"I am inspired by transforming the concept of a victim to a survivor’s story." - An Interview with T E Carter

Today I'm excited to welcome T E Carter to my blog for a Q&A as part of the All We Could Have Been blog tour! Be sure to follow the tour and check out All We Could Have Been on Goodreads.

All We Could Have Been follows Lexi as she moves to a new town and starts a new school again. Every year her past catches up with her and she has to move on. Will this year be different?

To start, what five words best represent All We Could Have Been? Conflict, Trust, Forgiveness, Growth, Survival.

The premise to All We Could Have Been surrounds Lexi’s life in the wake of her brother’s terrible actions. What kind of research did you do?
Unfortunately, the premise of the novel was based on something real. In the town where I grew up, something similar happened when I was younger, and the aftermath played in many of the same ways. It’s always something that’s weighed on me, and I felt like it was something I wanted to explore in the wake of my own experiences as I got older. There’s a lot that’s been changed from the true events, but there was no research really since the premise was already there, and I shaped the rest from experience.

Lexi sees her brother through a ‘prism’ and there are different versions of him in her head. How did you find balancing the memory of him and the version of him she now knows?
I would argue that the challenge is that there aren’t different versions for Lexi, and that sets up her biggest conflict. There’s her brother before the events – the brother she always knew and loved – and there’s her brother after the events. But this version – the after – is only someone she knows through other people (media, people in the community, etc.). She’s had no relationship with him or experiences with him after the events to shape a new version, so she has this constant struggle to reconcile what she knew with what everyone else knew.

How was the writing process for All We Could Have Been different to I Stop Somewhere?
Starting out, my goal was to remain a bit more detached with this book than with I Stop Somewhere. My first novel was extremely personal, and I set out to write something with more of an observer’s eye. As the story started to take shape, though, I realised I wasn’t detached, and really I was writing about trauma in a different way. In some ways, I feel like I was even closer to Lexi than I was to Ellie in I Stop Somewhere. I share a lot of the experiences Ellie had, but with Lexi, I share a lot of how she thinks – and that felt very revealing for me.

Both of your protagonists are victims. What is it about this perspective that inspires you?
I am inspired by transforming the concept of a victim to a survivor’s story. In counselling, we focused a lot on changing the terminology and the way we looked at experiences, and that’s a key part of what I want to do with my writing. I want to show survival, but I want to do it in an honest and authentic way. It’s easy to go too far into the heroic narrative that isn’t what many survivors experience. Instead, I wanted to show survival in the slow, early stages of the process.

Mental health and PTSD are explored in this story. Why do you think it’s so important for readers to discover these stories?
There aren’t enough stories that feature characters struggling with their mental health in a way that shows them as full people. There are plenty of stories that turn mental health into a horror trope or use it as a means to victimise characters, but there simply are not enough – in any medium – that show the day-to-day life of people who exist and face mental health as part of their regular experience. A significant number of people live with depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc., and yet if you surrounded yourself only with the fictional narratives of the characters in popular media, you would continue to feel like it was just you. I’m not okay with that.

What keeps you writing through the hardest moments?
In the interest of complete transparency, I don’t generally write in the hardest moments. I have struggled for the last year in working on my next novel, because it’s been a bad year. What keeps me going mostly is accepting that there will be good years and bad years, good weeks and bad weeks, and good days and bad days. Focusing on getting past the bad sections is first and foremost, and writing can pick up when that’s passed.

Friendship is such an important aspect of the story. What do you think makes a great friend?
Trust. There is really nothing else required of a great friend. Some great friends make you laugh when you’re struggling, while others are empathetic and provide support. Some great friends take you out and make you step away from your comfort zone, and others come to you and let you curl up and hide from the world when you need to do so. But the common thread is that you can trust them.

Do you have any recommendations for fans of I Stop Somewhere and All We Could Have Been?
I’ve been kind of saying this to everyone, and it’s not a book, but Life is Strange and Before the Storm. They’re video games, but they’re not hard or anything, and the narrative is beautiful.

