More books by Ali Sparkes
PublisherOxford University Press
Suitable for AgesFeatured Books for 11+ readers
Books of the Month - January
Featured Books for 9+ readers
Publication date3rd January 2013
Children's Author 'Like-for-Like' recommendations
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Unleashed Mind Over Matter
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The Lovereading comment:
January 2013 Book of the Month
Prize winning Ali Sparkes has created a fresh new action-packed series about a group of children with special powers. This is the second in the series. Each novel is brimming with adventure and danger; the kids live together using all their combined skills to keep the enemies that face them at bay. Lisa can hear the dead speak. They plague her with their needs but, can she also harness her special power and use the dead to help her? Despite the security surrounding Gideon and Luke on their family holiday, they are far from safe. Someone is coming for them. A man with the cold air of an experienced killer. Are their powers of telekinesis enough to save them, now that a brutal murderer is on their tail?
SynopsisUnleashed Mind Over Matter by Ali Sparkes
A group of special teenagers, each with an incredible power. They live together and learn how to use their abilities, protected from those who wish to harm them. Now, for one short week they are let out into the world, with strict instructions that they must not use their powers. But good intentions are easy ...following them through is a different matter. Gideon and Luke are spending some quality family time, playing at being normal teenagers for once. They have no real reason to use their telekinetic powers in the small seaside town, and there are enough bodyguards around to keep them safe, right? Wrong. Someone is stalking them. A man with the cool, calm air of a brutal killer and Gideon and Luke are in his sights.
Mind over Matter is the second book in the Unleashed Series - Click here to download an extract from book one - A Life and Death Job.
'I know now what they mean by a plot that is toe-curlingly good ... brilliantly inventive and rollicking fantastical adventure'
It was outstanding. It blew me away Jamie Fenlon, judge on the Blue Peter Book Award panel
About The Author
Ali Sparkes meant to be a superstar singer and actress by now, but that never quite happened . . . probably because this was in the olden days before StrictlyPopXTalentIdol. She could have done it otherwise.
After many drama school rejections, National Service as a Pontin’s Bluecoat (where she became the spangle-clad assistant to a juggling unicyclist – frighteningly, there is photographic proof), a stint in cabaret and then singing in cheesy cover bands, Ali finally got a proper job in local newspapers before absconding to the BBC in the late 1990s. A bit of local radio presenting and producing followed before she chucked in the day job and started writing comedy stuff for Radio 4 (Woman’s Hour and Home Truths).
She also knocked out twenty-two quarterly magazines for BBC Radio Solent, prompting a series of similar BBC local radio magazines around the UK, and she learnt how to edit, take photographs, and create crosswords along the way. But since The Shapeshifter: Finding The Fox came out in 2006, she’s found her groove. If you were to snap her in half she would read CHILDREN’S AUTHOR through the middle like Brighton rock. Although it would probably be a bit difficult to read, what with the blood and entrails and all that . . .
Ali currently has twenty-two children’s fiction titles published by Oxford University Press including her SWITCH series, her Blue Peter award-winning novel Frozen in Time, and her heart-stopping new adventure series about a group of teenagers with special powers, Unleashed.
On JOAN AIKEN
Most people know Joan Aiken for the Wolves of Willoughby Chase but for me her best was The Whispering Mountain, featuring the wonderfully bookish Owen, unloved grandson of a Welsh museum curator, caught up in a dark plot involving an ancient harp, dodgy Cockneys, a girl with a pet hawk and a travelling poet – to say nothing of the school bullies he has to enlist to help save the day. Joan inspired me so much, I know my stories bear her mark!
On ENID BLYTON
Without Enid I probably would never have become a bookworm or, eventually an author. Discovering Five Go to Smuggler’s Top in the back of a toy cupboard really changed my life. I understand when people say the characters are a little 2D and the plots a bit similar, but Enid knew exactly what young readers want – fast paced adventure, dogs, secret passages, midnight feasts. I still want all those things.
On JEAN CRAIGHEAD GEORGE
When I was nine our teacher read us My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George - the story of young Sam Gribley who runs away to the mountains to live on his own wits, armed only with a survival handbook and the peregrine falcon he trains to hunt for him. This brilliant book inspired the ‘survival’ and peregrine falcon elements of the Shapeshifter series…
On ANTHONY BUCKERIDGE
The Jennings books were serialised on the radio from the 1950s onwards. Anthony Buckeridge really knew how to write a brilliantly funny schoolboy story which could be read aloud. I loved all the Jennings books, about Jennings and his friend Darbisher, and their complicated and hilarious lives at Linbury Court Preparatory School. I read them aloud to our sons recently and they cracked up, just like I did.
On JEROME K JEROME
Now although this isn’t a children’s book, Three Men in a Boat is something that every bookworm MUST read by the time they turn 14. The story of the author, his two friends and Montmorency the dog, on a boating holiday is strewn with mad incidents involving cheese, scary unopenable tins and a dead dog floating by in the water. I laughed so much I nearly ruptured myself.
Q & A with Ali Sparkes
1. What inspired you to write Frozen in Time?
Two things – 1. I’ve always had a thing about finding something spooky in the woods and 2. I’ve long pondered on what the Famous Five would make of the 21st century world. So I wanted some characters who were very 50s and rather proper – but with grit and courage – to encounter 2009 after being found in the woods.
2. Describe it in two lines?
Freddy & Polly are discovered by Ben and Rachel, cryonically frozen in an underground chamber since 1956 – and woken up. What Ben and Rachel defrost is a mystery involving secret passages, missing scientists, international spies – and Pot Noodle.
