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Monday, 15 September 2014

GETTING BACK INTO THE SWING OF THINGS

Hello, and happy Monday, Dear Readers!

I know, I know - I've been neglecting the blog (and you) pretty shamefully for a few months now. What's been going on? Well, honestly, I've been in kind of a black hole for a while. I couldn't find the energy to work, I didn't want to hang out with friends, and I didn't want to interact much online. Even managing to drag myself out of bed in the mornings was a struggle. I tried to push past it and keep doing all the same things as normal, and at first that worked, but after a while pretending things were just the same as before began to make me feel even worse. Trying to Keep Calm And Carry On will only take you so far before you get to an edge that you don't want to fall over. I found myself on that edge due to a combination of factors right about the time of my birthday in April this year, which was six months to the day after my father died. I chose to back away - and that meant backing away from all of you, as well.

This sounds quite scary and serious, but in fact it what it came down to was taking care of myself. My brain and my body were demanding that I cease running at full speed and just stop for a while. In order to cope, I pretty much had to allow myself the space to be alone, be quiet, and mentally and emotionally try to work through everything that's changed in my life over the past twelve months and where that leaves me now.

So I've been gone. And I just had to trust that you guys would be waiting for me when I felt strong enough to come back.

I'm starting to get better now - better enough that daring to say that doesn't feel like jinxing myself - but I'm still working through a few problems. Mostly this is my complex thoughts and feelings over my dad's passing last year, which is only just starting to seem real to me, but a lot of it is also problems with my health which prevented me from being on my computer for more than a few minutes, some days, without triggering ferocious migraines.

I don't want to make promises that will be like stones on my back as I try to climb out of that hole, but I do hope to be around online and more available to my friends and Dear Readers in the coming months. At the very least, I owe you updates on where I am with all my ongoing projects and what's coming up next. I'll make an effort, anyway.

Now before we all get really emo and start crying into our teddy bears (which I freely admit I've been doing plenty of recently) let's have AN EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT!

In October I'm going to be doing a panel event and signing at the High Street Waterstones in Lincoln - my first public event since my dad passed on. Fellow YA writers Kerry Drewery (author of A Brighter Fear and A Dream of Lights) and Emma Pass (author of ACID and The Fearless) will be joining me for an evening event - 6:30 onwards - which celebrates the fabulous heroines of teen literature. I'll not only be answering questions and autographing books, but also giving out prizes and possibly spoilers about future work.

I'm a tiny bit nervous about this event, since I've been living like a hermit for a while. But I'm also really keen to get out and about as well. I'd love it if any Dear Readers who can make it would show up so I can shower them with hugs and swag. Lincoln is a gorgeous city that's well worth a visit any day, and between us Kerry, Emma and me have most of YA Lit covered, so we ought to be able to entertain you really well.

I'll be blogging more about the event and my fellow authors as the event gets closer, but for now, I just wanted to let you all know what's *been* going on and what *is* going on. Much love to all of my babies - and I hope you read you later.

Zolah xx

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

THE FEARLESS GIVEAWAY WINNER!

Hello, Dear Readers! Happy Wednesday to you all. I'm back today to pick the winner of the signed copy of the frankly thrilling UKYA Dystopian novel THE FEARLESS by my friend Emma Pass.

So I popped all the entries into the random number generator and (drumroll please) the winner is...



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ELEANOR!

Congratulations! Now, I'm pretty sure that you've won prizes on the blog before, but just in case you are a different Eleanor or you've changed your address, I'd still like you to email me at z d marriott (at) gmail (dot) com to let me know your full name and where you'd like your signed copy of the book posted to. I really hope you enjoy the book, Eleanor.

For all those who didn't win, fear not! More giveaways - The Name of the Blade themed giveaways - are hopefully imminent, so you will have chances to win other lovely prizes later on.

Read you later, peeps!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

DYSTOPIA IS DEAD! Guest Post from Emma Pass


Hello, oh lovely readers! First, apologies for the radio silence over the past couple of weeks. I've been struggling with some health issues and doing maaassive amounts of research for my new Beauty and the Beast story, and I've just felt too tired out to come up with anything interesting to ramble on about. But I'm popping my head over the parapet to bring you this simply marvellous guest post from my friend Emma Pass who, oh yes, also just happens to be the author of one of the best UKYA Dystopian novels ever written, ACID

Her ever-so-very-exciting new release THE FEARLESS hit the shelves on the 24th of April. She's currently in the middle of her blog tour, and we're today's hit. Check out the variety of other cool posts as listed below:


But before I let you dive into Emma's post - wait! She's also been lovely enough to offer a signed copy of THE FEARLESS as a prize to anyone who leaves a comment on this post. You get an extra entry if you RT, but you'll need to pop the hashtag #thefearless in there so I can find your tweet and count it. This is really worth having, guys - I'd love a signed copy of this book (much as I love my Kobo, it's not quite the same). You have a week to enter - I'll pick the winner via random number generator next Wednesday. And here's a fun fact: the cover photograph was taken by Larry Rostant, the same genius who created the new covers for The Name of the Blade!

