Wednesday, 30 March 2011

ANGEL GIVEAWAY WINNER!

Hello, my lovelies!

It's Wednesday again, and I'm going slightly batty over here trying to resist the temptation to peak at/meddle with/completely re-write FF before I have given myself a decent amount of distance. I've ploughed through a few books - one of which I'll be reviewing on Monday - and I've recorded myself singing the blues - which I'll post on Friday. And today I shall be announcing the winner of Angel by L.A. Weatherly.

Goodreads Summary of the book (prepare to drool):

In a world where angels are beyond redemption, Alex thinks he's found one that might deserve mercy. 

Alex is a ruthless assassin - of angels. Forget everything you've heard about them before. Angels are not benign celestial creatures, but fierce stalkers whose irresistible force allows them to feed off humans, draining them of their vitality until there is barely anything left. As far as Alex is concerned, the only good angel is a dead angel...until he meets Willow. 

She may look like a normal teenager but Willow is no ordinary girl. Half-angel, half-human, Willow may hold the key to defeating the evil angels. But as the hunter and the hunted embark on an epic and dangerous journey and Willow learns the dark and terrifying secrets of her past, Alex finds himself drawn to Willow...with devastating consequences. 

Eoin Colfer reinvented the fairy, Stephenie Meyer reinvented the vampire, L.A. Weatherly reinvents the angel! This is a heart-pounding, knuckle-whitening, paranormal romance action-adventure for fans of the "Twilight" series. This is the first in a devastating new trilogy.

Whooo! All right then - drumroll please....

The winner is:

bfree15! 

Congratulations, bfree15! Please contact me as soon as possible and give me your postal address so that I can send your prize to you.

For anyone who is kicking their cat right now - stop that! There are no more Fabulous Author interviews or giveaways scheduled at the moment, but there will be other competitions in the future, I promise. Have an excellent middle-of-the-week and I will see you all (gulp!) on Friday!

Monday, 28 March 2011

THE NEAR WITCH BY VICTORIA SCHWAB

THE BLURB:

"The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.

And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.

But when an actual stranger—a boy who seems to fade like smoke—appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know—about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

Part fairy tale, part love story, Victoria Schwab’s debut novel is entirely original yet achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind, and a dream you won’t soon forget."

THE REVIEW:

The first thing that everyone will have to agree about THE NEAR WITCH is how extremely well written it is, especially for a debut. Ms Schwab utilizes narrator Lexie's viewpoint on the world she occupies to bring the village of Near and the surrounding moor to startling life. Lexie knows and loves the moor so deeply that her love shines from every page. Near and its moors are the true protagonist of the story.

As soon as you begin to read, the colours and textures of Lexie's world envelop you like falling into a dream of calling birds, muted grey skies, the patter of rain against window panes, the rise and fall of the wind, the smell of moist dirt and baking bread, the feel of rough stone under your palms. As a nature lover and someone who has roamed many moors and visited many small moor towns, I adored them. I wanted to stay on Lexie's moors forever. Not if the Near Witch was there at the same time, mind you. The thrill of sheer, atavistic terror that shivered down my back as she appeared for the first time was priceless to me. It's been a while since something creeped me out quite that thoroughly.

Part of THE NEAR WITCH's hypnotic style is the slow and dreamy rate at which the plot unfolds. I think some people might complain about this (people always complain about non-standard storytelling) but I really appreciated the fact that information is never dumped on the reader. I'm delighted that publishers are willing to buy books like this - books that hark back to Patricia McKillip or Robin McKinley's early books in their depth and subtlety. Everything you need to know to work out the mystery is woven throughout in the form of songs and stories, fragments of lost knowledge which gleam in Lexie's mind like like polished stones, only catching the light at certain moments, as the larger part of her attention is focussed on her own worries and secrets. Again, I loved this - I never wanted to hurry the story along, and I was enchanted by the original folkloric elements of the story.

I also enjoyed the characterisation of the people of Near very much, because it too was low-key and gentle, provided through glimpses - a frightening smile, a comforting frown, a touch that lingered too long or never came. The everyday cruelty and kindness of the people of Near was solid and real, and I saw myself and my neighbours reflected there.

