Hello, lovely, discerning, adorable readers! Happy Tuesday to you all.
For a writer, happiness may come in many forms. It might approach you in the guise of a good review, a result from an award shortlisting, some advance copies of your new book in the post, exciting news about book trailers, or the opportunity to do fun stuff for your publisher. Seldom will it come to you as all of the above - but I'm just lucky, I suppose!
First let me just officially tell you that Shadows on the Moon didn't win the Leeds Book Award (14-16 Category) that prize went to the lovely and adorable Bryony Pearce for Angel's Fury, which I have on my Kobo and fully intend to read once Katana #2 has been wrestled into submission. To leaven the pain of loss, the lovely organisers (hey, everyone! If you're reading this, you guys are awesome!) gave each of the shortlisted authors a sparkly pretty shiney shiiiiny - um - oh, sorry, yes, they gave us beauifully engraved crystal paperweights:
Then on Friday, the Lancashire Book of the Year Award went to the vote. Shadows didn't win, but it did come third place in the voting, behind Malorie Blackman's Boys Don't Cry. First place was taken by Chris Higgin's He's After Me which sounds very intriguing, and which I certainly intend to get my hands on now. Third place, especially in the company of such distinguished writers, is nothing to be sniffed at - plus, I still get to go to the award ceremony, where I'll be meeting the young people who voted, doing a panel event, and attenting a dinner hosted by the local university. I even bought new shoes for this. Swish, eh?
Moving onto the next bit of loveliness, a barrage of reviews for the U.S. edition of Shadows have come in over the past few days. These reviews make me glow not only because they say such lovely things, but also because they will hopefully be instrumental in getting the book into American school libraries where youngsters who can't afford a hardcover of their own will still get to read it.
Bulletin for the Centre for Children’s Books, June 2012
No sooner is Suzume’s father murdered in front of her (on false charges of treason against the Moon Prince) than her mother weds his best friend, Lord Terayama, and spirits Suzume away to a new life of luxury. Suzume’s aptitude for shadow-weaving—the ability to create illusions by manipulating light and shadow—allows her to hide her discontent and suspicion, but when she overhears Terayama’s confession of complicity in her father’s death, she realizes her own life is in danger and she must shed her old identity to remain alive. First as a kitchen drudge in Terayama’s household, then as a courtesan attempting to win the position of the Moon Prince’s Shadow Bride (an official, high-status mistress with the power to ask a royal boon), she pursues a vendetta against Terayama and her own traitorous mother. Marriott plays with the motifs of the Cinderella story in fresh new ways, recasting the classic fairy tale as revenge quest in a pseudo–ancient Japan, and her powerful exploration of familial betrayals and the personal cost of vengeance dovetails seamlessly with the more familiar fairy-tale themes of love, belonging, and multiple identities. The book also has a swoonworthy romantic hero in kind, perceptive Otieno (the youngest member of a diplomatic party from the African nation of Athazie), who recognizes Suzume in all of her guises and offers her happiness if only she can let go of her guilt and bitterness. The atmospheric writing, compelling secondary characters (including a transgender woman who becomes Suzume’s surrogate older sister), and emotional complexity of this adaptation give it broad appeal and make it a standout addition to the perennially appealing field of fairy-tale novelizations. Recommended CG
School Library Journal, June 2012
Gr 9 Up–In this spin on ‘Cinderella” set in ancient Japan, Suzume is an only child living with her parents and orphaned cousin, Aimi. The action starts immediately when royal soldiers unfairly accuse her father of being a traitor. Aimi and Suzume watch in terror as her father is killed, and Aimi is also shot as the girls flee through the woods. After her mother remarries, Suzume learns that she is a shadow weaver, “One who can weave illusions from the threads of the world.” Her skills are useful when she discovers that her stepfather had a hand in her father’s death. So begins a domino effect of twists, turns, and shocking revelations that lead to Suzume masquerading as a servant in her stepfather’s house to escape his attempts to silence her. Fleeing altogether when she believes that she has accidentally killed her mother, she embarks on a perilous attempt to avenge her family and redeem herself. Along the way she is forced to question whether hate is more valuable than love and if she can ever consider herself worthy of happiness. A rich cultural context and strong female characters make this novel reminiscent of Kristin Cashore’s Graceling (Harcourt, 2008) and Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha (Knopf, 1998). The “Cinderella” theme is interwoven with just the right strokes, creating a magical reinterpretation that is much richer than a mere retelling. Although several hot-button issues such as self-mutilation and gender identity are dealt with in an explicit manner, the fast-moving plot, intense action, and compelling characters will pull readers through to the satisfying conclusion.–Sunnie Sette, New Haven Public Library, CT
Booklist, May 2012
Cinderella is reimagined as 16-year-old Suzume, a young girl of noble birth living in fairy-tale Japan, who takes on various incarnations after the brutal slaying of her father and cousin by means of her stepfather Lord Terayama. In Terayama’s house, Suzume becomes his polite, sweet daughter Suzu-Chan, but she is soon exiled upon the discovery of his treachery, and during her time on the run takes on the identity of Rin, a clumsy kitchen drudge, and finally Yue, the enchanting courtesan bent on revenge against Terayama while vying to become the Moon Prince’s shadow bride—the highest concubine in the court. She pursues this last goal despite her heart, which belongs to a foreign man who shares her ability to “shadow-weave,” the power to cast illusions. Despite the fantasy plot, Marriott gets into heady, realistic territory here, touching on self-harm, sexual identity, and the deepest of sacrifices. Instead of relying on one fairy godmother, Suzume has multiple mentors, as well as multiple motivations, all of which shape her as a flawed, dramatic, and sympathetic lead. — Courtney Jones
My incoherant delight at these may have caused my editor at Candlewick Press some slight concern about my mental state. But she's used to that.
