Want to hear me speaking French and talking about chocolate? Finally, there’s a full-length audiobook of CHOCOLAT! And for the first time, read by the author. Details here…
And now that Spring is here at last, the Shed is a hive of activity. First, the #Storytime band and I have been playing various venues around the region – the Coalville festival, Chesterfield Library Theatre and the Barnsley Lamp Room Theatre, to name a few – plus we’ll be playing more gigs over the next three or four months. (See the Events page for dates are they become available.) Here we are in the Lamp Room, where we performed the whole of A POCKETFUL OF CROWS (the 40-minute, full-length version) for the very first time. Thank you so much to everyone who was there – you were such a warm, responsive and welcoming audience – and after all your cheers and applause, we might even dare play it again someday…
This month also sees the publication of RUNELIGHT in paperback, and, for the first time ever, the full-length, unabridged audiobook of CHOCOLAT – read by the author! It’s the first time I’ve read a full-length audiobook myself, so let me know what you think. If you like it, I may consider recording another…
Also: the proofs of THE TESTAMENT OF LOKI are out now. If you subscribed to last month’s newsletter, you will have had a chance to win one, but don’t worry if you haven’t. There will be other opportunities to read ARCS and review copies. Just check out Goodreads and Twitter for giveaways; and, as always, be aware that pre-orders are very important to authors. They help them hit the bestseller lists – and that means more chance of publishers commissioning more in the series!
And the spring is in with an icy blast of snow and ice from the Russian steppes, which is interesting, as this week my daughter is moving to Moscow. I guess this is Nature’s way of making me feel connected, although honestly I’d settle for a nice furry hat and some snow boots. However, the weather has forced me to spend more time than ever in the Shed (which is by far the warmest place at draughty Chateau Harris), where THE STRAWBERRY THIEF is moving slowly forwards, the proofs for THE TESTAMENT OF LOKI have been sent off and I’m in the process of finishing reading the last of the Betty Trask Prize entries AND judging a Fragrance Foundation scent award, which involves me trying on dozens of numbered scent samples and putting them into categories. Basically, all my favourite occupations rolled into one, with the extra bonus of copious amounts of tea and biscuits
(of which the Shed always has an emergency supply). Last week I was in London, recording the new unabridged audiobook of CHOCOLAT. I’m hoping it will come out next year to co-incide with the 20th anniversary of the novel’s publication – and we’ll be celebrating in some other ways, too. I know that some of you have been waiting impatiently for this audiobook – the rights were sold for peanuts many, many years ago, and I’ve only just managed to get them back. If you enjoy this one, I might have a go at recording BLACKBERRY WINE next.
Thanks to everyone who contributed to my ko-fi account, which has now raised nearly 50% of its projected target! As a result, the #Storytime CD is now in production, and the band and I will be selling copies as we tour this spring. Check out the Events page to find out where we’ll be. And Bonnie is hard at work on a series of stunning illustrations for THE BLUE SALT ROAD, which I’m hoping we’ll see published in October…
Meanwhile, there’s always the newsletter, which this month will give you a chance to win a proof copy of TESTAMENT, as well as giving you a glimpse of an extract…
It seems as if January has passed by in a blur. Lots of things are happening (more details in the newsletter, if you’d like to subscribe to updates): including progress on THE STRAWBERRY THIEF, which is turning into quite a strange, dark tale, and lots of work with the band on what we are now calling the CROW SUITE (not just one storysong, but a whole set of them, based on A POCKETFUL OF CROWS.) If things go well with the Storytime CD, we might think about recording it, but right now you can only hear the music is you come to one of our shows. Bonnie is hard at work on pictures for the new novella, which for the moment I’m calling THE BLUE SALT ROAD. And the good folk at Gollancz are putting together my tour for THE TESTAMENT OF LOKI, which will be coming out in May, so it’s going to be a busy year! Charles Vess has been working all last year on illustrating the anniversary edition of EARTHSEA, but has promised that he’ll start work on HONEYCOMB this year, which hopefully should give us a publication date of autumn 2019 – yes, I know it’s frustrating to have to wait, but that’s the price we have to pay if we want the best…
And speaking of the best, here’s another of Bonnie’s crows. She’ll be drawing one of these a week, so keep your prompt stories coming. (600 words or less, remember!) You can send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org with the tag “52 CROWS.”
