Saturday, 19 April 2014

UKYA Day: Joint Interview on Hybrid Publishing - Part 1

Okay, this is one of the features I've been ESPECIALLY looking forward to sharing with you for ages, but have been holding off because it's such a great one that I wanted to save it for UKYA Day.

If you don't know about UKYA Day, firstly, where have you been? And secondly, check out the awesome Project UKYA and the hashtag #UKYADay on Twitter for all sorts of amazingness today.

I think one of the most interesting things about the last few years in publishing has been the rise of self-publishing to the stage where it's now seen as a viable option for many authors, including those who also have contracts with publishers for other books. I spoke to four of these 'hybrid' authors - Keris Stainton, Kim Curran, Laura Lam and Siobhan Curham - about the challenges and rewards of self-publishing, and why they chose to do it.

1. You've all gone for different journeys to self-publishing. Keris self-pubbed a non-fiction quotes collection; Siobhan, you self-published Dear Dylan before Electric Monkey picked it up (and I think I'm right in saying you're self-publishing again this year?); Kim, you've written a novel unconnected to your Shift trilogy, and Laura, you're doing stories set in your wonderful world of Ellada from your Micah Grey trilogy. What made each of you decide to self-publish?

Keris: Mine was mostly just for fun. People had been telling me for years that I should put my kids' quotes in a book and I'd seen books like Preschool Gems and even Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops, so I didn't think it was too far-fetched. I knew it wasn't something a publisher would be interested in, so I thought self-publishing would be a way to actually get it out there and also a way for me to test self-publishing out, because it's certainly something I'd like to try with a novel at some point. 

Kim: I started writing Glaze after Shift went out on submission to publishers (in 2011). When I got the deal for Shift and the next two books it kind of went on the back burner. When I returned to it in 2013, I realised that so much of the stuff I was discussing in the book was prescient to the point of creepiness! It opens with a riot – and this was before the riots in London. It essentially predicted Google Glass – before there was so much as a TED video about it. And all the revelations about GCHQ too. Anyway, it was so very relevant to NOW that my agent and I decided that if we exhausted the traditional publishing route the book might not come out for 18 months. By which time it's relevance would be flagging. (We did try a few publishers who confirmed this – they either had something like it coming out or they didn't think SF YA had a market).

So, I decided to get the jump on traditional marketing by publishing it myself!

It was a really exciting idea to me also because my day job is in advertising and I have a network of friends who are designers and marketers. And here was a chance to put my 15 years' experience to the test and make all of the decisions about the marketing and the design of the book myself. And as I have the publishing network too, I was able to ask professional editors, copy editors and proof readers to work on it, ensuring the book was as polished as if it had been traditionally published.

Just as I was set to announce my decision, I got chatting with Jared from Jurassic London. He was really excited about the book and emailed me the next day saying 'welcome to the terrifying world of my enthusiasm'. Between us we cooked up the plan for him to publish a limited ed hard back of the book, while I handled all the ebooks and paperbacks myself. This has proven a wonderful experience. I get the joy of still working with a publisher and having someone to bounce ideas around with, while ultimately staying in control (in my experience, all writers are control freaks to some regard). The fact it's also being 'traditionally' published by Jurassic London means I will be able to enter the book into awards as well. So WIN WIN.

It does make explaining the whole thing a little complicated though, hence this unnecessarily long answer!!

Siobhan: I initially turned down a traditional publishing deal for Dear Dylan to self publish because the publisher wanted to water down some of the issues it covers. I was really concerned that this would really weaken the book and so I withdrew it. Self publishing felt very liberating as I was able to publish it exactly how I wanted. It also freed me of the pressure of having to do well to keep my publisher happy. I'd written the book to try and help young adult readers going through the same thing as the main character, Georgie. It was never a 'career' thing. So I gave the e-book away for free on my website. I also sent copies of the paperback to book bloggers and they were so lovely and supportive. They all reviewed Dear Dylan despite the fact that it was self-published and this gave me the confidence to enter the book for an award. In a fairytale ending (or beginning!) it won! 