NEXT! Wonder Editor (that's the UK one) emailed me not last week but the week before to tell me that the first copies of FrostFire and the newly re-jacketed Daughter of the Flames had arrived in the office and that she was sending me some. But they did not arrive, Dear Readers! I sat in front of the post-flap each day with my tongue coming out like an excited (possibly unhousebroken) labrador puppy, desperately hoping for a parcel with the Walker logo on it. My lonely vigil was unrewarded.
On Friday I finally broke and emailed Wonder Editor asking if she was absolutely, positively SURE that she'd put the books in the post, and if perhaps they hadn't fallen down the back of the mailshute in the Walker mail room or something. Alas, Wonder Editor had, in fact, been as frighteningly efficient as always. The books therefore could only have been lost as a result of the Royal Mail's equally frightening incompetence.
Cue: Wailing, gnashing of teeth, rending of hair and general tantrum-throwing. Especially after I found out that my agent, all the way over in Wales, had gotten her copies. IT WASN'T FAIR, DEAR READERS.
But fear not, there is a happy ending to the tale. Wonder Editor packaged up another copy of each and got them in the post that very day and they arrived on Saturday morning, causing me to frolic and scamper with glee like the labrador puppy when it finally gets its rubber ball. Pictures, you demand? Oh, I am only too delighted to oblige!
The prettiest book that I think I've ever been privileged to hold in my own hands. The internal design alone makes me want to take it to bed with me and hide it under my pillow for ever. Joy!
In other news, at the end of last month I was hard at work writing a script for the trailer my publisher plan to make for FrostFire. A Lovely Young PR Lady (hereafter referred to as Lovely Lass) and I went back and forth a few times (she wrote a version, I wrote a version, then we sort of squashed them together and cut the whole thing in half) and eventually came up with something we both liked and which we thought was the right length. This then went away to get approval from the company who do the actual shooting, and luckily they thought our ideas were doable, although they reserved the right to tweak and fiddle with it as necessary.
Following that there was further scrambling as Lovely Lass was sent details for various possible actors for the roles of Luca, Arian and Frost. A pretty darn perfect Luca and Arian appeared on the scene with relatively little fuss, but for some reason Lovely Lass kept being sent tiny, skinny white girls to play the role of Frost.
You guys haven't read about Frost yet, but she describes herself as 'carthorse'-like, and at the beginning of the story she's making her living from chopping wood, hauling hay, and doing manual labour jobs. She is tall, and tough, and very, very strong. Also, she's most emphatically not white. Lovely Lass strongly suggested that they stop sending her the petite pale-skinned girls, please. Not that there's anything wrong with being petite and white - unless you're being sent out for roles which are completely wrong for you. We found the whole thing kind of strange, and I could tell that Lovely Lass was feeling a bit frazzled about it. The actress we wanted had to be out there!
The on Wednesday, a picture arrived in my inbox, and much ecstatic flailing commenced on the part of Lovely Lass and me. We had our Frost!
By Friday filming was underway, taking advantage of the gorgeous sunshine; perfect for depicting my imagined country of Ruan (which is based mostly on Northern India and Tibet). I'm hoping that in the next week or so I'll get to see some footage and I'm really VERY excited. With any luck I'll be able to do a post fairly soon showing you the casting photos. I'm not sure if anyone from the publisher was there at the shoot to take still photos, but if so I'll try to get hold of them too.
Of course, this week (tomorrow, in fact!) I will be wending my way to Manchester and then on to Sheffield on a two-day field trip in order to meet and interview Cassandra Clare on her UK tour for City of Lost Souls. You all know how much I love CC's books, so getting put up overnight in a nice hotel in order to tag along with her on part of her journey is like being offered a free run at the Make Your Own Icecream Sundae Bar for me. I can't wait. There's still time to pop in a few more questions in the comments here if you have them.
As a result of the tour activity, though, I'm not going to be in the Writing Cave on Wednesday-Thursday. On Friday, I'll be posting my event report and interview with Cassandra Clare. So I'll be posting the final InCreWriMa Check In on the following Tuesday (technically not in May anymore - June 5th - but hopefully you'll forgive me). That gives you a few extra days to pack the words in, so take advantage of it!
Oh, and last but not least! There's a new interview with me up on Lost In Fiction. Check it out :)
See you on Friday, my darlings!