Do you have any hints for what you’re writing next?
I finally got into a place where something is speaking to me, but it’s still in its infancy. We’ll have to see how it plays out! I’m sure it will be another contemporary about outsiders, though.

All We Could Have Been by T.E. Carter is out 2nd May (£7.99 Paperback, Simon & Schuster UK)
T. E. Carter was born and raised in New England. Throughout her career, she has done a lot of things, she has always loved to read and still loves stories in any medium (books, movies, video games, etc.). When she’s not writing, she can generally be found reading classic literature, obsessing over Game of Thrones (100% Team Lannister), playing Xbox, organizing her comic collection, or binge-watching baking competitions. She continues to live in New England with her husband and two cats. All We Could Have Been is her second novel for young adults.
@hashtagereads #AllWeCouldHaveBeen

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review.

Is It Summer Yet? April Favourites

Editing My Draft (At Last!)
I let you know in my January Favourites that I was working away on editing my WIP. Well, it was HARD. I spent February and March avoiding editing until I realised I needed to do some big structural edits so in April, I started the draft over and that’s exactly what I did! I worked on it every day until it was redrafted and at the end of this version I celebrated with the new Bourneville buttons.

Getting Outside
The nights are getting lighter again and April has been a good month to be outside. Considering how much time I spend looking at a screen every day and how often my head is stuck in a book, I’ve made an effort to take more breaks and mix up my routine. Weekday evening walks and getting out on the weekend to play crazy golf and hunt down Shakespeare statues has done me good. Would recommend.

The Bank Holiday!
Speaking of getting outside and mixing things up, the four day weekend this month was an absolute blessing. With my edits done, I used the time to get out as much as possible, from a 15 mile bike around along the canals to playing scrabble in my favourite vegan cafe, I had the best weekend ever.

Travel Romances

This is a pretty niche category of books but one that I love. I read Again, But Better by Christine Riccio and Field Notes On Love by Jennifer E Smith this month and enjoyed them both. Riccio’s book is about an American on a study abroad programme in England, so while many of the places were familiar, it was interesting to see it through someone else’s eyes. Meanwhile, Smith’s book follows an American and a Brit on a train journey around America. Unlike March, in April I travelled way less and had more time to relax on the weekends. It was much needed and allowed me to get to some of highly anticipated books. Here’s my full wrap up...


REVIEW: Again, But Better by Christine Riccio

Credit: Wednesday Books

Again, But Better - Christine Riccio
My Rating: 4/5
Published by Wednesday Books on 7 May 2019

Again, But Better is the highly anticipated novel from booktube Goddess Christine Riccio, aka PolandBananasBooks. I’ve been following Christine’s writing videos since the idea for this book baby was conceived and couldn’t wait to immerse myself into the story. It follows Shane, a pre-med university student in America with a passion for creative writing. After years of always doing what she’s told, she finally acts out and does something so unlike her - she signs up for a study abroad programme in London and convinces her parents it’s for pre-med, rather than creative writing. It’s Shane’s chance to experience something new and discover what she wants to do with her life.

Credit: XtineMAY (Instagram)
I can already foresee many of the criticisms others may have, such as the insta love, the strange character names: Shane; Pilot; Baby; Atticus and Sahra, and the way that Shane’s housemates were underdeveloped. The writing is clunky in parts and there’s a definite autobiographical nature. We start in 2011, which is a little jarring until the pop culture references jump in, but this is a deliberate choice to follow the same timeline Riccio had in her own study abroad programme in London. Shane also visits the same Beatles store and runs her own blog, FrenchWatermelonNineteen. The parallels are hardly hidden, in fact they’re so in your face I wonder if they’re meant to garner the attention of Christine’s fans and encourage a little clue-looking.

Credit: XtineMAY (Twitter)
Before I get into the good stuff, there are a couple of frustrating comments Shane makes about life in England which I feel the need to correct. Firstly, Mexican food in Britain is not bad at all. It’s actually amazing and this is a hill I’m willing to die on. Secondly, not all museums are free. I feel like an editor should have caught this because it’s such a huge statement to make. Anyway, those details aside, the portrayal of London captures the bustle and excitement of the city.

