VISITS BEFORE LOCKDOWN

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

Before we were all confined to our houses, I was lucky enough to have a wonderful month travelling in New Zealand and Australia, seeing friends and relations and (a first for me) visiting Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia where I walked into the bush to see ancient Aboriginal rock paintings, went for a boat trip in the incredibly beautiful Katherine Gorges, explored the wetlands with an Aboriginal guide and got up close and personal with saltwater crocodiles in the Adelaide River.

When I was in Melbourne I did a school visit to Tintern Grammar School where I was amazed to learn that my book ‘The Silver Fox’ had been a class read for Year 5 ever since its publication 23 years ago! It was fun to revisit the story with the current students. They were all wearing special Silver Fox badges that they’d made with a 3D printer!

OTHER VISITS

This Spring I had a lot of writing workshops planned with the schools where I’m Patron of Reading but sadly only managed to fit in two, at Thaxted Primary School, before lockdown. Here I am, working with a group of very enthusiastic and creative students.

At the end of last year I worked with the Chair of NAPE (National Association of Primary Education) and Girton Glebe Primary School near Cambridge, to create videos for primary school teachers, showing what authors can do in schools to encourage pupils’ interest in books and reading. With Year 6 I used my book ‘The Mark’ and with Year 5, my two volume middle grade fantasy ‘The Stonekeeper’s Child.’

 Here is the link to the Year 5 video  https://youtu.be/INSsa5vBtyQ

Visit to Audley End House

Five members of ‘Histeria’ the London based group of writers of historical fiction for children, had a lovely day out at Audley End House in Essex on 21st August.  A wander round the beautiful grounds, a break for lunch, then a tour of the splendid Jacobean house.  I particularly enjoyed seeing the king’s bedroom (all ready for George 3rd who, sadly, never made it there) and the delicate and intricate Adam ceilings in the reception rooms downstairs.  We ended the day with tea and sponge cake at my house which is close by.

 

images

New series just out!

Very excited about my new series THE STONEKEEPER’S CHILD

Pic for website The call pic for website kalen!    

Book One: The Call 

Book Two: Kalen’s Revenge

This two-volume middle grade fantasy is based on the myths surrounding a vanished island. It is a thrilling, fast moving story of the collision of two worlds, the battle of good against evil and the growing friendship between two strong young characters, both misfits, as they fight to free the island’s people and overcome the evil Kalen and his dark forces.

Add to the mix an unreliable kelpie shapeshifter, seers, glyphs, powerful magic, a gnomic sword, the mystery of a banished stonekeeper and you have a tension filled and unusual series which will keep the reader guessing until the very end.

From Tots to Teens

Three children’s writers – Pippa Goodhart, Gillian McClure and myself – are offering a panel event where we talk about the importance of children’s literature from picture books for very young children, on to stories for the newly independent reader and through to subjects and plot lines that appeal to Young Adults.

We launched this event last week at Newmarket library where it was very well received.  We already have invitations to speak at a couple of upcoming literary festivals and are hoping to find an audience at conferences, teacher training establishments and at institutions teaching creative writing for children.

Troika flyer RGB

 

Talking about books on the other side of the world

Just back from a month in Australia.  Mostly holiday and an escape from the chilly English winter, but I also had a chance to showcase The Blue Eyed Aborigine and Forgotten Footprints, my two novels about survivors of 17th and 18th century shipwrecks off the Western Australian coast.  Here I am in Melbourne, talking to year 9 students at Albert Park High School and on another occasion signing books at Dymocks Bookshop.

Albert Park CollegeDymocks 2

I also had a meeting with Pictureco who have a film option on The Blue Eyed Aborigine.  I’ve now read a draft script and the next step is a pitch to industry to try and get backing to produce a feature length film.

UK Edition of Forgotten Footprints just published

Forgotten Footprints

The shiny new edition of my book Forgotten Footprints is just out with its beautiful new cover.  A version was published last year for the Australian market but the book is now available in the UK and I’m working with my publisher, Troika Books, to develop a promotional campaign for it.  It tells the story of a notorious shipwreck off the West Australian coast in 1712, from which we know their were survivors – and I have imagined what may have happened to these survivors, some of the earliest Europeans ever to set foot on the ‘Unknown Southland’.

