Housekeeping!

I’m just dropping in briefly to draw your attention to two small things which may be of interest:

Firstly, if you’re interested in ordering a signed copy of The Eye of the North, you can do so by contacting The Campus Bookshop, based in Dublin. They are reachable by phone on 00 353 1 2691384, or by email at campus.bookshop@gmail.com. There is very limited stock available, but if you want to try your luck, have at it.

Ted and bag

Ted here has already been and picked up his copy. He says The Eye of the North is ‘all kinds of awesome’, just fyi. Photo credit: SJ O’Hart

And secondly: I am running a giveaway to win a signed copy of The Eye of the North over on my Twitter page. It’s only available to US and Canadian residents, but if you happen to fall into that category, and you’d like a chance to win, all the information you’ll need is here:

If you’re not on Twitter, fear not: I shall be running another book giveaway via Goodreads in a week or two. You can slide on over to my Goodreads page here – you might as well add The Eye of the North to your shelf, while you’re at it.

I think that’s all for now! Thanks for stopping by, and toodle pip ’til next time.

If by any chance you’ve read The Eye of the North, would you be so kind as to leave me a review? Even a star rating on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble and so on can make a huge difference to a book’s visibility. Thank you!

 

The Eye of the North is Published!

The Eye of the North is published

Celebrating the publication of The Eye of the North in fitting style! Photo credit: SJ O’Hart

Today, August 22nd 2017, marks the date on which my first book was published in North America. Wahey!

I started this blog on August 20th, 2012, little expecting (though hoping, with all my heart) to one day be writing a post like this one; it’s poetic, and pleasing, and a source of such joy, to know that the dates so nearly coincide. Nearly exactly five years have passed since I started this odd journey, and this result is the one which, at times, I hardly let myself believe would ever happen.

I. Am. A. Published. Author!

Of course, the journey doesn’t end here. There are more stories to tell, more books to write, more dreams to chase. I hope to never be quite done.

If you’d like to check out the book I’ve spent all these years trying to usher out into the world, you can get yourself a copy on Indiebound or Amazon, or take a peep at its Goodreads page. I would love you to be part of my story – and if you could take the time to leave a review, or recommend the book to someone else (if, of course, you find that you don’t hate it), that would be wonderful. I’d love to know what you think of my lovable, loyal Thing, my eccentric, careful, anxious Emmeline, and all the ragamuffins they meet along the way.

As Thing would say, “Let the adventurin’ begin!” – and, naturally, thank you for coming this far with me. It’s been quite the ride. I’m glad to have had you along.

Preparing for Publication Day

As I write, it’s ten days out from the publication of my debut novel, The Eye of the North.

Ten.

Days.

This is a time I’ve been imagining since I was a little girl who loved to read and dream and think. It’s a time I’ve been hoping to experience ever since, aged twenty, I began to write my first book, about a girl called Maria and a boy called Barry who stumble through a crack in an old tree and end up in a bespelled Fairyland under the rule of a sleeping queen. (It wasn’t very good.) It’s a time I’ve seriously wondered about since 2012, when I started this blog, and made the decision to focus on writing a book, and began to look at ways to actually get published for real.

And now, it’s finally here.

I thought it would be one long buzz of excitement, but truthfully – well. Truthfully, it’s a bit scary.

Author Copy from MN

My first author copy of The Eye of the North, sent by Melanie Nolan, my wonderful editor at Knopf Books for Young Readers. (Photo: SJ O’Hart; cover artist credit: Jeff Nentrup)

The moment things first began to get real was when I received a finished copy of my book in the post, in an envelope bearing the logo of Penguin Random House, sent from New York City.

Sent to me.

Little old me? Eeek.

It arrived. It sat in my kitchen for a few minutes. And then I opened it and held it, and began to quiver a bit. This is really happening, I thought. This book, this idea you hugged to yourself for fifteen years and then worked so hard to bring out of your brain, is actually sitting here in your hands, wrapped up between boards.

