Book Chat Back-Chat

Despite everything I said about not joining a book club again, I still love to talk about books –especially with my family. Last night, over tea, Mr H, our two daughters, B and R, and myself discussed our favourite books that we’d read recently…

B (12): My favourite books that I’ve read recently are The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter – especially Book 2. Book 2 was the most exciting cos it was really unpredictable – not like “oh my god that person is so bad how can you not see it?” You just didn’t know what was going to happen next.

R (14): Those books were OK but I thought they were predictable, although I did skip forward to read the last page when I was half-way through.

Mrs H (46): NO! You can’t read the last page first. That spoils the ending.

R: I said I read it when I was half-way through. And you’re wrong, it doesn’t spoil the ending – it just adds to the suspense. Don’t look at me like that.

Mr H (47): So, R, what’s your favourite book that you’ve read recently?

R: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series by Ransom Riggs. The books were so much better than the film which was like all three books squashed into one. The books were scarier. I also liked Twilight and New Moon by Stephenie Meyer, which I read after watching the films. And I loved the Murder Most Unladylike series which I started reading in Year 6 but carried on reading as they came out. I don’t care if it’s middle grade.

B: Murder Most Unladylike was rubbish.

R: Shut up – it wasn’t rubbish, it was really good.

B: You shut up! It’s my go. I also liked Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. It’s about a girl who writes fan fiction and has a big following on the internet and then she goes to college with her sister but they fall out with each other.

Mrs H: I read that one too. I found it a bit slow.

B: It’s brilliant.

Mr H: Does anyone want to hear my favourite books?

B & R: NO!

Mr H: So my favourite book that I’ve read in the last year is Wild by Cheryl Strayed, about a woman who goes trekking and camping on her own in the wild.

Mrs H: R, what are you doing with that wine bottle? Put it down.

R: Just sniffing it. It says it’s got a cherry and pepper aroma.

Mr H: Um, is anyone listening to me?

Mrs H: Sorry. Go on.

Mr H: There’s a film of it starring Reece Withoutaspoon which I think you girls would enjoy.

B: Dad, I think you’d enjoy Wonder by RJ Palacio about a boy with facial deformalities.

R: Deformities.

B: Whatever. It’s a really good book. Can I leave my courgettes?

Mrs H: No.

B: [Groans.] Mum, for you I’d recommend My Name is Victoria by Lucy Worsley which is like fiction mixed with non-fiction with a twist. Oops – I’ve given a spoiler away!

Me: I’m none the wiser.

B: And R, you should read the rest of The Gallagher Girls series. They’ve got them all in the school library.

R: Not happening.

Mr H: I think you’d all like 438 Days by Jonathan Franklin. It’s a true story about a South American fisherman who gets lost at sea for 438 days and miraculously survives.

Mrs H: Yes I loved that story. It was totally gripping. Right, my turn. The book that’s stayed with me the most is The Power by Naomi Alderman. I think all three of you should read it, although perhaps it’s a bit old for B at the moment. It’s about how the world changes when all girls all over the planet discover they’ve developed an organ in their bodies called a skein, which gives them an electric current that they can use to give people electric shocks. They soon realise this makes them physically more powerful than men – which changes everything. It’s very, very thought-provoking.

R: I’d like to read that.

B: I’d like to give people electric shocks.

Mrs H: [Presses fingers to Mr H’s neck.] ZZZZZap! Make me a cup of tea, NOW, man-slave.

B: [Zaps her dad]. Get me a chocolate biscuit, man-slave.

R: Man-slave, do you want to watch Love Island with us now?

Mr H: Very tempting, but man-slave seeks permission to retreat to his man-cave.

R: [Zaps her dad] You’re watching Love Island.


From a silly bedtime story to a children’s ebook…

Fartella Cover (1)

I never had any leanings towards writing children’s fiction but about a year ago, when my daughters were demanding made-up bedtime stories almost every night, I pulled a character out of thin air – Fartina Gasratilova, the world’s windiest kid. (Her name has since changed but I’ll come to that in a minute.)

Night after night, Fartina’s incessant wind either got her into trouble or rendered her a hero amongst her friends. My daughters laughed so hard that I wondered if maybe I was onto something. I typed a couple of stories out and asked my friends if they’d like to try them out on their kids. The response I got was overwhelmingly positive so I decided to “knock up” a little ebook called The Adventures of Fartina Gasratilova…

I glibly use the term “knock up” because I didn’t see it as anything more than a side project, an experiment, a bit of fun. However, once I got the ball rolling, I started to treat it more seriously. It would probably need illustrations. What age group was I aiming for? Did I really want to risk my writing credibility by writing a book about a farty child? But once I’d got started, I couldn’t help but see it through.

My long-suffering husband volunteered to do the illustrations, and what do you know? He came up trumps! (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.) Then, after editing, when the book was almost ready to publish, I came across another book on Amazon about a girl called Fartina. Aaargh! I couldn’t believe I’d been so stupid as to not check there wasn’t a character called Fartina already out there. (Well in fact I’d discovered there was a porn star called Fartina somewhere in the world, but I figured unless she’d released an autobiography, it didn’t matter too much.) And not to mention the veritable sea of fart-themed children’s books on Amazon. So much for my original idea…

By this time it was too late to turn back, and besides, the other book was quite different in style and content to mine, so maybe I didn’t need to change the name after all… But then my husband said that perhaps the name Fartina Gasratilova wasn’t a good idea on the grounds that, in the unlikely event it were to ever come to Martina Navratilova’s attention, she might be a bit narked that her brand name was being played with for the amusement of others. And sports brands, apparently, take these matters very seriously. So, I’d gone from silly made-up bedtime stories to potential legal battle. Blimey. I’ve never worried about any of this stuff writing grown-up fiction!

Anyway, I changed the name to Fartella and uploaded the book to Amazon (click here to take a closer look). Whether Fartella farts herself to stardom or deflates faster than a punctured balloon remains to be seen, but personally, I’ve enjoyed making her acquaintance. I hope you like her too.

PS: My latest novel for grown-ups, Blown-Away Man (which I assure you is nothing to do with bodily air), will be coming out in February.