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Thursday, 13 November 2014

Meeting my Literary Idol!: Inspiration, Elephants, and Shades of Grey

It's no secret that one of my all-time favourite authors is Jodi Picoult - and last night I actually got to meet her - here's proof!

I love the way Jodi takes a controversial issue and writes about all sides of it, often with multiple narrators taking opposing views. I often pick up one of her books thinking "well, I know what my opinion on this subject is", but as I keep reading I find myself sympathizing with all the many and varied characters and viewpoints, and end up being able to see all the shades of grey of an issue that I had thought was black and white - and her novels always leaves me with food for thought long after I finish reading. 

This was a trait I greatly admired, and one I really wanted to emulate in my first novel, "Someone Else's Life", and it's no exaggeration to say that without Jodi, I probably would not have written that book at all - and consequently I may not have ever become a published author - which is why I am over the moon when some critics have called it "Jodi Picoult for teens". 

For me, there can be no greater praise.
And no greater thrill than meeting her in person last night. 
Jodi spoke eloquently about the inspiration for her latest novel, "Leaving Time", which centres on a woman who studies elephants who goes suddenly missing, and her daughter who, ten years later, is trying to find her. Jodi explained how she had researched the subject matter, especially elephants. I am overwhelmed by how much research Jodi does for each of her (very varied) novels, from going to a haunted house with ghost-hunters, to interviewing Holocaust survivors in Poland, to staying in an igloo, to tracking elephants in Botswana. And still somehow she manages to produce a book a year!  I am in awe.

And even more awe-inspiring is the way Jodi is now using her latest novel to promote awareness of the ongoing ivory trade and its threat to elephants in the wild. Shockingly, it is estimated that in ten years' time there will be no wild elephants left in Africa, especially as the value of an ounce of ivory has sky-rocketed from $150 to $1300.
Jodi is quick to point out that this is not just an issue for elephant-lovers, as every month 1-3 tons of ivory is poached by members of Al-Shabab, a terrorist group in Somalia with clear links to Al-Qaida, in order to fund terrorism. 

So how can we help? Support accredited anti-poaching organisations such as TUSK, write to your local MP, blog, tweet, whatever you can to raise awareness of this issue. With over 14 million readers worldwide, hopefully Jodi and her novel, and everyone who reads this will help to spread the word and make a difference - before it's too late.

Jodi's interview on the subject for PETA

Monday, 6 October 2014

**Update** "Best Ending" Award - WINNER!

I was utterly thrilled to bits this dark, cold wet windy autumnal morning to discover that LITTLE WHITE LIES has WON the Book Blogger UKYA Award for "Best Ending"!

I couldn't have had a better start to the week :)

Thank you SO much to everyone who voted, to my agent and editors (who this award belongs to as much as me) and especially to all the amazing bloggers who organised and took part in this event - you're all stars, and do so much to support UK authors. It's very much appreciated x
Little White Lies, published by
Simon & Schuster UK;
Delacorte Press USA & Canada
Faye @ A Daydreamer’s Thoughts
Jim @ Ya Yeah Yeah
Caroline @ Big Book Little Book
Daphne @ Winged Reviews
Lucy @ Queen of Contemporary
Debbie @ Snuggling on the Sofa
Luna @ Luna’s Little Library
Sarah @ Feeling Fictional
Cicely @ Cicely Loves Books
Charli @ To Another World
Fi @ Bookish Outsider
Raimy @ Readaraptor
Michelle @ Much Loved Books
Shaila @ Hush Hush Revealings
Andrew @ The Pewter Wolf
Sam @ The Little Munchkin Reader
Julianne @ This Fleeting Dream
Laura @ Bookish Treasures
Samina @ Escapism From Reality
Catriona @ Fabulous Book Fiend

The first time Lou meets tall, dark, and handsome Christian, she knows he's hiding something. Why does he clam up every time she asks about his past? Why doesn't he have any family photos and why does he dye his blond hair black? 
Then suddenly his terrible secret is unveiled to the world - and it seems everything he's ever told Lou is a lie. Can what the media are saying about him really be true? Should Lou trust him? Or is she in terrible danger? What if their chance meeting was no accident at all ...? 
But Christian isn't the only one keeping secrets. As lie follows lie, nothing is as it seems, and soon Lou finds herself ensnared in a web of deceit, her loyalties torn, her emotions in tatters as she faces a heart-wrenching dilemma: should she shatter the lives of those she holds dearest, or betray the guy who, against all odds, she's fallen in love with? 
Click here for more info

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

UKYA Nomination for "Best Ending"!

Hello! I hope you’ve all had a glorious summer! Though it’s still so sunny it feels like it hasn't ended!  But part of my sunny feeling may be down to the fact that LITTLE WHITE LIES has been nominated for the UKYA Award for “Best Ending”! 

