At the beginning of 2013 I resolved to write down one good thing about each day over the coming year. I’ve not quite kept it up for 365 days but it has helped me look on the bright side when things have been difficult and reading it back just now has been surprising, illuminating and uplifting. It’s lovely to remember the little things that cause delight (‘Jan 14th – First tulip shoots spotted.’ ‘Tues 26th March – New coat arrived – gert lush. Made warty potato soup.’ ‘Mon 8th April – plum crumble for tea!’ etc. etc.)
Here are some of my other highlights:
My first trip to the Hay Festival was a wonderful experience. I was lucky to be there on a school day and the atmosphere was great. So many enthusiastic students and lots of writers I hadn’t met before who were delightful company and have become friends.
THE DROWNING was published. It’s gathered some great blog reviews in the UK and Germany (where it is simply DROWNING) and has been nominated for the Catalyst Book Award. Excitingly, it was optioned for film by US company, Escape Artists, even before it was published and I can’t wait to see how this develops next year. I also learnt that, after 18 months of blood, sweat and tears, the lack of a book launch sits in the stomach like a sour stone, and so next year, whatever happens, I will have some sort of launch for the sequel, which is, I can exclusively reveal, going to be called ‘Water Born’ or possibly ‘Waterborn’. With or without an ‘e’. Or something. Due out in August (if I ever actually finish writing it).
My role as Patron of Reading has been a great boon. I don’t know if I’ve made any difference to the school, but I’ve so enjoyed being a small part of the Pontypridd High School community. I visited briefly in March and again in October. I’ve been so impressed by the commitment of the school staff, and the care they show for their pupils and pride in their achievements. The pupils I met were delightful and very interested and engaged in the work we did together. I hope that I’ve encouraged an interest in books, films, reading and storytelling in at least some of them and I hope to visit again soon.
Being Patron of Reading has made me examine my own reading habits. For the first time in ages I’ve kept a record of the books read this year. So far, I’ve read 30 books and have challenged myself to try things outside my normal comfort zone, including non-fiction, film scripts, science fiction and horror. Books I enjoyed this year included ‘Dark Matter’ by Michelle Paver, ‘A Monster Calls’ by Patrick Ness, ‘Code Name Verity’ by Elizabeth Wein, ‘The Crow Trap’ by Ann Cleeve, ‘Mister Creecher’ by Chris Priestley and ‘Stonemouth’ by Iain Banks.
I did lots of school visits and it was so lovely to meet staff and pupils. It’s bizarre, but wonderful, to be treated like a rock star for the day, which some schools do, and I’m very grateful for the warmth shown to me and the affection expressed for my books.
I saw Malorie Blackman at the Bath Kids Lit Festival in October and she gave me a hug and told me she and her daughter loved NUMBERS! Reader, I skipped all the way home. (I really did.)
I was a very small part of the Authors for Philippines auction in November, which raised £55000 for the relief effort following Typhoon Haiyan. Organised by Keris Stainton and others, this auction was a fabulous example of how people can respond quickly and with compassion to those in trouble. It was one of those things that restores your faith in human nature.
I hope that you have had some highlights of your own this year and that next year brings its own surprises and delights. Try writing the good things down.
Happy Christmas and Best Wishes for 2014.
Love from Rachel xxxx
I’m taking part in the Authors for Philippines online auction. You can bid for a complete set of my books, signed especially for you, plus an exclusive ‘The Drowning’ pen and bag. Bidding is only open until Wednesday 20th November. I’ve got lots of readers in the Philippines and greatly enjoyed a Skype conversation with book bloggers at the Manila Book Fair last year. Like everyone else I was appalled at the destruction caused by the typhoon. I’ve donated and I’m also bidding on the auction site. Do bid or donate if you feel you can.
When I heard about the Patron of Reading Scheme I thought what a good idea it was and it sounded like something I could probably do. I put my name forward and it took a few weeks for Jennifer Jacques Van-Baaren, English Teacher and Literacy Co-ordinator at Pontypridd High School, to get in touch and ask if I would be their Patron of Reading. I visited in February, and the deal was sealed.
As my first project, I’ve set the staff and students a Summer Postcard Challenge. All they have to do is tell me about the best book they read this summer, writing the title, author and a sentence about why they like it on a postcard or the back of a stuck down envelope. I’ll put all the entries into a hat and one lucky winner will receive signed copies of all my books (plus maybe some extra goodies).
The idea just popped into my head. It’s easy, fun and, rather sneakily, it’s a good way for me to find out what students are reading and enjoying (at least the ones that do read at the moment).
