Tag Archives: Murder in Midwinter

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.

 

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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

 

 

Feeling the frost

I’m in Cornwall. Two days ago I swam in the sea, lay on the beach, got a little burned. Then, almost overnight the families in the houses alongside us began to pack up their sandshoes, their wetsuits, their body boards and cram back into the sandy family cars.  The village shop emptied enough to actually get to the till. The cars left, the mist came down, the lighthouse began to boom across the bay.

I noticed that the blackberries on the walls were ripe, the grass yellow, the air was damp, smelling of autumn.

My own daughter packed up her stuff, donned her school shoes and went home to do all the work she was supposed to have done all summer.

Autumn is here, I thought.

Winter is nearly with us.

And Nosy Crow posted this – perfect timing….

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