Archive for the 'Picture Books' Category

We’re all going on a kelpie hunt…


A new book!  With a new monster! kelpie

My first book of 2016 has just been published!  The Secret of the Kelpie is a picture book retelling the story of the Scottish kelpie – the shape-shifting, child-eating water-horse.

I did the research and wrote the words, and the fiendishly talented Philip Longson did the gorgeous scary illustrations.

The Secret of the Kelpie is about a family who meet a beautiful horse by the side of a loch and realise too late that the horse is a kelpie who plans to drag them into the water, to drown them and eat them… So the littlest sister Flora has to discover the kelpie’s secret and try to save her big brothers and sisters.

SoK huge and hungryI had to do lots of research to find out about the kelpie’s powers and the kelpie’s secret. And I found out that there are lots of different kelpie stories from lots of different parts of Scotland, and that kelpies in different places are different colours (white, gold, black…) and like to eat different people (children, fishermen, young women, married couples…) I discovered that some kelpies like their home comforts (one kidnapped a stone mason to build him a fireplace), that some kelpies are good at building themselves (there are bridges and churches and mills apparently built by kelpies), that some kelpies can grow bigger to fit more children on their backs and that some kelpies can be defeated by… actually, that’s a secret.

I was surprised to discover that not all kelpie stories are set by remote lochs in the Highland and Islands.  There are great kelpie stories from the east too – from Angus and Aberdeenshire for example.

But now I had far too much kelpie research for one picture book.  (Writers often end up with far more research than we need, unless we want our book to be a list, rather than a story.) But luckily, the research I did has also resulted in a MAP so that you can go on a kelpie hunt too!Banner-SecretKelpieMap

My lovely publishers Floris have created an interactive map so that you can see all the locations in Scotland where kelpie stories are told, and click on the horse’s head in any location to read a snippet of the kelpie lore from that place.

So, why not find out about the kelpies nearest you, and see if you can go on a kelpie hunt during the Easter holidays or some weekend?

But if you meet a beautiful horse, be VERY VERY careful…

PS – But I have another even more exciting use for all my kelpie research, because one of the main characters in the Spellchasers trilogy (see previous blog post) is a kelpie, with a few different powers, and lots of different secrets! But you’ll have to wait til August to find out about him…

 


Archive for the 'Picture Books' Category

Why do we love shapeshifters?


I LOVE stories about shapeshifters.

I’ve made up a few shapeshifter stories myself: Rona, the selkie in the Fabled Beast Chronicles, regularly shifts from girl to seal and back again. And Rona was the first character, apart from Helen, who got her own point of view chapters and heroic action, in Storm Singing. Those scenes were some of the most challenging I’ve ever written, because I had to imagine myself as a creature of a completely different shape, with completely different abilities. Also thinking about why and when Rona would choose to shift from one shape to another was fascinating. (It usually came down to the use of hands …)

Most of my shapeshifting knowledge and lore comes from old stories, and a remarkably high percentage of my favourite traditional tales are about shapeshifters. When I collected my favourite Scottish folktales and legends in Breaking the Spell, four out of the ten tales were about shapeshifting of some kind or another.IMG_1920

In Girls, Goddesses and Giants, my collection of heroine stories, my favourite baddie (who is defeated by my favourite heroine) is a shapeshifting demon.

And The Tale of Tam Linn, a retelling of my favourite Scottish fairy tale, illustrated by the magically talented Philip Longson, is also about shapeshifting – a boy who is stolen by the fairies, and then turned into lots of different Scottish animals (stag, wolf, wildcat…) to try to prevent a girl from rescuing him.

Now, I’ve followed the logic of that path, and written a whole collection of shapeshifters.

Serpents & Werewolves is a collection of fifteen of my favourite shapeshifter stories… illustrated by Francesca Greenwood’s stunning silhouettes. There’s a frog, who doesn’t get kissed, and a dragon, who does. There are several werewolves: a goodie werewolf (sort of), some baddie werewolves (definitely), and a werewolf cub, who was great fun to write. There are escaping fish and diving birds and tricky foxes, a very large serpent and a very tiny caterpillar, and all of them change shape as the story goes on…IMG_1947

As with all the collections I write, some of these stories are ones I’ve loved and told for years. But some of them are new discoveries for me, as I researched shapeshifting tales, looking for stories that I wanted to get to know, from lots of different places, about lots of different animals.

