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  • 5 Random Questions with Tess James-Mackey, author of Someone Is Watching You

    In this month’s newsletter (catch up HERE if you missed it) I interviewed Tess James-Mackey about her gripping debut, Someone Is Watching You – a YA thriller set in an abandoned prison, where Nia is goaded by her friends to put herself into increasingly dangerous situations until she finally encounters a danger she really hadn’t expected… This story is so intense and unique, I couldn’t resist finding out more about its creator.

    Enter the 5 Random Questions!

    Question 1: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?

    I get a lot of joy from food, especially trying weird and wonderful creations in fancy restaurants. Whatever I eat, I need a lot of flavour – my favourite cheese is called, “Stinking Bishop,” and has to live in the garage.

    Question 2: What is your ‘happy place’?

    I’ve recently got back into horse riding and although I’m not so into the high-adrenaline moments anymore, I find a couple of hours mooching about on the yard and picking up poo is the perfect way to calm my thoughts, especially if they’re fixated on a plot hole!

    Question 3: Which book by another author do you wish you had written?

    I loved House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland – the creeping horror mixed with this kind of magnetic enchantment created this great rotten fairy tale vibe – it’s stayed with me ever since.

    Question 4: Best fight song?

    I listen to VERY LOUD house and techno whenever I’m walking anywhere to remind myself I’m alive – a defibrillator straight to the brain first thing in the morning after the school run. I sometimes imagine myself fending off street-fighting assassins to the rhythm of the bass. Though in reality I’m probably just giving myself tinnitus.  

    Question 5: Something that makes you irrationally angry?


    Thank you, Tess!

    About Tess James-Mackey

    After growing up in rural Shropshire, Tess set out to explore the world and find her place in it. She quickly rushed straight back to Shrewsbury when she realised she’d been where she belonged from the start. She now lives in a quiet suburb with a noisy partner and daughter, two extremely noisy cats, and a less noisy tortoise.

    She spent years mucking out and getting trampled on by horses, before finally deciding she might prefer a less precarious office job. Between analysing insurance risk, she writes teens into terrifying situations inspired by her lived experiences.

    When she’s not allowing her mind to wander to dark and twisty places, she pursues more wholesome activities, like growing mediocre vegetables in her garden, camping with her daughter, and even riding the odd horse.

    You can follow Tess on Instagram and Twitter.

    If you missed my interview with Tess about Someone Is Watching You, you can read it here. Also remember to sign up for my newsletter which goes out on the first Friday of every month – next month’s will be out 3rd March, and will feature an interview with J. P. Rose, author of the chilling YA horror novel The Haunting of Tyrese Walker.

  • Harrow Lake-inspired art

    A few weeks ago, I was invited for a virtual visit with a class from Korah Collegiate & Vocational School in Canada. The students had been studying Harrow Lake for their class, and so a Q&A session seemed like the perfect way to round off their study.

    They had a bunch of awesome questions, and – something I wasn’t expecting at all! – their teacher sent me some amazing artwork they’d created after the session, inspired by the book. I have to say that for me as an author, one of the absolute best parts of the job is knowing that the stories I’ve written might spark creativity in a reader – so seeing the reality of that in these drawings and illustrations was a wonderful moment.

    I’m sharing the following pieces with permission of the students and school.

    Check out this amazing drawing of Mary Ann, Lola’s imaginary friend/puppet. Her porcelain skin is webbed with fractures, and if you look closely you can see the words ‘Blood in the cracks’ repeated over and over in the background of the image. I love it!

    Image by Mackenzie

    I love this image of Mister Jitters reaching out from the darkness, ready to snatch Lola away! And those pinprick eyes…

    Image by Maya

    This is a brilliant painting of the ruined church inside the sinkhole in Harrow Lake. See how the church roofbeams are sticking out like skeleton ribs? And all the eyes peering out in the background – so spooky!

