Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Get Dads Reading with Booktrust

So last week I was sent details about a great campaign that book charity Booktrust are running to try and encourage dads around the UK to spend more time reading to their children. I think this sounds like a great campaign so I wanted to share the press release I was sent. 

Have a read below for all of the details and let me know what you think about the campaign in the comments:

25% of fathers blame working late for not reading to their children

HRH, The Duchess of Cornwall and bestselling author, James Patterson, mark launch of campaign with visit to dads’ reading group in Greenwich

UK’s leading reading charity Booktrust launches the ‘Get Dads Reading’ campaign and challenges dads to match mums in reading with their children

UK dads trail far behind their partners when it comes to reading to their children. A new poll, carried out for Booktrust by Opinium, reveals that just 13% are the main reader with their child, with a quarter of fathers saying that the demand for them to work late means that they do not have time to read together more often.
These findings are a major concern as a father’s involvement in their child’s early reading is proven to boost academic success, leading to improved social and emotional wellbeing. To fight this crisis Booktrust is launching a major campaign to raise awareness of the importance of dads as reading role models for their children.

Further research, commissioned by Booktrust from the Institute of Education, sheds more light on this hidden crisis. A series of in-depth interviews reveals that many fathers see reading as a female domain, and are working in isolation, rather than sharing practices and drawing on the networks available to mothers. When they do read to their children, fathers favour their daughters over their sons, reading to them for longer, and more often.

Booktrust is calling on dads up and down the country to match mums’ efforts in reading with their children. To launch the campaign Booktrust’s patron, HRH, The Duchess of Cornwall and bestselling author James Patterson – 2010 Children’s Choice Book Award Author of the Year and founding partner of the Booktrust’s Children’s Reading Fund in association which his publisher Random House – will this afternoon visit a thriving dads reading group to see how dads and their children benefit from sharing books.

At the moment, research shows that at formal literacy events for children, only 10% of the parents attending are dads. 37% of dads claimed to read to their child everyday – but only 19% of mums reported that this was the case.

Commenting on the research, Viv Bird, Booktrust Chief Executive, said:

‘The most crucial thing for dads to understand is that if kids see their dads reading they’re more likely to enjoy it themselves. There is evidence that boys are slipping further behind girls in reading – and this emphasises how important it is that dads are positive role models to their sons as well as their daughters when it comes to reading.’

James Patterson – who started writing for children in 2005 in order to encourage his son to read and has developed his own website, ReadKiddoRead, to help dads find books to read with their children – adds:
‘If we can get children reading and enjoying books, we open up a whole world of possibility to them. I believe that dads have a huge role to play in encouraging their children to read. We need to give fathers the support they need in reading to their children. If I can help dads to understand their role in making books and reading more important in children’s lives, I’ll be a happy man’

As part of the Booktrust campaign dads will have access to a whole range or resources and guidance about how to get the most out of reading with their children. A host of celebrity dads – Booktrust’s ‘Dads Army’ – including James Patterson and Dan Snow will lend their support to the campaign. See and #dadsreading.

*Press release provided by Booktrust

Monday, 25 February 2013

Guest Post: Cat Clarke - Why Undone Nearly Came Undone

Happy Monday my lovely chaps, how are you all doing? Did you all have a nice weekend? I spent Saturday hanging out with some lovely beauty bloggers and then spent Sunday lounging on the sofa, as I've caught a bit of a sore throat and I want to make sure I'm in tip top condition for the blogging workshop I'm running on Thursday! IT'S SO SOON. Eek!

But before I get completely distracted I'm here today with a brilliant guest post from the ever so lovely Cat Clarke. As I'm sure you'll all agree, Cat is one of the most talented UKYA writers we have and also a rather lovely gal to boot; isn't it always great when the super talented ones are super nice people too?