And just as the rest of the story is gentle and muted, so is the development of the romance between Lexie and the stranger, Cole, who arrives in town just as the children of Near begin to disappear from their beds at night. The slow, believable change of Lexie's emotions from mere curiosity and suspicion about the stranger, to caring and sympathy for Cole, and finally to love and acceptance of him with all his quirks and his sorrowful past, is just LOVELY. I'm so sick of reading insta-love stories, honestly - actually seeing someone fall in love is a really refreshing change!

Having said all that, I don't think that THE NEAR WITCH is perfect, and I did have some quibbles with the story. Most of the time Ms Schwab's ear for her non-specific historial period was extremely good - which made it all the more obvious when anachronism crept in. One example was Lexie's often stated desire to 'mess up' her sister's sleek hair. That's not really a phrase that trips easily off an English tongue even today - most people that I know would be far more likely to say 'make a mess of' or 'untidy'. It was also strange to meet with the assumption that a country woman would be expected to wear 'slippers' instead of boots, or would be told off for chopping wood. Those are the sort of things an aristocratic girl might have to worry about, not a hardy, hard-working village girl.

There was a strange sense of isolation about the town of Near. I know part of this was deliberate, but I couldn't help asking myself - where does the wood come from? They're living on a moor with only a few distant stands of trees, so why aren't they burning peat? Lexie's mother bakes bread for the entire village each morning - where does the flour come from, since there's no mention of any of the villagers tending fields of wheat or corn, and no mill (a village of Near's size would be unlikely to have a mill anyway). Where do the tea and coffee come from? The Near villagers react with shock and fear to the presence of a stranger, but SOME strangers must be coming into the village, to bring these supplies, or else some of the villagers are leaving to bring them back (is there a road out of Near?). I know most readers won't notice these details, but I'm a high fantasy writer and these are the sorts of omissions which DO bother me. On the other hand, THE NEAR WITCH is far more of a fairytale than a high fantasy, and in that case there's little point trying to apply high fantasy world-building rules. The sense of self-containment in the little settlement certainly added to the spookiness at certain points, and I can't say that any of this really detracted from my enjoyment of THE NEAR WITCH all that much.

THE NEAR WITCH is an enchanting debut novel from very talented young author. In many ways, reading it felt like experiencing a strange dream that I had long ago and almost forgot. I cannot wait to get my hands on her next book. I've already ordered this one through The Book Depository, as I received an eGalley for review through NetGalley. I want that gorgeous cover for myself. Highly recommended.

Author's Blog
Goodreads Page
Pre-Order Link

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

FABULOUS AUTHORS: L.A. WEATHERLY

Hello, my lovelies, and Happy Wednesday! 
 
Welcome to the final post in my FABULOUS AUTHORS interview series. Today you're going to meet lovely L.A. Weatherly - known to her friends as Lee - and get the chance to win her ZOMGAMAZING paranormal romance, Angel. Cue Goodreads synopsis:
 
In a world where angels are beyond redemption, Alex thinks he's found one that might deserve mercy. 

Alex is a ruthless assassin - of angels. Forget everything you've heard about them before. Angels are not benign celestial creatures, but fierce stalkers whose irresistible force allows them to feed off humans, draining them of their vitality until there is barely anything left. As far as Alex is concerned, the only good angel is a dead angel...until he meets Willow. 

She may look like a normal teenager but Willow is no ordinary girl. Half-angel, half-human, Willow may hold the key to defeating the evil angels. But as the hunter and the hunted embark on an epic and dangerous journey and Willow learns the dark and terrifying secrets of her past, Alex finds himself drawn to Willow...with devastating consequences. 

Eoin Colfer reinvented the fairy, Stephenie Meyer reinvented the vampire, L.A. Weatherly reinvents the angel! This is a heart-pounding, knuckle-whitening, paranormal romance action-adventure for fans of the "Twilight" series. This is the first in a devastating new trilogy.
 