Happy new year, everyone! May 2018 bring you what you want, what you need and most of all, what you try for – be that a fitter body, an enquiring mind or even a finished manuscript! Here in the Shed I’m already at work on my new year’s resolutions – one of which is to meet my July deadline for delivery of the new book (from which I’ll be posting the odd work-in-progress extract to those who receive to the newsletter, so click on to subscribe if you’d like to know more); plus the completion of some other plans that I hope to develop shortly.
Some of them are musical – and fans of #Storytime should be able to see me and the band perform some of the new material themed around A POCKETFUL OF CROWS sometime in Spring, as well as being able to buy the new #Storytime CD from venues (and of course, from the website).
I’m also judging the Betty Trask Prize again this year, so expect lots of excited updates (and lots of new books on my Goodreads page).
Meanwhile, love, joy and peace for 2018: and here’s the view from the Shed today, so keep warm, live in hope, and above all, happy reading!
Also: How terrific is this? Bonnie (my brilliant illustrator for A POCKETFUL OF CROWS) is launching this challenge to herself, to post a new crow drawing every Monday for the whole year. She needs all the support she can get, so please send your crow-related stories (max 600 words) to email@example.com. I’ll start you off with one of mine, first written live on Twitter…
The Crow Who Swallowed The Moon.
There once was a crow who delighted in bright and shining objects. A copper coin; some broken glass: a spoon from the castle kitchens. Jewellery, when she could find it; a diamond pin from a lady’s hair; a ring from a dressing-room table where a maid had left the window ajar. The crow would take these things and hide them, high in the boughs of an ancient oak, and there she would perch on a nearby branch and admire all the things she had stolen.
One night, the crow saw the full moon reflected in a water-trough. She flew down to collect it, but every time she tried to pick up the moon’s reflection, ripples obscured the silver disk, and it vanished into the water.
But the crow was not deterred. She told herself that the shining disk must be somewhere in the trough, and so she set herself the task of drinking all the water. It took all night; and by the time she had emptied the water-trough, the moon had set, and the rosy dawn was shivering on the cloudline.
The crow looked at the empty trough. “I must have swallowed the disk,” she said. Disappointed and dismayed, she told her friends, the other crows, hoping for their sympathy. But they all laughed and mocked her. “That was only the moon,” they said. “You fool! To think you believed you had swallowed it!”
The crow, feeling foolish, fled to her tree to escape the sound of their laughter. There, she sat on her favourite branch and looked over her treasures. But the coin, the ring, the silver spoon, the pin, the piece of broken glass – none of these things could compare with the moon, reflected in the water-trough.
Below her, on the ground, she could hear the other crows laughing and mocking her. “What a fool!” the crows all cried. “She really thinks she swallowed the Moon!” The crow felt very miserable.
Just then a bluebird flew onto the branch. “What’s wrong?” she asked. The crow told her tale. The bluebird listened attentively.
“But how do you know they’re right?” she said at last, when the crow fell silent. “They never saw you swallow the moon. They could all be mistaken.”
This had never occurred to the crow, who believed in the rule of the majority.
“Do you really think so?” she said.
The bluebird, who was known throughout the Nine Worlds as an optimist and a dreamer, said: “Why not? If you believe it, who’s to say that you are wrong?”
And so the crow, feeling much cheered, sat on her branch and waited for night. Below her, the other crows still mocked: “Where is the moon? Where is the moon?” But there was no moon that night: the clouds were thick and heavy.
