World Book Week – Day 1

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I’m writing this the night before the day it all kicks off.

Overnight I will go from reclusive, sitting on the sofa with my laptop writer, to all singing all dancing author in schools .

Normally, I slope about in gardening clothes, a bit grubby, but ready to respond to a falling tree or leaf at the drop of a hat.

Tomorrow, proper clothes, proper shoes. A powerpoint (just that word sends chills down my disorganized spine).

There will be maps of schools to find. Names to remember and corridors that are all remarkably similar to negotiate. School lunches, and school smells. Smiling teachers, anxious teachers, smiling children, reluctant children. In some cases, hostile children and I have to be honest, at times, I will long for my sofa and my laptop and my gardening trousers.

But then, when it’s all over and I look for photos on my phone and I remember to tweet and I write down the mileage (quite a lot this week) I will long for a trip out. A chance to leave my manuscript hanging, my characters stuck in a cave, half way up a cliff. I will long for someone to make me a coffee, not me. And I will remember the children that laughed, that got excited about books, that stared into space and told me about the best thing they ever read.  And I will treasure the letters like the one above that arrive unbidden from children who have read my books.

And I will be glad of being a children’s author, rolled out for this annual festival.  I will long for the excitement of World Book Week.

Just remember though. We are, like puppies, not just for one time in the year. Most of us like to crawl out of our shells more often. You just have to ask.

 

In Real Time.

Just before Christmas I was aware that I was living through the days that take place in MURDER IN MIDWINTER. There was no snow though. And no murder and no actual thrill. Life was the adult whirl of Christmas preparation with just a hint of Christmas magic but rather too much shopping.

Now we’re on the other side, and I’m about to live through the real time of Bus Stop Baby, and this time, the weather’s obliging with frosty nights, too cold to leave a baby in a bus shelter and the promise of spring and days getting longer to follow.

I’m hoping, that given time, I can fill the whole year with stories.  DEAR SCARLETT, soon to be re-issued, is end of summer term.  THE YOGHURT PLOT is late spring. SAVING SOPHIA is the summer holidays, SHRUNK is Halloween.

Perhaps I need to think about September next.

Happy New Year.

The daft things we do…

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This is me and Maudie a week ago. Full of excitement. But now it’s now and what seemed a good idea at the time seems a bit scarily close.

In just over three hours time, we’ll be bookselling at Waterstones in Salisbury – testing our expertise in kid’s lit.

You can test it too.

Come and join us.  3 – 7 the two idiots at the back of the shop.

 

 

 

 

 

Stuff that holds you up.

Now I’m not doing Nanowrimo – which for those who have never heard of it is a group of people who all try to write a novel in a month.  It leads to massive word counts and finished novels and is probably a thoroughly good thing, but personally, not for me.

I am though, trying to write a novel in a month. Or at least, finish one that I started a while back – I’m motoring through, huge word counts, massive chunks of plot down on virtual paper and the end is in sight.

But then I get stuck.

And its the silliest thing.

Two girls get into a boat and look for some food.

Olivia reached out for Grandpa’s lunch package.  Oh no. Innuendo.

Olivia rummaged around under the seat and found Grandpa’s sandwiches. Now I can’t stop the innuendo.

Chloe handed Olivia Grandpa’s packed lunch.  Even worse.

Reaching into a bag Chloe took out the lunch that Grandpa had given them.  Too  long.

“Time for lunch” said Chloe, digging out Grandpa’s package.  Arghghgh!

At which point, I go and have lunch and spend all afternoon looking for an old photograph.

 

As you were….

Being the lousy horse rider.

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Murder in Midwinter has more than a passing reference to ponies – Children keep asking me about it, so it’s time to come clean.

There were two things I loved when I was a kid, adventures, and horses.

What I didn’t love, was adventures on horses.

I wasn’t terribly brave, even though the rest of my family seemed to think I was, and although I completely loved riding in a calm controlled environment, and I adored caring for a pony, I was utterly useless at the whole riding out there in the world thing.

