Wednesday, 29 June 2011


Hi Everyone - and Happy Wednesday!

Yesterday I treated myself to an outing in Sheffield, fully intending to raid every bookshop I could find and do a picture post for you showcasing all my new treasures. Unfortunately, NONE of the books I wanted were in stock and so I went home empty handed. *Sob*

Seeking consolation last night, I started sifting through my TBR pile, and it occurred to me that I've never shown you guys just how many books I own which I haven't yet read. And so - a pictorial tour of my TBR pile!

This is the consolidated version, including the pile from my coffee table, the pile by my bed, and the pile from the writer's cave:

Impressive, right?

These are the books which have either been given to me by Walker Books when I was visiting them in London (they have this basement. There are floor to ceiling shelves of books. Shelves and shelves that go on forever. It's some kind of crazy bookworm HEAVEN), or else were sent to me by my lovely editor Annalie because she thought I would like them. There were originally a LOT more of these. I've been steadily working through them.

These are the books which friends talked me into buying - sometimes by giving glowing reviews, other times by literally forcing them on me. I once made the mistake of going book shopping with two members of my online writing group. They kept pulling things off the shelves and saying 'You must have this. And this. Oh - and this!' I went home with £68 worth of books. Darn you, Ferret and Roccie! I lived on bread and jam for a fortnight!

Finally, these books are the ones I am responsible myself, but still haven't managed to get around to yet.

Fun Activities You Can Do With A TBR Pile This Big:

Play Jenga!

Create Modern Art!

Use As A Handy Prop For Your Musical Instrument!

What's in your TBR piles guys?

Sunday, 26 June 2011


Hello, Dear Readers! Happy Monday - I hope you're all getting a chance to see a bit of the sun, even if you are heading out to work or school today.

I know that I said I would do a reader question post this Wednesday but why put off until tomorrow that which can be done today? Plus, I have another plan for Wednesday. So without further ado, let's hear from long-time blog commenter Isabel, who says:
"I keep thinking that the plot of my story from this point onwards isn't going to work or isn't broad enough for a novel. I've also been having difficulty getting my ideas down. I had this vivid image for what I wanted to write in this chapter and it's not exactly turning out the way I planned for it to. I'm afraid that I might work myself into a dead end with my story and not be able to continue with it, even though I adore my book and don't want to quit. I'm also afraid that Alex and Megha -- the two people that read and comment on my work -- won't like it anymore. How do I decide whether a certain plot-line is going to work out, and is there any way for me to stop being so critical about my work? How do you go about constructing your story-lines? What are the main pointers that you think about while brainstorming for story/plot ideas? And how do you get yourself un-stuck when you run out of ideas?"
Which is a LOT of questions. Phew! And, what's more, a lot of questions which I've actually already answered on this blog - for example in How I Plot, Turning Ideas into Plots Parts One, Two and Three, Writing Roadblocks, Take a Deep Breath, and Plotting a Trilogy. I have a feeling that you've already read most if not all of these, Isabel, but that in your slightly frenzied state you've just forgotten.

Because that's what I'm getting from this email. I'm getting that you feel under a lot of pressure, that you're worrying a lot about your work and what people might think of it, and that you don't feel in control. I don't think you're really looking for specific advice on those points you've mentioned (especially since it's all already there for you in the links above) as much as a bit of reassurance. 

I would say that I spend about 70% of the time when I'm drafting feeling exactly the way that you are feeling here (it goes up to 90% when I'm revising). Frenzied, slightly panicked, worried, out of control. I used to think if I could just come up with that magic plotting diagram or that perfect piece of writing process, the panic and worry would go away and I'd be confident and calm and would know just what I was doing. But I've come to a gradual realisation working on FF and BSP - and that's this:

It's normal to panic.

You never figure out how to write a book. NEVER. You only figure out, usually when you've nearly finished it, how to write the book you're working on NOW. Every time we start a new story we're striking out into unexplored territory, meeting new characters, taking on new challenges. New, new, new. So of course you'll feel out of control and confused. You're figuring it out as you go along, and that's what being a writer is about (unless you're one of those guys who just recycles the same characters and stories and settings over and over again, in which case your main problem is probably boredom).