Dear Dylan ended up going to auction and was traditionally published in 2012 - without any changes being made to it. Although I've since had three further YA novels traditionally published, and have two more coming out next year, I've decided to go back to self publishing again too. I'm starting by publishing my backlist of adult novels (originally published by Hodder) as e-books. I love the freedom that self publishing gives the writer and the sense that you have complete control over your writing career. And I could really relate to what Kim said about working really hard on the marketing and design aspects to make sure the quality is just as good as traditionally published books...

Kim: Really fascinating, Siobhan! I think we're going to see more and more writers turning down publishing deals for reasons like this. It should mean that the power is back in the author's hands – as for a really long time it's been 100% with the publisher. Wonderful to hear that your book ended up getting the recognition it deserved too!

Siobhan: Thanks so much Kim - and yes, authors having more power over their work can only be a good thing. Happy days!

Laura: For me, I wanted to put up some supplementary stories set in the same world as Micah Grey starring the secondary characters, such as Drystan and Cyan. The world of Ellada is large, and I wanted to show more of it through others’ eyes. However, I wanted it to be pretty easy for people to get them, and so self-publishing on Kindle seemed like a good plan. I didn’t want to go on the query merry-go-round for magazines, and also two of the stories are likely going to be more novella-length, and there aren’t many markets for them, except in the e-book market. I also think my books have appeal to both adults and teens, and as the shorter stories are a bit more adult in nature (not erotica!), it might help bring new readers to the Micah Grey series. I’ll be able to control pricing and do occasional promos, see sales figures, and generally be more in control. I find that very exciting.

2. People often think of self-publishing as a rather solitary occupation, and Kim, I know you responded to John Green's thoughts (which JG clarified here) on this fairly recently. How many people are involved in the creation of your books? On a possibly-related note, how do your current publishers feel about them?

Keris: Three friends read mine and gave feedback on the order of the quotes, pointed out typos, repetitions, etc. I also put the proposed covers up on Facebook and got feedback there. If/when I self publish a novel, I'll use an editor and a cover designer. I don't know how my publisher feels about As Delightful As a Carrot - it's not really the same audience so it's not really an issue - but I did check with my agent before publishing it.

Kim: It feels like I've had more people involved in the publishing of Glaze than any of my other books! Or at least, I've had more direct contact with those who have been involved.

So, in order of involvement: my team of beta readers, including my husband, Laura Lam, Lou Morgan and James Smythe – who gave amazing feed back before the book went anywhere.
My agent, Sam Copeland.
My art director partner, Regan Warner – who designed the cover.
Jared Shurin who is publishing the limited ed.
Amy McCulloch who edited it.
My copy editor and proof reader.
Then all the bloggers who've signed up to #teamglaze (50 people at last count) -
note from Jim; this interview happened a while ago so #teamglaze may well be even bigger now, especially with the brilliant Faye from A Daydreamer's Thoughts running the blog tour!
Author friends who have given cover quotes.
And finally my friends across Twitter and Facebook, who are really getting behind me with this. I feel this enormous sense of good will about what I'm doing!

Most of this wouldn't be possible without social media. And the irony that the book is about the powers of social networks isn't lost on any of us!

Siobhan: I don't find it lonely at all as, like Keris and Kim, I still have a team of people working with me. I use professional designers for my covers, because, despite the saying, we do all judge a book by its cover. And I make sure my self published books are traditionally edited too - this is vital! It's also lovely involving people via social media. Like Keris, I put some recent cover designs up on Facebook for feedback.

Laura: Like others, I have a great support network. I’m still in the early stages of planning things – all stories are at least in first draft, and I’m sending them out to beta readers for initial feedback. I have a friend I’ve known since we were wee pre-teens helping me with artwork and design. Kim and her advertising experience has been invaluable already. My husband will help me format, and my friend Shawn is helping with blurbs and some marketing. I’ll hire an editor for all four stories at once before they go up. I definitely want to have a professional, slick product just as good as anything trade published.

