Tag Archives: magic

July Author Interview – Paula Cocozza 

This month I had the honour of interviewing the lovely Paula Cocozza, Paula is a writer for The Guardian and her debut novel How to Be Human was published on the 9th May this year. You can read my review here: http://ow.ly/Jfrw30dHARR


What was your background and how did you get into writing?

 Before I got into writing, I got into reading. From about the age of 11 I read everything I could get my hands on. Luckily I had a great little library – Goring library in Worthing – between school and home, so I’d stop off on my way back and stock up. I never knew what I wanted to be, but I knew I loved books, so I read English at university and after that decided that I wanted to write. When I graduated, it was 1994, and the World Cup was on. For a laugh I sent a letter to a football magazine asking if I could write for them. They said yes, and I ended up writing about football for the next five or six years. So I was writing from my first job, but I always had in my head the sense that I was not writing the thing I wanted to write. I just didn’t know what it was. From football writing I moved to fashion writing and eventually feature writing – I have worked at the Guardian now for more than ten years. Then a few years ago I realised I had to face up to the very private ambition I had always held – which was to write fiction. I have no idea why it took me so long to reach that point, but it did.
Football to Fashion to Features, you’ve done it all then. What are your ambitions for your writing? 

To keep doing it. To write the stories I know as truly as I can.

Which writers inspire you? 

I love Hilary Mantel, especially Wolf Hall and Giving Up The Ghost. There is such physicality in her prose. You can feel the body in the words. I find Ali Smith inspiring, because she seems to treat the blank page as a tremendous opportunity for fun. She has a playfulness with language that I really admire. I have a lot of admiration for Henry James, for the way he steps in and out of his characters’ minds so that narration, and writing, itself can seem sinister, transgressive. And recently I have found Elizabeth Strout very inspiring. I’m obsessed with her local repetitions – she writes sentences that if you took them to a creative writing workshop people would underline all the repetitions with some tut-tut remark in the margin, but Strout does it so cleverly. Some of her repetitions are heartbreaking.

I’ve actually just bought Wolf Hall on your recommendation, although I haven’t had chance to read it yet. How much research went into writing How to be Human? 

Well, I wanted to make sure that everything I wrote about the fox was realistic and accurate. I knew the relationship between Mary, my protagonist, and the fox would or could seem magical, so I wanted to give it a heavy realist ballast by making sure I knew what I was talking about. I watched endless videos of foxes on YouTube with a pencil in my hand. I read some books by people who had studied fox behaviour. I watched the foxes in my own garden. And I searched Twitter for people who love foxes and asked them to talk to me about them. The story really rose out of the details these people and experts all shared, but at a certain point I had to switch off all the research. I knew enough about foxes in general and needed to pay attention only to my Fox.

I love that you he is ‘your’ fox in the same way that he is Mary’s. What are you working on at the moment? 

I am writing a story about a woman who has lost a case of old love letters.


That sounds intriguing! Have you always wanted to write? How did you make the transition from feature writing for The Guardian to writing a novel? 

I wrote the novel while I was working at the Guardian (I still work there). So it has not been a transition so much as an overlap. Both jobs involve telling a story in the most appropriate and compelling way, so luckily I have not felt conflicted or in transition.

What do you use to do your writing? Pen+paper, computer, typewriter etc. 

I have a small Acer laptop. It was pretty cheap and I’m told by anyone who borrows it that it is annoyingly slow. It makes a whirring sound, and I quite enjoy the fact that I can hear it thinking. I keep different notepads on the go as well: one in which I write down any random idea connected to the work in progress. An ‘instant thought’ pad beside the computer where i scribble down thoughts I don’t want to lose, and a large A3 pad which is under the laptop and which I pull out at the start of each section or chapter, to scope out ideas and possibilities. Any excuse to make sure I have fully exploited the stationery opportunities!

It seems to be a thing for writers and readers alike to love stationary, I adore it! If you could write in another genre which would you choose to write? 

Well, I don’t feel that any genre is forbidden me. I could write in any one, and I am choosing the one I want to write in. I guess if I were to do something a little different I might choose fictional memoir, a children’s book or crime. None of those is a burning desire at this stage though!