UKYA celebrates Young Adult fiction by home-grown British authors, which is refreshing given the dominance of American YA authors and books in the market. What makes these awards extra special is that ANYONE can vote. There are 20 different categories, and 5 fab YA books nominated for each, so if you fancy voting (for anyone, it doesn’t have to be me, although that’d be super-nice and I’ll be your friend forever!),
hop along to one or all of these blogs – but be quick, as voting closes on 21st September!

Cicely Loves Books: Funniest Book; Most Heart-Breaking Book; Best First Sentence; Best Ending (including LITTLE WHITE LIES!)
Big Book Little Book: Best Contemporary; Best Historical; Best Crime/Mystery; Best LGBT
Readaraptor: Best Horror; Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy; Best Paranormal; Best Adventure
Much Loved Books: Best Protagonist; Best Couple; Best Friendship; Best Villain
A Daydreamer’s Thoughts: Best Self-Published; Most Social Author (Online); Most Social Author (Offline); Author Whose Mind You Wish Was Yours

So quite a mix! I am so thrilled and honoured to be nominated among such stellar authors, and especially chuffed at the category I'm nominated for, as I think endings can be so hard to get right – often I really enjoy reading a book but something about the ending lets it down – sometimes things aren’t completely resolved which makes you think there’s going to be a sequel, which can be frustrating – especially if there is no sequel! Conversely, if an ending’s TOO neat, that can be dissatisfying too. So it’s a tricky balance! 

I love endings that make you re-examine the whole book in a new light, and consequently some of my all-time favourites are Daphne Du Maurier's REBECCA - what a shock!; Jodi Picoult’s SALEM FALLS – it’s so subtly done, but one sentence at the very end makes you re-examine an entire character and relationship; and WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart, which made me immediately flick back through the book again. I always love a twist, but when you can spot all the clues in hindsight, that’s really satisfying. 

What are some of your favourite book endings?

Thursday, 17 July 2014

DO's and DON'Ts at YALC

Whew! What a weekend that was! I thoroughly enjoyed going to YALC (the first Young Adult Literature Convention) at Film and ComiCon at Earls Court - what an experience! Lots of people have blogged write-ups already (it's taken me this long to recover!) so instead, I thought I'd share a few pearls of wisdom I gleaned over the weekend...

DO Check the details before you go (Entrance is opposite West Brompton station. Great!)

DO Check transport weekend engineering updates before you go (Tube from Earl’s Court to West Brompton station closed, but rail replacement bus in operation. Great!)

DON’T expect TFL to run smoothly (ie don’t expect rail replacement bus driver to actually stop at all the stations on the route – he may well glibly ignore your stop and take you miles out of your way. Doh!)

DO allow time for unforeseen detours (ie catching bus back again from Fulham Broadway, chatting to driver, who says the best place to get of is – doh – Earl’s Court, where I started half an hour ago!)

DO buy your entry ticket in advance to avoid queuing THREE TIMES in order to get to YALC events. (Sigh)

DO take an umbrella. (This is England, and you will be queuing for about an hour outside – it’s bound to rain!)

DO take coffee - it's a long day!

DO take a camera (Some people’s costumes are AMAZING!)

DO wear a costume – it’s much more fun!

DO wear layers and take water!  - It’s HOT in there!

The incomparable James Dawson, "Queen of Teen"
DO double-check the stewards know what they’re talking about.
(Me: Where do I get tickets for the YALC panel events, please?
Steward: I think it’s this queue in the middle, [pointing to HUMUNGOUS queue amid 6 different queues for autographs/time-slots for Stan Lee/Princess Leia etc.]
Me: Are you sure?
Steward: No. I’ve never heard of YALC.
2nd Steward: The YALC events are right at the back on the left.
Me: Thanks! [Phew!])

DO get tickets for the talks you’re interested in – in my case ALL of them! They were funny, interesting, insightful and entertaining (and some were so popular people without tickets missed out.)

DO bring books to get signed and/or buy books there – how often do you get so many fantastic authors in one place?!

DO sign up for free ipad giveaways (some companies even give you cool tote bags for entering!)

DO sign up for workshops (what an opportunity! Free workshops!) But DO sit near the front if possible, as the acoustics weren’t great.


DO check out the rest of the event – (Dragons, Transformers and Thrones - oh my!)

DO meet your favorite TV/film stars, but DON’T think that if they agree to give you their autograph, it’s free – IT’S AT LEAST £10! *Didn't see the sign till afterwards - Ouch!*

DO get selfies (no charge!) with heart-throbs such as Jack Donnelly from ATLANTIS *Swoon*

DON’T get your McGann brothers mixed up (and REALLY don't tell Paul McGann you really loved him in The Upper Hand (that was Joe McGann) DOH! *Disclaimer: Overheard; naming no names*

Paul McGann: "Don't worry, I get it all the time!"
DO make plans to go again next year! I’ll definitely be there!

Friday, 31 January 2014


Happy New Year!

So, one of my resolutions was to update my school visits page on my blog - so I though to give you all a taster of me and my books I'd film a little video! Hope you enjoy it!

