Thursday, 30 August 2012

15 Days Without a Head included in the Top 100 Best-Ever UKYA Novels!

I was surprised and delighted to see 15 Days Without a Head included in the Top 100 Best-Ever UKYA Novels. There are some superb books on the list – many would have a place on my all time best books chart – to be listed alongside them is honour indeed.

The folk at UKYA are now hoping to compile a Top Ten and are asking readers to vote. Check out the list and select your favourites here. But be warned, you may find your books-to-read wish list growing as a result!

Friday, 24 August 2012

3 Days at the Edinburgh International Book Festival – Photo Diary

An early start on Day 1 …

Dawn Departure … mostly sleep walking

By the time I got to London I was awake enough to appreciate the splendour of the architecture.

Now that's what I call a ceiling!
Kings Cross Departures Hall 6:30am

Four hours later …

I can see the sea … the coastline near Berwick

Welcome to Edinburgh

The sight that greeted me as I stepped out of the station.

Red Carpet Treatment at the Roxburghe Hotel

The book festival site from my bedroom window. By day …

and at night.
On the way in to prepare for my event
Playwright and all round nice fella Alan Gordon
from Strange Town Theatre Company introduces Sara Grant and I
Sara talks about The Edge
while I model the back view of our T-shirts
Appealing to the audience …
Under attack from a peach frock
Gloria joins us onstage for some author improvisation
Post-event book signing. Note the scar (thanks Dom)
A photo with fellow SCBWI author Teri Terry 
(Thanks to Stephanie McGregor for the photo)

Day 2: I had a free day on Wednesday, so took the opportunity to have a look around the festival and catch a few of the events. It was great hearing some of my favourite authors talking about their books and being able to chat with a few of them afterwards. I also got the chance to meet up with Keith Gray, one of my all time literary heroes!

Walking around the site you couldn't help but notice the series of festival speaker portraits taken by Chris Close.  There were some great images, but this familiar hirsute gentleman was probably my favourite …

Philip Ardagh and his famous beard

Day 3: On Thursday I headed east to Haddington for a writing workshop with students from Knox Academy. The event was a joint venture between the Edinburgh Book Festival Schools Outreach Programme and The Lennoxlove Book Festival. I must thank Rebecca from Lennoxlove for driving me back to Edinburgh and for taking the photos and selling books at the event. To find out more about the Lennoxlove Book Festival in Haddington (2nd-4th November), visit

I had a great time at the school and the hour seemed to pass far too quickly. The students came up with some superb ideas and great pieces of writing. Thanks to Bill Plain and Dave Swinney for making me so welcome, and to Millie, Charlotte, Rebecca, Ruaridh, Katie, Calum, Owen, Bethan, Lucy, Hannah, Angus, Kalya, Rona, Daniel, Calum, Eilidh and Rachel for being such a pleasure to write with.

Explaining the Story Sprint Relay rules

Discussing strange breakfasts with Millie and Charlotte

I had a great three days in Edinburgh and would like to take the opportunity to thank all the book festival staff, with special thanks to Janet Smyth for inviting me to take part. Thanks also to Jennie Younger at Oxford University Press for taking the event photos and for fantastic tour support as always.

For more information on Alan Gordon's Strange Town Theatre Company visit

Monday, 20 August 2012

Getting ready for some author improvisation at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Tomorrow morning I will stumble bleary-eyed onto the milk train and head north for the start of three days at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

My Tuesday evening event with fellow Edge author Sara Grant kicks off at the RBS Imagination Lab at 6:30

A double act to rival Morecambe & Wise?
French & Saunders? Wallace & Gromit?

As well as talking about our books – 15 Days Without a Head and Dark Parties – we'll be attempting a bit of live story generation with help from the audience and … well, you'll find out if you're there. (Those who can't make it will have to wait for the video.) We're calling this Author Improvisation, or – How to set yourself up to fail majestically in front of a room full of people … I'll let you know how it goes.

Then on Thursday morning, I'm looking forward to a trip to Haddington to do some writing with students from Knox Academy, as part of the festival schools outreach programme.

Should be a fun few days – hope to see some of you there.

Don't forget, both 15 Days Without a Head and Dark Parties have been nominated for the Anobii First Book Award at this year's festival. See what else is on the list and cast your vote here. Thanks.

Tickets for the Tuesday evening event can be purchased here.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

15 Days Without a Head included in the St Helens Book Awards BASH 2013 Longlist

I was delighted to discover that 15 Days Without a Head is one of the books chosen by the young people of St Helens for the longlist of BASH 2013 (Book Awards St Helens).

Patrick Ness was last year's winner with  A Monster Calls and the 2013 longlist contains a stack of impressive titles and authors, including Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, which has to be one of my favourite books of the year – I'm honoured to find myself in such esteemed company!

Between now and the award ceremony in March, workshops will take place during the Autumn to decide the shortlist and then continue in the Spring term to pick a winner.

Here's the longlist in full: 
The Traitors by Tom Becker (Scholastic)
Kill All Enemies by Melvin Burgess (Puffin)
15 Days Without a Head by Dave Cousins (Oxford)
Hollow Pike by James Dawson (Indigo/Orion)
Sektion 20 by Paul … (Bloomsbury)
The Things We Did For Love by Natasha Farrant (Faber)
Poison Heart by SB Hayes (Quercus)
Daylight Saving by Edward Hogan (Walker)
Bullet Boys by Ally Kennen (Marion Lloyd Books)
In Darkness by Nick Lake (Bloomsbury)
Burn Mark by Laura Powell (Bloomsbury)
Mister Creecher by Chris Priestly (Bloomsbury)
Black Heart Blue by Louisa Reid (Puffin)
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick (Indigo/Orion)
The Flask by Nicky Singer (Harper Collins)
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Electric Monkey/Egmont)

It looks like my 'books to read pile' is about to get longer …

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

One Year! Wahey! or My Accidental Oscar Acceptance Speech

Today I'm celebrating one year as a full-time author! 

The last twelve months have passed in a flash. My debut novel for teenagers, 15 Days Without a Head was published in January and selected as The Sunday Times Children's Book of the Week! Not a bad way to start things off! I then embarked on my first school visits – a steep learning curve, but a great experience. I've since lost count of the number of schools and library events I've taken part in – both on my own and with my fellow authors at The Edge –but meeting readers is one of the best parts of my new job.

One of the highlights of my year has to be appearing at the Hay Festival in June – a day full of "pinch-me, I must be dreaming" moments. A few weeks after returning from Hay I delivered the final manuscript for my next book for Oxford University Press, it's called Waiting for Gonzo and it comes out in March. I'm now writing a first draft of a new story and getting ready for an event at this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival with my fellow Edge author Sara Grant

All told, it's been an incredible year – hard work but I've learnt a lot and each morning when I climb the ladder to the attic where I write, I still can't quite believe that this is my job now!

My intention when I sat down was to simply post a picture of the cake, but as usual, I've rambled on and this is in danger of sounding like some kind of Oscar acceptance speech! But while I'm here, I'd just like to take the opportunity to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me in these past twelve months – my agent, Sarah Manson, everyone at my publisher Oxford University Press, all the readers, book sellers, teachers, librarians, bloggers, journalists, fellow writers, and most of all, my friends and family. So … thank you! Now, all back to mine for some cake …