And I found, as always, that researching and writing a book threw up more questions than answers:

Why does almost every culture in the world have stories about people changing into animals, and animals changing into people?

Why do we want (or need) to imagine something human in animals, and something animal in humans?

Why do we like to imagine ourselves with the strengths (and weaknesses) of animals?

Is it shapeshifting a superpower or a curse?

At a logical level (because I like my magic logical…) if you shift into something much bigger or much smaller than your human self, where does the extra bulk come from, or go to?

And what animal or bird what would I like to turn into… ?

My fascination with shapeshifting hasn’t ended yet! I’m still asking those questions, and I’m still writing about shapeshifters…

I can’t give too much away just yet, but in the trilogy of novels I’m working on, the main character is a slightly reluctant shapeshifter… So right now I am having great fun writing about creatures much smaller and much faster than I usually do.

So, there are more shapeshifters to come!

And if you want a wee taste of the stories in Serpents and Werewolves, here is a sample put online by my publishers….

SerpentsCover


Archive for the 'Picture Books' Category

What Lari’s Doing Next… (Which is actually what Lari did earlier this year and last year and the year before!)


One of the weirder things about being a writer is the long delay between writing a book and the publication of the book. I have completely finished writing the words for at least (counting on my fingers) five books that won’t be out for months or even years, because they are still being illustrated or edited or just sitting waiting patiently in a queue to be published.

That means that when I finally launch a book, and chat to readers about that book, it might be a couple of years since I finished writing it. (And yes, I do reread my books before publication, so I don’t sound like I’ve forgotten them!)

It also means that there can be long gaps between new books, which makes it look like I’ve stopped writing (I haven’t), or lots of books at once, which makes it look like I’m suddenly churning books out (I’m not! I am just writing sort of steadily, most of the time…)

My most recent book (The Tale of Tam Linn, still one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever held in my hands) came out last year, and I’ve had a bit of a lull at the start of this year, but it’s all about to heat up again. I have quite a few books appearing on shelves in the next year or so, and I’m really excited about all of them.

So, here’s what next. Ranging from a book so nearly ready that we’ve actually got a cover, to a novel that I’ve not even started yet…serpent

Serpents & Werewolves, Stories of Animal Shapeshifters from Around the World.
Another collection of my favourite myths and legends, this time about shapeshifters. There are serpents and werewolves, but also dragons and swans and frogs…
This book is very nearly ready (look, we have a cover already!) and it will be published on the 10th of September 2015.

I’m also working on another collection of stories in the same series (along with Girls Goddesses and Giants, and Winter’s Tales). Wild Horses, Wings and Warriors (still a provisional title) will be a collection of horse myths and legends. No pony club stories, but lots of thundering hooves and battles! And perhaps a centaur.

tam-linnBut there’s more! Next spring there will be another Kelpies Traditional Tale picture book, illustrated by the amazing Philip Longson, who also illustrated The Tale of Tam Linn. I am so happy to be working with Philip again, and I can’t wait to see what he does with the monster in this story…

And even more… VIKINGS this time. breaking
The lovely Cate James and I, who worked together on Breaking the Spell, have another Frances Lincoln collaboration on the way.The Dragon’s Hoard is a collection of Viking sagas. There will be dragons, battles, boats and swords. And a swan. Also a zombie. (I didn’t expect the zombie.) I’ve finished the words, and Cate is working hard on the pictures, so this should be out in autumn 2016.

And still more. I’m also writing novels. Probably three novels. Possibly a trilogy. Likely to be set in the North East of Scotland. But whatever happens with all those probablies and possiblies and likelies, there will definitely be magic and danger.

So, that’s what’s next. I’d better get back to writing the books for 2017 and 2018…


Archive for the 'Picture Books' Category

Looking Forward To 2015 – Another Writing Year


So, the kids are back to school. It’s the start of another writing year!

I don’t have many books being published this year, but I am working on quite a few books for the next couple of years. (Being a writer is not about instant gratification.)