How often do you write? Do you set yourself a word target or just go with it when inspiration strikes? 

I wrote How to be Human on Fridays and in whichever evenings I could nab in the week – basically stealing whatever time I could get. Now both my children are at school (they are aged six and nine), I also have Mondays during school hours. So Mondays and Fridays, plus evenings when I have the words and the time. I’m doing quite a bit of thinking at the moment, so I don’t set a word count, though I might do at a later stage if I catch myself dithering. For How to be Human, I had a three-day break for each of the two main drafts when I went away, locked myself up in a cottage in the middle of nowhere and wrote 10,000 words a time. So I know I can work quickly when I need to and when I’m ready.

Locked away in a cottage writing sounds like every writer’s perfect retreat! What sort of publishing route did you choose and why? 

I found an agent I really liked, and then she sent the book out on submission. I chose Hutchinson as my publisher because it was clear as soon as I met my editor (Jocasta Hamilton) that she really got – and loved – the book. So it was a choice based on personality and feeling a connection. I wanted the book to be published physically, not only digitally, and I wanted it to be in as many bookshops as possible.

I can completely get that, although I have a lot of admiration for self published authors I feel like If and when my book is ever published I want to see it in my local Waterstones. How do you market your books? What have been your marketing successes and failures? 

Oh crikey, this is the toughest question! If only I knew. There is a marketing and a publicity department at my publisher (Hutchinson is part of Penguin Random House), but an author does have to do a certain amount of publicity themselves. I enjoy using Twitter – it’s a fun way to connect with readers and booksellers. I am also a great believer in the power of a speculative letter, so I wrote to quite a few authors I admired when I had proofs of How to be Human, asking if I could send it to them. In return, there were a few embarrassing silences but also some lovely replies – including a brilliant endorsement from Hilary Mantel. 

I bet that was amazing with her being one of your favourite authors! If you could be the original author of any book what would it have been and why? 

I don’t think there is one: the book has to come from within, and that can only be true of the ones I write.

What are your views on good and bad reviews? How much do you think the success of books relies on reviews? 

Interesting question! Shortly before my book was published, I interviewed Ross Raisin (for the Guardian), who told me that he never reads any reviews. His wife reads them for him.I thought I would do the same, and offered my daughter 50p a week to keep an eye on Goodreads! But the truth is I do look at them, albeit through the gaps between my fingers. Recently I interviewed Max Porter and he said he read as much as he could because he wanted to engage with the experience of publication as much as possible. I think I am somewhere in between. I definitely avoid looking on Goodreads before I go to bed but I’ve been lucky enough to have some brilliant reviews, in The Economist, The Times Literary Supplement, the Telegraph and Guardian among others. I guess they bring the book to broader notice, so in that sense they are important. But someone told me that a person on average needs to see or hear or read about a book three times before they’ll buy it, so I think reviews are probably just a few pieces of a pretty large and mysterious jigsaw.

Thank you so much Paula for taking the time out to be interviewed on my blog, it’s been an honour and a pleasure to have you! 

You can now buy Paula’s book How to Be Human at all good book stores! And if you’d like to hear more from Paula and get updates on what she’s doing next you can find her social media links below. 

Twitter: @CocozzaPaula [https://twitter.com/CocozzaPaula]

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/paula.cocozza.7

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15449753.Paula_Cocozza
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Paula-Cocozza/e/B071HW5WJY/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1495195035&sr=8-1

The Overneath by Peter S Beagle. Review 

Yet another incredible collection of short stories from world renowned Fantasy Author Peter S Beagle. I was extra excited for The Overneath because I’d heard it featured a story about our very own Schmendrick the Magician. But imagine my delight when I discovered not one but two Schmendrick stories!! 


In addition, there is of course plenty of other stories in here which deserve praise of their own. From stories about the Fremont Bridge Troll (of which I had never previously heard of but am now fascinated by) to stories of otherworlds where our world lays in the shadows. 


I particularly liked the story about a group of men living together and one of them creates an electronic device which without giving spoilers has a spooky purpose. Another favourite has to be the one about a haunted aquarium and it’s retired teachers for heroines. And of course there’s lots of Unicorn related stories too! 


Peter S Beagle just has an incredible skill for putting together both short and full length stories. I have been in love with The Last Unicorn my whole life and I continue to adore every single thing Peter writes. The Overneath is no different. A fantasy lover’s heaven from start to finish. 

The Windsinger by William Nicholson. Review 

Well this sure takes me back. The Windsinger is the first novel in the trilogy titled ‘Winds on Fire’ and it was one of my favourite books growing up. I must have read it when I was around 9-10 years old and I absolutely loved it. I’ve indulged in a little nostalgia these past few months and bought a lot of the books I loved as a child so that I could enjoy them all over again. 

The Windsinger is one of those books which is both a children’s book and a YA book. Set in the fictional city of Aramanth it is more alternative world than dystopian world. The Manth people live in a city where everyone is supposed to be equal. This is because they are all given an equal chance to pass the same exams and ‘work harder, aim higher, make tomorrow better than today etc etc for the love of their Emperor.’ But it’s not really equal, each member of your family has a rating and together this adds up to a family rating. The higher it is, the higher you rise, the lower it is, the lower you fall. One day you’re high up in Scarlet and the next your sharing a room in a tower block housing 300+ people in Grey. 


But the Hanth family feel differently and spurred on by their parent’s active rebellion and by a chance meeting with an important if petrified figure, twins Kestrel and Bowman set off on a terrifying journey to free the city of its bonds and the distressingly terrible enemy that awaits them. 


Don’t get me wrong this is a simple book aimed at someone much younger than my 27 years, however, I still found it just as delightful possibly because the nostalgia was just so good. The characters are simple and likeable and that kind of makes it for me. There’s nothing overly complex just the perfect adventure and saving the world by two kids. These are the types of novels which all children should read to introduce them to the world of fantasy writing. 

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Review 

Where to even begin with this rich, exciting, beautifully written, soul tearing book? Well I think you get the drift from that! 

Outlander is one of those books or should I say series which has been on my tbr for a while but to be honest I was put off by its length. Coming in at over 900 pages it’s a hefty one and my thought has always been, why read one long book when you can read 10 small ones? 


Plus it’s taken me extra long to read because it’s been my birthday, and also a big event at work so I haven’t had as much time as I’d have liked on my hands to read it. But was it worth it? Hell yes! 

I absolutely loved Outlander it is a story of a young woman called Claire who has gone on a trip with her husband Frank to the highlands of Scotland so that he can research his family tree. This is post World War Two and Claire has been working in the hospital as a nurse. Through this she has become interested in medicinal plants and their usage. One day while investigating a set of stone circles not unlike Stonehenge she is hurtled back through time to Scotland 1743 and meets Jamie, then her life changes forever. 


The romance in this novel is strife with pain and suffering, indecision and risk taking but my god is it passionate and is it true? It is so beautifully written and so well put together that it’s really hard to describe! 


I’ve been lost in this novel for a week, I’ve wandered the Highlands of Scotland, had a blazing love affair, laughed and joked with the characters and cried at their pain. And that’s enough to set out a good novel from the rest, because when one is this good, you feel it as you become interwoven with the story itself. I can’t wait to find out what happens next! 

Fifty Bookish Questions Book Tag 

Hi all, welcome back to my blog! It’s time for another tag as I am still reading Outlander. No I can’t believe it either, its been like a week now but the thing is I just really haven’t had time. It’s been a really busy week at work, and on top of that it’s been my birthday as well so I’ve been busy doing things. For example tomorrow I’m off to Warwick Castle where the amazing tv show Merlin was filmed! I can’t wait! 


So anyway here’s a book tag to keep you going until I can get back into reviewing! I found this tag on https://mylittlebookblog.com/2016/01/15/the-fifty-bookish-questions-book-tag/

The Fifty Bookish Questions Book Tag

1. The last book you read? 

The Stranger Within by Kathryn Croft 

2. Was it a good one? 

Yes, you can read my review here: https://lifehasafunnywayofsneakinguponyou.wordpress.com/2017/06/29/the-stranger-within-by-kathyrn-croft-review/

3. What made it good? 

Suspense, and an excellent twist

4. Would you recommend it to other people?

If you love a good thriller with an excellent twist that will keep you guessing throughout then definitely yes! 

