Tuesday, 28 August 2012

SHOULD 13YR OLDS READ 50 SHADES OF GREY?

Today's blog title is the name of the debate that I participated in on Monday on the Radio Four 'You and Yours' programme.

The BBC called Walker Books in the middle of last week, wanting to know if they had an author who would be willing to talk about the issue on air. The other participant in the discussion was to be Tara Benson from Harlequin Mills & Boon (who publish romances worldwide). The PR department at Walker thought of me - well-known as I am for liking to talk on pretty much every much subject - and with a bit of shuffling we managed to arrange everything.

So yesterday I got on a train and went to Lincoln, which was the closest town to me with a BBC studio available, and I was hooked up to a mic and broadcast throughout the country talking about YA novels and why I think that most people (young or old) would be better off readng pretty much anything than 50 Shades of Grey, because it's incredibly badly written, and tedious, and both the main characters are as wooden as the wall of a garden shed, AND it romanticizes a relationship which is extremely dangerous and unhealthy.

I think we had a really great discussion about it, with Tara Benson turning out to be a highly sensible and intelligent lady with lots of good stuff to say, and me managing to get my fifty-pence in as I had been determined I would. You can listen to the debate (and the whole show) through this link.

My bit starts about halfway through, if you want to zip ahead :) Let me know what you think in the comments!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

I SUCK

Hello, Dear Readers! Thursday again and time for me to ramble on at you for a bit. Again, this is more like a series of random thoughts than a real essay, so apologies in advance.

Lately I've been thinking about the fact that I was published really young. Meeting Karen Mahoney and Lee Weatherly at the Foyles event made me realise how unusual it is for someone to get attention from a mainstream, respected publisher at the age of twenty-one with their very first completed YA novel, and to get a publishing contract at twenty-two with their second completed YA manuscript. I was incredibly lucky to have crossed the desk of my first editor, who encouraged me and offered me so much support, and incredibly lucky that he worked at Walker Books, who have a fine tradition of nurturing new talent and developing close relationships with their authors.

But it wasn't just luck. A lot of it was me; me wanting it so, so badly because the dream of being a published author felt like all I had. It was the only thing that would make everything I had gone through as a bullied outsider worthwhile, the only thing that would show everyone who'd ever picked on or mistreated me that I was a valid person, that they were wrong and I was right the whole time. The full force of my determination went into writing and trying to get published, and it left room for nothing else - not college, not looking for a satisfying job, not even much in the way of a social life. And that single-mindedness did pay off. Even though my first book (The Swan Kingdom) wasn't actually released until I was twenty-four, I had a publishing contract by the age of twenty-two. I had, I felt at the time, WON.

Here's a hint to my past self: You really haven't. Sorry.

I'm proud of The Swan Kingdom. In fact, I'm proud of all the books I've written, in different ways and for different reasons. Each story and each set of characters represents something important to me, challenges that I set for myself, whether I was entirely successful in meeting them or not.

But there's no escaping the fact that being published young - and having spent so much of my life up until that point focusing exclusively on writing - had a huge effect on the quality of my debut and my early work. I'm not like Veronica Roth or Sarah Rees Brennan or Rae Carson. My first book wasn't a storming, ground-breaking piece of fiction that astonished commentors could hardly believe was a debut. It was a quiet, sweet little story that a lot of people liked, but which didn't give much of a hint as to the stories I would be producing in the future.

My courage, my craft, my perspective on humans and their relationships, my awareness of diversity... these things have gotten better with each book I've published. And as a result, each book I've written has been just a bit better than the one before. I know this. I know it in my heart and I know it because everyone tells me so. It's one of the comments that I see all the time - on Goodreads or on review blogs. 'This author just keeps getting better and better'. When reviewers, your editor, even your mum agrees, you get the message. And I'm really happy this is the case.

But developing like this - in public, with every reader as a witness to your progress - is tough. Sometimes looking back at decisions made in previous books makes me cringe. When I see reviewers pointing out the same old problems with my earlier books that I've seen mentioned in a dozen reviews before, sometimes I want to crawl into a hole. How could I have let the book go out like that? Why didn't I see those problems at the time it went out? Am I going to have to regret that for the rest of my career? I'm not going to list all the flaws that I (and everyone) can see in my own work here, but suffice it to say that if I could write The Swan Kingdom and Daughter of the Flames all over again *now* they would be vastly different books.