You can read my reviews of Cat's books at the following links, if you so wish:
- Entangled
- Torn
- Undone

I have spent far too much time on Twitter talking to Cat about the joys of dog ownership, so it's only fitting her guest post is dog-related! I won't witter on any more so now I'll hand you over to Cat:

***NB: It should be pointed out that since this post was written Cat has 'accidentally adopted a new puppy'. If you follow her on Twitter I'm sure you'll have seen pictures of the gorgeous Ruby and you'll completely understand why!***

Why Undone Nearly Came Undone

I started writing UNDONE in May 2011. I started off at a cracking pace – the words were flowing and life was good. Then I decided to get a puppy. Oops. I went to visit this little bundle of fun in June.

Within a couple of minutes I was a goner. Or rather, my work in progress was a goner. One month later (most of which I spent reading books about puppies) I brought my wee boy home. I named him Griffin. I spent the next couple of months going through A LOT of kitchen roll, having zero social life and posting many, many pictures of Griffpup on Twitter and Facebook. UNDONE was not getting done. At all. But I didn’t mind because I got to go to the beach with Griffin and watch him try to fight the sea.

The deadline loomed. The word count that had looked so impressive in May wasn’t looking so great come November.  Did I allow myself to sink into panic and despair? Well, yeah, actually, I kind of did. I hadn’t quite anticipated the impact my four-legged friend would have on my writing life. Why didn’t anybody warn me? Oh wait. They did. So in December I sat down with Griffin, explained to him that he may have to snooze for a couple of hours every day so I could at least get some writing done. I begged him to be slightly less adorable so I wouldn’t spend quite so much time telling him how handsome he is. After hours of discussion, we came to an agreement: he would snooze, but he wouldn’t budge on the adorableness. It was the best deal I could hope for under the circumstances.

UNDONE did get written in the end. Thank goodness. If you want my advice, don’t get a puppy when there’s a deadline in your future. Alternatively, just get a puppy and trust that you’ll get the work done eventually... even if it is uncomfortably close* to the deadline.

Because I'm worth it

*OK, maybe a teeny tiny little bit past the deadline.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013


Hello everybody! Happy Wednesday etc etc.

I just wanted to post today about an event I'm running next week at my local library which is focusing on writing for blogs. It's a two session I'm going to be taking to talk a little bit about my experience with blogging and offer tips and advice for anybody looking to set up their own blog. I'm going to be covering a loooooot of stuff and I'm so excited about it but I need your help!

What things do you wish you'd known when you started blogging? If you could give one piece of advice for a new blogger, what would it be? What are your top blogging tips?

I'm going to be including these within the session, so any suggestions you have would be really appreciated!

If anybody fancies coming along (though I know I'm pretty far away from most of you) the session is taking place next Thursday the 28th of February at 7pm at Trowbridge library. I would LOVE to see your faces there.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Review: Splintered - A.G. Howard

Published: January 1st 2013, Amulet Books
Pages: N/A (My copy is an e-book and my iPad app is being a douche about page numbers, to put it eloquently)
Series/standalone?: Standalone
Acquired: Sent via Netgalley

Summary (from Goodreads): This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

My review: The second I read the summary for Splintered I was completely intrigued. Retellings are so huge now and while the quality is a bit of a mixed bag, I knew this story had serious potential. Throw into the mix that Splintered is Howard's debut novel and I was even more impressed with how well she handled the story. If you're a fan of surreal contemporary fantasy or are looking for something that thinks a little outside of the box then don't hesitate to pick up Splintered; it's a gorgeous story.

The stand out element from Splintered is 100% Howard's incredible world-building. The Wonderland she creates is grotesque and, at times, horrific but, at the same time, it manages to be beautiful and reminiscent of the Wonderland I imagined as a child. The whole book has this wonderful nostalgic feel to it that makes Splintered feel like an instant classic.

Everybody's favourite characters from the original Wonderland stories are back in Splintered but they're just a little bit different, a little bit darker. I loved the dark side to Splintered and it puts a great spin on the classic stories. Well, the darkness in them isn't exactly subtle either but it definitely went over my head when I read them as a child. Reading Splintered definitely makes me want to dig out my old copy of Alice in Wonderland and reread it.

I've made no secret of the fact I'm not a fan of love triangles but I think it was very well-handled in Splintered. As Alyssa has two sides to her personality (her human side and her Wonderland side - this isn't a completely accurate description but you know what I mean) it's quite fitting that she is torn between two love interests, the mundane sweetheart, Jeb, and the enigmatic Morpheus, who is one of the most interesting and multi-faceted characters in the book.

