Archive for the 'Bookshops' Category

Why read a manuscript when you can no longer change it?


Today, I’m going to sit down and read Mind Blind, my new teen thriller. Which isn’t that unusual. I’ve been reading, rereading, redrafting and tweaking Mind Blind constantly over the last few months.
But today, I can’t change anything. Mind Blind has already gone to the printers. It’s going to be available in bookshops on the 20th of March. Next month! Today I’m going to be reading the manuscript without the power to change anything, which will be a bit strange and frustrating.
So why am I reading it?
Because this time I’m not looking for things I can fix or improve, I’m looking for quotes and readings.
My relationship with Mind Blind is changing. For a long time I was writing the book: getting to know the characters, following new ideas, finding out what happens next. Then for months (most of last year!) I was redrafting and editing: working out the best way to tell the story. But now, I’m getting ready to promote the book: telling people about it, getting readers interested in it.
To do that, I need to find readings and quotes.
It’s an odd time. It feels like the book isn’t really mine any more. I’m a writer, but I can’t WRITE this book any more. I can’t come up with new ideas, I can’t change any words, or cut out any flabby bits. All I can do is help the book get out there and find readers. Because once a book stops being mine, when I can’t write it any more, it becomes the readers’ book instead.
So today, I’ll be rereading Mind Blind, looking for:
Sections to read during author events (in classrooms, in bookshops, in libraries, at book festivals etc)
Short quotes to give a flavour of the book
Sections to film on location
All of these readings need to be different – different lengths, focussed on different bits of the story – but they all need to have similarities too. All the readings must be exciting and self-contained, but they shouldn’t give away too much about the plot. They need to introduce the characters and their problems, but not give away how those problems are solved. They need to be short and punchy, and not need much explanation.
None of that is easy to find! So it means reading the book in a different way, almost with different eyes.
Also for the first time, I’ll be filming sections of Mind Blind in both London and Edinburgh, where the story is set, and that’s going to make things even more complicated. Normally I don’t choose readings from near the end of a book, but we’re planning to film in several locations in Leith which only appear in the final couple of fights and chases, so it’s going to be difficult to find readings which don’t contain spoilers!
But there is one other thing I will be looking for today, and it’s the most exciting thing of all. While I’m reading through Mind Blind, I might glimpse a few wee hints of story and characters and ideas that might, just might, point me in the direction of a sequel. And that would give me a whole new relationship, as a writer, with these characters.
So, here I go…
“I killed a girl today, just after the school bell…”

the first page of Mind Blind

the first page of Mind Blind


Archive for the 'Bookshops' Category

Who is your favourite Fabled Beast?


At the Edinburgh Book Festival earlier this week, I was sitting at a signing table looking at a long line of First Aid For Fairies fans (I knew they were fans, because most of them were cuddling a stack of slightly dog-eared books) and I had to think of something personal, interesting and appropriate to write in each book.
Because Maze Running is the last of the series, I asked most of the readers “Who’s your favourite character?” so that I could write in their book: “Thanks for coming on x’s last adventure.”
I’ve been asking that question in all the events I’ve done this summer, and I’ve been surprised to discover that pretty much every character has fans. In a line of readers there will almost certainly be Helen fans, Yann fans, Sapphire fans, Rona fans, Lavender fans, Catesby fans… There might be fewer Sylvie, Lee, Serena and Tangaroa fans, because they don’t appear in as many books. But even so, I think almost every character in the series is somebody’s favourite. At the Maze Running launch, I even met a boy whose favourite character was the Master of the Maze!
And I’ve met, or seen pictures of, children dressed as various First Aid For Fairies characters for World Book Day (I’ve met Helen, Lee, Lavender and Rona, but I wonder if there have been any others? Any phoenixes? Any centaurs? In fact, I hereby promise to send a free signed book to the first person who can prove they’ve successfully dressed up as Yann!)
I have my own favourite characters too. But I wonder whether I like my characters for the same reasons readers do?
Do some readers like Lavender or Rona because they like the idea of being a fairy or a selkie? Do some readers like Sapphire because all dragons are cool? (As well being as fiery hot…) So now my signing queues could get even longer, because I might start asking not just: “Who’s your favourite character?” but also: “Why?”
As a writer, I like my characters for lots of different reasons. For example, a particular character might be very useful when I’m writing the story: Sapphire is incredibly handy as transport, Yann is great for kicking doors in, Lavender is very easy to injure (sorry), Sylvie can be relied on to disagree with pretty much anyone. And there wouldn’t be a First Aid for Fairies series at all without Helen to be our guide in that world, or all those nasty baddies making the adventures necessary.
But I don’t just use my characters to push the story along, I enjoy their company too. So my truly favourite characters are the ones whose voices I can hear in my head, who seem to come alive as I write and who surprise me by doing things I don’t expect. For that reason, Yann is my absolute favourite because he argues with me all the time (I can sometimes actually hear him shout at me) and I’m also very fond of Lee, because I never quite trust (or understand) his motives or indeed his world, which is a very interesting position for a writer. And outside the First Aid For Fairies series, I love Emmie in Rocking Horse War, who changed that entire story by putting her hands on her hips and giving me a cheeky smile.
So, who are your favourite fabled beast characters, and why? And do you think writers and readers like characters for different reasons?

