Follow the Yellow

Archive of ‘Mystery and Mayhem’ category

Looking back on 2016

IMG_80472016 has been such busy year! Whilst it’s been a strange (and depressing) one in many ways, for me personally, it’s been a very positive time. I’ll always remember it as the year that my second book The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth was published – and that the pile of my books (see above) grew from one to four!

It’s been a great year for collaboration. I’ve been lucky enough to be included in two amazing short story anthologies, alongside lots of other authors whose writing I hugely admire. I love feeling part of a community of children’s writers, so it was such a treat to be part of Mystery & Mayhem and Winter Magic.

I’m relatively new to short stories and I do find them challenging – but I really enjoyed writing Lil’s solo story ‘The Mystery of the Purloined Pearls’ for Mystery & Mayhem. I also loved writing ‘Casse-Noisette’ for Winter Magic, which is set in 1890s St Petersburg and focuses on the first ever production of The Nutcracker ballet. This is the first story I’ve had published that’s set outside the world of the Sinclair’s Mysteries, and it’s been great to hear so many enthusiastic responses from readers.

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Celebrating Winter Magic with Abi Elphinstone and Piers Torday

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Launching Mystery & Mayhem with Harriet Whitehorn, Helen Moss and Robin Stevens

2016 was also the year that both Clockwork Sparrow and Jewelled Moth were published in the USA by publishers Kane Miller, which is so exciting! What’s more, this year Clockwork Sparrow was published as an audiobook, read by the wonderful Jessica Preddy! I love audiobooks and I’m thrilled that Clockwork Sparrow exists in audio form – look out for the Jewelled Moth audiobook coming out in January 2017.

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I’ve been very busy with lots more writing this year, including working on Books 3 and 4 of the Sinclair’s Mysteries series – book 3, The Painted Dragon is coming out on 9th February.

The cover has had a little tweak since the first reveal, but it looks as shiny and beautiful as ever in all its green glory. I love Karl James Mountford’s stunning artwork, and I think it might be my favourite cover yet. You can preorder the new book here.

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I’ve also been working on a couple of exciting new writing projects – more news on those coming very soon!

2016 has also been a very busy year for events. I’ve done over 40 author events this year, including the Hay Festival, the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Bath Children’s Literature Festival, the Cheltenham Literature Festival to the Children’s Books Ireland conference. Amongst other things, I’ve visited schools and festivals all around the country, led some fun creative writing workshops as part of The Mousetrap’s ‘Mystery Solved’ project, and taken part in two great panel events at Waterstones Piccadilly.

One particularly special moment of 2016 was attending the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize ceremony at Piccadilly when Clockwork Sparrow was on the Younger Fiction shortlist. I’ve been lucky enough to attend the prize for a number of years as a guest, so being there as a shortlisted author alongside so many amazing children’s writers and illustrators was really special. Clockwork Sparrow didn’t win (that honour went to the lovely David Solomons for his My Brother is a Superhero, who also scooped the overall prize) but celebrating with so many friends and colleagues is something I’ll always remember.

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Shortlisted authors and illustrators assemble at the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, with Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell

As well as my own author events, 2016 was the third year of YALC, which was a tremendous success. There’s always more to learn and improve – but overall I’m so proud of everything we’ve achieved with YALC. Here’s the wonderful YALC Working Group who do such an amazing job in helping me make the event happen – my very own Scooby Gang! (This year they even bought me my very own gold umbrella as a present – fans of Buffy will appreciate the significance)

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Lovely YALC working group pals

As well as a fantastic YALC, 2016 was also the year that we launched the YA Salon! I’ve teamed up with the brilliant Anna James and Rosi Crawley to launch this fun evening event for adults who love YA books. We kicked things off with our first salon with legendary Baby-Sitter’s Club author Ann M Martin, who was joined by Laura Dockrill and Holly Bourne, for a special event for London Book & Screen Week. We’ve since organised a Christmas themed YA Salon to celebrate Stripes’ new anthology I’ll Be Home for Christmas with a host of fabulous YA authors taking part.

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Highlights of the first ever YA Salon

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Our lovely authors at the Christmas YA Salon

Children’s books radio show Down the Rabbit Hole has gone from strength to strength this year. Louise, Melissa and I have launched our new website with gorgeous artwork from Rebecca Cobb, introduced a brand new e-newsletter and made the show available as a podcast via iTunes. Of course we’ve also broadcast twelve shows featuring amazing guests including the likes of Clare Balding. Check out our Christmas special here.