So I'd like you to re-read Take A Deep Breath and then do just that. Stop putting this pressure on yourself to be perfect. Even though I know you love to create beautiful language and fiddle and get things right first time, that doesn't mean you have to get everything PERFECT first time. You ARE going to revise and re-write, and when you do you will improve everything at least five or ten times anyway. Don't expect yourself to have all the answers. Don't freak out if you don't have any answers. You are not on a deadline, and Alex and Megha will not be offended if you ask them to take a break for a little while and just keep your work to yourself until you're feeling more centred.

The last thing you want to do is take all the fun out of it for yourself, Isabel. Because, as I'm always saying, if you take all the fun out of writing, you might as well go and become an accountant instead. Relax. Breathe. It will work itself out in the end.

Now, by popular request (well, OK, one request - but it counts!) I bring you the three videos that I made over the weekend on the topic of why people keep bashing YA writing and writers. Warning: ADULT LANGUAGE!

That's all I have time for today, my lovelies - but don't worry, I will keep ploughing through the pile of reader questions, and you will get another post next week. Now I'm heading out into the wide blue yonder for a ramble with Finn. See you all on Wednesday!

Friday, 24 June 2011


Hello everyone! Happy Friday - a very happy Friday in fact, because I'm about to blow your minds with awesometastic, behind the scenes photographs from the shooting of the Shadows on the Moon trailer.

*Pause for 'Ooooooh!'*

OK, before I start unveiling, here's a question. Did you enter the One Year Blogiversary Extravaganza yet? There are fabulous prizes to be won and the giveaway is open internationally. The reason I ask is that you will be able to gain EXTRA ENTRY POINTS if you blog, Facebook, Tweet or otherwise share today's post. I want to generate some buzz about this trailer! That's right - EXTRA POINTS. Yay! However: I ask that you do not go to other people's blogs and leave comments/links about the giveaway in their comment trails. I know some of you guys have been doing this, and I will count those points, but in future I'd rather you don't do this anymore. The owners of those other blogs probably feel as if they're being spammed by me! And remember - whatever sharing of this post you do, leave a link in a separate comment on the One Year Blogiversary Extravaganza post. Otherwise I won't be able to count it. begin.

Last week the lovely Sean from Walker Books sent me an email that made me squeee as I haven't squeeed for many long months. It contained headshots of actors that they were considering for the roles of Otieno and Suzume in the book trailer. They had already decided on the girl to play Suzume:

SO GORGEOUS. Look at those eyes! This girl should be in Hollywood. But I'm glad she's not, because she wouldn't be in my trailer if so. Hurrah!

They wanted my choice between two actors for Otieno. This actor was my favourite. He's called Hainsley. Um. *Swoon*

They also wanted to show me the make-up they had been experimenting with to re-create the tattoos that Otieno has in the story:

So I was already ridiculously excited. But then they told me that they had been given permission to film at the East Asia Gardens at Kew. At this point I pretty much had to grab a paper bag because HOLY CRAP. Dream come true, much?

After some more emailing back and forth to ask me for approval on various details - which I really appreciate, it was wonderful to be consulted - they went out to do the shooting on Tuesday. And on Wednesday, I received a bunch of pictures which had been shot by the delightful Becca on location. I share these with you now. You ready? Seriously. Sit down or something.

This is the East Asia Gardens. THIS IS WHERE THEY WERE SHOOTING MY TRAILER YOU GUYS... *Deep breaths* Next, a wide shot of a scene where Suzume and Otieno confront each other:

I'm fine. Totally fine. I've seen a guy without a shirt on before - what are you saying? I'm just lying here on the floor because it's more comfortable. Really.

Next, a glimpse of a different costume for Jing (that's the actress playing Suzume):

Pretty kimono. Preeetty. Soooo preeeeetty....*Drools* Ahem. *Wipes face* And now for my favourite shot of the whole thing. This is my new profile picture on Twitter:

*Reels away, dizzy and shaking*

*Sits down*

*Fans self*

Right. Right. I'm back. I just have to say that I'm so awed and overjoyed by the attention to detail and the respect that's been showered on this project, both by Walker Books and the production company involved, Shoot. I feel incredibly lucky. And I can't WAIT to share the trailer with you guys, which ought to be, with any luck, sometime next week.

To close, let's have a shot of a new Shadows on the Moon fan the crew found at Kew Gardens:

Fan. FAN. Get it? Get it?! Oh, nevermind.

