Tag Archives: The Eye of the North

In the Tiger’s EYE!

This past Christmas, the baby got a lot of books as presents. I mean – a lot. This was a good thing, because my husband and I (obviously) love books, and we love reading to the baby, and it was great to see what stories our friends and family wanted to share with our beloved little person.

One book in particular soon marked itself out as a firm favourite, and it has retained that coveted status over the past few months. It is the marvellous I Love You More and More, by Nicky Benson, with amazing illustrations by Jonny Lambert.

One day, as I read this book with my child, I looked at the publisher’s details. Hmm, I thought. Little Tiger Press. I hadn’t heard of them before, but the book had given us so much joy and was so beautifully produced that, in a quiet moment, I looked up Little Tiger’s website. To my delight, I found that they also published Middle Grade and YA books under their Stripes imprint, and I spent some time checking out their backlist.

Wouldn’t it be brilliant, I thought, if I could one day get a book deal with a great little press like this.

Well. Fast forward a bit.

The Eye of the North had been out on submission with UK publishers for quite some time, and I had long given up hope it would find a home. It’s hard, dealing with rejection behind the scenes; I completely understand it’s part of the job, and that every single person whose book is on a shelf knows what it feels like, but that doesn’t make going through it any easier. Plus, I kept reminding myself that I had a deal to publish not one but (gasp!) two books in North America, and that was head-spinny enough for me. I won’t get to see The Eye of the North on Irish shelves, I told myself. But there’ll be time for that with future books.

And then.

And then.

It was a day, much like any other. My husband happened to be working from home. The baby was doing the usual stuff babies do, most of which is loud and/or dangerous. And, in the middle of it all, there was a telephone call for me.

(I don’t like the telephone, I should say at this point. It makes me anxious. But that’s a story for another day.)

I took the phone from my husband. It was my agent, Polly, who said: ‘are you ready for some good news?’

I think I responded with ‘Um?’

‘You have a UK book deal!’ she said, in delight.

To my absolute joy, the deal wasn’t just any old deal – it was an offer to publish from Stripes, the aforementioned imprint of Little Tiger Press, who look after the MG side of things. I was dumbfounded. My mind went straight back to the baby’s favourite book, and how much we all loved it, and how I’d joked with myself that they’d be a great home for me.

And now – I can announce! I’m so full of joy! – they are the UK/Irish/Commonwealth home for my debut novel, The Eye of the North!

I’ll keep you all up to date with things like cover reveals, release dates and any other news, but until then I hope you’ll all join me in shouting a huge RAWWWR of Tiger-y joy. I’m delighted to be joining the Stripes family and I can’t wait to take the next step into this new, uncharted and utterly thrilling territory. Thank you to everyone at Little Tiger/Stripes for their enthusiasm and faith in me and my book.

And now I’m off! Book 2 won’t write itself, you know. *wipes brow*

 

Books Within Books

When I was at university, a hundred million years ago, there was a lot of talk about ‘intertextuality’ on my English courses – the idea that, essentially, every text which exists carries within it the influences of a great many other texts, whether deliberately or not, and that the reader also brings their own experiences of other texts to their reading of everything they encounter. It’s a fascinating idea and I whiled away many hours daydreaming – I mean, doing intense research – on the topic.

The Eye of the North, while most definitely being a book which sprang from my head, is no exception to this idea of intertextuality. The seeds which eventually brought it to fruition were sown over many years, and the basic outline of the tale began over fifteen years ago. It’s silly to think that the books I’ve read – of which there have been many – played no part in the shaping of the book I would eventually write; I have long been fascinated, too, by the polar regions and their history. There are a few books, however, which I could point to as having had a direct impact on my writing of The Eye of the North, and here they are.