By being traditionally published first, I have a great network of bloggers (such as you, Jim!) who have been really supportive and happy to help spread the world closer to the time. When I announced that I was putting up these Vestigial Tales, I had an excellent response from people that really helped me feel that this was the right decision. I have a small but very loyal reader base, and I’m hoping more stories will help that base grow.

My publisher does not mind, as these stories may result in more sales of Pantomime & Shadowplay, the first two books in the Micah Grey series. It’s also looking more and more likely that one of my works in progress will be self-published, and so this will be a great learning experience prior to doing that.

Thanks so much for the fab answers, everyone! Check back tomorrow for part 2.

Keris Stainton is the author of Della Says OMG!, Jessie Hearts NYC, Emma Hearts LA and the upcoming Starring Kitty. She self-published As Delightful As A Carrot earlier this year. You can find her on her website, her blog and Twitter, while she co-runs the fabulous UKYA website.

Kim Curran is the author of Shift, Control and the upcoming Delete. She is about to self-publish Glaze. Find her on her website and Twitter.

Laura Lam is the author of the Micah Grey series, Pantomime and Shadowplay. She is about to self-publish short stories set in Micah's world, the Vestigial Tales. Find her on her blog and Twitter

Siobhan Curham is the author of numerous books for adults as well as YA novels Dear Dylan and Finding Cherokee Brown and series Shipwrecked (second book, Dark of the Moon, out in June) and non-fiction guide to dealing with bullies Finding Your Inner Cherokee. (Download that one FREE here!) She will soon be self-publishing her backlist of adult novels. Find her on her website, her Twitter and her Life Coach and Mentoring site Dare To Dream.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Recommendation: Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Title: Roomies
Authors: Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando
Obtained: Bought
Genre: YA contemporary
Very Highly Recommended
Out Now

Roomies tells the story of two girls, EB and Lauren, who are about to move into college together to share a room. It's not a college tale, though - it takes place before they get there, as they get in touch and start to open up to a stranger about their lives, hopes and fears, while always remembering this is someone they're going to be meeting in real life and spending a lot of time with very soon.

It always surprises me how few YA books are about friendship, considering what a massive part of the teen years it is. That's not to say there aren't books that do friendships really well - it's been discussed in various blogs fairly recently and there are several that capture either pairs of friends or groups of mates brilliantly. (For pairs, I LOVE Karou and Zuzana in Laini Taylor's novels, Taylor and Lucy in Second Chance Summer, and Stella and Ruby is Stephanie Guerra's Torn.  For groups, the quartet in Ally Carter's superb Gallagher Girls series, the guys in Tom Easton's Boys Don't Knit, and the boys and girls in Candy Harper's Have A Little Faith are all fabulous.)

But there's definitely a lack of books which are ABOUT friendship, compared to all the romances out there, which seems really weird, because there's surely a huge amount of potential there. Thankfully, Roomies goes a long way towards redressing the balance because it's a stunning portrayal of friendship in all its forms. There's the developing friendship via e-mail between the two title characters, the changing friendships they each have with the people they're leaving behind when they go to university, and even the way that their relationships with their parents change as they take their first steps away from home.

All of these are captured brilliantly. It's the central one which is the focus of the book, as the title suggests, and Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando really seem to get how difficult it is to form a friendship online, having to judge what a person's saying from their words alone without the benefit of tone or body language. EB and Lauren open up to each other more and more as the book goes on, but is it possible to be really good friends with someone you haven't even met? This raises a very interesting question - I consider myself to be quite close to various people I've met online, going back nearly 10 years in one case, but I think I probably feel closer to those I've met in person than those I've solely talked to over the internet. (Which doesn't mean I don't really appreciate those of you I haven't been lucky enough to meet yet, of course!)

It's also a staggeringly cute book. And I feel that's going to sound incredibly dismissive, but it's not meant to be. I think 'cute' is massively underrated and I wish there were more people writing it this well. As well as the friendships, the two romances that develop between EB and Lauren and their new love interests are gorgeously written and it's one of those books which leaves you just really hoping that everyone gets a happy ever after.