In fact, they wouldn't be The Swan Kingdom and Daughter of the Flames at all.

Because I couldn't write The Swan Kingdom now. I couldn't write Daughter of the Flames. I'm a different person and a different writer. The books might have the same titles (or maybe not even that!) and be based on the same fairytale or original ideas, but they would not be the same books. Those characters and their choices would be, most probably, unrecognisable. The way I would write them would be unrecognisable.

Would I feel better about them right now if they were in that form? Most probably.

But what about in ten years time?

In ten years time maybe I'd be cringing over them in exactly the same way. Just because they'd be more acceptable to the current me, that doesn't mean that the me five or ten years from now wouldn't find loads of mistakes and flaws there. Just because I'm a better writer now, that doesn't mean I'm the best I'll ever be. What a horrible thought!

And what's more, if The Swan Kingdom - with all its many flaws - hadn't been written, and accepted, and come out when it did back in 2007, would I have ever have written Daughter of the Flames at all? Without the mistakes I made writing Daughter of the Flames (which haunted me, and haunt me still ) would I really have had the courage and maturity to write Shadows on the Moon, the book that ripped me to pieces and left me a totally different writer then I was before? Without the new confidence that came from writing Shadows on the Moon, would I have been able to produce FrostFire, the book which my editor (and my mum!) tells me is my best work to date?

No.

We all suck now in comparison to our future selves. Of course we do. I thought I was pretty hot stuff when I first managed to create a shortcut on my desktop without messing up, or the first time I successfully boiled dried pasta without it sticking to the bottom of the pan. Those achievements were vital at the time. I couldn't get anywhere until I'd managed them. They pushed me onto more ambitious next steps. But looking back NOW, of course they seem simple and small in comparison to making and maintaining my own website, or cooking a five course Christmas dinner for my family.

The trick is to realise that the mistakes you made in the past are equally small in comparison to the things you can achieve right now. That the mistakes you make now are small compared you what you will be able to do in the future.

So yes, I sucked in the past. I suck now. And I will suck in the future. But who cares? Because I also did amazing - really amazing! - things in the past too. I got published before I was twenty-five! And I'm doing exciting, challenging things now; I've only just turned thirty and I already have four books out! And I will carry on doing great things in the future. No matter what mistakes I've made and am making and will make.

No matter what.

Spending time regretting the past? Wishing things had been different? Asking 'What if'? Well, it might be irresistable. But the very best way to make sure that you don't spend your entire life looking back over your shoulder wishing the past had been different is to do the best you can - the most courageous, scary, strange and YOU that you can - right now. None of us will ever be flawless or produce anything flawless, and accepting that is the only way to keep moving forward.

I suck. You suck. Everyone sucks. And that is a wonderful thing.

Carry on.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

CITY OF BONES EXCITEMENT

Hello, hello, hello, Dear Readers! A thousand apologies for skipping out on you yesterday - there was a problem with my dad's treatment and we ended up having to call in one of the specialist district nurses who manages dialysis. By the time she was able to get to us, and sort us out, and my dad's dialysis was finished, it was afternoon already and I just needed to read some Jane Austen and fall into a temporary coma (which I duly did).

But in the end it turned out for the best, because one of the things that I wanted to talk about was the emergence of set photos from the shooting of the City of Bones movie that's literally just started filming in Toronto. And overnight (different timezones and all) even more fantastic images have become available, so now I have more to talk about.

You guys already know that I am a huge Cassie Clare fan (remember my interview with her, here?) and that I've read all her books. But what I might not have mentioned before is that I have a complete fascination with movie adaptions of books. I'm borderline obsessed. I find the process by which books are adapted into a visual medium so interesting that I will buy DVDs of movies that I'm not even interested in seeing (like, for instance, Twilight: New Moon and Twilight: Eclipse) so that I can watch the DVD special features. I'm not interested in the screen-writing so much as the development of literary characters into movie ones - their costumes, make-up, hair - and settings - building soundstages, scouting locations - and tone - cinematography, score. Basically, I'm a big old geek about it.

