I can't believe the summer's over *sigh* but what a couple of months August and September have been in FANDOM-land!
First up, Elinor Bagenal sold THE FANDOM to China and Israel, taking my license number up to 22. Knowing my book-baby will be published in other countries never ceases to amaze and delight me. In fact, as the number grows, so too does the excitement. It never gets old, I never grow complaisant... whenever I get an e-mail from Elinor, my heart flips! I keep a list of all the countries on my phone and sometimes I just stare at it in disbelief. And it reminds me of one of the main themes of my book: we're all the same really. Regardless of language, culture, history, race... we're all humans, and we all love stories! Except for Elinor, she is not human. She is magical book-selling wizard!!!!
Secondly, I got not one new book cover, but two!
The UK cover got an overhaul. It's by the super talented Helen Crawford-White, and I think you'll agree, it's rather special. I always find it difficult to verbalise why I love art, words don't do it justice, but here goes.... It's dark and yet beautiful, which kind of sums up the world that the characters are transported into, and the stems remind me of the bars on a cage, which gives the sense being trapped... just like my characters. The stems also make me think of sleeping beauty, which links into fairy tales more generally, a theme running through the book, and of something hidden behind a wall of brambles, another world perhaps! And anyone who knows the book will also know there's a play on the character's names. Rose and Thorn. And as my editor, Kesia, so succinctly put it: the characters expected a world of roses, but they got a world of thorns. I also love the use of two colours against the black, it hints at the duality within the book... two worlds! Ooh and I LOVE the strapline, invented in a flash of genius by my publicist, Jazz, at Comic-con. All in all, an absolute beauty... strong, dark and dangerous! Thank you Helen, I LOVE IT!
And here's the US cover, revealed yesterday on the website, fangirlish (a brilliant site for any fangirls and boys out there!) I don't know who the artist is yet, but when I do, I may have to build them some sort of statue or temple in my living room! Isn't it amazing!?!
So the butterfly effect is a theme which runs through the book, just as the strapline says: one word off script and they may never get home. Violet often describes herself as a butterfly, messing everything up, flapping her massive wings. And as a Toni Snapelover Davis on FB pointed out, there is a female form at the centre of the butterfly - squint slightly, and once you see it, I promise, it's impossible to un-see! The copper and the blue eyes also have significance, but you'll have to read the book to find out what! I also love the book title font, just gorgeous. Like the UK cover, it nods to the duality within the book. And of course, I LOVE the quote from James Dashner (squeee!). Not to put too finer point on it, I think this is one of the most beautiful covers ever to grace this planet. I've already decided to get it printed on my duvet and pillow... and now I'm considering a tattoo! Certainly, I can't stop looking at it, just in case I dreamt it!
Other exciting news, I had an interview at amazon audible in London. I was very surprised by quite how much spangley equipment there was: a HUGE mixing desk thingy, which looked like my old eight track on steroids, and lights and a proper camera... I don't know why this surprised me! I guess it's just a whole other world (four hours earlier I'd been picking cereal out of the kids hair!) Anyway, it was great fun, though I was very nervous, and talked far more than intended about the book, writing and life in general. But most importantly, it really brought home the fact that my books going to be available to listen to, and this blows my mind! Partly cos I love listening to stories, it takes me back to childhood, and also because I love the fact that it increases accessibility for people who can't read. Look at my cheesy little grin -- says it all, really!
So a hugely exciting couple of months... not to mention endorsements from THE James Dashner, and one of my favourite YA writers, Louise O'Neill! And only three months till publication in the UK now. Let the count down commence!
And thank you if you read this post till the end! I know it was a long one! xxx
Buckle up, this is going to be a long post! So I went to my first ever Comic con about two weeks ago. It was amazing! I was taking part in panels and signings at YALC (for those who don't know, it's the Young Adult Literature part of Comic con... so basically, my mothership!) and I also got to spend some time in main Comic con downstairs. I considered writing two separate posts, one for YALC, and one for Comic con, but I've decided to write it all muddled up in one diary entry, cause that's how it is in my head!