I don’t have a novel coming out in 2015 (sorry!) mostly because I moved house (twice…) in 2013, then spent a fair chunk of 2014 campaigning in the Independence referendum. But I am working on an adventure novel right now, and I hope there will be exciting news about that sometime in 2015.

The next thing I’ll be doing for the novel is work out how to get my characters home after a shoreline battle, so that they can have an argument and answer a riddle.

Girls Goddesses GiantsI do have one book coming out in the autumn of 2015 though – a collection of shapeshifter stories (werewolves, snakes, hawks, foxes, caterpillars…) These are the old stories that inspire the magic and characters and action in my novels. I’m sure this book will be gorgeous because it’s being published by the same people who worked with me on Girls Goddesses and Giants, and on Winter’s Tales.

The next thing I’ll be doing for this collection is a very careful edit of a story about a frog.

spell2I’m also working on another collection which I’m very excited about – retellings of stories from the Viking sagas, with dragons and warriors and magic and polar bears. It’s been a real challenge to find the right stories (I read a lot of sagas in 2014…) The best thing about this book is working with one of my favourite artists, Cate James, who illustrated the wonderful Breaking the Spell. These Vikings are going to look fantastic!

The next thing I’ll be doing for this collection is whittle down the very long list of stories I’ve found, to focus on the absolutely best ones for the book. Oh, and have a cup of tea with Cate.

DonTale-of-Tam-LinnAnd I’m also very excited about a picture book I’m working on – another Traditional Tales retelling for Floris books, likely to be out in 2016. The Tale of Tam Linn is such a gloriously beautiful book, so I hope we can do something just as special with the kelpie tale I’m working on right now.

The next thing I’ll be doing for this picture book is read every single word out loud, to make sure it works in the air as well as on the page.

I have several other books on the go too, and I’m sure I’ll be able to tell you about them soon!

I hope you all have a creative and story-filled 2015! I’m off to meet some deadlines…

 


Archive for the 'Picture Books' Category

The nocturnal writer


I can’t stop writing for Christmas. Not just because I have a huge number of deadlines (I do! I have a picture book text and a collection of shapeshifter stories due in January, and a collection of Viking stories due in February, and an entire novel to write before the summer) but because once I am deep into a story, I have to keep writing it.

I have to live inside a story, keep it at the front of my head, move it forward every day. And to do that properly I can’t take a break from it. Days off here and there are fine. But not a three week break over Christmas. Picking it all back up in January once the schools are back would be like starting the book all over again, trying to remember the feel and the excitement and the characters’ voices and the rules of that particular magical world, after a prolonged holiday from it. I have returned to novels after a long break before, but it’s time-consuming getting back into the story and I don’t have time to waste this coming year.

Therefore, I can’t stop writing for Christmas.

But everyone else in my family is on now holiday.

So I’m becoming a nocturnal writer.

I try to do most of my writing during the day, during daylight hours. Full writing days at home if I can manage it, or nice big chunks of writing when I’m travelling to do author events. But I’ve always written at night as well. First Aid for Fairiesfabled beast chronicles First Aid was mostly written at night when my kids were asleep. But they were much younger then, so they were asleep by about 8 o’clock at night. Now, writing at night often means writing at midnight. I still do that, a couple of times a week, to meet deadlines, and to keep the stories alive in my head.

But if I want to meet these early 2015 deadlines and if I want to keep this novel moving forward at pace (one of my main characters has just revealed a very dark secret, and I want to keep that tension building!) then I’m going to have to become a truly nocturnal writer.

I’m going to stay up later than everyone else each night, and write for at least an hour. That’s probably when I’ll do the final research and final edits for the manuscripts which are due to be submitted next month. And I’m going to set my alarm very early every dark cold morning, and get up and write for a couple of hours before anyone else in the house is awake. That’s definitely when I’ll keep the novel rattling on.

And of course, during the day, I’ll be a mum. Delivering Christmas cards, doing last minute shopping, wrapping Christmas presents, baking, visiting family and friends, playing card games, going for walks, having fun with my kids. Maybe even lying on the couch reading the books I hope I’m going to find under the tree…

But at night and in the morning, I’ll be writing. I have to, and I want to. Because the stories don’t ever seem to sleep!