We’re already busy planning more exciting things for DTRH in 2017 so make sure you’re subscribed to our podcast and following us on Twitter so you don’t miss anything! (If you want to give us a great Christmas present you can rate or review the show on iTunes here!)

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New DTRH website with gorgeous Rebecca Cobb illustrations

I also launched my Youtube channel this year. I still have lots to learn about how to make videos, but it’s been really fun trying it out and having a go! If you want to see how I get on, do subscribe to my channel, and check out some videos – some of my favourites include a top 5 new middle grade books, an interview with fellow Mystery Girl Robin Stevens about her new book Mistletoe and Murder, and a fun festive Q&A with the lovely Abi Elphinstone.

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Robin and I filming our Mistletoe and Murder video

I’ve been lucky to be involved in lots more fantastic book-related projects this year, including being a judge for both the Bookseller YA Prize, and Stripes’ competition to find a new writer for the I’ll be Home for Christmas anthology, which was a real privilege.

It’s also been lovely to help celebrate the launch of many great new children’s books this year – and even to blurb a few of them! In particular, I’ve loved seeing the spectacular success of MG Leonard’s brilliant debut Beetle Boy, and more recently Peter Bunzl’s amazing debut Cogheart – it’s been pretty cool seeing my name on posters in railway stations around the country!

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Amazing Cogheart posters!

On a personal note, 2016 has also been a lovely year for me, with highlights including a visit to Sweden, a relaxing post-YALC summer break in Rye, and a September trip to Paris. Follow me on Instagram if you’d like to see lots more pictures of what I get up to.

Heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported me this year! I’m so appreciative of all those who have read, reviewed, bought or shared my books, come along to an event, or followed along here. I’m so grateful and feel incredibly lucky that I get to do this. Now bring on 2017!

 

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Behind the Scenes: The Edwardian Theatre

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For my short story for the Mystery & Mayhem anthology, I wanted to try something a little different. Unlike the other Sinclair’s Mysteries,  ‘The Mystery of the Purloined Pearls’ is written in the first person – from the point of view of aspiring actress Lil.

The action of the story takes place in between Clockwork Sparrow and Jewelled Moth. As well as being a fun opportunity to see Lil doing some solo detective work,  this story also allowed me to explore another area of Edwardian London – the Edwardian theatre!

We see something of the theatre in Clockwork Sparrow when Sophie goes to see Lil performing in the chorus line of a new show called The Shop Girl (fun fact: there really was a popular Edwardian musical comedy with this title – in real life it was originally performed in 1894!) However ‘The Mystery of the Purloined Pearls’ shows us more of the theatre world – and takes readers behind the scenes with Lil and the other performers.

Theatre was incredibly popular in Edwardian London. Before cinema or television, it was one of the most important form of entertainment; and whether they preferred the lively music halls of the East End, or the grand theatres of the West, the people of London flocked to see all the latest productions. Many theatres took advantage of exciting new techologies, such as electric light, to create impressive spectacles for their productions.

One of the most important of the West End’s theatres at this time was The Gaiety on Aldwych. Run by George Edwardes, known as ‘The Guv’nor’, it became famous for its frothy musical comedy productions – and in particular its dancing, singing chorus line of ‘Gaiety Girls’. Shows like A Gaiety Girl, and Our Miss Gibbs were hugely popular and were soon copied by many other theatres, both in London and beyond.

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Gabrielle Ray on the cover of a 1909 edition of the Illustrated London News

Theatre stars like Gabrielle Ray (above), Gertie Millar, and Phyllis Dare, were the celebrities of their day – much like (the fictional) Miss Kitty Shaw, whose pearls dramatically go missing in ‘The Mystery of the Purloined Pearls’.

Theatre also had a huge influence on Edwardian fashion and style – The Merry Widow, which opened at Daly’s Theatre in 1907, not only helped make a big star of actress Lily Elsie, but also inspired a widespread fashion for wide-brimmed and plumed ‘Merry Widow’ hats which were an essential accessory for any fashionable lady over the next few years.

