am writing

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!

 

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.

Becoming Alice

It was supposed to be a little more straightforward than this.

Back in August, I had an Idea.

Actually, that’s simplifying it somewhat. Back in August, three ideas that had been swirling around in my head for quite some time suddenly found each other and, obviously drawing comfort from the fact they weren’t alone in the grey mist, clung together.

I poked them with a stick for a bit, like you do, and they grunted at me and told me to get out of their room. Great. Not only can I not keep control of my own ideas, but they go teenage on me. Anyway. The three ideas stuck together and became one Idea–which is where Alice came from.

It seemed an obvious choice for a name: one part Lewis Carroll to one part Resident Evil*, I couldn’t call her anything else… and besides, she didn’t seem to want to answer to anything else. I watched as–apparently without any help from me–she found her own voice, her own way of doing things, and an attitude. Sweet lord, did she pick up an attitude. I rather liked her. We rubbed along quite nicely through 80,000-odd words: I knew what she was about and where she had to go, and she knew what she wanted to do about getting there. All good. And then my mother died.

You see, here’s the thing about Alice. So much of her hinges on her relationship with her mother, who died when she was six. Quite unexpectedly, I had to finish writing her story–a story about a character still dealing with the death of her mother–while I was still grieving for my own.

That was… umm, what shall we say? Tricky? Keeping Alice in her box; keeping my own issues on the right side of the paper… screen… whatever. That was something I hadn’t counted on.

But that’s life, isn’t it? I saw something on Twitter the other day, which I now shamelessly appropriate for my own ends:

If life hands you lemons, put them in your inventory screen.

Remember that iron door, three rooms back, with the lemon-shaped keyhole.

I finished.

It gave me something to focus on, besides all the Stuff That Gets Focused On When Someone Dies. And besides, it was less than a month ago that my mother stood in her kitchen and asked me: “What are you writing that thing for, anyway?”

I wrote it because I had to. And I finished it because I had to.

I finished it because suddenly, Alice and I had a lot more in common than I thought.

(Except, if I’m honest, she’s got a much better haircut than me.)

* for which, as I discovered after my recent post, I am not alone in harbouring a secret love…

Time & Tide

It’s been just over a week, and things are starting to feel… well, “normal” would be an overstatement, but it’s getting to the point where I kind of have to stop being so bloody emo and feeling sorry for myself.

So.

I’ll say thank you – genuinely, thank you – to everyone who got in touch and sent me messages, texts, DMs, carrier pigeons and virtual flowers (how modern are we? The internetz are awesome). I might not have been very good at replying, but they were appreciated more than I could possibly express. If nothing else, this has shown me what wonderful friends I have: from the ones I’ve known for years and years to the ones I’ve only really met (so far, anyway) online.

And now, I think I’m going to move on. Because if nothing else, this is an excellent way to procrastinate. Not only am I supposed to be winding up the final chapters of The Book What I Have Been Writing (and which is now leaving me going: “Why did I do that? What was I thinking???” at various points through the 90,000 odd words…. very odd words.) but I’ve got a eulogy to write. An eulogy. Whatever.

Anyway, moving on.

I think I could really get to love Brighton. On Monday, it was cold and drizzly and I took Small Boy down to the beach. Apart from a couple of dog-walkers, we had it entirely to ourselves.

Today, the sun was shining and even though the wind was freezing, I laughed at it from the safety of my snuggly new snowboarding jacket. (Three days after moving down here, I realised that my typical London-dweller’s outerwear was far more suited to hopping on and off buses than it was to dealing with February coastal winds. This was not a battle I could win. I didn’t try. I hied me to the nearest shop and bought a jacket which makes me resemble a chocolate Michelin Man. But I’m warm.)

So today we went to the beach and threw stones into the waves, and watched the seagulls being seagulls – for which read “incredibly noisy, and generally menacing”…

(it’s funny because it’s true) … and we built a series of small stone towers which will prove vital to the defence of the realm come the Zompocalypse. Or at least, they would if they weren’t made of pebbles and stood about 4 inches high.

Basically, if we’re invaded by tiny, undead pirates? Relax, I’ve got it covered. Anything else and, umm, we’re screwed.

Also, as Small Boy did his best to dig another Channel Tunnel using only a piece of driftwood which I suspect started out life as an ice-lolly stick, I vaguely recalled reading something about the beach being mined during the Second World War.

I really hope they remembered where they put them all.