So, the train journey was fairly painless, at least for me. My BFF, Heather, had to listen to me rabbit on about all the exciting authors we'd be meeting, and manage my fears about negotiating the tube (yes, tubephobia is an actual thing, trust me, I'm a Psychologist!) Still, we made it into London late Saturday afternoon, just in time to catch up with my other BFF, Laura. We squeezed in some sneaky sight seeing, and I actually got some inspiration for my next book. London is so grand, it never fails to inspire me!
Sunday was Comic con day! After arriving late (you see, I am TERRIBLE at getting around London, I'm used to Newcastle traffic and the metro, which is about one hundredth the size of the tube) I was whizzed straight onto my first panel. This actually worked well for me, cos I didn't have time to get worked up, though I was a little nervous. It was my first ever panel, and whilst I'm used to public speaking in my day job and I've always been into amateur dramatics, this felt new and different, and therefore a little scary. But I needn't have worried. My first panel was called 'New Voices 2', and it was a selection of newly published and soon to be published authors like myself. Everyone was lovely, including Katherine Webber, who chaired the panel, and mainly, we shared our journeys to publication. What was interesting was the many different routes to publication, I don't think a single one was the same.
Then, in a true baptism of fire, I went straight onto the 'Fandom' panel. This was chaired by the lovely Lucy Saxon (dressed in Harry Potter gear above), and included Maggie Harcourt, Rebecca Denton and Chris Russell, all of whom were so welcoming and funny. This panel went really fast, and cos there were fewer of us, it felt a little more conversational than the first. I'm still chuckling over everyone's embarrassing fandom moments. Chris actually collected November rain in a jar he loved Guns n Roses so much... not that I blame him.
So, I survived the panels, though I may have divulged slightly too much in the way of cringe-worthy fangirl moments... next was the signing.
OK, so I want to be all chilled, but THE SIGNING BLEW MY MIND! It was my first ever signing, and I just could not believe the queues. I signed non stop for two hours, and had some serious hand cramp by the end of it. But I met so many lovely, bookish people who were genuinely excited to read the fandom proof. This was the best thing ever, meeting the people who were actually going to read the words that came out of my head. Some of them had already read it, and just wanted to talk about it and ask me questions. It was just lovely! And it was really nice to put faces to some of the YA twitter crew!
A lovely little surprise was Melinda Salisbury (THE SIN EATER'S DAUGHTER) queuing to get her proof signed. She's been so supportive of fandom, and has done so much to encourage YA lovers to read it. It was so fab to meet her in the flesh, she is every bit as funny and warm in reality as she is in cyber space. AND she was wearing the coolest dress ever, with dinosaurs all over it, if my son had been there, he would have followed her around all day shouting ROAR!
Another highlight was Alwyn Hamilton (REBEL OF THE SANDS) asking to get her proof signed. She was so nice, and I got to see the cover reveal of her newest book HERO AT THE FALL. It really was a thing of beauty, all reds and golds. I'd post a picture, but I can't find one on the internet yet. You're just going to have to trust me!
So, after being quite literally blown away by my temporary celeb status (seriously, people wanted selfies with me... ME! I still can't get over this!) Heather and I took some time downstairs in Comic con.
What can I say about Olympia National Hall. It is beautiful. The first part of THE FANDOM takes place in Comic con, in this very building, so I'd done a lot of research on the web. But seeing it in real life took my breath away. It is so vast and airy. Even the hundreds of cosplayers and Comic con-goers couldn't quite fill it. For a moment, I like to think I felt a bit like my protagonist, Violet, just awe-struck by it all. My Mum's a retired architect, so I took loads of photos for her. I love buildings... I think I get that from my Mum.
The atmosphere was buzzing, and there were people there of all ages, race and gender, united by their love of all things fandom. We saw Dene Cain, Matt Lucas, and Benedict Cumberbatch, to name but a few. I was completely star struck.