“The little bluebird was right,” thought the crow. “In my haste, I swallowed the moon.” And though she was pleased, she felt anxious, too, for all the nocturnal creatures for whom the moon meant life or death.
“I must return it to the sky,” she said. “But how?”
Above her, the clouds raced and tumbled.
“Dogs howl at the moon,” thought the crow. “Perhaps I can try to do the same.” And, opening her beak, she began to croak as loudly as she could, to drive the moon back into the sky.
For a long time, nothing happened. Then, just for a moment, through the clouds, the moon came out and winked at her.
The crow was very much relieved. “I did it!” she said. “I saved the moon!”
And every night after that, although the other crows still laughed and mocked, the moon would show her gratitude; and every night would shine upon the treasures that the crow had kept: the coins, the ring, the diamond pin; the spoons; the piece of broken glass.
Authors don’t really get holidays as everyone else understands the term. On some level or another, an author is always thinking about the next book, and the next one, even though they may not actually be writing it – and as it happens, I’m doing both: I always find this time of year unexpectedly good for ideas, possibly because I rather enjoy escaping to the Shed when everyone else is baking, going to parties and buying Christmas presents. So shoot me: I’m a hermit. And if you’ve sent me a Christmas card, thank you, and I’m sorry (again) for not sending one in return: I seem to have forgotten (again) to get organized in time for Christmas.
On the plus side, however: I’ve finished the edits to the new novella (a selkie story, based on Child Ballad 113, due out next October), which Bonnie will be illustrating. I’ve copy-edited THE TESTAMENT OF LOKI, which should be hitting the bookshops in spring, and I’m 50 pages or so into a new book about Vianne Rocher and Lansquenet, which I’m calling THE STRAWBERRY THIEF, and which I’ve promised to deliver a first draft of by July 2018. No pressure there, then. Oh, yes: and I’m co-writing an original musical with the lovely Howard Goodall: (working title, UNBREAKABLE; excitement level 11/10), a project still in its infancy, but too much fun to hide from you all. Watch this space for more as it happens, or subscribe to my newsletter, where I’ll be posting updates and pictures of various projects as they develop, as well as holding regular giveaways and competitions.
Meanwhile, the Storytime Band and I are building a tour schedule for 2018, during which we’ll be playing some new stuff, some of it from A POCKETFUL OF CROWS. I’ll be posting the dates, as well as tour dates for TESTAMENT OF LOKI, as soon as the Christmas juggling act is over: my daughter is here for the holidays, and I’ve promised not to stay in the Shed all the time, so in between movies, and mince pies, and presents, and such, I’ll try to keep on top of it all. My excellent PA retired last year, and I’ve been trying to do her job as well as my own (which is why my efficiency is reduced, though not my enthusiasm). I’m relying on you all to tell me if there’s something I’m not doing right: website maintenance isn’t my forte, and I don’t want you to feel neglected. So –
Merry Christmas to you all, and a happy, healthy 2018: and here’s a picture of the Kid, hair newly-purple, helping us to trim the tree: a tradition we’ve managed to maintain every year since 1993…
And here it is, Hallowe’en, bringing with it A POCKETFUL OF CROWS, which has already has tremendous write-ups from reviewers and bloggers. Thank you so much if you were among the many readers and reviewers who wrote to me to express their thoughts on the book: you make my day every time, and I’m touched by your love and enthusiasm.
Bonnie sends her thanks, too: it’s her first experience as an illustrator, and it’s been a bit of a learning-curve for her, but her illustrations are lovely, and add so much to the story. She is currently selling special prints, signed by both of us, on her website right here, so if you like them, do please check them out.
As it happens, this book has been a first for me, too: I’m narrating the audiobook (here I am in the studio) – so if you’d like me to read you a four-hour bedtime story, this may be your opportunity…
Otherwise, I’m working hard on the next couple of projects – including a musical project which I’m really excited about. More about this as it develops, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Till then, here’s a Hallowe’en picture of Vlad, looking effortlessly seasonal…
Publication for A POCKETFUL OF CROWS is almost upon us, and lots of events are happening up and down the country. Do check the Events page to see what’s happening near you!
