Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Next Big Thing

This blog is my entry for The Next Big Thing.  I was tagged by Catherine Bruton, (We can be Heroes) along with Maudie Smith  ( Opal Moonbaby)  We’ve all been parents at the same primary school, so you might expect us to write really similar books, but actually, we’re quite different writers even though we all write for children.

The Next Big Thing is like a relatively painless chain letter, ( I always broke the chain and was sure I was going to die) – which gives everyone a week to think about what they’re going to say, and we all answer the same questions. In theory, every published writer in the country should end up doing it at least once.

Because I’m lucky enough to have two publishers, Nosy Crow and Hot Key Books, I thought I’d tell you about my next book to be published, rather than the pieces I’m working on at present.  So here goes:


What’s the title of your next book?

Dear Scarlett is out in February 2013 (assuming all the end of the world people are indeed barking and we’re all still here to see the snowdrops out of the ground.)

Where did the idea come from?

I’ve always had an image of a child with a pushchair breaking and entering. I keep picturing her outside some enormous gates – a box of diamonds hidden under her baby brother. Dear Scarlett isn’t quite that story, but has elements of – the innocent doing something not at all innocent. Mix that with views of watercress beds from the Hampshire/Wiltshire trainline and the story’s there.

What genre does your book fall under? 

Adventure/humour for 9-12s  almost certainly for girls.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie?  For the children, I don’t know, someone young and unknown, and good at heights –  but the adults – Uncle Derek would be a young Kevin Whatley, The Chauffeur, George Cole (he of the original St Trinians films), Mrs Gayton, evil form teacher would be played by a thin man, maybe an aged David Tennant.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?  Girl seeks father through burglary, instead – finds alternative father and lasting friendship. 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?   It will be published by Nosy Crow in February 2013  (gorgeous cover don’t you think?)img057

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?  About 4 months – but then ages to re-write it…

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  It’s a bit of Hilary McKay (Saffy’s Angel) meets Tammy and June (1970s girl adventure comic – I was an addict)

Who or what inspired you to write this book?  My editor at Nosy Crow – Kirsty Stansfield, my agent -Kate Shaw, a tiny dark coffee shop, an animated caffeine fuelled discussion and some cake.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?  At the heart of the story is the relationship between fathers and daughters, at one point Scarlett says that girls need mothers more than fathers – but I don’t actually agree with her.  I like to think that any girl, of any age, who loves her dad, or has lost her dad, will find resonance in this story.

Who are you passing the baton to for next week’s Next Big Thing?

The totally brilliant Lydia Syson is my only runner – but a very special one: She’s recently published A world Between Us with Hot Key Books, and it’s a fabulous read – all about the Spanish Civil War, about which I was shamefully ignorant.  She’s had fantastic and well deserved reviews from the Guardian amongst others – check it out.

A WORLD BETWEEN US - Lydia Syson - Jacket



What’s scarier – this?

or this? (imagine it full of undergraduates)

or this?

In my view – and this is quite personal – the children are the least scary.  Why?  Because they interact with you.  They give you the chance to improve, and on the whole they’re honest.

The Story Adventure – coming soon – to a school near you….

Taking two teens to Bekonscot…

Last week, was half term in our neck of the woods.  Now that our children have turned into computer zombies it can be hard to get them out of the house, “I don’t want to go anywhere” they cry, settling in front of a screen, but much to my surprise, no-one said anything much  against the idea of a four hour round trip to Bekonscot Model Village.  So we set off, anticipating the groans of horror and the immediate rush for the cafe, but were surprised by their response.

They loved it.

Whooping with excitement at every new structure, marvelling at the craftmanship, laughing at the terrible puns, brushing knees with grannies and three year olds they revelled in the whole experience.  Half an hour turned into three hours.

We actually went round twice.

It was wonderful.

Taking them, an hour later, to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, was another matter.