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:

Book Birthday interview – Emma Carroll talks to Robin Stevens about In Darkling Wood


Today I’m delighted to be celebrating the book birthday of MG author, Emma Carroll, whose third book, In Darkling Wood, is out this month. It’s a lovely mixture of real issues and beautiful fantasy, and is a wonderful story about family love and the power of hope.

In Darkling Wood

From the official description:

When Alice’s brother gets a longed-for chance for a heart transplant, Alice is suddenly bundled off to her estranged grandmother’s house. There’s nothing good about staying with Nell, except for the beautiful Darkling Wood at the end of her garden – but Nell wants to have it cut down. Alice feels at home there, at peace, and even finds a friend, Flo. But Flo doesn’t seem to go to the local school and no one in town has heard of a girl with that name. When Flo shows Alice the surprising secrets of Darkling Wood, Alice starts to…

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On Saturday 30th May 2015, I appeared at the Hay Festival. Yes, I really did just write that last sentence. It was, without doubt, one of my most exciting, surreal, overwhelming author experiences to date.


The festival itself was HUGE- like a mini town full of book-loving people- and offering so many wonderful events, it literally make my head spin. As for the green room where writers and publicists hang out before and after their events… well, lets just say I was glad I’d brought my glasses because the people-watching was immense-  Michael Morpurgo, Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer, Helen MacDonald, Cathy Cassidy, Meera Syal… ok, I’ll stop but you get the point. And don’t even get me started on the food…


My event was with the lovely Linda Coggin -whose brilliant debut is The Boy With The Tiger’s Heart -, and Gillian Cross, Carnegie winner and author of many wonderful books. At Hay she was talking about her latest, Shadow Cat, which is one of my favourite reads so far this year.


In the pic below( courtesy of Linda’s partner) I’m the one in the red boots who appears to be nibbling on a sandwich. We were chaired by the excellent Danny Hahn, and talked about the thread that links all of our books- ADVENTURE.


Our characters, we discussed, all want something badly and are willing to put themselves in real physical danger to get it. Somewhere along the way, they also experience an emotional discovery of sorts. We all read action scenes- mine was from The Girl Who Walked On Air- and afterwards, signed copies of our books in the festival bookshop. Due to a bit of cunning on my publisher’s part, I was able to sign the VERY FIRST COPIES OF IN DARKLING WOOD. I have to say, the three books together on the shelf did look pretty awesome.


After all that, I went to listen to Kate Saunders talk about Five Children On The Western Front. She was funny, witty and hugely entertaining. Then it was back to the green room for hot chocolate and cake (very good on both counts) to wait for Team Faber’s other authors to finish their events. Then it was off for dinner with Faber publicist and all-round superstar Hannah Love, Pip Jones, Kate Saunders and agent Julia Churchill. Much was consumed and all sorts discussed- we certainly put the world to rights, I’d say. Sunday dawned wet and grey. After a rather queasy car ride to Hereford station it was time to catch the train home, lugging my tired self and complimentary Hay case of wine with me.


Earlier in the week, I’d read Robin Stevens’ tweets about feeling sad to leave Hay , and I confess I did too. I knew I’d have two very enthusiastic Jack Russells waiting for me when I got home, and the lovely Mr Carroll. But I felt a little pang on leaving Hay. I really did have the very best time.

Ah well…until next year ( fingers crossed!)


So ‘In Darkling Wood’ officially became a book-shaped thing last week, when a beautiful proof copy arrived in the post.I’m rather nervous/excited about this story because it’s set partly in the modern day. AND it’s a dual narrative of sorts- neither had I tried before.

The first review came a couple of weeks ago from Fiona Noble at The Bookseller who included it in her Summer Round-up, saying she ‘absolutely loved it,’ and that it was ‘wonderful, evocative storytelling.’ A big PHEW from me! And lots of happy whooping! Let’s hope other readers like it too.

It’s amazing to think that just over a year ago I’d written the first shaky 10,000.

Since then, the story has gone from this…


To this…


Then this…


And (almost finally) to this…


Now it’s the turn of those brilliant champions of kids lit to see what they think. Bloggers, booksellers, reviewers- keeping everything crossed you like it!