A brilliant-executed retelling of a beloved classic; regardless of the fact this is a debut, this is one impressive book. A. G. Howard has burst onto the YA scene in a flourish of nightmarish landscapes and I have a feeling she's going to be around for a very long time to come.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Chicken House Little Breakfast

So, last Thursday I was lucky enough to be invited to the Chicken House Little Breakfast. I've always missed these events as I haven't been able to get up to London but this one took place in Bath, right on my doorstep! It's so nice for a publishing event to actually take place outside London and I really appreciate that Chicken House make the effort to hold events all around the country, so everybody has a chance to attend.

I met up with the very lovely Sophie from So Many Books, So Little Time to walk to the event and had SO much fun. It's definitely one of the best events I've been to and I had such a brilliant morning. One of my wonderful writing group buddies was also there, which was a lovely surprise, and I got to talk to so many fantastic authors, editors, publicists and bookish types. I was absolutely buzzing by the time we had to leave and I just want to say a huge, huge thank you to everybody at Chicken House for inviting me and putting on such a great event. You guys rock!

While I was at the event I got a sneak peek at some of the books Chicken House are releasing over the next six months and, oh dear lord, they are spoiling us. With their usual blend of every conceivable genre spread about both YA and MG, I think this might be Chicken House's best year yet. Take a look below for seven of the titles I'm most excited about:

Dead Romantic - C. J. Skuse (7th February) // The Hit - Melvin Burgess (4th April) // The Poison Boy - Fletcher Moss (4th April)

You Don't Know Me - Sophia Bennett (2nd May) // The Drowning - Rachel Ward (2nd May) // The Extincts - Veronica Cossanteli (2nd May)

Chasing the Dark - Sam Hepburn (6th June) // The Killing Woods - Lucy Christopher (September).

The Killing Woods wasn't mentioned at the Chicken House Breakfast as it's not coming out until September this year but I CANNOT wait for it so thought I'd include it :).

So which books are you most looking forward to from Chicken House? The two I'm most excited about are You Don't Know Me by Sophia Bennett and The Hit by Melvin Burgess but, honestly, I'm counting down the days for ALL of those I've featured. I was actually lucky enough to snaffle early proofs of You Don't Know Me, The Drowning and Chasing the Dark so I'll absolutely be diving into them soon!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Cover Reveal: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

So yesterday Maggie Stiefvater revealed both the title and cover for the second installment in the Raven Boys series. Oooooh, I hear you say. Oooooh, indeed. I haven't actually read The Raven Boys yet (I know, I know) but I'll make sure I get to it before book two comes out this September. Is that the UK release date as well as the US? Anybody know?

Anyway, let me know what you think of the cover. I like it... I think. I like the ravens but I'm not a fan of the shadowing on the author name and I'm not sure this is one I'd pick up in a bookshop. Actually, I know it's not one I'd pick up BUT we all know how many times I've swooned over a cover and really disliked the story inside (*cough* Halo *cough*).

Meh, I might not be the biggest fan in the world of the cover but Maggie Stiefvater is one of those authors whose books I'll preorder whatever the cover is like, whatever the story is. I trust her as a writer and, although I haven't read all of her books, she's never let me down yet.

P.S. Sorry I've been MIA on here, on Twitter and, as always, terrible at responding to my emails. I was away from Friday until Sunday night on my writing retreat (which was AMAZING but I'll do a separate post about that) and I've pretty much been writing ever since. Normal service resumes from now, though! Well, maybe not with the emails... I wouldn't be me if I wasn't woefully behind with them.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Review: Ketchup Clouds - Annabel Pitcher

Published: December 27th 2012, Orion
Series/standalone?: Standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Secrets, romance, murder and lies: Zoe shares a terrible secret in a letter to a stranger on death row in this second novel from the author of the bestselling debut, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece.

Fifteen-year-old Zoe has a secret—a dark and terrible secret that she can't confess to anyone she knows. But then one day she hears of a criminal, Stuart Harris, locked up on death row in Texas. Like Zoe, Stuart is no stranger to secrets. Or lies. Or murder.