So what do you guys think? Are you excited to see the trailer? Let me know in the comments! And remember, if you decide to share this post to earn extra giveaway points, do it on the Extraganza post, not here. Thanks!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


Hello, Dear Readers! Today, as promised, I tackle a series of intriguing questions posed by you in my comments trail and email inbox.

After I mentioned in Monday's post that I was planning a Reader Questions post this week, I was absolutely deluged with questions - so many that I can't fit them all into one post. Or even two! So I'm just going to deal with the first few today and work through the rest next Wednesday and the Wednesday after.

First up, then, an email question from Claudia, who says:
"I am a teenager trying to write a contemporary story. what keeps scaring me is that, because of my age, I might not have enough experience to write a believable story. Is this true, or am I just obsessing?"
You're just obsessing. Next!

Seriously - of course if you're writing about topics that you've had no experience of in your real life, it's going to take extra skill, research and passion to make those seem realistic. But that's true whether you're eleven or one hundred and eleven. It's also true that some young people might not have the emotional maturity to write convincingly about the complex emotions of their characters, or the technical ability to create good prose - but again, that's true of adults as well. The only way you develop these skills is by writing, writing, writing, and being willing to revise and re-work stories to make them as good as you can, as well as the willingness to move onto new material once you've made the old as good as you can.

Do your research, do your best, and keep writing. That's all anyone can do.

The second question is from long-time blog commentor Alex: 
"I recently made the decision to self-publish the first two books I wrote, one when I was 16 and the next when I was 17. I tried to get an agent for each in turn and piled up stacks and stacks of rejections. Each time I had it made clear to me that there was no problem with the stories or the writing themselves but they simply weren't commercially viable. But they are books I would have picked up myself, and would have liked to read myself, and they may be flawed but I am still proud of them. That's why I decided to self-publish. My question really is, do you think this was a bad decision? Do I lose integrity amongst other authors if I publish my work myself? Would it be more worthwhile persevering like everyone else? What advice would you give to an author who has to market herself?"
This is really a tangle of sub-questions rather than one, but I'll do my best. The first issue I need to tackle here is the issue of 'commercial viability' - which I'm very suited to do, since when I started writing YA fantasies with girl characters (before the paranormal/urban fantasy boom) the UK publishing world was firmly convinced there was no market for such things, that girls simply weren't interested in fantasy.  But The Swan Kingdom was published anyway. How did that happen? 

Even though the book was different and strange and didn't really fit into the market place as the publisher saw it right then, it was still good enough to capture the imaginations of an editor and his boss. Good enough to make them willing to take a chance on it. Different, strange books get published all the time, and in fact those are often the books that surprise everyone by making their own market niche and becoming a success. So if these agents are telling you that there are no problems with your writing and stories, but that your work is not 'commercially viable'? What they're really telling you is that although they like your books, they're not quite good enough for them to take a chance on.

That's not what you want to hear, Alex, and I'm sorry. I know it's much more comforting to think that the problem is with the market rather than your books. But I was told the EXACT same thing about my first YA fantasy, that no one ever published, and looking back I can see that this was the way kind publishing people encouraged a young writer who had a lot of potential, but whose work just wasn't there yet. Because when I wrote my second book it still didn't really fit into the 'commercially viable' box - but it got published anyway.

Bearing that in mind, then, do I think you made the wrong decision to self-publish? No. Why shouldn't you get the personal satisfaction of sharing these books that you love with the world, design your own covers, and maybe even make some profit? In these days of ebook publishing and Amanda Hocking, the old stigma of being a self-published author is disspating fast. It's not necessarily a selling point when you approach agents or publishers, but neither is it a stumbling block.

But just because you've taken the step to self-publish these earlier books, that doesn't mean you should give up on getting books published the traditional way in the future either. Amanda Hocking herself, after making millions of dollars with her ebooks, signed a traditonal publishing contract with St Martin's Press. Traditional publishing gives you a security and a support system that self-published authors just don't have. You ask me here how a self-published author should market herself and frankly, I'm clueless, but I do know that Amanda Hocking said she was doing FORTY HOURS of promotional work a week. FORTY HOURS! Who can blame her for wanting to give that up and just be allowed to write?