Oh, it has some fabulous supporting characters, as well. I loved Lauren's big, somewhat unruly, family - particularly her parents, who are amazing! - and Zoe holds a special place in my heart as she's cool, popular, and surgically attached to her iPod. Kind of like me, if I was cool and popular.

All in all, this is a must-read, probably the only must-read to come out of the US so far this year apart from Tess Sharpe's Far From You.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Weirdos vs Bumskulls Cover Reveal

After moving down to London last year, one of the first bookish events I was able to attend was the launch of Natasha Desborough's hilarous Weirdos vs Quimboids. I was thrilled to be sent the sequel recently - I'm halfway through and loving it, so I'm extra-excited to bring you the cover today as part of a mass reveal - especially since some of my favourite bloggers are also involved in this one.

Weirdos vs Bumskulls in out on May 8th - not long to wait! If you love this cover as much as I do, maybe you could tweet about it using the hashtag #bumskulls!

So, without further ado, click 'read more' to see it in all its glory!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Recommendation: Keep The Faith by Candy Harper

Title: Keep The Faith
Author: Candy Harper
Obtained: Received from publishers in exchange for consideration for a recommendation - thank you!
Genre: YA Contemporary
Massively Highly Recommended (This isn't technically ON my rating scale, but still...)
Out 24th April

Warning: Slight spoilers for Have A Little Faith below.

Faith is back, and trying to pick between the awesomely wonderful Ethan and the gorgeous but not all-that-interesting Finn (my bias, not hers!) Other stuff is happening but there's little point going into details about it because let's face it, with characters like Candy Harper's they could be doing ANYTHING and it would still be amazingly good.

A bit of background, before I start this review. Have A Little Faith was one of my favourites of last year, to the point where I've bought ten copies - as presents for family members and to give and lend to other book reviewers so they can see for themselves how wonderful it is. It's also one of the only books published last year that I've reread - and the only one I've read three times. (It's just as wonderful third time around as it was at first.) Oh, and there's a hefty quote from my review of the original decorating the back of this book.  So you might say I had high expectations of this one.

Were they met? Absolutely, and then some! It's another brilliantly funny read with dozens of hugely quotable lines.  It's taken me three reads of the first book to realise just why I loved it so much, though. Yes, I knew from the start that it was a hilarious read, and this is just the same - I raced through it, with a huge grin on my face right the way through. But behind the laughter, it's the characters and the way they behave towards each other which are strong enough to lift it above some of the other really hugely funny books I love.

Faith is one of my all-time favourite lead characters. She's bratty, self-centred, surprisingly violent, and argumentative. But she's also clever, resourceful, good to her friends, knows what she wants, and goes all out to get it. The other characters are also wonderful - Lily, who has a great heart and an interesting, if slightly bizarre, way of thinking, is my personal favourite, but everyone else is superb  too. Special mention goes to Mrs Webber; I love seeing realistic teachers with actual senses of humour. Oh, and Ang and Elliott may be the cutest couple ever.

But I think the absolute best thing about both this, and the first book, is the relationships. Not the romantic ones - Finn vs Ethan is a no-contest, and it's fairly obvious that Faith doesn't need either of them. But the friendships here are perfectly formed. The central quartet of Faith, Megs, Lily and Angharad are brilliant because their interactions seem so realistic. They're loyal to each other, they help each other out, and when they argue, they sort it out by talking to each other and being honest - Megs with her jealousy of Lily in book one, one particular conversation between Megs and Faith here. It's not only a staggeringly funny read, but the strong yet subtle message about the importance of honesty with your mates makes it one that teachers should be shoving into students' hands as quickly as they can.

Similarly, the family relationship Faith has with her parents, brother and granny is outstanding. They irritate each other, they don't really understand each other at times, but there's a massive amount of love there - which shines through particularly in a birthday celebration between Faith, Sam, and their mum and dad.

When it comes to light, funny reads that will never fail to make you smile, this is one of the best of them all. 

Candy was kind enough to give me a great guest post last week on her influences for the two books.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Reviews: Sesame Seade 2 and 3 by Clementine Beauvais and Sarah Horne

One of my favourite discoveries of the year so far has been the sensational MG series Sesame Seade! These reviews were previously published at The Bookbag.