A fast paced story of resilience against impossible odds, of courage and of love.

Taken

41VKGQvD90L._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

A bit of delay in announcing this as I’ve been in hospital, but my new YA book for Ransom was published a couple of weeks ago…

Called ‘Taken’ it is a story about loss, love and growing up.

Four years ago, Kelly’s dad disappeared, apparently having taken his own life.  His family are left devastated and are only just beginning to move on.  Then one day Kelly thinks she sees him again.  It is only a glimpse – and it can’t have been him – but it is enough to bring back all the painful memories.

Why did he kill himself? What was so terrible that he couldn’t go on?

The thoughts won’t leave her alone.  Kelly confides in her friend Jack and as they try to find out more about Dad’s past they unearth a confusing mass of inconsistencies and unanswered questions.

Gradually they are sucked into a murky world where nothing is as it seems.  They are out of their depth; someone is trying to stop them finding out more and they are in real danger.

Who is following them? Who can they trust? And why does Gran refuse to talk about Dad?

 

A straightforward mystery, this one, with none of the supernatural elements present in my last two books, ‘Loose Connections’ and ‘The Mark’.

 

Storm Doris Intervenes

It was all set up.  A panel discussion as part of a local literary festival all about – you’ve guessed – children’s books, past and present and why they are so important, why libraries are so important, why getting children to love reading is so important.

There was an enthusiastic take up for the event and, apart from me, the panelists were Isabel Thomas, James Nicol, Helen Moss and the chair was to be Candy Gourlay.

Should have been a great evening but then Storm Doris intervened.  Two panelists stuck in London and no trains running, trees all over the road and an electricity blackout so it all had to be cancelled.

Never mind, it will be reconvened and surely lightning (or storm) can’t strike twice – can it?!

Authors’ Lunch

 

images-2

A bright interlude at the end of a dreary January was an authors’ lunch held here.  Nine of us, all children’s writers and all Cambridge based, got together to discuss all things bookish – and a lot else, too, over a warming curry.

So good to be among like minded friends who understand the ups and downs of the life of a writer.  We spend a lot of time on our own so it is good to exchange stories of both success and failure.  None of us is immune to failure – it comes with the territory – but we all agree that we are doing something we love and there aren’t so many people out there who can say the same.

But there is no doubt that having a good dose of understanding companionship from time to time really lifts the spirit.

My Sister’s Perfect Husband

 

promises-covers-for-catalogue-qxp_layout-1-7

There’s always a lurch of excitement when a new book arrives in the post, all shiny, with your name on the cover.

‘My Sister’s Perfect Husband’ is part of the new series by Ransom Publishing called ‘Promises’ aimed at reluctant teen readers. The brief was to write a short story (around 3,000 words) on a subject which would engage teenagers but in language which they would find accessible.

Not easy!

I’ve written stories about young British Muslims in the past (‘Mixing It’ and ‘Payback’) and when I suggested writing about a Pashtun family living in Britain and trying to marry off their daughter Mina, the publishers were enthusiastic.

‘My Sister’s Perfect Husband’ is very light hearted. Mina’s parents have completely failed to find her a suitable husband, so her younger sister, Laila, decides to try. She and her best friend hatch a complicated and secret plot to bring Mina together with a boy they think would be ideal.

But their brilliant plan goes drastically wrong and the ending is VERY unexpected!

‘Promises’ is a series with an imaginative and varied collection of stories. Like me, most of the authors are used to writing much longer and more complex books for young people – authors such as Jo Cotterill, Miriam Halahmy, Kathryn White, Anne Rooney and Sue Purkiss – but they took up the challenge and the results are brilliant.

Here’s what Sue Purkiss says about the term reluctant readers.

‘I think ‘reluctant’ is actually a bit of a misnomer; they’re only reluctant because they find reading so hard – and so then they pretend to scorn it, because that’s what you do, isn’t it? If there’s a club you can’t join, you shrug your shoulders and say that you never wanted to belong to it anyway.’

Hopefully, these ‘reluctant’ readers will discover, through these stories, that books aren’t always daunting. They can even be fun!