It’s hard to describe how I felt at that moment. You’d think it would be uncomplicated joy – and, certainly, joy is part of it – but the joy is mixed up with fear (will people hate it?) and doubt (why did I ever think anyone would read a book by me, anyway?) and an overwhelming sense of weight, perhaps responsibility, that now this book will be in the world, readable by anyone, and maybe – most terrifyingly of all – someone, somewhere, will love it the same way I love the books which formed me.

 

TEoTN and Alan Garner

The Eye of the North meets some of its older cousins. (Photo: SJ O’Hart)

I think, if someone were to (metaphorically) cut me open, I would bleed words. Books are such a part of me that I practically rustle when I walk. The books I love are carried within me all the time; I think about them on a daily basis, bringing to mind favourite scenes, quotes, characters and even artwork to comfort and sustain me. I never thought about it from the other side until I considered the idea of becoming an author myself – I saw books, and their creators, as things and beings separate from the run of the mill ordinariness of everyday life, forgetting that they were simply people, too, who loved to dream and find words and put them down on paper, just like me. Now that I have written a book, and some very fine people indeed have seen fit to publish it, I wonder: what might it be like to enter the heart and mind of a reader, to be taken with them wherever they go, to be remembered ten, twenty, or more years from now, the cover art from my book thought of with fondness, a turn of phrase first encountered in my writing recalled with warm satisfaction?

And I think: what a privilege.

And what a frightening thing.

Books really do shape minds. They really do affect a person’s way of thinking, feeling, and seeing the world. Books foster empathy and compassion; they heighten a person’s sense of connection with the world around them and the people in it. Books make you part of someone else. They make you imagine how it would be to live as someone else, someone whose life is vastly different to your own. They draw you in and make you feel and make you hope. Is it any wonder they’re so loved? And now my story, and my characters, have become part of that giant, neverending waterfall of words and images – a tiny part, of course, a mere droplet in the flood – but perhaps someone will find a reflection of themselves in my odd little Emmeline or my gutsy, loving Thing, or my brave, loyal Igimaq and my book will become a little building block in the makeup of their mind. How amazing is that?

So, it’s not necessarily seeing my words in print which has so astounded me, though it is astounding. It’s the sense that I might touch someone (and just one person would be enough) with something I’ve written, and make them laugh, or think, or look afresh at something they thought was familiar. What a wonder that is.

It’s a tough old world out there, these days. Things are grim, and dark, and frightening. But books help. I hope you’ll take comfort in a book – it needn’t necessarily be mine, though of course I’d love if it were – and remember that no matter how terrible things might seem, someone somewhere took the time to think up a story, write it down, and share it in the hope of making things better.

Stories make things better. Stories make us who we are, both on a cultural and a personal level. Never give up on stories, and you’ll be doing the best you can to leave the world better than you found it. Tell them, write them, share them, love them, pass them on. Let them live. Live them.

Author Copies of TEoTN

Me, in my kitchen, opening a box of author copies of The Eye of the North. (Photo: SJ O’Hart)

Thank you to everyone who has been here with me since August 2012. Almost exactly five years to the day after I started this blog, I am going to be a published author – and I hope that fact gives someone hope, encouragement, and strength to find their own dream and make it real. It can be done.

So, go do it.

Owning It

Recently, I have had a few opportunities to tell some interested people – real life, clever, mostly bookish people – about the fact that my debut novel is being published next month in the U.S. and Canada, and in the UK and Ireland next February. These have included a friendly bookseller, who spotted a fellow children’s lit enthusiast at ten paces, and some truly lovely folk at a birthday party who couldn’t have been more enthusiastic to know everything about the world of publishing.

But something very odd has been happening to me, every time I get a chance to publicly mention my book, my writing career, and my publication dates. I get stumble-locked.

eye-front-cover

Cover image for THE EYE OF THE NORTH (Knopf BFYR, 2017), artist Jeff Nentrup.

