Visiting your favourite stories...
17th Sep 18

Visiting your favourite stories...

Imagine being able to step into the pages of a book... This is what Tilly discovers she can do in TILLY AND THE BOOKWANDERERS, the first book in the PAGES & CO series.

In TILLY AND THE BOOKWANDERERS, Tilly discovers the world of 'bookwandering'. Bookwanderers are special readers who can step into the pages of a book and become part of its story.

But bookwandering can also be dangerous, and Tilly is soon caught up in her own adventure; to discover her true identity through the pages of some much-loved stories.

We spoke with author ANNA JAMES about TILLY AND THE BOOKWANDERERS, the first book in the Pages & Co series:

Q: Tilly lives in a bookshop so is always surrounded by books. Were you also fond of reading as a child?

A: I was a bookish child and I read quickly and my sister and I spent a lot of time in our small village library; so yes, like Tilly, books were very much integral to my childhood. I remember keeping books stacked at the end of my bed until I grew too big to do that. As a child, reading was a way of exploring the world outside my own world.

The bookshop in the story, Pages & Co, is rooted in my idea of the perfect bookshop. It is an amalgam of my favourite real life bookshops and the kind of bookshop I would love to run if I ever had my own bookshop.

Q: Your 'bookwanderers' can actually step into a story. How did the rules for bookwandering develop?

A: While bookwandering is a magical concept, I thought that it wouldn't be too complicated to write about since I wasn't creating an entire fantasy world. However, it got complicated quite quickly so I had to sit down and work out things like how the characters got into the world and out of it, and how time passed, but I enjoyed working it all out, it was fun.

Q: Why did you choose to give Anne of Green Gables and A Little Princess such a big part in Tilly and the Bookwanderers?

A: When I first started writing the book, Anne from Anne of Green Gables took up a large part of the story; I think that was just me wanting to write myself into Anne of Green Gables, so I had to prune that back.

I found that writing in Anne's voice came very naturally to me so I think that the book must have had a big impact on me as a child. But it was also terrifying trying to write such well-loved characters; I didn't want to make people angry by giving the characters they loved new stories. A Little Princess was another book I liked very much as a child and I liked the Victorian London setting.

I hope that children who might not have heard of these books might - having read Pages & Co - be tempted to go on and read the classics it mentions. It would make me so happy to hear that children have discovered classics like Alice in Wonderland or Treasure Island through Pages & Co.

Q: The stories that Tilly enters have a profound impact on her; do you feel that books and reading can change us?

A: I wanted to explore how we can build a lot of who we are by ourselves; you can choose to adopt things from people around you and the stories you read, and you have control over who you want to be.

I think that books can have such a transformative effect on readers and can help them decide who they want to be. Reading about characters who you might love or hate helps you think about who you are. The empathy you can develop for people's experiences outside your own through reading is invaluable.

Tilly uses books as an escape at the start of Pages & Co, but then uses what she has learned from the books to make friends and to make her own life better.

Q: If you could bookwander, which books would you want to visit?

A: I would want to wander in Northern Lights (Philip Pullman), and one of my all time favourite books, The Time Traveller's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger), where I'd be very tempted to meet Clare. I also love The Bear and the Nightingale series (Katherine Arden) But you must remember that bookwandering can also be very dangerous so I'd need to choose the page I entered very carefully; I'm nowhere near tough enough for Medieval Russia.

Q: What would be your top recommendations of contemporary novels for children?

A: I loved Diana Wynne Jones's Chrestomanci Series, and Katherine Rundell's Rooftoppers is one of my all time favourites. I also love Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me.

Q: Can you tell us a little of what to expect in the second Pages & Co story?

A: The second book is set over the Christmas holidays and involves a villain, Chalk, who we meet in the first book, and we'll be visiting some fairy tales this time.

Q: What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?

A: I really love immersive theatre, so I go and see a lot of plays - but I do spend a lot of time reading and writing!

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