Every Friday I'm going to do a New Release slot on my blog and I'm delighted to start with the wonderful Looking At The Stars by fellow Sassie, Jo Cotterill the author of the popular Sweet Heart series. Looking At The Stars is an inspiring, topical story about the power of love and the importance of stories that grips you from the first page and holds you until the end.
When there's nothing left to lose, stories are all we have....
Amina’s homeland has been ravaged by war for many months, but so far she and her family are safe, together. When a so-called liberating force arrives in the country, the family think their prayers for peace will soon be answered, but they are horribly wrong. The country is thrown into yet further turmoil and Amina’s family is devastated . . .
Through it all, Amina has her imagination to fall back on - of a better place and time. But can her stories get her through this?
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story, Jo. Amina is a fiesty, credible character and the plot is very moving.
I asked Jo to tell us a bit about herself.
How did you get started writing?
I wrote a lot of stories when I was a child. Most of them were about unicorns! When I reached secondary school, writing stories and using your imagination wasn’t valued very much, and I was doing so many other things, like music and dance, that story writing fell by the wayside. I started again in my twenties. At the time I was working as an actor/musician, and when I couldn’t get acting work, I did boring office jobs. To keep myself creatively stimulated, I did a correspondence course in writing for children and I was hooked! I couldn’t wait to get published and see my name on the front of a real book! Of course, to start with I was pretty rubbish, but over time (and a LOT of submissions) I understood more about what was needed, and I can’t explain the joy I felt when my very first book was accepted for publication!
I'm glad you persevered, Jo. :)
Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?
I can put my big toe in my mouth. Oh, and I can sing ‘Old Macdonald’ in Chinese.
What’s your top writing tip for new writers?
Read the sort of stuff you want to write. I’m astonished how many people want to write for children but haven’t read any children’s books in the past ten years. Children’s books have changed dramatically since I was a child, and I think it’s really important (and inspiring!) to know what you’re up against!
A brief Author bio.
Jo’s first story at the age of five was a festive one entitled 'Chismas’. After writing a lot of stories about unicorns, she decided at the age of thirteen to become an actress. Her professional acting career was enjoyable but frustrating, so she became a teacher instead, writing stories on the side. Her first book was published in 2004, and she gave up teaching in 2009. Jo now lives in Oxfordshire and fits writing around her young family. She enjoys music and card-making, and is an avid fan of Strictly Come Dancing.