1. The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean (OUP Children’s, 2005)

I love a great many books, and there are few I love more than this one. The spine of my copy is creased like an old boot, such are the rigours I have put it to over the years. I read it in my twenties, long after I had first come up with the basics of The Eye of the North, but the reading of this book has definitely helped to flesh out my own mental idea of what the polar regions might be like – despite the fact, of course, that The White Darkness is about Antarctica, and not the Arctic. It tells the story of Sym, a girl who is taken on a trip to the South Pole by her strange uncle, a man who has definite nefarious intentions, and her struggle to survive there when things go pear-shaped – but what I love about this book more than anything is Sym’s unwavering devotion to Captain Lawrence ‘Titus’ Oates, who was one of the brave men on Scott’s expedition to the South Pole in 1912. It is he who uttered the fateful words ‘I am just going outside; I may be some time’, as he sacrificed his own life in an ultimately fruitless attempt to save those of his comrades, and it is he who accompanies Sym, inside her mind, as she navigates her daily life. The book begins with her declaring her love for Captain Oates, despite the fact that he has been dead for over ninety years, and I am never left unmoved by the very real relationship between them, even though Sym knows, on some level, that the Captain Oates in her head is merely her own imagination and not the real man himself.

But then, how does he tell her things she wouldn’t have known any other way?

This book is a wonder. I heartily recommend it, as I do most things that Geraldine McCaughrean has written.

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Cover of ‘The White Darkness’, OUP Children’s Books, 2005

2. The Ice Museum: In Search of the Lost Land of Thule by Joanna Kavenna (Viking Books, 2005)

This is a travelogue, of sorts, as well as an exploration of myth and legend surrounding the North of the world, most particularly the idea of ‘Thule’, long thought to be the most northerly outpost in existence. Mentioned in texts going back centuries, it nevertheless proved impossible to pin down exactly where Thule was; some thought it was the Orkneys or the Shetland Islands; others Iceland; others Greenland, or Estonia, or a variety of places dotted around the northern regions of our planet. Some thought it was entirely made up. Kavenna, in her book, takes us through the whole Arctic region, exploring not only the landscape around her but also her own mind and heart as she searches for the mystical lost land. It’s a love letter to the Arctic, which deepened my own passion for it, and it ticked all my boxes: maps, medievalish stuff, myths, legends, ice, and exploration. It’s been years since I revisited The Ice Museum, and it’s high time I went back.

3. The Cruellest Miles, Gay and Laney Salisbury (Bloomsbury, 2004)

Years ago, I worked in a bookshop, and when things were quiet I used to while away my time by cleaning and sorting the stock. In our World History section, a slim volume with a navy spine kept catching my eye. One payday, I walked straight over to it and bought it, and I read it in one sitting, gripped by the story it told. It’s the story of Nome, an isolated town in Alaska, which was ravaged by a diphtheria outbreak in 1925, when supplies of antitoxin serum had run dangerously low. Children were dying, and unless more antitoxin serum could be brought in, an epidemic would begin to rage. Nome, at that time, was more or less unreachable for months on end, and the only way to get the serum to the town was to use a chain of dogsled teams, who battled heroically through the worst conditions imaginable to rescue the children and people of Nome. I named a character in The Eye of the North after Balto, one of the dogs who was part of the lifesaving effort, and I have been passionately interested in dogsledding ever since reading this book. It made me cry on a packed train, though. I warn you, in case you want to read it yourself – prepare to have your emotions put through the wringer.

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Cover of The Cruellest Miles (Gay Salisbury and Laney Salisbury, Bloomsbury, 2004)

4. The Arctic, ed. Elizabeth Kolbert, Volume I of The Ends of the Earth: An Anthology of the Finest Writing on the Arctic and the Antarctic, eds. Elizabeth Kolbert and Francis Spufford, (Granta Books, 2007)

I will admit I haven’t read all of this, as it’s an anthology of writing designed to be dipped into, but its introduction is a great statement on climate change and the danger of global warming, particularly the damage it’s doing to the polar regions. The pieces in this anthology are varied both in style and emphasis, and it’s a great wide-ranging look at the idea of the Arctic as a place, as a challenge, and as an idea.

So, there you have it. Every book I’ve read has, no doubt, left its traces on my mind and imagination and I’m sure there are many more books than these which I could point to as being part of the culture that went into the creation of The Eye of the North. It’s interesting to trace the journeys that the books you love take you on, though, both internal and external; certainly, without my love of books – and the fact that I was encouraged to read from an early age – I wouldn’t have cultivated the mindset to write one of my own. It’s great to feel that my own small contribution might sit among these books one day, and might even spur someone else on in their love of the yawning ice-fields of the far north – so long as you beware what you might find living deep in the ancient glacier…

 

 

 

…And A Happy New Year

So.