My tongue becomes like the paddle of an oar in my mouth. I cannot word. I forget, on the spot, what my book’s about, what my name is, how polite conversation works. I find myself saying things like ‘Oh well I know it sounds so terribly up-my-own-fundement but… yes, I’m an author,’ or apologising for the fact that I’ve got an agent and book deals either side of the Atlantic or for the fact that I dare to live and breathe at all.

I really don’t know why I do this. Is it because I’m Irish? But I know many fine Irish writers who aren’t bumbling clods when it comes to their profession. Perhaps because I’m a woman? But then, similarly, many of the writers I know are also women and can own their space with confidence. Maybe it’s just because I am me, and I’m not yet published, and it all seems so nebulous, and – frankly – the reality of this whole thing is a little terrifying, and I’ve never really been good at talking about myself unless I’m making fun of my own existence anyway.

But I come away from each encounter feeling defeated, like I have insulted the other person’s interest in me by basically saying ‘Oh, haha, why would you be bothered with me? Not at all, there are other people who are loads better and it’s not that much of an achievement, what I’ve done, blah-di-blah…’

But that’s a bit silly, isn’t it? Yes. Yes, it is.

I’ve always been better with the written word. Me and speaking can turn into somewhat of a mess, unless I am (for whatever reason) feeling totally in charge of my material.

So here’s the thing.

Thanks so much to everyone I’ve spoken to over the last few days who cared enough to ask about the book.

Yes, it’s a children’s book. But you know what? They’re harder to get right than almost any other kind of book.

It sure is cool that I got a pair of two-book deals, my friend. Yes, it sure is.

And of course it doesn’t sound pretentious to talk about having agents, editors and publishers. Nobody else gets in a muddle talking about their managers, do they? Well, then.

Now. That’s sorted. If you see me in the flesh and I babble at you in a self-effacing way, I apologise in advance and direct you back to this blog post. Meanwhile I will do my best to ‘own it’ (girlfriend, werq, hip-popping and all), and stop being such a nincompoop. Success, as ever, is far from guaranteed.

 

T-Minus One Month!

Dears…

It’s the twenty-second of July today, which means – well, nothing special, you might think. (Unless it’s your birthday, in which case – whoop! Happy day!) It’s a Saturday; here in my little patch of Ireland the weather is a battle between sun and cloud, and the sky outside my window right now is a bit like the opening montage of the Simpsons, only without the chaos.

It’s a nice day. It’s an ordinary day. And this day next month – the twenty-second of August – my first book will be published in the United States and Canada by Knopf Books for Young Readers.

eye-front-cover

Cover image for THE EYE OF THE NORTH (Knopf BFYR, 2017), artist Jeff Nentrup.

If you’ll excuse me for a moment – I’ll just be over here, breathing into a paper bag.

.

.

.

Right. Back to it!

My US/Canadian publishers are the same people, incidentally, who publish Philip Pullman in the US, and the same people who publish Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. Sometimes I remember that and I feel a bit sick. Not, of course, that I’m comparing myself to these stellar writers for one hot second – but it is such a dream to have even that tiny thing in common with two people I admire so much. It’s quite a feeling, akin to base-jumping, I’d imagine, only not nearly so dangerous.

Can I admit to something, though? Just between us. At times, much as I hate to admit it, I have to deal with something rather nasty, and that thing is: comparing myself unfavourably to others. My path to publication (which I’m still on, I hurry to point out) has been long and bumpy and winding and filled with false starts and dead ends and switchbacks and disappointments, like most people’s, but there are always those rare few whose debut book deal is announced in a huge fanfare, attracting masses of attention and a six-figure advance, and whose journey seems somehow to be smoother and less fraught than yours. There are authors who seem to be living in a perpetual bubble of sunshine, travelling the world and giving interviews in which they reveal themselves to be not only brilliant writers but also genuinely lovely people, whose books sound like infinitely better versions of yours, and whose reviews are – by and large – glowing.

I am not one of those authors.