Competition time! Tatty Devine are offering one of their fabulous Crows necklaces as part of the launch of the book! Enter here – but you’d better be quick: I want to win it, too!
Also, did you know that I’m narrating the audiobook? If you want a bedtime story from me, this is your chance…
Meanwhile, Bonnie is now selling prints of her fabulous illustrations via her website! We’ll both be signing a limited number of these, so check them out before they disappear! http://www.bonniehelenhawkins.com/a-pocketful-of-crows
Now comes the season of autumn leaves, and morning frosts, and darkening nights. It’s also the season of editorial notes, which means a certain amount of personal anguish; hard choices; difficult decisions regarding the forthcoming book (THE TESTAMENT OF LOKI, out next year), and lots and lots of cutting. I find that a lot of the time I go at my manuscript with a machete, slashing and cutting like a pro, only to find that my word count has actually somehow managed to grow – but editing is essential work, and requires more than just one person to get right. So, here’s a big shout-out to my editor Gillian Redfearn at Gollancz; her assistant Beth, and all the readers who worked behind the scenes to help make this book as good as it could be. Thanks for all your sterling work, and know that when I hate you, that means you’re doing a damn fine job. Anything that still doesn’t work is now my responsibility. Meanwhile, by request, as a follow-on from my popular #TenThings series on Twitter, here are ten things about editing, that all writers, published and unpublished, need to know…
Ten Things About Editing
However much self-editing you do, at some point you’re going to need a competent editor. But before that…
- Allow time – at least 3 months if you can – before editing your work. You need to be as objective as possible.
- Read your work aloud as you go. It’s the most valuable editing tool there is.
- Change the font when starting a final edit – you’ll be amazed at how much more detail you’ll notice.
- Your dialogue will be improved immeasurably if you remove all or most of the adverbs, and many of the dialogue tags.
- Editing is hard work. You only have so much attention-span. Don’t exhaust it by doing too much.
- Listen to your instincts. You’ll know when something doesn’t feel right. And if you notice, so will your readers. Do give it time though. If you finish a draft and immediately set to work again, you may not really be able to see what needs doing.
- Editing isn’t an afterthought. It’s an essential part of the process. And yes, EVERYONE needs it. Even you.
- Most books will need editing a number of times. That’s life. Live with it.
- Identify your bad habits and the words or phrases you tend to overuse. Deal with them before someone else does.
- Finally: there’s a point at which all editing ceases to be useful. This is the point at which we all need to learn to let go. You can’t keep on it forever. It may not ever be perfect; just make it as good as it can be.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve spent most of my life in one school or another, but September always makes me feel energetic, full of verve and with a curious impulse to buy stationery of all kinds; which I guess is a good thing, because this autumn is set to be very, very busy. To celebrate, I’m sending out a signed copy of DIFFERENT CLASS to Komal, from Karachi, who won my book selfies competition: thank you for all your contributions, folks; I enjoyed every one.
I’m also sending out a copy of RUNEMARKS to Ben, of Milton Keynes; chosen at random from the list of subscribers to my newsletter. If you’d like a chance at a signed copy for next month, sign up now and I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you…
A POCKETFUL OF CROWS comes out next month, and I’ll be recording the audiobook next week in London (my first audiobook, so check it out on Amazon – you know how important pre-orders are to authors and publishers everywhere!) I’ll also be touring a lot – both alone and with the #Storytime band – so please check out my schedule to see if you can make it to any of my events.
Festivals! I’m taking bookings now, both for #Storytime and for readings.
If you’re interested, please get in touch: and if you’d like to book #Storytime, please do take a moment to read the BOOKING STORYTIME guidelines to make sure it’s right for your venue…
For my US readers: the US edition of DIFFERENT CLASS comes out in paperback this month, and if you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll get a chance to win a copy.
