New book announcement!

You might have spotted this on my Twitter yesterday, but just in case:

I have a new book coming out!

THE OPPOSITE OF YOU, a YA thriller will be published by Stripes in April 2017.

It’s a standalone (as opposed to, say, a sequel to SLEEPLESS, and it isn’t part of the Red Eye universe. However, there might be places where the two worlds touch, so if you pay attention when you read it you may well spot a familiar face or two…) and I’m really excited to be working with Stripes again.


There’s not much more information than that for now, as it’s still a little way off – although here’s an idea of what it’s about to whet your appetite:


Bex and her identical twin sister Naomi used to be close. They used to be able to finish each other’s sentences, used to know exactly what the other was thinking. They were a matching pair.

And then something changed.

But Bex didn’t even realise until it was too late. When Naomi walks out of the house the night before their last GCSE exam and doesn’t come back, Bex has to think hard about how to find her.

What happens next will force Bex to unpick their shared history and the memories, following Naomi’s trail through their family, their past and all the way to the blinding lights of the Hemisphere music festival. Everything she thought she knew is called into question.

With her worries dismissed by their parents and ignored by her friends (and with Naomi’s friends nowhere to be found) the only person Bex can trust is a stranger – Josh – as she tries to piece together a picture of the person she thought she shared everything with. Naomi’s been leading another life, one Bex doesn’t recognize… and it’s led her straight into the path of Max: someone else who is not what they appear.

As Bex chases Naomi, she realizes it isn’t just whether she can find her twin: it’s whether she knows her at all.

And whether she still wants to.


I’ll be updating details on The Opposite of You page in the ‘BOOKS‘ tab on the main page, so keep your eyes peeled!


I’ve Got a Theory: musical theatre and writing



You could argue that one of the reasons I’ve neglected the blog so long is because I fell down the “Hamilton Heavy Rotation” hole. Yes, that’s a thing. “Guns and Ships” on my headphones, over and over and over. However, I’m also pretty certain that repeat listening to two of the cleverest musicals out there – in the shape of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s HAMILTON, and Tim Minchin & Dennis Kelly’s MATILDA – has given me some new ideas about writing fiction. (And this, kids, is why musical theatre is dangerous. It Makes People Think.)

I’m not going to be exhaustive, partly because I’m not clever enough and partly because I don’t want to get bogged down in the specifics of each musical – I’ll either spoil them for you or you already know what I’m talking about. And if you don’t know anything about either musical (or have no interest in either) then I’m sorry but you’re probably going to come out of this hating me because I am very musical theatre people. Regardless, I’m going to stick with the two big points I think I’ve found and which I know stand up for me, at least.

The basics: HAMILTON is the unlikely smash inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography of American founding father, Alexander Hamilton. Written, scored & led by Lin-Manuel Miranda, its musical numbers are mostly pop, rap and R&B and its Broadway cast of BAME actors is tremendous. It’s a juggernaut. It’s wonderful – I promise.

MATILDA is, of course, the musical developed by the RSC based on Roald Dahl’s novel – especially notable for the fact its songs & lyrics are by Tim Minchin (which means any actors brave enough to audition for the formidable role of Miss Trunchbull are required to demonstrate absolute precision in their vocal performances).

The most obvious link between these two and writing fiction is that both involve storytellers or writers. Hamilton is concerned with writing his own narrative and that of his new nation; creating a legacy that will outlive him. Words are his weapons and they are both his making and his undoing. It’s also, as my friend Louie Stowell pointed out in a conversation we had, very clearly a musical by a writer – that is, somebody embedded in the specific process of writing, rather than composing. (There’s more to unpack here, but again… not clever enough and I’ll just tie myself up in knots in the process.)

Meanwhile, stories and books are so deeply threaded through MATILDA that you can’t unpick them – however, an important addition to the musical  from the book is a subplot in which Matilda tells a story about an escapologist and an acrobat to her friendly local librarian [shout-out to librarians here] and in the process uncovers the life stories of Miss Honey and Miss Trunchbull.