3. How long did it take you to write?
Around four months of focused effort, but a much longer period of turning it over in my mind – three or four years.
4. What do you think people will say about this book?
I hope they will say ‘Wow! Get me that book!’
5. Are you working on something else at the moment?
Oh yes. A series of younger children’s books for Oxford, currently entitled CreepyCrawlers, out in 2010, is my main thing right now, but I am planning some other exciting projects with Oxford and Scholastic for 2009. It’s going to be a very busy year.
6. What is your favourite food?
Slightly warm, home made lemon meringue pie.
7. What makes you laugh out loud?
My kids, frequently, The Mighty Boosh, David Mitchell, and people assuming that since I’ve been published I am filthy rich. I hope to stop laughing at that last one eventually.
8. What is your one luxury item you would take with you on to a Desert Island?
My recorder. I am no major talent on it, but I would finally have the time to work out Faure’s Pavanne without making the neighbour’s cat go into spasms.
9. What is your most treasured memory?
(Jointly) The first moment with each of my baby sons & their dad.
10. What is your weakness?
Fondant creams. Especially the ones in the Burley Fudge Shop in the New Forest. I am working on the aversion therapy principal that if I eat enough of them this madness will eventually stop of its own accord – so if anyone gets the urge to send me a box or two, they will be assisting me greatly. (My agent will pass them on… vanilla and strawberry flavours are my biggest challenge.)
11. What do you think your children would say about you?
Mum? Was that the lady we saw at 5am this morning..? Actually, no – I hope it’s not that bad! Jacob (14) and Alex (10) seem to be hugely enjoying all the book stuff (not least because they’re written in to the Shapeshifter series, from book two; see if you can find them!). They would probably say I’m ‘cool’ but there may be a pocket money dimension to this…
12. Who is the person you most admire?
I admire anyone who has to battle through great adversary to get to their goal, and doesn’t give up. It’s a bit of a cop out, I know – there are too many of them to list! On a personal level, my mum and older sister have undoubtedly saved lives in their nursing careers and it doesn’t get much more admirable than that. I admire Johnny Depp too… but for altogether different reasons…
13. What is your most embarrassing moment?
I once spent a day at a local radio station on work experience. It was going really well and I’d even voiced a news report which went out in their hourly bulletins. I felt pretty cool as I said goodbye to them all and caught the train home – and when I got back through my door my husband pointed out to me that I had a long tail of pink toilet roll hanging out the back of my trousers. I worked out that it had to have been there, floating gaily in the breeze behind me, for at least the last hour of my work experience day. I flushed.
14. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
When I was angsting as a theatre-struck teenager, over possibility of failing an upcoming audition, I would whine ‘Yeah but – why me?’. My parents would always answer ‘Why not you?’ It’s a way of thinking which has served me very well.
15. What is the best piece of advice you could give to someone?
Do what you say you’ll do. Even if it’s only you that knows about it. Make this a habit (unless it becomes genuinely impossible or unwise). Most people talk about what they will do, but never actually do it. You’ll be way ahead of the pack if you just do what you say you’ll do.
16. Define beauty.
The faces of my children (obviously a fairly personal one, that!). A woodland at dawn. Most of Cornwall.
17. What are you reading at the moment?
Hazel by Julie Hearne. It’s painfully frustrating because I can only grab snatched chapters while waiting at the dentist or in the car or something, but the little I’ve read so far is masterfully written. Very very good. Will have time to read it all soon. Not sure if it’s out yet, as mine is an uncorrected proof.
18. What would be on the soundtrack of your film – and who would play you?
Feeling Good – the Muse version. No Surprises Please by RadioHead. Hmmm. Alex Kingston would be good (although a little unfeasibly attractive – but this is MY fantasy, yes?!)
19. Favourite holiday destination?
Cornwall in good weather. With the sun switched on, there’s nowhere to touch The Lizard.
20. Which authors have most inspired you?
Stephen King, Joan Aiken, Anthony Buckeridge, Douglas Adams, Jerome K Jerome… oooh – I could go on and on and o
21. What is your favourite children’s book?
Tough to pick just one, but it would probably have to be The Whispering Mountain by Joan Aiken. On another day it might be Brendan Chase by BB.
22. Most treasured possession?
Aside from family photos and my Apple Macbook, I have some little hematite hearts, gifts from my sons, which I would hate to lose.
23. Where are you happiest?
In my wellies in a woodland stream, poking about with my family on a warm autumn day.
24. Favourite biscuit?
Used to be Lemon Puffs until somebody changed the shape. Manufacturers please note – you can’t lever the top bit off properly with your front teeth when it no longer has corners! This was a vital part of The Lemon Puff Experience. Bring back the rectangle ones! Until they do, I will remain in the chilled, fresh-from-fridge Penguin camp.
25. Pet hates?
The malicious content of newsagents shelves, Big Brother (although I’ll stoop to the celebrity version occasionally), Gordon Ramsey style on-screen bullying and mature male strangers who take it upon themselves to shout ‘left hand down’ and stand in your way while you are trying (perfectly ably!) to park.
26. If you could change one thing about the world we live in today what would it be?
That people would be less easily offended. Too many people seem to have ‘Get offended, as quickly and irrationally as possible’ on their To Do list. Followed by ‘Stay offended, and if possible allow a mate/partner to further whip up your indignation, before nursing said offence for as long as possible.’ Let it go, people – let it go!
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