2016 is nearly over (maybe we should bury it at a crossroads with a stake through its heart, though, just in case) and a new year beckons. It’s been an incredibly hard year for some of us; the world has changed, fast, from being a place which felt stable and safe-ish into a tilting, unknowable reality. A disconcerting reversal in world politics seems to be taking us back to a time when words like ‘law’, ‘order’ and ‘right’ develop new and twisted meanings, and the sort of doublespeak which would make Orwell break into a sweat is being used on a daily basis. Long-held associations are breaking. Peace, hard-won, and taken for granted by those who didn’t have to fight for it, is falling apart.

In short, I won’t be sad to see this year pass away.

So many of my heroes started 2016, but didn’t finish it. Each loss has laid me low. Add to that the rest of what this year has brought us – people drowning, in terror, as they attempt to flee the unbearable horror of their homelands; atrocities scarring the world; those in power sitting around and talking while people die – and it seems clear that humanity has become harder, less compassionate, more selfish, liable to gloat in its own privilege at those who suffer unimaginable oppression. Or, more accurately, this has been the case for some time, but 2016 brought it to light in all its ugliness. It’s been hard for those who suffer with mental health issues, and it’s a scary time for everyone – even, though they’d be the last to see or admit it, those who think they’re ‘right’, in the old and the terrifying new senses of the word.

But 2017 is about to dawn, and it’s a year when art and creativity and expression will be even more important than ever. It’s the year in which I will go from being a person to being a published person. It’s the year in which my voice, small and reedy as it is, will join the chorus calling for peace, the reining-in of those who seek their own goals at the expense of everyone else’s, and the protection of our natural world. It’s a year when those who write for children will find their jobs even more relevant.

So. It’s time for some resolutions.

My child is growing older now, and the mental molasses of early motherhood is behind me. Days are still long and hard; I don’t get a lot of time. But I resolve, in the coming year:

  1. To blog at least once a week, about writerly things and books I have loved and news about the release of THE EYE OF THE NORTH and – let’s hope – positive things going on in the world;
  2. To finish the book I’m currently working on, which I have plotted out but simply haven’t managed to haul beyond 23,000 words;
  3. To catch up on the blogs of those I follow, because I feel terribly out of touch;
  4. To stay positive and fight the good fight, in whatever form is necessary.

And, of course, to do my utmost to be the best person and citizen I can be.

I hope you’re all looking forward to the onset of a new year, and that 2017 will bring you all joy, peace and prosperity – and that you’ll feel equipped to share your good fortune with your fellow human beings. Let’s all be a light this year, shining in whatever way we can. Let’s read and write and sing and dance and be happy, and let’s stretch out a hand to the person beside us – or to people across the world – and bring them forward with us. Let’s fight selfishness and small-mindedness and the fear that goes with them by being open and generous and kind. Let’s share stories. Let’s celebrate our common humanity.

And let’s make like Captain von Trapp.

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Image source: zebratigerfish.blogspot.com

Cover Reveal for THE EYE OF THE NORTH!

Meeting your book’s jacket for the first time is a heady experience. People compare it to having a child, but it’s not 100% the same (and I should know…) When you meet your child, you’re bound to think it’s the most beautiful baby the world has ever known. There has never been a bonnier child. No eyes have ever been sparklier nor any nose more buttony, and so on.

But with a book jacket? Well. You have no idea how it will look (unless you’ve been heavily involved, which is unlikely); you sometimes don’t know the artist or their work, and you wonder if they’ll be able to ‘get’ your vision (if that doesn’t sound too precious). You worry that they’ll draw your heroine all wrong, or that they’ll put her in a flouncy gown when the book very clearly states she wears a studded armour-plated suit at all times, or whatever.

In my case, the artist (Jeff Nentrup, by the way – check him out, he’s aces) created a cover which was exactly like the one I wanted but which I would have had no chance of creating myself. It was precisely what I dreamed of in terms of layout, style and colouring. The lettering is amazing. It just smacks of professionalism, skill and – dare I say it? – a total cohesion of my vision and his for what the book is about. And all this, without me ever having had a conversation with, or even having met, Mr Nentrup. If he’s reading – *waves* – you’re awesome!

In short, I was blown away.

And now, without dragging this out any further, I present to you (tah-dah!) the cover for my book, The Eye of the North, which is forthcoming from Knopf Books for Young Readers in August 2017. Isn’t she a beaut?