Full of heartache yet humour, Zoe tells her story in the only way she can—in letters to the man in prison in America. Armed with a pen, Zoe takes a deep breath, eats a jam sandwich, and begins her tale of love and betrayal.

My review: I think I'm pretty much the only person who hasn't read Annabel Pitcher's acclaimed debut, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece. I will get around to it one day, I promise, as it does look wonderful and I haven't seen a single bad review. Despite the fact I hadn't read anything of hers before, I pounced on Ketchup Clouds as soon as a (beautifully-wrapped) proof arrived at my house shortly before Christmas.

I was only a few pages in when I realised that Pitcher is a unique talent in the world of YA. Her style is wonderful and I love how she manages to make even the most mundane actions sound beautiful with her flowing prose and gorgeous images. Ketchup Clouds was an absolute delight to read, partly because of the story but partly because I loved Pitcher's style of writing and storytelling so much. This might be the first book of hers I've read but I will absolutely be following her career to wherever it progresses from here.

One of the highlights in Ketchup Clouds is the representation of family life within the story. Pitcher touches on a number of struggles that so many families face every day and it was lovely to see a more hands-on family in YA, as parents are so commonly removed from the scene. Zoe's little sister was absolutely adorable!

At the centre of Ketchup Clouds is one of the most interesting mysteries that I've come across in YA. I won't go into it too much as I don't want to give away any details but it kept me intrigued until the very end. Speaking of which, I think the ending is fantastic. I always like to see a realistic ending rather than a Hollywood one, so I'm really pleased with how Pitcher closed off the story.

What really sets Ketchup Clouds apart from anything else I've read before is the structure of the novel. It's epistolary (which I love) and the recipient of Zoe's letters is Stuart Harris, who is on death row in America, charged with murdering his wife. This brought an entirely different element to the story and I love how Pitcher revealed important information in dribs and drabs through the letters, mixing in shocking events with Zoe's day to day ramblings. Seeing the details of Zoe and Stuart's respective crimes muddled in with discussions about boys and school made the subject matter of Ketchup Clouds jump out even more.

If you haven't read Ketchup Clouds or My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece yet - what are you still doing here? Go on, off you hop to pick one up!

Monday, 4 February 2013

February Reading List

So, before I list the books I'm hoping to read in February let's have a look at how I did with my January list!

On my list I had:

  • Splintered - A.G. Howard
  • Broken - A.E. Rought
  • The Prey - Andrew Fukuda
  • Just One Day - Gayle Forman
  • The Tragedy Paper - Elizabeth LaBan
  • Teeth - Hannah Moskowitz
  • The Madman's Daughter - Megan Shepherd

Out of those I managed at least start everything - aside from The Madman's Daughter but that was only because The Book Depository only shipped my pre-order once January was already over, so I'm not counting that one was my fault!

I finished Splintered, Broken, The Prey and The Tragedy Paper. I enjoyed all of them but I think The Tragedy Paper was my favourite, though I adored The Prey as well. I also went a bit rogue and read Zom-B Underground, Ketchup Clouds, The S-Word and The Last Minute that weren't on my list but I couldn't resist!

Again, I enjoyed reading all of these but The S-Word was the weak link out of the four. Definitely not a bad book but it didn't blow me away as much as The Last Minute, which was my favourite. I've already reviewed Zom-B Underground (which was fantastic) and a review of Ketchup Clouds will be coming soon - a really lovely book that I wholly recommend.

Now, onto those books I haven't finished... Teeth and Just One Day. I started reading Teeth a couple of days ago and I'm enjoying it so far so I'll let you know once I'm further through, as I'm only twenty or so pages in at the moment but so far so good.

I don't know what's happening to me. I couldn't finish Just One Day.

As I'm sure you're all aware I absolutely blimmin' love Gayle Forman. I love, love, love If I Stay/Where She Went, I've interviewed Gayle here at Writing from the Tub before and I love following her on Twitter. But, for some reason, I couldn't get into Just One Day. I swear I'm the ONLY person in the world who wasn't completely enraptured by it but it just wasn't happening.