Now, without further ado... 

Dystopia is Dead – Long Live Dystopia! - by Emma Pass

Sometimes, when I tell people I wrote a dystopian novel, and that my second novel is post-apocalyptic, they say, 'Oh, dystopia! It's so fashionable right now, isn't it!' or, even worse, 'But isn't everyone sick of dystopia these days? There's so much of it about!'

Well, there is. And it has become a trend – a huge trend, with many different stories looking at many different scenarios. But I never set out to write dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels because it was fashionable. I first had the idea that would become ACID in 1994, when I was fourteen years old. YA wasn't even a genre back then; as a teenager, I remember going from to Sweet Valley High and Point Horror straight to adult novels. But I'd always had a fascination with what if? I grew up in the shadow of the Cold War and the four minute warning, and I remember as a young child feeling incredibly anxious about the threat of nuclear attack. Reading books like Robert Swindells's Brother in the Land, a post-apocalyptic children's novel looking at life after the UK is hit by nuclear bombs, helped me feel like there might be some hope should such a disaster ever occur – that people might be able to survive.

So, when I was fourteen, and a friend and I challenged each other to write a story about someone in a sinister future world escaping from prison and trying to stay one step ahead of the police, I never stopped thinking about the idea, even though I initially gave up after a few chapters. I came back to it a few times, trying it as an adult novel, but it didn't work until I discovered YA. Several novels later – one of which got me an agent, but not a book deal – I started thinking about my prison story again. Why not try that idea as a YA novel?

At that time, I'd been seeing a lot of things on the news about the UK that made me uneasy. In 2009, the Shetland Islands, a group of islands more than 100 miles off the north-east coast of mainland Scotland, and one of the smallest local authorities in Great Britain, had more CCTV cameras than the San Francisco Police Department. Shops are able to tag products, allowing them to keep track of where these products go so the stores can monitor their customers' lifestyle habits. And did you know Tesco are installing face scanners at petrol stations so that screens can play targeted ads at people? Scary, huh?

As I read more stories like this, I started to wonder what life in the UK would be like if the authorities really did watch everybody all the time. What if they controlled everything about our lives – where we lived, where we worked, who we were in a relationship with, even what we ate? What if they controlled the internet, replacing it with a state-run intranet a bit like the Kwangmyong network in North Korea, where everything uploaded onto it is controlled by the authorities? And what if the government had been replaced by a police force who were in charge of everything, and who locked people up for the slightest transgressions? When I started writing ACID, the world was in the grips of the financial crisis, so it didn't take much to imagine a situation where the UK government had been ousted after failing to deal with the country's debt, allowing ACID to take over and isolate the UK, now known as the Independent Republic of Britain, from the rest of the world.

Dystopia might be a trend, but it's become a trend for a reason. I think books that look at dark future scenarios speak to us because we want to try and make sense of all the terrible things that are happening around us in the real world, while feeling like there is some hope for the future. Stories that show a heroine or hero fighting the system that oppresses them helps us do this. So while  trends in fiction might wax and wane, I think there will always be room for dystopian stories – just like there will always be room for stories in any genre. Long live dystopia!

About Emma:

Emma Pass has been making up stories for as long as she can remember. Her debut novel, ACID, is out now from Corgi/Random House in the UK, and from Delacorte in the US. It won the 2014 North East Teenage Book Award, was shortlisted for the Doncaster Book Award, nominated for the 2014 CILIP Carnegie Medal and has been longlisted for the 2014 Branford Boase Award and a Silver Inky Award in Australia. Her second novel, THE FEARLESS, is also out now in the UK from Corgi/Random House and will be published in the US in early 2015 by Delacorte. By day, she works as a library assistant and lives with her husband and crazy greyhound G-Dog in the North East Midlands. Find her online here: http://emmapass.blogspot.co.uk/

Friday, 4 April 2014

AUTHOR ALLSORTS POST

Happy Friday, my duckies. Just a quick reminder that I've posted today over on The Author Allsorts - about my writing process, such as it is. And there are pictures! Head over and check it out if you have the time. And have a lovely weekend :)

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

THE NAME OF THE BLADE: AMERICAN EDITION

Hello, Dear Readers! Happy Tuesday to all.

People have been asking me for a while about the cover for the U.S. edition of The Night Itself - which is coming out in November under the title THE NAME OF THE BLADE from Candlewick Press. Originally they were going to go with the illustrated UK cover, but obviously then the UK cover changed to a photographic one. So they went off again and designed an entirely new piece of artwork, which I was asked to keep firmly under my hat for the time being.

