One day to go! More about the blog tour …

So – tomorrow is The Look’s birthday. It’s a funny old day, because the book is already in the shops (according to my friends, who’ve managed to see it before I have), so it’s not like one of those big Harry Potter events we used to have, with a massive embargo and the author doing a midnight reading in a museum.

Instead, I shall be visiting Alleyn’s in Dulwich – one of my favourite local schools – for an early talk about secret dreams and writing, then celebrating World Book Day in Just Williams book and toy shop in Herne Hill later on, which sounds fab.

Meanwhile … the blog tour begins. I’ve been doing a lot of work for this, so for the next eleven days (until it lands up back here on 12 March) I shall use this space to point you to my guest posts elsewhere. If you’re interested in how a book gets written, then this might just be for you.

Just to give you a flavour of what I’ve been up to, here’s what I’ll be talking about:

1st March: Mostly Reading YA – An interview about writing The Look

2nd March: Chicklish – Gimme Five: Sisters in books

3rd March: Painting with Words – Me and modelling

4th March: Bookster Reviews – An exclusive extract from The Look

5th March: Fluttering Butterflies - Playlist: my 8 favourite Look-based tracks

6th March: Wondrous Reads - The story of the cover

7th March: Bookaholics – Writing about illness

8th March: Writing From The Tub – The timeline of writing The Look

9th March: Books for Company - Video of me doing a reading from chapter 6

10th March: Overflowing Library - Bookcase Showcase

11th March: A Reading Daydreamer – Interview: fashion and me

12th March: Here – Some of my favourite writer friends talk about their secret dreams

Hope you enjoy it! xxx

Gah-la dah-ling

This is a very belated post. We actually went to the Gala last Thursday. When I say ‘we’, I mean me and Alex. Because my husband was actually invited too! Woo! It’s a rare and lovely thing.

Which brings me to the invitation. It arrived in a bottle. Wrapped up in straw in a box. A message in a bottle. It was SO. EXCITING. But to what? And why?

Turned out, it was a bash organised by The Book People, to celebrate children’s books. They held it as part of a festival at the Royal Festival (appropriately enough) Hall. And it was for ‘the great and the good’ of children’s publishing. And, apparently, me and Alex. No idea how we made the list. Don’t care. It was a chance to don our gladrags, stand *this far* from Patrick Ness and Michael Morpurgo, admire Philip Ardagh’s umbrella, see Jackie Wilson (Dame Jacqueline to you and me) sneak off early, chat – actually CHAT – to Robert Muchamore over a James And The Giant Peach Bellini and eat food provided by Jamie Oliver.

Here’s what it looked like:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There were about 400 of us there, and it was lavish. Children’s publishing doesn’t do lavish outside of Harry Potter movies, but on Thursday they did lavish in spades. The attention to detail was amazing. The canapes were based on Captain Pugwash (or Treasure Island, can’t remember: they were sea-based, anyway). The wine said ‘Drink Me’. The pudding was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. There were colour-themed candles and sweetie jars on every table.

And there were speeches. Lots of speeches. Lots and lots and lots of speeches. (The best one was by Anthony Horowitz.) All about books and reading and how important it is for children to have a chance to read books they love. And that was really what we all had in common: passion for children reading.

Which I think is why, despite ourselves, we love The Book People. And the general feeling at my end of  the table anyway, was that, despite ourselves, we do. One of the reasons they can afford to be so lavish is that they sell books at a massive discount, which means our royalties from them are not lavish at all. But the reason they are so successful is that they pick books that people want to read, and they back them, and they make them really affordable, and easy to find (you may have seen them in your school or office), and package them beautifully. And it’s hard to have a problem with that.

In my case, they were the first to sell the Threads trilogy as a series, beautifully wrapped, for £4.99. Which meant I could tell children who’d loved Threads in their local library that they could get all three. So much more appealing to the author than some other booksellers (not my favourite independents), who thought it would be a good idea to sell book 3 on its own, without access to the other 2, and drove this particular author INSANE with why-the-hell-would-you-do-that frustration.

Seni and Ted, the movers and shakers behind The Book People, love books, and on Thursday it showed. A whole bunch of book-making people loved them back. And then, after all the speeches, we said goodbye to our friends, moved out into the starry London night, hoped that one day there would be another night like this, and went home.

Blog tour

Well folks, it’s that time of year again: new book, new blog tour.

First of all, I would like to send a VERY VERY BIG THANK YOU to all the bloggers – old friends and new – who’ve kindly agreed to let me talk about my book on their sites. I’m touched and grateful. Meanwhile I’m busy writing about inspiration, sisters in literature, covers, playlists and all sorts of things to share with you through them.

This time, I’ve had the help of Tina at Chicken House and the wonderful Steve Wells, who did the cover for The Look, to create the all-important blog tour banner. Hence the massively increased professionalism and wowness of it, compared with last year (which was a Kafka-esque nightmare of me using iPhoto, Powerpoint, Word and any other application I could think of – but nothing actually adapted for the task – to try and cobble something together that vaguely worked).

Steve makes it look easy. Here it is:

You’ll notice that the final date of the tour will be right here, on this blog. It will be a collection of the secret career dreams of many of my writer friends, from when they were growing up. They are FAB! Can’t wait to share them with you too.

xxx

Oh dear – it’s been a long time since the last blog. And it’s not as if lots of interesting things haven’t been happening.

In January there was the Chicken House Big Breakfast, for example, which is the annual post-Christmas bash that Barry Cunningham hosts in London for publishing friends. It was full of writers, editors, publishers, scouts and bloggers, all busily catching up over coffee and croissants. I spent two hours non-stop talking (apart from during the book readings – one of which was done quite spectacularly by Miss Chicken House dressed up as a cat.)

Even so, there still wasn’t time to chat to everyone. But there were some lovely moments, such as Siobhan, my US editor, giving hints about the US cover of The Look, which will come out there next year, and one of the guests outlining the plot of a brilliant book she wants to write. Writing is generally a solitary profession, so it’s always wonderful to be surrounded by friends who care about books. I’m not sure how we managed to drag ourselves home.

(Actually, I didn’t. I went on from there to the David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy. If you can go – go. It definitely helps if you like trees, though. David has created lots and lots and lots of images trees, many of them on his iPad. The best ones, though, I thought, were his videos of driving through tree-fringed lanes in different seasons. If you want to go to Piccadilly and imagine yourself in the heart of the English countryside, it’s perfect.)

Meanwhile, The Look is set to come out here in just over two weeks. Anyone who’s ever had a book about to come out knows that this bit is WEIRD. The Chicken House team have been busy organising a blog tour and a schools tour, planning some exciting stuff for later in the year and sending out the book to reviewers. But nothing will actually happen until March, when it’s launched. I can’t wait until I see it on a bookshelf, finally. Or to hear what readers have to say about it. A book doesn’t really feel alive until it’s been read, and one of the wonders of the internet is discovering how readers respond.

And then, of course, I’ve been working on book 5 – which, in my laptop documents folder is officially called ‘Book 5′, although it’s developing a subtitle of DTFG. If it all works out, I’ll explain what that stands for down the line. It will certainly be a more controversial title than, say, Sequins Stars & Spotlights.

Some of the highlights of the last few weeks, though, have been admiring other people’s work. This has been a cold, dark season, peppered with stressful exams and a stressful economy at home, and tales of despotism and torture abroad. I admire everyone who’s tackling the economy and the despots (and the exams, frankly, including my eleven year-old), but also all of the artists who’ve managed to break through the fog of misery with pictures, plays and stories. Without them, how do we make sense of what we know?

Apart from the Hockney exhibition, there was the middle act of Noises Off by Michael Frayn at the Old Vic, which had my eleven year-old – as I hoped – in tears of laughter. There was Matilda The Musical at the Cambridge Theatre (story by Roald Dahl, music and lyrics by Tim Minchin), which has become an instant classic. We all adored it. At the end, the five year-old said ‘I might have to cry because it was so good.’

There was The Fault In Our Stars by John Green – the best YA book I’ve read in recent months. It stares teenage death hard in the face and is life-affirming and quite brilliant. It includes two teenagers kissing in the Ann Frank museum in Amsterdam, to the soundtrack of Otto Frank talking about his daughter. And you’re rooting for them all the way. That’s how good it is.

Tonight I’ll watch Call The Midwife on BBC1, which I haven’t seen yet but which has managed to attract 10 million viewers over a mere 3 episodes. (More than Downton Abbey did at the time, and with far less publicity.) I can’t think of anything nicer than seeing Miranda Hart in a hat and sensible shoes, setting off on a bike to save lives on behalf of the NHS. Why did nobody think of this before?

Then it’s the BAFTAs. They played a crucial part in the writing of Threads and the awards season always brings back my weeks of frantic plotting. It took ages to get the various award timings to fit in with the events in my characters’ lives, so that a certain dress being worn to the Oscars, held shortly after the BAFTAs, would have the emotional impact I wanted it to.

That was three and a half years and four books ago. So much has happened since then! But for now, it’s back to the writing …