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The Tower At The End Of Time - Amy Sparkes

I'm thrilled to have been asked by the wonderful Rebecca Oram and the lovely people at Walker Books to revisit one of my favourite magical worlds and meet up with Nine and the House again on the blog tour for Amy Sparkes' second story, out now!

The magic and chaos continue as the characters we met in the last book continue their adventures, this time en-route to a magical hopscotch competition where Flabberghast is determined to prove his mettle as a wizard. Nothing goes quite to plan (where would be the fun in that!?) and as the House develops a case of hiccups, it bounces and travels around to different places. The colourful cast of characters are forced to deal with them in their unusual and inventive ways to try to get to their final destination...The Tower At The End of Time, where one of them will get to ask a question....

The Dodger-esque Nine remains her irascible pickpocketing and sassy self, and alongside the cast of other house-mates (how lovely to meet Spoon and Eric again!), discovers more about herself as the story develops.

A brilliant, fun, magical whirlwind of a story, this would be ideal for readers 8+

I'm thrilled that author, Amy Sparkes, has shared some tips about her writing to share here on my 'stop' on the blogtour today....enjoy!

Tick tock goes the clock

Amy Sparkes

Being against the clock is a common trope in writing – it helps escalate the stakes and really puts your characters under pressure. For me, it’s something which has always fascinated me: this idea of running out of time.

The first time I nearly died was by drowning and I was four years old. I’m still not entirely sure how I survived that one, but I think it had a profound effect on me. Even though I was little, I think I understood that I had a lucky escape. That perhaps I didn’t have all the time in the world ahead of me. As the incident was regularly brought up by my family (and still is, to this day!) to complain about my typically reckless behaviour to whomever they happened to be talking to, it was not an event I could readily escape from.

When I was a little older, I used to play a fascinating game. It was called Five Minutes. I would be in my bedroom with my beloved little suitcase which my great-aunt had given me, and I would give myself five minutes – and five minutes only, no cheating – to select and find my chosen belongings, pack them in my suitcase and escape my room. Now, if you had seen the state of my bedroom as a child, you would realise this was absolutely a challenge of the highest order. I’d be lucky to find anything in five minutes! But it was such a thrilling, adrenaline-pumping exercise. I would make up different stakes or imaginative scenarios behind why I had five minutes to get out of my room. It’s an idea and a game which I still think about today. It never panicked me, although my heart would be racing. My head stayed clear, my mind was focused. There was just something about the stakes, and the ticking clock which utterly captivated me. It was thrilling and terrifying, and I absolutely loved it.

Fast forward several years (and several more near-death experiences – don’t ask, I think I’m just one of those people), and I had recently had my sixth baby. The next game was called Four Minutes. Sparkling The Sixth would only sleep for four minutes at a time during the day, and I used these microscopic naps to write the first draft of The House At The Edge Of Magic. It’s not surprising there ended up being a ticking clock with the hands whirling backwards, counting down in the story. To some people, it might be unthinkable to write a book in this way. It was definitely difficult, but at the same time, I was seven-year-old Amy again, playing her game, trying to beat the clock. And instead of packing my suitcase in five minutes during a creative, role-playing scenario, I was channelling this imagination and typing onto a laptop. The same thrilling, adrenaline-pumping exercise. No panicking. (No point). My heart might be racing, as I watched the minutes tick by, but my mind was utterly focused. And so my first ever novel was written.

Then came book 2. The Tower At The End Of Time. Time again is running out, but instead of a ticking clock, we have an hourglass. I have exactly the same hourglass filled with purple sand in my writing room. (Sometimes I write with it beside me, if I’m rushing to meet a deadline, or to finish work quickly so I can do something with my children – as I homeschool five of them, I always have very little time!). But it does work for me. That added pressure, that added thrill suits my reckless, adrenalin-seeking personality perfectly. I’ve known since I was four years old that my time is running out. But instead of trying to escape or ignore that, I choose to embrace it, and I try to use it to my advantage.

After a year of difficult health problems which jeopardised my writing plans for The Tower At The End Of Time, I was once more writing with an hourglass beside me. Scraping each deadline. Watching those last grains of sand trickling through the neck. Heart thumping. Rising to the challenge. It absolutely wasn’t easy and there were times I didn’t think I would make it. But as hard as it was, not only did it add an authenticity to the story – my heart was thumping as much as Nine’s! – there was part of me that loved every second of facing this seemingly impossible challenge – facing this clock – defying it and (I hoped) succeeding.

You have five minutes to pack your suitcase. Your time starts now.

You have four minutes to write this story. Your time starts now.

You have ten seconds left before you have drowned. Your time starts now.

I’m so grateful for these experiences I have had. I believe they have made me a better person and a better writer. And I expect that until my time truly does run out, somewhere behind all my stories, there will always be a clock ticking and the sands of an hourglass falling...

© Amy Sparkes 2022

Check out what other bloggers have to say and look out for more features at the other stops on the tour:

Thank you to Rebecca and Walker books for the copy of the book to review and the opportunity to be part of this tour. Check out the Walker website for more information about the book:

Thank you to Amy for the feature (follow her on Twitter as @AmySparkes)

Review by Rich Simpson (@richreadalot on Twitter and Instagram) January 2022. All views my own.

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