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The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth cover reveal – and a festive competition!

Season’s greetings! I’m very excited because today I’m revealing the incredibly gorgeous cover for the sequel to The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow.

Take a look at the beautiful The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth, publishing in March 2016!

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Once again, illustrator Júlia Sardà and the design team at Egmont have done an absolutely incredible job with this cover. I really love the vibrant red, and of course the shiny silver foil (just look at the tiny silver bubbles from the champagne glasses!)

The cover also gives you a few clues to what happens in the next book… here’s the blurb from the back cover:

The honour of your company is requested at Lord Beaucastle’s fancy dress ball. Wonder at the puzzling disappearance of the Jewelled Moth! Marvel as our heroines, Sophie and Lil, don cunning disguises, mingle in high society and munch many cucumber sandwiches to solve this curious case! Applaud their bravery as they follow a trail of terrible secrets that leads straight to London’s most dangerous criminal mastermind, and could put their own lives at risk… It will be the most thrilling event of the season!

You can now pre-order The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth here.

Competition time!

To celebrate the cover reveal (and the fact it’s nearly Christmas!) I’m running a festive competition here, on Twitter and and on my author Facebook page.

Enter for the chance to win a signed copy of The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, plus a box of lovely goodies worthy of Sinclair’s department store itself.

Here’s a little sneak peek at the prize:

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The peacock print box is so pretty, and it’s packed full of treats that could almost have come right out of Sinclair’s Confectionery Department. (Is it bad that I kind of want to keep it for myself?)

To enter all you have to do is leave a comment below, email me, tweet me or leave me a Facebook comment to tell me – if you were doing your Christmas shopping at Sinclair’s, what would you buy? It can be something for yourself or for someone else.

I had some fun thinking of what Christmas presents I might buy at Sinclair’s for Sophie, Lil and the gang:

  • BILLY: Billy spends a lot of time in The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow scribbling in old exercise books with the stub of a pencil, so I think I’d treat him to a leather-bound notebook and a fountain pen. Of course, I’d also have to give him a detective story or two from the store’s Book Department.
  • SOPHIE: Sophie’s best frock gets well and truly ruined during Clockwork Sparrow, so I’d probably head to Ladies Fashions to find her an elegant new outfit to wear next time she goes to the theatre. But somehow I can’t help thinking that she might find a magnifying glass or a pocket knife a little more useful for her future adventures…
  • JOE: After his time living rough on the streets and hiding out in the Sinclair’s basement I feel Joe deserves some TLC, so his Christmas present would be a big cosy jumper from Gentlemen’s Outfitting, and maybe some woolly socks to make sure he’s toasty warm all winter.
  • LIL: The gang in general enjoy their food, but if there’s one person whose appetite is as big as her capacity for enthusiasm, it’s Lil! I’d get her a huge Christmas hamper stuffed with all kinds of tasty festive treats for her to share with the others over the holidays.

Enter by 5.00pm on Sunday 13 December for a chance to win – I’ll choose my favourite response to win the prize. The competition is open to the UK only (sorry!)

Updated: The competition is now closed!

In more exciting festive news, The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow has featured in Christmas booklists including the Telegraph’s best Christmas books for children  and Red Magazine’s best children’s books to give as gifts. I hope it will be appearing under lots of Christmas trees and in lots of stockings this year!

Updated Jan 2016: The Competition Winners!

It was so difficult to choose a winner for the Clockwork Sparrow festive competition as we had so many fantastic entries. I loved reading about all the different things you would buy – from glamorous gowns to delicious treats from the Confectionery Department, and of course, lots of extravagant hats! Huge thanks to everyone who entered.

In the end the prize was awarded jointly to two young readers aged 7 and 10 who are also sisters, who chose to draw as well as illustrate their ideas – check out their winning entries below. Congratulations and I hope you enjoy your Sinclair’s Christmas goodies!

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Behind the Scenes: The Edwardian Department Store

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Edwardian shoppers (illustration via Pinterest)

At lots of the events I’ve been doing this autumn, I’ve been talking about some of the real-life historical background to The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow. I thought it would be fun to share some of this here on the blog too.

If you’ve read the author’s note at the back of The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, you’ll know that although Sinclair’s Department Store is fictional, it was partly inspired by the real history of London’s Edwardian department stores.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, department stores were still a new phenomenon. Before this time, shopping generally meant buying from local markets and small shops, which tended to sell only a limited range of goods. It wasn’t until the 18th century that shops became grander, with enticing shop-fronts to tempt customers inside.

Even then, ‘shopping’ as we know it today didn’t really exist. Most shops specialised in just one thing – the confectioner’s sold sweets, the baker’s sold bread, the bookshop sold books, and so on. Shopping was a straightforward transaction, with many shops even employing ‘floorwalkers’ whose job it was to actively prevent people from browsing around looking at merchandise without buying anything.