If you like the sound of these two, and you're in the UK or Ireland, remember you can win BOTH - and a copy of the first in the trilogy as well - by tweeting a mystery, real-life or fictional, that you'd like to see Sesame solve using the hashtag #SesameSolves. Thanks to Hodder for providing this fabulous prize - closing date is Wednesday 16th at 11:59 UK time, so hurry!

Title: Sesame Seade: Gargoyles Gone AWOL

Author: Clementine Beauvais, with illustrations from Sarah Horne

Obtained: Borrowed from Daphne at Winged Reviews - thank you!

Genre: MG adventure

Highly Recommended

Out Now

Sesame Seade is in trouble. So much trouble that our intrepid heroine has already started planning her epitaph. Sesame Seade, sensational supersleuth. Sufficiently scolded, seldom scared. Even with danger around every corner, her stunning voice can't be silenced. But what is the danger lurking in the university? Is it to do with the disappearing gargoyles, or is there something even more worrying going on?

I was hooked on this series from the first few pages of book 1, as mentioned in my review of that novel. It's a fun light read with clever plots, wonderful characters, and an excellent narrator. I really like the back-up Sesame's friends Gemma and Toby provide for her, while her relationship with Jeremy Hopkins, who perhaps didn't quite realise what he was letting himself in for when he first asked Sesame to investigate for his UniGossip website, is hilarious. Additionally, there's a really nasty - and memorable - villain here again, while the relationship Sesame has with her parents develops well. Her mother, in particular, is becoming an intriguing character.

As good as Clementine Beauvais's writing is, though - and she's definitely an author to watch out for with a wonderful vocabulary and a great voice - Sarah Horne's illustrations are just as important a part of the book. I particularly loved the first chapter's picture of Sesame's hornet terrorising a room full of children, but all of them are gorgeous - to the point where I'm planning on buying a print for my wall!

Overall this is up there as one of my favourite series for younger readers at the moment, and I know from the amount of talking we do about it whenever I get together with friends who love children's books that there are an awful lot of adults enjoying it as well! Highly recommended.

Title: Sesame Seade: Scam on the Cam

Author: Clementine Beauvais, with illustrations from Sarah Horne

Obtained: Review copy from Hodder Children's Books - thank you!

Genre: MG adventure

Highly Recommended

Out Now

Something strange is happening on or near the river. Finding a pirates' chest is surely likely to be the weirdest thing that happens to most people in an average week, but not Sesame, Toby and Gemma. As well as the possibility of pirates, there's a chance that nefarious goings-on are responsible for the university rowing team dropping like flies. Can Sesame save the day again?

If you've read the first two Sesame Seade books, you know what you're getting by now. Awesome action, clever characterisation, precise plotting and amazing artwork! (I seem to have caught Sesame's own tendency for alliteration there.)

(If you haven't read the first two Sesame books, then why are you reading this review? Head back to Sleuth on Skates - I think I've avoided spoilers here, but you can't be too careful!)

I'm not sure whether Sesame is slightly slower on the uptake here than in her previous two adventures or whether it's just that it's an especially twisty mystery which means even someone who has a brain with as many connections as there are stars in the universe needs a bit of time to find the right answer, but it's definitely the toughest one yet for her to solve. It also features the best ending of the trilogy so far - and while I believe we're supposedly stopping at a trilogy, there's no way Hodder can be cruel enough to leave us on the cliffhanger that is the climax to this one, is there? (In fairness - especially since everyone knows that I can't stand actual cliffhangers - this mystery does get wrapped up properly, but there's an intriguing last page which paints a character in a very different light, and I need a fourth book to find out more about this!)

As always, the pictures from Sarah Horne are some of the most gorgeous black and white illustrations around - I can't decide on whether my favourite is Sesame spying on two people trying to break open the chest, or Toby organising a frog race; both are packed with humour. Oh, but then there's the crowd on the day of the boat race itself. It's definitely too hard to choose a favourite!