I suppose my advice to you comes down to this - don't despair of ever getting an agent and a publishing contract just because your earlier books weren't successful. The only difference between a published author and an unpublished one is that the former never gave up. If you have the talent, the perseverence and the patience, eventually you will write the book which breaks out and makes your dream come true.

I hope this was helpful Claudia and Alex. This post has already run a little longer than I intended, so I think I'd better finish here. Sorry to all of who sent me other questions - I will do my best to fit them all in next week or the week after at the latest. If anyone else has questions to ask, drop them in the comments or send me an email and I'll add you to the queue!

Monday, 20 June 2011


Hi everyone - Happy Monday. I hope you all had a great weekend. Mine was a mixture of ups and downs. I had to do my tax return, and despite having undergone this process once a year since 2005, I still don't really understand it. Self Assessment feels like a fiendishly difficult exam, and every year they wrong-foot you by changing the questions and layout. You always finish with a strong feeling that you've messed up. This is an element of the glamorous writer's life that no one ever warns you about. It's my heartfelt ambition to be able to afford an accountant one day.

However, this weekend also brought me this:

With thanks to the lovely Emma of Book Angel's Booktopia for risking people thinking she was mad by frantically shooing them out of the way to take a picture in her local WHS.

I've never seen a book of mine that close to the word 'Bestselling' before, or put on a display with Big Books like Twilight and Starcrossed. To clarify, just out of shot on the left is the word NEW - which is what Shadows on the Moon is - and that's why it's on the shelf, not (unfortunately) because it's bestselling, as far as I'm aware. But it's still thrilling.

Which leads me onto telling you that my publisher is planning all kinds of interesting things for the week of Shadows on the Moon's official release, including guest posts on their Undercover Blog, a blog tour and the release of a book trailer. I am so excited about all of this, especially the book trailer. Last week they sent me headshots of the actors who've been cast as the main characters and...well, let's just say I nearly passed out.

What all this means (apart from the fact that I should probably practise taking deep, slow breaths, or maybe buy some paper bags) is that for a week or maybe a little more around the book's publication date, you'll be getting a lot more posts from me than normal - but I'll be re-directing you to other blogs to read them. I hope that's going to be OK with you guys?

In tangenitally related news, the response to the One Year Blogiversary Extravangaza so far has been wonderful, both in the number of entries and the number of new followers. If it keeps on this way I may be dying pink streaks in my hair before the end of summer. Have you entered yet? What are you waitiing for? Get to it! You've only got until the 3rd of July to enter - but remember, the giveaway is open internationally.

Finally, I'm planning a Reader Questions post on Wednesday, so if anyone would like to ask a question about writing or publishing and get a reply this week, send me an email through my website or drop me a line in the comments.

And now - back to work on FrostFire edits! Hurrah!

Friday, 17 June 2011


Hello, dear readers! Happy Friday and happy blogiversary! 

That's right, everyone - on Saturday it will be precisely one year since I started the Zoë-Trope. I can hardly believe it. It feels more like five minutes! 

I started blogging completely on impulse, as a way to stave off depression shortly after losing my job. When I first began, had an uneasy feeling that I'd struggle to find enough things to talk about even for a month, and an even more uneasy feeling that no one would care what I had to say about anything anyway. Instead of which, I've somehow managed to blog three times a week (and sometimes more!) every single week for a year (with your help, of course!) and I've met a whole raft of wonderful readers, become part of the wonderful UK book blogging community, had all kinds of crazy fun in the comments section, and enjoyed some really good rants too.

To mark this fairly momentous occasion - and thank all of you for being the best blog audience anyone ever had - I've decided to hold an extravagant giveaway, the likes of which the Zoë-Trope has never seen before (although it may have come close). 

First of all - the prizes:

Everything you see here is included, but let me break it down.  

The grand prize winner shall receive an ARC of Shadows on the Moon, signed and personalised for them. A sparkly UK paperback of The Swan Kingdom and a gorgeous US hardcover of Daughter of the Flames, both also signed and personalised. A one of a kind piece of artwork created by my own fair hand during the process of writing Shadows on the Moon (a sketch of the main male character's tattoo, actually).

In addition, there will be assorted pieces of swag, such as scented Japanese fans, postcards, magnets and signed bookplates. 

The second prize winner will receive an ARC of Shadows on the Moon, a one of a kind piece of artwork from my Shadows on the Moon sketches, and their own bag of swag, including signed bookplates, magnets, postcards and any other cool things I have on hand. 