    Image by Nat R

    This drawing offers a Mister Jitters-meets-Pennywise pairing, and I’m so here for it! Why settle for one monster when you can have two? Though I’d hate to think what Mister Jitters would get up to with Pennywise pulling his strings…

    Image by Jessica

    There’s so much going on in this one: the creepy cave at the bottom with the hand reaching out; the bugs crawling all over the title; the Bone Tree with so many teeth hanging from it; the puppeteer’s hand looming large over everything, and I particularly love the girl puppet with her strings cut – the symbolism is just *chef’s kiss*.

    Image by student, Anon

    One of the big themes of Harrow Lake is girls and young women breaking free of the cages they’re put into. This image of Lola trying to escape her cage with Mister Jitters looming in the background captures that idea perfectly.

    Image by Lily

    Such scary vibes in this drawing of Mister Jitters and the Bone Tree! I love the little puppet version of Mister Jitters, and all the teeth hanging from the tree branches… so many chills!

    Image by Brooklyn B

    Thanks so much to the students who took the time to make these fantastic pieces of art based on their reading of Harrow Lake, and for letting me share them here.

  • 5 Random Questions with Naomi Gibson, author of Game Over Girl

    If you caught this month’s newsletter (missed it? Catch up HERE) you’ll already know a bit about Naomi Gibson’s gripping new YA cyber thriller, Game Over Girl. In it, Lola moves to an elite boarding school following the death of her mother, and is invited to join a small group of tech-proficient teens in testing a new VR game called Better Than Life. There aren’t many rules to the game… in fact, there’s really only one: don’t recreate anything, or anyone, from real life. But Lola can’t seem to help herself, and soon the game – as well as the real world around her – starts to spiral out of control. This is a game Lola can’t win… but she can’t quit, either.

    My newsletter interview focused on Game Over Girl and Naomi’s writing process, but I wanted to find out a few facts her readers might not know about her. Enter the 5 Random Questions!

    Question 1: What was the book that made you want to write YA?

    Slated by Terri Terry. It’s written in this gorgeous, measured way, and it’s so hooky. It was also the first book I ever got signed when I met her at NYA Lit Fest, and I blabbed something incoherent about how amazing she was.

    Question 2: You have a full tank and nothing but time — where are you driving to?

    The Isle of Skye. It’s beautiful and so, so quiet. We went one November and it was the perfect Winter getaway. Take me there now!

    Question 3: What’s a movie or TV show you’ll watch time and time again?

    Jumanji – the first new one with The Rock. (Lol.) There’s something about it. Every character has a really good arc and it really makes me laugh. Plus, you know me, the idea of being sucked into a computer game that’s trying to kill you is totally up my street.

    Question 4: One non-writing goal for 2023?

    We’ve been building for 2 years now, and I’m desperate to move in! I want to at least be partially moved in by the end of 2023. *Crosses everything* I’m SICK of living in a caravan!

    Question 5: Which book by another author do you wish you had written?

    The Binding by Bridget Collins. I love it, I love it, I love it.

    Thank you, Naomi!

    About Naomi Gibson

    Naomi Gibson is an author based in Glasgow, Scotland. She grew up in Cheshire, where her childhood was spent with her nose in a book and her hands on a sketchpad, constantly in search of adventure and new worlds. Encouraged by her family to be creative, she developed a love for writing at a young age – something that never left her. She studied Art History at the University of Manchester. Whilst there, she met her husband, someone who continues to tell her all about the latest advancements in AI, space, and consumer technology, even when she’s not listening. Her novels are proof she does in fact listen to her husband.

    Find out more about Naomi and her books on her website, and follow her on Instagram and Twitter. 

    If you missed my newsletter interview with Naomi, don’t forget to catch up & subscribe here. February’s newsletter goes out 3 February, and will feature an interview with Tess James-Mackey, author of Someone Is Watching You.

  • Kat Ellis: My 2022 in Review

    Doing a yearly review post has become a bit of a tradition (I first started it back in 2012 on my old Blogger site, RIP) and it’s a tradition I thought I’d continue as I launch this new site. So, what happened in 2022?

    On the writing front, foreign editions of Harrow Lake and Wicked Little Deeds were released, and although I didn’t have a new book out, I wrote a lot. I finished a brand-new YA manuscript and a couple of shorter projects, and started work on 3 other full-length novels. So I’m starting 2023 in full stride, writing-wise. That feels like a good place to be.