Highly recommended as a great read, and the three books so far would make a perfect present for any young reader!

Also, I was lucky enough to interview both Clementine Beauvais and Sarah Horne last week. Check it out here!

Monday, 7 April 2014

Joint Interview with Clementine Beauvais and Sarah Horne and Giveaway

In my continued quest to read more MG, I've devoured all three Sesame Seade novels over the past month or so, so was thrilled to get the chance to talk to Clementine Beauvais, the author AND Sarah Horne, the illustrator!

Check out my reviews of Sleuth on Skates, Gargoyles Gone AWOL and Scam on the Cam, and if you're in the UK or Ireland, after the interview, enter my #SesameSolves giveaway on Twitter to win a set of all three books! Huge thanks to Hodder Children's Books for their generosity.

Clementine Beauvais

  • 1. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?
Clementine Beauvais: The jury of the Nobel Prize, of course, but also a flock of primary school children running around the playground in search for interstices of freedom in the adult-imposed routine.

  • 2. When you first created the character of Sesame, did you have a mental image of her? If so, how close is that to Sarah’s drawings of her?
CB: Bizarrely, I don’t tend to picture my characters very much in my head, unlike fictional places, which are very clear to me. I don’t generally think of my characters as blonde or brown-haired, as white or black. As a result, I don’t often describe my characters – Sesame’s never described in the books. I had a long conversation with my editor about what Sesame looked like – she needed to tell Sarah! But I honestly had no clue. We made it up on the phone!

Then, when I saw Sarah’s first sketch of Sesame, I immediately thought – “That’s it! That’s Sesame!”. I ‘recognised’ her, even though I’d never seen her.

  •  3. Some of the villains in Sesame Seade are rather nasty pieces of work. Who’s your all-time favourite fictional baddie?
CB: Maybe the velociraptors in Jurassic Park. Or Mrs Coulter in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Or Norman Bates of Psycho… actually, they’re all pretty much the same character, aren’t they? Sesame’s villains aren’t as murderous. But her mum can certainly be as scary as a velociraptor sometimes.

  • 4. You use some really complicated vocabulary and references, including Gorgias, Thomas Aikenhead, and incarnadine in your first two Sesame Seade books. Are you expecting children to understand them or look them up, or are they a nod to your adult readers?
CB: To be honest, they’re more of a game with myself: an added challenge. “How many references to obscure things can I put in there without them being taken out?” Most often I don’t expect anyone to spot them – they’re just there for me to have fun while I write the book. A few of them get taken out at editing stage.

But I was flabbergasted that my editor let me keep the sentence ‘and the multitudinous seas incarnadine’ (I think that’s the sign of a good editor!). Maybe one kid will remember the line in a few years’ time, when rediscovering it in a Shakespeare class…

  • 5. How long can we expect to be following Sesame's adventures for? Any chance of her lasting to the point where she becomes a Cambridge student herself? (Crossing my fingers here!)
CB: For now, there’s only three books, though maybe if readers send enough boxes of sesame snaps to Hodder… But I don’t think she can ever grow up. She’s too cool for adulthood. And Jeremy Hopkins provides the perfect portrayal of the typical Cambridge student. As we speak, he’s probably got an essay to write, due last month.

  • 6. What's next for Clementine Beauvais?
CB: I have a series for younger readers coming out with Bloomsbury in September. The first one is called The Royal Babysitters, and sees Holly and Anna Burningbright, helped by Prince Pepino, trying to babysit the royal sextuplets of the King and Queen of Britland while repelling an invasion by King Alaspooryorick of Daneland. Needless to say, he’s come with hummingbird cannons and an army of robotic mermaids. It’s completely different from Sesame, but still (hopefully!) funny and adventurous.

Sarah Horne

  • 1. How much guidance do you get from either the author or publishers when you're illustrating a book?
Sarah Horne: Sometimes lots of guidance, sometimes none at all depending on the project. Usually there’s a lot of discussion between the publisher and myself once we get started on a book. I am often given a character description of how the author sees their characters, then I spend some time reading the text and getting a feel for the characters and scenarios, and we go from there.

