The blog tour begins!

For the next two weeks or so, I will be here …

1st Feb Bookster Reviews: interview (and giveaway)

4th Feb Chicklish: five of my favourite fashion-inspired books (and giveaway)

5th Feb Love Reading X: the issue behind this book

6th Feb The Beaucoup Review: sneak peek – Nonie in the fringed tablecloth and bicycle chain belt

7th Feb MileLongBookshelf: five of my favourite scenes across the series

8th Feb Writing from the Tub: writing to music

10th Feb Almost True: writing a series

12th Feb Magic Bean Review: what’s special about the cover of Sequins (and giveaway)

14th Feb Mostly Reading YA: New York

16h Feb I Was A Teenage Book Geek: fashion book covers

Come and find me! See you there …

s xxx

Blogging about not blogging …

I haven’t blogged as much as I’d have liked recently, because January has been insanely busy.

My New Year’s resolution was to spend less time googling my books and seeing what people were saying about them, and more time writing stuff – for the Internet, or otherwise.

So far so good (apart from the gaps on this blog), but oh my goodness.

In January I …

  • Almost finished the new book (book 4 – to be called The Look). Just two more scene rewrites to go!
  • Wrote a review for a fabulous book about elections in Nepal, called The Tutor of History
  • Organised a blog tour for Sequins, Stars & Spotlights in February, which will include 10 posts and interviews
  • Wrote interviews for bloggers and websites in America to mark the launch of Sequins, Secrets and Silver Linings
  • Wrote interviews for bloggers in Brazil to mark the launch of Linhas there
  • Organised various school visits for February and March (or rather, agreed to let various lovely school librarians organise them for me)
  • Ran two competitions to win signed copies of book 3
  • Organised my launch party for book 3
  • Sent out the invitations for my husband’s 50th birthday party
  • Persuaded the 4 year-old to go back to school when he didn’t really want to, after a lovely Christmas holiday
  • Perfected my elder step-daughter’s recipe for roast carrots and parsnips with honey and pine nuts
  • Read and fell in love with When You Reach Me, among other books and …
  • Introduced the 10 year-old to Percy Jackson

Never again! February will be the month where I

  • Submit a book
  • Go to Edinburgh for the first time
  • Visit some schools
  • Try and help save York Gardens Library in Wandsworth …


If anyone knows any good movies I should look out for, I’m open to suggestions. (Oh, and we somehow fitted in seeing The King’s Speech. Fantastic. Colin Firth’s schedule at the moment probably makes mine look extremely tame.)

Pictures of Chickens

If you Googled ‘pictures of chickens’ because you needed images of poultry, cooked or happily scratching, I apologise. These are not those.

They’re the pictures I promised from the Chicken House Big Breakfast. Anna (who is very organised and quite handy with a camera) sent them through today. Yay! This is us, having fun yesterday on the South Bank.

In the foreground, Philip Ardagh chatting to Amanda Craig. She is normal-sized. He is Very Tall. (More on this later). He’s an excellent school talker, by the way, and very sound on the subject of used pants. But I doubt he was talking about these to Amanda.

(Note the girl in the background in the yellow hat – the daughter of one of the authors. Stunning. I may have to put that hat in one of my books at some stage.)

Janet Foxley, author of Muncle Trogg, which won the Times competition the year after Threads and comes out soon. As Janet pointed out, she’s the first pensioner to win the competition. It’s never too late! I like to think of her in the tradition of Mary Wesley and PD James. My signed copy of Muncle Trogg is sitting beside me now, ready to read. It will be very, very funny.


The awesome CJ Skuse, author of Rockoholic – reading an extract from it. Barry Cunningham is acting as her microphone stand. I can state for a fact that Rockoholic is fabulous and hilarious, because I have read it and I know. She’s reading the bit about the rock star and the Curly Wurly. ‘Nuff said.


Barry with Andrew Peters, author of Ravenwood. Barry is the Tom Cruise of the publishing world in terms of height. Andrew, as I might have mentioned, is extremely tall. Why he isn’t playing basketball for the Harlem Globetrotters with Philip Ardagh, I simply don’t understand.


He is, however, very good at the digeridoo.


I’m chatting to Amanda, who was the first person to review Threads, is a great supporter of women authors of all kinds, and an all-round fabulous person. We’re talking about a dubious book (not written by any of us, thankfully.)


A flock of Chickens. Again, I’m sorry if you were expecting to see them roast, or shaking their tail feathers. You’ll have to re-Google, I’m afraid.

Books – lots of books


There are many, many good moments about writing a book. This is one of them.

The big box arrived from the publishers a couple of days ago. These are what was inside. They are currently arranged artfully round the house while I work out who needs a copy. Sooooo pretty. Steve Wells, the cover designer, is a bit of a genius. And Jewel, who designed the competition-winning cover dress, created a gem.

Meanwhile, I was at the Chicken House Big Breakfast this morning. Some publishers do cocktails (I’m told). Chicken House do big, fat coffees, pains au chocolat and scones. Totally yummy. Or rather, they looked totally yummy. I was too busy chatting to fabulous, booky people and old Chicken House friends to manage more than a teeny-weeny chocolate tart. I really will have to try harder next time.

Two of the fabulous, booky people I met were from this blog, and this one. Bloggers are such a friendly bunch of people. If you like books, read these. You won’t regret it.

Meanwhile, various people were drifting around taking photographs of Lovely People In Groups. If any of these come my way, I’ll share them with you. Unless they’re of me standing next to Andrew Peters. He is a brilliant public speaker and player of the digeridoo but, like my husband, very, very tall. We would look like a John Cleese sketch, with me as Ronnie Corbett. Better not.

Sequins, Stars & Spotlights blog tour

Yay! The time has come. My new book is about to go into the world and finally bring the Threads series to a close. This requires a big send-off.  And luckily lots of my blogging friends and acquaintances have kindly agreed to help me mark the moment. I am proud to announce …

The Sequins, Stars & Spotlights blog tour.

I haven’t done one of these before, but the bloggers hosting the tour have made it all seem easy. So far, anyway … I hope the book has as much fun being launched as I’ve had launching it. There will be a sneak peek, interviews, guest blog posts on the writing of the book, and a few giveaways.

If you want to follow it on its progress, here are its stopping points:

1st Feb Bookster Reviews (interview and giveaway)
4th Feb Chicklish (guest post and giveaway)
5th Feb Love Reading X (guest post)
6th Feb The Beaucoup Review (sneak peek)
7th Feb (official launch day!) MileLongBookshelf (guest post)
8th Feb Writing from the Tub (interview)
10th Feb Almost True (guest post)
12th Feb Magic Bean Review (guest post and giveaway)
14th Feb Mostly Reading YA (guest post)

Now, I seem to have promised quite a few guest posts. I suppose I’d better park the new book for a while and do some blog writing …

Suzy pulls it off

A piece of advice. If ever you’ve written a book and a nice girl called Katie from AudioGo emails you to ask if you’d like to go and watch the audiobook being recorded – say yes.

It’s fun. A lot of fun. I was worried that hearing the words read aloud would make me want to go back and edit every line, but luckily that didn’t happen. Suzy Aitchison is doing a wonderful job with it, along with her producer, Alec. (Alec is a secret favourite person of mine, because he chuckled at EVERY SINGLE FUNNY LINE. Nobody has done that before. Ever. It was exceedingly wonderful.)



They had to solve all sorts of problems that I don’t have to worry about – like if one girl (Nonie) reports the speech of another girl (Crow) who has a slight accent, do you use the accent of the second girl or the speech of the first? Tricky. I left them to it. But there were some things I could help with – how to pronounce Schiaparelli, for example (Sha-par-ELL-li). And my own name (it’s SEW-fee-a).

Actually, those were the only two. The rest of the time, I just listened. Suzy has the kind of voice you could listen to all day. And I hope people will. It comes out in June, apparently, on 4 CDs. Perfect for long journeys with young teenagers. Just saying …

The Sequins have landed


Nonie is currently running a competition on her blog – here. When that one finishes (a week today) there will be another. Part of the prize is an advance signed copy of Sequins, Stars and Spotlights, which comes out in exactly a month from today – so it seems auspicious that the competition copies should arrive this afternoon. I think they look rather spiffing. Thank you, Chicken House, for sending them through so fast. (Quite a relief, as the competition entries are piling up nicely. Some people really know their royal/fashion/wedding stuff.)

To celebrate their arrival, I’ll be tweeting a line from the book every day from now until launch date. Wish me luck!

The Wife of Bath

Sorry, I just had to think of something quickly with Bath in the title. It could just as easily have been Bath Oliver. It’s not really about wives at all.

I’ve just heard that the Threads audiobook is being recorded in Bath next week, and they’ve very kindly invited me to go along and watch it happen, and even to have sandwiches with the reader and producer! It’s very tempting, but I’m supposed to be doing the rewrites for book 4 at the moment, and at this rate it will be the summer before my editor ever sees them. So what do do? Decisions, decisions …

I think I’ll end up going, though. It will be the weirdest, most wonderful thing to hear the words that were only ever in my head, and then on my computer screen, and then on the page, finally coming to life. Nonie’s voice! Jenny’s! I have to be there, don’t I?

And Bath is one of my most favourite cities. I’m talking myself into this, aren’t I?

New year, old clothes

I have a confession to make. Although my characters are very good about checking out charity shops and mixing modern with vintage, I am usually pretty rubbish at it myself. It’s not that I don’t try. I do, I really do. I follow the blogs. Digs Frocks and Books is one of my  favourites. I know all my local charity shops and I’m sure they know me: the girl who comes in, can’t find anything that fits or works, goes home again. And proper vintage can be so expensive.

So if I need something nice, I normally take a deep breath and try Topshop. Not cheap, but oh so pretty. Meanwhile, my cupboard is littered with charity ‘finds’ that I never quite got round to fixing so they didn’t look like some 1940s showgirl’s undies. (Or that I did fix, and which now look like some 1940s showgirl’s undies with diamante buttons on.)

Then I was staying with my parents in Shepton Mallet over Christmas. Shepton is near Glastonbury, and seems to lie between some magical Somerset leylines, because strange and unexpected things always happen there. The Mulberry factory shop is there, for a start. (Yes, I have more than one Mulberry handbag. And no, they weren’t vintage. But they were RELATIVELY CHEAP, considering.) The first Micro scooters I ever saw came from the toy shop round the corner. This was ten years ago. Now every toddler in Wandsworth has one. Shepton, of all places, has my favourite antique shop, Number 21. It was there that I met Hilda Haggie, who in her late eighties told me stories about escaping the Nazis with emerald bangles up to her elbows, hidden under her clothes and, later, hiding from robbers on her African farm and becoming the frozen food queen of South Africa.

It was there – Shepton, not South Africa – that the BBC chose to film Turn Back Time – The High Street, which was on over the autumn. It was a lovely series to watch (my parents were in it …), but it didn’t quite manage to capture the real difference that the programme makers made to the town: bringing people together, changing their attitude to the local shops and giving them a new sense of local identity.

One of my favourite characters in the programme was Gill, the seamstress. In the Victorian and Edwardian eras she handmade stunning corsets and dresses. In the 1960s they made her open a hairdressers and she managed to transform the look of all the local ladies with beehives and Lulu-like flicky curls. They looked fantastic and nostalgic and I wished we could all have ‘dos’ again. Hair makes more difference than almost anything you can do to yourself. Check out Cheryl Cole. She knows.

Anyway, in the 1970s episode Gill opened a shop called Woo Hoo. It’s still there, selling vintage. I popped in after Christmas to do my usual look around, find nothing that fits, or nothing nice under £100 and disappear. Except that … I found several things I loved. I tried them on. They fitted. Something strange was happening. That Shepton effect again.

First off was a soft, supple black leather skirt. I thought Zoe, who was running the shop that day, said it cost £50, which seemed reasonable. But she didn’t. She sad £15. I asked her to put it in a bag for me. Next came a rich, turquoise Chinese silk top – one of my favourite colours ever. Fitted perfectly. £5. In the bag. Finally, I tried on a 1930s gold silk Chinese jacket. It was exactly the sort of thing Eileen Atkins would have worn on Upstairs Downstairs, which we’d just been watching on the BBC. Despite its age, it was in perfect condition. And it turned out to be reversible. The rust silk lining had pockets and could look just as stunning on the outside. I could probably wear it to every book reading and festival I ever do.

Nervously, I asked how much it was. Nervously, Zoe explained that it was a bit special. She took a deep breath. So did I. £30, she said. I asked her to add it to the bag.

So there you go. I now have a wardrobe littered with vintage stuff that I can’t wait to wear, and that was collectively cheaper than a Topshop jumper. I can look my characters in the eye at last. And if you ever see me in a gold silk jacket, you’ll know where it came from.

Woo Hoo!