I didn’t earn a gigantic book deal. My debut was announced to no fanfare, besides that created within my family. My book is one of thousands, just as likely to sink as it is to swim. I haven’t done any travelling. I have attracted some wonderful reviews, but also many which are negative – and I’m grateful for each and every one. I spend most days trying to carve out a few moments to work while also trying my best to be an attentive, loving parent. It’s not easy, and I don’t always succeed. My real life isn’t like the polished version of success that some authors seem to project – but it’s the words ‘seem to’ that are important here.

Every author has started the same way. We all had an idea, and wrote it down. We all left it alone for a while, puzzling over it, until going back over it with a critical eye. We all mustered up the courage to send it to industry professionals for an evisceration consideration, and we all had the fortitude to wait. (Writing is about waiting almost as much as it’s about putting words down on a page, after all.) We all dealt with rejection in some form and we all rode the rollercoaster of waiting for our debut to be published.

Or, as the marvellous Victoria Schwab put it:

And there you have it. It doesn’t hurt to remember that every writer faces the same track, and that nobody knows what another person is dealing with behind the scenes. None of us have a ‘secret’, and everyone’s journey is largely the same. Some seem to have it easier, but most of that is airbrushing. It does nobody any good to look sideways and compare; it helps only to focus on the ground beneath your own feet, and to stretch out your hands to help those walking beside you when you can.

So, I didn’t earn a million dollars for my first book, and some people do. It’s not a problem. My novel will sit on a shelf beside theirs, all the same.

So, I haven’t written a book which has met with universal acclaim, and some people have. It’s not a problem. I’ve still written a book – and somebody wanted to publish it.

So, I’m not Victoria Schwab, or Neil Gaiman, or Tomi Adeyemi, or Angie Thomas, or China Miéville, or whoever. I may never be a ‘success’, on the same level as writers like these. But I’m a person who had a dream, just as they did; I’m a person who put in the work, just like them. And this day next month my work will sit beside theirs, and my journey to that point is just as valid as anyone else’s.

If you’re just beginning the journey, take heart. It might be hard road, or it might not, but either way I look forward to seeing you at the other end. I have spent twenty-five years trying to get here, and now that there’s only a month left, I wish I’d savoured my trip a bit more instead of wishing I was following someone else’s path.

Four more weeks, people. Thank you all for being here with me. Let’s bring ‘er home.

 

 

 

 

 

Release the Author…

There’s so much dust on my blogging seat these days that I can hardly see it… Let me just blow it off, okay?

*hauls in a deep lungful*

*whuff!*

*splutters* *turns purple* *keels over in a fit of coughing*

Sorry about that. *cof* I’ll be all right in a minute. *cof*

Right. Time to clamber back aboard the hot-seat. It’s been so long since I blogged that I feel quite ashamed, but there has been a lot going on in my life, personally and professionally, which I won’t bore you with. Suffice it to say, I’ve been with you all in spirit and you’ve never been far from my thoughts, but actually finding the time to be here proved a bit of a logistical impossibility.

Anyway. Basically, I’m here today on a flying visit to tell you about something very terrifying cool.

Ready? Here we go.

This year’s lineup for the Children’s Books Ireland conference has just been announced, and – to my flabbergasted delight – I’m on it. Part of the conference is devoted to New Voices, and that’ll be the panel I’ll appear on, along with several other brand-new fledgling authors, to do readings from our work and let the world of children’s books in Ireland (and further afield) see our shiny little faces and meet our (hopefully not too terrified) selves. With any luck, I’ll be able to reveal the cover of the UK edition of THE EYE OF THE NORTH at the conference too, which will be excellent fun.

I am of course completely over the moon about all of this and any visible signs of utter terror are entirely coincidental. Right? Right.