Obviously this means that when films based on books I really love come out, I go into Ultra-Squee-Mode. I freaked out over the LotR films and the Harry Potter films, and now I am freaking out over City of Bones even more because we're getting all these sneak peeks of a kind we never did on other other, hush hush, closed set type films.

So I'm not going to repost all the pictures here because that would be a huuuge post; there are far too many. But what want to do - because I haven't really seen much of it online - is to look at some of the images and dissect what is going on and why I'm so thrilled. All of these pictures come from this amazing site called TMI Source and there are literally DOZENS of photos there, so if you're interested at all (and if you've made it this far into this post you probably are) head over there and have a look.

First, the picture that started the Ultra-Squee fire burning in my breast - the very first image of Jamie Campbell-Bowers as Jace.

There have been so many doubts expressed about whether JCB was big enough, masculine enough, handsome enough (etc. etc.) to play Jace, and I'm sure some people will continue to b*tch right to their graves that Alex Pettyfer didn't get the role (even though he had the chance and actually turned it down and also doesn't look anything like a teenager anymore).

But this image set my doubts completely at rest because, no, JCB doesn't look like a huge muscle-bound hulk but what he does look like? Is a fighter. And I know fighters - I can tell them at a glance because for many years those are the guys I avoided like the plague. He's lithe, he's tough, and he's got a look that says 'Mess with me if you want. It's your funeral. Literally'. I love it. I admit that I had a slightly different idea in my head of Shadowhunter Gear; I got the impression that it was more formal, almost like a uniform. But heck, it's black and form-fitting and it definitely looks like something you could do a roundhouse kick in without splitting your seams. I also love the Morgenstern ring there on his finger. Seraph blades = also FTW.

But look! What's that going on behind Jamie? Two women both ALSO leatherclad and with the look of badasses??? Can we see more?


Clary and Isabelle and Alec! Whaaa! The first image shows us Clary's gorgeous red hair, and I'm so delighted because all the images of Lily Collins until now - even after she arrived in Canada for pre-production - have shown really dark tresses, almost black. I was a little worried that they'd buy into this trend of brunette heroines (ala Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, The Hunger Games) and try to fob us off with a few auburn highlights. But I needn't have been concerned. They have kept the tone fairly dark, but added the most beautiful vivid red shade over the top. It suits her really well and I adore the contrast with her pale skin. It's *so* Clary Fray. 

Then under that we've got Isabelle, who is one of my favourite characters, in a sleek, long ponytail and huge heels (so true to character) and Alec, looking extremely buff. I think the fact that his Shadowhunting gear is sleeve-less is a bit... I don't know, it seems like they're distinguishing him very strongly from Jace here and giving him a slightly S&M look with the gloves. I'm not entirely sure that's true to the book, since Alec is very introverted and doesn't strike me as the type to chose a bicep-flashing outfit. Alec is also gay, and this is the sort of look you *might* see in a guy who was heading out to a gay club; my problem is that Alec is also closeted and terrified of anyone finding out about his sexuality. So it's a bit incongruous. But I'm willing to withhold judgement for now.

If you look behind those two, you get a tell-tale flash of red hair which makes you realise that Clary is still with them - and wearing an extremely UN-CLARY sort of outfit, with more huge heels and what look like the tightest black trousers EVER. What's going on there?


Well, apparently this scene was one where all the Shadowhunters (and Clary) march down the street together and head up to the building that they're using for Clary and Jocelyn's house. A boy (described as 'geeky') bumps into Clary and says 'Wow, Clary you look - uh - different...' Which means that this is the scene where Clary borrows clothes from Isabelle before heading out from the Institute with the gang to see Madame Dorothea at her house. And knowing that? I find this delicious. Because in the book Clary hates having to borrow Isabelle's clothes and feels stupid and awkward in them - but here we, seeing her from the outside, can clearly see that she looks amazing and like a true Shadowhunter (which we suspected from the text). I love it!

But let's reassure ourselves that Clary doesn't start out as a badass in this film. Here's a shot of her on what seems to be a little Juliet balcony, again at the building being used as her house:


Adorable, and just right. A couple more shots of Clary au natural:


It's everyone's favourite Simon! Robert Sheehan here not only looks supernaturally like everyone's vision of Simon (I mean, whoa) but supernaturally like Josh, Cassie's real life husband. Seriously, I think Josh was even wearing that exact jacket when we met. What you can also see here is the brilliant casting at work because doesn't the chemistry between these two just blaze right off the pixels? Squee!