*Pause while you a) fan yourself or b) wipe the drool from your face*
 
Angel has been a super-selling smash hit here in the UK, and is poised to repeat its success in US with Candlewick Press (yes, that's my US publisher too! Fangirl squee!) in May. 
 
The book has been re-titled Angel Burn for US release, and has been given this very different, yet equally beautiful cover for its hardback edition, which I'm completely in love with (the colours! The swirly bits!) and have already pre-ordered, because I'm going to be giving one of you guys my UK paperback version and I can't do without it
 
I know, I know, any excuse to order pretty US hardbacks through the Book Depository.
 
On with the interrogation!
 
First of all - welcome to my blog, Lee! I loved ANGEL to pieces and can't wait to read ANGEL FIRE and find out what happens next (bites nails). We're honoured to have you.

Thank you, I'm honoured to be here! (And I love ANGEL too, so I'm thrilled that you did!) 

Question One: When writing ANGEL who or what was the core of the story for you, the element you loved the most or which was most important?

Great question, and one that I haven't been asked before. It was without question the love story between Alex and Willow: the hunter falling in love with his sworn enemy. I enjoyed the paranormal aspects - they gave the story its drive and action-focus - but I would have had no interest in writing Angel without the romance.

Question Two: You've written over thirty books under different pen names and are an industry veteran. What do you think has changed most about publishing since you stared out, and what should aspiring authors keep in mind?

'Industry veteran' makes me feel very...old. ;) Just so you don't think I'm ridiculously prolific, I should point out that over twenty of those titles are relatively short series fiction (Glitterwings Academy and Pocket Cats), and were written in the space of around two years. Child  X, my first published book, came out back in 2002 - so I've been around for nearly 10 years now. 

I think the main change I've seen in that time is that the market is much, much tougher than it used to be. The bookstores have a lot more power in the industry now, and EPOS means that books don't always get much shelf-time - so even once you're published, it's not necessarily a done deal that your titles will be on the shelves where the public can find them. You really need to get yourself out there and promote the book yourself. I think this is what I'd advise aspiring authors to keep in mind - basically, it's a tough old market, and so if you're going to write for children, you need to do it because you really, really love it. No other reason will be enough to keep you going. (Or will give your stories the spark and passion that you'll need to get published.)

Question Three: What is your writing process like? (ie. Do you type straight onto a laptop or use pen and paper? Where do you normally work? Are you a planner or a pantser?)

My husband leaves for work fairly early, and I always get up when he does so that I can start writing early - around 6.00 am most days, though if I'm alone for any length of time I love to get up at truly ridiculous hours and write in the dead of night. I use pen and paper for notes sometimes (and am quite addicted to buying notebooks!), but never use paper for the actual writing itself, unless the perfect line comes to me and there's no computer to hand - in which case I'm often scribbling on the backs of old envelopes. 

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I've become far too attached to writing in bed recently - what can I say? I feel like the sloth of the world, but there's just something lovely and cosy about writing propped up on a pile of pillows! But usually around mid-day I'll shift myself over to my office, which is a converted spare room. I try to write at least 2K words per day; on good days I go for more. 

I do LOTS of planning, but what I've found with longer novels is that it doesn't mean a thing. When it comes down to it, the characters are going to do what they want, which is as it should be (they wouldn't be real, living characters otherwise) - all I can do is give them a good action structure to do it in. So I guess I'm a mix. Yes, I do plan, but when the characters start glaring at me, I have to listen and let them do it their way!

Question Four: Can you tell us something - any tiny little intriguing detail - about your next novel ANGEL FIRE, which we are all squeeingly eager to read?

First, can I just say that 'squeeingly' is now my new favourite word, and I plan to use it lots. 

I think the main intriguing detail about Angel Fire is that there's a new boy character in it, who I have to say I'm totally in love with. I won't say too much else about him yet - just that Alex might have a teensy bit of competition ahead of him! Angel Fire is probably darker in tone than Angel - the situation with the angels is heating up, and pressure is mounting. The action takes place mostly in Mexico City. (Before you ask, no, I haven't been there - yet! I'll be going later this year to see a lot of the settings for real.)

