Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Interview with Julie McGowan, author of The Mountains Between (newly re-released)


The Mountains Between by Julie McGowan was originally published in 2007 and became an immediate  regional bestseller in Wales. On Monday 21st, it was re-launched for a more international audience.

About The Mountains Between:

"The Mountains Between" tells the story of a small girl fighting to keep her balance in the face of an unbalanced mother and the deepest heart-blows a child can bear. It's a story of strength and courage; of a girl-woman with a huge heart who took what life threw at her and kept on loving - the story of a survivor.

It's the story of a Big Pit mining family who suffered an unspeakable horror that nearly killed them, but they got up and got on because that's what those amazing people did. And it's a story about two young people who could have and should have found each other much sooner, but their valleys were separated by the mountains and never the twain, in those days, would meet.

It's a war story; a love story; a hate story. But more than all this, it's the story of a chunk of Wales's lifetime slashed like a scar on a mountainside - about the people of Wales, the people of the mountains and the valleys who formed the beating heart of that country; the people who enable the current Welsh to stand proud and hold the Red Dragon high, because of what their forefathers did.

This book is the story of their essence.

Reader's Reviews



I can honestly say it was the best book I have read in years. I could not put it down.
- Peter Davies

It is so well written and the characters really come alive on the pages. Thank you for being such a clever and interesting author. I look forward to reading more of your work.
- Eileen Carr

You captured the contrast in lifestyle and culture between Blaenavon and the other side of the Blorenge beautifully.
- Lorraine Reed




About Julie McGowan

Julie McGowan has had over 40 short stories and features published both nationally and internationally, and is an ardent playwright for the Welsh theatre. She has won numerous writing competitions over the years, as well as penning various features, a newspaper column, and a local annual town guide. Well known in her home town of Usk, Monmouthshire, for her work in the community, Julie runs a young people’s drama workshop, Stageright, as well as a full theatrical group, performing variety shows and witty pantomimes to sell-out crowds every year. She also co-runs “Is It?”, a theatre company which tours secondary schools in Wales with productions covering health and social issues. And her talents don’t stop there – Julie is also a trained pianist!

Interview with Julie on The Mountains Between:


 Describe The Mountains Between in five words.

Riveting, moving, entrancing, atmospheric saga.

2.       Where did your inspiration for The Mountains Between come from?
When I returned to live in Wales 19 years ago, I started taping my parents’ memoirs, and as they talked I felt that there was a novel waiting to be written. Also, returning to my homeland made me want to write about it.

3.       The Mountains Between is set in Wales. How did your childhood there near Abergavenny influence the writing of it?

It was a huge influence; I spent my childhood in Blaenavon and never lost the sense of close community and family life that characterised the town. My grandparents still lived in Nantyderry throughout this time – the place where the Abergavenny side of the book is set – and much of my childhood was spent visiting relatives on both sides, and listening to their chats about what was happening in both communities.

4.       Can you tell us about the writing process for The Mountains Between?

As I said, the first ideas for it came from the taped memoirs of my parents, and I then went on to ask them to describe broader pictures of life in both communities in the first half of the twentieth century. It struck me how very different their early lives had been, living on different sides of the mountain, and how those experiences had made them the adults they became. I began to really identify with this lonely little girl living on a farm, and this young lad trying so hard to be a man and they then became characters in their own right – quite separate from my parents. As the story developed, I could actually feel myself back in these places that I knew so well, in those decades, and see my characters walking the streets and living their lives etc.

5.       Are any of your characters based on real people?

Most of the main characters are composites or exaggerations of deceased members of my family, although of course the story has been developed beyond what actually happened to them all in real life. Most of the subsidiary characters are pure invention.

6.       What do you hope readers of The Mountains Between take away with them after reading it?

I hope they have become as immersed in the lives of the families and become as fond of them all as I was when writing it. I hope that they have been moved by the plight and resilience of the main characters; that they have a greater understanding of what life was like in those communities at that time; that it gives them a fondness for the Welsh community that they may not have previously had, and that they can’t wait to read more of my books!

7.       Can you share a favourite quote from The Mountains Between?

‘Just as with the first couple who stood before the Tree of Knowledge, the revelation brought despair and pain, the enormity of which they could not share for the moment, and in silent distress they turned away from each other’

8.       What actors would you pick to play the characters if The Mountains Between was being made into a movie?

Catherine Zeta Jones to play Katharine (although she might think she’s too young for it!) Ioan Grufydd to play Harry. My actor son and daughter, Daniel and Catherine to play the siblings, perhaps. The other main parts I would like to see taken by other less well-known Welsh actors as it’s so difficult for actors to get work and recognition.

