Katharine Orton – Q&A

Katharine Orton

Katharine Orton

After gaining an English degree and an MA in creative writing, Katharine Orton worked for Barefoot Books in Bath before leaving to focus on her writing and her young family. She signed with her agent after taking part in the brilliant WoMentoring Scheme. Nevertell was Katharine’s first novel. She currently lives in Bristol.

Katharine can be found at:
Twitter: @KatharineOrton
Instagram: @katharineortonwrites
Website: www.katharineorton.com

Tell me what inspired you to write your most recent novel?

Mountainfell grew out of a big old mix of things. My grandparents were mountaineers, so mountains themselves have always fascinated me. On top of that I’m a massive nature lover, and I’m so interested in the relationship between us humans and the world around us – how we can mistreat it, even fear it, and how we (weirdly, I think!) see it as something separate from ourselves. I also wanted to write about feeling a bit different, or a bit out of place, and that journey of self-discovery that so many of us (if not all) end up going on at some point in our lives. All these different threads wove together to form Mountainfell.

What came first the characters or the world?

With some book ideas the characters come first, and in others it’s the world, but with Mountainfell, it was the mountain! Everything else – both the world and the characters – evolved around it and, in a way, grew out of it. The more I learned about the mountain, the more it influenced how Erskin – the main character – developed, and vice versa. So they were always kind of linked from the start.

How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?

Nevertell was my first published book, and it was also the one that got me my agent too. Writing it and getting it into shape took me a really long time (a solid couple of years, if not more). I’d also written other things before Nevertell that sadly just didn’t get anywhere. These now sit forever in the hypothetical cupboard drawer (i.e. files on my laptop). That said, I was actually very lucky with my debut book, because it picked up attention from several publishers very quickly after being sent out!

Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?

Sadly I can’t listen to music when I write, because it’s just too distracting. If I were to pick a song to partner up with Mountainfell, however, I’d probably choose Mountain of Bone by Clutch, as the lyrics line up nicely.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

Oh, definitely. I’d absolutely love to give writing sci fi a go… !

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

I’ve had lots of jobs, from being a copywriter where I did strange things like naming cheese, to working with traditional stained and fused glass (something which helped inspire another of my books: Glassheart).

Which author(s) inspire you?

I’m a huge fan of (and therefore massively inspired by) Max Porter, Madeleine Miller and Alan Moore.

Which genres do you read yourself?

I love to read anything and everything! From children’s books to sci fi and fantasy to what sometimes gets called ‘literary’ fiction, and everything in between. Basically, if it’s book shaped, I’ll give it a go.

What is your biggest motivator?

The promise of cake.

What will always distract you?

The promise of cake.

What were your favourite childhood books?

I was very much into the Narnia books as a child, which I would listen to repeatedly on audio. (And when I say audio, what I actually mean is my tape player, which I know makes me sound really old). My favourite childhood book of all time is one that my Nan gave me, called The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll. It has everything: epic adventure, humour, thrills, tragedy, and a talking beaver. I still love it to this day.

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

Storysmith in Bristol. It’s my local, and it rules!

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

Enough that, if I were to stack them into an actual pile, I would fear being crushed beneath it.

What is your current or latest read?

At the moment I’m reading The Legend of Podkin One-Ear by Kieran Larwood, I’m getting stuck into The Expanse books after loving the TV series, and I’ve just finished (and LOVED) the audiobook of Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. I’ve just started the audiobook of The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd on the tail of that, and NEXT I’m looking forward to beginning Do You Dream of Terra-Two by Temi Oh and Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez. (Once upon a time I was really good at reading just one book at a time. That seems to have fallen apart slightly).

Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?

I can’t wait for Max Porter’s new book, Shy. Lanny and Grief Is The Thing With Feathers are two of my absolute all-time favourites.

and finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?

I love writing children’s books, particularly middle grade, because I think 12 is about the age where my interest in reading books actually started to take off. Before then I hadn’t been that bothered, and would probably have been classed as a ‘reluctant reader’. I just didn’t see the point in reading, because I had an imagination full of my own stuff all going on that I didn’t want interrupted. Then I learned that reading isn’t the process of a book imposing something on you from above. It’s more collaborative than that, and you, the reader, are a vital part in creating (imagining) the world of the book. And after that, there was no stopping me.