The runner up will receive a one of a kind piece of artwork and another bag of swag, including signed bookplates, magnets, postcards, fans, and anything else I have on hand. 

The giveaway is open internationally.

To enter? Well, I really want to get the word out about this giveaway and maybe draw in some new followers (we all love to make new friends, right?). So what I'd love for people to do is spread the word. Tweet about this giveaway and link back to it, post it on Facebook, blog about it, share it anywhere - and then leave me a comment showing the link. For each place that you share, and each link, leave a NEW COMMENT. So if you Tweet, and share on Facebook, and blog about the giveaway, that should be THREE COMMENTS. This part is really important guys, to ensure the giveaway is fair, so don't forget. SEPARATE COMMENTS.

In addition, anyone who changes their Twitter avatar or their Facebook profile pic or their Goodreads avatar to the Shadows on the Moon cover, and provides a link to their profile, will receive an extra point. 

Again, in order to make sure the giveaway is fair, please don't leave ANY OTHER COMMENTS in the comment trail for this post. If you want to chat about this giveaway or ask questions, but you don't have a link to leave? Please just skip back and leave the comments on Wednesday's post. 

In order to give as many people as possible the chance to win, I'm going to leave this giveaway open a little longer than normal. The official Shadows on the Moon release date here in the UK is the 4th of July, so I'm going to give you until the 3RD OF JULY to enter. I will pick the winners using a random number generator on the morning of release day.

I hope this is all clear - if not, email me or leave a comment on Wednesdays's post. Good luck to everyone, and have a great weekend!

P.S. I won't be able to chat to you in the comments either, but never fear - I am reading them all, and I am tallying them all up!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011


Hi everyone! I'm afraid there's not much sense to be gotten out of me today, because since late on Monday I've been receiving reports that there are copies of Shadows on the Moon - actual, real life, paper, bookish versions of it - on the shelves of certain shops.

At first, when the fabulous Kaz Mahoney (interviewed by me here) sent me this picture from the shop in Aylesbury, I thought it might be a mistake, or a one-off.

But then a lovely blog reader let me know that she had also bought a copy in Hereford. And finally another wonderful friend from London said that she too had just found and bought the book. So it looks like it is out nationwide. NEARLY A MONTH EARLY.

Thus far it seems that it is only WH Smiths which has gotten impatient and started making the book available (despite the fact that it still shows as a pre-order on their website). So if you do want to get your hands on a finished copy right now, that's the place to do it. Especially as, apparently, it's part of their three-for-two deal on children's and YA novels. And then you will be able to see for yourself the shiny glossy cover and the beautiful internal cherry blossom decoration and, you know. All those words I wrote.

You could even buy THREE copies (only paying for TWO!) and then give a copy to your best friend and another to your sister or mother or some other person you know who loves to read! And if you wanted it make it extra special you could write to me via my publisher (like it says here!) with a stamped addressed envelope, and get me to do personalised bookplates for you and your friends/relatives to stick into the front pages of the books you'd bought! How amazing would that be?

Right, that's enough of that. I was NOT mentally prepared for this, guys. Every time someone tells me they've seen it, I have to stop and do the deep breathing exercises and fan myself vigorously. I don't know whether to laugh hysterically or sit in the corner and rock gently while whimpering. I've mentioned it to my publisher and they don't seem at all concerned, so it looks like all systems are go, basically.

This steps a little bit on the grand giveaway I was planning on doing at the end of this week to celebrate the blog's one year anniversary. However, I think I'll still do it, since ARCs of Shadows on the Moon are something different, and free, signed books are nearly always popular, right? I mean, even if you COULD, theoretically, just walk right into a shop and buy it yourself...

Ha ha.

*Deep breaths*

OK, in other news, I'm working on FF edits now, so if you've sent me an email and I haven't responded yet, don't worry - it's just that I'm putting most things on hold in order to work on these.

And finally:

I definitely haz it today, guys. Eeep. 
Unexpected puppy is unexpected!

Monday, 13 June 2011


Hi everyone - I hope you're having a nice Monday so far. I've been in two minds as to whether I should write this post for a few days, but after some encouragement from Twitter pals I've finally decided to go ahead and talk one more time about the issues brought up by the Wall Street Journal's article 'Darkness Too Visible' (which I have no intention of linking to again - they don't need any more publicity) and the #yasaves hashtag.

