E=M…. something or other….

untitledI’ve always been fascinated by science, so it’s a crying shame that I’m too dim to understand how it works beyond a really basic level.  I read ‘layman’ books about science and I watch those TV programmes full of pretty pictures (or equally pretty professors… *cough…. AMAZING*…) that real scientists point at and laugh, and that’s about as far as my understanding will stretch.  My book, Runners, has a little bit of science fiction weaved into it which is integral to the plot, though, and I enjoyed the research I had to do for that, so when Runners was released and people began to comment on that aspect of the story, it got me thinking about the way science is used in fiction, not just in a sci-fi way, but in a more general way. Things that get me thinking generally lead to a blog feature, so I put a shout out on Twitter to see if any of my lovely and super-clever writer friends had any ideas on the subject.  Today I’m happy to announce that this coming week my blog will be dedicated to the musings of four such people.  The lovely thing about all these posts is that they each cover very different areas: Jack Croxall will be talking about parallel universe theories, Rebecca Bradley will be discussing the computer age and mobile technology, Dan Thompson will provide a fascinating insight into the psychology of phobias and Eleanor Reynolds will give us her views on the evolution of the horror genre including a look at Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  I also have a blog tour scheduled to stop next week, so Thursday will see Clare Davidson talk about her new book Reaper’s Rhythm.

It looks as though it’s going to be a packed one, so I hope to see you around!

No heckling please, I’m only a poor author.

speechOn Monday I went along to a local school to talk about writing and publishing. I had been invited by the school librarian of Haywood Engineering College, a lovely lady who is as passionate about literature as anyone I have met (and she’s also named Sharon, which can only be good!). Sharon emailed me to ask whether I would be happy to talk to year seven. Talk to year seven? I can do that, I thought with a modicum of confidence. Two hundred year sevens, Sharon said. Ok, I can still do that, I thought, with slightly less confidence.

I made up cue cards so that I could remind myself of everything I wanted to say on my ten minute introductory talk. I carefully chose a passage of Runners to read that didn’t contain too much dialogue (doing voices is not my forte) and I rehearsed it. I thought about all the questions I might get asked at the Q&A afterwards.

Was I ready? Was I hell!

After a brief chat and a cuppa, lovely Sharon led me into the hall where I’d be meeting the kids. With row upon row of chairs laid out, it was at that point I realised that two hundred was a lot more than I’d imagined. It’s ok, I thought, I’ll keep it together. Then the kids started to file in, a class at a time. I was getting more nervous with each row of chairs that filled. Then I was introduced and it was time to talk!

In the hours beforehand, I had carefully gone over a succinct and chronologically correct version of my life and career, I had even prepared a few jokes to throw in, and the reminders for each bit were on my cue cards. But as I started to talk, my brain decided that it couldn’t read cue cards – I kept looking at them but the words on there didn’t mean anything. My clever little introductory chat turned into an outpouring of breakneck speed and I missed almost everything important out, especially my jokes. We were supposed to view the Runners trailer next but as we all know that technology hates me, the sound wouldn’t work. We went to a reading instead, which I’m sure I rushed through even quicker than the intro, and then went back to the trailer (phew, a break!) and then came the Q&A. This was where it got fun!

I loved the question and answer session. I was really worried that none of the audience would have anything to ask me and we’d be staring each other down in some sort of High Noon scenario, but I needn’t have been. The kids were fantastic, hands shot up all over the place with brilliant and funny questions (are you rich, are you famous, how long does it take to write a book, will you write a book with me in it?) and before I knew it I was bouncing around the hall like an over-excited chicken trying to not to miss anyone and trying to come up with the best answers I could.

The school very kindly supplied lunch (yum, good choice by Sharon) then I went into a class to help with a creative writing session. We took our cue from the Runners extract I had read out to talk about dystopia and utopia and, once again, the discussions and ideas coming from the kids were lively and interesting and in some cases hilarious. I haven’t had so much fun in ages.

I felt so welcomed by the school, its children and staff, that I needn’t have been worried or nervous. Next time I do an author talk I’ll be ready to enjoy it.  A big thanks goes out to Haywood year seven for being amazing!

Dreams can come true…

You can add Runners to your bookshelf on Goodreads

You can add Runners to your bookshelf on Goodreads

Six years ago I had a very strange dream in which a group of teenagers trekked across a barren landscape on a quest. I woke in the middle of the night and wrote it all down, each kid somehow a real, fully formed person that just squeezed out of my head and onto the notepad. I didn’t know what the quest was; all I knew was that they were on a great journey. A bit like the one Runners began the very next day.

I’m sure in lots of guest posts over the coming months, I’ll be talking about the characters of the book, what influenced the plot and setting, what I think about who is the strongest/ most reliable/ my favourite. So this post is going to be about the journey that the book has taken from my head that night to publication, for that has been a quest in itself.

