Christmassy :: Q&A :: Karen Ginnane

One of my favourite #LoveOzYA books this year was Karen Ginnane’s debut novel When Days Tilt, the first part of her Time Catchers duology. This historical fantasy fiction novel hit just the right spot for me – as you can see from my review. Today I’m delighted to have Karen here to talk a bit about writing, and a lot about Christmas.
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Hi Karen! Thanks so much for joining me on my blog to chat about Christmas today!

I loved stepping into the world you created in your debut novel When Days Tilt, which came out in the middle of 2021 and is the first book in your Time Catchers series. Can you please tell us a little bit about the book, and what inspired you to write it?

Thank you! I’m delighted to be here.

This series was born from a long gestation in London* and I often say that London was the first character. This old city inspired the story and is an actual character (or characters) in the narrative, which is a twisting, turning adventure set between 1858 London and a darker, parallel city. There is magic and darkness, history and mystery, along with a dash of steampunk and some vivid characters I had a lot of fun writing. 

But really, at its core, the series is about the preciousness of time. Of filling our own time on this earth in the way that only we can. Of finding our truth, which might not be where we think it is, and living that to the full. And discovering what, and who, is truly important in these precious lives of ours. 

Here’s the blurb for When Days Tilt:

Follow 14-year-old Ava, a reluctant watchmaking apprentice in 1858 London – the biggest city the world has ever seen. It’s fast, furious and often brutal. The latest terror is that people are disappearing into thin air – when they return, they are damaged. Their souls are torn.

One day Ava stumbles across a shocking revelation that turns her life upside down. Ava has to discover who she really is and how she is connected to Donlon, a twisted mirror version of London – and with the mysterious disappearances in London…

* On a Christmas theme, London was the first place I really understood the Christmas traditions that we in Australia have dragged down from the Northern Hemisphere. In the middle of an English winter, celebrations involving feasting and festive lights suddenly make much more sense. You need a winter solstice celebration to get you through those long, dark days and nights and winter is the natural time to feast, gather round in cosy homes and marvel at beautiful lights. Having said that, there’s nothing like sunshine on tinsel and having all the wonders of childhood rolled up in a single exciting package – summer holidays, beaches AND Christmas!

Do you like to read seasonal books, and do you have a favourite Christmas story or book? 

Christmas IS books for me, as we always got them for presents as kids and would spend long, hot WA summer hols lolling around poring over new books and re-reading old favourites. So while I don’t have one seasonal favourite*, I firmly associate Christmas with exciting piles of shiny new books! 

* Having said that, some of the books among those old favourites I mentioned would have to be Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and Beatrix Potter’s The Tailor of Gloucester – we had all the Beatrix Potter books and I loved them. A more recent Christmas favourite is the utterly magical The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg – I read this to my own kids over and over again.

Is there a particular book you’d love to find under your Christmas tree this year? 

Er yes, quite a few, in spite of my towering TBR pile. I’d be very happy to find 

One Hundred Days by Alice Pung and 7 1/2 by Christos Tsiolkas, and Happy Hour by Jacquie Byron looks like a lot of fun (as is the author herself!). The gorgeous looking MG book Seven Wherewithal Way by Samantha-Ellen Bound is on my must-read list, as is the apparently hilarious Exit Through the Gift Shop by Maryam Master, so I’ll have those too, please. 

I’ve only recently discovered the hugely inventive and intimidatingly productive American author VE Schwab and I’d love to find The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue under my tree. I’m also excited to see that Hannah Kent has another book out with Devotion – I will read anything she writes. Also I heard an interview with the British-Turkish novelist Elif Shafak on the The Island of Missing Trees, which sounds amazing.

Do you have a favourite book you’ve read this year then you’ll be recommending (or giving as a Christmas present!) to everyone you know?

I did a lot of catch-up reading this year so not all my favourite 2021 reads are 2021 releases – such as the outstanding Metal Fish, Falling Snow by Cath Moore, which is written with such startling clarity, precision and compassion. Another not-2021 release that blew me away was Invisible Boys by Holden Shephard, which is a must-read, and Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary debut Homegoing.

From this year, I loved The Boy from The Mish by Gary Lonesborough – a gorgeous YA romance with a lot of heart and soul. I also loved the wonderful MG timeslip book Elsewhere Girls by Nova Weetman and Emily Gale. I think everyone and especially every Australian should read Anita Heiss’s raw, tender and essential Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray. And New Animal by Ella Baxter was an extraordinary book that defies easy categorisation.