And finally, here’s an exclusive preview of what’s coming out next Spring: I think you’ll agree that my cover artist, Andreas Preis, has really outdone himself this time…
This month has been one of conventions: so thanks to everyone who came to my events at Edge-Lit and YALC: you were great, and your enthusiasm and energy were both delightful and boundless. At YALC, we saw the re-launch of RUNELIGHT, with a new chapter and some glorious new cover art by Andreas Preis: we also gave out early proofs of A POCKETFUL OF CROWS – if you missed out, don’t despair; sign up to my new newsletter and you’ll soon be getting a chance to win a finished copy!
This month I’ll be working hard on editing THE TESTAMENT OF LOKI and drafting my new Vianne Rocher book: I know some of you have been awaiting this one patiently, but if all goes well, it should come out sometime in 2019. I’m also going on holiday – so shoot me, I need some down-time, and so do all of you.
In the US, DIFFERENT CLASS is about to hit the shelves in paperback: US readers can find it here. Watch this space for offers and giveaways over the coming few weeks.
Meanwhile, why not enter my Holiday Snaps Competition?
Will you be taking one of my books on holiday? If so, send a selfie of you and your book in your chosen reading location to: firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll send one of you a prize. (Don’t forget to include your name and land address if you want to enter!)
Entries by September 1st: and I’ll announce the winner on here.
And as midsummer flashes by, here’s a quick update of what’s been happening here in the Shed (and out of it). A POCKETFUL OF CROWS has an illustrator – Bonnie Helen Hawkins, whose work I came across by chance when she wrote to me after hearing my TEDx talk of a couple of years ago. I realized at once that she and I had certain ideas in common; I loved her art, and she’s now working hard (and to a tight deadline) to illustrate my book, which suddenly seems much less far away than it did a few weeks ago. If you want to check out Bonnie’s work, her website is right here – http://www.bonniehelenhawkins.com/ and you can see examples of her black-and-white work, which I particularly love. With her help, the book should look great – and it’s coming out in October, just in time for Hallowe’en…
It’s been a month of illustrators. Last week I was in Skye, celebrating the birthday of Charles Vess, who’s going to be illustrating HONEYCOMB – we had a long talk about how I envisaged the book, but I’m really quite happy for Charles just to do his thing. It is a Good Thing (even though we who await it are getting quietly impatient to actually see the Thing.)
Meanwhile, the band and I have been working on new songs for #Storytime, including one to go with A POCKETFUL OF CROWS and the Twitter story from which it grew. Here we are at Lowdham, as part of the literary festival there – the venue was a beautiful little 12-century church, and although the space was a little challenging (I had to stand in the pulpit!), the welcome was great, the audience was enthusiastic, and it sounded terrific.
Most disappointingly, Buxton Litfest has cancelled our July event, due to the inability of the organizers to arrange sufficient time to get into the venue and set up. I’m hoping we can arrange something else for July, but if not, please watch this space for more gig dates in autumn…
Wow. It’s been a busy few weeks! Fans of my RUNE books – I’ve finally finished the first draft of the sequel to THE GOSPEL OF LOKI! It’s set between the end of LOKI and the beginning of RUNEMARKS, and should answer a lot of the questions you’ve been asking. It’s called THE TESTAMENT OF LOKI, and will be coming out next year.
Meanwhile, RUNELIGHT is being republished by Gollancz with a fabulous new cover by Andreas Preis, plus a new chapter from me, so look out for that, too….
And it’s been a busy few weeks for the #Storytime band, who have been playing venues with me in Liverpool and Southport, and trying out some new songs. Thank you to everyone who came! Here were are at the Atkinson in Southport as part of the festival – but don’t worry if you missed it, there will be more (just check out the Events page to find where and when)…
After the gig at the York Festival…
Hello from the Oxford Litfest, where I’ve been spending the whole week interviewing authors, attending lectures and working on the last bit (I hope!) of THE GOSPEL OF LOKI 2. The other day I interviewed Eleanor Barraclough, historian, adventurer and author of BEYOND THE NORTHLANDS (here we are, talking about Vikings, Victorian sex toys, what it’s like to be knighted with a walrus penis bone, and generally I suspect having more fun than Serious Authors are supposed to).