I’d never actually finished writing a book before, though I had attempted many over the previous years. I was just coming to the end of the first year of my English and creative writing degree. I started the book straight away and worked on it during the summer holidays in between reading texts for the new term that would follow in September. I had an old cranky desktop computer which promptly died at around chapter four, so I resorted to carting the book file around on a memory stick between different computers at the university library and at my brothers’ houses. I worked whenever and wherever I could. At that time my daughters were still young so their care had to be factored in somewhere too, which often led me to work late into the night after they had gone to bed. It seemed that, for the first time, a book was just not going to leave me alone until it was out. By the time the new term had begun I had a first draft, which I nervously printed out and took to show my friend, Louise (an extremely talented writer herself) who was in the same creative writing class as me. I expected her to make up some sort of excuse, or give me a vague ‘it was good’, but she brought the manuscript back a matter of days later and told me she loved it. Still, I thought, she’s being nice to me because she’s my friend.

But I got the bug, I wrote another book straight away (which became Sky Song) and I was just addicted to writing more and more stories for a while so Runners sat on my memory stick (you’ll be relieved to hear that I got a new computer from my student loan too!). Then I saw a competition run by Chicken House for new novels. I entered Runners. My friend was convinced that I was going to win. I didn’t, but it did go past the first stages and that, considering the sheer number of entrants and that, really, looking back, the draft was far from complete, was an encouraging sign. So I worked on it some more and sent it to another competition. This time it made the long list. I knew it wasn’t finished. I rewrote it again. I tried a few agents but got the inevitable rejections. I gave it a new title (it wasn’t called Runners at first) I tried a brand new publisher who was calling for full manuscripts and they wrote a fantastic email saying that they had read it and that it was a ‘well written and heart-warming tale’ but, unfortunately, it wasn’t for their list.

Then university got more demanding and I had other creative writing projects to do for my degree and Runners got forgotten. I’m ashamed to say that I lost faith in it – perhaps I was mistaken, perhaps it really wasn’t all that good. Every so often my friend would remind me of how much she loved it and she’d tell me I ought to be submitting it again but I worked on other things. Just before my university course ended in 2009 I began to help out at Immanion Press as an editor; soon I was taken on with pay and it began to take up lots of my time. Shortly after that, I graduated and I had to get a day job too and so writing took a back seat for a couple of years.

Fast forward to 2012. Two things happened at the same time and my life took a surprising but wonderful path. Firstly, I met another local writer, Mel Sherratt, who had been self-publishing, very successfully, on Amazon KDP and gave me so much advice and support about it that I had the idea to self-publish Runners. Then, just as I was preparing to do that, Immanion Press, who had never published Young Adult before, decided they were going to create a Young Adult list and offered me a contract for Runners. With the ego boost, I started to write again, lots and lots. The Sky Song trilogy became my first foray into self-publishing instead and I’ve loved every minute of the ride so far.

Some things are undoubtedly meant to be. I’m convinced (as I’m an incurable romantic at heart) that my silly little dream might just be the start of something wonderful. It certainly changed my life.

If songs could be blurbs…

You know when you sit and daydream about your new book and imagine a montage in the film version that you’re absolutely certain will be made one day, then you make a mental note of the music that would be playing over the scene and decide that you’ll insist the film’s producers approach the band in question and pay them any amount of money they ask for that song?

Oh, so that’s just me then? Well, the first time I heard this song the lyrics immediately resonated with me because they were so reminiscent of the scenes where Elijah is travelling the road with his friends in Runners. Enjoy!

Trailer Trash

Today is all about book trailers. I’ve been looking at trailers for other books for a while now and I love the idea so I finally decided to set aside the time to make one of my own for Runners. You select some images, a tag line, some music, and stick it all together – I mean, how hard can it be?   You’re sighing now and rolling your eyes heavenward and you’d be justified.  Misguided doesn’t even begin to cover it.

The music I want is something like this…

or this…

but what I find is available that I am allowed to use sounds mostly like this…

And don’t even get me started on photos! Free and also royalty free downloads are as about as easy to find as a unicorn in Birmingham, but not nearly so much of a delightful surprise when you do. Then there’s the problem of converting everything you want so that it will all go onto the same software, setting up a YouTube channel… My lack of skill with anything technical is now legendary so you don’t expect me to be good at this, do you?

A twenty minute job is turning into twenty days. Don’t you dare laugh when you finally see it.

The ones that got away…

There’s some feverish activity going on chez Sant this week.  Number one on the list of jobs is final preparations for the release of Runners, my first traditionally published book.   Some of you may know that Runners is actually the first novel I ever wrote (or finished, at least) way back in 2007.  So it seems like I’ve been waiting for this moment forever, the moment where I finally get to see it in print and hold and stroke its pretty cover and… well, you get the picture…

The inside of the book has been set and needs a final proof read. I have my fabulous editor, Louise Coquio to thank for that.  The cover has been chosen after a very long period of procrastination and a lot of hard work from everyone involved.  I need to bestow huge thanks on our model, Erin, who braved soggy forests, rain, rampaging stags and swarms of bees to pose for us.  And I need to thank my lovely designer, Kath Hickton, who has spent hours bringing the photos to life.  I can’t show you the final choice yet, but I can show you some of the ones that almost made it.  I hope you like them…

ErinBlueEyesandFontDarkerblue

 

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