I love the idea of the story, the writing is beautiful and I know I should be enjoying it but it's just not working for me. So, instead of giving up completely, I've set it to one side and am planning on picking it back up when it calls to me again. I really enjoyed the first few chapters but after that things went on a bit of a decline. As I said, though, this is a case where it's absolutely me and not the book - so don't let any of this put you off what I *know* is a great book, I just can't gel with it. Annoying.

Anyway, look out for reviews of Ketchup Clouds, Splintered, The S-Word, The Tragedy Paper and The Last Minute coming throughout Feb!

The books I'm hoping to read in February are:

- The Madman's Daughter - Megan Shepherd (this *should* arrive shortly so I'll be able to get cracking with it)
- Teeth - Hannah Moskowitz
- Dead Romantic - CJ Skuse
 - Hunger - Melvin Burgess
 - From What I Remember - Valerie Thomas and Stacey Kramer
 - Drowning Instinct - Ilsa J. Bick

Only six of the last for this month as I know Feb is going to be BUSY! This week I'm busy from Thursday - Sunday with a Chicken House event (EXCITING) and my minibreak with my writing group (ALSO EXCITING). Then I've got a few nights out and bits and bobs planned (including a meet up with some lovely beauty and lifestyle bloggers one weekend - which should be FUN). And, finally, at the end of the month I'm going to be running a blogging workshop at my local library - EQUAL MIXTURE OF EXCITEMENT AND TERROR. So, yes, I won't have as much time for reading as I'd like but I'm really excited for all of these books and I'm hoping they live up to the wonderful things I've heard from other bloggers.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Blog Tour: C. J. Harper - The Disappeared

Today is actually a momentous occasion here at Writing from the Tub as this is the last blog tour I'm taking part in...EVER. Well, not necessarily forever but for now, at least. I've changed my review policy to state that I'm no longer taking part in any blog tours, so C. J. Harper's interview is the last I'll be posting for a while.

That said, I'm so glad that this post is the one I get to host - as it's brilliant! Funny, honest and always interesting, I really loved reading C. J.'s answers and I hope you do too.

I just want to say a big thank you to all the authors and publicists that have let me be included in some fantastic blog tours over the last three years and I'll definitely update things once again if I do decide to open up to blog tours at any point in the future :).

1. Hi, C.J.! In case any readers haven’t read the book yet, can you tell me a little bit about The Disappeared?

Jackson is a teenage genius tipped for a brilliant career in the Leadership, until a violent incident sees him lose his best friend, his prospects and his identity all in one go. He’s dumped in an Academy, which couldn’t be more different from the comfortable school that he is used to. In the Academy teachers are kept in cages for their own safety and all that matters to the students is how well you fight and the colour of your hair. While Jackson struggles to survive he realises that he must unravel the secrets kept in the Academy before he’s made to disappear for good.

2. Talk me through an average day when you’re working on a novel. Do you have a set number of words you have to write per day or do you set yourself different targets?

The formula for calculating my target word count is very complicated and goes something like:

 level of optimism + number of snacks + comfiness of outfit – numbers of hours sleep missed – number of dishes in the sink – super important things to do the internet = number of words expected.

Once my daughter is at school I write in very short bursts that last as long as I can keep my baby interested in bashing a saucepan with a spoon. I get a longer go when he has a nap and if I’m lucky my husband gets home in time for me to do a bit more before I put the baby to bed. In the evening I usually do some faffing, which is mostly putting in all the punctuation that I’ve missed out earlier. I write between 500 and 1500 words a day, usually seven days a week.

3. In young adult fiction in particular, it’s important that readers bond with the characters - what do you think is the most important thing to get right when you're creating a character?

I think that you need to create a character that readers will care about. But that shouldn’t mean that they’re without flaws. Initially, Jackson is conceited and self-centred, but I hope that readers will also recognise him as a geeky, girl-shy boy and hopefully they will feel sympathy for him when everything he knows is torn away from him. As a reader, I always feel most invested in the characters that I witness change and grow, so I’ve tried to show how Jackson’s better qualities blossom as the story progresses.