With me so far, maggots?

74388Jolly good.

There’s definitely enough material for a couple of serious and learned academic essays looking at the way stories are used in the narratives of these musicals (just as Hamilton is obsessed with framing his own story, so Matilda says the stories she tells just come to her: “… these stories delivered to me ready-written” [Quiet] and yet somehow they turn out to be true) that’s another blog post or twelve.

What’s struck me about both Matilda and Hamilton is that both contain lessons for fiction writers.

The first one is theme – or rather, layers of themes. Listen carefully to the cast recording of HAMILTON. Then listen to it again, specifically for repetition. Once you start hearing it, it’s everywhere: a musical phrase dropped in, a line from a song repeated with a different inflection or by a different character. (Because the ensemble pieces can be incredibly dense – in a good way – it’s easiest to pick up in Angelica & Eliza’s parts, their voices and personalities threading through the whole narrative.) It’s used to particularly poignant effect in Hamilton’s last song, too.

Miranda has specifically referred to another musicalLES MISERABLES as having been influential in this, but it’s a technique that easily transfers to fiction. Repeated phrases, images, foreshadowing, callbacks – not just in plot but in character. Think about the way a film score often assigns a musical phrase or theme to a major character, and finds ways to bring the individual themes together in harmony. So does HAMILTON, layering musical phrases and lyrics together to create new patterns with every new interaction.

Yes, it sounds like I’ve lost my mind. I know. Bear with me.

If you take this idea and apply it to fiction, you’re already losing one of the major components: music. However, the same principle still applies. It’s about the words, the phrases, the repetition (both foreshadowing and calling back); even the movements and facial expressions of a character. The pauses. The gaps in what they say. The words associated with them, the mood they create. If each character has their own colour thread in the tapestry – just as HAMILTON’s Angelica Schuyler has “Satisfied”, for example – then it weaves through the whole cloth, sometimes visible, sometimes not… but always identifiable.

Lin-Manuel Miranda might be is a bit of a genius.


Then there’s the other thing.


I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen and heard author friends complain about their “crutch phrases” during the editing process. We all have them: usually, they’re verbs like “looked” or “turned” or “reached for”. I’m particularly guilty of people grinning and frowning. There’s a lot of grinning and frowning, often done by the same person at opposite ends of a sentence.



Being in one of my books is AN EMOTIONAL JOURNEY. Often in several directions, all at once.

Everyone falls back on crutch phrases – whether we’re writing or not. They’re the deeper grooves worn in our brain; the easy grab when we need to explain something. We’re all human; we all do it. And we know it.

Do me a quick favour: have a quick listen to “The Smell of Rebellion” from MATILDA.

Go on.

I’ll wait.


Not only is that quite possibly the most Tim Minchin-y Tim Minchin song (see where the “precision” thing comes in?) but the range of vocabulary is astonishing. Alright, so some of it would be a bit… iffy in the middle of a sentence: “Charlie caught a whiff of the odour of toast” might be a stretch – the rule about singing in musicals is, after all, that characters reach a level of emotion which cannot be contained by mere speech (or a glass case) leaving them no choice but to break into song – but you listen to that and tell me you honestly can’t think of another word for “looked”.

There’s a lot more to be said, I think, in terms of lessons fiction writers can learn from musicals – but I also think there’s very little worse than someone standing there with their hands on their hips and their glasses halfway down their nose, declaiming their writing tips to live by. All I’m saying is that it’s very easy to give into the temptation to put “fiction” in one box and “musical theatre” (as an example) in another, and never think to look elsewhere for tools we can use. Writing is stealing borrowing, so borrow from everywhere, if there’s something that sets your mind and soul alight. Cross-pollination is what art is about, and it makes us all richer.

