Cathy FitzGerald, our debut author of the month, is an exciting new voice in fantasy adventure fiction for children aged 8 and above. Cathy is a writer and presenter, and regular contributor to BBC Radio 3, 4 and the World Service, and she is founder and caretaker of Strange & Charmed, a school for people who tell stories in sound. We grabbed the chance to ask Cathy a few questions about her magical novel, Pinch Perkins and the Midsummer Curse, and how it feels to be a debut author..

Q. Tell us a bit about your new novel Pinch Perkins and the Midsummer Curse.

A. My hero, Pinch, is twelve and lives on Tricky Dragon Lane, deep in the heart of London’s Crooked Mile. She’s scruffy, usually wearing last night’s dinner on her T- shirt, and feisty too, with a glare that can stop a grown-up at five paces. And she’s desperate to bust out of her safe, little life and have an adventure. One day, her mum, Flora - who’s a great mum, by the way, not the sort you’d feed to a troll - falls victim to the Sleeping Beauty curse. She’s alive, but she won’t wake up. And so Pinch, with her arch-nemesis, Henry, in tow, sets out to find a cure. The only trouble is that it’s Midsummer’s Eve, which is when all the most ancient, tricksy, magical creatures come out to play. To save her mum, Pinch and Henry have to face the terrifying boss of the Thames mudlarks, dance with Tania and Ron, the devious fairy King and Queen, and keep two steps ahead of Stetson-wearing villains, Harum and Skarum. Luckily, they have magic roller skates and King Arthur’s knights on their side…

Q. Who, or what, was your inspiration for the story?

A. My own mum fell seriously ill a few years back and I spent a few months driving to and from the hospital in the winter dark. I listened to a children’s audio book to cheer myself up - and at some point, I had a stray idea about writing a book myself. I’d always wanted to when I was little, but like a lot of teenagers, I lost my nerve. We were very lucky and Mum got better - but the notion of writing stuck around. I tried it - and I loved it… the wildness of opening a door in my mind and waiting to see who walked through. It’s an extraordinary thing.

Q. What are the challenges of bringing a novel to publication? How did you find the process?

A. Being edited is hard, even with the smartest and loveliest of editors (Sarah Levison at Farshore). I was brain-tired from the drafting process - and then had to summon the oomph for further revisions. I find it tricky to stay focused on what’s good about the book (and myself) when I’m dealing with amends, but I hope/suspect that will get easier with more experience.

Q. Which children's authors do you most admire?

A. Of the ones I grew up with, I have a deep love for John Masefield, Lucy M. Boston, Helen Cresswell and Susan Cooper. They create atmospheric, deeply original worlds, never patronise their readers and keep the emotion tuning-fork-true. My favourite contemporary authors include Sharna Jackson, Lucy Strange, Katherine Rundell, Katya Balen and Frank Cottrell-Boyce.

Q. Is there an audio book planned?

A. There is! Which I’m very happy about, as I’m a radio producer and presenter in my other life. It’s narrated by a brilliant actor called Ezra Saifie - I’m really looking forward to hearing her take on the characters’ voices.

Q. Any tips for fellow writers trying to get their debut published?

A. I made a series for BBC Radio 4 a while back called ‘The Invisible College’, which comprised little lessons in creative writing from the ghosts of authors past. It was mostly an excuse for me to spend months in the BBC archive listening to brilliant, clever people talking about their craft. There were so many useful ideas in there, but the simplest and the one that I make use of on a daily basis, comes from Hemingway. He said: ‘stop, when you’re going good.’ Or, in other words, if the words are flowing, stop in the middle of a paragraph - or even a sentence - when you break at the end of the day. Don’t carry on and tie the chapter up with a bow, even though you could. You’ll find it so much easier to find the rhythm next time you sit down to write.

That’s a craft tip, but then, here’s a heart tip, courtesy of Ray Bradbury. Write about things you love, things you hate, things that creep and freak you out. That’s where the juice is. Tap into it, and it will be there in your words. And when there’s juice in the words - when there’s passion in the words - the reader (even a young one) can tell. This is an excuse for daydreaming and walking in dark woods at night.

Q. Ever get writer's block?

A. I had a terrible case of it from age 15 to 35, but it’s mostly gone now. It’s that judgemental voice, isn’t it? The critical editor dressing down the writer. But I’ve learnt how to write from a different place - one that’s much more playful and daft - and that seems to have taken care of the problem. Now, I find plotting and plot-holes hard… I’ve sat in many plot-holes over the past year and I can tell you they’re dank and dark (if curiously well supplied with chocolate biscuits).

Q. How did it feel to hold a finished copy of Pinch Perkins and the Midsummer Curse in your hand?

A. There are some joys that sock you in the chops - you go from zero to whooping in a second. But for me, the really deep, life-changing joys have been quieter. They’re slow-release, as if it’s taking my shy heart a while to get used to them. Pinch was like that. I had five books, so I put a little stack on the table and looked at them out of the corner of my eye for a few days. The nicest thing was spotting a copy hanging out in a heap of other people’s novels and realising it belonged.

Pinch Perkins and the Midsummer Curse by Cathy FitzGerald, published by Farshore, is available to buy here. Read more about the book and download the first chapter.