(And, yes, I do know that I need to sleep. But 5 or 6 hours a night is usually enough for me…)

PS – I’ve just realised that sounds like I’m not actually going to take a break at all! Which would be daft and unhealthy and not help my creative process in the slightest. I am taking a break over Christmas. Because the most tiring thing I do as a writer is not writing, it’s travelling all over the country to talk to kids about stories. (I love it, but it can be tiring!) And I’m not doing that for the next few weeks. Just time with my family during the day and time with my stories at night. That will feel like a holiday. Hope you all have a lovely relaxing break too!


Archive for the 'Picture Books' Category

Patron of Reading at Forthview Primary


I am delighted to announce that I am now the Patron of Reading at Forthview Primary in Edinburgh!

In three very packed events last week, I chatted about books and stories with EVERY SINGLE CLASS in the school (more than 400 kids in one day) and I was really impressed by their passion and their imaginations and their brilliant questions.

I was also extremely impressed that parents turned up to each session and sat at the back of the hall (they got chairs, the pupils sat on the floor…) watching as their kids discussed books and reading, and came up with story ideas.

That was particularly important because what the school really want to achieve is a Reading Community, where everyone – pupils, teachers and families – share their enjoyment of books and reading for pleasure.

I am a huge fan of reading for pleasure (I do it myself as often as I can!) but I’m also a huge fan of writing for pleasure, making stuff up for pleasure, and playing with stories for FUN!

So when I visited, the nursery and P1s read The Magic Word and brought a toy pony to life with some magic ingredients and a bit of stirring.

The P2s and P3s read Never Trust a Tiger and helped a tricksy little rabbit escape several times from a hungry cobra.

And the P4s to P7s read a bit of Storm Singing from the Fabled Beasts series, and worked out lots of different and dramatic ways to rescue someone from a cliff edge.

I also met some of the teachers, some of the parents, and some of the council and library staff who will be working wit the reading community. And I heard about lots of the brilliant ideas the school are coming up with, like a reading group for dads.

And I want to go back! I want to go back and chat to smaller groups about what they love reading, what they love writing and possibly give them sneak previews of what I’m writing too. And that’s the great thing about being Patron of Reading – I will go back!

It’s amazing to be invited to be part of such an ambitious project, and I’m really looking forward to it!

Thanks Forthview Primary, and hope to see you again soon! (Keep reading! And keep away from cobras and cliff edges…)

Here are some pictures of the launch:

photo 3 (2)
I think this was when I asked who loved stories! (Or it might have been when I asked for ideas about how to escape from a cobra. They’re resourceful kids in Forthview…)

photo 1 (2)
This is inspirational headteacher Mrs Littlewood talking about how much she loves reading.

photo 5

This is me grinning like a loon in front of a table of books.

image (4)

And finally, a slightly odd picture of me either doing a wee dance, or pretending to kick a tree trunk into a pit to save a tiger.

 

 

 


Archive for the 'Picture Books' Category

All Change!


2013 has been a weird year for me. I moved house twice and had six books published, but not one of the six was a new novel.
So in 2014, I plan to stay put, publish fewer books and get stuck into some serious novel writing.
It seems weird that I published more books than even before in a year when I was distracted by house moves (and selling and buying and decorating and lawyers and packing and unpacking – all of which manages to be both boring and stressful.) However almost all the books I published in 2013 were written in 2012 or even 2011, and not one of them was a novel.
I was delighted with the new books though: The Magic Word has the most amazingly magical and funny pictures by Claire Keay and my first proper cat character (hello Beanie…); Masha and the Bear is possibly my favourite of the Barefoot Animal Stories so far, because I think Masha is the cleverest little heroine (nothing like Little Red Riding Hood – she doesn’t need anyone to rescue her from the animal she meets in the woods); but I love the Hungry Wolf too, because the lamb in that is so cheeky that you almost feel sorry for the wolf, and Melanie Williamson’s pictures of the daft wolf still make me laugh out loud.