Maybe you’ve read this and thought “Well, duh…” because all this was desperately obvious to you already. In that case, awesome, wow; you’re ahead of me, so good on you. But to me, this clicking into place was a revelation (not a revolution) and I’m hoping I can hang onto it.

Maybe it’s all just bunnies after all – but who knows: maybe musical theatre might even make me a better writer?

I could certainly drink to that.


A Year in Books (2015 edition)

At the start of the year, I found this beautiful, huge, suede-covered notebook on sale when I was wandering through central Bath. It was too lovely to leave… and too lovely to use for just any old thing. So it became my book journal: all it contains is a list of books.

But to my surprise, looking back over the list, the names have triggered memories of my year: reading Elena Ferrante on Ischia. My heart breaking over and over as I read “H is for Hawk” in front of the fire. Reading about surfers in Cornwall on a beach full of surfers just round the bay from St Ives.

Somehow, my book journal has become my journal.

So, instead of the traditional “Here’s how my year went…” post, here are the books I read in 2015.* I’m not passing judgement on any of them; they’re presented in chronological order. But it’s fair to say that looking at the list, I’ve read some wonderful books over the past 12 months…


  1. The Taxidermist’s Daughter: Kate Mosse
  2. Spoiled Brats: Simon Rich
  3. We are All Completely Beside Ourselves: Karen Joy Fowler
  4. H is for Hawk: Helen Macdonald
  5. The Dolls: Kiki Sullivan
  6. The Opposite of Loneliness: Marina Keegan
  7. Phoenix Rising: Bryony Pearce
  8. Wolf Hall: Hilary Mantel
  9. Life – An Exploded Diagram: Mal Peet
  10. Possession: AS Byatt (r)
  11. The Old Ways: Robert Macfarlane
  12. The Little Stranger: Sarah Waters
  13. Etta & Otto & Russell & James: Emma Hooper
  14. Murder Most Unladylike: Robin Stevens
  15. Us: David Nicholls
  16. England, England: Julian Barnes
  17. Chop, Chop: Simon Wroe
  18. The World Beyond Your Head – How to Flourish in an Age of Distraction: Matthew Crawford
  19. The Sin Eater’s Daughter: Melinda Salisbury
  20. Fearney: James Long
  21. Poldark – Ross Poldark: Winston Graham
  22. Anna & the French Kiss: Stephanie Perkins
  23. All the Light We Cannot See: Anthony Doerr
  24. I’ll Give You the Sun: Jandy Nelson
  25. The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow: Katherine Woodfine
  26. Remix: Non Pratt
  27. Pompidou Posse: Sarah Lotz
  28. The Dead House: Dawn Kurtagich
  29. My Brilliant Friend: Elena Ferrante
  30. The Line of Beauty: Alan Hollinghurst
  31. Curtain Call: Anthony Quinn
  32. The Talented Mr Ripley: Patricia Highsmith
  33. Yes Please: Amy Poehler
  34. In the Light of What We Know: Zia Haider Rahman
  35. A Month in the Country: JL Carr
  36. A Place of Greater Safety: Hilary Mantel
  37. Blue: Lisa Glass
  38. The Year of Reading Dangerously: Andy Miller
  39. The Paradox: Charlie Fletcher
  40. The Buried Giant: Kazuo Ishiguro
  41. Ghostwritten: David Mitchell
  42. ZOM-B Fugitive: Darren Shan
  43. The Hunted: Charlie Higson
  44. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell: Susanna Clarke (r)
  45. Carry On: Rainbow Rowell
  46. The Magicians: Lev Grossman
  47. Spectacles: Sue Perkins
  48. Master & Commander: Patrick O’Brian
  49. The Loney: Andrew Michael Hurley
  50. The Story of a New Name: Elena Ferrante
  51. My True Love Gave to Me: ed. Stephanie Perkins (r)
  52. Landmarks: Robert Macfarlane
  53. The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: Hilary Mantel
  54. A God in Ruins: Kate Atkinson


Happy New Year, and may your 2016 bring you all the wisdom and words you could wish for.