As I live a fair way from the school, I couldn’t launch the challenge in person so I recorded a little video (with a lot of help from my daughter) and posted it on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DgIg1D_sX4). The video is being shown to English classes during the last week of term, there will be an article and link on the school website, and Jennifer, the school and I have also tweeted about it.
Twitter is a marvellous thing and we’ve had retweets from Ash Morgan who featured on The Voice and from Welsh rugby players. Ash has promised to send in a postcard about his favourite summer read too! The more we can show that all sorts of cool people read, the better!
I’ve no idea how many postcards I’ll receive – the idea may or may not work – but I’ve already had a lot of fun with it and Jen assures me that the students are buzzing about it. Let’s hope the sunny weather lasts through the school holidays and September brings a hatful of good books.
P.S. I’m adding a gratuitous link to Ash singing an Amy Winehouse song, just because I can.
I only really blog when I’ve got something to say. Which turns out to be not very often. Not much of a surprise, as I’m a quiet sort of person. However, this week I’ve written five pieces to celebrate the publication of The Drowning. They will be hosted by five lovely book bloggers in what I believe the young folk are calling a ‘blog tour.’
I’m very grateful to my generous hosts (Queen of Contemporary, So Many Books So Little Time, Readaraptor, Fluttering Butterflies, The Mile Long Bookshelf) for letting me invade their blogs for a day. I enjoyed writing the pieces. My subjects include:
1. A piece about one of the central thread in The Drowning – domestic violence and the worrying prevalence of violence and abuse in teenage relationships. Read it on the Queen of Contemporary blog.
2. A sense of place on the So Many Books, So Little Time blog.
3. How I needed to grow up before I could write for and about teenagers on the Readaraptor blog.
4. Where my story ideas come from on the Fluttering Butterflies blog.
5. Making it up or planning – what I’ve learnt about the process of writing on The Mile Long Bookshelf blog.
I hope you enjoy the blogs. I’ve surprised myself how chatty I can be. Perhaps I’ll blog a bit more often …
I was tagged to be a part of this meme (ooh, get me, part of a ‘meme’) by the lovely Sophia Bennett, whose own version appeared last Wednesday. It’s an opportunity to talk about a work in progress, but I’m a bit embarrassed by the title. I’d love it if my next book was a Big Thing, but I’d settle for a Medium-Sized Thing or even a Small-to-Middling Thing. To be honest I’m just glad it’s a Thing at all.
What is the title of your next book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
A friend of my husband told him about an experience he had on holiday. He had been swimming in a lake with two friends when they were struck by lightning. They all survived but were very shaken up. It set me thinking about a different scenario involving three people and a lake. What if a traumatic incident in a lake ended in tragedy? Why might people be in a lake in the first place? Were there dark secrets to be discovered? What if somebody who drowned didn’t want to stay dead?
What genre does your book fall under?
I have trouble with this whole genre thing. The Drowning is a contemporary, gritty, supernatural thriller for young adults. Is this one genre or lots of different ones?
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
My characters are so young (15 and 16) that the actors would have to be unknowns. Hopefully the film of The Drowning would be their big break. Unless, of course, we could get a couple of those One Direction boys to try their hand at acting – then we’d get a massive audience.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Sorry, I’ve cheated. I can’t sum it up in one sentence, so here are four sentences from the official blurb:
“Carl wakes up next to his drowned brother. What happened in the water? And who is the girl he glimpses nearby? He can’t remember … but he knows he must find out.”
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It will be published by Chicken House in May 2013. I’ve never had an agent – so far I’ve always dealt directly with my publisher.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
It took approximately 8 months to write the first draft, although it was a bit of a stop-start process. I wrote about 20,000 words in the second half of 2011 when I was still working part time and the rest in the first 3 months of 2012 when I was on sabbatical and had the luxury of writing full time.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I can’t answer this one, I’m afraid. I haven’t read anything similar, and I’ve deliberately steered clear of reading other young adult books with supernatural or ghostly themes so that I wouldn’t be influenced by them too strongly.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I suppose the real answer is Barry Cunningham and Imogen Cooper of my publisher, Chicken House. I ran a few ideas past them when I had finished the Numbers trilogy and they both liked The Drowning best, as did I. I’ve worked very closely with Imogen on this book and she’s encouraged me to try working in a more structured way than usual(!), which I didn’t expect to suit me, but has been very fruitful.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Well, I’m hoping that the book makes scary reading. I certainly freaked myself out writing it. At one point near the end of the first draft, I was so disturbed by the scene I was writing that I felt physically sick and had to step away from the computer for 24 hours to calm down a bit.