2013's picture books

2013’s picture books

So, three beautiful books with great pictures and stories that I’m proud of. I hope I’ve done that before though.
The big change for me in 2013, apart from the constant house moves, was the publication of my first (and second and third) collections of myths and folklore. I’ve retold old stories before, in the Mountain’s Blood, or the gorgeous Little Red Riding Hood. But this year, full length collections of Scottish stories (Breaking The Spell), heroine legends (Girls, Goddesses and Giants) and winter stories (Winter’s Tales) all came out. I wrote the Scottish stories a couple of years ago, and the heroine tales last year. Winter’s Tales is the only book out this year which I actually wrote this year – it was pulled together in the spring before the first house move.
And I am so happy about these collections. Every single one contains stories that I love sharing with children, stories which inspire the fiction and novels that I write, and it is wonderful being able to share them with even more people.
Breaking The Spell includes the legend of Tam Linn, Girls Goddesses and Giants includes a seven-headed dragon, and Winter’s Tales includes Loki the Viking trickster god – all stories I love sharing, all stories which have inspired plots and scenes in the First Aid for Fairies series.

2013's myths, legends and folktales

2013’s myths, legends and folktales

Though it was weird writing these stories down! These are stories that I tell all the time in schools and libraries and at book festivals, to show what inspires my fiction, so I was typing exactly what I tell. And I think that’s worked (the books are getting really good reviews and reactions anyway…) It was also a fascinating challenge choosing the right balance of stories – dark and light, long and short, gory and funny, stories from lots of different places – and researching the background to them all. It felt like being a student again, only getting to choose my favourite thing in the world (stories!) to write my essays on.
So, lots of new books this year. Which is great. But unfortunately, there wasn’t much new writing in 2013. I often say that I can write anywhere: trains, staffrooms, cafes, outside dance studios… but that only works so long as I have my own study to go home to at night, so I can pull it all together. But when I didn’t know where I’d be writing next, and when all my stuff was in boxes, it was really hard to see ahead in novels, to concentrate on what happens next. So my writing this year has been a bit stop start…
Anyway, that was 2013. Three different studies and six different books. But no novels. I do feel bad about that.
However, 2014 is nearly here. And there’s a novel!
In March 2014 my first teen novel, a thriller called Mind Blind, will be published by KelpiesTeen. And I am SO excited.

Mind Blind

Mind Blind

This is another big change for me. Mind Blind is for older readers, it’s not about magic, it has some very nasty characters and some very dark and dangerous scenes. I loved writing it (last year…) I loved editing it (this year, on lots of different floors in lots of different houses) and I am so excited about what readers will think of it (next year!)
And also, now that I’m settled in my lovely new bigger brighter study, I’m working on a new adventure. But I can’t tell you about that yet. You’ll have to wait until next year, or maybe even the year after….

(And yes, those are not-yet-unpacked boxes in the background of the photos. I’d rather write than unpack…)


Archive for the 'Picture Books' Category

What is it about wolves?