I'm really going to TRY to avoid letting this turn into a giant rant but...well, cut me a little slack, OK?

If you look at the ridiculously comprehensive YA Highway round-up, you can see the scale of the response that came from readers and authors everywhere about this. It was exhilarating and heart-warming to be caught up in such a groundswell of love for YA novels, and such honesty about how they have changed and saved lives.

However, after that initial reaction over the weekend, I noticed that there was a little mini-backlash happening against the idea of #yasaves. Not from the people you might have expected - journalists defending their right to rip YA to shreds even if they'd never done a speck of research, or parents defending their right to read over their children's shoulders and sheild them from dark topics in fiction. No. The backlash came from authors.

The substance of the reaction against #yasaves came in two parts. First of all, some authors stated that they felt uncomfortable with #yasaves because they didn't want people to fall back into that all-too-common belief that books for young adults needed to contain some kind of moral lesson. That YA exists to teach or preach. These authors pointed out that they don't sit down and think: 'Now to write a novel which will teach youngsters the value of honesty and self-belief, haha!' They just wrote the stories they loved and filled them with characters they believed in. They just tried to create art.

I totally sympathise with that reaction. If, by reading a story and by following along with a character's choices, a young person is able to make their own mental and emotional connections, to take away essential truths and be transformed? I'm ecstatic about that. But I'm under no illusions - that is a reader teaching THEMSELVES. I'm not a teacher. I'm a writer. What I do is in many ways selfish. I write to please myself, not to educate anyone else. I just want to tell stories, and that's all I've ever wanted. If I let myself get too tangled up in the idea of being some huge moral influence on my readers I'll probably shrivel up into a pruney mess of insecurities and die.

The other part of the backlash was more extreme. It was anger, directed against everyone involved in #yasaves - even, presumably, the readers who had dared to share their stories. This part of the backlash shrugged off the very idea of #yasaves with a contemptuous snort, stated that saving anyone was not a writer's job, that it was too big of a burden to place on a writer, and the whole idea is ridiculous or presumptuous or some other word ending in 'ous' which expresses how much they loathed the thought of their books changing a reader's life.

And you know what? To those writers I say: Put on your big person pants and stop your damn whining.

You don't want your books to save anyone? It's too big a burden? Don't put that on you? Just what and who do you believe you are?

Every human being on the planet has the ability to change another person's life, for better or worse. You don't get to opt out of that by becoming a writer, dude. If that's what they told you when you signed up, I'm afraid they lied.

If you were only writing for your own satisfaction you wouldn't have queried, got an agent, sold the book and seen it published. You wanted people to read it. You fought and struggled and strove for them to read it. Therefore you have taken on the burden voluntarily.

Thousands of people get up every morning and head out to lives where they can influence, change and even save others. The obvious ones like members of the armed forces, police officers, firemen, rescue workers, doctors and nurses, get lauded for this. But the same is true for teachers, social workers, librarians, customer service operators, traffic wardens, bus drivers and - guess what? - that homeless guy asking for change on the corner. It's what being human is about.

Maybe it's as dramatic as lunging out into traffic to save a little boy from an oncoming bus. Or maybe it's just offering the girl crying on the bus a tissue, or having a conversation with the lady on the checkout about her dog and making her laugh. Maybe it's offering a friend a shoulder to cry on - or blowing that friend off because you're not in the mood. It could be ignoring the little old lady who dropped her shopping, accidentally tripping up the workman as he passes by you or giving that policeman the finger when he stops you for speeding. All these things influence and change the lives of those we come into contact with.

Yes, authors work in a kind of vacuum where many days of the week it's just them and their invented characters. Yes, we write because we want to create art. Yes, we write to please ourselves. But when you're done your work goes out into the world and it touches people. It moves them, annoys them, entertains them - and saves them. if you're honestly saying the very idea that your work might do that is anathema to you? You're in the wrong profession kiddo. 'Cos that's what books - what any form of art - DOES. 

I'm not saying you have to care. You don't. You can just keep on writing what you want to write without ever reading a review, responding to a reader email or answering a fan's questions. You can tell yourself that your books aren't important, if that's what you need to believe to write them. You can pretend that no one but you will ever read it, even as you're pressing the send button to email it to your agent.