Can you share a favourite Christmas tradition or memory?

In our house, the ‘big’ presents from family members were all under the tree while Santa filled the stockings we laid at the end of our bed. (Unless we were naughty, when accordingly to Mum he would fill our stocking with either lumps of coal or ladybirds, depending on her mood.) 

Mum would get a glass of sherry and a mince pie ready, plus some carrots for the reindeer, before we went to bed. We’d then lay out our Christmas stockings (okay, pillowcases) on the foot of the bed and know for sure that we would never get to sleep for excitement. By some miracle we would drop off and I still remember the jolt of joy upon waking and spotting that mishappen, bulging pillowcase leaning against the bed. My sister and I would rummage through our hauls, scoffing the chocolates (ignoring the mandarin and walnuts) before running in to Mum and Dad’s room to show them what Santa had brought. Our kids do exactly the same, even as (very) big kids. 

Even though I’m now the mum, Christmas Day still follows in the same shimmery haze of Bucks Fizz with breakfast, presents under the tree, over-indulgence interspersed with reading new books/playing new games, hanging out, and naps. Christmas Day is in a timezone all of its own.

Finally, I know the second Time Catchers novel, When Souls Tear is on the way (I have seen the cover and it looks divine!). Can you tell us a little bit about the book, and when it’s hitting shelves? 

Thank you! Tony Palmer is the designer for both books and he’s pulled the rabbit out of the hat both times. I sent him a huge Pinterest mood board with a few requests – like not illustrating the characters beyond a silhouette, as I wanted the only images to be the ones in the reader’s head. I remember having very clear mental images of favourite characters as a child and so often they wouldn’t match the pictures on the covers. I like the idea of the characters forming in that space between page and reader.

I’m finishing the edits for When Souls Tear now and it’s scheduled for release in July 2022, exactly one year after When Days Tilt. If anything, this book ramps up the drama and excitement – I’ve loved writing in some new characters like the Seamstress and her Needlies, the mistresses of the darksew, the mysterious Black Friars with their secretive rituals and the tragic Bird Shepherd. We visit the Oxford Circus, which features extreme acts that make or break a performer, and Jack and Ava come back together to face a deadly foe. I can’t say too much for fear of spoilers! The blurb is below.

It’s 1858, Ava is back in London and time snatchers are still at large. Ava is no closer to completing the task her dying mother set her – destroying the remaining time snatchers and ending snatching in two worlds. 

With her father and Phoebe suffering the effects of being torn and Jack back in Donlon, Ava is on her own. She finds that even her developing powers as Time Daughter are not enough to fight a new foe – who has terrifying, destructive abilities and ambitions of absolute power.

Thanks so much for your time!

Thank you for having me! It’s been fun.

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A big festive thank you again to Karen – I am always so grateful that people take the time out to chat with me here, and I just loved reading Karen’s answers to all these questions!

Thanks so much to everyone for popping by to check out my Christmassy Q&A series – I have one more to share before wrapping up,

xo Bron
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When Days Tilt is out now from Penguin Books. I received a free copy for review (you can see my review here).
When Souls Tear is due for release in July 2022.

About the Author

Karen Ginnane is a Melbourne-based author for middle grade and young adult readers. Penguin Random House Australia published her debut novel, When Days Tilt, in July 2021 and will publish the sequel, When Souls Tear, in July 2022. These historical fantasy adventures, set in Victorian London and a parallel city, are part of the Time Catchers series. 

Karen originally hails from WA and spent over a decade living in London. She self-published ahead of the curve at the age of ten in her hometown of Perth. Since A Horse Named Ginger was released, Karen has been variously employed as a freelance copywriter, a marketing director for Paramount Pictures in London, a grain weighbridge operator in rural WA, a swimming teacher, a life model, a deckhand in Chile and an English teacher in Japan. She’s also taught creative writing and bellydance. 

She’s interested in looking at old stories in new ways, and in stories that explore diverse or historically silenced voices. She’s found that the strange and tilted never seem to be far from the surface, and that ‘place’ keeps muscling in on the traditional territory of ‘character.’ 

You can keep up with the latest from Karen on her website here, and sign up for her newsletter here (sign-ups get the first two chapters of When Days Tilt!). You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.

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