4. What sort of research did you have to do for The Disappeared? How did you go about doing this?

Fortunately, the character of a noodle-limbed coward who would rather read than wrestle was not hard for me to slip into. I was able to draw on my ample experience of never winning a fist-fight, without having to do any field work. However, I did research technical details like how lift doors work, the circuitry of electric fences and some Latin vocabulary. As is the way with research, only a fraction of what I found actually made it into the final story, but if you ever want to go lift-surfing, I’ve got plenty of tips. My noodle-arms really have been put to the test during my research for the sequel to The Disappeared. I’ve learnt to shoot (I had no idea just how heavy guns are) and also attempted to pull myself out of a giant plastic tube. When I’m writing the final book in the series I may just be done with it and make an accompanying exercise video.

5. The YA book market is a competitive place, what do you think sets The Disappeared apart from the pack?

Hmm. Every copy comes with a free cupcake? The Disappeared is (I hope) an exciting blend of dystopian and thriller. I wanted to write a book that was about realistic, flawed, young people rather than gorgeous super-hero teens. Jackson is super-smart, but he is also an annoying, big-headed geek who has never been kissed. Kay is smart too, but it’s never been noticed because no one has ever cared about her, and that’s made her angry and selfish. Neither of them is fantastic looking. Also, that thing about the cupcakes.

6. Some writers relate take great inspiration from music while they’re writing. Do you listen to music while you’re writing? If so, what artists/bands do you like to listen to while you write?

Mostly, I’m obliged to listen to the songs on CBeebies since that’s what my baby likes, but he also enjoys My Chemical Romance, Manic Street Preachers, James and The Killers. It’s almost as if he was made to listen to them repeatedly in the womb. I’ve got a definite preference for fast angry songs because I speed up my typing to keep time.

7. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Have you always been this way?

Every time I hurl my bloody and battered form across the finishing line of a book, I promise my poor husband (who is the one who has to talk me down from plot crises) that This Time I Will Plan. And I do try. A bit. But things just turn up. I usually know key elements of the plot. Characters, on the other hand, just arrive in my head and start talking (it’s so nice to be in a profession where voices in the head are acceptable). Also, I am entirely unable to work in a linear fashion. I never start at the beginning or end with the end. I write whichever part of the story appeals to me at that moment in time. There’s a lot of jumping about. I like to call this the ‘Patchwork Method’. At least I do until I reach the point where I am curled up in a ball rocking back and forth while I try to sew it all together, then I call it an unholy mess.

8. Can you tell me a bit about your journey with The Disappeared? When did you first come up with the idea and what were the timescales involved between the first draft and the novel being accepted for publication?

In 2009 I was teaching a class when I had an idea about how nice it would be to have bulletproof glass between me and my pupils. January 2010 I started writing. At the beginning of 2011 I sent it to my lovely agent, she signed me and we did a round of revisions. That summer, shortly after my agent sent The Disappeared out, I signed a contract with Simon and Schuster. I did another round of revisions with my brilliant editor and handed it in December 2011 (which was lucky because I had a baby about five minutes after that. I highly recommend imminent labour as a motivational tool). So, just four short years after I first twinkling of an idea, The Disappeared is published!

9. How important do you think social media (i.e. Twitter/Facebook/blogging) is in today’s market for a writer?

I think it’s important. Whenever I tell teenagers that I didn’t get a mobile or use the internet till I was eighteen it makes their brains melt. Social media is a big part of life for so many people, which means it’s a great way to connect with readers. I do think it’s important to focus on that connecting though; nobody enjoys a load of aggressive marketing. I love Twitter because I get to chat to other writers and readers. And voice my very informed and not at all ranty opinions on various TV programmes.

10. What would you say is your worst bad habit when it comes to writing?

Browsing eBay. It may not be possible to buy my children all of the super-cool toys that I had in the 80s, but I am having a damn good go at it. There’s also that terrible thing that I do when I’m supposed to be writing something mind-blowing and instead I write something really lame. It’s a tough habit to break. I’m hoping for some sort of patches to help. I should probably check eBay.