The next thing which took me by surprise was just how good the cosplayers' costumes were. I'd done loads of research about cosplay for THE FANDOM, and as an avid performer in pantomimes, musicals and cabarets, I'm totally at one with the idea of grown-ups dressing up together, but I was totally unprepared for the scale and quality of these cosplay outfits. I managed to get a few snaps of some of some of my favourites, but too be honest, I was too scared to ask some of them. I mean, giant alien from, well, Alien, does not look like the kind of extra-terrestrial who would pose and say cheese!
These photos show a tiny slither of what was going on, but I hope you can see the creativity and work which goes into the costumes. The lady dressed as the hobbit handmade all of the Lord of the Rings costumes, which were amazing. And the Harry Potter crew didn't know each other, but magically congregated for photos, and I like to think, a little spell swapping.
After the overwhelming size and buzz of Comic con, Heather and I went back up to YALC, which suddenly seemed a lot more homely. I did a quick interview with bluey, a blogger, and said my good byes to my lovely bookish friends. Then Heather and I fell asleep on the train back to Newcastle.
So, I went to Comic con at Olympia, and I DIDN'T get whizzed away to the world of my favourite fantasy novel. It's official, Comic con is safe!!! But the reality is, it did feel a bit like a whole other world, One of expression, creativity and togetherness (I'm getting all emotional now... don't worry, it happens frequently!) So now I'm wondering if THE FANDOM is closer to reality than I first thought. And I literally cannot WAIT to be whizzed away all over again next year.
And while I have you, a huge thanks to the fab Kesia and Jazz, my editor and publicist from Chicken House, for fetching me coffee and calming me all day, and to the lovely cosplayers featured above, some of who's details I managed to get: Manda from mandamadeurrobe, Ickle Clara cosplays, and Totallynotabooknerd. You are awesome!
I can't believe it! Elinor Baginal sold THE FANDOM to Denmark, making this my TWENTIETH licence. I'm in a mild state of shock! I've put up a picture of the yellow brick road, not just because I feel like I'm on a real journey, but because it makes me smile, especially the rainbow. Yaaaaaaay!
And because it probably makes more sense, here's a picture of Denmark....Isn't it beautiful! Thank you Denmark, you have made my day!
My uncorrected proof has arrived, in all it's glossy, spiney, booky glory! I know this probably sounds ridiculous, but I can't believe it's a REAL book. Yes, it has errors and clearly isn't perfect, but it's my book...it came out of my head! It's such an amazing feeling. And publication in October is getting nearer and nearer!
I'm not a big selfie taker, but out came my phone, and no make-up or contact lenses, I started posing with my beautiful proof. I was so happy I didn't care, and I figured my proof was gorgeous enough for the both of us!
I sent this photo to my readers, along with a photo of the paragraph thanking them in my acknowledgments. I think they were almost, almost, as excited as me.
I am learning just how important these steps are on the journey towards publication. Little milestones that make you realise you are so nearly there!
Today couldn't get more exciting! My German cover for THE FANDOM was revealed. Katharina from Chicken House Deutschland emailed it over to me.
I hadn't even realized they wouldn't just use the UK cover, so I was totally unprepared for how different it was (I'm still learning, you can tell it's my debut!)
I did this thing where I went really quiet (which is unusual for me), and I just kept staring at it. I took it all in -- the golden writing, the derelict city below, the figure tumbling from said golden writing into the hard reality of dystopia. And then I squealed: 'I LOVE IT!'
It's the perfect contrast of grit and glamour, Hollywood and poverty! Thank you Chicken House Deutschland, you've done me proud!
I have BADGES! This excites me more than it should! BADGES! (I can wear six at once, right?) If you google the word badge, it says: a small piece of metal, plastic, or cloth bearing a design or words, typically worn to identify a person or to indicate membership of an organization or support for a cause. How fitting then, that a book about belonging to something bigger, a book about the power of groups and membership.... a book about fandoms... should have its own badge. Thanks, Jazz, for sending me a bundle!
I've just heard that Elinor Bagenal (the fabulous Rights director of Chicken House) has sold Fandom to Poland and Sweden, taking my license number up to 19! Thank you, Elinor, you're a massive star!
