Tag Archives: new book

Roll Up, Roll Up… It’s SKYBORN!

The wonderful Gavin Hetherington (of How To Train Your Gavin fame) revealed the cover of my new book, SKYBORN, earlier today over on Twitter. I’m immensely grateful to him, and to the team at Little Tiger Press, for organising such a stylish and exciting unveiling!

For anyone who missed it, here it is… *drumroll*

The cover was designed by Sophie Bransby and drawn by Sara Mulvanny, and here’s what you can expect in its pages:

It’s rare, my friends, to come across a talent so incandescent as the one you’re about to see. You think you’ve seen performers in the air? You think you’ve seen artists on the trapeze? Prepare yourselves for skill beyond compare. Without further ado, I present to you the young man known only as… The Skyborn Boy!

The circus has seen better days, but for Bastjan it’s home. He will do anything he can to save it, even if it means participating in a death-defying new act. But when that fails to draw in the crowds, the ringmaster makes a deal with a mysterious man by the name of Dr Bauer.

In exchange for his help, Bauer wants a box that belonged to Bastjan’s mother and came from her birthplace – the faraway island of Melita. Bastjan is desperate to keep his only memento of his mother out of Bauer’s hands. And as he uncovers more about the strange objects contained within, he realizes it’s not only the circus that’s in terrible danger…

This book is coming from Little Tiger Press on June 10th, 2021, and if you’d care to pre-order it, I’m partnering with The Rocketship Bookshop in the UK and Halfway Up the Stairs bookshop in Ireland (click the shop name for a link to their website) to manage pre-orders (hopefully, we’ll have a little personalised touch to send with copies ordered through these bookshops). Other pre-order links are HERE and HERE, but of course you can also pre-order through your favourite local bookshop via phone or email, if they’re able to send books through the post/mail or offer a click and collect service (they’d be very glad of the business). Pre-orders are so welcome for new books, particularly during these sad bookshop-less days, so it would make my year if you’d pre-order your copy. I hope you’ll enjoy reading the story of Bastjan, his friends Alice, Wares, and Crake, and their perilous quest to save not only their circus, but also a mysterious young girl with incredible powers, from certain doom…

Thanks so much to Sara Mulvanny, to Sophie Bransby, to my editor Ella Whiddett and my former editor Katie Jennings, to my agent Polly Nolan at PaperCuts Literary Agency and Consultancy, and to everyone at Little Tiger Press (especially Charlie Morris) for their help in bringing this book to the world. Alley-oop! Off we go!

Publication Day for The Star-Spun Web!

I started this blog way back in 2012 – almost seven years ago – in the bright and burning hope that one day I might be a published author. It seemed like such an impossible hope, then; I felt like the odds of success were insurmountable.

But I wrote. And I kept writing. I wrote flash fiction and short stories. I entered competitions. I submitted to literary magazines. I got involved with other writers, following their journeys with interest and no small amount of terror, learning and waiting and watching as I went. I blogged about it all, and some of you have been with me right from the first word.

And today I’m writing to you on the publication of my second book.

Front cover of children's book entitled The Star-Spun Web. Text enclosed in a large stylised star; a web lies behind the star. Tangled in the web, in the top right hand corner of image shows a building, top left hand shows two planes with propellers. Bottom right hand shows two running children, bottom left a spider.
Front cover of The Star-Spun Web, art by Sara Mulvanny, designed by Sophie Bransby, published by Stripes Books February 2019.

The Star-Spun Web is released into the world today, my miraculous story which seemed to come from nowhere, emerging from my imagination just when I needed it. Thank you, little book. Writing you has been a surprising and fulfilling adventure; meeting your characters has been a unique joy. I love this book, which layers wartime Dublin on its mirror city, Hurdleford, a breath and a thought and a whole reality away, and which follows the story of brave Tess de Sousa, an orphan who knows there’s more to her – and to her lost, mysterious parents – than she has ever been told. Tess is clever and quick, resourceful and logical, self-sufficient but grateful for the help of her friends when she needs it, and she has a quiet confidence which comes from being loved and accepted by the family who has raised her. She is herself, and she inhabits every corner of herself without apology, and I am so proud of her.