11. Is naming characters important to you? What processes do you go through to come up with names for your characters?

When I’m doing my first draft I just type as fast as I can. I don’t stop to think of perfect names so everyone starts out being called Bob (or Bobbette or Mr Bob or Tall Bob because, you know, I wouldn’t want it to get confusing or anything). Often I need to write a bit about the character in order to find a name that I think fits. Also, I’m easily confused if two main characters in a book have a name starting with the same letter or a similar sounding name, so I try to never do that.

12. What did you hope to accomplish by writing The Disappeared? Do you think you have accomplished what you set out to do?

I wanted to take a look at power, prejudice and language and why it’s important to always question what you’re taught. Most of all I wanted to write an action-packed thrilling story. As a teacher I studied books with classes and watched them groan when we got to a long descriptive passage. I gave myself the challenge of writing a book with no boring bits. My favourite comments from reviewers so far are the ones were people have said they can’t stop reading.

13. Do you think your teenage years have influenced you as a writer? If so, how?

Yes, massively. I remember very clearly how a lot of things felt when I was a teenager and that’s influenced what I write in terms of subject matter and content. I’ve barely begun to mine the treasure trove of my teenage angst. So even though my Mum told me that wallowing in my own pain and generally being self-obsessed wasn’t helpful, it turns out it really was. (In your face Mum! *cough* Ahem, I mean thanks for the years of home-cooked meals and all.)

14. There is a lot of argument within the young adult market as to what is appropriate for teens to read. Where do you stand on this matter? Do you think teens should be protected from reading about taboo subjects or do you think they should have the freedom to choose their own reads?

I’m not entirely sure where my dander is located, but I can assure that every time I read about this issue it is well and truly UP. I cannot understand why people want to stop teenagers from reading well-written and sensitively judged stories about suicide or eating disorders or cancer, and yet there is no outcry (or at least not a big enough one) about the way that women are portrayed in many mainstream films. How can anyone object to teaching young people that death is a part of life and yet not mind that teenage boys are watching women objectified and girls are learning that their only value is in their appearance? *growling noises* I would far rather that my daughter learns about the tough issues in life from YA fiction than from Hollywood. Finally, it’s insulting and simplistic to say that no child should read this stuff when some children are living it. Books can be a lifesaver for these kids.

15. Aside from writing, how do you like to spend your free time?

Reading. So much reading. Also, wrestling with children, sometimes for fun sometimes just to get them into the bath.

16. Thank you so much for your time, C.J. Before you go, could you tell me about any projects you have in the pipeline we can look out for?

The sequel to The Disappeared, The Wilderness, will be published Feb 2014. I’ve also got a totally different kind of book coming out in June this year called Have a Little Faith (written as Candy Harper). Faith is in big trouble because her head of year, Miss Ramsbottom, seems to think that she is always blowing stuff up and giving supply teachers radical haircuts. Whereas, as Faith points out, it was actually just that one time. Faith’s diary charts her blood feud with Miss Ramsbottom, and also her attempts to ignore the immaturity of old people, and her quest to find herself a boyfriend who knows how to have a cheese fight.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Writing Retreat of Joy

Next Friday I'm heading to the glorious Westcountry to stay in a gorgeous cottage for three days with my wonderful writing group, the YAvengers.

I cannot wait.

^ This is an understatement.

We planned the trip last year and February felt ludicrously far away but now it's nearly here and I'm counting down DAYS (seven) instead of weeks!

Basically, the five of us have rented a cottage just on the other side of Longleat (which is only twenty minutes from my house but feels like a million miles away because, well, LONGLEAT, YO! If you haven't been to Longleat you MUST. And I will accompany you as a guide). We're arriving on the Friday and staying until the Sunday. Three days of writerly joy.

Our plans involve nothing more than eating, drinking, chatting about books and writing and everything else and, the main reason for our trip, giving detailed feedback about each of our works in progress. At the beginning of the year we sent our manuscripts off to each other so we've all ready and made notes on each other's books. We've sent round lists of worries/questions we have about our individual books, which we're going to go through as a group and hopefully solve some problems.