I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for this fabulous looking book. I’m so looking forward to reading this one it sounds so magical and right up my street!
The Toy Maker is available to buy now in hardback and ebook here.
Huge thank you to Josie from Ebury publishers for inviting me on this tour and providing me with a copy of this book which i’m really excited to read.
I have an exclusive Q&A with Robert Dinsdale to share with you but first let me tell you a little about the book.
The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter. It is the same every year. Across the city, when children wake to see ferns of white stretched across their windows, or walk to school to hear ice crackling underfoot, the whispers begin: the Emporium is open! Christmas is coming, and the goose is getting fat…
It is 1917, and London has spent years in the shadow of the First World War. In the heart of Mayfair, though, there is a place of hope. A place where children’s dreams can come true, where the impossible becomes possible – that place is Papa Jack’s Toy Emporium.
For years Papa Jack has created and sold his famous magical toys: hobby horses, patchwork dogs and bears that seem alive, toy boxes bigger on the inside than out, ‘instant trees’ that sprout from boxes, tin soldiers that can fight battles on their own. Now his sons, Kaspar and Emil, are just old enough to join the family trade. Into this family comes a young Cathy Wray – homeless and vulnerable. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own. But Cathy is about to discover that while all toy shops are places of wonder, only one is truly magical…
Q&A with Robert Dinsdale:
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name’s Robert Dinsdale. I’m from Northallerton in North Yorkshire, on the edge of the moors, but I currently live in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex with my four year old daughter.
2. What do you do when you are not writing?
I have a young family so time not writing is spent battling with dinner time and bath time and bedtime. And then just taking a deep breath…
3. Do you have a day job as well?
I do lots of copy-writing and editorial work – I’m self-employed and work from home most of the time, which fits brilliantly with family life.
4. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
It’s a horrible cliché but I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t do any writing. I loved it when I was a child – so writing is very much an extension of a childhood passion for me. I finished my first novel when I was 12 (I skived a lot of PE lessons so that I could sit in the school library and write it), and – because I didn’t know any better – sent it off to publishers and agents straight away. I still have some of the letters they sent back – such an inspiration for a 12 year old boy.
5. How did you choose the genre you write in?
I’ve never made a conscious decision to fit inside any one genre. These are just books as they occurred to me, driven by the things I think about and feel most intensely. The Toymakers is magical because there was such imagination and magic in life, with the advent of my family, when I started writing it. So who knows what’s next…
6. Where do you get your ideas?
All over! But I can trace The Toymakers back to one afternoon in a suburban toyshop with my daughter, when even the most ordinary little plastic figurine seemed a thing of pure magic to her. That catapulted me back to my own childhood, and over the next weeks and months I made up the building blocks of what The Toymakers would become.
7. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Not block so much as frustration at not being able to translate what’s in my head perfectly to the page. It must be what young children feel like when they don’t have the language to articulate the things they want! Writing can be a lonely and frustrating business but it’s also incredibly rewarding, so everything balances out in the end…
8. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
Lots of brilliant writers swear by outlines but I’ve found it always stifles the process for me. I set off with a destination in mind and I invent things as I go. It often means the start of the novel needs to be revisited to make work, but I just find that writing without maps works best for me…
9. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I think children’s fiction is incredibly important to us all – so, for all of the very many authors I’ve discovered as an adult who have inspired me and bowled me over, for me, the most important novels are those I read and loved instinctively when I was a boy. They’re the novels that helped us all open our imaginations. For me it was writers like Colin Dann, Richard Adams, Brian Jacques – writers who created other worlds for me to step into.
10. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I’d been writing and sending my books to publishers and agents for ten years before I got my first agent and, later, my first contract. Looking back, I know that it wasn’t only because my books weren’t strong enough (they weren’t!) but because they were odd, weird little stories too. I needed to learn how to open up my stories before publishers got interested… In the end, the year after I left University, I came to London to do some work experience with a number of literary agencies. It was an eye-opener into what I’d always thought of as the magical, shadowy world of books, and the things it taught me were to help immensely on my own publication journey.
11. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Like everything, it’s a bit of both. The Emporium doesn’t exist – if only it did! – and the story in the book is pure imagination. But, no matter how hard you try, bits of yourself always weave their way into your characters. Cathy’s pregnancy in the book is inspired by watching my daughter’s mum go through the same thing
12. What was your hardest scene to write?
I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but there’s a moment in the novel where something terrible might have happened to Sirius, the patchwork dog. I won’t reveal his fate, but this (even above Kaspar’s experience of war) was the tough stuff…
13. How did you come up with the title?
It just occurred to me right at the outset: something simple and statuesque, that opened the door for the reader directly into the novel. Later in the process we turned around various alternatives, but always swept back to The Toymakers in the end. I couldn’t think of it any other way.
14. What project are you working on now?
I’m between projects. Lots of ideas circling, but I haven’t put pen to paper yet…
15. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
These days I try not to read too many reviews of my own work. You remember the harsh reviews and people who haven’t liked your books more than you do the positive, so the only thing to do to stay sane is to keep your head down and get on with the work, to treat triumph and disaster just the same…
16. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Just a big heartfelt thank you to anyone who’s picked up one of my novels to read, and especially to those who’ve reached out to me online to tell me they’ve enjoyed The Toymakers. Writing is a solitary business and you never quite know what people are making of your book once it’s out in the wild, so it’s fantastic to hear from so many of you – thank you very much indeed.
Thank you so much Robert for taking the time to answer my questions, I wish you lot of luck with The Toy Maker!
About The Author:
Robert Dinsdale was born in 1981 in North Yorkshire and currently lives in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. He is the author of THE HARROWING, LITTLE EXILES, GINGERBREAD and THE TOYMAKERS.
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