Question Five: If you had to pick a song to listen to right now, what would it be?

Let's go with a song from the Angel playlist, which was put together by the lovely Anna Howarth at Usborne, and which I absolutely love - it's amazing to have had such a great 'soundtrack' created for the book! How about 'Make Me Wanna Die' by The Pretty Reckless? (If you want to check out the whole playlist, have a look at www.angelfever.com). 

THANK YOU LEE!
 
Now, how tantalizing was that? And *how* excited are you to get hold of a copy of Angel now? Very? Very, very? Very, very, very?

Excellent. Then I shall begin. The giveaway to win a copy of Lee's book has the same rules as the previous FABULOUS AUTHORS giveaways, which I shall now quickly sum up:
  1. Giveaway open internationally.
  2. To enter, spread the word somehow, whether on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, whatever.
  3. Provide a link in the comments.
  4. If you spread the word in more than one place, put each seperate link in a SEPERATE comment for additional entries.
  5. No chatting in the comments this time, please - it messes with the random number generator's mojo.
  6. Giveaway will close next Wednesday and I will pick and announce the winner then.
Ready...steady...GO!

Monday, 21 March 2011

MONDAY ROUND-UP

Hello, and happy Monday! Today I bring you a random round-up of my various deeds and misdeeds over the weekend.
  1. Taylor Swift. Turns out I like some of her stuff. I know. I KNOW, all right? But I was in a restaurant on Saturday and there was this really amazing song playing and I asked the waitress what it was and she said it was Taylor Swift and I totally didn't believe her because - what? This song is good, dude! So I went home, Googled and, OMG! Turns out Taylor Swift can actually sing! And not all of her songs are really annoying and whiny like that stupid Romeo and Juliet song (seriously? 'Daddy says stay away from Juliet'? Eugh). So anyway, I've been listening to this all weekend, and it's awesome. Make of it what you will.
  2. Two hundred followers? Holy Cr*p you guys! I really want to say 'Whoot!' or something but, even though I'm really happy, it won't come out because I'm also terrified. Listen, I'm a performer. All my life, I've been involved in dance and drama groups. I've performed in front of audiences of hundreds of people. I've even read my own poetry out! But the one thing I've never, ever had the nerve to do was sing solo in public. Everytime that I was scheduled to do it I always got so scared that I lost my voice and literally. Could. Not. So...this is pretty big. I think I've said before that it takes me a full day to make a vlog normally - shooting the material, editing it, uploading it. And in this case I've also got to find a blues song (which is hard because I don't really know any - I'm just grateful that I didn't randomy say jazz, 'cos I know even less about that) and make sure I can actually sing it. Give me a little time. You'll get your ritual humiliation, okay? Don't rush me.
  3. Now I can do my 'whoot'. Because I passed the 50% mark in my FrostFire re-write this weekend! WHOOT! This means I've written the vast majority of the new material, which is the slow work. Now I'm going to be going into the actual re-writing, which, while still tough, will hopefully go much faster.
  4. Authors for Japan finished this weekend and raised an incredible £10,962.25 (subject to sums being checked) for the relief efforts in Japan. I'm pretty appalled that the British media seems to have dropped the disaster in Japan from the top news spot now (the suffering of thousands of people who need our help getting tedious or something, Beeb?) but at least I can feel like we did something.
Not bad for a weekend's work, I feel. 

As for this week - you'll probably remember that I promised an interview and giveaway with Fabulous Author Lee Weatherly (we loves her, precious), so you won't want to miss that. Tune in, same bat time, same bat channel, on Wednesday. And now...away, to the Writing Cave! 

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

ENTANGLED GIVEAWAY WINNER!

Hello and happy Wednesday dear readers!

First of all, a giant thank you needs to go out to beauteous Vivienne of the Serendipity Blog for making me my very first countdown widget - there it is, in all it's glory, on the right. Whoot! ETA: If anyone would like this widget for their own blog or website, drop me a line with your email in the comments and I'll send it your way. Vivienne also recently interviewed me for her Big Break feature here.

