news

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!

 

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.

Page One

One way or another, I knew I always wanted to work with words (with the minor – and notable – exception of that period when I was 6 when I decided my talents lay in designing fashion for guinea pigs… what?).

Because, obviously, Making Things Up was not a proper job as far as the younger version of me was concerned, I spent the greater part of my childhood believing I was going to be a journalist when I grew up. It was either that or go into advertising copy-writing (and here I refer you to my earlier point about “Making Things Up”).

I actually did my work experience at a newspaper: the Llanelli Star, if you must know. It’s one of those local tabloids that has had a slightly creaky little office which smells of photocopy toner and instant coffee, on a street somewhere near the station as long as anyone can remember. Most towns have them, usually called the Something Enquirer, or the Wherever Bugle. My hometown actually has one too – the Star was not it, but then I went to school in Llanelli, so that’s where I was sent.

Somewhere in those archives, there’s still a couple of stories with my by-line. You’d have to look incredibly hard to find them, but they’re there. One was, I think, something to do with Terry Griffiths (who I still remember to this day as the man who kept a stack of signed photographs in the boot of his car) and one was vaguely connected to a rest home of some description. I think. Maybe. As you can see, my knack for recalling detail and my razor-sharp insight would have made me a spectacular investigative journalist.

Anyway. I came out of university and ended up Not Becoming A Journalist at all, despite being offered an internship at a more-than-slightly disreputable periodical (and no, I’m not telling). The closest I came to it, in fact, was working in one of the larger buildings on Fleet Street. I hated the job, and I think it wouldn’t be unfair to say that the job hated me, and our office was a boxy little partitioned space, but I loved that building.

It was just across the road from St Brides – the journalists’ church – and close to the Reuters building, which wasn’t abandoned by them until 2005. It had a sweeping staircase which wound around the original lift: creaky security gate and brass push buttons and all. The office was only on the first floor, but sometimes I used to ride the lift up and down anyway. Built as the headquarters for Thomas Cook in the 19th Century, the building had since been home to the Guinness Book of Records and who knows what else – but, with the exception of working there and studying Pravda at school, that was the closest brush I ever had with grown-up journalism.

Not to say I ever lost interest in it – and that’s why I so wanted to see Page One, a documentary covering one year in the life of the New York Times, as the editorial team and their staff try to come to terms with the possible collapse of mainstream media, the digital revolution, paid-for content, bloggers, WikiLeaks, falling revenues, iPads, media corruption and the withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq (and a war which, arguably, one of their reporters helped to create). I was particularly taken with the Media Desk Editor, Bruce Headlam, whose cries of “Did you send it?” and whose utter bemusement over the television coverage of Iraq (“How do you cover the end of a war that’s not ending?”) were only matched by his approach to wordcounts (“Yeah. That’s not happening.”) and his explanation for the giant “Citizen Kane” poster on his office wall.

More than anything, it’s a fascinating portrait of a newspaper which isn’t currently embroiled in the all-too-familiar scandals and political point-scoring of UK ones. Any political agenda it has is completely lost on me, not being American or as actively political as I could be. Instead, viewed as a complete outsider, it becomes an interesting look at not just how a newspaper functions in the perceived Age Of Free, but what drives the people who keep the wheels – and the presses – running.

Oxycontin Genocide

I picked up on an interesting article, originally published in the Guardian, via io9 this afternoon:

A pill to enhance moral behaviour, a treatment for racist thoughts, a therapy to increase your empathy for people in other countries – these may sound like the stuff of science fiction but with medicine getting closer to altering our moral state, society should be preparing for the consequences, according to a book that reviews scientific developments in the field.

Drugs such as Prozac that alter a patient’s mental state already have an impact on moral behaviour, but scientists predict that future medical advances may allow much more sophisticated manipulations.

My knee-jerk reaction was to check the date. Nope. Not the first. All good.

My next reaction was two-part, and it went something like this: “Wait… haven’t they heard of Pax?”… followed briskly by: “So, I should start brushing up on my gun kata then?”

While I’m fairly sure this is a highly selective & leading article, it did make me think. You probably heard it: that sound like a squid swallowing a rusty chicken? That was me.

This kind of research makes me deeply, deeply uncomfortable. I’ve always been very open about the fact that I’ve been on anti-depressants in the past, several times, and while I know they definitely did their job, I hated being on them with a passion.

Or, actually, with an absence of passion. Because I wasn’t chemically capable of feeling any kind of passion for anything. That’s how they work, after all. So I can tell you from personal experience that you won’t find me lining up to voluntarily take any kind of pill that messes with my brain which – and here’s the important bit – I do not need.

My moral compass generally points somewhere in the vague direction of north-ish, I’ve been known to give up my seat on the bus, and I’ve only bludgeoned irritating neighbours to death with a blunt instrument in my mind’s eye. So, in this instance, why would I agree to take medication for the sake of making me more moral(again, -ish) than I already am?

And that’s it, isn’t it? I wouldn’t. Not voluntarily.

Meulen also suggested that moral-enhancement drugs might be used in the criminal justice system. “These drugs will be more effective in prevention and cure than prison,” he said.

Now, you knew that was coming. We’d start by medicating the murderers…

Kahane does not advocate putting morality drugs in the water supply, but he suggests that if administered widely they might help humanity to tackle global issues.

“Relating to the plight of people on other side of the world or of future generations is not in our nature,” he said. “This new body of drugs could make possible feelings of global affiliation and of abstract empathy for future generations.”

… then we move to medicate the masses – because it’s all for the Greater Good.

Sure.

Thank you for the venom, right?

The full article is here.

If anyone wants to tell me that this is an April Fool, that’d be grand. And otherwise? I’ll get my (brown)coat and start stashing the art under the floorboards.