*A couple of provisos: there’s a few proofs I’ve read which I haven’t included, and I don’t include anything I read for the Bath Novel Award long & short lists. Books marked with an (r) are books I re-read.

Strange Days (or why Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell deserved better than we gave it)

We’re only just past the solstice, and yet the internet is already awash with “Best of 2015” posts, listicles (Christ) and countdowns. And as I am an easily-herded nerf, I thought I might as well get in on the act – but with one slight difference. I’m not going to talk about the 10 Best Things I Watched (one of those would almost certainly start a fight. I’ve already come to near blows with one friend about it, and I can probably do without setting myself up for a scuffle with the entire online world…). I’m going to talk about the one thing that really stuck, and to suggest that – if you haven’t already – you give it a look.

Yes, I’m going to bang on about the TV adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR NORRELL.

Sorry, but as I’m the one with the metaphorical microphone here and it’s my name on the url… my rules.

To come entirely clean: when this was announced, I was… shall we say, cautious? It’s my favourite book. I remember buying the book when it came out (on the day it came out, if memory serves. In Waterstones on Gower Street. What an oddly specific thing to remember) and loving it – but I also remember that it took me months to get through, partly because I was afraid if I fell asleep reading in bed at night, the hardback would fall on my face and break my nose.

I mean, I’ve not got a great nose, but I’m kind of used to it by now.

To summarise: it’s a big book.

And it’s not just big, it’s dense. It’s a whole world, intricately bound up in real and borrowed history and its own mythology… and its footnotes.*

How the hell do you turn that into a television series?

I dodged all the promo I could: the interviews, the trailers, the production stills. Everything. I think I saw one teaser for it and then shut my eyes and stuck my fingers in my metaphorical ears and sat there shouting “LalalalalaI’mnotlisteningIcan’thearyoulalalala” until the first episode.


I say again: whooof.


Somehow, writer Peter Harness managed to take this enormous, complicated, footnote-heavy** beast of a thing and unspool it, line by line. Somehow (and I can only assume this was by Actual Magic) he gave us a story which felt like being inside the novel to watch – even with the cuts and shuffles and conflations that have to happen in the process of an adaptation.

The experience was the same, even without the pineapples or Jonathan Strange’s hallucinated candles-inside-heads (which you’ll just have to read the book to understand. But when you do, know those candles are the most perfect depiction of living with manic depression I have ever come across.) It looked wonderful, too: the fairy ballroom at Lost Hope was as desperate and menacing as anyone could have hoped, and Hurtfew Abbey’s library was the library I’d always dreamed of.

Could anyone have made Vinculus as wild and as wily as Paul Kaye did? Would Childermass have been a more businesslike man-of-business, bound more tightly to his cards than to his master, in the hands of someone other than Enzo Cilenti (whose Yorkshire-ninja eyerolling was an utter, utter joy)? Doubtful.

Lord & Lady Pole, Lascelles, Drawlight, Arabella, Wellington, Stephen, Major Grant (a character drastically different from his novel-self… and yet somehow still *right*) – all felt as though they had simply strolled off the page, complete in themselves. How much work must that have taken, somewhere in the background, to make it look so easy?

Then, to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Where do you even start? Perhaps by noting that Mr Norrell seemed a lot… nicer, in his own way (sympathetic, perhaps? Although he still had his moments…) than book-Norrell***. But in the hands of Eddie Marsan, his journey from the solitary last magician in England to the wild-wigged Norrell of the final episode was a joy. The same was even more true of Bertie Carvel’s Jonathan Strange, who became – through war and loss and madness and magic – who he was always capable of being. I’ve always had a lot of time for the Strange of the novel, and so he was the one I was most nervous about. And yet… this Strange? What a Strange he was. I could go on about him, and how right he was, for days, but I shan’t. Ask me sometime over a drink.