Next some really great action shots.


Clary on the phone, rushing down the street with an anxious look on her face. I'm pretty sure this must be the scene where Jocelyn phones her and tells her to stay away from the house, then Clary hears the start of the attack. This made me blink a tiny bit because if I remember rightly, in the book that happens at night and Clary's in club clothes. But it's possible that a) they're going to desaturate the footage to make it look like night and these ARE Clary's clubbing clothes or b) they've rejigged things and the scene doesn't play out that way anymore, which is probably more likely. It's just a little weird to adjust my mental image of that scene, which I always imagined dark and moody, to this sunlit, bright one.

EDIT: The delightful Carla pointed out that I've made a mistake above - actually Clary receives that phonecall outside Java Jones during the daytime. So basically that was my own impressions of how the scene should be (dark and grim) interfering with my memory and insisting it ought to be at night. But this is great because it means the scene is pretty much exactly like the book, arguing for some great book faithfulness from the filmmakers. Yay!



Clary running like Hell, trying to get home and help her mum. *Sniff* Poor Clary! You can see the rain puddles splashing up under her feet there in the road - according to set reports, the production team are constantly using hoses to create those, since it's clearly a warm and dry summer there in Toronto and of course the book is set in rainy autumn in New York.

I can't wait to see some more photos from the shoot. I'm honestly so excited for this film; it's going to be a really hard wait until this time next year when it's scheduled to release, but these pictures ease the pain a little.

In other news, the team behind the brilliant UKYA Blog had a big old meet up with loads of readers and bloggers and writers on Monday (lucky!) and they revealed the Top 100 UKYA Books as voted for by visitors to their site. My lovely friend Laura (SisterSpooky) was there, and sent me this:


Shadows on the Moon made it into the Top 100! Right there next to Philip Reeve, Mark Haddon and Malorie Blackman! So thrilling! Thanks so much to everyone that voted, and especially to Susie and Keris and Keren the other brilliant authors who run UKYA.

Well, that's it from me today. Let me know how you're doing in the comments, my lovelies :)

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

THE SUN'LL COME OUT TOMORROW

Hi Dear Readers! Due to unforeseen circumstances, I'm not going to be able to blog today. Hopefully I'll be able to write today's planned post for you tomorrow. Tune in then - same bat-time, same bat-channel. In the meantime, have a great Tuesday.

Zxxx

Thursday, 16 August 2012

FOREIGN EDITION LOVE AND KATANA UPDATES

Hi everyone - and happy Thursday to all! I hope you're having an excellent week so far, because I certainly am.

You might recall that back in March I told you about the Polish edition of Shadows on the Moon and shared the cover, which I had gotten off a European book website. I absolutely loved the cover artwork and was very excited about it. Since the release in April, I've had a lot of Google Alerts for Polish sites talking about and reviewing the foreign edition, which intrigued me even more (although the quality of Google's 'translate' function made it pretty impossible to tell what anyone was really saying).

But while it was in my contract that I should get some copies of any foreign language versions of my books, none arrived. So a little while ago I asked Lovely Lass about it, and this week she came through. I got the parcel containing the Polish books on Tuesday... and I am in love.

This is honestly the most beautiful incarnation that any of my books has ever had. It is the kind of book that I, as a book addict, would probably end up buying from the shop even if I had no interest in the contents, because it's simply THAT gorgeous.

Let me try to convey this with some images.


Look at the beautiful lettering on that spine. It's been treated with Spot UV, so it's glossy and shiny, and I love the way it seems to spill over from the spine onto the front cover. I also adore the way the red starts out vivid and bright around my name and shades gradually darker and bloodier toward the other end.


The covers and the page paper are both that luxurious, extra heavy stock which sort of flops open and stays there. You can bend the whole book practically in half. And it's not standard paperback size, either, but what I would call 'trade paperback', which means it has the same proportions as a hardback (I'm not sure if that's standard in Poland, but it's unusual in the UK).