Secondly, Authors for Japan is now live and anyone with spare pennies can bid on a range of supremely cool items - for example, I'm offering a chance to have a character named after you, plus a signed copy of my first book - with all money going to aid for Japan.

Now, faithful blog readers will remember that last week on this day I interviewed the extremely-very-awesome-author-person Cat Clarke and offered to giveaway a copy of her first book, ENTANGLED.

Look, look how pretty! So swirly and bright. I have such a strong urge to dye my hair red when I see this cover. If I turn up in my next vlog with orange hair, you will know who to blame. But enough about me. Here is the Goodreads synopsis of Cat's book.

The same questions whirl round and round in my head:
What does he want from me?
How could I have let this happen?
AM I GOING TO DIE?

17-year-old Grace wakes up in a white room, with a table, pens and paper - and no clue how she got here.

As Grace pours her tangled life onto the page, she is forced to remember everything she's tried to forget. There's falling hopelessly in love with the gorgeous Nat, and the unravelling of her relationship with her best friend Sal. But there's something missing. As hard as she's trying to remember, is there something she just can't see?

Grace must face the most important question of all. Why is she here?

A story of dark secrets, intense friendship and electrifying attraction.


SO. AWESOME.

Now, without further ado...the winner is...

*Drumroll*
KATIE-LYNN! 

Congratulations! Please contact me as soon as possible with your address Katie-Lynn, and I will get your prize - my copy of ENTANGLED, along with a selection of mysterious secret swag - in the post this weekend!

But wait! There's more! For those of you weeping softly into your keyboards (stop that, you'll give yourself an electric shock) there is ANOTHER INTERVIEW AND GIVEAWAY NEXT WEEK!

Oh ambassador, with these interviews I am really spoiling you! (Anyone born after 1989 won't get this, but never mind).

Next Wednesday on The Zoë-Trope I will be asking my nosy questions of writing superstar L.A. Weatherly, author of swoonworthy paranormal romance and action adventure Angel (titled Angel Burn in the U.S. and scheduled for release by Candlewick Press in May). Lee is someone who always has encouraging advice for me on Twitter when I'm feeling a bit depressed about a bad writing day or I just can't get something right, and I'm thrilled to have talked her into gracing my blog. I will also be giving away a copy of her wonderful book Angel

In the meantime, take care!

Monday, 14 March 2011

PRAY FOR JAPAN

I'm not a religious person. I try not to get involved in anyone else's religion either. I try not to impose my beliefs on others. But I'm making an exception right now. Right now we all need to be praying for Japan.

Pray to God, Allah, Buddha, Jehovah, Ra, the Great Mother Goddess or just send positive thoughts if you don't believe in any higher power. Take five minutes to think about what the people of Japan are going through.

Think about the texture of your day-to-day life. The people you see every day - the pretty young woman who lives across the street walking her little dog, the grey-haired old man at the bus-stop, the children you see running to school. The streets you walk down, stepping over the wonky paving stone, taking a short-cut across a bit of grass. The houses you see, the patterns of trees or street lights. Think about the chair you sit in as you eat your breakfast, washing your dishes in your kitchen sink, the view from the window. Think about running your hand over the back of the sofa as you pass it, stopping to stroke the cat, shoving a book haphazardly onto a shelf or leaving a magazine half-read on the coffee table. Think about chosing what coat you'll wear to work that day, putting on your shoes.

Now imagine that you can never ever see, do, live any of that ever again. Imagine that the woman and her dog, and the old man, and the children, are all dead. The bus-stop isn't there anymore, or the houses or trees or street lights - it's just a jagged jumble of smashed wooden beams, tumbled cars, shattered concrete. The grass you walked across every day and the building you were walking towards are both lost forever, destroyed by the wave. The chair you sit in, your dishes, your kitchen sink, the soft material of the sofa, all disappeared, not even shards or scraps left. The view from your window is gone too, the land warped and cracked, covered in feet of mud and wreckage. The coat you chose to wear to work and the shoes - those things are the only possessions you have now. There's no way of knowing where the cat is, but in your heart of hearts you fear she's probably dead.

