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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? So̷…

Source: MY 2016 IN PICTURES



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!


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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.

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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



This year’s been a busy one in the writing dept. In April, I finished the first draft of a book for Chicken House. After a two week break to recover, I then got started on my next story for Faber, which I finished a (very rough) first draft of at the end of July. Though the two book projects are quite different, the process I went through in the writing of them felt similar, and made me wonder if I’m starting to develop a bit of a pattern to how I work. Here’s how things seemed to go …

Stage 1


Drink tea. Select notebook. Do research. Doodle with coloured pens. A lot. Ideas feel jangly + superficial. Drink more tea. Drag out of self- kicking and screaming- a word count of approx 500 words a day. Constant revisions. Have an idea for the title. Put the kettle on.


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2015: My Favourite Bits In Pictures

So 2015 is nearly over. It was a year of highs- book deals, publications, meeting lovely people, the Great British Bake Off. There were also lows- family health worries, the general election result. I speak for myself here, of course, but as years go 2015 had more of the former. By far. These are my best bits:

On January 25th, I began writing the first draft of Strange Star. Amazing to think that blank screen is now 56,000 edited words. Eeep!
In May I talked adventure stories at the Hay Festival with Gillian Cross, Linda Coggin, chaired by Daniel Hahn. Although I look like I’m eating a sandwich, in fact I was rather star-struck!
In July, In Darkling Wood hit the shops- with badges!


Also in July I (finally) gave up teaching to be a full time author. This is was a dream-come-true moment for me
In August, I took part in the brilliant Just So Festival in Staffordshire  This was the perfect red chair in the perfect woodland setting for an In Darkling Wood reading.
In October, The Snow Sister came out. It was Sunday Times Childrens Book of the Week ! *faints*
In November, I hit the road travelling to libraries around the country on The Snow Sister Tour. This is the wonderful display at Coventry Library- and me in a woolly hat just in case of snow (ever hopeful!)
Also in November, I visited schools in Scotland. This me outside the lovely Toppings +Co bookshop in St Andrews. There might’ve been a few Snow Sisters in the window…
The Snow Sister was spotted at Birmingham New Street holding its own with the big boys!
December brought more signings- this time at the Taunton Literary Festival. We had a brilliant evening at Brendon Books, Taunton.It was the first time I’d done an event in front of my mum and dad and it was actually a bit scary!


And the year ends as it began, under the watchful eyes of these two rascals.IMG_1371

Which leaves me only to thank all the brilliant, passionate, dedicated booksellers, bloggers, reviewers, librarians, teachers, and of course readers who make books COME ALIVE.

A very heartfelt thank you.

Happy New Year!


WOOHOO- and other happy noises!

Just a quick update to say I’m delighted that In Darkling Wood has been selected from a MEGA longlist to be on the shortlist for the Shrewsbury Book Festival Book Award 2016.

In Darkling Wood


The other shortlisted books are scarily brilliant so this might be the last WOOHOO I make on the subject- apart from to cheer on whoever wins! You can read all about the shortlist here:

The Snow Sister on Tour!

A few months ago The Reading Agency asked me to go on tour. Not in the One Direction sense to stadiums full of fans (phew!), but to libraries to talk about… snow.(excuse the weirdo in the hat- I’ve no idea who she is but she insisted on being in the photo).


Now, I confess I’m rather partial to a flake or two, something I’ve probably mentioned once or twice on here. It also features heavily in Frost Hollow Hall and The Snow Sister.51Rp7pMZPQL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_
frostSo of course I jumped at the chance. The only problem was squeezing a library tour in to what was already shaping up to be a very hectic November. In the end, we had to narrow it down to four days.

And what brilliant days they were.

On Monday, I went to Coventry library, where I was welcomed with the most fantastic displays and the loveliest library team, who gave me flowers and reduced me to tears.


I spoke to school pupils and members of the public about my love of snow, frost fairs, record breaking winters and how snow flakes are formed. And i signed many MANY copies of The Snow Sister and Frost Hollow Hall.

Tuesday was Slough library. Again, lovely librarians and a brilliant bunch of years 6 and 7 who were so up for talking all things snow.


Wednesday was Rugeley library where the displays were gorgeously wintery and the audience brimming with great ideas for their own celebrity snow people. Liz the librarian also took me for one of the nicest pieces of cake I’ve ever eaten. Win win!

The final leg of my library tour was South Gloucestershire, which I made the mistake of thinking was within easy driving distance. Especially as Google Maps tantalisingly suggested my destination was only 1hr 25 mins away.

After two hours 20 mins of driving in torrential rain, I arrived at Yate library to the most beautiful, snowy displays. They’d even created a ‘snow seat’ for me to sit on! The audience of local primary children were a great bunch who loved trying on ice skates and asked some brilliant questions. Then, after a quick cuppa it was time to drive 6 miles to Emerson Green library for my final event.

Remember what I said about driving? Already this week my own car had protested at going to and from Taunton station every day, and had broken down. So I’d borrowed my dad’s car for the day. Which happens to have its headlight switch in a weird place and in my excitement I’d left them on and blah blah blah… one dead battery. 

Two hours, three helpful ladies who tried to push me, more torrential rain and a delayed but awesome breakdown man -‘ I got called out to Helen Dunmore last week. She was on her way to a  book signing.’- later, I made it to Emerson Green Library. I was 20 mins late. The library was packed with years 4,5 and 6 students from the local school. Thank goodness for their teacher who was keeping them entertained with a reading from The Snow Sister!IMG_1253 Suffice to say they were a lovely crowd. We had a great time talking all things snow- with a few Frost Hollow Hall ghosts thrown in for good measure. Once I got inside that snow igloo all my car stress vanished. It was a magical end to the best of weeks.

Which leaves me only to say a HUGE thank you to all the libraries who worked so hard to welcome us. YOU made it happen!