal to me. I remember my Mum being totally scandalised by pictures of me and my friends in bikinis ‘on the internet?!’ and shaking her head at our constant selfie-sharing. But looking back, I think I’ve gained some perspective on what a strange thing it actually can be, and what kind of additional pressures social media put on my teenage years. 

Genuinely, I went through a phase where I almost felt like things weren’t real unless they were put online. Like, if we didn’t get a photo of our evening out…did it even happen? I also went through a phase where if I had a terrible time, I would think to myself, ‘it’s ok, at least I got some pictures that look like I’m having a good time.’ Looking back, these aren’t particularly healthy thoughts for a young person to be having. What kind of value system is that? One where I comfort my lonely, sad self with the image of myself seeming happy and fulfilled? In many ways, I think I could even look at pictures of times that were truly awful and convince myself I was having fun…which is even more bizarre than convincing other people.

Thinking about it, though, it’s not all that surprising. When you’re fourteen years old and everything in your life starts getting uploaded, to start defining yourself by that content almost seems inevitable… or at least, for the lines to blur. Even if I knew logically that other people weren’t always as they appeared in their content - I got told it time and time again, and I knew that I myself wasn’t always completely truthful - all these smiling, shining pictures of other people did (and still do) make it hard sometimes. And probably for some people more than me, who was lucky enough to have a decent group of pals. A friend I met in adult life said before social media came along, she might have been at home alone on a Friday night…but no one would know about it. She knew on a vague level that other people were probably out having fun, but didn’t have to get smacked in the face with it. But once Facebook happened, not only did she know for sure that she was never invited to parties, but it was also suddenly like everyone else could see her own lack of social life. ‘Why are there never any pictures of you?’ they would ask. It highlighted how left out she was at school in a very public domain, to the point where she considered taking dressed-up selfies that made her look like she was going out. (She didn’t do this in the end, and deleted her social media instead).

I think it must be even worse for teenagers now than it was for my generation. I did definitely think about how I was coming off - what with reams of embarrassing photos being uploaded against my will, and thinking ‘I look so ugly there’ and ‘how dare they upload this,’ and obviously using it to look a certain way (a la Emma) e.g. wanting to look like I was having tons of fun even if I wasn’t, or wanting to seem like I was SUPER HAPPY AND FINE to spite an ex boyfriend or a mate I was fighting with. But I do think it’s even more extreme now. Probably the most creative choice I’d ever made on social media was what song to choose for my MySpace profile, and now each and every photo that gets uploaded has a zillion filter choices. It’s a whole different world than it was ten years ago and in general I think the emphasis is now on quality over quantity, which in many ways puts way more focus onto one’s image.

There are benefits to this, though. I asked my boyfriend recently, who never got a FB account as a teenager, but did get Insta later on. He said he didn't like the way Facebook made his whole life public in a way he couldn’t fully control, whereas with Instagram he mainly chooses what to share. In a way I totally understand that… It also gives room for you to be creative and explore your own identity, which is such a huge part of being a teenager. But imagining my teenage self with Instagram, I can see just how incredibly neurotic I would have become. It’s not just ‘here’s me on a night out,’ any more, it’s like… ‘here’s my bedroom,’ ‘here’s my plate of food,’ ‘here’s my everything’ etc etc. I think though the amount of content might have decreased, people expect to share even more aspects of their lives now than ten years ago, and naturally, the need to present oneself a certain way will become more extreme along with it.

I think social media can be wonderful but as with anything, it has its pros and cons. It’s great way for teenagers to connect, but it can also compound loneliness, and exacerbate what can already be an isolating period. It’s a great way to express yourself and be creative, and I think it allows teenagers to be more switched on and worldly than people without it would have been. But then again, figuring out who you’re supposed to be over those years is difficult enough, without doing it in public. It seems like it applies pressure for the decision to be right now, and to be fully formed. Whilst it can give you a boost, it can also make you feel low and leads people into pretending or putting up a front. In the end, I eventually figured out how to use it in a way I was happy with; everyone probably has a different relationship with it and needs to find their own balance. But I don’t envy teenagers (like Emma!) having to go through that. In hindsight, it was such a big part of my own teenage life that I knew I wanted to write about it in Editing Emma.

For your chance to win a copy of Editing Emma head over to Twitter 

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour!

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Review for Freshers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

Freshers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison 
Publisher: Chicken House
Release: 3rd August 2017
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"Uni beckons. Phoebe can't wait to be a fresher - especially since her crush from school will be there too. She'll be totally different at Uni: cooler, prettier, smarter ... the perfect potential girlfriend. She'll reinvent herself completely. But Luke's oblivious, still reeling from the fallout of the break-up with his ex. Thrown head first into a world of new friends, parties and social media disasters - can Phoebe and Luke survive the year, let alone find each other?"