The CBI Conference, for those who don’t know, is a marvellous gathering of kidlit-folk, booksellers and authors and illustrators and teachers and librarians and enthusiasts alike, who get together once a year to touch base and find out what’s been going on in the field (and, if I’m being honest, to fangirl/boy, squee a lot and do some serious hugging, which is always nice). I try to attend whenever I can, though I’ve been spotty the last few years (hello, parenthood), and I was very pleased to be asked to actually take part this year. It’s a welcoming, warm and very fun event – or, at least it is when other people are on the podium – so I’m hoping this year will be no different. (Particularly during my slot. Don’t worry – it’ll be brief.)

So. If you’re around Dublin at the end of September and you fancy immersing yourself in the neverending joy to be found in children’s literature, why not come along? You can purchase tickets, and/or membership of Children’s Books Ireland, HERE, and it would certainly be spiffing to see you.

Until next time, my wordy friends, read well and be happy.

eye-front-cover

Cover image for THE EYE OF THE NORTH (Knopf BFYR, 2017), artist Jeff Nentrup.

 

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today…

Last night on Twitter, someone posted a wonderful question. It was this:

Twenty years ago (for that, horrifyingly, is how long ago 1997 is), I was about to leave school. I wasn’t the happiest of people, despite hindsight telling me, now, that I had far more going for me than I realised at the time. I was facing huge stress, and I was rather unhappy, and I had no real or proper idea what my life was going to be like, or how I was going to manage any of it.

In short, I was just like every other person in my school year. Each one of us faced exactly the same challenges and choices, looking down the same corridors of possibility and frozen in the terror of not knowing which was the right choice.

Now, of course, I know there is no right choice. There are just choices. Each of them bring you somewhere new, and every new place has its challenges. But if a person of the age I am now had attempted to tell school-leaving me this nugget of wisdom, I would have rolled my teenage eyes and completely ignored it, because of course I would.

The question on Twitter, however, really made me think. There are approximately ten million things I’d love to tell the ‘me’ of late April/early May 1997, not least of which is ‘you’ll get your heart broken in a few years, so badly that you think you’ll die – but you won’t,’ and ‘doing English at university is most definitely not a waste of time, no matter what anyone says.’ I plumped in the end for telling myself not to worry so much, which is a perennial piece of advice, but now I’m wondering if I’d be better off saying: ‘In twenty years, you’ll have achieved every single thing you wanted, and that’s great. But – and here’s the kicker – none of it will be as you expected.

None of it will be as you expected.

I wonder if I’d left school with the conviction that I wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer or a sea-captain, how things would be different. Instead, I left school with a nebulous headful of dreams, ideas of an artist’s life without any proper plan to make any of it real, and I settled into a series of unsatisfactory jobs – not that there was anything wrong with the jobs, as such; it was me who was at fault. I struggled for so many years to find out the things which made me real, which gave me purpose, and then I struggled for many years more to find the courage to follow the plans I finally made.

I wish, twenty years ago, someone I trusted had told me: trust yourself. Those things you feel awkward about, or which you’ve been made to feel are wrong, or which you’ve been encouraged to ignore? They’re all okay. They’re more than okay – they’re you. And one day, they’ll lead to you do a doctorate in a subject you adore, and a few years after that they’ll see you get an email with the subject line ‘You WILL be a published author!!’

(Not that I’d have really known what an email was in 1997, but let’s just go with it.)

That’s not to say that life is exactly as I want it, even now. I suppose that’s humanity, isn’t it? Stasis is death, or whatever. Yes, I have achieved everything I wanted to do, and if I were to turn around right now and meet the Reaper standing behind me, at least I could fall beneath his scythe and feel like I’d done something meaningful with the time I’d been given.

But there’s always more to be done. There are always more mountains to conquer. There is always going to be that little itch around your soul, the one which makes you wonder: ‘is this it? Could there be more?’

And so, me of 1997, this is what I want you to know: there is always more. Everything you do is a step in the right direction. You will never stop trying. There are no wrong choices. And, sometimes, dreams – even when they come true – aren’t what you expected, so you’ve got to keep dreaming them anew. Striving for your own happiness is not a mortal sin. (Also, music will never be better than it is right now.)

And that heartbreak really doesn’t kill you. Trust me on that one.