Monday 1 September 2014

Secret Serendipity Seven with Sophia Bennett

I am so excited to be the first stop on The Castle Blog tour. The Castle was published by Chicken House on August 7th and is written by the mega-talented Sophia Bennett. I will pass you over to Sophia, who has been kind enough to share some of her secrets.
Seven things you might not know about me and my new book, The Castle …
1. Appropriately enough, when I was about six The Secret Seven was my absolute favourite series. I was obsessed and read every book I could get my hands on. Lots of girls my age had mothers who disapproved of Enid Blyton books because they weren’t ‘literary’ enough, but luckily mine always let me read anything. Quite possibly it was The Secret Seven that kick-started my interest in adventure, mystery and detection … which ultimately led to the writing of The Castle. So thank you, Enid Blyton. And thank you, Vivienne, for thinking of such a great idea for this theme.
2. The story is inspired by my father, and the fact that he spent 35 years in the army and I grew up surrounded by soldiers. He was very useful in the fight scenes. I could just call him up and say ‘How would you disarm someone who’s standing with their foot on your chest?’ Growing up, though, his advice to me was generally to avoid dangerous situations. (Advice Peta’s dad has handed on to her, too, not that she seems to take much notice.) My father also created the full military CV for Peta’s dad. I’ve only mentioned bits of it in the book, but it’s all there …
3. Peta’s school is based on the one that Stella McCartney went to, because it happened to be in the right place. I love that the McCartney kids just went to the normal local state school – although Stella has said she was bullied and didn’t enjoy it. Bullying can happen anywhere, of course. As is does to Peta, in the book.
4. Although the main arc of the story never changed from the time I wrote my chapter plan, lots of the details did. In fact, almost every single one. There’s a central escape episode, and until the last draft of the book I wasn’t certain who would make it. My editor, Bella Pearson, was brilliant at making suggestions and helping me to decide who went and who stayed. Looking back, I’m sure she was right. 
5. Peta has to solve a code in the book, which turns out to be a computer password. She mentions how her dad taught her to create strong passwords, and as I got the idea from an expert in the field, I recommend her method. It’s easy to remember and hard to crack, so it works!  
6. Just before the book went to the printers, I was proof-reading it and realised that the penultimate chapter was unnecessary. It had a couple of jokes that I liked, but all the important facts were repeated in the epilogue. So we took it out. It’s basically one long list of spoilers, but I might l publish it on my website one day so that readers of the book can decide for themselves if I made the right decision or not.
7. It may not seem it, given that my books so far have been about fashion, music and celebrity, but I think of myself very much as a feminist writer. I like to explore how girls can exert their power for good in a world where they are often still belittled and ignored, if not downright subjugated. All the girls in my books are underestimated at some stage, and come out fighting. The Castle turns the classic fairytale on its head: girl rescues (or tries to rescue) boy from castle. So I was fascinated to see Disney’s Frozen, which is all about girl-power too – even if its main character still has to look like a beauty queen. If even Disney is putting girls in charge of the action at last, you know that something’s changing. And that has to be good.   
Thank you Sophia for sharing all these brilliant secrets.
Book Synopsis:
A search for the truth about her father’s death takes schoolgirl Peta Jones to a dangerous place ...
It's not just the bridesmaid's dress that Peta has a problem with - it's the whole wedding. How can her mum remarry when her army-hero dad isn't dead? When Peta receives clues that seem to prove he's alive, she sets out on a crazy mission. Somewhere across the sea, her father's being held in a billionaire's castle. Dad would do anything to save her - and now it's her turn to rescue him.
To find out more about Sophia Bennett:
Check out the rest of the stops on The Castle Blog Tour.

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