On this quiet Sunday morning why don't you put the kettle on, make your favourite breakfast and settle down for Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo
☼Good Morning, Rachel. Happy Sunday !
Thank you so much for inviting me, I love a good brunch!
What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch?
Oh the same as I always have: bagel with full fat cream cheese and little strips of smoked salmon. Ooh! Apologies if I’m dribbling.
Would you like a pot of English Breakfast tea, a strong Americano, or a glass of Bucks Fizz?
Well at the risk of sounding greedy, any chance I can start with a strong Americano and then have a cup of tea with my bagel?
Which of your literary heroes are joining us today?
I’m very excited to be bringing two former Children’s Laureates: the fabulous Julia Donaldson, who most people will recognise as author of “The Gruffalo” but in our family she is known as “the author of that huge pile of board books” and also the wonderful Jacqueline Wilson, again many will know her as the author of “Tracy Beaker”, but we know her as the author of almost every book in my daughter’s bookshelf! If you don’t mind, I’ve also invited the late, great Charles Dickens along – he takes up much of my bookcase!
What’s the title of the book nearest to you?
“Wonder” by R J Palacio. As well as writing picture books for 0-5 year-olds, I also write middle-grade books for tweens and teens, therefore I try to read a lot of books for that age group. I’m particularly interested in books that tackle difficult issues in a sensitive way and I’ve heard so many good things about this book from the students I work with, I thought it was about time I read it for myself.
What’s the oldest book on your book shelf?
Well the books that were written the longest time ago will be my Shakespeare plays, but the physically oldest book is “Schoolgirl Chums” by Kathlyn Rhodes. My friend found it at a second hand bookstall and recognised the name inside – it used to belong to my Auntie Geraldine, so she bought it and gave it to me. Inside it says “Merry Christmas 1952”. Actually, I really should read it, it will be interesting to see how much middle-grade has changed. Books for that age group used to be far more innocent and twee. I just love the use of the word “chums” in the title – so quaint!
Which book do you really want to read but haven’t had time for …yet!
Oh my goodness. My virtual “TBR” shelf is huge! My son bought me “The Game of Thrones” by George R R Martin. Hardback, all five books in one. I purposely didn’t watch the televised series so as not to spoil it, but the book is so huge, it’s intimidating. When on earth will I ever find time to sink into it? I mightn’t emerge for a couple of years!
Do you have a guilty reading pleasure, and if so will you tell us about it?
I don’t feel guilty for reading anything. Some people “admit” they prefer reading middle-grade to adult books. I don’t think it should be considered shameful, there are some utterly fabulous middle-grade books out there. I love reading middle-grade, but I also love reading adult and young adult and picture books. Anything.
If the house was on fire which book would you rescue?
“Teddy Flies Away” by Molly Brett. Without a doubt. This was my favourite book as a young child. My mum read it to me so many times that I knew the words off by heart and could “read” it to myself before I could actually read. When my baby brother was born, I read it to him. It is a colouring and story book, but I only ever coloured in one page. I realised I couldn’t make it as perfect as the artist (fair enough!) and loved it too much to ruin it. Other books can be replaced, but not this one – complete with poor colouring in!
Do you have a reading/writing playlist on Spotify, or a favourite CD to listen to when reading/writing? And if so will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you feel happy?
I prefer to work in complete silence. When I hear music I always want to sing along. I think writing your own story whilst listening to music is some kind of superpower. However, when I’m not writing, I still love good old 80s rock. The album that makes me really, really happy is “Join With Us” by The Feeling. It’s impossible not to sing at the top of your voice and dance around when that’s on.
Do you have a favourite place to settle down to read/write?
I love to read curled up on the sofa with my dog laid across my lap. He’s actually a massive dog, so I do sometimes start to get numb legs and have to move him to the side! The only place I find I can write is sitting at the kitchen table looking out onto the garden. When I try to write in my tiny, cluttered office, I feel too hemmed in. Writing in the kitchen isn’t ideal though – sometimes people want to eat or talk – how rude!
Give us four essential items that a writer absolutely needs?
1. Imagination. Definitely number one.,
2. Resilience. To be able to get through writer’s block, self-doubt, negative people, rejections…
3. Ability to accept constructive criticism. So important if you want your book to be more than mediocre.
4. Flexibility. Of the mind not the body, but if you want to sit in the Lotus position whilst working – go for it.
What can you tell us about your latest novel, or your current work in progress?
My latest picture book is Robberty Bobberty, a super cute rabbit, who (rather like a lot of us), rushes around too busy to notice the beauty of nature surrounding him until his friends help him to slow down and appreciate what he’s been missing. It’s written in rhythm and rhyme and has the most exquisite illustrations by Shelly Oyston. The book has been a big hit with children and parents alike and perfect for our current lockdown situation which is forcing all of us (except for our brave key workers) to slow down a little. It’s a lesson I hope we’ll remember when this is all over.
My latest novel is “The Boy Who Couldn’t”. It is aimed at upper middle-grade so children 10+. It is my debut novel and was great fun to write. I remember so well being that age, building dens in the woods and being outraged at animal cruelty (actually nothing’s changed there). In the story, three boys hiding out in the woods have to team up to save a badger clan from terrible criminals who want to use the badgers for cruel fighting. It’s very much a story about finding your true self and being brave. Craig Fellowes from The Badger Trust helped me with my research into badgers and they really are fascinating, beautiful creatures. The reader learns so much about badgers through the story that I made a quiz on badger facts in the back of the book.
Rachel, where can we follow you on social media?