The writing was funny, the dialogue vivid and the throwbacks to 2011 were a ball of fun you won’t find in many other books published in 2019. In Part 2, the book veers off in an unexpected direction and offers something that I think will divide readers. I personally loved the second half of the book even more than the first and think it found its feet as it went on. I’ll definitely be reading more from Riccio. While Again, But Better is not perfect, it’s a strong teen travel novel with plenty of humour and romance. And yes, the title makes a lot of sense once you’ve read it...

I received this book from the publisher via Netgalley.

March Favourites

March has been overwhelming. Having so many social plans has been great but has come at the cost of constant exhaustion. It was a busy month in the publishing world and there's been a lot going on in my personal life. When it came to writing this, I started off thinking about all the things I hadn't been able to do. The exercise routine I had to abandon, the editing I hate myself for not getting to and the reading I left undone. I've always been busy but I've always managed to balance everything and this is the firts month I can think of when life has fallen out of my grip. ANYWAY, I need to focus on the great things I did experience this month to remind myself it wasn't all exhaustion and chaos. It was actually pretty amazing...

My Birthday
It was right back on the first day of the month and it was so special. Patrick gave me clues to my birthday present throughout the day and I came home from work to freshly baked cookies, giant balloons and a card explaining it all. I sobbed. Other than that, my Twitter friends were wonderful and I played lots of Scrabble and ate some vegan treats. I couldn’t have asked for better.

Okay, so I didn’t go on some fancy holiday this month (I wish) but I did get travel a little bit around the UK outside of work. By a bit I mean every weekend. One of the highlights included going to Preston with Ashleigh and Charlotte for NYA Lit Fest. The panels on diversity and shame were particularly interesting but I also loved hearing about feminism in fantasy and mental health in YA. It’s always lovely to go away with friends!

At the end of the month, I took a trip to Dublin with the parents and Patrick for Ulster’s European semi-final against Leinster. It was such a close game, full of hope and passion. Even though it ended in heartbreak, I had an amazing weekend and I’m so proud of the team for coming out the way they did.

More True Crime
I mentioned in my February Favourites that I was enjoying Netflix’s True Crime section and this month that continued. I watched The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann. It’s horrific to think we live in a world so dangerous and destructive, but the documentary was eye-opening and well worth a watch. Squeezing in an hour here and there across March weirdly helped me stay sane.

Being Longlisted
I can't believe I'm typing this but at the end of the month I found out I have been longlisted in the UKYABA! It's so lovely to see lots of bloggers and vloggers being celebrated and I'm still giddy about it. If you're a bookish person and would like to vote for me in the Best Newcomer category or if you're a publisher and would like to vote for me in the Publishers' Choice category click here.


I may not have been reading all that much in March but I did share my favourite books with the world! It’s always good to remember the books that bring you joy...


February Favourites

Disclaimer: this post is going to make it look like all I do is watch TV. I promise this is not the case.

Oh, wow. I've been watching Outlander since back when it launched in 2014 and this month I dived into season 4. It's the most tense season to date, with plenty of horrifying moments in which I squirmed, barely able to watch. It's got all the suspense of a thriller, in a history setting, with fantasy elements and major romance plots. There's crossover appeal to say the least. I don't know what to do with myself until next year.

Mario Kart, Switch
At the start of my month, my lovely friend Jemima came to see me and she brought her Switch! We spent the day playing Mario Kart and had a great time. I don’t usually play video games but I’ve always loved Mario Kart and the Switch was so easy to use that I didn’t get frustrated trying to figure out the controls. I also think playing a game like this is such a great way to spend time with friends because you can chat without just chatting and it helped me focus my mind when my thoughts were all over the place.

Netflix Documentaries - Fyre and Abducted In Plain Sight.
This month I watched two captivating Netflix documentaries that are drastically different but equally captivating.

You might have seen the ads for Fyre, the documentary of the festival by the same name that completely flopped a few years ago. It led to the criminal charges of the organiser and a free for all on an island in the Bahamas. We’re talking the fight to survive with battles for food and water. It’s a miracle no one died.