This tremendous, sprawlingly neat (neatly sprawling?) adaptation deserved better than it got. I’ve seen a handful of award nominations, particularly in design and effects categories – and there’s another thing. It wasn’t awash with effects, but when they were there, they were good. Really good – but it should have found a wider audience. Was it because there was magic (and therefore must be one of those “fantasy things” – insert a Childermassian eye-roll here)? Was it because it was period (and therefore must involve Mr Darcy-alikes sitting around discussing a maiden aunt’s health and copious subtext)? Was it because it built, rather like the novel, enveloping you and wrapping its raven-winged world around you?

Maybe the scheduling had something to do with it: it ran through the late spring, despite feeling like it really should be something to watch in the winter, when the wind was howling outside and the rain was lashing against the windows****. I can only assume it ended up where it did so that the episode featuring (an absolutely immense take on) the Battle of Waterloo ran the same week as the anniversary of the battle itself – which is a lovely nod to the history, true, but perhaps served the endeavour a little less well.

Whatever the reason, it feels like JSAMN should have had more. More coverage, more viewers, more love. It certainly earned it. It felt like it was a labour of love – the feeling that is stitched into certain books and films and shows; a feeling that can’t be faked. I wish that had been better repaid – or perhaps I should say, more widely repaid, because as far as I can see, the people like me who loved it really loved it.

So, I’ll hang my fangirl hat back on the peg for now – as I say, ask me about everything this adaptation did right sometime, and make sure you’ve not got anywhere to be for a while. In the meantime, in this endless, grey, wind and rain-lashed winter, do yourself a favour: whether you’ve read the book or not (and I can’t urge you strongly enough to do that, if you haven’t) find the box set of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, either on DVD or Blu-Ray or from the BBC Store or wherever else you buy your media. Turn off your phone. Draw the curtains and light a candle… and watch.

And I’ll see you on the other side of the rain.




*It seems pretty apt to include footnotes on a JSAMN post, so here’s something I discovered when I was re-reading the novel on a never-ending train journey through Yorkshire this autumn: if you want to find the women in the novel, look for them in the footnotes and they’re everywhere. Women as magicians, women as pupils of the Raven King himself. Women of importance; women who matter. Because, for the most part, where do women throughout history end up? In the footnotes.

** So. Many. Footnotes.

*** I suspect the hand of the author: in this case, Peter Harness. I rather wonder if he doesn’t have a soft spot for Mr Norrell and his books. Don’t we all?


****Rather like today, come to think of it

All he wants for Christmas is you

I was trying to think of something to put up on here ahead of Christmas. I’ve had an idea for a Christmas horror(ish) story knocking around in my head for about four years now, and one year I’m going to actually think about it in enough time (for which read: in about June) and write the wretched thing. But alas, not this year.

So instead, I thought I’d do something else – partly inspired by this:

If you’ve read either of the Blood and Feathers books, which are my (technically) non-YA books, you might remember that I like to write to music, and to fit songs to specific characters or sections of the story – and this version of that song made something in my head go “click” in a good way.

I don’t have a Christmas story for you, but I thought… how about the first draft of what was originally intended to be the prologue to a third Blood & Feathers book?

A couple of disclaimers, caveats, provisos and so on:

  1. This will spoiler the hell (pun intended) out of the previous 2 books. So if you’re planning on reading them / reading them at the moment / care about that sort of thing… caveat lector.
  2. First draft. Firstest of the firstiest drafts. Because, actually, I think there’s something quite fun about you seeing just HOW many commas, dashes and semi-colons I throw at a piece of writing to make my sentences even longer and even more unwieldy before someone far more sensible than I am comes along and makes me take them out. By force if necessary.
  3. I’m not really in a position to talk about what’s happening with a third book. I get asked from time to time, and the honest, most straightforward answer I can give is always “If and when I can give you an answer, I will.” So… yeah. That.
  4. It never fails to worry me how much I enjoy writing this guy. I should probably get that looked at.


