2013 – a bit of this, a bit of that, a lot of fun…

photo2013 was such a mindblowing year that I hardly know where to start.  It was mixed, of course, and the good things that happened for me were, sadly, matched by the bad things that happened to friends. But good things happened to friends too, and I suppose that what I’m trying to say in my characteristically crap way (writer, apparently?????) is that it was, in most respects, a fairly typical year.  Except that I published a book.  Then I published another one… until I couldn’t stop writing them. Even more excitingly, people started to read said book.  And then they read the other ones… some even said they liked them…

My favourite thing this year has been finally getting the validation I’ve always craved for my writing. When I started out, years ago, I always said that all I wanted was for people to come into my worlds and share them. People have done that and truly taken my characters to their hearts and it has meant more to me than I can say.  It’s been hard work, every single spare moment has been spent doing something – if not writing then promoting or researching opportunities to reach more readers – but it’s been the most enjoyable nervous breakdown I’ve ever had.  I’ve had pen names this year – more than a few – and I love the books that each and every me writes, even though they’re all very different. As their creator, I think I’m allowed to say that, right?

My other favourite thing has been the wonderful friendships I’ve found through the writing community, both online and in the real world. Some of you I’ve managed to meet, some meetings we’re working on, some of you, sadly, live too far away and it’s likely I’ll never get to meet you.  But you’ve all been fantastic. You’re all ages and all walks of life and everyone has a different agenda, but we get along and support each other. And we’ve all shared each other’s journeys in many ways. I’ve seen some friends release their fabulous debuts and enjoy the same experiences as I’ve had as people have discovered their books. Some friends have finally found the professional success that they’ve worked for years to achieve – book deals, new agents, competition wins…  and so much more good stuff. Some of my friends have started new book blogs and gone on to find enormous and faithful followings as people have discovered their reviews and come to love and trust them.

Most of all, 2013 has been a year of change. I’ve learned so much about writing and marketing, but I’ve learned about life too.  I think this year has changed me as a person – I know now that I can do so much more than I ever believed I was capable of.  And as if the family dramas, friendship dramas, two children’s books, six young adult books, and an adult book on the cusp of release weren’t enough, there was one more lovely surprise, tucked right at the bottom of 2013’s stocking.

I finally got my fabulous agent…

2014 is a new chapter. And even I don’t know where this plot is going…

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The Sky Song trilogy is a year old! To celebrate, all three books in the series will be reduced to 77p or 99c each for the next week. Thank you to everyone for your brilliant, valuable support and Happy New Year!

 

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A photo and a memory – how a novel is born.

It’s funny how some novels start out. Sometimes there’s a sensible linear journey that begins with an idea, proceeds to draft, and then becomes an edited, finished product. Nothing could be simpler. Sometimes it’s a lot messier than that. The Memory Game is one of those messy novels.

bikeLike many of the books I’ve released this year, The Memory Game started life while I was doing my creative writing degree between 2006 and 2009. I remember sitting in a class and being handed a photo. From that photo, I was told, I had to create a scenario. My photo was of an abandoned bicycle. It looked forlorn to me, as though something really bad had happened to the owner. I decided that the owner was a boy on his paper round. It wasn’t hard for me to make the next connection, that the boy had been knocked from his bike by a car, because, as a teenager myself, I had worked as a paper girl and one of the boys who worked alongside me was killed by a car while out on his round one night. It was one of those deeply affecting events, one moment that changes your outlook on life forever. It was the first time I had encountered such a tragedy first-hand involving someone my own age. Suddenly, I understood that we weren’t as invincible as I had always believed. That memory came to the fore of my mind while looking at the photo in my creative writing class that day. The next thing that happened in my story scenario was that the boy was telling us about the way he had died.

I took the scrap of an idea home and wrote a short story. I sent the short story off to one or two competitions and was shortlisted for one in 2008. This version was called ‘Say Hello to the Living’ and was a much more darkly humorous tale, based on David (the protagonist’s) experiences of the afterlife. Buoyed by the small competition success, I decided to turn the story into a full length work, keeping the black humour, but I never ended up finishing it.

Sometime in 2012 I was reminded of the story while going through some old notebooks. It seemed the right time to dust it off, only this time, as I wrote and planned, it began to turn into something much grittier. New characters were added and a new central conflict in the form of Bethany. I wrote a novella length piece early in 2013 and a couple of writer friends very kindly read it for me and gave me feedback. Having had some experience of self-publishing by then with my Sky Song books and feeling fairly confident about it, I decided to go it alone and publish the book myself. I went back and re-drafted, fleshing out the story until it had become a more complex tale. That’s the version I’m sending out into the world on September 1st with my fingers and toes crossed that people will like it.