My 5 (actually 4) writers for next Wednesday are:
They’re all smashing writers and I can’t wait to hear what’s next from them…
May 2012 is an exciting month for me. The third book in my NUMBERS trilogy, ‘Infinity’ comes out in the Germany (‘Numbers – Den Tod Im Griff), France (‘Intuitions, Tome 3: Infini’ and the US ‘Numbers – Infinity’). I’m relieved and a little bit proud that the whole series is out now, and I really hope that those who have enjoyed the first two books will like this one, too. It’s nearly a year since it came out in the UK and so it’s a good time for me to look back and share a few thoughts about ‘Infinity.’
My husband was extremely ill while I was writing the book, and I was under a lot of pressure to deliver the book and keep the series’ momentum going, and so my view of it is inevitably clouded by rather distressing memories. Even now, although my husband is much better and I know that I met my deadline in the end, I can’t think about ‘Infinity’ without anxiety tugging at my stomach. Yup, there it is now as I’m sitting writing this blog. But it’s okay to acknowledge a bad time in your life and it’s great to be able to say that you got through it and out the other side. Life doesn’t stop when you become a writer – stuff keeps happening and you have to deal with it, just like everyone else.
Although I didn’t pick it, I love the UK title, ‘Infinity’. The main hook of this book is the possibility of swapping or stealing death dates so that you could keep extending your life, maybe forever. The plot concerns Sarah’s daughter, Mia, who seems to have this gift and it explores what it would mean to live with this and what the implications are for the human spirit.
It was a difficult book to write for all sorts of reasons. For a start, there are a variety of gifts (and curses) in the book – seeing death dates, dreaming about the future, seeing auras, and healing. It was challenging keeping track of who had which ‘power’ and who knew what when. The book also offers a glimpse into a possible near future and it was tricky finding a plausible, yet dramatic, context for my characters to operate in. Towards the end of the book, things get extremely dark and frightening. On the advice of my publisher, I toned it down a little bit (only a little), but it’s still pretty disturbing. I have to tell you that this is the only book which has given me nightmares, the kind which are so scary you have to wake yourself up.
I was very mindful that this is the last in the series and so I needed to find an ending which wrapped things up in a satisfactory way, while staying true to the spirit of the other books. I’ve had quite a few emails from fans asking for a fourth book in the series, but I think that this is it. I hope that I’ve done something different with all three books and that they are all strong in their own right. I don’t want to fall into the trap of diluting the series and, frankly, after five years of thinking and writing about seeing death dates, it’s nice to think about and write about something else for a change.
In the end, I hope that the real message of this book for the reader, like the other two in the series, is about love. The love between partners and the love of a parent for their child (birth child, adopted or whatever). The book is dedicated to my parents, grandparents and all those who went before, and to my children and those that may come afterwards. And, of course, to my husband. None of us are going to live forever, but I’m glad he’s here for a while longer … xxx
This time last year I was trying to feel optimistic, and failing. It had been a horrible year and we weren’t out of the woods yet. 2011 has been different. I started off struggling under what seemed like the huge weight of trying to get ‘Numbers: Infinity’ right and also worrying about my husband’s health. Well, ‘Infinity’ was published in July and my dear Ozzy is noticeably better and back at work.
‘Numbers’ and its sequel, ‘Chaos’ and ‘threequel’, ‘Infinity’, are still finding their way in the world and bringing me a constant stream of wonderful surprises at home and abroad. I’ve had two trips to Germany, and one each to Holland, Sweden and France to publicise the books. Everywhere I’ve been, my hosts have shown me so much kindness and the reaction of readers has been amazing! Sometimes I have to pinch myself that this is really happening.
Work is progressing on the ‘Numbers’ film, too. I’ve seen a draft of the script and so I’m starting to believe that the film will really happen…
Now, I’m looking ahead to 2012, and this time I really am looking ahead with optimism. I’m taking a year off from my day job, so that I can concentrate on writing Book 4, which isn’t another ‘Numbers’ book, but something different, challenging and frightening…but very enjoyable to write. I said ‘au revoir’ to my work colleagues yesterday and I will truly miss them, but I’m also looking forward to what 2012 will bring. I wonder what I’ll be able to tell you this time next year…
My year may have been better than last year, but I know that some of my readers will have had to deal with bad news and difficult situations this year and may be facing tough times ahead. I hope that you find the courage to deal with whatever life has in store and I’m sending you my very warmest thoughts and best wishes for Christmas 2011.
With love from,
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