Maze Running signing queue at Edinburgh Book Festival 2012


Archive for the 'Bookshops' Category

Hugging ebooks, cuddling Kindles


My new year’s resolution for 2012 isn’t to run more often, or spend less time at the computer and more time with real people (though I should do both of those too) it’s to learn to love ebooks.

That’s not going to be easy for me, for several reasons.

Firstly, I love books. Real actual paper books. I love sharing them with small kids on my knee. I love putting them in coat pockets, or carting rucksacks full of them about. I love piling them up, putting them on shelves, lending them to friends. I love opening a new book.  I love READING BOOKS.  Books, real books, are where I’ve spent many of my happiest hours, for most of my life. I love books.  And I love that what I write becomes real books.

I love bookshops too. Real bookshops.  Staffed by real booksellers, with a real understanding of books and bookbuyers.  Shops where you can find a book you didn’t even know you wanted to read.  And I love that my books sit on shelves in those shops, and get browsed, recommended and bought, in those bookshops.

Also I’m not a fan of new technology. I’m never at the cutting edge of anything digital.  I have the oldest phone in my family (even my kids have fancier ones).  I like to see a new thing work in the hands of other people for a while before I accept that it might be a good thing.  I’m not actually a technophobe. Once someone can persuade me it’s useful and not going to bite me, I get to grips with it eventually. I have a netbook which I love, and an ipod which I couldn’t live without.  But I don’t have an ereader. I thought about asking Santa for one, and then changed my mind and gave Santa a list of books about mazes, dragons, hares, and Scottish history instead. I love my new pile of books. I’m not jealous of all the people who got Kindles. I can read my books in the bath.

I worry about the effect ebooks will have on real books, and real booksellers.  And I don’t trust new technology anyway, not until it becomes slightly older technology.

But…

BUT…

BUT…

People read ebooks. Kids, lots of kids, got ebook readers for Christmas.

So if I want people to meet and care about my characters, to join in the adventures I’ve imagined, to be excited by the dangers and challenges I’ve created, if I want people to read my STORIES, then I have to share those stories in the way readers want to read them.

If you want ebooks, then that’s how my characters will have to come and find you.

So this coming year, I will try to understand ebooks.  I will accept them.  I will even learn to love them.  Next time I see someone reading a Kindle, I will ask them if I can give it a cuddle.  Because I need to learn to embrace ebooks.  Not for me, I think I’ll probably stick with my teetering piles of books, but for my stories, my characters, my readers.

Because however you want to get your stories, that’s how writers should to give you your stories.

So, please let me know what you think of ebooks: Did you get an ereader for Christmas? Do you think children’s books should be on screen or on paper? Do you enjoy books as much on a screen? And can real books survive?

But in the meantime, here’s my New Year’s resolution for 2012: cuddling ebooks.

And in honour of this, I can now announce that all my novels are available in ebook form.  And First Aid for Fairies and Other Fabled Beasts, the first in the series, is on Amazon’s 12 Days of Kindle until 6th Jan at only 99p.

See, I’m promoting ebooks already.  Getting off to a great start.  Now, I need to find an ebook reader to cuddle.  You’ve been warned…

 


Archive for the 'Bookshops' Category

Discovering new bits of Scotland!


I’ve just picked up a bulging yellow folder filled with entries for the Set the Scene competition (where we asked readers to suggest a Scottish location for the fourth and final Fabled Beast book) from my publishers. And it looks SO exciting. I’m flicking through it and I see maps and photos and drawings and myths and legends and first lines of suggested stories and monsters and cliffs and islands and castles and lochs and they all look WONDERFUL! Thank you all so much for sending such amazing entries!

The competition is now closed (sorry!) and the team at Floris who will be helping me pick the winner need a bit of time to read through the large number of entries, so we think it will be just over a month before we announce the winner. So please be patient!

I’m off now, to enjoy discovering lots of new bits of Scotland!


Archive for the 'Bookshops' Category

Bookshops. They sell books. And you can meet authors there too…


Whew!

I’ve just done author events at six different Waterstones in a fortnight. I’ve done Newton Mearns, Stirling, Ayr, St Andrews, East Kilbride and Inverness. West, South, East, and North. All lovely shops, all with lovely (bookloving) booksellers.

But it can be fairly nerve-shredding, sitting, on your own, in a shop, waiting to see if anyone can be bothered turning up to listen to you read. (Though someone always did! Which always feels like a miracle, especially on all these beautifully sunny days we’ve been having!)

But I think it’s important to get in about bookshops and support them (and don’t worry, I’m not just doing Waterstones – the Waterstones clustered together in July, but I’m doing two independent bookshops this summer too, and more in the autumn I hope.)

I know you can buy books online, but you can’t chat to a bookseller online, or flick through the book, or just see what catches your eye on the shelf. And you can’t meet an author online either, not in the same way.

So bookshops and authors are going to have to offer bookbuyers something more than online buying can, and me sitting there reading The Big Bottom Hunt to four year olds, or telling an Inuit sea legend which inspired Storm Singing to ten year olds, is one of those ‘something more’s!

And it gives me a chance to meet you – meet readers, meet parents, meet teachers on holiday, and perhaps meet a few kids who have never heard of my books, but who heard this loud voice from the back of the store, and just wandered up to see who it was. That’s possibly one of the best reasons for visiting bookshops! (And also one of the reasons why my voice is a bit croaky today!)

So, that was my fortnight of Waterstones. Next week is my week of clowns, then after that, it’s my week of caves. (Caves and clowns? Yes, really, check out my diary if you don’t believe me!)