Fyre is weirdly reminiscent of Tanacon (although admittedly, Fyre happened first). Imagine Shane Dawson but as an actual professional documentary maker. If you’ve ever doubted the power of a social media influencer, watch it. Essentially, the festival existed because of some models posting an orange tile on Instagram and it was torn down by a viral tweet of some sad looking cheese on toast. Mind. Blown.

In a very different tone, Abducted in Plain Sight is a true crime documentary about an American girl who was abducted (twice) by a family friend in the seventies. She was convinced she needed to have a baby with this man before she turned sixteen in order to save the alien race she was part of, otherwise they would blind and kill her family. Yeah. There’s nothing else like it and while it’s a tough watch, it’s one of the most interesting true crime stories I’ve come across in a while.

I prefer documentaries to be released as one hour to ninety minute ‘movie’ rather an as episodes. I don’t need cliffhangers and the same clips mashed together fifty different ways. I need details. Both of these were very engaging and I’d highly recommend giving them a watch.

Reading Vlog
I didn’t just watch lots of video content this month, I made some of my own too! I uploaded my first ever weekly reading vlog in February! It’s very cosy, with plenty of bookish chats from bed so do get into your pyjamas and watch along...

Coffee Shop Sundays
My lovely friend Ashleigh and I were lucky to spend two Sundays in coffee shops this month. We hit up St Martin’s Coffee Shop in Leicester which is an old favourite and discovered a newer plant-based cafe/restaurant called Prana. Located in the old bank building, this is one of the most aesthetic and comfortable places in the city. I’ll definitely be going back to sample the food!

I haven’t told many people that I’m trying to get back into learning French (to be honest, I wasn’t sure I’d stick to it) but in February I hit a 100 day streak on Duolingo so I think it’s safe to say this is something I am doing now. I did French GCSE but never continued it despite thoroughly enjoying it. Now, I have a playlist of French music and a daily goal. It’s not a race for me at all and I know I could be doing a lot more to immerse myself but for now a little bit every day suits me well.

March is going to be a busy month but I'm excited!

The Thriller of the Year?

*This book was gifted to me by Pan Macmillan*

We all remember the year Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl took over the nation. It was contagious. Everywhere you looked, someone would have their head in a copy of the black book. A few of years on, it was Paula Hawkins’ The Girl On The Train. The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances was the ‘it thriller’ of 2017 and 2018 was dominated by A J Finn’s The Woman In The Window.

Every year, I make it my mission to find the thriller of the year as soon as possible. Last year, I waited it out to see if anything would overtake the hype for The Woman In The Window but the whirlwind only escalated and now it’s well into 2019 and I still haven’t read it. That’s not a good feeling, I can assure you.

The lesson I’ve learnt? Read it fast! Be the person who spreads the hype, not someone who feels so weighed down by it you’re scared to actually read the book. I’m calling it right now (or rather Pan Macmillan are calling it and I agree) - A Nearly Normal Family by M T Edvardsson is going to be the thriller of 2019.

Every murder case starts with a suspect. What if the suspect is your daughter? Would you believe her, or the evidence against her?

Originally published in Sweden in 2018, it takes the typical murder mystery and puts a new spin on it, or rather three. You hear from the accused’s father, the accused and then her mother across three parts. Twisting and turning like any good thriller does, you’ll be left guessing what really happened until the final line.

I was completely hooked by the father's perspective and actually disheartened when we had to move onto the second part of the story but the flickering perspectives give you just enough information to ask a hundred more questions before ripping you out of your comfort zone again.

A Nearly Normal Family is due to be released in July, perfectly in time for the summer holidays and (hopefully) some good weather to read outside. There’s something magical about reading a haunting book on a beautiful day, and let’s face it, we’re all weirdly a fan of the twisted, psychotic minds of characters that are so far removed from everyday reality. We all sit there, completely sucked in, our hands clenched around the battered pages of the book.

