Month: February 2014

Announcing… SLEEPLESS

I’ve been sitting on this news for ages, and – as you can imagine – for someone as gobby as I am, it’s been a real challenge keeping quiet. But I’m told I don’t have to keep my mouth shut any longer (and if it turns out I’m wrong on that then we’ll just carry on and pretend that nothing ever happened, m’kay?).

It’s pretty common knowledge that I love horror – and having grown up on Point Horror and Christopher Pike books, I’m a big fan of horror in YA and teen literature in particular.

So… I’m delighted to announce that my first YA horror book, SLEEPLESS, will be published by Stripes Publishing later this year as one of the launch titles for their new Red Eye series.

I’m incredibly excited by the idea of writing YA horror, as it’s an area where there are fantastic books which I love – books like ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD, HOLLOW PIKE, DEPARTMENT 19… all of them properly frightening.  You can imagine how I felt about getting the chance to come up with my own.

And when Katie – my wonderful editor at Stripes – told me I didn’t have to worry about it being too scary… well. SLEEPLESS was the result.

SLEEPLESS

Don’t go to sleep…

With their wealthy parents and expensive homes in the exclusive Barbican complex at the heart of the City of London, Izzy Whedon and her friends at The Clerkenwell School seem like they have it all… but success comes at a price.

As the pressure of the upcoming exams gets too much, Izzy and the others resort to taking a “study drug” they find on the internet – and by the time they realise there are side effects, it’s already too late. When one of the group disappears, the others discover the horrifying truth behind their miracle pills.

Plagued by hallucinations and paranoia, they learn there’s only one way out: to stay awake until the drugs are out of their systems.

If, that is, they can last that long…..

Writing SLEEPLESS has been a huge amount of fun, and although I’m embarrassed to admit it I even managed to creep myself out a couple of times (how does that even work?).

The team at Stripes are awesome, and I knew that I was in safe hands with Katie when we spent a whole morning going over ideas and talking about terrible B-movies from the 1980s (for which I have an unashamed passion).

It’s also given me the chance to do something I’ve liked the idea of for a very long time – using the Barbican Estate as the setting for a novel. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a hulking great Brutalist complex of flats, walkways, gardens, tower blocks and restaurants. It’s best known for the hub of theatres, galleries and cinemas in the Barbican Centre, but it also contains a church, a lake, a library, a girls’ school, the Museum of London, two residents’ gardens, several playgrounds and the Guildhall School of Music – as well as miles and miles of labyrinthine walkways. It’s an easy place to get lost in, put it that way.What better setting could there be for a book like this one?

I’ll be posting more details and more about the world of SLEEPLESS further on down the line.

Huge thanks go to Stripes and my fabulous agent Juliet Mushens for making this possible.

And in the meantime? Whatever you do… don’t go to sleep.

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Archer’s Goon

A little while back, SFX Magazine approached me and asked me whether I’d be interested in contributing to their regular “Book Club” feature. It runs at the back of every issue, focusing on a different book each time. And you know me. I like to talk about books. I particularly like to talk about books I like, and why they’re… y’know, awesome.

So of course I said yes, and the first book I’ll be discussing is ARCHER’S GOON by Diana Wynne Jones.

Funnily enough, it turns out this will be the 100th SFX Book Club, and given the current concern about level of representation female authors receive in the SFF world, it’s a wonderful coincidence. 100 feels like a significant number, somehow: and given the context of those two (brilliant) blogposts, it’s nice that the slot goes to a book by an outstanding fantasy writer who happens to be a woman, and whose loss is still felt so keenly by the genre.

The great thing about the Book Club is that it isn’t just me blathering on (after all, I do plenty of that here). So, if you’ve read ARCHER’S GOON, get in touch! You can comment on the book – did you love it / hate it / never read it because… – on the SFX forum, their Facebook page or via their Twitter, or you can always leave me a comment or tweet!

Those who can… teach

If you saw Dame Helen Mirren’s speech at the BAFTA awards, you’ll know what this is about.

