Podcast: Book Wandering with Anna James

Brave Writer Podcast

In the realm of children’s literature, certain authors create captivating worlds that inspire young readers to explore, imagine, and grow. One such author is Anna James, the British writer and journalist based in North London, known for her middle-grade novels series, “Pages and Co.”

Anna James
Anna James

Today on the Brave Writer podcast, we’re discussing:

  • her writing process,
  • the inspiration behind her series,
  • and the value of getting lost in the worlds of books.

Also, don’t forget to hop over to the Brave Writer store to pick up the Arrow that goes with her book “Pages & Co.: The Book Wanderers” (the Arrow is our literature handbook that teaches grammar and literature to your 11-12 year olds!).

Show Notes

The Journey into Fiction

Anna’s journey into fiction was as magical as the worlds she weaves. Her love for books and reading stemmed from her childhood adventures, often featuring her and her sister as characters in Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five” adventures. This idea of being part of a story was the seed that blossomed into the concept of “book wandering” in her “Pages & Co.” series.

Despite her passion for literature, Anna chose to study history at university to preserve her pure love for reading. Initially, she aspired to be a librarian, even planning to do a master’s in archives. However, fate led her to switch her path at the last moment.

The Magic of Book Wandering

The “Pages & Co.” series, expected to have its sixth installment later in the year in the UK and next year in the US, introduces readers to Tilly, a young girl living in a bookshop who discovers her ability to travel inside books and stories. This concept of “book wandering” is a testament to Anna’s belief in the magic of imagination, especially for young people imagining their own lives and those of others.

The series, which was envisioned as a standalone book, focused on characters entering the pages of books. The story eventually expanded into six books, introducing new characters and story arcs along the way.

An Instinctive Writing Process

Anna describes herself as a “pantser,” writing by the seat of her pants without an outline. Her first drafts flow from start to finish without looking back, and she trusts her instincts as a writer, thanks to her exposure to a multitude of stories. Despite significant plot shifts and character changes, her first drafts always end up around the same word count due to her innate sense of pacing.

Her writing process also reflects her love for immersive theater, where the audience becomes part of the story. Anna started writing about it after her book series began coming out, seeing a connection between immersive theater and book wandering.

The Enchanting Setting

The setting of the “Pages & Co.” series was inspired by Anna’s experiences at Waterstones, a British bookstore in Newcastle, where she discovered many of her favorite books as a child. The visual impact of seeing many books together symbolizes the richness of human thought and ideas, a sentiment lost in the digital age.

The Journey of Identity

Anna emphasizes the importance of young people finding their identity and standing up for their beliefs. Through her character, Tilly, she explores the process of self-discovery and self-definition, even when it means going against the expectations of loved ones. Anna believes in the importance of young people asserting themselves, learning from their mistakes, and navigating their own paths.

Upcoming Adventures

Anna is currently working on a new series called the “Weather-Wide Chronicles,” set to be published in the UK in the upcoming autumn. She is also planning an “Alice in Wonderland” re-imagining, following Alice’s granddaughter, Alyce.

Anna James’ work is a testament to the power of imagination and the beauty of discovering oneself through the pages of a book. Her series not only provides young readers with a captivating journey but also encourages them to chart their own paths, just like Tilly, setting their own compass in the world.


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