Monday, 29 May 2017


Hello, lovely readers! I hope you had a great week and weekend despite the lack of a blog from me. Said lack of blog was due to my being in Londonium for two days - and said trip to London (in the middle of our first mini-heatwave of the year) was due to BAREFOOT ON THE WIND being up for the Hillingdon Book of the Year awards.

After a morning working with the brilliant, clever and just all-around *awesome* kids who'd voted for my book, we came up with a presentation about why they thought BAREFOOT should win, including a dramatic rendition of a scene from the book complete with talking trees, a bow-wielding 'Hana', and the most adorable tiger in all the world. 


Sadly we lost out on the best presentation award to Nicole Burstein's 'Wonder Squad' (very well deserved, Nicole - and it was lovely to meet you!). But I'm delighted to say that despite this, BAREFOOT ON THE WIND won the day after all!

Yep, that's me - with the Mayor, no less! It's the first reader-voted award I've received - other things like the Sasakawa Prize and the USBBY Outstanding International award, although I'm very proud of them, were voted on by panels of adults in offices far away. So this means a huge amount to me. Thank you, Hillingdon! Especially the lovely teachers and librarians who looked after me, and the gorgeous and talented young ladies of the Tiger Team. RAAWWRRR!

In other news, I'm quoted this week in the Guardian, in an article about cultural appropriation and whether it should stop writers from creating characters outside of their own experience. I'd just like to make it clear, though, that I wasn't - er - addressing admonishments to Antony Horowitz, or anything. I've never met him, and my remarks were intended to be general! Eeep.

Finally, a reminder of a couple of other events coming up. Firstly, I'm going to be doing a panel event at Bradford Lit Fest again this year (thanks for inviting me back, guys) with some absolute legends. Tickets are still for sale and you can find out all about it here.

AND, if that wasn't enough, I'm going to be at YALC this year! I'm not allowed to share details of my event just yet, but I can say that I'll be there on Saturday and that I'm very excited about my panel. You can book tickets here, so get on that if you'd like to attend.

Have a great week, Dear Readers! Don't get sunburned - or drowned, when our brief burst of nice weather inevitably ends in tears...

Wednesday, 17 May 2017


Hello, my lovelies! Happy Wednesday to all. New post today, hosted on the Author Allsorts - it's a long and perhaps rather controversial one, on the topic of online honesty and how it can go wrong. I think it's quite important, and I'm hoping it will spark discussion, so please do click over there and check it out.

In Other Stuff: the secret it out! I'm going to be at YALC this year! I'm so excited - I haven't attended since the first winter pop-up event in 2014, and some of my absolute favourite writers (and some of my absolute favourite people) are going to be there this year. I don't know yet which day or days I'll be attending, or what events I'll be part of, but tickets are available now, so get in there if you can. Whoot!

Finally, here's a lovely thing I found on Twitter - an award to help support unpublished writers to finish their debut novel. It's a really good amount and as far as I can tell there's no entry fee. This year's award doesn't open for another six months, but that is GOOD, because it gives you time to pick out your very favourite idea or else come up with one, write the 20-30,000 word sample they're asking for, and then polish, polish, polish that baby until it shines like a gem. The actual entry window is quite narrow, so to have the best chance you'd want to be ready well before October, not panicking at the last minute. Bookmark it and keep it in mind, Dear Readers.

WAIT! Don't close the tab! Click through to Author Allsorts first and check out my real post for today. Talk to me in the comments there and share your experiences if you feel comfy doing so.

Read you later, muffins.

Friday, 12 May 2017


Hello and happy Friday, muffins! Did you have a good week? If not, at least we're nearly at the weekend, and I hope that's better. Today I'm bringing you a random list of five things that are on my mind this Friday, and I hope you will enjoy them.

Personally this week I had a list of things as long as my arm to get done - including my tax return, eugh - but none of it happened, because Super Agent turns out to be a super speed reader as well, and was undaunted by the prospect of ploughing through 123k of first draft. It only took a week!

So Number One of my Friday Five: an update about the WIP. Super Agent and I had a loooong chat about the manuscript on Monday, and despite the detailed disaster scenarios I'd constructed in my head ("I'm sorry, but I've realised that you are aren't suited to being a writer after all. I'm going to have to ban you from writing ever again and banish you to outer darkness...") she DID really like it, and all the issues she raised were totally fixable. Super Agent also turns out to be super good at editorial stuff - who knew? We've never really worked together on a manuscript like this before because all my books, even the trilogy, had contracts before I wrote them. As usual, I finished our conversation suffused with a sense of well-being and optimism. I've been feverishly cutting and then putting new bits in all week long. I finished the first round of revisions (there might well be more) yesterday and sent the book off again, around 5k shorter. Fingers crossed my agent thinks I've managed to improve it.

Number Two: Mostly for USian Dear Readers this one. For the whole month of May The Swan Kingdom is on sale in ebook for under $2. You can get it on Kindle, Nook, and from Apple among other places. So if you've been wanting to read it, or just add a digital version to your ereader, now is the time my lovelies!