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Bertie and the Alien Chicken

Jenny Pearson, Aleksei Bitskoff. Barrington Stoke. (120p) ISBN 9781800901810

Bertie and the Alien Chicken

Bertie and the Alien Chicken

I asked for this from NetGalley as I’ve always loved Barrington Stoke and what they stand for when I worked in special needs education. Now that I’m a bookseller I love knowing that I can direct children and parents to these books which are tailored for their needs.

This is great but what is even better is that the stories are always brilliant as well.

Bertie and the Alien Chicken is no different here, we find Bertie being sent away to his Uncle’s farm for the summer holiday as his mum is going to America to work.

Bertie really want’s nothing to do with this as he believes it is going to be smelly and boring.

He couldn’t have been more wrong, OK not about the smelly bit but definitely about the boring bit.

After a gentle bit of ribbing by his Uncle things start to go very strange when he meets Nugget the talking alien chicken who is on a mission and enlists Bertie to help. At least it is only the fate of the planet that’s at stake nothing too important.

A fun little adventure ensues with a lot of silliness, but at it’s core it is a lovely little book that looks at exploring those more intangible things that are so important like feelings and how it’s so crucial to acknowledge them.

This story was superbly supported by the funny illustrations of Aleksei Bitskoff, lots of detail and humour really added to the whole experience.

It feels like there could be a sequel in the works which is great and I’d love to see more adventures with Bertie and Nugget.

I received this through NetGalley for an honest review.


If you want to help and support this blog you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

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Saving Neverland

Abi Elphinstone. Puffin Books. (320p) ISBN 9780241473320

Saving Neverland

Saving Neverland

It’s always a treat to read a book by Abi Elphinstone and doubly so when it involves Peter Pan.

We meet Martha and Scruff in a family that is coping with mum elsewhere and dad working hard to ‘provide’. Martha is also trying really hard to grow up and be responsible after the ‘Terrible Day’

Into this explodes Peter Pan who needs their help to save Neverland from Captain Hook’s curse that has turned the beautiful island into a cold and frosty place with all it’s magic leached away waiting for the return of Hook and his pirate marauders.

At the start Scruff is abducted and Martha has to rediscover belief in adventure to save her brother, though throughout Scruff shows his own development.

A wonderful adventure taking us on a tour of this wintery Neverland and finding conflict with tigers, sharks, and bears but Oh my! these are so different from your usual types.

Bringing new magic to the original story, with a new cast of Lost Kids, but still the good old Peter, Abi creates something new in a well loved world with a great story about family, friends, and responsibility and how we need to grow, not just up but around to be fully developed.

Oh and watch out for Armageddon!

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


If you want to help and support this blog you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.

Midwinter Burning

Tanya Landman. Walker Books. (256p) ISBN 9781406397185

Midwinter Burning

Midwinter Burning

I loved Tanya’s previous books, especially Horse Boy, so was really pleased to get a chance to read her new one.

In Midwinter Burning we start off in prehistory and the scene is set for a midwinter offering, this sets up the rest of the book, especially the idea of outsiders.

We then go to London on the eve of the Second World War and Operation Pied Piper, a voluntary evacuation of children three days before the declaration of war with Germany. Here we meet Alfie, another outsider with a life of rejection and bullying behind him.

His group is evacuated to a village where the stones from the first scene are and here Alfie starts to find what he could feel is a home with Auntie Bell and the animals of the farm he is staying at.

He even eventually makes a friend called Snidge, but his friend is a mystery with a different language and different clothing, Alfie doesn’t want to mention him to others just in case the paranoia of an upcoming war affects this friendship.

Tanya weaves a fascinating tale of two worlds and how they interact, how friendship can overcome adversity, and how even the littlest of us can succeed.

I loved how Alfie and Snidge learned about each others worlds, and how they could inhabit each others worlds was so well done, especially toward the end of the story which is so exciting and tense.

I received this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


If you want to help and support this blog you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.