On more than one occasion a pony came home without me. Once it left me in a field not far away, the other time a larger, scarier horse ran across the main A33 dual carriageway and I had to walk several miles wondering where it was.

This was all before mobile phones.

There was the time my pony sat on a car.  The people were terribly nice about it.

There was the moment when I was tipped head first over a jump in the middle of some ill advised competition and tore a gash in the seat of my jodhpurs.

There were the anxious nights spent sleeping on the floor of the weighing room at Tweseldown Racecourse before enduring hours of my own incompetence and humiliation at Pony Club Camp.

Just thinking about it makes me blush.

But I kept on, because I thought I loved horses. Incomprehensible really.

I would return, sore and grubby from each episode of horsemanship to my bedroom and sink into a book, curl up in the corner of my bed, as far away from the horse as possible and escape from the awful pony reality.

it was a repeating ritual.  Put myself through some physical or emotional agony, and then retreat into reading in order to forget about it. It took me years to realise that books were kinder than horses.  That, no matter how many times I put myself up there to fail, I was never going to master riding. That really I should give it up.

And more than that – I never told anyone how difficult I found it.  My parents must have despaired, but they were nice enough to say nothing.

And then I sort of grew up.  I realised I didn’t have to do this any more. I could do other things, like go for a walk, stroke a pony over a fence, watch someone else fall off.

You’ll be glad to know I haven’t been on a pony since 22nd November 1990 – and I have no intention of getting back on one.  But I still watch the racehorses gallop up the field opposite every morning, and I still kind of wish, I could ride. I mean, really ride.

Wanting a reaction. Cry, laugh, but don’t ignore me. With apologies to Liz Flanagan.

 

kathleen-turnerThere’s a bit at the beginning of Romancing the Stone when Kathleen Turner is typing out the end of her epic love story and is in pieces over the typewriter. She’s wiping snot off her face and it’s a full on tear moment.   I love that bit – it’s what I always try to achieve when I reach the end of a book.  If I can make me cry I’ve done something I like.

Mad, isn’t it?

Actually WANTING to cry.

Then I saw this on Twitter – a response from Author Liz Flanagan to a reader who had just finished Eden Summer.

A couple of days before that someone sent me a text about Murder in Midwinter, suggesting that by the end of it they had cried.  I was delighted.

How strange to want to produce tears?  To want to make people cry?

When (in a former life) I used to do window displays, I longed to cause an accident at the traffic lights. Not a big accident, a little tiny bumper scrape accident would have been a major result – or someone just missing the lights, failing to take off when they turned green.

I think I wanted it  because it was a reaction – and essentially, we long for a reaction to our work. Positive or negative.  From when we’re very small, and we experimentally pour sugar into our brother’s fizzy drink on a train and it erupts all over the carriage (this happened by the way) and our  mother leaps up and shouts and everyone runs around – we want a reaction. It’s normal.  When we write a passage that makes people cry, we’ve reached them – our words have actually touched someone, which is a major victory.

it’s possibly kind of why we writers put ourselves out there. All that advice about not reading reviews – well I can’t help doing it. Good or bad. I can’t possibly pretend I write entirely for myself – I write for an audience, and I want that audience to react. Cry, laugh, write me a good review.

Write me a bad review.

But please don’t ignore me.

Wales – but no snow?

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Tomorrow, I’m driving to Wales – land of my fathers as it happens – but I won’t be going up the mountains, or riding the ponies or getting stuck in the snow. Instead I’ll be sticking to the M4 and winding up in the seaside town of Mumbles, where I spent my first lot of university years.  I’ll be seeking out a warm spot on Caswell, or Three Cliffs, maybe having an ice cream, almost certainly a cup of tea – but a large part of me will be hankering after the mountains, the slate mines, the Red Kites.

I’ll be thinking about Maya, a softee Londoner stuck in the inhospitable hills. I’ll be looking out for a farm that’s just like the farm I invented for the book.

I’ll be thinking dark thoughts.

About mysteries. And murder.

Like I often do.

Murder in Midwinter is published by Nosy Crow on Thursday 6th October – price 6.99