Everything that was familiar and safe and normal to you is gone.

And that's if you were lucky.

Much has been made of how well prepared, how 'stoic' and 'pragmatic' and 'well-trained' the Japanese are, as if that means things aren't really so bad out there. But no matter how well prepared you are for earthquakes and Tsunamis, how many times your civil defense force has drilled, how carefully you have constructed your buildings, there's just no way a disaster of this magnitude can be anything but that: disastrous.

At the moment they know that at least 10,000 people are missing. Because the Tsunami hit a lot of isolated rural areas, that figure is probably twice or three times as large in reality. Some of those people might have survived. Might. Having seen the footage of cars bobbing and swirling on the surface of the tidal wave like bubbles, having seen the houses crumble up like structures of tissue paper and just disintegrate, I feel as if any survivors are a miracle.

The majority of those missing people will be discovered, dead, in the wreckage. Others will simply have disappeared into the sea. Their families and loved ones will never know what happened to them, never get to say goodbye. They won't even have a final resting place to visit, as the families who lost people in 9/11 do. Worse, some families will have been wiped out completely. There will be no one left even to mourn.

In Japan, and especially in rural areas, some families live within the same houses for generations. They have family shrines where they hang photographs of their parents, grandparents, where they honour the memory of their family. Now those houses are gone. Literally gone. The people who managed to flee in time have only the clothes on their back. They cannot go back and get a suitcase to last them until things go back to normal. Things will never go back to normal.


No, you don't see the people of Japan running in the streets screaming and panicking and making a fuss. That's not who they are. They are working incredibly hard and incredibly well to put things back together. But can you, can any of us, understand how they must feel inside? Maybe because I love Japan, love the culture and art and media of Japan so much - even though I have never been there - I feel closer to this disaster. But I honestly believe this is the worst natural calamity I've ever seen in my life.

After the earthquake in New Zealand I donated money to Shelterbox and to the Red Cross. I donated more than was sensible, and had to watch my budget for a bit. But this time, no matter how much I donate I can't feel better. I need to do something more.

I'm involved in this auction: Authors for Japan. It's not set up yet, but we hope to raise some money. You can like our Facebook Page here. I will give you more information when I have it, and I hope you'll spread the word.

ETA: Authors for Japan is now live and you can see all the lots and get more information here. Many very, very cool items on offer.

If you or your family has any money - a few pounds, a few dollars, whatever - you can donate to these excellent charities:

The Red Cross Japan Appeal

ShelterBox

Oxfam

But most of all, keep praying for Japan. Keep this country of brave, resourceful, resilient people in your thoughts and your heart. They need all the help they can get.

Friday, 11 March 2011

FINAL SHADOWS ON THE MOON COVER!

It's here at last - the absolutely, positively FINAL version of the UK Shadows on the Moon artwork.


And look, look! Red lettering! This is a drama you guys don't even know about. When I was shown the very first version of this cover, the lettering was red. I was really pleased about that, because red is an important colour in the story, and it's a traditionally lucky colour in China and the east as well. However, some people in the marketing department felt that the red give the book more of a historical novel look, rather than fantasy. They switched to pale pink lettering.

I hate to be an awkward author (can't always avoid it, but I don't LIKE it) and I also know that marketing are far more experienced and knowledgeable on how cover art will be recieved than I. So I tried not to make a fuss about this. But I did express my love for the red to my editor and to Sophie, the designer. Time passed. The ARCs came out, and the lettering was pink. I resigned myself.

But I think my crafty editor was scheming in the background. She got Sophie to mock up a version of the new The Swan Kingdom cover with red lettering, and everyone in marketing liked it so much they asked Sophie to do a mock-up of Shadows on the Moon with red as well. And lo, somehow the planets aligned, the continents shifted, and my beloved red was BACK.