So, all that said: welcome to St Michael-in-the-Hollows…


Steel Rails

I’ve been spending a lot of time on trains lately. A lot. Might-as-well-just-install-a-bed level time. And I can work on trains a bit, but it’s admittedly a touch difficult to concentrate when the four-year old in the seat behind you is playing some kind of piano simulator on a tablet at high volume, and their dad is catching up on the football on his phone at equally high volume. So mostly I look out of the window when I can.

(Don’t judge me: that particular journey started at 6.30am with 4 hours sleep, 3 changes and the joy of paying £3.50 for a cup of tea when I finally cracked and decided that if I didn’t have one Something Bad was likely to happen. I was a joy that morning.)

But – noise and, you know, humans, aside – I quite like trains. I like being able to watch the world slide past the windows; because it always feels like it’s the world passing by rather than you passing through. Maybe it’s something to do with the size and the shape of the windows, which make everything outside feel like a projection simply being wheeled past you. I always get the feeling that if you were to open the window and pick up the corner of the view, you’d find an old-style cinema projectionist back there, turning a handle and watching for the cigarette burns to mark the reel switch.

Trees. Forests. Fields. Hills. Rivers. Tunnels.

Houses, back gardens. Kitchen windows.

Someone, years ago – it might have been Billy Connolly, it might have been someone else – said in an interview that they loved taking the train: people shield their lives from the road with blinds or net curtains in the windows… but they don’t bother to hide it from the railway. And ever since then, I’ve looked.

Football goals. Paddling pools. Terraces festooned with bunting and fairy lights.

Sidings with elaborate swags of carved greenery, half-buried in renegade ivy and Japanese knotweed. So many blackberries on tangles of brambles that the leaves have turned purple from the juice. Butterflies dancing around a bush.

Mist and swathes of drifting drizzle. Slices of sunlight across the fields so thick you could pick them up in your fist and watch the light pour out between your fingers. Sheep: little clouds fallen to earth. Cows like… well, like cows, really.

People running. People walking dogs, riding horses. Children. Dads playing football with their kids; mums scooping babies out of pushchairs… and dads scooping babies out of pushchairs and mums playing football with their kids.

Life. Sunsets and sunrises and everything that falls between the two. Moons and mist and dusk and dawn. Houses and mountains, cities and forests and farms.

There for the blink of an eye and then gone. All those lives. All those individual little worlds within one big wide world.

All sliding by on the steel rails.

And when we get to my stop and I shuffle out, down along the platform, the train pulls out alongside me… and as it does, a man in the window of one of the carriages catches my eye. Because he’s doing the same thing: watching all those worlds slip by.

And then he’s gone. And so is the train.

What a thing.

Still. £3.50 for a cup of tea. Pffft.

Bath Children’s Literature Festival 2015

Time’s a-wasting, so a quick shout about this year’s Bath Children’s Literature Festival. As usual, you’ll most likely be able to spot me zipping about the place (I’m going to a LOT of the talks this year, because there’s some absolute corkers on the programme) but this time I’m also taking part – and I’m very, very excited about the event I’m involved in.

On the second Saturday of the festival, I’ll be chatting to monster rockstars Charlie Higson and Darren Shan about their respective zombie series, The Enemy and Zom-B. We’ll be talking about zombies in particular, horror in general, reading, writing, books, apocalypses (apocalypsii?) – and I’ll be quizzing them on the body count they’ve amassed over the course of their stories.

It’s going to be a lot of fun, and both Charlie and Darren are brilliant authors. If you’re in the area, come along! There will also be a signing with all three of us after the panel, and we’ll be having a Q&A at the end of the session, so if you have any burning questions you NEED them to answer, now’s your chance.

If you’re not able to make it, but there’s something you’ve always wanted to know about either series – or author (or even me!) – then tweet your question to me (@LouMorgan) by Friday 2nd October and I’ll do my best to get it in…



The Candle and the Lighthouse

When the lights go out, you don’t always see it.