However, yesterday I recieved a lovely package from Candlewick, containing advanced reader's copies (or ARCs) of THE NAME OF THE BLADE with the US cover in place. So I decided it was probably OK to share the cover artwork now. This is based on the fact that the last time I had a book coming out in the US, I held off from sharing the cover for a very long time, waiting to get official permission, even after the image had turned up on the publisher website, NetGalley, and Amazon, and people started sending it me asking me what it was. I ended up feeling like a bit of a twit. This time I'd like to get in first.

So without further ado, I present to you:


On the physical version, I'm told that the yellow and metallic bits you see - the lettering, and the sword - will be in silver and gold foil, with the rest of the cover in a matt finish. As far as I'm aware this will be a hardcover release.

It's very different from any other urban fantasy covers, isn't it? What do you guys think? Let me know in the comments!

I have a couple of ARCs of THE NAME OF THE BLADE going spare, so I'm thinking about maybe combining these with other bits and pieces I have to hand and doing a giveaway next week - more on that when I've worked it out.

Oh, and heads-up that I'm posting on the Author Allsorts about how I write this Friday, so tune in for that. I'll probably post a link here just as a reminder :) 

Monday, 24 March 2014

MORE LOVELY UPDATES

Hello, hello, hello, Dear Readers! It's a crisp yet bright spring morning here on the east coast of England. Some of the apple and cherry trees in my neighbourhood have started to bloom, there are magpies hopping around on the field in front of my house, and there's still frost on the ground under a cloudless blue sky. I'm very much looking forward to taking Finn for a nice long walk once I've finished typing this up.

Thanks so much to everyone for your kindness and good wishes over last week's news. It's *still* hasn't quite sunk in. It'll probably be another couple of weeks before the first installment of the money comes through, so maybe it will seem real then. I'm going to start work on my Beauty and the Beast retelling in April, and since I'm - wonder of wonder! - up to date with everything else and basically waiting for Super Agent and Wonder Editor to get back to me on various things, I've decided to take this week off. Properly off. Not like that last time I took a week off and spent the entire time thinking about, planning and working on New Secret Project before getting back to work on Book #3 of the trilogy (fun though that was). I mean off-off. As in, I've got a whole heap of DVDs that I bought over the past year and which I got got for Christmas that I haven't even opened yet, and a small mountain of books to read, some of which have been waiting for more like two years, and dagnabbit, I'm going to get to them all. Or at least, as many of them as I can without my head exploding.

How long I'll be able to stick to this decision without my workaholic self going into a tailspin is unknown, but right now it's giving me a delicious sense of freedom. I'll be heading out to the shops later to buy lovely ingredients for various recipes I intend to try out this week, but other than that my schedule is completely clear - and it's blissful.

Now for updates! First, I've heard the lovely news from Candlewick Press, my U.S. publisher, that there will be an audiobook of the first volume of The Name of the Blade when it it released over there. It'll be made by Brilliance Audio, the same people who did such an first class job of producing Shadows on the Moon in audio format. I'm really happy and excited about this. Remember, the official release date for the book (and now audiobook) is November of this year, and it's coming out as The Name of the Blade rather than The Night Itself. When there's a cover or any other news rest assured I will share it.

Secondly, here is the full-wrap cover art for the UK paperback reissue of The Night Itself:


And Darkness Hidden:


When I showed my mum these, she read the cover copy on DH and said: 'Oh no!' Which is pretty much the reaction I was going for, so I'm happy. But mostly I'm spellbound by the utter gorgeousness of these covers. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Larry Rostant for the amazing photography and to Maria Soler Canton for being a genius of a designer and artistic director. These will be out in early June of this year. As soon as I can get my hands on a finished copy, I will take pics and share, promise.

That's it for this morning, Tweeps. If anyone would like to ask any writing, reading or publishing related questions in the comments for me to answer in a future post, I am open for business :)

Monday, 17 March 2014

A GRANT FOR THE ARTS: LIFE CHANGING NEWS

Happy Monday, Dear Readers - today I'm going to share the amazing news which made me so giddy on Friday. Here goes!

At the beginning of February I saw a blogpost by a fellow author in which she was celebrating having recieved an Arts Council for England Grant for the Arts. My mind was boggled. I'd heard of Grants for the Arts, and had even called the Arts Council up once, years ago, asking advice on whether I might be eligible. I was told 'No' - that writers like me, who were published, were ineligible. But now it looked like either I'd been mislead or things had changed, and I might be eligible to apply for a grant after all.

This was a huge deal. I'm in a weird position with my contracts this year, coming to the end of my three-book contract for the Name of the Blade Trilogy (which was negotiated by my current agent) with one single book contract left outstanding that was negotiated by my former agent.

