Look at these beauties! Bound proof copies of The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow have landed from my publisher Egmont, and I couldn’t be more pleased with them. Suddenly the book is no longer just a story in my head – it’s a real book with my name on the cover, that is making its way out into the world and into the hands of real readers.
I was pretty excited when the bound proof first arrived in the post:
The beautiful cover art is the work of a very talented illustrator called Júlia Sardà, who I think has captured the feel of the book perfectly – I can’t wait to be able to share the finished cover of the book, which is even more amazing. You can check out more of Júlia’s work here – I especially love her illustrations of classic children’s books like Alice in Wonderland. She’s also done some gorgeous interior illustrations for the book, which you can see a little preview of in the proof copy!
As if all this wasn’t enough, Egmont have also produced Clockwork Sparrow biscuits – the perfect accompaniment! Check out the special goodies they sent out to promote the book:
I tasted one of the biscuits myself and I can hereby report that they were excellent!
The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow is published on 4 June, and it’s now possible to pre-order from online retailers including Waterstones. You can also find it on Goodreads.
2014 has been quite a year for me – but I’m very aware that one thing I haven’t done very much of is writing here. I decided to take inspiration from one of my favourite bloggers, Sarah McIntyre (aka Jabberworks) for this post, to sum up 2014 with a few pictures. For 2015, I’m making a resolution to get back to writing here on a more regular basis. There should be plenty to write about – it’s going to be an exciting year!
But for now, what happened in 2014? It’s going to be a big one, so take a deep breath…
We kicked the year off on the Isle of Wight, celebrating New Year with friends in the countryside. January is also my birthday month, so Duncan and I went away for a weekend to one of our favourite places, Rye in East Sussex. We spent a couple of days enjoying wild and windy seaside walks, cosy pub dinners and afternoons reading books by a roaring fire.
February got off to a pretty exciting start, when we welcomed a gorgeous new nephew, Little Frank!
The first Down the Rabbit Hole also happened in February, after I’d cooked up the idea of a children’s book radio show in response to all the discussions about the lack of children’s book coverage in the media, and pitched it to London’s art radio station, Resonance FM. We had three amazing guests for the first show: Tanya Byrne, Laura Dockrill and Alex T Smith. Also taking part were the wonderful Melissa Cox and Louise Lamont – and hey presto, a Down the Rabbit Hole dream team was born!
It was pretty amazing to see all the fantastic responses to the show online, and I guess Resonance FM were looking on too, because they soon invited us back to turn Down the Rabbit Hole into a regular series.
Tanya, Alex and Laura in the Resonance studio for the first EVER Down the Rabbit Hole
Meanwhile, there was also exciting news for me on the writing front. After interest from several children’s publishers, I was lucky enough to secure a two-book deal with Egmont UK. The announcement that they had acquired The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow coincided with London Book Fair in April of this year, and even dropping my phone down a toilet in a fit of excitement (or well, OK, actually because I was in a rush and late for work, but book deal excitement is a better story) didn’t ruin the moment.
Signing the contract!
A few weeks later, Louise and I were at The Wolseley on Piccadilly with the lovely Ali and Hannah from Egmont to sign the book contract and celebrate with cakes, tea and a glass of champagne or two. What better place to raise a glass to The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow?
May saw the launch of Down the Rabbit Hole as a regular monthly series on Resonance FM. We’ve had a completely amazing year and a host of incredible guests: I won’t run through them all now, but you can catch up on our episodes here.
Melissa with our studio guests for June’s Picture Book special – Ed Vere and Nadia Shireen
What can I say about the summer? It was a super busy few months with lots of highlights, from chairing children’s book superstars Michael Rosen and Malorie Blackman at the Foyles Festival to the amazing (and slightly mad) party we threw in July to announce the winners of the first ever Booktrust Best Book Awards.
The graffiti wall at our Best Book Awards party
We had a little too much fun with the photo booth
Then of course, in July YALC happened, and it was one of the most incredible weekends EVER. Need I say more?
Hooray for YALC and all the amazing authors who took part!
I was pretty exhausted after the madness of YALC, so we went away for a few days in the countryside. We stayed in a little shepherd’s hut in deepest Kent, and spent our time sitting by the campfire, cycling down country lanes, reading in deckchairs, discovering country pubs and reading old children’s books. The weather was perfect and I half expected to see Pop Larkin driving his Rolls Royce down one of the Kentish country lanes at any moment.
A few handy books for a bit of campfire reading
August means Edinburgh Festival time! In spite of the unseasonal weather, we had a lovely few days mooching around one of my favourite cities, with ice-creams from Mary’s Milk Bar, coffee at Peters Yard, and of course lots of time at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in Charlotte Square, where I was pleased to find that my shoes perfectly matched the carpet in the Authors Yurt.
In September, I got married! Duncan and I had a gorgeous London wedding surrounded by friends and family.
We headed to Budapest for a few days for a ‘mini-moon’ which involved lots of walking, eating, drinking, reading and sleeping.