I’ve now written six books with wolves inside, five of which have a wolf on the cover, and two of which even have a wolf in the title.
Just last week, the wolfiest book of all was published. The Hungry Wolf is a retelling of all the best ‘daft wolf tries to eat clever lamb’ stories I could find, stunningly illustrated by Melanie Williamson.
But there are lots of wolves in my other books too:
There’s a helpful wolf in the last story in Girls, Goddesses and Giants, my recent collection of heroine stories.
There’s a smooth-talking sharp-toothed wolf in Little Red Riding Hood.
Sylvie, the rather snappy wolf girl, appears in both Wolf Notes, the second novel in the First Aid series, and Maze Running, the last of the series.
And I have a collection of Winter’s Tales coming out later this year (just in time for the first frost and snow!), which has a lovely lemon-yellow wolf on the cover and a howling wolf story inside.
There is no one other creature, apart from possibly 11 year old girls, that I have written about as often as I have written about wolves.
So what is it about wolves that draws me and so many other writers to them? (Many of my favourite kids’ books are about wolves, like Michelle Paver’s Wolf Brother, or werewolves, like Roy Gill’s Daemon Parallel… To save me listing lots more, here are seven of my favourite wolf books for adults from the Scottish Book Trust website…)
So, what is it about wolves?
There are many theories about people’s fascination with wolves, but I think I know why I’m drawn as a writer to stories about wolves, why I love retelling ancient wolf stories and creating new wolf stories.
Wolves are both cool and scary. They are beautiful creatures, but they are also dangerous. And what’s so handy for writers is that EVERYONE has a reaction to wolves. Wolves are story shorthand for lots of useful, dramatic things. We don’t need to explain wolves. So wolves are a bit like dragons, which are also fascinating, beautiful and very dangerous. Perhaps wolves are the real world equivalent of dragons…
In stories, wolves can be equally convincing and equally useful to the plot as either a friend or an enemy (or, like Sylvie in Wolf Notes, as a mix of both.) So wolves can be tricksters: never entirely trustworthy, just as likely to be a baddie as a goodie, and very likely to move the story in unpredictable ways. That’s why one of my favourite mythical wolves is Fenrir, the son of Viking trickster god Loki.
One of the reasons I tell so many wolf stories is that so many cultures tell wolf stories. Almost every part of the world has had wolves as a main predator at some time, so wolves appear in lots of stories. This is another similarity between wolves and dragons, which are also an almost universal story baddie. (I know Irish dragon stories and Chinese dragon stories, Greek dragon stories and Scandinavian dragon stories; but I also know native American wolf stories and Viking wolf stories, Scottish wolf stories and Sanskrit wolf stories.) It is fascinating to see how the role and character of the wolf changes across cultures: almost always a baddie in Europe, often a wise goodie in native American culture.
I have a personal reason for feeling strongly about wolf stories too. I used to be scared of dogs, ‘cross the road if a dog was walking towards me on a lead’ type scared. Then I spent months researching wolves’ social organisation and intelligence for Wolf Notes. Once I understood a bit about wolves, I suddenly realised that I understood a bit about dogs too – mainly that they weren’t remotely interested in me because I was neither another dog nor their owner / pack leader – so I stopped being scared of them. Which just shows that writing books about wolves can change your life.
So, now I have six wolf books on my shelves. I wonder what wolf I will write next…
What animal are you particularly drawn to writing (or reading) about, and do you know why?

a pack of wolves

a pack of wolves


Archive for the 'Picture Books' Category

What Lari Wrote Next…


I have a bit of a traffic jam of books waiting to be published over this summer and autumn.
It looks like I’ve been writing a lot of myths, legends and magic this year, but in fact, THIS year I’ve mostly been writing novels. It was last year and the year before that I was researching and writing lots of myths and legends, but some books take a while to be edited and illustrated. However, I think they are all very much worth waiting for.
So here are the books being published in 2013, and possibly a hint about what’s coming up in 2014:

Girls, Goddesses and Giants: Tales of Heroines from Around the World (A&C Black, July 2013)
This is my first ever collection of myths and legends, and I’m so proud of it. I have always been slightly disappointed that so many really exciting adventure stories are about boys, so I’ve spent years searching for authentic old stories with girls who fight their own battles. And now here are all my favourite heroines gathered together in one book! There is a Japanese girl who meets a sea monster, a Viking warrior who braves ghosts, a Hindu goddess with 10 arms, a Sumerian goddess who meets 52 monsters in one journey, and an early version of Little Red Riding Hood which I’m sure will surprise you! This book is illustrated beautifully by Francesca Greenwood.
Girls-Goddesses-Giants


Masha and the Bear
& The Hungry Wolf (Barefoot Books, August 2013)
The third and fourth books in the Animal Stories series I’ve written for Barefoot Books, short chapter books retelling traditional tales from around the world, designed for newly independent readers. Melanie Williamson’s amazing pictures bring these stories to life beautifully.
Animal Stories 4 Masha and the Bear_UKPB_FC_RBG_72dpi

Masha and the Bear is about a little girl who gets lost in the forest, then gets trapped by a bear in a cave. But she doesn’t need a woodcutter or hunter to save her, she gets home all on her own using brains and baking skills!
J1212089 Cover.pdf, page 1 @ Preflight

The Hungry Wolf is about a wolf who wants to eat a little lamb, and about all the ways the tricky little lamb fools the wolf and saves herself. It’s a combination of many of my favourite trickster tales, and was great fun to write!