It’s not like being at the theatre, where the house lights zip down and the stage lights go up; where there’s always someone front of house with a torch to guide you if you need it. And it’s not like drawing a blind against the glare of the midday sun: a gentle shade against unbearable brightness.

Sometimes – when the lights go out – you don’t even know it’s happening until the darkness is so complete that you can’t tell whether your eyes are open or shut. Sometimes, they dim, a single lumen at a time.

Things that were bright and sparkling… they become that little duller, that little bit less shiny – as though a mist is settling between you and them. Polished glasses on a shelf. Stars. Moving water under moonlight. Wits.

What glittered becomes grey.

That’s when you see it. If you’re lucky.

That’s when you need a candle. And that really is all you need. One, single candle – however small. Because in the dark, a candle is a lighthouse. A candle casts shadows – and believe it or not, shadows will give you hope… because for there to be shadows, there have to be edges. There have to be ends. There have to be places where the shadows aren’t.

A candle is all it takes to remind you that the shadows end.

A candle can be your lighthouse, guiding you home. It doesn’t need to be big. It doesn’t need to be bright. It just needs to be alight.

Depression, if you’ve ever tangled with it, is like that. It creeps or it roars – you can never tell which it’ll be. It overwhelms you like a wave… or it sneaks up on you like a changing tide and you don’t see it until it’s up to your neck.

It’s the darkness that sidles into your life and snuffs out every lamp you lit around yourself as it goes. And although I’ve been taught to see it coming, sometimes – just every now and again – the darkness is too fast and too deep and it is a thing with teeth and scales that whispers from the shadows and locks the door behind it when it comes in.

I think, this time, I may have been sitting in the dark for a while. I’m not sure: I can’t remember when the lights started going out. All I know is that somehow, sometime, they did.


And somewhere in the darkness, I put my hand down and I felt the scales and I felt the teeth… and then, a box of matches.

A candle.

A lighthouse.

And that’s all I need.

The Coming Storm

I’ve got a few festival appearances coming up over the next couple of months, as well as a couple of other bits and pieces, so it’s probably time for a quick update. (I’ll put relevant dates on the “Events” page too.)

YALC (Young Adult Literature Convention) 2015

Friday 17th July, 2.30 – 3.15.

I’ll be appearing on the “Thrills & Chills: Writing Horror” panel with Will Hill, Darren Shan, Dawn Kurtagich and Matt Whyman, discussing why we love horror, why we write it and why it’ll always be popular. This will be followed up by a signing.

Edinburgh International Book Festival

Tuesday 25th August, 7.00 – 8.00

I’m hugely excited about this, as it’s the first year I’ll be at Edinburgh. Join myself and Kevin Brooks to talk about the darker side of the subjects that can crop up in contemporary YA: boredom, destruction, stress and fear.

The Telegraph Bath Children’s Literature Festival

Saturday 3rd October, 6.30 – 7.30

This feels very like my “home” festival: I’ve been going to the Bath Children’s Litfest for a couple of years now, and it always feels special. This time, however, I’ll be on the stage as well as in the audience, in conversation with YA horror superstars Charlie Higson and Darren Shan as we look at the enduring appeal of zombies and how they’ve brought a fresh spin to everybody’s favourite shambling flesh-eaters in their new books.

YA Shot

Wednesday 28th October

YA Shot is a one-day festival of YA & MG literature organised by author Alexia Casale, Hillingdon Borough Libraries and Waterstones Uxbridge. Details TBC.


On the writing front, I’m delighted to have a story in the forthcoming “Legends 2: Stories in Honour of David Gemmell” anthology, alongside fantastic authors like John Gwynne, Rowena Cory Daniels and Mark Lawrence. (A paperback and a limited-edition signed copy are available from Spacewitch Books).