There's been some wonderful articles about The Fandom in the book press this month. This is because it's really started to fly on an international scale, with countries as far away as Brazil buying the rights. Some have even bought the rights to the sequel, which I haven't started writing yet! I am VERY excited to have articles in both the Bookseller and the Bookbrunch. The only downside, I don't know how I'm going to wait until publication in October now! Oh, and apologies for yet another Wizard of Oz reference, I'm slightly obsessed! I was once a munchkin in an Am Dram version when I was kid, and I blame this entirely. (I represented the lollipop league, obviously!)
I thought it would be nice to write a bit about how THE FANDOM came to be, considering it had a fairly unusual conception!
In October 2014, I was feeling a bit blue. I'd written a book whilst on maternity leave with my little girl in 2012. It was a YA dystopian called THE GALLOWS DANCE. I'd got an agent fairly easily (this is a whole other post), done a few rewrites for her, and then lost said agent just as easily when she changed jobs and became an editor. This was before she'd taken the book out to publishers. And finding another agent proved a lot more difficult in spite of my lovely ex-agent's help. It seemed dystopia had taken a sharp nose-dive in the popularity stakes.
Anyway, back to October 2014, I'd just had my little boy, and I'd decided to give up on THE GALLOWS DANCE and write something else. But then I remembered the Times/ Chicken House Children's fiction competition - if I rushed, I could just make the deadline. So I decided on a whim to give THE GALLOWS DANCE one last chance to spread her wings. I battled with the printer, legged it to the post-office, and sent it off the day before the deadline.
I couldn't believe it when I was longlisted. Jazz (Jasmine Bartlett, my fab, now, publicist) left a message on my answerphone, and in my eagerness to ring back, I got her name wrong and made a complete eejit out of myself. But she was lovely about it. And I would have been happy with that, filled with confidence to continue on my writing journey, even if that meant leaving THE GALLOWS DANCE behind.
Being shortlisted really was the icing. Barry rang me himself. Barry Cunningham! Trying to explain how exciting this was to my non-bookish friends was difficult, and normally ended with a comment like, "Imagine that (insert friend's idol, e.g. Gary Barlow) rang you up to tell you he liked your (insert thing you're friend is hugely proud of, e.g. singing.)" And as if my life hadn't already been made, I got to go to London and meet the Chicken House Team and other amazing book people.
It was such an amazing day. They even made a video, which was slightly terrifying. I tried to sound intelligent and engaging; no mean feat when you're worried you've got food in your teeth or your make-up's run or you've forgotten how to form sentences, blah blah, insecurities be gone!
I didn't win, Laurel Remington did. Her book THE SECRET COOKING CLUB FOR GIRLS is brilliant, and it was well deserved. And Laurel is so lovely, I just felt really happy for her. But the next day, when the adrenalin had worn off, I felt a bit sad; maybe now was the time to lay THE GALLOWS DANCE to rest.
But then I got a phonecall from Barry, I can't remember exactly when, a few weeks after my London trip I guess. He told me about The Big Idea Competition, and Angela McCann's Big Idea about a group of fans getting lost inside their favourite world. And what did I think about using the world of THE GALLOWS DANCE to bring Angela's idea to life?
I think I sounded vaguely considered and sensible. But in my head I was screaming, OMG, OMG! Barry wants me to write a book! There's something about your childhood dreams being realized which turns you into a gibbering wreck, I've decided. Anyway, they gave me a few months to submit a synopsis and the first three chapters. And then I waited....
Then, one rainy afternoon in August 2015, I got the email from Kesia (the lovely Kesia Lupo - my, now, editor) saying that Chicken House and The Big Idea wanted to offer me a contract to write THE FANDOM. I can't describe that feeling, it's one of complete elation, beaten only by the birth of my children, and that may have been more to do with the drugs haha! And so my book baby came to be. Like I said, it was an unusual conception, but only in book terms. After all, unless you're the Virgin Mary, most conceptions start with two people... I brought the egg and Angela brought the, er, sperm (sorry Angela!)