I haven't got a finished version of the book yet (I'm hoping to see layout pages, or page proofs, soon, which is the final stage before the book goes to production) but I have been sent some cover flats, which are actual book covers which have not been bound to a manuscript. They are, frankly, breath-taking. The red lettering is a really deep, blood red, and it's foiled, which means it's *sparkly*. Another lovely effect is something called 'spot UV' on the Sakura - the white cherry blossoms on the cover - which is basically a clear glaze that makes them shiny.

Other features include a QR code on the back which owners of smartphones will be able to scan to see the official book trailer Walker Books plan to make. Next to the QR code is the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation logo. Shadows on the Moon won the Sasakawa Prize before it was even in its final draft, and I'm honoured to see that logo there.


The best thing about the cover, however, is undoubtedly that beautiful face, smiling so sadly and mysteriously around the spine, like a Japanese Mona Lisa. When I was asked what I would like to see on the cover, of course I knew that my suggestions would only ever be that, and that marketing and sales would naturally have a far bigger impact than I. But I begged - BEGGED - that if they use a picture of a girl on the cover, please let her be Japanese. Please let her be young enough to realistically pass for my heroine. And please, please, not wearing Geisha make-up. I'm so sick of seeing books with Asian heroines who are not even Geisha, and yet have a model with a thick coating of traditional Geisha make-up on the cover. This is called exoticising, and I feel it's patronising and wrong.

But despite my fears - and those were realistic fears, given the repeated instances of white-washing and RaceFail in YA - Walker Books came through. They gave this book a cover model who could truly BE my heroine, a cover I can be proud of, a cover that reflects the book in every way. I have been LUCKY with covers, yo, but this cover makes me feel luckiest of all.

In celebration of this my oh-my-God-I-can't-believe-I-got-so-lucky moment, I finished making two book trailers which I had been holding back on until I had the final cover image. Each trailer focuses on a different aspect of the story, and I hope you'll enjoy them. I think they are rather pretty. Feel free to disseminate them far and wide.






Happy Friday everyone!

ETA: I hope that everyone will send their thoughts, hopes and prayers to the people of Japan this weekend. I will be.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

FABULOUS AUTHORS: CAT CLARKE

Hello and happy Wednesday dear readers!

Today I bring you the long-promised treat of an interview with Cat Clarke, author of debut novel ENTANGLED, a stunning piece of contemporary young adult writing. Stay tuned to the end of the post to find out how you can get your hands on a copy of ENTANGLED. Look at it. You know you want it. By the end of the post you will want it even more.

(Why am I typing the book's title all in CAPS like that? Just because I want to. I think it looks cooler that way).

As long-term readers will know, I generally prefer fantasy and science fiction, or even historical novels. It takes something a bit special to lure me into reading contemporary.

In the case of Cat's book, I admit that I was first attracted by the gorgeous colours on the cover, and by the fact that Cat is an agency buddy of mine, represented by MSCLA. But once I picked ENTANGLED up I was utterly captivated. The story has it all - excellent writing, complex, knotty characterisation and an unexpected plot. I love it when authors can make me empathise with and understand characters who make terrible choices, and Grace, the POV character in ENTANGLED, is one such character (oh, boy, is she!).

Having established just how awesometastic Cat was as a writer, I followed her about on Twitter begging pathetically until she graciously agreed to do an interview. Actually, she was too nice to make me beg. But I totally would have. 

ME: When writing Entangled, who or what was the core of the story for you, the element you loved the most or which was most important?

CAT: For me, the core of ENTANGLED is the idea that sometimes good people do bad things. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems and no one is ALL good or ALL bad. The characters are just people, muddling along, trying to make the best of their lives and making mistakes in the process.

ME: Oooh, good answer! Okay, next - you used to work for a major publisher. Do you think your editing skills and your experience of the publishing industry made it easier to become a writer, or are the skills completely different?

CAT: My job as an editor (now freelance) means I’m used to analyzing text, figuring out what works and what doesn’t, so that definitely helps. I’m able to edit my own writing up to a point, but I still need an editor just as much as every other writer out there.