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, things started to change. People had more money to spend, cities were growing, and affordable manufactured consumer goods became more readily available. Glamorous, elegant new ‘department stores’ began to open up, offering people an exciting and very modern new way to shop.

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Lots of Edwardian shoppers

For the first time, customers were encouraged to wander around a range of different departments, all together in the same building, admiring a tantalising range of different goods to buy. Department stores had beautiful displays, gorgeous windows designed to catch the attention of passers-by, and even their own restaurants where customers could enjoy lunch or afternoon tea.

These were exciting places. In 1898, Harrods boasted the first escalator ever to be seen in a British shop – on the day it was launched, staff members stood at the top ready to dispense smelling salts and cognac to anyone who had been frightened by this new experience!

New advertising helped to spread the word about these glamorous new department stores. During the week that Selfridges opened, a total of 38 different advertisements designed by well-known graphic artists appeared on over a hundred pages of eighteen national newspapers, costing the equivalent of £2.35 million in today’s money.

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Selfridges, of course, was one of the most famous of the Edwardian department stores – and was certainly the biggest influence on my fictional store, Sinclair’s, though I also took inspiration from other famous stores like Fortnum and Mason, Liberty’s, Harrods, and the now-defunct Whiteley’s.

Selfridges first opened on Oxford Street in 1909, and was the brainchild of Harry Gordon Selfridge. An American who had previously worked in department stores in New York, he had grand ambitions for his store, which he wanted to be the largest and most glamorous in London. As well as the usual departments, it boasted all kinds of other facilities, including a post-office, a library, and even a ‘quiet room’ where people could relax if shopping became too overwhelming! Rather than being just a shop, Selfridge thought of his department store as something more akin to a cultural centre, and it soon became a fashionable destination.

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The story of Selfridges (and Selfridge himself) is a fascinating one, and of course has also inspired the recent ITV series Mr Selfridge. I didn’t know about the series when I first started working on The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, though it was no surprise to me to discover that the story of the Edwardian department stores had grabbed others’ imaginations as well as my own! At first, I deliberately avoided watching so that I wouldn’t be influenced while I was writing, but I’ve since seen a few episodes and though it’s a very different story, the sets and costumes give you a great idea of what a department store like Sinclair’s might really have looked like:

At around the same time, the BBC also broadcast The Paradise, another series based on the rise of the department store – though this time set a little earlier, in the late 1800s. This series was loosely based on the novel Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies’ Paradise) by Émile Zola and again gives a good flavour of the early department stores:

I loved finding out all about the history of the department store when I was researching Clockwork Sparrow. I wanted to make sure that my own fictional store, Sinclair’s, would feel as real as possible to the reader, and I had a lot of fun adding in some of the true-life details and facts I discovered.

As well as reading about the late Victorian and Edwardian department stores, I was influenced by lots of other reading about shopping in general – such as the lovely scene in one of my favourite books, I Capture the Castle, where Cassandra and Rose visit a 1930s London department store, which I wrote about for the Waterstones blog here.

Of course I also had to visit some contemporary department stores too – I spent lots of time wandering around the likes of Liberty’s, Harrods and Fortnum’s – and of course, sampling the odd afternoon tea along the way!

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Harrods afternoon tea

If you’re interested in finding out more about the history of the department store, here’s are a few good places to start:

  • Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfridge by Lindy Woodhead
    This is the book that inspired the Mr Selfridge TV series – an entertaining and very readable biography of Harry Gordon Selfridge, packed full of facts about Selfridges’ history.
  • Au Bonheur des Dames by Émile Zola
    In this classic French novel, Zola captures the impact of the new grand magasins upon Paris in the 19th century
  • The Department Store by Claire Masset
    This little book from the Shire Library series is a succinct summary of the history of the department store – from its earliest origins right through to the department stores of the present day.

The pictures in this post come via my trusty Edwardiana Pinterest board, where you can also find lots more pictures of Edwardian department stores.

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Down the Rabbit Hole – November 2015

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November’s Down the Rabbit Hole saw us back in the Resonance FM studio with two fantastic authors as our guests – Abi Elphinstone and Jonathan Stroud.

In this month’s show, we discussed three new books: Shimbleshanks the Railway Cat – a new picture book version of the classic T S Elliot poem, illustrated by Arthur Robins; young adult novel These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly; and a new edition of Joan Aiken’s first book, The Kingdom and the Cave, written when she was just 17 years old.  The episode also featured an interview with Edward Carey about his brilliant Iremonger trilogy, and more from the children of Netley Primary School.