  • 2. There have been some brilliant adventures for Sesame in the first two books (and more to come, I’m sure, in the third.) What’s been your favourite picture to draw?
SH: The Sesame Seade books have been a massive joy to illustrate. I think one of my favourites to draw was Sesame’s bedroom door sign from Gargoyles Gone A.W.O.L. - Very witty stuff. I had to do this one in a couple of sittings for fear of going seriously cross-eyed.

  • 3. Has there been any scene in the Sesame Seade series so far which has left you thinking "How on earth am I going to draw that?”
SH: At one point, I think it was at a rate of about 1 in 5 illos, where I wondered how on earth I was going to draw that thing! A notable one was 'Sesame Film Noir' from Sleuth on Skates. Quite a bit of research went into that particular piece.

  • 4. When growing up did you always want to be an illustrator? Who were your favourite illustrators as a child?
SH: Yes, I was fairly clear on what I wanted to do. I always loved to draw for stories, but I didn’t know it was called illustration. My dream job was either to be a dustbin lady or to sit in an office all day and draw and draw and draw.

I loved Richard Scarry's books and the amazing detail in his work. I also loved books by Judith Kerr, Babbette Cole and Raymond Briggs. One of my absolute favourites was Don’t Forget The Bacon by Pat Hutchins.

  • 5. What's next for Sarah Horne?
SH: I’m nicely busy at the moment- currently working on a very fun novelty/picture book with Hodder, some non-fiction work with Egmont, and a scattering of smaller fiction projects which involve some nice inky black and white work.

Sounds fab! Thanks for talking to me, both.

Now, do you want to read these awesome books? You should do! And I have a set to give away to a lucky winner in the UK/Ireland.

To enter, just head to Twitter and tell me which mystery, fictional or real-life, you'd most like to see Sesame solve! Tweet using the hashtag #SesameSolves and I'll pick a winner on Thursday 17th April. Closing date to enter is 11:59pm BST Wednesday 16th April.

UK and Ireland only, 13 or over, please. If you win, I'll get in touch with you and ask you for your address to pass on to publishers, then delete it once you've received your books.

Thanks to Stacey and Debbie for advice given on the giveaway, by the way.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Six Degrees of Separation

Really intrigued by the idea of this new meme being set up by Emma Chapman and Annabel Smith, so thought I'd give it a go. Rules here, if you want to join in.

The starting point today is Burial Rites, which I haven't actually read, but why let that stop me?

Burial Rites was one of the first books to be swapped at my first ever book swap, which I went to last week in Foyles - a fabulous event which I'd definitely recommend!

Sadly I wasn't able to swap anything myself at the event- I took a copy of Phil Rickman's masterful horror story December. I somehow failed to do a good enough job of selling the audience on this one, which is a shame, as I'd loved to have passed it onto someone else for them to experience this hugely chilling read. Following the members of a band who split up after a terrible occurrence when they're recording at a ruined abbey on the same night that John Lennon is murdered across the Atlantic, it's a terrifying tale.

December isn't one I'd normally have tried myself, to be honest, but I couldn't pass it up as I'm a massive fan of Rickman's current Dr Dee series, about Elizabethans Dr John Dee and Robert Dudely. This fabulous pairing are one of my favourite fictional duos of recent years. I'd definitely recommend The Bones of Avalon to all fans of historical fiction!

Doctor Dee gets a very different, but just as intriguing, portrayal in Gwenda Bond's marvellous Blackwood, a stunning adventure story which takes in the mystery of what happened to colonists in Roanoke centuries ago.

Blackwood is published by the superb Strange Chemistry, who publish so many fabulous books, including Rosie Best's Skulk. This tale of shape shifters in modern day London is one of the best books I've read at matching up fantasy aspects to the characters' real world problems.

And another of the best I've read at that is The City's Son by Tom Pollock - which, coincidentally, was the book I was desperate to obtain at the book swap mentioned in the first paragraph!

Have you done Six Degrees of Separation? Where did your links take you?