Working in publishing meant that I had access to lots of good advice about how to get published. I knew which agents I wanted to approach and which publishers would be a good fit for my books. But at times I had too much information – there’s something to be said for blissful ignorance!

ME: What is your writing process like? (ie. Do you type straight onto a laptop or use pen and paper? Where do you normally work? Are you a planner or a pantser?)

CAT: Writing process? Hmm. *strokes chin in pondering manner* I don’t really have one! I write sporadically, despite my best intentions to become a Writing Machine this year. I type straight onto the computer – sometimes desktop, sometimes laptop. And I take a notebook everywhere I go. This is filled with random scribbles and questions like ‘What colour hair does Miss X have?’ and ‘Should Miss X die soon?’

I’m just about to move house so I’m planning my dream work space as we speak. The desk is going to be huge, facing a window. I’m going to get a whiteboard for all those ‘important things I absolutely must not forget’. And I think I might frame a poster of the ENTANGLED cover because it’s so purdy.
Oh, and I’m a pantser, through and through. Go, Team Pantser!

ME: Can you tell us something - any tiny little intriguing detail - about your next novel TORN, which we are all squeeingly eager to read?

CAT: There’s an upsetting scene in TORN that made me nauseous when I was writing it. I came perilously close to throwing up. Every time I read it, I can’t help thinking, ‘This came out of MY brain? REALLY?’

Also, there’s a yummy boy called Jack. He has scruffy hair and is in a band. That’s all you’re getting for now!

ME: If you had to pick a song to listen to right now, what would it be?

CAT: NA NA NA, by My Chemical Romance. In fact, I’m going to go listen to it right now! (N.B. If you choose to listen to this song (and I really think you should), make sure the volume is turned WAAAAY up.

Thanks for having me on your marvellous blog, Zoë!

Thank you for answering all my nosy questions, Cat! 

And now:
THE GIVEAWAY! 

I have in my hands a copy of ENTANGLED which I will send to one lucky reader. That reader will also win assorted pieces of mystery swag (Oooh! Aaaah!). In order to enter the giveaway you must:

1) Spread the word about this giveaway somewhere. Twitter, Facebook, your own blog - it doesn't matter where.

2) Leave a comment on this post with a link to wherever you talked about the giveaway.

If you decide that you want to spread the word in more than one place, that's great - make sure that you leave each link in a different comment on this post. Please don't leave comments unless you ARE entering, as this will muck up the random number generator's work.

The competition is open to everyone, everywhere, for for ONE WEEK. The winner will be picked at random next Wednesday. Good luck everyone!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

THE IRON WITCH GIVEAWAY WINNER

Last Wednesday on The Zoë-Trope I interviewed the rather awesome author Karen Mahoney (whose blog and website you should really check out) and also offered a giveaway of my copy of her debut novel THE IRON WITCH. Which I know you all want because just look at that cover! *Lusts*

I've been urged to post the result for this giveaway early by certain people who showed signs of actually bursting from the suspense. Which, you know. Euw. Messy. That stuff doesn't just come out with Vanish.

So as soon as I'd finished walking my dog, bathing the mud off my dog, feeding my dog and cats and slurping a large mug of tea to help me recover from the above, I popped over to the random number generator and typed in the stats.

*Drumroll*

The winner is...
MEGHA!

Which I'm delighted about because, frankly, she was one of the ones who I thought might just explode all over the place. No one wants to have to clean that up.

Megha, please email me with your postal address as soon as you can, and I will send The Iron Witch to you, along with a few secret bits of swag. Congratulations. And thanks to everyone who entered for spreading the word.

For all you who are drooping over your keyboards now - never fear! Next week I will be interviewing another fabulous author person - Cat Clarke - here, and doing another giveaway, this time of Cat's stunning 2011 debut novel ENTANGLED. There's everything still to play for!

I'm seriously spoiling you guys. I don't even know what you did to deserve all this. I suppose it's 'cos you're just so darn cute. Anyway, I'll see you on Friday, when I will be dredging the archives for a RetroPost from last year. Take care 'til then!
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