Writing in both directions.

Currently, I’m wearing two heads, actually three or four or nine if you include my home life.  But as a writer, three.   And they pull me in different directions, up and down the age scale so that I’m trying to see through the eyes of six year old and a twelve year old, which as any parent or teacher can tell you, are VERY different goggles.

I’m working on the Clifftopper Adventure series – which will be out with Nosy Crow starting with the first one, The Arrowhead Moor Adventure, (April 2019) where cousins Ava, Aiden, Chloe and Josh stay with their delightful but busy grandparents at Clifftopper’s Farm and enjoy all sorts of adventures, stopping criminals getting away with it.   They’re a great deal of fun and exactly the kind of thing that I wanted to read at that age.  Just now, I’m editing the second one just as the first one tries on a shiny new cover (wait, wait, it’ll happen soon) and thinking about the third.  They’ll be for confident readers, aged 6 or 7+

Also, I’m thinking about ideas for another thriller… I’ve got a character – and a setting, and a crime. But that’s like my walking around the countryside head, dreaming, imagining.

And this,this is VERY exciting to me, I’ve just written the dedication for The Boy Who Flew. 

Dedication? You say, not much work?

No, but a dedication means that a book is going to be published.  And as Kate Shaw, my extraordinary agent knows, this book has been ten years in the making, ten years of stubborness.  While it has waited, flapping in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet for someone to want to let it out, ten other books have left home and taken flight.  So much has changed since I wrote the very first drafty chapters back in 2009 on the MA Writing for Young People in Bath – and yet, so much is the same.  The heart of the book remains, but I have grown up as a writer, and the book has been lucky enough to meet a terrific editor in Kirsten Stansfield at Nosy Crow.

Boy Who Flew Proof as I say – this is VERY exciting.

Update – I can show you the stunning cover and here it is – from Ben Mantle – isn’t it fabulous?

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Twilight – my favourite time of day…

I like a hot sunny afternoon, of course I do.  And a bright morning full of promise – but there’s something about twilight that always beguiles me.  Whether a Waterloo sunset or that strange cold time in the countryside when the heat drops and the blacks become darker and you’re suddenly aware of things crunching under your feet.

My childhood was spent wandering damp river banks in almost darkness, soft ground giving way under my foot, things splashing into the river, unseen.  I always watched the disappearance of the sun with  delight – the sky went such extraordinary colours, the silhouettes became so clear before disappearing altogether.  The few houses in our valley would turn from black, to black with yellow rectangles as lights turned on, and I would creep around them hidden by the gloaming. So I set this story, Murder at Twilight in that same place and time of day – winter pulling in, the cold, the rain – the moments of clear sky. I added Viv and Noah, two warring friends, practically siblings, dropping them unwittingly into a crime but in a powerful landscape that both helps and hinders them.  Writing it, was like going straight back to being 11.

And as the hour changes this weekend, and we all go home from work in the twilight I will revel in that darkness – and I invite you to do the same.

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Murder at Twilight – out now from all good bookshops.

 

My own experience of Bookbuzz

I’ve been lucky enough to have three books picked for the Booktrust’s Bookbuzz programme.  Dear Scarlett in 2013, Murder in Midwinter in 2017, and now Bus Stop Baby in 2018.  The scheme is for children entering secondary school, and is all about choice and reading for pleasure.  Schools buy into it at a subsidised cost of £3 per pupil – and the children get to choose a book to keep from a selection of carefully selected titles.

Each time my books have been part of the scheme, I’ve done stacks of school visits and have seen first hand the effect of choice and ownership.   I’ve  signed battered copies of Bookbuzz books that a child has read over and over – because it is the only book that they own.   I’ve met kids who don’t read but who have found in the Bookbuzz selection something that chimed with them – because they found it themselves.  I’ve found that school libraries that haven’t got many books and have been poorly funded are enriched by the selection that they automatically get.  I’ve noticed that schools that do Bookbuzz often seem to put reading for pleasure at the heart of their ethos.