But if you turn around to your readers and say they have no right to react however they damn well please to your work? That they shouldn't laugh or cry or get angry or be changed or saved by it?

Frankly, it makes me hope that you'll stop writing right now, no matter how talented you are.

Friday, 10 June 2011


Hello, dear Readers, and happy Friday! Congratulations for making it to the end of another week. Friday rather took me by surprise today - it crept up on me when I wasn't expecting it - so I'm bringing you a delightful taste of Friday randomness, which reflects my state of mind and which I hope you'll enjoy!

1) A pair of cartoons guaranteed to make any writer laugh (Warning! Adult language!)

2) A beautiful piece of artwork, which, f you're anything like me, will make you feel very inspired (this was all over the internet a couple of weeks ago, but I realised I never shared it here).

3) A sage piece of advice from US Agent Jennifer Laughran. When I see this in published books, it drives me mad.

4) Shadows on the Moon gets a mention in this great piece on fairytales in popular media, written by Liz from My Favourite Books.

5) There are less than twenty adds to go on Goodreads before Shadows on the Moon hits 500! That's a lot of people, considering it's not even out yet. In related news the casting call just went out for actors to play the male protagonist of Shadows on the Moon in a book trailer which my UK publisher Walker Books are producing. So exciting! I can't wait to see it and share it with you.

That's my Friday Five, guys! Have a great weekend and I'll see you all on Monday.

P.S. RANDOM 6th Item! That's just how I roll, yo! Also, I meant to post this before but forgot! A lovely interview with me, conducted by well known commentor Alex. Check it out.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011


No, no - don't get too excited! BSP is still unsold and so I still can't tell you what it is actually about. But I've decided to give you some hints. Hints of a visual nature. The idea for this post came from the wonderful Steph Bowe's Hey! Teenager of the Year blog. She's been running a series of visual inspiration posts for fifteen weeks now and I always find them intriguing and fun. I hope she will forgive me for borrowing! Go check out her blog - you'll love it.

And now, without more ado, I present to you...Big Secret Project:

As you can probably tell, once I started looking for images, it was quite hard not to get carried away... I just hope I've not spoiled the whole thing!

Sunday, 5 June 2011


I can't remember what I was going to post about on my normal Monday slot tomorrow. Anger may have wiped my memory clean in much the same way that prejudice, ignorance and narrow-mindedness appear to have wiped the writer of this article's mind clean. Sorry, dear readers. You'll just have to put up with this rant instead.

When I woke up this morning to find my Twitter feed being eaten alive by references to an article in the Wall Street Journal about YA literature, my first reaction was confusion, because that article came out ages ago. Didn't it? Oh, no - this was a NEW article from the WSJ, ANOTHER article belittling my genre and chosen medium as an artist. Did a YA author kick the editor of the WSJ in the ankle on the train recently or something? These guys certainly don't seem to like us much. But then, thinking about it, no one really seems to like us much, do they?

It seems every other day YA writers have to put up with another condescending article in which the entire field of young adult and children's writing is compressed down to the sparkly vampire elements so that the journalist can smirk. Or a comment from some lauded adult literary writer who thinks anyone who bothers writing for people under the age of eighteen is mentally defective. Or an article like this one, that bemoans the debauched, depraved tone of YA literature and compares it unfavourably to the books of the writer's own childhood.

The first thing most of these articles do is to point out how new YA is. And they're right. Young Adult only got its own shelf in the library or bookshop sometime in the late eighties or early nineties. Before that, there was just children's and adult's. And not long before that, there was adult, all on its own, and children read the Bible and classics and that was it. A lot of people seem to wish for a return to this state of affairs - or, at least, that's how it seems to those of us who keep finding ourselves under attack for daring to see young adults as a worthy audience with high intelligence, enquiring minds, and their own particular experiences and concerns, which deserve books specifically written for them.

In the minds of these article-writers, 'new' = bad. Just as, apparently, truthful, intense, dark books which explore the real world young adults share with the rest of us = bad. The YA haters, whatever their stated concerns, always seem to be looking back, longing for some past Golden Age of Innocence, when books for younger readers were bright and cheerful and happy and uncomplicated. A hazy, non-specific 1950's lite period, when kids were respectful to their elders, no one had to lock their doors, child abuse was unheard of. When children never cried alone, or hurt themselves or others. When, presumably, young people themselves were bright, cheerful, happy and uncomplicated.