The outside of the cover has been treated it give it the most amazing, velvety texture. I've only come across this texture on books a couple of times before - normally on high profile, front-list titles. In addition, the bamboo leaf decoration is also picked out with Spot UV, and the ultra-glossy effect creates the most gorgeous contrast with the matt, suede-feel cover.
 
 

The gloss continues INSIDE the book, on both the front and back flaps. Oh, and that's another thing: French flaps! These are one of my absolute favourite things to find on a paperback. I adore them; a book with French flaps is almost irresistable to me. I never thought that a book of mine would get them because, again, they're normally saved for Mega Big Deal Titles.

The bamboo silhouette continues onto the title page, both filled in and in outline, which again has the most beautiful subtlety to it. This decoration is on each of the section headers too.

Frankly, if every book that I ever write were to look exactly like this? I would be deliriously happy. I made the silly mistake of letting my mother see these, and she pounced and demanded one for herself but the other two are MINE ALL MINE and I shall be snuggling them forever more. *Sigh*

Now for another piece of news. Big Secret Project, aka my first ever urban fantasy story and my first ever trilogy, aka THE KATANA TRILOGY? Is going to be getting a new series title. It turns out that the word Katana has been copyrighted (or possibly trademarked? When I Googled it, it turned up a kind of golf club, so... iunno?) which means it's really awkward for Walker Books to publish a series with that name.

For about eight hours after Wonder Editor called me up to tell me this, I was a little bit flustered. I sent her a very long list of all kinds of other possible titles - many of which I liked, but none of which I really loved - and she went away to ponder them, and I went away to nibble on pencils and worry about it.

However, late that night as I was discussing it with a member of my writing group I suddenly had a brainwave and came up with what I personally thought was the perfect title for the trilogy. So I sent it off in an email and now I'm waiting for Wonder Editor's approval. But I'm not worried anymore, because it feels so right to me that I'm convinced the golf club people actually did me a favour.

And that has been my week so far! What about you guys? Tell me in the comments!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

GIVEAWAY WINNER!

Hello, my lovelies! The Olympics is over, the sun has taken his hat off and gone back to bed, and I, for one, am feeling a tad down in the dumps.

But never fear! Today is the day when I select the winner of the Foyles Summer Scream Giveaway and hopefully light that person's life up once again.

So, without further ado (and with the help of the random number generator) I pronounce the winner to be:

SUZANNE!

Suzanne is the lady who quoted me talking about magic under the kitchen sink directly from the Sugarscape article. I hope you're happy to have won the grand prize, my dear! Just to remind you what you've won:
A signed copy of UNREST by Michelle Harrison
A signed copy of THE IRON WITCH by Karen Mahoney 
Signed copies of ANGEL and ANGELFIRE by L.A. Weatherly 
A signed copy of FROSTFIRE by me
A signed copy of any other one of my books that you like
Assorted swaaaaag...
So get in touch ASAP, Suzanne, to let me know your address and also which other one of my books you'd like a copy of! You can broswse down the sidebar of the blog on the left there if you're unsure.

Happy Tuesday to everyone else. Sorry if you didn't win this time, but there will be more giveways at a later date, I promise.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

FOYLES SUMMER SCREAM EVENT REPORT

Hello and happy Tuesday to all, Dear Readers!

Today I'm going to try to sum up my weekend experience taking part in the epic Summer Scream Event at Foyles. It's going to be tough, because A LOT of stuff happened. And even more tough because, like the fluffy-brain fool I can often be, I remembered to take my camera, and remembered to take pictures in the green room before the event... then failed to take the camera to the event itself.

*Hangs head in shame*

Sorry! But I only realised once we had started, and it seemed a bit rude to ask everyone to wait while  ran off to get my handbag. So I will have to paint you a word picture instead. No booing at the back! A WORD PICTURE I SAID I AM A WRITER DANG IT HAVE SOME FAITH.

First of all - London was gorgeously sunny and *extremely* hot on Saturday. I'm always caught off guard by how much warmer it is in London than in Lincolnshire, where I live. I had on a dress and some matching blue tights with ankle boots, and was perfectly comfy up until changing trains in Newark. Thereafter I got steadily warmer and warmer and by the time I got to London all the make-up had melted off my face and I was really wishing I'd put my hair up. Alas, my well-known travel jinx had also made me quite a bit late, so instead of having time to find my hotel and drop off my luggage, I was forced to haul my wheelie suitcase onto the Underground with me.