Writing this book allowed me to explore new worlds, create friendships, and explore what it means to be part of a family. It has given me the chance to get to know my character of Thomas, a frightened but desperately courageous boy determined to get to the bottom of his own family mystery. It brought me to Violet, the most lovable tarantula I’ve ever ‘met’, and her counterpart Moose the mouse, who stole my heart. It gave me the freedom to imagine spinning stars, turning worlds, tunnels between realities, and the frightening possibilities such power wields. Writing this book brought me so much joy, and I hope, if you pick it up, that reading it brings that joy to you.

Thank you for all the support you’ve given me and my writing over the past seven years, and thank you for helping me to get here, to a day I dreamed of for so many years and wondered if I’d ever reach. My second book baby skips off into the world today, and I couldn’t be happier about it. It’s available in all good bookshops (including Eason’s, Waterstones, Blackwell’s, and Foyle’s, as well as via Hive) and it would make my heart sing to think of you ordering it via your own local bookshop, or perhaps wandering in and finding it on a shelf.

And if you’re wondering whether this book is for you, how’s about this for some advance reviews?

My 10yo read this in two sittings and the overall feedback was: BRILLIANT!” – Laura Danks, review from Goodreads

The Star-spun Web is such an enjoyable book. Very inventive and creative, the characters O’Hart creates almost step off the page. I loved it from first page to last and though I’m afraid of spiders I found myself loving Violet (read it, you’ll know what I mean). The Star-spun Web is a book that cultivates the joy of reading. Can’t recommend it highly enough! ” – Graham Connors, review from Goodreads

I’d love to know what you think of it… won’t you write and tell me?

Laying Foundations

So – yes. Hello. Happy Tuesday to you.

I regret to inform you that my plans for yesterday, Bank Holiday Monday (i.e. to do loads of work), didn’t really materialise as I expected.

It ended up looking a bit more like this than it should've... Image: gainesvillescene.com

It ended up looking a bit more like this than it should’ve…
Image: gainesvillescene.com

We had a lovely and unexpected visit from my parents-in-law, which basically made me relax and enjoy my day off. As a result, lots of the planning I wanted to do for my NaNoWriMo project is still undone.

This morning, however, I’m wondering whether that’s a blessing in disguise.

You might remember me saying that when I signed up for NaNoWriMo, I had a project in mind. I had a title for it, but very little else. I spent a day or two last week drawing up characters and their profiles and their relationships and family dynamics and the details of a plot, and then last Friday my brain was invaded. An entirely new story, an entirely different voice, a full-blooded, spiky and determined little character sat down inside my mind and a story started to tell itself. I scrambled for a pen and tried to follow this voice as it spoke, and three pages later it faded out. I’ve been trying to plan – all in my mind, of course – a story arc for this wondrous character ever since.

However, can too much planning, in this case, be a bad thing? Well. I’m still not sure.

It’s rare and fantastic to ‘hear’ a strain of a story, and it’s a lucky person who happens to be in the right place at the right time and whose brain is tuned in just the right way to pick up on a tale as it passes. Last Friday, I was that lucky person. I literally sat down and wrote, without even thinking, the opening few pages of a new book; I loved everything about it. I’m not saying these words are set in stone, or that they won’t change between now and the time I write ‘The End’ on this particular project, but I know it was exciting to feel so enthused and positive about a writing project. It felt fresh and spontaneous and free and unbidden, and I wonder if setting up a scaffold for the rest of it and expecting the story to fit a certain mould or conform to a particular plan, is something that will kill it stone dead.

Then, having said that, I don’t want to reach 20,000 words and hit a wall.

Image: thepunch.com.au

Image: thepunch.com.au

So, I’m trying to compromise. I’m laying foundations for this story, but they’re not solid like poured concrete, and there are no inflexible metal bits. My foundations are in my head, still – I’ll start putting them down on paper after November 1st, and we’ll see if I can keep the process as organic as possible – and they are, as yet, pretty vague. I have a main character, and I have a name for her. I have another character, and a name and basic outline for him. I have an Antagonist who has a Dastardly Plan (insert your own ‘mwahahahaha’ here), and I have a sense of the world they inhabit. Importantly, I have a handle on the voice of the story, which is different to anything I’ve done before – and, crucially, is in the third person – and I really want to keep that little voice alive, because it’s thrilling.

What I don’t have in any real sense is any idea how my protagonist is going to get from point A to point Z – as in, from the first site of conflict with her enemies to her final showdown. However, perhaps I’d do well to discover it along with her. I’m imagining a tense chase through the icy streets of Paris, a scuffle at the Gare du Nord, and a pair of stowaways bundling themselves onto a northbound train…

Anyway, stick with me through November and hopefully I’ll have plenty more updates to share with you. If you’re taking part in NaNoWriMo and you’d like to be my writing buddy (or if you just want to have a peek at my page), you can find it here.