Meet Me!
I also write for teens and adults (SOMEONE ELSE'S LIFE, LITTLE WHITE LIES).  If you'd like me to visit a teen/adult group, please feel free to get in touch via my Contact form, or read on for more information on primary school visits... :)
For Younger Readers
A trained actress as well as an award-winning author, I like to bring an element of performance to my visits, and am more than happy to dress up if required (as you can see from the photos!)
I have visited lots of different schools (as far afield as Moscow!) and have a variety of tried and tested events and activities for years reception up to year 6 including:
Interactive quiz/drama/stories
Becoming an Author  
Reluctant Readers/Writers
Able Writers Days
Differentiated workshops for years 1-6, including
Fractured Fairytales
Fairy Tale Crimes Court Case
Writing in Rhyme

I can customize any event to meet your needs, and all include readings and a Q&A, and also book or postcard signings if desired. I now also offer the option of collating and showcasing all the pupils' work (from all ages) into a "Daily Mirror Mirror" Fairy Tale Newspaper!

If you’d like me to visit your school or library please click here to use my contact form to discuss fees and dates. 

Monday, 25 November 2013

EXCITING NEWS!! Fairy Tale Twists - The BALLET!

THE THREE MAGIC MICE from my Fairy Tale Twists series (published by Orchard Books) is being transformed into a ballet! 
The fabulous Balletomane, a self-funded company of volunteer dancers (many of whom have non-dance related careers, from architects to social workers!) are dedicated to bringing ballet to those with limited access to the theatre, and will perform their new ballet in public libraries free of charge to children aged 5-7 in the new year, even offering post performance workshops during which children will explore story-telling and literacy themes through movement and dance.
I was lucky enough to be invited along to a rehearsal and have to say I was completely blown away! They are just fantastic, I was so impressed by their talent and professionalism, and I am so honoured that they've chosen one of my books. It really was just magical watching the characters come to life in the sneaky peek I saw, and I cannot wait to see the whole performance - do let me know if you'd like them to perform at a library near you!! The ballet is already fully choreographed, however they are in desperate need of funds for costume, sets, props and transport, and this is how you can help! Click here for more details

What They Need & What You Get

They are aiming to raise £2000 through this indiegogo campaign:

28 sets of costumes

Back cloths and sets
Transport -- for the sets and costumes 
to and from performances
They appreciate any help they can get, and as a token of thanks, have some fantastic perks lined up, including signed pointe shoes from company members, and a chance to watch their dress rehearsal and meet and greet dancers.  

About Balletomane
Balletomane was established in 2005, dedicated to bringing free, in-house classical ballet performances to those who are elderly, disabled, with limited access to the theatre, or suffering from illness or financial hardship. We bring performances to many places in Greater London, such as elderly care homes, disabled groups, specialist schools and public libraries.

Since the founding of the company, we have performed The Nutcracker (2006 - 2008) and The Sleeping Beauty (2009 - 2012), to various libraries and schools in the Greater London area. The performances and workshops have always been free for the audience as our aim is to bring ballet to those who would not be able to access it otherwise.

The company is currently self-funded. Our members are volunteers and many have non-dance related careers. We meet every weekend to rehearse, and the company members all contribute to the hiring of weekly rehearsal space. Any surplus goes towards other costs such as costumes and props. Therefore any donations are very gratefully received.

For The Three Magic Mice, we would like to bring the highest level of performance to our audience. We are therefore setting up this campaign to raise funds so we can put on our most spectacular show ever.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Stockport's Mad About Books!

I am incredibly thrilled and honoured to announce that my novel Someone Else's Life was awarded the Stockport Mad About Books Award for Key Stage 4. It's my first award, and my first novel, and the result was strictly embargoed until the night - then announced at the most glitzy Oscar-like ceremony I've ever seen. It was truly incredible, with prizes awarded to pupils whose reading had improved the most, as well as authors and illustrators.
A red carpet led up to the entrance of the gorgeous Plaza Theatre in Stockport, which was soon filled with hundreds of pupils from surrounding schools, their teachers and librarians, members of the council, and even the mayor, all dressed to the nines, so of COURSE I had to buy a new dress too (When else am I going to get to wear a dress like that?), coming together to celebrate the joy of reading.
It was breath-taking, and made all the more special by the fact that the winning books were voted for by the pupils themselves - and the prizes were a works of art created by the pupils, inspired by the winning books.
With Rit McErlean, who announced the award, and Natasha Brierley,
 the artist who created the prize artwork for Someone Else's Life.
It was clear that the real champions of the evening were books and reading - and what a thrill that was, in contrast to the library closures happening in so many towns around the country. I am in awe of Stockport council, schools and librarians, for valuing books so highly, for engaging pupils with them so creatively, and for orchestrating a truly special evening - one I'll remember for the rest of my life.
With other Winners: Thomas Taylor (The Pets You Get), 
Christopher Edge (Twelve Minutes to Midnight), 
the ever-glamorous legend, Jeanne Willis (Hippospotamus,
 with Tony Ross not pictured) & Matt Dickinson (Mortal Chaos)

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