I don’t venture into the epic and heroic very often, so this is a new sphere for me. However, I’m a big fan of the Gemmell Awards and the work they do, and I was delighted to be asked to contribute and to be able to support them. My story, “Oak”, is set just after the Norman invasion and coronation of William I, and both something completely new and very old: it was inspired by some of the legends of a very well-known (perhaps the most well-known) sorcerer from the area where I grew up. No pointy hats, I promise.


When I Grow Up

I was watching an interview on YouTube a few days ago; an interview with an actor who is my age. There might be a year or so in his favour, but put it this way: we’d have been in close enough classes at school to have known each other.

He was – as many actors I know are wont to be – very serious about his work, his profession. His craft. Passionate about it, believing in it, expecting others to take it equally seriously.

A cog started to turn somewhere in my head.

Yesterday, my son’s drum tutor rolled out that phrase we tell children to make them keep going when they don’t want to. Success is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration. Work hard. You want something? Be prepared to do what it takes to get it, to give what it takes. It won’t fall into your lap. Earn it. A cog clicked into another cog, starting that one turning too.

On Twitter, Joanne Harris talked about the difference between “author” and “writer”, saying that for a long time she felt uncomfortable calling herself an author – and I understood exactly what she meant. Authors are people who are serious about their work, their profession. Their craft. They are passionate about it, believing in it, expecting others to take it equally seriously.

A whole chain of cogs, spinning and spinning and spinning like they’re never going to stop.

“What do you do?” I get asked from time to time, often by parents at school.

“I’m a writer.”

“What do you write?”

And I make myself small.

I make myself insignificant.

I talk about how lucky I am. I talk about how it was always my dream, and how much I love it.

Because I am. And it was. And I do.

But I don’t talk about the other part of it. I don’t talk about the nights staring at the ceiling in wide-eyed terror while my husband sleeps: the small, dead hours when I wonder whether someone will find me out, will realise I’m making it all up as I go – when they will see that there’s no genius here, no gift. There’s just bloody-minded determination and will.

I don’t talk about the cold sweat of wondering what comes next. I don’t talk about the frustration of being able to see an idea, hold it glittering in my mind; perfect and whole and right… only to see it mangled by my own hand, crushed under the weight of letters and full-stops.

I don’t talk about the typing. The hours staring at a screen until I could cry. The hours typing until the pain in my arms actually does make me cry – the RSI a lingering leaving-present from a job I left long ago, and which no amount of physio or different chairs or keyboards or splints can shift.

I don’t talk about the fear that comes with knowing you’ve chiselled off a piece of yourself for people to judge.

I don’t talk about the number of times I’ve re-read my own words, wondering what on earth I was thinking when I wrote that… and then making it better, only to repeat the process a few weeks later. And again, and again until I’m sick of the words, sick of the world, sick of myself. Sick of thinking I could ever do this.

It is a craft. I’ve had to learn it – and I’ve had to learn it the hard way, in public.

No, it isn’t working down a mine or in a foundry. But it is work.

It is a profession. This is what I do. It’s the only thing, really, I know how to do. I’ve had other jobs, office jobs, non-office jobs, “proper” jobs. I hated them all. But this? This, I love. I love it so hard that it burns and sometimes I wonder whether it will consume me.

I wonder, sometimes, when I’ve spent all those hours staring at a screen and the words make no sense any more, whether it already has.

I don’t talk about the work.

I make myself small.

I make myself insignificant.

Do no harm, don’t get ideas above your station.

You aren’t an author, you’re just a writer.

Watching him on the screen in his suit… and there, just for a second. He moves his leg and you can see he’s wearing stripy socks. Those aren’t the socks of a serious, sensible man in his mid-thirties who has it all handled.

He’s just like me.

He doesn’t talk about the work, either.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t being done.

He is an actor.

And I suppose, with all my wildly spinning cogs, and my ninety-nine desperate percent, it’s time I was an author.