A warm welcome to Tracey Mathius, the second author to appear on my Celebrating Children's Books blog. Tracey's first book, Book 1 in her YA fantasy adventure series - the Assalay trilogy - was first published by the German publisher, Erika Klopp. Tracey has since self-published it in English and also written the second book in the trilogy.
Tracey was brought up in Wales (and she guesses it’s not a coincidence that ‘home’ for Gaia and Tal in Assalay is a mountainous region of gold mines and dragons; though she didn’t realise that when she was writing it). She had a less than coherent career of studying history and anthropology, teaching, and working in various offices, before settling down in North London with her husband, three (now teenage) daughters, a fierce tabby cat called Teddy, and a succession of laptops.
About the Assalay trilogy
Book 1: A Fragment of Moonswood
A fateful birthday gift…
It was a piece of soft white stone. Veins glittered through it like caught moonlight. One face was as smooth as new fallen snow; the other was engraved with a pattern of flowing lines. Gaia traced her fingers along the carvings. After a long time, she looked up at Mai.
‘What is it?’
All anyone knows about the old amulet is that it’s a good luck charm that hasn’t worked. And luck is about to turn worse, plunging Gaia and her brother Tal into undreamed-of dangers and strange discoveries that could change their world for ever…
You can read the first chapter here: http://wp.me/P3fzfG-b
Book 2: The Singing War
‘What if they’ve lied to us about everything?’
In the land of Assalay, the new year brings endless rain, hunger and the ravages of starving dragons. But the powerful families of the Fellowship enjoy a privileged life: secure inside their grand and luxurious houses and confident of their divine right to rule.
Even for Fellowship children, though, growing up has its problems. Now that he is of age, Leo Philemot must leave home for the year-long apprenticeship that all heirs to the Fellowship have to undertake, while his twin sister Rachel must stay at home and endure the stifling life of ladies’ drawing rooms and tea-parties. For both twins, the year brings a series of unexpected encounters and revelations that makes them question what they have been told about family and Fellowship – and opens their eyes to the realities of other people’s lives.
As flood, fire and famine worsen, Assalay is ready for rebellion, and opposition to the Fellowship is growing. In this gathering crisis, Leo and Rachel must make life or death choices between old and new loyalties and friendships: between what they have been taught and what they have learned.
The first chapter is available here: http://wp.me/P3fzfG-d
The books sound fascinating, don't they? Both books are now available in paperback and ebook, and can be ordered through most bookshops, or bought online from Amazon:
I asked Tracey to tell us a bit about herself
How did you get started writing?
By deciding that I wouldn’t.
I remember the moment very clearly. I was pushing one of my kids in a buggy across Hampstead Heath, and thinking about ambitions and expectations. As a child, I’d written compulsively, and I was good at it and recognised for it. I’d grown up without doing much writing, but with a vague sense that one day I would ‘be a writer’. But I couldn’t, any longer, disentangle whether it was what I wanted to do, or whether it was what other people (parents, in laws, the ghosts of long ago teachers) expected of me. All I knew was that I felt I SHOULD write - and I wasn’t writing, and feeling miserable and faintly guilty about the whole thing.
So I decided: ‘Forget it. I’m not going to do it. And it’s ok if I don’t.’
And I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that soon after that psychic jail-break, a collision of circumstances brought me to... a book.
I was working for the local music school that my kids attended, volunteered to write lyrics for some songs, and rediscovered the sheer delight of playing with words. At the same time, the idea for a children’s story seeded and blossomed in my head. My youngest daughter was about to start school, and I decided to give myself a year to have fun with this story, to play with it, to explore it, to see if I could reach the end. I did, and it was wonderful. The words didn’t necessarily flow – but I loved the sense of discovery involved and the golden moments when a scene unfurled on the page as I had dreamed it.
That book became A Fragment of Moonswood: the first volume of the Assalay Trilogy.
I am still writing, and I feel miserable and faintly guilty on the days when I don’t...
Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?
When I was younger, my mum and I used to fight over the latest book in The Lorimer Saga by Anne Melville. The first time I visited my now-husband’s flat, I found a COMPLETE collection of the Lorimers in his bathroom. I asked, ‘Why have you got Anne Melville’s novels?’ (they seemed an unlikely choice for him). ‘She’s my mother,’ he said.
Definitely fate, Tracey. :)
What was your favourite book as a child?
This is hard. I read anything and everything: I was a compulsive bookworm. I spent whole summer holidays sitting on my bedroom floor with a book in my hands and my guinea-pig on my lap (as you can tell from the nibbled corners of many of my old paperbacks).
I loved books about the things I never did; riding, sailing, camping... Among these I adored K M Peyton’s wonderful Flambards Trilogy, which is definitely on my list of all-time favourites. And I still love Arthur Ransome: I collect the lovely hardback editions of Swallows and Amazons, and probably like We Didn’t Mean to go to Sea best of all, though there’s a piratical place in my heart for Peter Duck. Then there are the books that made me cry (and still do): The Secret Garden, Nina Bawden’s Squib, and Louise FitzHugh’s Harriet the Spy (which I think has the mark of great writing, in being able to hold comedy and tragedy in one place...)
I could go on and on...
What’s your top writing tip for new writers?
Don’t talk to too many people too soon about what you’re writing. I think books are like babies: they need a certain amount of time to grow in secret, fed by only you, before they’re ready for the world.
Do visit Tracey's Goodreads page for a chance to win a signed copy of The Singing War.
Thanks for dropping by to tell us about your exciting series, Tracey.