I’m delighted to be joined by Lindsay Littleson today as she takes part in my Author Spotlight. I also have my review of her latest children’s novel, The Titanic Detective Agency.
This is an exciting historical novel featuring characters based on real passengers on the Titanic. Young Bertha is determined to find some mysteries to solve while she is on the crossing to her new life in America and, together with her new friend Madge, forms the Collyer-Watt Detective Agency. They are convinced there is something odd about the way Mr Hoffman behaves with his children Lolo and Momon so that’s their first investigation. Swedish teenager Johan needs help interpreting a treasure map he has found, so there’s another case for the young sleuths. Their detection efforts are interrupted by the fateful collision with the iceberg, a familiar story to adults but perhaps not to young readers. Lindsay Littleson brings the danger and terror of that night to life through the eyes of her young characters. With mystery, excitement, adventure and danger, I’m sure this is a book kids will love. The author rounds off the story beautifully resolving all the mysteries and explaining what happened next to the significant characters in the book. I particularly liked the photos of the passengers we read about, which really brought home that they were real people, not just characters in a book. First class children’s fiction.
Thanks for joining me today Lindsay. First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
I have four grown-up children and live with my partner Ian and our cat Roo in the village of Uplawmoor near Glasgow. I’m a full-time primary teacher and while I love my job, I have made the decision to take early retirement this summer, as I am keen to focus full time on my writing. Financially, it’s a daft plan, but it feels right.
What inspired you to start writing?
As a child, and in my teens and early twenties I was an enthusiastic writer, mainly of children’s stories and poetry. If anyone asked, I’d tell them I was going to be a children’s author one day.
But as a teacher and eventual mother of four, finding time to write became a real issue, and I stopped completely. It was only when my children started leading independent lives, that I took a good look at my own and found it sadly wanting! Sally is a doctor with a jewellery design business, David is a front end web developer and musician. Matt’s at drama school and Emily is at Glasgow University studying English Literature. It dawned on me that compared to my kids, I was doing nothing creative and decided it was time to try and realise my childhood dream.
Tell me about your journey to publication
I started writing for children in January 2014 and entered my first novel The Mixed Up Summer of Lily McLean for the Kelpies Prize. It was shortlisted and then won, much to my delight. The prize was £2000 and publication of my novel and The Mixed Up Summer was published in April 2015. The sequel, The Awkward Autumn of Lily McLean, was published by Floris Books in 2017 and in March 2018 my children’s historical novel, A Pattern of Secrets, was published by Cranachan Books. Guardians of the Wild Unicorns came out in February this year. It might have taken me a long time to get started but the last few years have been a whirlwind!
In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?
In The Titanic Detective Agency, Bertha is thrilled to be travelling to America but quickly realises that some passengers are behaving strangely, and determines to unravel their secrets. With new friend, Madge, she sets up her own detective agency to try and solve the mystery of the enigmatic Mr Hoffman and his two adorable little boys, Lolo and Momon.
When Johan Cervin Svensson, a Swedish lad travelling alone in 3rd Class asks for help in deciphering a map he has discovered, Bertha adds The Strange Boy and the Treasure Map to her case book. Bertha and Madge work on solving the mysteries, both unaware that the ship is steaming towards disaster and that time is running out for hundreds of those on board.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
Thinking of the title, The Titanic Detective Agency, was fairly straightforward, as the title had to contain the word Titanic, to make the setting absolutely clear, and the plot revolves around the detective agency and the mysteries Bertha is determined to solve. As part of my research, I read a lot of children’s stories set on the Titanic and some are rather dull until the ship starts sinking. I was keen that my novel should engage young readers from the start.
How do you plan to celebrate publication day?
Publication day is the 15th of April, the day the Titanic sank. It also happens to be the first day back at school after the Spring break, so it will have to be a small scale celebration. No drinking on a school night!
The launch is on Thursday the 25th of April at 6.30pm in Waterstones Braehead. Do come along if you can make it.
Do you have a work in progress just now?
In the last few months, new writing projects have had to take a back seat to school work, editing and creating teachers’ resources for both Guardians of the Wild Unicorns and The Titanic Detective Agency, but I do have a lot of ideas swirling around in my head and a couple of finished projects which need polishing. Retirement should give me all the headspace I need!
What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months?
I loved The God of All Small Boys, Joe Lamb’s debut novel, set in Dundee during World War 1. It manages to be both funny and heartbreaking and the level of research is outstanding.
If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?
Jane Eyre. I’ve read it lots of times, and it never ceases to be entertaining and inspiring. Jane has so much courage, and even as an unloved, lonely child is prepared to stand up for herself and for what she feels is right. I thought the television drama about the Bronte sisters, To Walk Invisible, was fabulous and am absolutely determined to visit the Parsonage at Haworth this year for the first time.
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
I am on twitter and instagram as @ljlittleson and I have a rather nice website, created by my son David – http://www.lindsaylittleson.co.uk
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
I’m torn between Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Bennet, as both have splendidly happy endings. However, for a story to be really interesting the author has to give the main character a very hard time, because if they don’t, then the story can be a bit dull. So, if I have to live through the whole plot, it would have to be Lizzie Bennet as she suffers rather less than Jane Eyre and is an expert at the quick retort. My witty comebacks always pop into my brain about an hour too late.
My thanks to Kelly at Cranachan for my review copy of the book and the invitation to take part in the blogtour. The Titanic Detective Agency is available now and you can order a copy from the publisher’s website by clicking here.
From the back of the book
Unlock the secrets of the unsinkable ship…
Bertha Watt, tree-climber and would-be polar explorer, is excited to be on RMS Titanic’s maiden voyage, as she leaves Aberdeen behind for the glamour of a new life in America.
But Bertha quickly realises that some passengers are behaving strangely, and she determines to unravel their secrets. With new friend, Madge, Bertha sets up her own detective agency to try and solve the mysteries onboard, but they have no idea that disaster is looming for Titanic.
Can they help Johan find the hidden treasure and unmask the identity of the enigmatic Mr Hoffman before time runs out on the ‘unsinkable’ ship?
A fresh and compelling re-telling of the Titanic voyage—with a Scottish twist—by best-selling children’s author Lindsay Littleson. Based on real passengers and events, fact and fiction are
skilfully woven together to create a meaningful and moving account of events aboard RMS Titanic. Ideal to tie in with the most popular Social Studies topic in Scottish primary schools: The Unsinkable Ship.
About the author
Lindsay Littleson has four grown-up (ish) children and lives in the village of Uplawmoor near Glasgow. Her younger son is studying drama and Lindsay is unfailingly supportive, not wanting to repeat her faux pas of nearly thirty years ago when she tried to talk a young Ewan McGregor out of becoming an actor. She’s a full-time primary teacher and loves her job. Before becoming a teacher she spent eight years as possibly the worst PAYE auditor ever to be employed by the Inland Revenue.
In 2014 she began writing for children and won the Kelpies Prize for her first children’s novel The Mixed Up Summer of Lily McLean. The sequel, The Awkward Autumn of Lily McLean, was published by Floris Books in March this year.
As a child, Lindsay developed a keen interest in the past, thanks to the Ladybird Adventures from History series. If only she’d held on to all those early editions…
In 2015 her WW1 novel Shell Hole was shortlisted for the Dundee Great War Children’s Book Prize and she enjoyed engaging in research so much that she was inspired to write another historical novel, A Pattern of Secrets, this time focusing on her local area.
Catch up with the rest of the blogtour