Here's a fact about the Tube, for those who don't live in or often travel to London: if you're not willing to discard all tenants of civilised, polite behaviour, you will never manage to board an Underground service. Or if you DO manage to get on the Tube, you'll never manage to get off again. Basically, this is because native Londoners cram themselves into the doors without any regard for their own safety or well-being, or the safety and well-being of others, and if you don't cram too, you'll still be standing there waiting for someone to let you in/out when you die of old age.

This sort of thing is hard for me, Dear Readers. I'm Northern. I'm the sort of person (some would say sucker) who lets the elderly and anyone who looks ill or disabled go in front of me in queues. I hold the door for everyone. I give up my seat for pregnant ladies. The idea of shoving and pushing and whacking people in the shins with my suitcase (and running over their feet with the wheels) makes me feel as if my mother is about to appear behind me, hissing, and clip me around the ear.

I just about managed to haul myself and my luggage from King's Cross onto the first leg of my Tube journey, but the next line was much busier and my natural politeness would probably have resulted in me being stranded on the platform for quite some time if (by one of those strange, it's-a-small-world miracles) I hadn't met a member of my writing group who lives in London and was intending to participate in the event in order to provide moral support, right then.

With her encouragement - which came in the form of her forcefully crying 'Go! Push in! Go on, NOW Zolah!' in my ear - I managed to board the Circle Line. I will gloss over the part of the journey where my hair got sucked through one of the ventilation windows and I was nearly balded, and move onto the part where we were met by Lovely Lass (who you may remember from this post about the FrostFire Trailer) at the station and led to Foyles. There my writer friend went off to the cafe to meet with another writer friend who was attending, and I was whisked, babbling and incoherent, up to the green room.

There I met lovely writers. I mean, really genuinely lovely. And gorgeous and kind and nice. Despite the babbling and incoherency, I managed to collect hugs from everyone, and took some pics.

Michelle Harrison with Dear Reader Becky who now works for S&S!
Lee Weatherly and Kaz Mahoney

The whole lot of us! From L to R - Michelle, Lee, Me, Kaz
I also took pictures of Wonder Editor and Lovely Lass, along with a Walker person I had never met before - Designer of Delight, who had come along to show me some of her preliminary ideas for Katana Trilogy art (and by the way? OH MY GOD. Never been so excited in my entire life, GENIUS, I nearly did starjumps around the room, BEING A GROWN UP IS SO HAAAARD. Ahem). But I didn't think it was a good idea to ruin their super-identities here, so I'll keep those ones for myself.

Lovely Lass, rightfully alarmed by how shiny I was, swiftly arranged for some cold drinks, and I gulped down a bottle of lemonade and a glass of water as Wonder Editor (who had decided to attend probably to help Lovely Lass control the disaster that is me) gently asked me if I had remembered that we were all supposed to be doing a reading, and sensibly brought my copy of FrostFire with me.

Nope. And no, I had not.

Usually I am more professional than this, Dear Readers, I promise! I think I must have missed the email mentioning the reading aspect of the event - there were quite a lot of emails flying around at one point. So Wonder Editor hurried off and promised the lovely Neil, who was the event organiser, her first born child if he would lend me a copy from Foyles stock to read from. Which he did. Then we quickly decided that I'd just read the preface bit, which is very short and easy, since I've never actually read from FrostFire in public before and haven't perfected the rhythm and timing.

And then we were off! Giggling and a little nervous, we were ushered into a lovely room with walls covered in all different kinds of art (which I sadly never got the chance to examine as closely as I wanted) and this huge vaulted ceiling with exposed beams, and a stage and lots of readers all looking at us expectantly. Eeep.

We sat down, giving each other worried looks, as Neil introduced each of us and asked that we start with the reading. Brave Lee (that's L.A. Weatherly) started us off with a really horribly intriguing scene from ANGEL FIRE, which is the sequel to ANGEL. I haven't read it yet, so I had to remind myself (again) that I am a grown-up and it would *not* be mature to lunge across the stage and try to wrestle the book from her hands so that I could find out What Happened Next. Kaz Mahoney followed this up with an exclusive reading from her upcoming novel FALLING TO ASH, which is the start of a new series about a teenage vampire called Moth. It was an exciting action scene, but her delivery of the dialogue was hilarious. I loved it.