Listen to this month’s show here:

Down The Rabbit Hole – 24th November 2015 by Resonance Fm on Mixcloud

 

We also announced the exciting news that we will be broadcasting an hour long Down the Rabbit Hole Christmas specialths year – tune in on Tuesday 15 December at 3.00pm!

For our festive show, we’re inviting listeners to send in Christmas book shopping queries. Tweet us @dtrhradio or email us with your queries and dilemmas, and we’ll answer them on the programme.

If you want some help with your Christmas shopping before then, you will also find us in the children’s department at Waterstones Piccadilly’s Christmas shopping evening on 3 December from 6.30pm where you can also find a whole host of authors including Chris Riddell and Rob Biddulph, music and song, cakes, cocktails and lots more festive fun.

More autumn adventures

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Image via Pinterest

Wow autumn. You have been BUSY!

After my last post about some of my bookish adventures in September and October, I wanted to write a quick update about all the other book events that have been keeping me busy this autumn.

At the end of October, I was excited to have the opportunity to take part in the first ever YA Shot. This brand new book event, organised by lovely author Alexia Casale, is a one-day Young Adult and Middle Grade festival, taking place in Uxbridge. The first event brought together around 50 authors for a programme of events and book-signings, and also marked the launch of a year-long programme of free author events in libraries across the Hillingdon area.

I was there for a panel event, ‘Into the Past: Exploring History in Middle Grade fiction’ with authors Emma Carroll and Anne Booth at Waterstones Uxbridge. I really enjoyed taking part in a history-themed discussion, and as our audience for the event was mainly adults, it gave us the chance to talk in more detail about our approach to writing history, and some of the related issues. I loved talking to Emma and Anne about their writing, and hearing them read from their books.

It was also a real treat to have the chance to attend lots of other talks and sessions through the day, including  a suitably spine-chilling horror panel chaired by Lou Morgan, and a lovely discussion about nature in YA with Anna McKerrow, Lisa Heathfield and Piers Torday.

October also brought our next episode of Down the Rabbit Hole, which looked at some of the biggest names in children’s books, including Harry Potter and Twilight. We were joined in the studio by my fellow Mystery Girl Robin Stevens, for the show which also featured an interview with Adam Freudenheim of Pushkin Press, and some brilliant kids from Netley Primary School telling us about their favourite books.

Listen to the October show here:

Down The Rabbit Hole – 27th October 2015 by Resonance Fm on Mixcloud

The following week, it was time for another event – this time at the STREAM South London Book Festival. I’d heard great things about this free one-day book festival at Streatham & Clapham High School. For the event, I was paired with author of The Glass Bird Girl Esme Kerr to discuss ‘Villains and Edwardians’.

It was lovely to see so many enthusiastic readers  in the audience, who asked some brilliant questions. Afterwards, during the signing session I was especially pleased to have chance for a quick catch up with my Children’s Laureate pal Chris Riddell – we even signed some books side-by-side!

Most recently, I’ve headed over to Bristol for an event at the University of the West of England with the Just Imagine Story Centre. This was another new departure for me – an event with first and second year teaching students. I was lucky enough to be teamed up with Emma Carroll again for this event – Emma and I had a lot of fun, and I loved listening to her presentation, which included the revelation that her love for Duran Duran was one of the things that got her started writing as a teenager!

I also really enjoyed the ‘in conversation’ session chaired by Nikki Gamble, where we were asked some really insightful questions by the audience. Afterwards we signed books and had the chance to chat to the students and to hear from them about their first experiences in the classroom.

Thanks so much to YA Shot, STREAM and Just Imagine for having me!

After a busy autum with lots of great events, I’m looking forward to a relaxing December which I’m planning to spend eating mince-pies and getting in the festive spirit… not forgetting working on the third book in the Clockwork Sparrow series, of course!

Messing about in boats!

I couldn’t resist sharing some pictures of a boating excursion that I recently had with my agent Louise and editors Ali and Hannah from Egmont.

Boats – and in particular, a boat race – feature prominently in the sequel to The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth, so for research purposes it seemed only appropriate to do a little rowing ourselves – in this case on the Serpentine lake in Hyde Park.

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Hannah and Ali take to the oars

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Louise is taking this rowing business seriously

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Are you sure you’re up to this, Woodfine?

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Hilarity sets in

As it turns out, my characters are much better at rowing than I am. I don’t think I am going to be winning any boat races anytime soon, unless it is a competition to see who is best at rowing in a circle!

But in spite of my less-than-brilliant rowing abilities (and interruptions from some very curious geese) we had a fantastic afternoon – very Swallows and Amazons!

Naturally we followed our boating excursion with a delicious afternoon tea, which I think Sophie and Lil would definitely approve of.

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Time for tea!

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Cucumber sandwich