Number Three: This brilliant, incredibly detailed and *important* piece from an anonymous, impassioned reader about the problem with recent Mulan retellings that divorce the story from its cultural roots. I was moved and shaken by this. My version isn't a straight retelling but more a fantasy inspired by Mulan, and I know that it won't be judged perfect - nothing ever is. But reading through that article I was able to feel that, at the least, I had thoroughly considered all the points the writer brought up before I ever started writing. I'm so glad I found this. I just wish I could get in contact with the writer to thank them - but I also want to think Justina Ireland (YA writer extraordinare) for opening up her Not A Blog for these anonymous reviews, which is a really brave thing.

Number Four: I wanted to drag this post back out from archives in response to the above - my opinion on the difference between diversity and cultural appropriation and why this is so important.

Number Five: There's going to be a long, rather personal, and possibly controversial post from me over on Author Allsorts on Wednesday. It's about some not-so-nice things that have been happening in my life and how those have affected me over the past year. I'd love it if my account of those experiences could spur others to share theirs, so we can have a discussion about it and maybe all feel less alone. I'll do a link back post here on Wednesday to remind you, but I wanted to mention it here too because it's very meaningful to me.

SURPRISE NUMBER SIX: Ha ha! Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! I'm so excited about the Wonder Woman movie that I could pretty much burst into song at any old moment, and I can't believe how little media coverage there's been. My tickets are BOOKED. Book yours too! This film looks awesome and we all need to support it and show Hollywood that *good quality* action films with nuanced and well-realised female heroes (not fighting sex toys!) are a great investment. Here's the trailer. Watch it. AND GET EXCITED.

Monday, 1 May 2017


Hello, hello, hello, Dear Readers! I am so sorry for the complete radio silence throughout the entire month of April. There's one big reason for that silence. Very big. 123,000 words long in fact.

That's right! The WIP is finally 'finished!'

Celebration writer-stylee
I had promised to send the complete manuscript to Super Agent before the beginning of May, but I really needed to put my foot all the way down and block out everything else in order to get it done by that deadline. Hence no blogging.

After I finished the first (actually third, but officially first) draft of the book, I printed it out and tried to ignore it for about a fortnight. I do this for everything that I write, if I can. Then once I've gotten that crucial bit of distance, it usually takes me about a week to ten days to work through and mark up a manuscript and then another week to ten days to actually make the changes to the book. This story took double that time to mark-up and nearly that again to get the changes input. I put that down not only to the length - which was 133k before the edit, longer than Shadows on the Moon, up until now my longest draft ever - but also the density of research involved.

I have never done this much research for a book before in my entire life. No, not even Shadows on the Moon. I might have to open up my own little secondhand bookshop in order to dispose of all the reference books just so that I can see the walls of my study again.

This makes editing a fine balancing act.

Which bits of research honestly need to be woven into the book to give the reader crucial information? Which parts are vital to make the story cohesive and believable? Have you managed to impart this information in a subtle and interesting fashion or does it need to worked on some more - broken down further or conveyed less directly. Which bits of research probably ought to be there to create mood, atmosphere or immediacy, but can really be cut down a lot, moved, or rejigged? Which bits needed to be there for you, the writer, to work through certain elements of character or plot development, but can safely be excised now that the draft is complete? Which bits probably never needed to be there but you worked them in anyway because they were cool or you wanted to make the best of that super boring book you forced yourself to read cover to cover which really only had one interesting thing in it...?

Do any of these alterations leave weird gaps or obvious joins in your prose, or effect your story's pace?

Then there's parts of the manuscrupt where you suddenly panic because you realise you didn't give enough background or detail... but you can't find the notes/reference book/link that would help you to correctly convey that info, and you have to spend a day tearing your house/internet search history apart to try and find it so that you can add one delicate little line to the end of chapter nineteen, and a paragraph in chapter twenty-two, to ensure that the entire secondary subplot makes sense to someone other than you.

All that in addition to the usual prose, pacing, characterisation and plot stuff! It makes for a lot of work. It was fun, but still super intense.

And yes, you did see sarcastic quotation marks bookend the word 'finished' (I did it again, can't help it). This is because although I've written my first draft and revised it to the best of my ability, this is actually only the beginning of the process. I await Super Agent's judgement. Is it too long? (Probably). Too slow? (Probably). Too boring? (I really hope not!).

Depending on her feedback I could be revising it for months more - but there's no way for me to know at this point, since I basically have zero objectivity left after working on this monster for - er - over eighteen months now, on and off? Eeep.

This book doesn't have a contract yet. I really believe in it, and think it's not only a good story, but an important and timely one. But any crossed fingers or prayers to the book gods that you might feel like offering up would be super appreciated anyway.

In the meantime (while waiting for my agent's verdict and then waiting to see if any publishing houses feel like offering the book a home) I'll be doing work related to my Royal Literary Fellowship and, after the usual period of frantically tearing through my dusty TBR pile, probably noodling around on various other projects just for fun.

What are you up to, my lovelies? Let me know in the comments!

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