Lily Elsie’s costumes for the production were designed by leading London fashion designer Lucile who went on to design her personal clothes as well as costumes for several of her other shows. Lucile wrote: ‘That season was a very brilliant one… And just when it was at its zenith, a new play was launched with a new actress who set the whole town raving over her beauty.’ Lily Elsie soon became one of the most-photographed women of the Edwardian era.

There are lots of pictures of Edwardian theatre stars on my Edwardiana Pinterest board – as well as theatre programmes, tickets and photographs of what the theatres looked like. I found it fascinating to explore all this visual material about the glamorous world of the Edwardian theatre – but I particularly love these pictures of Lily Elsie, because she looks rather like how I imagine Lil!

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If you like reading about the Edwardian theatre in this story, you might also enjoy reading Lyn Gardner’s Rose Campion mysteries, which are set a little earlier than the Sinclair’s Mysteries, and take place in the exciting world of the Victorian music hall!

The pictures in this post all come via my trusty Edwardiana Pinterest board (click the image for the source) where you can also find lots more pictures of the Edwardian era.

Check out my other ‘Behind the Scenes’ posts exploring the historical background of the Sinclair’s Mysteries

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Mystery & Mayhem on tour

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To celebrate the publication of Mystery & Mayhem this month, I headed out on tour! With my author essentials all packed up, it was time to hit the road…

The tour began with the Tales on Moon Lane Festival. Robin Stevens and I hosted two fun mystery-themed sessions with groups from local schools at the gorgeous Dulwich Picture Gallery.

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En route to the Dulwich Picture Gallery!

In between events, we had time for a bunbreak in the sun, and a wander around the beautiful gallery. Their collection includes paintings by the likes of Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Canaletto and Poussin – perfect inspiration for me, since I’m currently working on The Mystery of the Painted Dragon, which centres around an art world mystery!

Our day finished up with an after-school event, where lots of lovely readers came along to meet us and hear us chat about why we love mystery stories, and the inspiration behind our contributions to Mystery & Mayhem.

Many thanks to Tales on Moon Lane for a really lovely day of events!

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Lots of lovely books for sale from Tales on Moon Lane

The next day, I headed to Sevenoaks for an afternoon event at the Sevenoaks Bookshop.

Brilliant bookshop owner Fleur had planned an extravaganza of an afternoon, including Jewelled Moth-inspired cakes and biscuits, complete with jelly moonbeam diamonds, and Clockwork Sparrow and Jewelled Moth badges to create!

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The highlight was a secret code competition which gave everyone the chance to put their own detective skills to the test, with the winner receiving a fabulous prize –  their very own jewelled moth! Congratulations to prize-winner Amelie!

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I loved meeting lots of readers, and having the chance to chat to them – including blogger Miss T Recommends who wrote this lovely post about the event.

Thank you so much for having me Sevenoaks Bookshop, and for organising a super fun afternoon!

On Sunday, it was time to head to Leeds, for the Leeds Book Awards ceremony on Monday. I was so pleased that The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow was in the running for the 9-11 category of these awards, which are voted for by children – you can see all their brilliant reviews of the shortlisted books here.

The event was huge fun –  there were 500 children attending as well as the shortlisted authors. There were questions from the schools who took part, a spot of live poetry, and author Gill Lewis even taught us all how to communicate with gorillas, inspired by her shortlisted book, the wonderful Gorilla Dawn.

Finally Gill was announced as the winner (congratulations Gill!) and we spent time signing lots of books and meeting lots of the school groups that took part. Such a fun day and a great awards scheme – thanks so much to Leeds SLS and Leeds Public Libraries!

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All the shortlisted authors were presented with their own special Leeds Book Awards crystal!

Next stop on my mystery tour was Liverpool!

On Tuesday, I visited Edge Hill University with Just Imagine, to meet trainee primary teachers, and talk to them about books, reading and writing. It’s always great meeting students, and as a bonus I also got to hear Just Imagine’s brilliant Nikki Gamble talking about the power of picture books. There was time to sign a few books for some of the students and staff before I was on the road again.

On Wednesday, I was in Oxford, where I joined up with Robin and our fellow Crime Club member Julia Golding for an event as part of Oxford Bookfeast.

Our session took place at the amazing Pitt Rivers museum, which is one of my favourite places in Oxford. We had a great fun event (including a detective quiz!) and a highlight for me was the chance to say hi to author M G Leonard, author of the amazing Beetle Boy, in the Green Room.