Then it was my turn. I'd swiftly realised that I was going to have to read more than the preface, since Lee and Kaz had each read for about four or five minutes. So I winged it by doing the preface and then skipping a spoilerific bit and going onto the first chapter. To be honest I'm not sure how it went - I was concentrating extremely hard on the page because I didn't want to trip over my own words (that would have been embarrassing). But when I was done, Michelle Harrison read a brilliant, spooky, atmospheric section from the beginning of her first YA novel UNREST, reducing the audience to terrified shudders.

Then we took turns to talk a little bit about our publishing journey. Lee told us that she had written literally dozens of books for young readers series and that when the idea for ANGEL came knocking she had three contracts on the go and really didn't have time. But the characters stayed in her head for years and eventually she just gave in and let them take over her brain.

Kaz talked about how she always wanted to be a writer, but how she struggled to finish stories (doesn't *that* sound familiar, Dear Readers?) and for a while got so discouraged that she gave up on writing and getting published completely. When she wrote THE IRON WITCH for NaNoWriMo it brought all her enthusiasm back, and she decided to really take getting published seriously.

I told my story - including how I, too, had often struggled to finish books - and how I eventually I managed to talk my way into getting Walker Books to take a chance on The Swan Kingdom.

Then Michelle Harrison spoke about how she always imagined she would write horror stories, but how this idea for a book about a girl who saw fairies had turned out to be the first thing she finished, and she described working behind the bar at her mum's pub and scribbling in her notebook between pulling pints.

When we'd all finished talking we took questions from the audience, who asked some brilliant questions. I chucked FrostFire swag at readers who addressed questions to me, and managed not to bean anyone in the head. Then we adjourned to the signing tables, where I finally got to glomp a whole bunch of blogger-friend and Dear Readers. It was so lovely to meet them all! I really wanted to just stand there and babble and chat to everyone, but Lovely Lass and Neil were making meaningful gestures at me, so I sat down and started signing (with frequent breaks for jumping up and hugging). The pile of books next to me disappeared at the most amazing rate, and I felt incredibly blessed.

By the time everyone had gotten all their books, postcards and signing books autographed Neil was needing us to clear out so that the next panel could come in and do their event. I said goodbye to everyone, hugged everyone again, picked on Wonder Editor a little bit (I'm so sorry Wonder Editor! I don't know why I always tease you - you're an angel to put up with it!) and then the two ladies from my writing group whisked me away, first to the Tokyo Cafe where I had bubble tea and got carried away and ordered a huge amount of food (I couldn't even eat half of it - luckily reinforcements arrived and demolished the leftovers for me) and then... to Haagen-Daz...

*Cue Angels singing*

Cookies and cream, pralines and cream, and butterscotch pancakes, along with a mango sorbet passion surprise. I ought to have taken pictures of this culinary art for you, but frankly I was too busy eating it. I probably consumed enough calories in that one sitting to keep me for the rest of the week and I DO NOT CARE.

If I ever get rich and famous, I shall hire a personal trainer - and move in next to Haagen-Daz.

And then I hauled myself back onto the Tube (carrying not only my swag bag, my suitcase and my handbag, but also TWO ADDITIONAL BAGS of books and presents and sweets from the best Dear Readers in the whole wide world) and went to my hotel and just about managed to have a shower before I collapsed to watch Britain win three gold medals in an hour. Whoot!

So yeah. It was pretty awesome. Invite me back any time, Neil! I'm there!

A thousand thanks to every blogger-friend and Dear Reader who turned up for this. You guys made the whole experience so special that even with my travel jinx (both my trains home were cancelled - no joke) and the heat and the suitcase I will still look back on this weekend as some of the best fun I've ever had. Snuggles for all.

And now! It's time for a Summer Scream giveaway! While at the event I managed to get Kaz, Lee and Michelle each to sign a copy of one of their books. Lee actually signed two, ANGEL and the sequel ANGEL FIRE. I am going to send these books (ANGEL, ANGEL FIRE, UNREST and THE IRON WITCH) PLUS a signed copy of FrostFire PLUS a signed copy of any other book of mine that you want PLUS FrostFire swag... to one lucky reader. It is the grand prize to end all grand prizes.