Breaking The Spell: Stories of Magic and Mystery from Scotland (Frances Lincoln, September 2013)
I am so excited about this book – it’s a collection of all my favourite Scottish stories, illustrated by the fabulous Cate James. There are selkies, kelpies and fairies, but also witches, warriors, riddles and baby monsters. There are stories you might know, and stories I’m sure you’ll never have heard before, and one story that comes directly from my own family’s lore. And you might even recognise where the inspiration for some of my novels comes from…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Magic Word (Picture Kelpies, September 2013)
Not a retelling! This is an original picture book, my only fiction of the year. The Magic Word is about a little girl who can’t be bothered to write her birthday thank you letters, and tries to take some unusual short cuts. The pictures by Claire Keay are really magical, and I’m very much looking forward to reading this to little ones!

The Magic Word cover

The Magic Word cover

Winter Tales: Winter Stories from Around the World (A&C Black, October 2013)
Another collection illustrated by the atmospheric silhouettes of Francesca Greenwood – this time a collection of winter tales. I’ve included some of the oldest and most exciting myths explaining the cycle of the seasons (yes, Persephone is in there, but so are some gods and goddesses you might not have met before) and also lots of folklore and fables about snow, polar bears and wolves from all over the world. I was particularly pleased to find winter tales from the southern hemisphere as well as the north. I hope it will be ideal for sharing stories by a warm fire with snow falling outside!
And this is the one book published in 2013 that I did write this year (earlier on, in that very long winter!) so I don’t have a finished cover to show you yet! But I’m hoping for a wolf…

And next year? Floris Books are bringing out the first three novels in their new young adult list, TeenKelpies, and I’m delighted to say that my next novel will be one of them!
And after that? Well, I’m currently writing a fantasy adventure set in the northeast of Scotland, so if you enjoyed the First Aid for Fairies series, you might want to read this adventure too…


Archive for the 'Picture Books' Category

In which I wonder what kind of writer I am…


I think I’m a novelist, who writes adventure books like First Aid for Fairies, Rocking Horse War and Maze Running.
I know I write a few other books once in a wee while, like the occasional picture book when I need a break from ambushes, and sometimes I gather together collections of my favourite myths and legends.
But mainly, I’m a novelist. Yes?
Well, maybe not.
I won an award last week, when Orange Juice Peas (written by me, illustrated by Lizzie Wells) won the Dundee Picture Book Award, which is voted for by local P1s and by the P6s who read the books to them. The other shortlisted authors were proper picture book writers, all of whom travelled up from the south of England to be in Dundee. It was a real award ceremony, for real picture books.
And my book won.
Just like The Big Bottom Hunt won the Hawick Picture Book Award a couple of years ago…
So perhaps I’m a proper picture book writer as well.
Perhaps I need to take being a picture book writer just as seriously as I take being a novelist (though I’ll still spend at least year on each novel and a few weeks on each picture book – the number of words just work that way!)
But of course, I won’t take being a picture book writer TOO seriously – picture books work better when they aren’t serious at all!
And it’s not just picture books which are muscling in on my novels. I have six books coming out this year. One of those six is a picture book (it’s called The Magic Word and I’m so pleased with Claire Keay’s lovely pictures, I think it’s going to be … magic!) and five are retellings of traditional tales. I have two retellings of animal tales coming out in short chapter books (Masha And The Bear and The Hungry Wolf, both illustrated by the wonderful Melanie Williamson, who also did Never Trust a Tiger and The Tortoise’s Gift) and three collections of myths and legends: a collection of heroine tales, a collection of Scottish stories and a collection of winter tales.
So am I now a reteller of old tales, as well as a novelist and a picture book writer?
Yes I am, and that’s fine too – because I love these stories, which are one of the main inspirations for the fiction I write, and it’s wonderful to be able to share them.
But don’t worry, I haven’t become any of these other kinds of writers INSTEAD of being a writer of adventures. I’ve just finished one novel and started another, and the oddities of publishing timetables means both novels might be published next year.
But in the meantime, I will enjoy the fact that I have the freedom and opportunity to write all sorts of books, and to be passionately proud of every single one of them.
And here, if you want to see just how seriously I take picture books, is me making a real mess of my kitchen while reading Orange Juice Peas: