Ben Illis, My Agent

My Agent

It’s been a couple of weeks now, but today 26 June I’ve finally been able to tell the world, or people I’m not related to, that I have secured an agent, Ben Illis at the BIA.

This was the announcment made by the Golden Egg Academy:

CONGRATULATIONS to lovely Egger, Karen Minto in securing agent, Ben Illis of Hooray!

Ben said ‘I’m so excited to have taken Karen on and cannot WAIT to introduce the world to Hettakin, a very plucky little badger whose journey is filled with warmth, heart and humour, and who can teach the world a thing or two about owning our mistakes, facing our fears and striving to do right by ourselves and make our world a better place. It’s a message I think we could all do with hearing and Karen gets it across with great skill and simplicity, in not small part due to the considered mentoring that comes with her being an Egg and which makes the GEA such an important incubator for tomorrow’s writing talent. Exciting times ahead!’

‘Hettakin’s Stripes’ is a middle grade woodland animal adventure, a charming, humorous, modern take on classics such as Wind in the Willows, with a little bit of Rumpole of the Bailey.

In it, Hettakin, a young badger, has her Sett taken from her by foxes after her whole family disappears. She sets off on a journey to reclaim her home, accompanied by Goof, a hedgehog with a certain way with words, and the mighty Fangle, a long-eared owl. Along the way, Hettakin discovers that home isn’t necessarily the place you have, but the friends you make, even when you’re not looking for them.

Things are on the up!

#2016ClassicChallenge April Read

The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D.Salinger

.The Catcher in the Rye quote

Boy, did April get busy, man. And then May. It’s June already and I’ll be damned if I’ve forgotten to write up my feelings on my Classics Challenge reads.

I love this book. Still do love it. I forgot how compelling, though annoying, the protagonist Holden Caulfield is. I wanted to kick him in the shins, but then, hey, I forgot about it – kicking him would just be so phony! His ennui and deep-seated frustration reminded me of being a teenager, and I remember just how much I believed the whole world sucked when I was that age.

And then I went to parties and had fun. And then I got annoyed with adults. And then I read beautiful books. And then I found myself being lectured by adults on how to appreciate them properly. My teenage years were the best and the worst.

Read it, I promise you’ll get a bang out of it…

#2016ClassicsChallenge March Read

The Empire of the Sun, by JG Ballard

This book will change you.

When I started reading this book I struggled. I struggled with the dream like tone and ambiance, the long sentences and almost stream of conscious style of the third person narrator following 11 year old Jim. But I persisted because this was my challenge for March. I’ve read many difficult books in my time – I read English Literature  – but this was doubly difficult for me because I don’t like reading about wars. I never have. I don’t like films about wars, either, but I felt like this might be an exception for me because it is about a child. Since I write for children, I hoped that gaining some experience of a child’s war would be good for me.

Empire of the Sun is stunning. It follows Jim’s experience of the Japanese occupation of China during the Second World War. JG Ballard was himself interned with his parents in this period, which makes the book even more poignant, I think. It is worth reading simply to understand what happened in that period. What happened was pretty gruesome.

But more than that, it felt like a truthful (and I mean that in the broad sense, not in the sense of being factual) account of a civilian’s war, the reality of which was very complex. There is a dream-like quality to the novel, which I think comes from the pairing of the extraordinary images with a almost deadpan narration. Jim never wholly admits that what is happening is horrific. This seems to me to depict beautifully the likely disconnect that a child would experience when faced with so much brutality and horror.

It’s not an easy read, or fun, but it is really worth it.




#2016ClassicsChallenge February Read

The Book of Three (The Chronicles of Prydain)

I chose this book as my book for February because it looked thin. February can be a challenging month, which is why I think they made it so short. If I was feeling down at the never-ending winter, Taran and his buddies cheered me up no end. I was surprised by it. It has the unlikeliest beginning, a pig running off for some unknown reason, but it doesn’t fail to amuse all the way. And this is why: This book is the best proof you could want that sidekicks are crucial to a good children’s book (and adult’s too if you ask me). What would Sherlock be without Holmes, Harry without Ron and Hermione, Lyra without Pantalaimon, Frodo without Samwise, Tom Sawyer without Huckleberry Finn? I could go on, which I think kind of makes my point…

Anyway, the Book of Three’s best character in my view is Eilonwy. She is outspoken, and independent, and poo-poos Taran’s pompous pride all the way with her awesome figures of speech. One of my favourites…

‘If you don’t listen to what someone tells you […] it’s like putting your fingers in your ears and jumping down a well.’

Thank you very much to for recommending it on Twitter.

the book of three