What do you have to do to win? It's simple. Sugarscape have just put up an interview with me in which I talk about FrostFire and love triangles and snogging Mr Darcy, and I want you to visit that article. You can tweet it or share it to Facebook as well if you like, or mention it on your blog - that would be awesome. If you already have a Sugarscape account you could comment on it. Any of that would be great. But once you've read it? Come back here and comment on THIS POST and tell me something you liked about the interview. Anything you liked, that made you smile or think, or whatever.

One entry per person, just to keep things simple. And I will pick the winner NEXT TUESDAY. So entries will be counted until midnight on Monday. To review: go here, read, share if you like, come back here and comment. That's all.

Okay, I'm exhausted after all this, my lovelies, so I'm going to slope off and quietly scribble some notes about flying monsters and rooftop battles and the like. What? It's how I relax! See you on Thursday :)

Thursday, 2 August 2012

SUMMER SCREAM EVENT AT FOYLES

Hello, hello, hello! Thursday is upon us and that means it is only two days until the fateful Saturday when I will hopefully be meeting some of my Lovely Readers for the very first time. Eeeee!

Just to recap: The Summer Scream Event at Foyles (in Charing Cross in London) is my first public event with other authors, and I will be doing a panel and then a signing alongside really amazing fellow YA writers Michelle Harrison (UNREST), L.A. Weatherly (ANGEL, ANGEL FIRE) and Karen Mahoney (THE IRON WITCH, THE WOOD QUEEN).

Our panel will be from 2pm-3pm. Later there will be another panel and signing with authors Laura Warburton (A WITCH IN LOVE, A WITCH IN WINTER), Laura Powell (BURN MARK) and Thomas Taylor (DAN AND THE DEAD).

I'm very excited about this! Living, as I do, in the farflung wilderness of the north, I don't get the chance to do many events, or meet many of my readers. And I'm especially thrilled that so many friends I know from online have pledged to come. I cannot *wait* to meet you guys.

I have a new dress! I have blue tights! I have a box of swag ready to give out to anyone who stands still long enough!

But I also have two simple rules for anyone coming to this event. Failure to comply will result in me throwing a tantrum of truly fantastical proportions. There will be screaming, arm-flailing, heel-drumming and possibly even foaming at the mouth. You don't want to see it. Trust me. You will be traumatised for life. So PAY ATTENTION.

Rule Number One:

If you are a Dear Reader or an online friend person? YOU WILL APPROACH AND INTRODUCE YOURSELF. Oh, yes you will. Yes you will.

You're all going to know which one is me because they're going to introduce me. Plus my face is up there on the event poster. But I'm not going to know who you are unless we've met before, which 90% of the time we have not. So I'm helpless to seek you out. Do not make me helpless. Do not lurk at the back of the room feeling unsure of your welcome. Do not Tweet or comment a week later to say that you were there all along but that you didn't know if I would want to be bothered. I do want to be bothered. I live to be bothered. Bother me! SAY HELLO TO MEEEEEE.
 
Rule Number Two:

Tell me your online name first.

I mean, if your name is Sarah-Beth and your online name is Sarah-Beth37, great, not an issue. But if you have been chatting to me for a year under the name HermioneGraingerOK and then you bounce up to me and say 'Hey! It's Janice!' I will be confused and bewildered and give you the polite handshake, and you will walk away sadly thinking 'Oh, I suppose I'm just one of her legion of fans and she doesn't really care about me...' I DO CARE ABOUT YOU. In fact, I want to give you a huge hug, because I don't have a legion of fans and even if I did I would still love each one like I love fluffy baby kittens. But I'm not psychic. Online names first. Then tell me your real name. I can't promise I'll remember not to call you HermioneGraingerOK for the rest of the event (because I am somewhat senile like that) but I can certainly promise that it will be a pleasure to meet you. You are the reason I am there in the first place. Capiche?

Eeeeexcellent.

I am very much looking forward to seeing you, my duckies. If you do not like hugs you might want to wear a sticker saying that in a prominent place on your body so that I get the idea, because I plan on physically snuggling as many people as they let me before someone threatens to call the police. Make a note...

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