9.       What do you think of the new cover design for The Mountains Between?

I’m very pleased with it. It gives the book a more contemporary feel whilst still making its historical context obvious. It’s a good translation of what I had in my head when Jo first asked me to imagine a new cover. I think it has good ‘pick-up-off-the-shelf’ appeal.

10.   What is life as an author like and what is your favourite thing about being an author?

Life as an author can be solitary, very up and down and can also be a long waiting game when what is happening is out of your hands. But it’s also tremendous fun and has its exciting moments when work is accepted and you see it in print, whether it’s a magazine piece or a book. My favourite thing about being an author is that wonderful feeling when one is so immersed in a story that it seems to take wings and almost writes itself and nothing can distract one (as my family will testify) from sitting there and carrying on with it.

   What writing project are you currently working on?

I’ve just completed my 14th pantomime, which is being performed at the end of November, and am writing my 4th novel, which is set in the early 1970s in London.

Quick fire questions for fun:

   Would you rather be invisible or a mind reader?

Invisible

  Music or TV?

Music

14.   Reading or writing?

Reading



Thank you Julie! You can find out more about Julie McGowan, the Mountains Between and her second book Just One More Summer on her website  and the re-release book with the newly designed cover will be available on all good online book stores by the end of November.

Monday, 21 November 2011

If Horses Were Wishes by Elizabeth Sellers is released today!


Our first Sunberry book, If Horses Were Wishes by Elizabeth Sellers is released today (21st November) with a launch taking place in Gloucester today! About If Horses Were Wishes:

Daydreaming Katy Robinson, an unhappy young foster child, daydreams constantly – of a proper home with her parents, of having good friends, and of being as popular at school as Sandra Magill. Sandra has an enviable lifestyle in the countryside, with her parents and her horse Tommy, and is always surrounded by friends. 
But when Katy dreams of doing something admirable to impress Sandra, the results aren’t quite what she had in mind! Her initial shock at waking up to her new status as a horse gradually grows into acceptance. Being cared for by Sandra’s posse, and becoming friends with Tommy, all help. But Katy-the-girl is officially missing and being looked for by the police – and when Sandra and her friends decide to undertake to find their schoolmate, Katy finds she is able to lead them in the right direction.
Through various adventures, including putting the school bullies to flight, unexpected friendships and discoveries develop, and the question is – will Katy decide she prefers being a horse, or would she try to find a way to become a girl once more?

For all  young adults and children who have a passion for horses, it's characters are unique and engaging and the descriptions are vivid, especially when it comes to horses!

What readers have been saying:


"If Horses Were Wishes" is delightfully imaginative, entertaining to follow, 
and the life-lessons presented therein - about friendship, self-worth,  and how to 
recognize what’s truly meaningful - are readily absorbed. This novel is sure to 
become a favourite on the shelves of young people who love horses.

Karen Molson, author & biographer


Captivating, Stimulating and Educational. Sellers writes from her heart and her 
experience. She describes in detail the very soul of the young teenager, as well 
as the spirit of the horse.

Sheila Pennington Ph.D., psychologist and author 
   of “Healing Yourself: Understanding How Your Mind 
   Can Heal Your Body” and “The Dragon Within: A Tale of 
   Self Discovery and Healing.

About Elizabeth Sellers:

Elizabeth Sellers has loved horses all her life. Born in London,England, she moved with her family to the country at the age of four.There, to her delight, her older brothers would borrow ponies and propher up on them. After emigrating to Canada when she was six,subsequent homes were within the city of Ottawa. For each of her birthdays thereafter she wished for a horse, but never lived where she could keep one. She took riding lessons in Gatineau, Quebec, where herlove of horses grew into a passion. After graduating from high school she chose to learn to teach riding, which she did while living in various parts of England and Scotland. Elizabeth, now a parent of two teenagers, has written many stories about horses for children.

Knoydart Book Launch

Earlier this week, the book's first launch was held in Knoydart, Iverness with a talk from Elizabeth and a book signing. Here are some photos from the event:







The youngest reader!




If Horses Were Wishes will be available from all good online stores such as Amazon by the end of November; meanwhile you can order directly by emailing orders@sunpenny.com to request your copy. Price is £7.99 plus a post and packaging cost of £1.50.

(The Book Depository offers free postage on all orders worldwide, so we’d suggest waiting until it is available on their website.)

If you're interested in finding out more, look out for an author interview for an insight into the book and more photos from the launches coming soon. In the meantime, you can check out Elizabeth Seller's website and Facebook page for the latest updates and information!

Friday, 18 November 2011

New books to be released soon!

