Bronte Tempestra is author Bex Hogan's first young fiction series and it's packed with adventure, friendship and magical creatures!
A Cornish girl at heart, Bex now lives in Cambridgeshire with her husband, two beautiful daughters and a fluffy cocker spaniel. As well as writing books for children, she writes young adult novels including the Isles of Storm and Sorrow trilogy and most recently Black Heat.
You can find Bex on Twitter @bexhogan
Bronte Tempestra and the Lightning Thieves (Piccadilly Press)
Packed with adventure, friendship and following your dreams, Bronte Tempestra and the Lightning Thieves is the first in a new series for younger readers (7+) by Bex Hogan, in which a young princess fulfills her dream of training as a knight! But with thunder trolls and giant woodland creatures on the loose and sinister forces at play, Bronte and her friends have their hands full.
Review: ' A book full of laughs, friendships and dreaming big dreams.'
Read a Chapter from Bronte Tempestra and the Lightning Thieves
We spoke to Bex to find out more about this world of unreliable knights, fantasy creatures and chasing your dreams!
Q&A with Bex Hogan
"I've always loved the medieval period of history, and all the legends set around that time.
So I wanted to write something familiar, but different."
1. Hello Bex, thank you for joining us on ReadingZone. Can you tell us how you started writing?
Thank you for having me! I've always been a lover of stories, and as a child my head was always full of them. Back then, they would turn into games with toys or acted out in the garden, but as I grew up, I started to write them down. It took me a long time to even consider sharing my stories with people, because being an author seemed something so far beyond reach, something for far cleverer people than me! I was just a daydreamer!
But becoming a mum made me a bit braver to pursue my dreams, because I wanted my girls to aim for theirs, and so that meant showing the way. I still feel very honoured to call myself an author, it's an immense privilege and I pinch myself most days!
2. What is your new book, Bronte Tempestra and the Lightning Steeds, about?
Bronte is a princess from the Storm Kingdom, but she's always dreamed of being a knight. Unfortunately the school for squires has only ever taken boys - until now! With all children suddenly being welcomed, Bronte heads off to join, dreaming of heroics, chivalry and honour.
She is quickly disappointed to discover that the knights don't care about such things, or much else in fact, beyond winning tournaments and looking good while doing so. But with thunder trolls rampaging towards the school, and monsterfied woodland animals terrorising the forest, Bronte knows someone has to step up to save the day, and it's going to have to be her.
Along the way she'll meet firecats, battle boars, bare-bottomed gnomes, a pompous griffin lord and zombits! It's a fun and feisty adventure about finding your place and believing in yourself.
"The original idea came from someone making an off-hand comment in a conversation about going to night school.
And all I heard was 'knight school'!"
3. What inspired you to write a book about a girl who goes to knight school?
The original idea came from someone making an off-hand comment in a conversation about going to night school. And all I heard was 'knight school'! I knew immediately that I wanted to write a story set there. I've always loved the medieval period of history, and all the legends set around that time. So I wanted to write something familiar, but different, and as a girl who grew up frustrated that the women in the stories I loved only existed to be rescued by the men, I wanted to rectify that.
I also went to a secondary school which had been an all-boys school until only a few years before, and it was fascinating watching the dynamics shift when it opened to girls too, and the reluctance for change. So that was something I wanted to explore in a totally different setting.
4. How did you start imagining the setting for this book? Do you draw and map out your settings?
When a book idea grows, it usually starts with character and plot for me. And then the setting forms quite naturally around them. With this world, it was a case of constantly pushing beyond first ideas, and taking things as far as I could beyond the expected. I always draw a map for every book I write, because it helps me keep track of where everyone is and should be. But I am no artist, so by 'draw' I mean, I doodle splodges and label them!
5. Which school do you think you'd have enjoyed as a child - Sir Sebastian's School for Squires or the Palace for the Obedient and Outstanding Princesses?
This is so tough! My heart says I would have loved Sir Sebastian's School for Squires, with all its excitement and adventurous subjects. But I think that's the daydreamer part of me, because my head knows that as a child who wasn't sporty, was spectacularly clumsy and scatty, I probably wouldn't have thrived in jousting or weapons! I mean, that's why I write things, to live vicariously through my characters to do all the things I couldn't do! I probably would have done better at POOP, although I suspect I wasn't quite obedient or outstanding enough to thrive there either!
"I think trees are magical in our world, so when you take them into a fantasy world and can make them bigger and better,
that's just so much fun!"
6. What is your favourite part of Sir Sebastian's School for Squires?
I love the four massive trees which form the heart of the site - and which are filled with treehouses for the students to sleep in. I think trees are magical in our world, so when you take them into a fantasy world and can make them bigger and better, that's just so much fun!
7. Why did you decide to give your young knights firecats as companions? And if you could bring back one of the creatures from this world to live with you, which one would you choose?
Naturally, when you think knights, you think dragons. And I love dragons, so so much! If I see a dragon book, I'll pick it up! But writing this book, I wanted to keep pushing away from tropes and the expected. When I was young, we had five cats, one of which would drape herself like a scarf around my neck while I went about my day. She was a constant companion, and so it made sense to immortalise her into my book, but with a twist.
I would love a firecat of my own, but I'd also really like a battle boar. As a kid who always dreamed of having a pony, it would be a way to fulfil that dream - sort of! I suspect I might fall off a battle boar a lot!
8. The illustrations by Hannah McCaffery are fabulous - any favourite characters?
Oh, I am in love with Hannah's spectacular illustrations. She really made my world come to life in such a magical way. I adore her depictions of every single character, but I'm especially fond of her speed slugs. And the zombits! It was seeing her sketch of a zombit early on that made me certain we had found the right person to illustrate these books, because it was just so incredibly perfect!
9. Can you tell us what you have planned next for Bronte Tempestra and her training as a knight?
Next up is Bronte Tempestra and the Ice Warriors. I can't say too much, but I can tell you it's set at the end of Bronte's first term, during their winter festivities, and as the title suggests, Bronte may be up against some frosty foes! There are some fun new characters, as well as the return of familiar faces, and of course, another quest for Bronte to go on!
10. Bronte has a lot of adventures in this story - how adventurous are you in real life, and what's the best adventure you've ever had? What kinds of things do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?
Haha, this is where you out me as a total coward! If Bronte is reflective of the kind of person I'd like to be, Tonkins (her gentle and frequently scared friend) is much more the kind of person I am! 'Adventurous' for me is trying a different brand of hot chocolate!
I think when I was younger, I was more up for anything - I rode horses a lot and was completely fearless. I still ride when I can as an adult, but am much more conscious of where the ground is! The best adventure I ever had might be taking a cable car over Mont Blonc's Mer de Glace when I was younger. Such a thrill.
When I'm not writing, I love pottering in my garden, making book props out of Lego, or doing agility with my dog. And napping. You can't beat a good nap!