The band and I also got to play in Worcester College’s lovely new lecture theatre. In Leeds, people were showing us their #Storytime tattoos: in Oxford we were introduced by a lady in evening dress and pearls – and yet in both cases it’s great to see how much these stories mean to you, and how well you relate to them. We’ll be doing some more gigs in May – watch the Events board for details. Meanwhile, here’s Kevin, looking deceptively relaxed for what was a pretty hectic night…
Spring is in the air, and the band and I are continuing to write songs to go with the HONEYCOMB book, and building the live #Storytime show. These are the gigs we’ll be doing next month (click onto the link for details of where and how to book). We’ll be airing some new material, too, as well as some older favourites…
Remember the scent of your old school? That blend of chalk dust, and mown grass, and polish, and cabbage, and teenage sweat? Remember on your first day, checking out the teachers, the other pupils; the classrooms? Remember how it seemed as if you’d never get used to the size of it, or the amount of homework, or the maze of corridors? Perhaps you were bullied. Perhaps you were shy. Perhaps you didn’t quite fit in. If so, you’ll know just what I’m talking about. Even murderers have to start somewhere.
In a previous life, before Chocolat, I taught French at a boys’ independent grammar school. I was there for fifteen years, and during that time, I collected enough stories to write a hundred books. A school is a stage on which tragedy and farce are never more than a moment away: a place in which every day, young lives are shaped, secrets shared, dramas enacted. And sometimes there’s something darker – unformed as yet, but waiting to grow.
Different Class is the third of a series of novels set in the fictional Northern town of Malbry. It follows on directly from Gentlemen and Players, revisiting St Oswald’s Grammar School (and most of the characters therein) a year after a series of distressing events, which culminated in murder. In narrative terms, it also precedes Blueeyedboy, which is set in the area around the school, and it features some of the main characters. So technically, this is a trilogy (I’ve always rather liked trilogies) although each story stands alone, and the books can be read in any order.
St Oswald’s Grammar School for Boys has been through some rough times over the past year. The murder of a schoolboy; the loss of the Head and several key members of staff, coupled with a disastrous set of exam results, have brought the place to the brink of ruin. Only a Crisis Intervention – designed to salvage failing schools – can save it now, which is why Roy Straitley, the eccentric Latin Master and main protagonist of Gentlemen and Players, is (not quite reluctantly) delaying his retirement for one more year. But a trendy new Head, a Crisis Team, a paper-free environment and a prospective merger with Mulberry House, St Oswald’s all-female counterpart, is only the start of a wave of change that promises to engulf him.
And when the Head turns out to be an ex-pupil of Straitley’s, the boy at the heart of a scandal that ended with a St Oswald’s master in jail, can Straitley’s loyalty survive, or, as he discovers the truth, will he find himself faced with the task of destroying the school he loves?
The new edition of RUNEMARKS, re-edited and with a new introduction, with cover art by the same marvellous Andreas Preis who designed the jacket for THE GOSPEL OF LOKI…
Artwork by Andreas Preis: publisher: Gollancz.
Blog tour dates: (each blog will be running extracts from the book, and lots of other things, too…)
Click on the picture for Q & A, background and advance info on DIFFERENT CLASS.
Click here for advance reviews.
Click here for signings, readings and festivals.
Click here for Radio 3’s In Tune podcast, with interview and reading from the book.
Click here for the Radio 4 interview with Jim Naughtie.
Click here for an interview with Joanne (Swindon Litfest, 2016).
Click here for BBC TV Meet The Author with Jim Naughtie.
Click here for Barry Forshaw’s review for the Independent.
Photographs by Jonathan Jacob…