5. How often do you read? 

Everyday, as often as I can. On the bus, in the bath, in bed, on my lunch break, in the doctors waiting room. I’m always reading. 

6. Do you like to read? 

I should hope so haha 

7. What was the last bad book you read? 

I don’t really like to slate books but the last book I started and did not finish due to not enjoying it was The Chemist by Stephanie Meyer. 

8. What made you dislike it? 

I just couldn’t connect with the main character who immediately annoyed me. After a couple of chapters I still wasn’t sure I understood where the novel was trying to go. It was boring. 

9. Do you wish to be a writer? 

Well technically I am a writer! I’ve written several short stories and poems and a couple have been published in a university write club society magazine. I’ve also written a novel which I am in the process of editing. 

10. Has any book ever influenced you greatly? 

Books are such a huge part of my life that many of them have influenced me. But there are two which stand out most for me that I can truly say ‘changed my life’ and they are The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight. 

11. Do you read fan fiction? 

No. Not for any particular reason, it’s just never appealed to me that much. 

12. Do you write fan fiction? 

Please see question 11 

13. What’s your favourite book? 

When you’ve read just shy of 2,000 books this question is really hard to answer! I’d probably say Wuthering Heights. That’s my standard answer. 

14. What’s your least favourite book? 

I don’t really have a least favourite there’s lots of books that I did not finish because I didn’t enjoy them. If I finished them then I liked them. 

15. Do you prefer physical books or e reading on a device like a kindle?

You can actually watch my YouTube video about that here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=38XxnrlFF70

16. When did you learn to read? 

People who know me would lead you to believe I learned to read in the womb! But I think I was about 3 or 4 years old. 

17. What is your favourite book you had to read in school? 

If uni counts as school then I’d have to say Wuthering Heights again! 

18. What is your favourite book series? 

The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare 

19. Who is your favourite author? 

If I had to choose, then, again it would be Cassie Clare 

20. What is your favourite genre? 

YA Fantasy 

21. Who is your favourite character in a book series? 

I do really love Jace in TMI 

22. Has a book ever transported you to somewhere else? 

Why do you think I read? Haha 

23. Which book do you wish had a sequel? 

All of them forever and ever! I hate it when I get to the end of a book and have to leave the characters behind. I don’t like that it’s the end of their story. 

24. Which book do you wish didn’t have a sequel? 

Oh god, I can’t think of any off the top of my head! I think there’s a few that could have done without the middle book and just been a two parter, like The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Maze Runner. 

25. How long does it take you to read a book? 

I can read around 110 pages in an hour so I’ll let you do the math! 

26. Do you like when books become movies? 

No! 

27. Which book was ruined by its movie? 

Don’t shoot me but all the Harry Potters! 

28. Which movie has done a book justice? 

I really liked the movie of TMI but hate the series! Weird! 

29. Do you read newspapers? 

Only if I haven’t got a book to hand. 

30. Do you read magazines? 

I subscribe to and read 3 magazines and they are Writers Mag, Glamour and Cosmopolitan 

31. Do you prefer newspapers or magazines? 

Magazines 

32. Do you read while in bed? 

I used to a lot but I’ve been trying to stop as I have issues sleeping and apparently using your bed as somewhere to read, watch tv etc is bad for you and can stop you sleeping. So I bought a lovely big chair which lives beside my bed and I read there now instead. 

33. Do you read while on the toilet. 

I read everywhere and that’s enough said about that! 

34. Do you read in the car? 

Nope that’s about the only place I don’t as it makes me sick. But weirdly I can read just fine on buses, trains and planes! 

35. Do you read while in the bath? 

It’s one of my favourite places to read. 

36. Are you a fast reader?

Pretty fast, yes. 

37. Are you a slow reader? 

Please see question 36 

38. Where is your favourite place to read? 

In my lovely reading chair. 

39. Is it hard for you to concentrate when you read? 

If it’s a good book that keeps me gripped then not at all! 

40. Do you need a room to be silent when you read? 

Not really but I do find the tv distracting if my boyfriend is watching something interesting! 

41. Who gave you your love for reading? 

Nobody I can say specifically, none of my family are really big readers or my friends either. I guess I just fell in love with it straight away! 