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

Thanks to you all for still being here, for bearing with me during the last few chaotic months, and for sharing this wonderful journey. The first place I shared the seeds of Emmeline and Thing’s story was on this blog, and now here we have the cover of their very own book. Life, sometimes, is an amazing and funny thing.

I hope you like the cover! I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let me know!

It’s Aliiiiive!

Yes. Hello. I am, in case you may have been wondering, still here and still beavering away; beavering so assiduously, in fact, at so many different things, that I don’t often get time to venture into WordPress-topia, even just to see the sights. My main preoccupation, of course, is currently tootling around on the floor at my feet, chewing on something and leaving a trail of drool which is, frankly, a health hazard – but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The baby is now almost one year old (the thought is frightening. Where has the last year gone?) and I’m about to get stuck into the copy-edits for The Eye of the North, which is exciting.

Oh, and by the by, I’ve seen a draft of the cover art for the aforementioned novel. It’s glorious. I can’t wait to share it with you all.

But really I’m here today to do two things: mark the fact that it’s been four years since I started blogging – four years! – and also to jump on the coattails of my very good friend and extremely talented blogger, who goes by the name Fairweather Paddler around these parts, by answering some questions which she posed on her blog (Home Grown Heaven) as part of her recent nomination for a Liebster award.

Not, of course, that she tagged me in said Liebster award post. But why should that stop me answering her fantastic questions?

Alors. Off we go.

What drives you up the wall in people?

I hate it when people refuse to see other points of view. It’s like people are so terrified of being wrong that they can’t bear to accept the idea that other people might know better than they do about certain things. This, in my humblest opinion, is silly.

What is it that draws you to new people the most?

Meep. Well, a few things combined, probably. If they’re making interesting conversation, showing curiosity, open-mindedness and an eagerness to learn more about the world, on top of a sense of humour and an aura of kindness, then I’m suckered.

What was the biggest shock about becoming a parent?

The all-consuming terror. The terror, before your baby arrives, that something will go wrong, and the terror after they arrive that something will happen to them. I really hadn’t expected that. I’m still not used to parcelling it away, leaving it on a high shelf so that I can get on with enjoying my child’s presence, in the moment.

What one thing would you recommend to new parents?

To keep their baby close, particularly when they’re small. Not to listen to advice which says ‘put your baby in a crib/Moses basket/cot, so you can get your life back/have a cup of tea/watch the TV’ – maybe this attitude isn’t prevalent elsewhere, but when my baby was tiny it was something I encountered a lot. My instinct was to keep my baby close, in contact with me, right over my heart, and I think instinct is there for a reason. Keep your little ones close while you can, is my advice.

What’s your go-to store-cupboard-is-empty meal?

Erm. Sandwiches? I don’t know. I normally have pasta in stock at all times, and I’m always swimming in green olives (I have an addiction, don’t judge me), and I normally have either passata, or chopped tomatoes, or tomato puree, or tomato pesto – sometimes all four! – somewhere in my kitchen. So, that makes a tasty, if not very hearty, meal.

Why blog?

Why not?

To make friends. To connect with people. To feel like I’m making a contribution to the world’s store of knowledge. And to pass the time.

Best place you have travelled to and why?

Malta, which was where I honeymooned. Not necessarily because of the honeymoon aspect, but because it was spectacular, in terms of scenery and culture and language and history and just about everything. I would dearly love to return someday.

Any hidden talents?

If I had, I wouldn’t be telling you about them.

What talent do you wish you had?

Coordination. It would be nice to be able to move with grace and fluidity, instead of like an arthritic hippo. My body is a wonderland and has done many things, and it’s strong and capable and sturdy, but by God. It’d be nice to feel like I was a Cadillac instead of a Humvee, just once.

Where do you find your village?

I have excellent friends. Some of them I see a lot; others only rarely. Some of them I talk to all the time, and others I ‘speak’ to only online. But they are my people, and I couldn’t be without them.

What are you most proud of in life?

The fact that I came through the darkest months of my life after the baby was born and that I’m now out the other side, more or less, and learning every day how to be a better mother. I’m proud that I didn’t crumble when it felt like the whole world had collapsed upon me.

Oh, and I’m proud that I wrote a book, too, and that it’s being published. Have I mentioned that already?