Let’s not forget, A Nearly Normal Family is translated from Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles. Remind you of anything? Anyone remember the wildly successful The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? Whatever they put in the water in Sweden, it’s working. This thriller is also a monster. At last count, it’s sold in over 30 territories, not to mention it’s been commended by thriller goddess Karin Slaughter.

Don’t let it pass you by.

Recommending Feminist YA

Laura Bates

Feminist author, Laura Bates is known for her non-fiction titles Everyday Sexism and Girl Up and the famous Everyday Sexism project. I was so inspired after reading Everyday Sexism that I instantly handed my kindle over to my boyfriend and he started reading it then and there, becoming as much a fan of Bates and her writing as I. When I found out she was turning to fiction, I was thrilled, but also a little nervous. Not every author can pull off the transition from non-fiction to fiction with flair, but I shouldn’t have worried. The Burning is didactic without being patronising. Emotional without losing hope.

Fire is like a rumour. You might think you’ve extinguished it but one creeping, red tendril, one single wisp of smoke is enough to let it leap back into life again. Especially if someone is watching, waiting to fan the flames ...

Anna moves to Scotland to start a new life after something horrible happens at her school in Birmingham. She’s immediately wrapped up in a history project that has her studying the treatment of women as witches hundreds of years ago and can’t help but notice the parallels between the way women were treated historically and today. When her secrets follow her to Scotland, Anna feels the burn of rumours and has to figure out how to handle her life falling apart when her and her mum are still grieving her dad.

You’re kept in Anna’s head throughout, and even though I’m quite a bit older than her, I still found myself wondering what I would do in her situation. The frustration and unfairness of it all stings. I wasn’t such a fan of the inserted visions of alleged witch, Maggie, but that could be because I have a grudge against italicised excerpts in general. I loved the vivid settings and appreciated Scotland and Birmingham as an alternative to London. All round, this is is a well-thought out and wonderfully executed first fiction novel.

Holly Bourne
Considering she blurbed The Burning, Holly Bourne is the natural go-to for feminist YA. Well known for the Spinster Club books, all of Bourne’s characters approach feminism in a different way, showing there’s no one size fits all approach. Despite their wildly different lives, the issues are always relevant to them in some way. I’m a big fan of the pop culture references, appreciation for food and integration of other heavy topics such as mental health. Bourne also writes for adults and her novel How Do You Like Me Now? looks at self comparison, having it all and the expectations put on women. I bet even her shopping lists are feminist.
Top pick: It Only Happens In The Movies

Louise O’Neill
If you’re looking for something that will punch you in the face, Louise O’Neill’s books will do just that. Never afraid to shy away from dark subject matter, O’Neill’s books ask the question, what if? What if girls grew up in schools where men decided their fate? What if a girl was raped and photos were taken - would she be the victim or the joke? They can be hard to face at times, but that’s exactly why we need to read these books. As both an adult author and YA, O’Neill writes broadly and defiantly in every new book. Her reimaging of The Little Mermaid takes the story back to its original roots and puts a feminist spin on it. It’s like nothing else you’ll find in your local library or bookshop.
Top pick: The Surface Breaks

Laura Steven
Although Laura Steven is more of a newbie in the feminist YA world, she’s definitely made a mark with her debut, The Exact Opposite of Okay. Taking a political spin and discussing the laws that put women at risk through the confident Izzy O’Neill gives Steven’s writing a balance of shock and hilarity. When private photos of Izzy and a politician's son spread across the nation, Izzy goes through something terrible and makes something epic out of it. I can’t wait to see her return in A Girl Called Shameless.
Top pick: The Exact Opposite of Okay

These are just a handful of the fabulous YA writers I’ve been reading and if you’re new to this world, I hope you find lots of books you love here. Feel free to recommend some of your own favourite feminist authors and spread the word!
You can see THREE of these authors speak at an International Women's Day event on Friday 8th March! Details here: https://www.waterstones.com/events/international-womens-day-laura-bates-holly-bourne-laura-steven-and-laura-coryton-in-conversation/london-piccadilly

Make sure you continue to follow the blog tour for The Burning.


