From a bookish, writerly, selfishly personal perspective 2016 has actually been a wonderful year. Yes, there’ve been ups and downs, the doubts, the worries. But isn’t that life?
So…enough of words, for once. It’s pictures time!
My very first Chicken House Big Breakfast in London, where I ate croissants, caught the flu, and got excited about what became some of 2016’s biggest books- ‘Lydia’ by Natasha Farrant, ‘The Girl of Ink and Stars’ by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and ‘Beetle Boy’ by MG Leonard.
The end of January early February was spent sick as…well.. a chicken. Luckily, I was soon revived by the arrival of the page proofs for ‘Strange Star’, and a jolly night at the launch party for another 2016 hit ‘Rebel of the Sands’. Also this month came the exciting news that Delacorte Press (my US publisher) wanted to take ‘Strange Star’, and Faber (my UK publisher) requested THREE MORE BOOKS! *new book deal klaxon*
March brought with it the very first review for ‘Strange Star’ as The Bookseller’s 9-12 Pick of the Month for July- WHOOP! It was also the first of many trips away from home, hence the sad terrier face- this time to the brilliant Stockton Book Awards for which ‘The Girl Who Walked on Air’ was shortlisted. And… it was WORLD BOOK DAY!
April was my first event at Waterstones Birmingham as part of The History Girls panel. A fab time had by all! I presented the lovely BASH Book Awards with St Helen’s Library Service, attended the Shrewsbury Book Award with ‘In Darkling Wood’, finished the first draft of ‘Sky Chasers’ for Chicken House (hence the lying in a heap picture) and… ‘Frost Hollow Hall’ had a makeover.
May was book launch party season with two of my favourite books of 2016 being published. First up was Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s ‘The Girl of Ink and Stars’ at Daunt Books in London. Then, just a few days later Nikki Sheehan’s ‘Swan Boy’ at The Book Nook, Hove. Also this month, I received finished copies of ‘Strange Star’. Yes, the joy of seeing your precious book in print for the first time never fades!
June kicked off with one of my favourite events of 2016, the Hay Festival where I had a fine old time talking adventures with Abi Elphinstone and chaired Katherine Woodfine, Lynn Gardner and Francis Hardinge discussing mystery stories. It was also the very first Ilminster Book Festival, ‘Strange Star’ was included in the Guardian’s Best New Books round-up, I went to the Halifax Book Awards with shortlisted ‘In Darkling Wood’, ‘The Snow Sister’ audiobook was published and… first proof copies of the US version of ‘In Darkling Wood’ arrived.
July was all about ‘Strange Star’s’ release. We had a launch party at Daunt’s in London, which was so exciting I forgot to take any pictures. I did signings in Exeter, Taunton, Salisbury, and another of my favourite events of 2016, an evening at Waterstones Salisbury with fellow July-book-birthday-author James Nichols. Suffice to say we had a hoot! The icing on the cake was ‘Strange Star’s’ The Times Book of the Week slot and a glorious FIVE STAR review in The Telegraph (one of my best EVER reviews).
Yes I did a few events in August, read tons and tons of books. I also finished the first draft of ‘Letters From The Lighthouse’, which features a main character called Olive. It was a hard-write, raggedy first draft so Bert and I had a chat and decided we needed a pup to reward ourselves. It just so happened that fellow Somerset author Ally Kennen had a gorgeous litter of Jack Russells needing homes. SOLD. So yes, August was mostly about puppies…
..As was September. Our pup- named Olive- came home on the 2nd Sept and I soon remembered how distractingly cute puppies are when you’re trying to edit a book. Faber, meanwhile, made gorgeous posters for my books. I had the honour of taking part in a Waterstones event with Katherine Rundell, who left me completely awestruck! One of 2016’s big books ‘Cogheart’ had its launch in London, which was a great night for catching up with bookish pals. In September I also faced one of my biggest fears: for the first time in 20 years I got on an aeroplane. First, I did the BA Flying With Confidence course at Heathrow (its superb), then went on a day trip to Dublin. And you know what? It was all right!
If I had to pick a favourite month of 2016, October would be it. We celebrated my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary on the 1st. My brother, wife, nieces all came over from Australia for a family knees up. And on the terrier front, Olive was settling in well.
Bookish news: I got my mitts on an early copy of ‘Winter Magic’ and saw that my contribution ‘A Night At The Frost Fair’ had been chosen to open the collection. I attended the YLG conference where I met so many passionate librarians and book folks. It was Appledore Book Festival time- one of the nicest, best run festivals there is- and my first time at the Yeovil Lit Festival where I talked writing processes and publication stories with the lovely Kiran Millwood Hargrave. Then… to Italy where I did two days of school visits and completely fell in love with Rome. The flying part was okay too!
Was a mad month of editing ‘Letters From The Lighthouse’, as well as celebrating my wonderful mum’s 70th birthday and the publication of ‘Winter Magic’ at Waterstones Piccadilly.
Still editing. And editing. It started with a mini-break to Cornwall where we were blessed with frosts, clear blue skies and empty beaches. (yes, I took my laptop so I could.. you know.. edit). On my return, I whizzed up to Waterstones Birmingham to talk all things wintery with fellow ‘Winter Magic’ contributors Piers Torday, Michelle Harrison and Abi Elphinstone.
After that it was full steam ahead with those edits.
And the year ended with half an eye on 2017 when I’ve got TWO books coming out: my diary is already filling up nicely.
Christmas and New Year best wishes to you all! xxx