 

— There will be a short interval to recover from the overwhelming awesome… and we’re back in the room —

 

The most important teacher I had was a lady called Sonja. I’ve long been forbidden from calling her “Miss Charles”, because she says it makes her feel old – but, like everyone who has been asked by one of their schoolteachers to call them by their first name, I still flinch internally every time I say it. It feels disrespectful, somehow, not to call your teacher by their “teacher name” – as though you’re now claiming to be their equal, their peer. Which you can’t ever be, because how could you? If you were lucky enough to have a teacher like that, you know that to some degree, they shaped you. They helped make you, and it doesn’t matter if you’re twenty or thirty or seventy – that teacher is always going to be your teacher.

Sonja was responsible for introducing me to Milton and Marlowe, and she steered and supported my flailing attempts to tackle Hamlet and Macbeth. She even put up with my turning in essays claiming Romeo & Juliet is actually a comedy (when I made it to university and sat through a lecture suggesting the same thing, I had to sit on my hand to stop myself from punching the air…) and patiently marked no fewer than three essays subtly* expressing my dislike of DH Lawrence’s books.

When I left school, we started to exchange letters every Christmas – and still do. In the intervening years, I’ve continued to learn from her – just as as I’ve learned about her. Now, I know her interests in medieval literature align very closely with my own (although she never let that slip when I was in school) and I know how kindhearted and generous she is. Sixteen years after I last saw her, I know more about her now than I did when I saw her every day… and I suppose that’s how it should be, because then she was a Teacher-with-a-capital-T.

She’s retired now, but I remember her as being unflinching in her support of her students. She was inspiring, she was strong and she was ridiculously well-read: every once in a while, even now, I’ll come across a book and think “Oh, that’s what she meant!” Like all old-school teachers, too, she had a stare that could drop unruly third-years across the yard, and a raised eyebrow which could (and frequently did) reduce strapping great big rugby guys to whimpering wrecks.

To this day, she remains incredibly supportive of me – and I only wish there was more I could do to repay her. If you care to look, you’ll find her in the acknowledgements of BLOOD AND FEATHERS, but it hardly seems like a fair trade-off. Without her, I don’t think I’d be where I am.

Sonja – Miss Charles – was my teacher, and I’m immeasurably grateful to her.

Who was yours?

 

(*not subtly)

Roses are Red…

Waterstones have been running a Valentine’s-inspired feature on their blog and across Twitter: they asked some brilliant authors to come up with their own Valentine poems, all beginning “Roses are red”.

You can read the results here, and look at the poetry that everyone on Twitter has been posting by searching the #rosesarered hashtag (although as is always the way on Twitter, you’ll get a jumble of other stuff on there too).

And of course I couldn’t resist joining in…

Roses are red,

Your lips have turned blue.

I thought you’d gone quiet –

Now what do I do..?

 

Haggis Lasagne

I’m not much in the habit of blogging about food (usually because I’m too busy stuffing it into my mouth to pause long enough to actually consider it) but I mentioned my husband’s plan to make haggis lasagne on Twitter over the weekend and… well, it seemed like it was a thing people liked the sound of. A lot.

So. I’m pleased to report that haggis lasagne, as a thing, works. It’s pretty easy to adapt a standard lasagne recipe to make it (there’s also a variation here, plus the Guardian’s article on ideas for leftover haggis) and we based ours roughly on my mother’s lasagne. I’ve probably left a dozen things out of the recipe, but you’ll get the idea…

Haggis

HAGGIS LASAGNE

 

– for the ragu –

2 shallots

1 stick celery

1 red pepper

1/2 green pepper

Handful cherry tomatoes, chopped

2 tins chopped tomatoes

Tomato puree

Flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Red wine

Worcestershire sauce

Haggis (we used two MacSween 3-person haggises – haggii? – which came to about 1kg in total)

Oregano

– for the béchamel sauce –

Butter

Flour

Milk

– to finish –

Lasagne sheets

Grated parmesan (or similar)

Nutmeg

Salt & pepper to taste

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