Now, my publisher divides each advance that they offer for a book into three portions. They pay one third of the money on signature of the contract, one third on delivery and official 'acceptance' of the manuscript, and the final third on publication. I'd already had the signature advance on this contract in 2010, which meant I wasn't due another payment until I'd written the book and it was accepted - and it usually takes me between a year and eighteen months to write a book, and a few more months after that before the book is officially accepted. That's a long time to wait, and the level of my carefully hoarded savings was looking dangerously low. My only option was to try to find a job. And in the middle of a recession, and with a huge gap in my CV.

I'd be lucky - and I mean that sincerely, lucky - to get a place at McDonald's, or stacking shelves in a supermarket.

Guys, I've done the part-time writing while working at a day job to pay the bills thing. It's not, generally, so bad (although it depends on the day job, of course). But the prospect of being forced to do this, especially after the physically and emotionally exhausting last few years that I've had, caring for my father and slowly watching his health go downhill, was... profoundly depressing. My health is currently awful. My asthma is acting up in a way that it hasn't for years, and I'm only just starting to be able to move about normally again after a recurrence of a prolapsed disc in my spine AND a cracked rib. And if I even managed to get a job interview - which wasn't a certainty - I was going to have to go in there and explain all about what happened to dad in order to account for what I'd been doing since 2010. The mere thought of that, of all the stress, made me want to cry.

Trying to get a job, and then working at whatever job I could get, while at the same time attempting to write this book and make it as good as or better than the books that came before was going to mean hassle and anxiety at the exact time when I needed to be quiet and peaceful more than anything. When I *needed* to concentrate on the one thing that makes me feel better: writing.

So: Grants for the Arts. Possible life-saver. Possible life-changer. Could it be possible?

I looked into it and realised, yes, regardless of what I'd been told before, I was eligible to apply. But even if getting a grant was possible, that didn't mean it was *probable*. I needed to write a grant application which would give the ACE a huge amount of information about me, my book, the people who would engage with that book and how, and convince the assessors that I and my novel were worth investing in. The information on the website makes it clear that Grants for the Arts is a competitive programme and that each application is compared against others within the same field to see which are the strongest - that some people with good applications don't get funded simply because there isn't enough money to go around.

To say that I approached the extensive online application form for a Grant for the Arts with trepidation would be an understatement. Anyone who's ever been in despair and has suddenly been offered a tiny, shining glimmer of hope will tell you that it almost *hurts* to reach out and try to grasp that light. It takes a lot of courage. I emailed that other author for some advice (thank you, Nicole!) and did as much research as I could, and then, unable to stand it any longer, launched into it. I spent nearly twenty hours working on the form, most of it in a single day. I stopped to take the dog for walks, make cups of coffee, and use the bathroom, but that was it. I HAD TO GET THIS RIGHT. And yet I knew that even if I did, I still might not get the grant.

I submitted my application with a feeling of cautious optimism, which was bolstered when I got a confirmation email few days later to say that my information had passed the initial checks and that I was definitely eligible. But the normal turnaround on a decision for these grants is six weeks, and while that sounded like no time at all before I submitted the form, it suddenly stretched out to an eternity when I had to live through it. Even though I knew I wasn't going to hear anything much before the six weeks were up, I couldn't stop myself waiting for the postman each day with painful fear that he would bring a thin white envelope telling me that my application had been refused.

By week four, I had spiralled into pessimism and was feeling more anxious and low than I ever before. I was convinced - completely convinced - I'd mucked up the application and had absolutely no chance of success. I actually started to wish that I'd never applied at all, because waiting for the inevitable rejection was torture.

After all that, it seems almost anti-climactic to say that last Friday, a few days before the six weeks were up, a letter did arrive. It wasn't a slim white envelope, but a fat, brown, A4 one, and it contained an offer to give me a grant for the full amount that I'd requested. The maximum 'small' grant available from Grants for the Arts. Enough to support me financially for eighteen months and allow me to write my next book without having to (try to) find a job, or constantly do scribbled sums on the back of bank statement envelopes in a desperate attempt to pay all the bills.

It hasn't really sunk in yet. I keep thinking that if I jump up and down too enthusiastically or whoop too loudly I might break the spell somehow - wake up, or maybe catch someone's attention who'll tell me that it's all a mistake. But in the little moments when I can make myself believe it's true, the sheer relief of it is dizzying, overwhelming. I really wish my dad was here to celebrate this with me, or that I'd known about it before he passed away so that I could have reassured him by telling him that I would apply for it. He worried that I was going to have a tough time after he was gone - and he was right. I just hope that he's somewhere watching me now and smiling his big, golden grin and telling everyone who'll listen to him up there about how his little girl pulled it off. Now I just have to make sure I write something that will make him even prouder.



Supported using public funding by Arts Council England. Inspired by David Marriott, the best dad in the whole world. And motivated by Dear Readers, the best readers any writer could ask for. I really have no excuse not to make my next book my best ever, do I?

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