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Selfie time in the Green Room!

Back in London, I headed to the Greenwich Book Festival. I zipped up the river on the Thames Clipper for a solo session as part of the festival’s schools programme, in the beautiful Old Royal Naval College.

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Me and Mystery & Mayhem on the Thames Clipper

I had such a lot of fun meeting local school groups, talking everything from Enid Blyton books to Edwardian hats.


If that wasn’t enough, on the same day, Mystery & Mayhem was reviewed in The Sun who gave it four stars! Check out the review here, as well as a review of Robin’s new book, the fab Jolly Foul Play.

The final stop – Hay Festival! I was there for a mystery-themed event, this time teaming up with Frances Hardinge, Lyn Gardner and Emma Carroll.

I had a great time chatting all things mystery with Frances, Lyn and Emma. On the same day, I was also really pleased to be able to go along to the YA Book Prize announcement at Hay – I was lucky enough to be one of the judges for the prize this year, which was a huge privilege. It was fantastic to hear from all ten amazing shortlisted authors at the event, and to see the Prize awarded to this year’s winner Sarah Crossan.

It was pretty amazing to remember that just a year ago I was at Hay for my first ever author event (which you can read about here). That was also the first time I saw The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow on a real bookshop shelf – so it felt extra special to be back at the Hay Festival bookshop, and this time to see not just one book, but three!

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What could be a better finale to a brilliant tour to celebrate Mystery & Mayhem? Thanks to Hay Festival and everyone I visited!

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A mysterious launch for Mystery and Mayhem!

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Yesterday, Daunt Books in Cheapside hosted the launch of the brand new Crime Club anthology Mystery and Mayhem!

The book features twelve authors, and twelve original short stories for ages 8+. Inside, you’ll find everything from a fantastic historical mystery from Helen Moss, to a contemporary crime story from Robin Stevens – as well as a brand new story from me. Set in the world of The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, and taking place between the end of the first book and its sequel, The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth, ‘The Mystery of the Purloined Pearls’ is told from the point of view of chorus-girl turned detective Lil and takes us behind the scenes in the Edwardian theatre.

I also wrote the introduction to the new book, which is all about why crime stories make such brilliant reading. I’m so excited to be part of the Crime Club with so many brilliant authors, and it was a real privilege to write the introduction to the book.

We managed to gather one third of the Crime Club together, as well as lots of friends, for a launch party to celebrate the new book. Here I am with three of the other authors –  Harriet Whitehorn, Helen Moss and Robin Stevens:

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Robin and Egmont publicist extraordinaire Maggie Eckel were beautifully coordinated with the book cover:

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Lovely window display!

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Some detective work in action:

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Robin and Helen with crime fan Yu

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And of course, no launch is complete without a spread of cakes, biscuits and buns! The pineapple decorations come courtesy of Helen (you’ll have to read her Mystery & Mayhem story to find out why pineapples are significant!)

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What a fab evening! Thanks so much to Daunt Books and to everyone who came for helping to welcome Mystery and Mayhem into the world. Find out more about the new book here.

Announcing Mystery & Mayhem!

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It’s been so difficult to keep this one a secret – but the news is finally out! Next year my publishers Egmont are releasing Mystery & Mayhem a brand new anthology of mystery stories by twelve children’s authors, including… me!

The other authors featured (our very own Crime Club) include Robin Stevens, who as well as being a fantastic mystery author is also an assistant editor at Egmont, Helen Moss, Elen Caldecott, Frances Hardinge, Clementine Beauvais, Susie Day, Julia Golding, Caroline Lawrence, Helen Moss, Sally Nicholls and Harriet Whitehorn.

The stories are all absolutely fantastic – and I feel very lucky that I’ve already had the chance to read them, to help me write the introduction to the anthology! Here’s a few tantalising hints from some of the authors about what you can expect to find:

 

As for my own story, it’s a solo adventure for Lil – the Edwardian chorus-girl turned detective who appears in The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow. Lil has already attracted herself a lot of fans, and I had so much fun writing a story from her point of view.

The anthology will be published in May 2016 – stay tuned for more news from the Crime Club!

Read the announcement on the Bookseller website.

Preorder Mystery & Mayhem from Waterstones or Amazon