I’m a massive fan of Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison’s debut novel Lobsters and am happy to confirm that with Freshers they’ve delivered another hilariously honest story on what it’s like to be a young adult.

The book is told in a dual narrative between Phoebe and Luke who went to school together and are starting their first year at the same university. Phoebe’s had a massive crush on Luke forever and she hopes that at university she’ll get the chance to come out of her shell and be the person she’s always wanted to be. Luke on the other hand had the dream high school experience as a popular jock with a beautiful long-term girlfriend. Now that he’s at uni he’s a fish out of water struggling to keep his long-distance relationship going and make new friends. As the two characters bond during freshers week we follow their relationship and the highs and lows of their lives as students.

Freshers delivered everything I was expecting from a book by Tom and Lucy. It’s funny, relatable and honestly feels like taking a peek at the lives of real teens. This book delivers all of the craziness that you’d expect from a book set during Freshers offering both painfully awkward and laugh out loud scenes. Some of my favourite moments included sexual mishaps, Phoebe and her friends standing up for the sisterhood, and Quidditch matches to name just a few.

I’d highly recommend this book about growing up, moving on and finding your place in the world. It’s an absolute must read for anyone heading off to university this year.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

July Favourites: Books, Benedict and Dragons

Hello everybody! I hope you're all doing well? Did any of you go to YALC? I was so sad to miss it this year due to anxiety but there was still plenty of things that made July a great month for me that I want to share with you all today so, *puts on best Daenerys Targaryen voice* shall we begin?

Favourite Books


I had a really great reading month in July and read a total of nine books but my two absolute favourites happen to both be thrillers. The first is Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell, if you follow me on Instagram this will come as no surprise to you as I was raving about this book on my story. It was a solid five star read for me. If you're looking for a book that grips you from the first page and refuses to let you go then you'll devour this book just like I did. My review for Then She was Gone is already up so if you'd like to find out more you can check it out here. The second thriller I loved was The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham this is such a heartbreaking thriller following the relationship between two very complex women as they bond over being pregnant in the months leading up to their babies births. The writing style was utterly gripping and like watching a car crash, I couldn't look away as I watched these two women's lives crash and collide with devastating consequences. This was my first book by Michael Robotham and I'll definitely be looking out for more of his work.

Favourite to Watch

Game of Thrones is back and so really there is only one contender for what's been my favourite thing to watch this month! We're only three episodes in but it already feels like so much has happened! I don't want to talk about plot for anyone who hasn't watched it yet and wants to so all I'll say is I am enjoying this season a LOT and can't wait to see what else unfolds now that we're closing in on the end.

Favourite Online 

So much has been going on in the bookish community this past month from Benedict Cumberbatch witnessing Non Pratt's charity head shave at YALC (I was literally howling at the tweets, pictures and videos!) to all of the readathon's that have been taking place in July. But for my favourite online I wanted to throw some love in the direction of a new book blogger who has been making the community such a sunny place with her passion for books. This person is the lovely Amy at Golden Books Girl! I've been really enjoying her blog and chatting to her on Twitter about books so if you don't follow her yet you definitely should check her out she's such a ray of sunshine and her enthusiasm for books and the book community is so lovely to see!

Favourite Thing

Picture taken from my Instagram JessHeartsBooks

This month I finally caved and bought a few of the Beauty and the Beast Funko Pops that have been on my wishlist for ages and I'm absolutely in love with them. Beauty and the Beast is my favourite Disney movie and I love being able to include these Funko's in my Bookstagram pictures. I'm planning on reorganizing my bookcases soon and I can't wait for them to be on display with my beautiful books!

Favourite Memory 

This month my favourite memory involves my nine-year-old cousin. We went for a family meal out last weekend to celebrate two birthdays. I sat next to her and we spent so much time talking about books from what we were reading to what we wanted to read next. She's always been a huge bookworm like me and it's something I've always nurtured in her by buying her books for Christmases and birthdays. This time our usual book talk was a little different though, as she was the one giving me recommendations on books to read! It's so nice that she's now old enough that we can mutually share what books we've been enjoying lately. I persuaded my Aunt to buy her the Murder Most Unladylike series and I've added Dragon's Green by Scarlett Thomas a book she's currently reading to my own wishlist. I think that now she's getting older a lot of book swapping will be going on as she raids my shelves for her next read!

What were some of your favourite things in July?
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