Whatever you’re laying the foundation for today, I hope it goes well.

Image: ohs.com.au

Image: ohs.com.au

 

 

 

 

Long Time Coming

I dithered over buying a Sunday newspaper yesterday. Those Sundays when I do buy one, it normally lies, unread, until at least Thursday; the more papers we get, the longer the period of unread-ness lasts. This isn’t because the papers aren’t good, or worth reading – but, for whatever reason, there’s always something better to do than get stuck in. However, yesterday I wandered into our local shop and saw some copies of the Sunday Times lying piled on the floor. I flipped to the Culture magazine (as I am wont), and saw a face with which I was familiar, and a name which piqued my interest, and news that I had, somehow, managed to miss until that point; and so, I bought the paper.

This was the face:

Image: telegraph.co.uk

Image: telegraph.co.uk

And this was the name:

Donna Tartt

And this was the news:

Donna Tartt has written a new novel, which will be published in English on October 22nd, and it will be called ‘The Goldfinch.’

I devoured the article when I got home, quivering with annoyance at myself that such a huge event (for me) could be taking place, and that this was the first I’d heard of it. A new novel from Donna Tartt is massive news, for those who, very patiently, follow her work. She, for me, is one of those life-changing authors who demonstrates not only how good fiction writing can be, but also how an author can – with enough talent, and enough luck – have the life of an artist. For Donna Tartt is not only an author – she is that rarest of rare things, an author whose output is tectonic-slow, but who has a readership devoted to her every syllable, and whose work is treated like precious printed jewels. I imagine her life as being a long, gentle fluttering from one day to the next, golden and perfect phrases dripping from her pen, her mind ever set on higher things… Of course, I’m sure this is entirely wrong, but I like my little dream, all the same.

She reminds me of a Tamara de Lempicka painting, somehow. Image: theculturetrip.com Painting: 'Saint-Moritz', 1929

She reminds me of a Tamara de Lempicka painting, somehow.
Image: theculturetrip.com
Painting: ‘Saint-Moritz’, 1929

I am a fan not only of Tartt’s writing, but also of her approach to her writing and the skill with which she has constructed her life. Donna Tartt had a childhood comparable with any novelistic heroine, which is to say it sounds like it would make a far better plot for a novel than an actual life for a young child to live through. In the Sunday Times interview she talks about her isolation and her separation from her parents and her interest in the dark flipside of life from an early age; she discusses her familiarity with death as a result of being raised, in the main, by eccentric and elderly aunts, and the freedom that came from their ‘light touch’ guardianship. It seems no wonder that she writes so well about the fractures in the human psyche and the shadowed underbelly of the consciousness, and that isolation – that of her protagonists, but also, at a fundamental level, that of all human beings from one another – are such strong themes in her books.

Her first novel, ‘The Secret History,’ captivated me when I first read it about twelve or thirteen years ago. Even then, it was an ‘old’ book; first published in 1992, it has been a bestseller ever since. I had just finished my degree at the time I read the book, and – as it takes place in a university – I read it with a sense of recognition and familiarity. I’ve only learned recently that Tartt began the novel while a student herself, which is unsurprising on one level and also, frankly, terrifying on another; I am amazed that a 19-year-old woman could have an idea so riveting, and then go on to write a book so good, as ‘The Secret History.’ It captured my mind completely at the time, as the first book I’d read ‘for pleasure’ in many years. I didn’t have long to wait for her next book, ‘The Little Friend,’ because it was published shortly after I first became aware of her work, and so the wait for this third novel has been interminable. I wondered for a long time if she was ever going to write another novel – in some ways, Tartt reminds me of that other great literary magician, Harper Lee, whose sole novel remains an unassailable masterpiece.

Perhaps it’s a mindset common to those in the southern states of America – don’t write too many books, but make them all works of genius.

In any case, I’m looking forward to, eventually, getting my hands on ‘The Goldfinch.’ It’s good to know that there are some constants in this world – death, taxes and the inevitable brilliance of Donna Tartt.

It’s also nice to have an author to whose lifestyle one can aspire; sadly, her ability far outstrips my own, but a gal can dream!