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If you are a secondary school teacher, librarian or parent – do look it up, here – you can sign up until the end of this month.

And actually, year 6 students can do it too.

When a book leaves home.

I’ve been lucky enough to have books sold into translation – and often, once published, you hear nothing more until a finished copy arrives – a finished copy I can’t read because I don’t speak the language.  I stroke the covers, stumble over the words, and put them alongside others on my Babel shelf. But over there in Poland, they’ve been very busy making these tiny animated adverts – taking Robert Ball’s terrific artwork and turning them into mini trailers, that make perfect sense to me, without language barriers.

I, for one, am impressed.

Here’s the first, for Murder in Midwinter (love the footsteps – and the psycho music)

 

And now they’ve done this one – for Saving Sophia (the plait’s my fave bit)

 

Both books are available, in Poland, in Polish through Zielona Sowa   Green Owl, publishers.

Going forwards, looking backwards.

A year and a month or so, ago, Murder in Midwinter was published. It was my first intentional attempt at a thriller for children and in the last year, it’s proved a thrilling ride for me.

In that time it’s been shortlisted for several awards, including the North Somerset Teachers’ Book Award, Best Crime Novel for children, the Salford children’s book award, and back in May, it won the Leeds Children’s Book Award 9 – 12s.

It’s spawned a murder mystery hunt that I put together for libraries and bookshops (you can enjoy me and it in action December 2nd, Gloucester Waterstones) It’s had some lovely reviews, and sent me to masses of schools to talk about exciting writing – and reading on the edge of your seat.

And, it’s been on the Booktrust Bookbuzz programme which has meant that tens of thousands of eleven year olds across the country have chosen Murder in Midwinter as their free book to keep from a list of 17 titles.  Over 900 schools joined the programme, more than one hundred thousand children have benefitted and although the books don’t have all the sparkles of their bookshop sisters, they have every word of their stories.  This wonderful scheme has meant many more school visits, some stretching away into 2018/2019 – and a bit of a rethink about the books I write.

No-one, especially not me, thought Murder in Midwinter would be so popular with 11/12 year olds – so the the next book, the one I’m writing right now, is going to be just as thrilling, just as real, and this time, based on actual things that actually happened in my childhood.murder

I won’t say any more right now.

Murder mystery, not a thriller.

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It’s my fault, really – I said I’d do a murder mystery in the library – well I love Cluedo, who doesn’t? So now I’m writing one and it’s so different from writing a thriller.

It seems that while one part of my brain is trying to extricate two children from certain death, the other is tying puzzle knots, making sure that no loose end is left hanging.

Come and join me in Salisbury library on Friday, 11.00 to see how I did, and I can see how you do with my clues.

You don’t need to book – drop in any time from 11 – 1

Part of the Salisbury Lit Fest.

 

Trying on the new coat

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In my former life in retail – I loved this time of year. New shiny things arrived in boxes, new boots were put on sandalled summer feet, the shop windows of Bath took on a serious gloss, and every now and again, I would search for a new coat.

I would try them on. Wearing my sunny brown face I would stand in front of mirrors trying to imagine myself midwinter pale, hunched from the cold.  They smelled new and different and of other people, other shops. I wanted to fit them, but they needed to fit me.

Well now I just wear the same old rubbish day after day and some of those coats look at me from the wardrobe as if to ask what they did wrong? Why don’t I love them any more?

The answer is that I have new coats now.  Ones that come out of my head. It’s not just a coat, it’s a whole person I try on.  Just as I would walk back and forth over the shop floor getting myself into the right jacket – now I flex my shoulders into a voice.

Does it fit me? Can I keep it going?

Does it fit the story? Will it be the right way to tell the story?

I’m trying a new voice just now.  We’re still in the changing room. I might try her in a different colour.

She might not make it.

But then again.

She might.