So, there you are. Apologies once again for the irregularity of my updates. I hope this missive finds you all well, and I hope to be back soon with more news of frightfully amazing cover art… To that end, did you know you can now follow me on Instagram, too? Check me out there, where I’ll hopefully be unveiling some teasers for the book jacket as soon as I can. And, until next time, stay awesome – and keep reading.

 

 

 

 

 

*Sigh*. It’s Complicated.

You may remember this post, when I told y’all that my book, The Eye of the North, was all set for publication next February 14.

Yeah.

Well.

Y’see.

Publishing’s a complicated business. There are lots of layers to it, rather like a cake (though publishing’s probably a bit harder to eat, not that I’ve tried). Many people are making decisions, and there are hundreds of variables to take into account (some of them to do with things like ‘marketing’ and ‘sales’, which bring me out in a rash) and dates for publication get shoved around all the time.

And for that reason, the clever folk at Knopf (who know about things like markets, and sales, and all that stuff) have decided to push back the release of The Eye of the North a little, until August 22, 2017. So, it won’t be in your sweaty little mitts next spring, after all. More like next ‘fall’, to use the lovely American term. Which suits, in a way, because the book is a bit wintry, a bit of an ‘end of year’ story, and one that lends itself well to longer, darker evenings tucked in beside the fire.

That doesn’t mean I’m not sad that it’s delayed. And it doesn’t mean I’m not a little embarrassed to have to write this post. But these things do happen, and they happen to better and more established writers than me.

Anyway, it gives me more time to get everyone’s appetites whetted, and to drum up some excitement, and to come up with clever ways to keep everyone interested in my little story. This will include (all in good time) a cover reveal, and maybe a little competition or two to keep things peppy. We’ll see how it goes.

My apologies if (you’re my mother and) you were looking forward to the book being released in February – I hope the delay will make you keener, rather than the opposite. Any further updates I have will be posted here on the blog, and I want to thank everyone who was so congratulatory and kind when I announced the previous publication date. I don’t always have time these days to respond to messages – but I read them all and I’m very grateful for every one. Thank you!

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A suitably borealis-y night sky to get you all in the mood… Image: unsplash.com Photographer: Priscilla Westra

 

Fancy a Date?

Guys, guys, guys. How have you all been?

Life is insane for me at the moment. I miss this blog so much – believe me, I do – but I just never get time to sit into my comfy old blogging seat (grey with dust at this stage) and update you all on what’s happening in my life.

Well, to be fair, not a lot is actually happening, on a day-to-day basis, besides keeping myself and a baby alive, (mostly) clean, and fairly well fed, but that in itself is an achievement.

It’s not what you lot signed up for, though, is it? No. No, it is not. You signed up for hot-off-the-presses insights into the publishing industry, sizzling updates from the coalface of writing, incisive commentary on the cutthroat world of children’s literature. Right? And, finally, I have something sort of like that to share, so I’m here to tell you about it for as long as baby’s nap lasts. In other words, not long.

Onwards!

So. First things first. My little book – you may remember it, it’s called The Eye of the North – now has its own Goodreads page. How exciting! It also has its own page on Amazon.com, which is thrilling also. If you’d like to, you know, go and pre-order it or mark it as ‘to read’, I’d be… well. I’d be tongue-tied with gratitude, frankly. There’s a wonderful blurb all about it on both those fine websites, which should whet the most arid of appetites, and I’m being compared to the great Karen Foxlee, which is just… mind-boggling, and it all feels so insanely real now.

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Squee! Photo Credit: MsSaraKelly via Compfight cc

I can also reveal the date my book will (hopefully) be published – February 14th, 2017. Yes, that’s right. Valentine’s Day. All those years I sat fruitlessly by the front door of my parents’ house waiting for cards from admirers to drop through can suck it, frankly. Next Valentine’s Day, my book is going to be published.

In America and Canada. In hardcover! By Knopf/Random House Children’s Books.

(As you might have guessed from the italics, I’m rather excited).

No Valentine’s card (well, all right, excepting one from my husband and/or baby) can compare with that.

I will hopefully have a cover to share with you all very soon, and when I get the go-ahead from on high I’ll splash it all over the place… I mean, tastefully and unobtrusively draw attention to it. And after that, all I have to do is wait for the big day!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must be off. I have excited bouncing to do and a baby’s lunch to make. Ta-ta for now, but I hope there’ll be loads more exciting news very soon!