Once we got back home, wedding and holiday swiftly became a distant memory. Far from a relaxing start to married life, the rest of the autumn was packed with things to do and see. I loved visiting the House of Illustration to hear Johnny Duddle talk about illustrating the new Harry Potter covers, and going to the opening of the fantastic new Oliver Jeffers exhibition at the Discover Centre with the Booktrust girls.
Getting into the spirit of things at the Discover Centre… ice-cream cone, wine and cheesy grin.
In October, Seven Stories announced their Diverse Voices list at the Guardian’s offices: a list of 50 of the best children’s books celebrating cultural diversity in the UK. I was lucky enough to be on the selection panel for this list, alongside Julia Eccleshare, Sarah Smith, Debbie Beeks and Jake Hope, which was a really fascinating experience, and left me with a lot to think about.
Just a few of the fantastic authors and illustrators featured in the 50 Diverse Books list at the Guardian launch
In the same month, Claire and I went to visit the Story Museum in Oxford, and had a lot of fun dressing up and exploring their 26 Characters exhibition. My highlight was definitely Holly Smale as the Snow Queen in the Narnia room: open what looks like a wardrobe door, and push through the fur coats to emerge in a glittering winter scene. While we were there we were lucky enough to hear the amazing Frank Cottrell Boyce give a hugely inspiring David Fickling lecture.
Also in October, it was back to Earls Court for the Winter London Film and Comic Con, for a mini YALC ‘spin-off’. Our pop-up YALC included a Waterstones bookshop and two YALC panels. I had a lot of fun chairing the first event, ‘Hey YA!’, which brought back two YALC stalwarts, James Dawson (cosplaying as Katniss especially for the occasion, naturally) and Non Pratt, alongside US author James Frey, who was touring the UK for the publication of his first young adult book, Endgame. The second event focused on female characters in YA fantasy fiction, and was ably chaired by Liz de Jager, with fantastic panellists Samantha Shannon, Zoe Marriott and Laure Eve.
The YALC lanyard came out again!
November took me off to Birmingham to visit the new Library of Birmingham for the Blue Peter Book Awards judging meeting. Hannah and I had a great day with Blue Peter judges Anna James, Liz Pichon, Michael de Souza, Ewan Vinnicombe and the Blue Peter team.
And of course in December, I had the chance to talk alongside author Matt Haig about the popularity of YA fiction – not a bad way to finish off a very busy year!
There are so many other things I could mention here – BOOKS, exhibitions, theatre, lovely book launches and events (Judy Blume! Rainbow Rowell! So many more!), friends, weddings, new babies, food and fun, but I won’t go on any longer.
Instead, I’ll finish by saying how excited I am to see what 2015 has in store. There will (hopefully!) to be a second YALC to look forward to, and there will be lots more from DTRH – we’ll be celebrating our first birthday in February.
Most excitingly of all of course, The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow is published on 4 June: the first proofs are beginning to wing their way out into the world, and the writing of a second book is underway. 2015 is going to be the Year of the Book and I’m looking forward to documenting it here!
I’m thrilled to be able to share the exciting news that I’m going to be publishing my first children’s book next year, with Egmont Books!
The Clockwork Sparrow is the first in an adventure series set in the Edwardian era, which is inspired by some of the classic children’s writing that I love best, such as E. Nesbit and Frances Hodgson Burnett. (If you’ve been following me on Pinterest you might have already spotted that all things Edwardian have been preoccupying me of late.)
Here’s a bit of information from Egmont’s announcement, which came on the first day of this year’s London Book Fair:
Set in a luxurious department store which evokes Selfridges in its heyday, the first book, The Clockwork Sparrow, follows the adventures of recently orphaned Sophie, a shop girl at the newly opened Sinclair’s Department Store in London. Just as she’s settling into her new life, a priceless object is stolen, a young man is attacked and Sophie is implicated in the crime.
The Clockwork Sparrow is the perfect upper middle-grade read for fans of Enid Blyton, Chris Riddell and Eva Ibbotson and combines mystery, adventure and friendship with a sumptuous Edwardian setting.
Egmont won World English rights for two books in a four-publisher auction. The Clockwork Sparrow will publish in the second half of 2015 and a second book will follow less than a year later.
Fiction editorial director Ali Dougal said, ‘The Clockwork Sparrow is an absolute joy of a book, transporting the reader to a world of heady glamour offset by a murky criminal underground. It’s an irresistible mix of Mr Selfridge and Nancy Drew. Children will adore the cast of exceptionally likeable characters and spirited heroines.’
I’m over the moon that the book has found (with the help of my brilliant agent Louise Lamont) such a wonderful home at Egmont, who also publish Lemony Snicket, Michael Morpurgo, David Levithan, Elizabeth Wein, Andy Stanton and lots of other excellent children’s authors. You can read more about the announcement on book trade news websites Book2Book and The Bookseller.
I was especially delighted to have the book compared to the work of some of my absolutely favourite children’s writers, Chris Riddell and Eva Ibbotson, and the nods to Nancy Drew and Enid Blyton were the cherry on the cake.
Although the book won’t be on the shelves until the second half of next year, I’ll be sharing a few highlights of the journey to publication here. There’s lots of hard work ahead, but for now I’m raising a glass (of what else but ginger beer?) to toast The Clockwork Sparrow.