January Favourites

It didn’t occur to me to blog about my January Favourites until I read and loved similar blog posts by Ashleigh from A Frolic Through Fiction and Jemima from Be Aware of Books. Not only is it a cool way to look back and see the phases I went through in 2019, but it’s a great chance to reflect on the small things that have brought a smile to my face this month. Make sure you go and check out Ashleigh and Jemima’s posts and then come back and let’s talk about the things that defined my January.

I kicked off the year with the ambition to get into yoga. I’ve tried it a few times before. You know how it goes, you’re twisting about on the living room floor thinking why isn’t this relaxing? All the tutorials I’ve ever found online are either too easy or too hard. Until January, when I discovered Yoga with Adriene and instantly went online to buy myself a yoga mat. She’s one of the most popular yoga instructors on YouTube and every January runs a 30 day home yoga practice. Instead of choosing Dedicate, the 2019 series, I took part in Yoga Camp which launched in 2016. I chose this one to start because each session has a positive affirmation and as you go through, Adriene talks about toxic thoughts and showing up for yourself.

As well as aiming to improve my flexibility and fitness a little bit, it helped me to get more in control of my thoughts and to stretch my body every day. It felt so good to release the tension of sitting at a desk all day and I feel so much better for it. I’ll definitely be moving onto another series on her channel for February - this is hopefully just the beginning of yoga for me!

I couldn’t not mention Suits. Since November it has become such a big part of my life. I never thought I’d like it because when it comes to TV shows, I’m picky. I thought it’d be boring, male dominated and in the same vein as House of Cards. It turned out to be clever, funny and pretty diverse and feminist!

If you don’t know much about it, it follows the story of Mike Ross, a guy without a law degree who manages to get a job at one of the top firms in New York. From keeping his secret, to developing new relationships and trying to save the firm countless times, Suits combines the intelligent detail of Prison Break with a sense of humour that has made me fall in love with it. Now I’m pretty much caught up so February will definitely feel empty without it.

Marie Kondo

After binge-watching her new Netflix show, Marie Kondo showed me the light! I spent January decluttering and cleaning my flat. I unhauled 150 books and gave them to a local charity, two local schools and a local charity shop, as well as getting rid of a further 15 bin bags worth of stuff. I'm hoping to move to a new flat this year so this has definitely lifted a weight of my shoulders in relation to that.

Leena Norms
I’ve known about Leena for years, watching her on Book Break, being aware of her in the publishing industry and watching the occasional video on her booktube channel. This January she posted a couple of videos that really caught my attention, including why she’s not shopping in 2019, 30 books Marie Kondo couldn’t make her part with and how to beat your imposter syndrome. Now I’m addicted and will click on all of her uploads! I feel like our opinions on many topics are similar and I love how in depth she will go into some topics. She’s hilarious, blunt and a little bit all over the place (all good qualities).

Lentil and Bean Chilli
Last year I got really into baking but it didn’t do me a lot of good so this year I’m trying to move more towards cooking. In January, by accident, Patrick and I discovered a new favourite meal. Usually when we make chilli, we make it with a fake-meat mince and kidney beans but our pledge to eat less meat substitutes and our own stupidity of not buying kidney beans led to an experiment that has brought me so much happiness. Let me share this joy with you.

You need: brown rice, 1 red onion, 1 (or a few) garlic cloves, 1 tin of green lentils (drained), 1 tin of chopped tomatoes, 1 tin of butter beans (drained), 1 tin of black beans (seriously, drain those tins), a pack of chilli spice, or your own combination and my extra special ingredient is chilli rock salt. Just put the rice on to boil, fry the veg and garlic, add the tins, add the spices and devour it. It takes half an hour from start to finish and makes enough for four portions. Thank me later.

If you’ve made it this far - YAY! That’s how I felt when I reached the halfway point of my first round of edits on my WIP. I’ve been editing since the start of December and have found that at points it’s taken me longer to edit than it did to write the first draft. Whenever I draft, I let the words flow, but now it feels like every word counts and forcing myself through all of the challenges is painful so these small milestones keep me focused!

There we go! If you’re wondering why no books have cropped up, then here’s my reading wrap up to explain it all…


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