42. What book is next on your list to read? 

The Break by Marian Keyes 

43. When did you start reading chapter books? 

When I was around four or five years old 

44. Who is your favourite children’s book author? 

Enid Blyton 

45. Which author would you most like to interview? 

Cassandra Clare 

46. Which author do you think you’d be friends with? 

Again Cassandra Clare! 

47. What book have you reread the most? 

Probably Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone.

48. Which books do you consider ‘classics’? 

Obviously there are a range of books like Dickens, Brontë sisters, Daphne Du Maurier, Wilkie Collins, Thomas Hardy etc but modern classics I would say LoTR, GoT and HP. 

49. Which books do you think should get taught in school? 

I think it’s really important for children to learn to love books. Books I was taught in junior school included Roald Dahl and Dick King-Smith and I think these are great starters. Children’s classics like Peter Pan and just anything with a fantasy element like Harry Potter, LoTR and books like Inkheart. It’s important to enjoy a book at the right age and although there’s books I love now I didn’t like them so much in school when I wasn’t really old enough to appreciate them! 

50. Which books should be banned from schools?

Unless they are literally full of sexual content like let’s say; Fifty Shades of Grey or they’ve got a lot of gore, murder etc like a crime novel, I see no reason to be banning any books from schools! 


Thanks for reading my latest tag! See you again soon. 

June 2017 Wrap Up 

This month has been a HUGE reading month for me, because I went on holiday for 10 days I got the chance to read loads so because of that, in total I read 29 books this month and they were: 

1. The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde by Eve Chase 

2. The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay 


3. Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare 


4. Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare 


5. Mr Gandy’s Grand Tour by Alan Titchmarsh 


6. Roseblood by AG Howard 


7. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier 


8. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy 


9. The Queen of Wishful Thinking by Milly Johnson 


10. Get Even by Martina Cole 


11. Sunshine Over Wildflower Cottage by Milly Johnson 


12. Blind Fury by Lynda La Plante 


13. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstein 


14. Wintersong by S Jae Jones 


15. The Strings of Murder by Oscar De Muriel 


16. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh 


17. Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine 


18. I See You by Clare Mackintosh 


19. The Hard Way by Lee Child 


20. Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh 


21. Select by Marit Weisenberg 


22. The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond 


23. Imposter by Philip K Dick 


24. Second Variety by Philip K Dick 


25. War Game by Philip K Dick 


26. The Minority Report by Philip K Dick 


27. Skin by Alice Broadway 


28. Parting Shot by Linwood Barclay 


29. The Stranger Within by Kathryn Croft 

June 2017 Book Haul 

So today is my first Book Haul on my blog as I previously did these on my YouTube channel! I’m really excited to share what books I’ve ‘hauled’ this month with my followers, so read on to see what’s in the Haul this month! 

I have 20 books in my Haul this month and I’ve separated this into categories of what I got from where so we’ll start off with the: 

Kindle Haul 

This month on kindle I bought 3 books, I was lucky enough to get a £5 voucher so that went a long way to purchasing them. And they are: 


Ink by Alice Broadway 

Death of a Hollow Man by Caroline Graham 

House of Shadows by Nicola Cornick 

Library Haul 

I got 4 books from the library this month, one of them has gone back today though! They are: 


The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks 

The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black 

Storm Front by Jim Butcher 

Minority Report by Philip K Dick 

Second hand ‘free’ books 

These I hauled from the ‘left behind’ pile on my recent holiday and they are: 


American Gods by Neil Gaiman 

Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner 

Second hand books ‘paid for’ Haul 


As Old as Time by Liz Braswell 

Once Upon a Dream by Liz Braswell 

A Whole New World by Liz Braswell 

Lips Touch by Laini Taylor 

The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd 

My special edition/collectors haul 


Harry Potter and the Philisopher’s Stone  Ravenclaw Edition by JK Rowling 

Leatherbound The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett 

Finally there’s my Waterstones Haul 


Nevernight by Jay Kristoff 

Lyrebird by Cecelia Ahern 

The Girls by Emma Cline 

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George RR Martin 


Thanks for checking out my book Haul this month, I hope to see you again soon!