    Last year I set myself a reasonable (read: very lax) reading goal of 24 books on Goodreads for 2022. I managed to – officially – read 38 books in total. These were books I read:

    YOUR 2022 BOOKS
The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones
Gone to See the River Man by Kristopher Triana
Daughter of Darkness by Katharine Corr
Big Bad Me by Aislinn O'Loughlin
Twin Crowns by Catherine Doyle
Malice by Heather   Walter
The Blue Book of Nebo by Manon Steffan Ros
Mina and the Slayers by Amy McCaw
The Balloon Thief by Aneesa Marufu
Sixteen Souls by Rosie Talbot
To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
Empress and Aniya by Candice Carty-Williams
Gilded by Marissa Meyer
Hunted by Meagan Spooner
A Midnight Dark and Golden by Holly Race
Small Favors by Erin A. Craig
The Kinder Poison by Natalie Mae
The Cruelest Mercy by Natalie Mae
A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco
A Crown of Talons by Katharine CorrA Throne of Swans by Katharine Corr
The Depths by Nicole Lesperance
You Can Trust Me by Gina Blaxill
My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen
The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
The Block by Ben  Oliver
Ready or Not by Tracy Darnton
Dread Wood by Jennifer Killick
Vile Stars by Sera Milano
The Loop by Ben  Oliver
White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson
Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw
All These Bodies by Kendare Blake
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass
Mem by Bethany C. Morrow

    (Some aren’t included – like book proofs I read which weren’t available to add on Goodreads at the time I read them.)

    I intended to pick out a handful of my favourites, then realised that I actually enjoyed or even loved pretty much all of them, so consider the entire list my reading recommendations to you! If you want to check them out on Goodreads, you’ll find all the titles under my 2022 Reading Challenge.

    In terms of author events, 2022 was pretty busy. I took part in panels and interviews for YA Thriller Con; organised and hosted quickfire interviews with various authors for UKYABooks’ Summer Shorts series; did an in-person panel at the No Limits Festival in Scunthorpe, and did some really fun online chats and podcasts. You can catch up on some of these if you visit my Events page.

    Last year was also the year I went from what my husband referred to as my ‘Dark Annie’ hair, through an unfortunate shade of orange, to what is now an occasionally OK sort of silvery blonde. I must admit that my enthusiasm for bleach has waned throughout the year; let’s see what interesting colours 2023 brings.

    The Blondening of Kat Ellis, 2022

    I had lots of adventures last year – these were some of the highlights:

    Gladstone’s Library by night – I met up with a bunch of brilliant horror/thriller authors here in this magnificent old library in Hawarden, North Wales. It wasn’t my first visit to Gladstone’s, but it always feels a bit like stepping onto the film set of a magical, historical mystery whenever I go there.

    St Winefride’s Well – a shrine to St Winefride who is said to have been brought back to life 1300 years ago after being murdered for rejecting a local chieftain (who sounds very rapey tbh). Water sprang from the ground on the spot where she was murdered, and it’s claimed to have healing powers. Pilgrimages have been made to the well ever since, and you can see the abandoned crutches of healed pilgrims in the visitor centre.

    This pic was taken when I visited the Great Orme Copper Mine in May. The mine is over 3500 years old, and it inspired one of the short stories I wrote last year. The place was only rediscovered in the 1980s, and there are whole networks of tunnels yet to be found and excavated.

    Over the summer, I ventured to London for the first time since March 2020 (I know!) and managed to fit in a bit of axe-throwing, as you do.

    I was terrible at it. Fun, though.

    As per usual, autumn saw me venturing into the forest to hunt for fungi. I saw some fab fly agaric toadstools, which always feel like the Top Prize as far as fungi are concerned.

    In November, I turned 40. I spent it doing fun stuff like visiting an exhibition of deadly diseases called Sick To Death, and posing for pictures like this.

    All in all, not a bad year – and looking back, pretty eventful! I hope your 2022 was a good one, and that 2023 will be even better.

    If you want to keep up to date with my writing news and adventures as they happen, subscribe to my monthly newsletter, where I also send out exclusive bonus content and author interviews. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram.