Monday 1 April 2013

The By Any Other Name Blog Tour

I've got feature articles stopping off in the following places - some soundtracks, Q/A with the characters, pieces on writing etc. Thanks to my hosts listed above!

Sunday 17 February 2013

Some fantastic news

Skin Deep has now been shortlisted for two awards. The first is in the Young Adult Romantic Novel category of the Romantic Novelists' Association's RoNAs 2013 and the second is the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize.

Obviously I'm ecstatic about both!!!

In other news, we're updating the website as By Any Other Name is released this April and I'll be doing a blog tour, so details of that will be here and on the website.

And my other baby is due end of March/start of April too! That'll be the kind with tiny feet and stinky nappies... :-)

Monday 4 June 2012

Characters who arrive in their own sweet time

One thing I have found is that you can never rush a character. And for me, my characters make my books so sometimes waiting on them can be frustrating. Without them I can't go anywhere.

I blame Seamus entirely for the delay in my writing career. It took him five years to turn up, in which time Twilight appeared and got successful and the YA urban fantasy market saturated, which is why Seamus is still in a drawer. And it's totally his own fault.

Let me explain. I started out writing urban fantasy, because I love it. Not the stereotypical boy meets girl stuff dressed up with vampires and fallen angels, but the urban fantasy concepts of something dark and supernatural behind the city facade. So my first book, Freakshow, had two teenage shapeshifters as the main characters. Unfortunately despite repeated attempts to write the wretched thing, I could never get past more than a few chapters. It was just...well...garbage! The words wouldn't flow right. I couldn't think of a plot past the first chapter and...sigh...I'd just give up and forget about it.

Except the idea kept nagging away in the back of my brain. Shapeshifters in an urban environment fighting some kind of mafia-like organisation. I had the two shapeshifters - Teo and Kizzy - but I couldn't get to the next stage of turning it into a fully-fledged story. Then one day I was driving down a lane and I had my own personal writer's road to Damascus. It was so vivid that it was as if the character was sitting in the passenger seat beside me, his boots up on my dashboard and a packet of cheese and onion crisps he was munching on stinking the car out. 'I'm what you've been missing,' he said, with what would become a trademark smugness. 'I'm Seamus and I'm a blood redistribution engineer.'

My vampire had arrived, and within minutes so had a whole secondary cast of characters and a plot. And the book was written in six months flat. And actually, I'm still pretty pleased with that book. It really isn't bad, even if it is still in a drawer.

Sam was a different matter. He arrived like a cannonball. My friend, Andrea, made a passing comment that no one seems to write books about gay kids and I nodded. Two days later, Sam was born. He growled a couple of lines of dialogue in my ear and sent me off to frantically scribble away to write Freefalling in two months. I learned a lot with that book, not least that it's difficult to get published as a debut novelist without a book that seems to fit a niche, no matter how much people like it.

Jenna and Ryan from Skin Deep didn't exist at all as voices until my pen hit the paper and then they grew before my eyes. And they weren't at all as I would have planned them if I'd sat down to try to create them from scratch in a book outline. This happens to me a lot which is why I never bother outlining but with Skin Deep I'd never had so little idea of who the main characters were and where the plot would go before I started. As Jenna says in the book, 'I took a deep breath and stepped off the cliff'. Somehow it works out in the end!

It can be scary though. I waited a long time to work out who Holly is in my next book and went through a lot of early drafts of the first chapters before I found her at all and even then had to do a thorough edit at the end of the first draft to get her right, which is very unusual. But perhaps that's because of the situation she finds herself in - even she doesn't know who she is any more.

That's the funny thing about characters: some come easy as lounging in the sun on the grass on a hot day; others, it's like climbing a mountain to get inside them. And you can't hurry them - they open up to you in their own sweet time.

Monday 14 May 2012

So what's it like to start a new book?

In some ways, it's a bit like starting a new relationship. You have those pre-first date jitters. Will this be the one? Or will it be a disaster of epic proportions from which your confidence will never recover? You worry, you get ridiculously excited at the prospect of the date/actually getting to sit down and begin to write the thing, and you obsess over how awesome it could be. Because it could be, couldn't it? Pretty please, Fate, let this be awesome.

Then finally, finally it happens. You begin! It's the first date with your characters. And it is wonderful. In parts. But it's also awful too because there are all those nerve-racking moments where you realise how little you know these people and you ask yourself how this is ever all going to work out.

I should pause here to explain that I'm not the kind of writer who plans much in advance. I only have the loosest idea of where I'm going when I start writing a book, often just the concept of the book and a tidbit of backstory for the main character or a line of dialogue from them. Nor am I awfully fond of first dates, much preferring the stage when you've relaxed and stopped being on best behaviour around each other.

I digress. So there you are in the throes of teeth-grinding first date-ness, trying to relax and not stress that you don't think it's going totally perfectly. I know some writers who adore the early stages of writing a new book and are totally caught up in the excitement of the new idea, and the opportunity to create something unexpected. Me, I'm a wuss. I just stress about how far from perfect what I'm writing is. My agent knows when I'm still in this stage: she calls and I tell her it's a train wreck. She pays no attention, fortunately.

But I plug away at it, and worry, and plug away a bit more. Much as when you have a date in those early stages, you go away and replay the whole thing over and over and analyse what happened until you've lost all sense of proportion - oh, come on, I know you've done that too sometimes! I struggle over every word I write in the first chapters. I go back and I rewrite until...until...oh, that magic moment when: Yes! There you are, main character. I've started to know you. That's you, right there. Ha, got you now!

I breathe again. This might just be okay. Maybe it is all going to work out.

There's a couple more blips along the way before we're properly together, when the characters do something unexpected on me. Where I lose their voices. But gradually, in the same way you slide into that easier stage of the relationship, we start to fit. You know, that point where you know how the object of your affections takes their coffee, how they always watch Merlin on Saturday night (okay, that might be my guilty pleasure and not my other half's, who tends to watch along with me wearing a slightly bemused expression) and how they won't be satisfied with dinner unless their plate contains something that once dwelled behind a five bar gate.

But you get me - you know these guys now. You are still getting to know them better, of course, and you will be until the penultimate line of the book. It's all still new and exciting but somehow more comfortable than before.

You'll have panics during the course of the book, where you think it's not going well. That your relationship has got tired and predictable and you've failed to notice - because if that's true, your reader will notice. But those choking, almost block-inducing feelings of the opening pages are gone.


And now you can enjoy it.

Until the next time ;-)

Monday 7 May 2012

Catching up with y'all

It's been a really hectic couple of months. Skin Deep is now out there in the shops getting some great feedback from readers and bloggers. It's great to have so many people getting behind the characters and loving them. What I'm most pleased about is how much the people who've written to me about the book, or stopped me to talk about it, or blogged about it, have got from Jenna and Ryan's journey. My favourite books are the ones that are about something real and true so I love it when readers say they've found that in Skin Deep.

The blog tour was a lovely experience, both in terms of the variety of articles that were put out there - from character Q&A to playlists to interviews - and from watching the reactions.

In other news we've been redesigning the website to make it more user-friendly and get some updates on there so that'll be going live at the end of the week. It looks much the same in the design but we've been adding some features to improve it for partially-sighted readers.

And finally, yeah, I know it's been a while since I blogged but I do have a really good excuse - I just got engaged and we've been sorting out the wedding plans *very big grin* so forgive me and normal service will now be resumed!

Oh, and I'm now on Twitter so come and find me - links are on the new website.

Sunday 19 February 2012

My Blog Tour

Yes, I'm announcing a blog tour on my own blog! Throughout March, you can catch me in the following locations promoting Skin Deep.

Drop by and find some great new blog sites about books.

Sunday 12 February 2012

For Valentine's Day

I write a lot in coffee shops. I like the noise around me, the way I can look up in a break and see an expression on someone's face or the something in the way someone walks past outside that inspires me. And most of all, I like the caffeine, preferably with a long shot of skimmed milk and a little dash of hazelnut syrup.

But there was one coffee shop experience I had last summer that I don't think I'll ever forget. Whenever I recall it, it makes me smile like Wordsworth's daffodils.

I was sitting on one of the comfy chairs in Starbucks writing an early chapter in my last book when a woman in her late fifties came to sit near me. It was a hot day and she had a white floaty knee length skirt, some kind of cheesecloth fabric, and a matching blouse teamed with strappy sandals. Her hair was long and loose and a mousey brown which looked over-dyed and badly in need of conditioning. When she sat down, her skirt exposed a lot of dimpled, veiny knees. She was a big woman with plain face and so the overall effect was... incongruous. But hey, she walked in there like she felt great so good luck to her, I thought.

And then her husband came over, finally having got served. He put a large mug of coffee and a muffin down in front of her and smiled. 'There you are, gorgeous,' he said and from his face you knew he meant every word of it. Now he wasn't a good looking man either but she looked up at him like he was.

They sat there eating and drinking in companionable silence, giving off the most 'together' vibe of any couple I've seen. Any time I need to write about love, I remember those two. When all the Valentine's cards and flowers and chocolates and the nervous jitters and excitement of early love are gone, if you're lucky that's what you get - what they have.

Of course, Shakespeare tried telling us years ago that:
"Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind;
And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind:"

But whenever I'm minded to forget that, I think of that couple and it makes me unaccountably happy.