Tag Archives: Saving Sophia

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.


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.

Pillows and mattresses.

I’m currently revising a manuscript that I first wrote in 2008. Yes, that’s right, a book that would now be in year 2 at primary school had it found its feet straight away.  As it is, it’s still an unborn baby of a book, written and re-written and re-written again, shoved in a drawer, forgotten, remembered, rewritten and forgotten again.   In fact it’s been re-written so many times that it has a huge subsection in my document folder that outstrips all the other manuscripts I’ve written .

The reason, I think, that I haven’t successfully delivered it – is that I find it so exhausting.  It is such a huge thing, physically and such a monumental monster to write and edit.

I see it like this:

SHRUNK! and the SHRUNK! books are around 25,000 words.  They are pillows, quite big pillows. In some cases, there are two or three of them, and with the Story Adventure even more,  and they might slip out of my grasp but they are modular, a collection of pillows that need moving up six flights of stairs.  The chances are I will have to go back down and get one, but I will make the trip.

Dear Scarlett and Saving Sophia.  45,000 words. These are single mattresses.  Awkward but fine so long as the telephone doesn’t ring when I’m jammed behind it on the landing.  The mattress doesn’t have any handles, and it does occasionally slip from my fingers and slide all the way down, but mostly the direction is up.  It’s possible to turn the mattress over, invert it, move the beginning to the middle, the middle to the end.

This novel, the baby from the bottom drawer, feels massive.  It’s an extra large kingsize super big, unreasonably heavy  mattress with no handles and lumpy sticky out buttons. Even the first flight takes an age. Every time I change something, there are pages and pages of revisions to make, I slip back down a flight of stairs, and my brain explodes just a little more.  I can actually get lost in the plot and if I’m away from it for more than a day, I’m climbing those stairs from the bottom all over again.


It’s using every scrap of my head.

So I’m sorry if you’re trying to ring me, or arrange something.  And I’m sorry I haven’t answered your email –  but right now, I really have to get this 65,000 word mattress up the stairs.



I was asked by the splendid Liz Flanagan, to answer these questions and think about my writing process. She answered the same questions and you can read her very interesting responses here.

What am I working on?

Just now?  The Story Adventure – which this time around centres on a ghost story of 11,000 words, written with the collaboration of lots of children, inside a bigger story – a novel set in the world of Bywater by Sea.  That’s the new work in progress, but I’m also looking at proofs for Saving Sophia, a book out with Nosy Crow in July, and edits of The Yoghurt Plot, a time travelling feast for Sara O’Connor at Hot Key Books so I’m a busy creature – but then that’s what I like to be.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I don’t know how my work differs, except that I can’t hold on to long stories in my head, so my work tends to be short and snappy.  It has to funny, or at least a little funny, otherwise I don’t enjoy writing it.  I think every writer has their own unique perspective, so unless they’re trying to sound like someone else, they tend to sound like themselves, but edited.

Why do I write what I do?

I write children’s books because I suspect I’ve never really left my 11 year old former me.  She was fairly sensible, and I think, still guides much of what I do.  She saw the absurd in people, which is something I find makes life a great deal more pleasant. She wasn’t terribly good at writing though, so I think I’m a more literate cipher for my illiterate self.

How does my writing process work?

I force myself to write what is, truly, mostly incoherent and sketchy outlines of what I feel a chapter should be like.  As I write on, I return to earlier chapters and fill them out, like pushing air into a balloon.   Ultimately I really enjoy the editing process, the way the choice of words makes the timbre of the chapter swing this way or another, the twisting of characters, the shortening or lengthening of suspense but the original writing process can be very awkward and uncomfortable.


The next authors to answer these questions on their own blogs, and posting on the 17th February – two wonderful people who I know not just because we are all children’s writers and live in the Avon Valley, but because our children all went to the same tiny Primary School. 

Maudie Smith 

As well as being a mother, Maudie is the author of the wonderful Opal Moonbaby trilogy – oh yes, trilogy, the third of which has just been published. Opal Moonbaby is a “touching story, deliciously tinged with magic,” according to Julia Eccleshare, and I agree.  You can find Maudie’s blog here – and her website here

Catherine Bruton

Catherine is a writer, a journalist, a mother AND a teacher.  Her first two books for young teens, We can be Heroes, and POP gained excellent reviews, and I really enjoyed, them. Her third, I Predict a Riot will be on the bookstands anytime soon – I’m looking forward to it.   You can find her blog here, and her website, here.