Here's a little newsflash for you. That time never actually existed.

It is a product of the adult imagination. Nothing more than convenient fantasy. Weak and feeble nostalgia. And kids know it.

The world has never been bright, cheery and happy and uncomplicated. Kids have always been abused. They have always suffered in silence, hurt themselves and others. Children have always, always, always partaken of the pain and agony of humanity. They have always had to live with the same darkness, the same wars, the same nightmares as adults do. In fact, they've normally caught the worst of it. Take a look at childhood and infant mortality rates in any third world country if you don't believe me. Actually, take a look at child poverty statistics for the U.S. right now. Still feeling nice and cozy there on your moral high ground?

One of the most heart-breaking parts of Meghan Cox Gurdon's article is the way that she dismisses Scars, a novel by Cheryl Rainfield. Ms Cox Gurdon thinks the subject of the book - a girl who cuts to help herself cope with years of systematic abuse by her father - 'normalises' self-harm. That the topics it covers are 'lurid'. She criticises the cover with it's photograph of a 'horribly scarred forearm'. Apparently all this stuff is just too 'depraved' for teens.

Does Ms Cox Gurdon realise that Cheryl Rainfield herself was ritually and sytematically tortured by her parents as a child? That the forearm she dismisses as horrible actually belongs to Cheryl? Here, the author uses her own experiences to write a book that reaches back to her childhood self, reaches out to the thousands of other children who are going through what she went through, and tells them 'You can survive this. Don't lose hope.'. Scars is an artistic act of the highest courage possible and one I admire more than I can say.

But Ms Cox Gurdon, like others of her kind, does not care about the children whose lives might be saved by this book. Or the thousands of other children who, through reading such a book, will gain understanding, empathy and compassion for the survivors of abuse and become better, more rounded individuals. She wants to pretend that bad things don't happen to anyone real - especially kids - that 'normal' people don't find this stuff relevent, that no one she knows or cares about could be damaged and hurting like the character in Scars.

Let me now address the YA haters directly - for my own satisfaction, but also in hopes of getting through some seriously thick skulls:

The reason you feel free to attack YA this way is because you think it's a soft target. You think it's valueless. You think no one takes it seriously. You think the YA field is a fleeting flash in the pan, getting undeserved attention and success. You think if you sit in judgement in your safe little corner, it'll all go away and proper literature (that's the stuff you like) will eventually take its place.

But unfortunately for you, this betrays your feelings about young adults, the very people for whom you profess to have such concerns.

You think young adults are valueless. You don't take them seriously. You dismiss their feelings and experiences as fleeting and shallow. You think if you just din your own personal values and beliefs into young adult heads hard enough, you'll be able to drown out their questions, their inconvenient new ideas, their worrying complexity, and produce a Mini-You, an adult in teenage clothing.

Never gonna happen.

YA is too dark for you? Too bleak? Too sad, and challenging and REAL? You think we should all collude in some kind of mass hallucination in which we pretend bad things never happen, and kids exist in a perpetual state of rosy-cheeked glee and laughter? Well, I'll tell you what. You build yourself a nice spaceship, find a new planet and create that ideal, shiny world. Invite your family and friends. I'm sure it'll be just swell. But the rest of us are stuck HERE. Including those of humanity who are too young and vulnerable to have voices of their own. They look to the writers of YA fiction to speak to them. Speak for them. To write books that are brave enough to touch them in their isolation and loneliness.

We're not going to stop. We're not going to abandon those kids like you want us to, and sweep their experiences under the carpet.

In spite of you, and everything you do to tell young adults that they don't get a say, that their experiences are lesser, that if they just ignore the pain it will go away, that none of it matters and in years to come they will look back and laugh? They will grow into the people they should be. They will grow into new writers and artists, trail-blazers, kicking the status quo in the teeth and telling things like they are.

Young adult literature is new. It's raw and brash and brazen. It's trashy, silly, funny and beautiful. It's stomach-churing, harrowing and dark. It's subtle, complex, transformative and brave.

It's ART, for God's sake. What do you expect?

And when young adults dive into it, they will find all these horrors and wonders - and they will find themselves.

If you don't like it? Your spaceship awaits. Bon voyage!
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