In the next few weeks, Sunpenny are releasing four new and exciting books from our different imprints- just in time for Christmas! To celebrate the releases, there will be posts featuring the books such as author interviews, guest posts, interviews and.... give-aways!. The books are:

If Horses Were Wishes by Elizabeth Sellers (Sunberry) – 21 November



Daydreaming Katy Robinson, an unhappy young foster child, daydreams constantly – of a proper home with her parents, of having good friends, and of being as popular at school as Sandra Magill. Sandra has an enviable lifestyle in the countryside, with her parents and her horse Tommy, and is always surrounded by friends. 
But when Katy dreams of doing something admirable to impress Sandra, the results aren’t quite what she had in mind! Her initial shock at waking up to her new status as a horse gradually grows into acceptance. Being cared for by Sandra’s posse, and becoming friends with Tommy, all help. But Katy-the-girl is officially missing and being looked for by the police – and when Sandra and her friends decide to undertake to find their schoolmate, Katy finds she is able to lead them in the right direction.
Through various adventures, including putting the school bullies to flight, unexpected friendships and discoveries develop, and the question is – will Katy decide she prefers being a horse, or would she try to find a way to become a girl once more?

The Mountains Between by Julie McGowan (re-release) – 21 November



Mother’s hand swung round and slapped Jennie across the ankles. “Don’t be so disgusting!” she hissed. “Get out of here!”
Despite a comfortable living, surrounded by lush farmlands, Jennie’s life under the critical eye of her tyrannical mother is hard.  Desperate for affection, she stumbles upon dark secrets and into the uncertain murmurings of love.
It was daylight before the cage wheel began to turn and the first of the casualties was brought up. It finished only when there were nine bodies laid out on stretchers.
On the other side of the scarred mountainside, and in the wake of a disaster that tears through his family and their tight-knit mining community, Harry finds the burden of manhood thrust upon his young shoulders.
Through the turmoil of the Depression years, life for both Harry and Jennie takes many unexpected turns, with love won and lost. But the onset of World War II brings changes that neither could have imagined.
This is the extraordinary tale of two young souls living in different worlds, yet separated only by the mountains between them.


The Skipper’s Child by Valerie Poore (Sunberry)  – 30 November 





Arie Kornet hates school holidays on his family’s barge, RIVAL, which is home to Arie, his two sisters, his father, and his deaf mother. But because his father is a commercial skipper, all they do is travel from one place to another on the Dutch and European waterways. Arie is intensely frustrated with it all. It seems there is nothing for him to do, and no escape.

That is, until an unexpected brush with Russian secret agents, international plots, and a startling stow-away bring him far more excitement than his dreams had ever bargained for! Suddenly his own life, and those of his entire beloved family, could be in danger. Arie has difficult choices to make, and even more difficult actions to take. 



Far Out by Corinna Weyreter (Boathooks)



Tired of their careers in the oil industry, Corinna and Gjalt van der See sailed away from the rat race in search of freedom and adventure in the fabled South Pacific. Taking only what could justify its space on their 41-foot yacht, they abandoned materialism to discover how little a person really needs in order to be content. Trading with fishermen in Belize, learning desert island survival from the lone inhabitant of a Polynesian atoll, swimming with humpback whales beside the coral island of Niue, attending the wedding of a Chief’s son in Vanuatu ... they entered an enchanting new world. But Earth is under threat from humanity. During a period when the human population doubled, animal species plummeted by more than a quarter. 41% of all oceans have been strongly affected by Man’s activities, 19% of our coral reefs have died, and 29% of fisheries have collapsed. The young couple found a beautiful world beyond the urban sprawl and rampant consumerism of mankind, but its future is fragile. In Far Out, Corinna takes us into that disappearing world and shows us its fragility with sensitive first-hand knowledge.

A Little Book of Pleasures by William Wood  (Sunpenny) – 10 December


This delightful anecdotal collection, told with wry humour and a gentle, sometimes quirky style slightly reminiscent of a bygone era, contains a mixture of description and observation, with a smattering of autobiographical incident. William Wood has lived in many places of the world, is well travelled and well written, with a keen sense of enjoyment of what he sees and experiences, and a talent for bringing that visually to the mind of his reader. The short, usually self-contained pieces make wonderful cameos both for those who do their reading in snatches, and those who will want to devour his stories in one sitting.


Books make perfect Christmas presents and there's a title to suit all ages in this releases list so if you're interested in purchasing any of these new titles, look out for updates here on the blog as to when they are available in the Sunpenny store and many other bookstores! If you want to subscribe to updates to this blog to make sure you don't miss any of the posts for the releases, make sure you click the 'follow' button in the sidebar if you have a Google account or subscribe through email (top right hand corner) to get notifications in your inbox.