Archive of ‘adventures’ category
This month has seen the publication of the first ever Taylor & Rose mini adventure, Secrets on the Shore. Set in the town of Rye, it tells the story of Sophie and Lil’s first case for the Secret Service Bureau, which features smugglers’ secret passages, mysterious sea-mists, and sinister strangers…
I wanted to write a little something about what inspired me to set this story in Rye, which is a real town in the South of England. Rye is a place that I first encountered it in the pages of some of my favourite children’s books – in particular, Malcolm Saville’s Lone Pine series, which I’ve talked about here before. Written between the 1940s and the 1970s, Saville’s adventure stories are no longer very well-known today and are mostly out of print – but I devoured second-hand copies of them as a child, poring over the maps that always accompanied each book Although I’d never been there myself, I particularly loved Saville’s stories set in Rye. These featured two of my favourite members of the Lone Pine Club, Jon and Penny Warrender, who lived at The Dolphin, a mysterious old inn full of secret passages, hidden rooms, and old smugglers’ tales.
I didn’t get to visit Rye myself until I was grown up, but when I did, I immediately recognised its narrow cobbled streets and the black-and-white façade of The Mermaid Inn (the inn where Saville used to stay, which inspired The Dolphin). The steep, crooked streets of the little town and the wild, windswept marshes and shoreline feel like classic children’s adventure story territory: it’s no wonder that Rye and the Romney Marsh have inspired not only Malcolm Saville, but also Enid Blyton (whose Five Go to Smuggler’s Top is supposed to have been based on this area) Monica Edwards (whose fictional village of Westling was modelled on Rye Harbour) and even John Ryan, the creator of Captain Pugwash.Another of my favourite children’s authors, Joan Aiken, lived in the town – whose residents have also included authors like Henry James, Joseph Conrad, HG Wells, GK Chesterton and EF Benson.
With such a rich literary tradition to draw on, I couldn’t resist setting a story of my own in Rye. Secrets on the Shore was especially inspired by a winter visit, when I stayed at The Mermaid Inn, sleeping in a bedroom that was supposed to be haunted. Though like Lil and Sophie, I saw no ghosts, I did find myself haunted by the idea for a new mystery featuring lonely marshes, boats lost in the fog, a crumbling ruined castle, sinister strangers, and of course, plenty of adventure…
If you ever find yourself visiting Rye, then make sure you pay a visit to The Mermaid Inn which also inspired the fictional Smuggler’s Rest in Secrets on the Shore. You can sit beside the roaring fire in the wonderfully-named Giant’s Bar, where you can look out for the hidden entrance to a real-life secret passage! Take a walk out past the ruins of old Camber Castle and along the shore to the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve where you can see all kinds of bird life, and you’ll see where Sophie and Lil carry our surveillance of the coast – and spot a spy or two.
Buy Secrets on the Shore now for just £1.99 from the Kindle Store or from the Kobo Store
Since The Midnight Peacock was published in October, I’ve had a busy autumn of events to celebrate the brand new book. I’ve been everywhere from the Cheltenham Literature Festival to the Newham Word Festival; the South Ken Kids Lit Festival to the Books-on-Tyne Family Day; the Kingston Children’s Literature Festival to the Museum of London – and even further afield, to Denmark and the UAE!
Here are a few highlights from my autumn adventures:
Getting ready for our Get Creative panel event at Cheltenham Lit Fest – with Chris Edge, Lizzy Stewart and our host Jonathan Stroud.
In sunny Sharjah for the Sharjah Book Fair! I was so excited to join a line-up of authors from around the world for a panel event at the book fair and have the chance to visit Sharjah, which was an amazing experience. There was even time to enjoy some reading on this glorious beach.
Trying on some Edwardian hats during the Midnight Peacock schools tour!
Hanging out with the Aarhus 39 in Aarhus, Denmark for the International Children’s Literature Hay Festival (read more about the trip here)
More from the Midnight Peacock schools tour – just look at this brilliant artwork inspired by The Sinclair’s Mysteries at QES in Kirkby Lonsdale!
Fabulous festive library displays at Queen Katherine School.
After a magical journey north through a snow-storm, we met lovely Ruby the school dog at Sacred Heart Primary School in Newcastle ❤️
Meeting Sinclair’s superfans, and browsing the beautiful Lit & Phil library in Newcastle at the Books-on-Tyne family day!
Getting into the Christmas mood at the Museum of London. At this special Midnight Peacock inspired event in December, we made our own Edwardian-inspired Christmas decorations, dressed up in Edwardian hats and even posed for 1900s-style sepia photographs!
Children who attended also had the chance to write their own mystery story inspired by the museum collections – and they were brilliant! What a wonderful and creative conclusion to the year.
Check out my events calendar for events coming up in 2018 – or sign up for my new quarterly author e-mail newsletter to keep up to date with all the latest news!
2016 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.
Celebrating Winter Magic with Abi Elphinstone and Piers Torday
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
Highlights of the first ever YA Salon
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!)
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.
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!
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!
It’s been another VERY busy few months! I’ve been hard at work on the next books in the Sinclair’s Mysteries series – but I’ve also been out and about a lot talking about my books. Here’s a few pictures from some of my recent events and adventures…
Back in July, I was part of a Mystery & Mayhem panel event at Waterstones Piccadilly alongside Robin Stevens, Frances Hardinge, and brilliant chair Imogen Russell Williams. It was such a treat to do an event with Robin, Frances and Imogen – and I always love doing events at Waterstones Piccadilly, one of my all-time favourite bookshops (which of course is also situated on the very same spot as Sinclair’s in the Sinclair’s Mysteries!)
August means time for the Edinburgh Book Festival! This year, I had a brilliant time doing an event with children’s author and theatre critic Lyn Gardner, who was talking about her gorgeous book Rose Campion and the Stolen Secret – as well as meeting lots of readers at the booksigning afterwards. I also got to introduce two other author events at the festival – Julian Clary and David Roberts talking about their hilarious The Bolds books, and Andy Stanton’s laugh-out-loud show ‘Me and Mr Gum’.
In September I was super excited to go over to Dublin to be part of the ‘Abundance of Katherines’ panel at the Children’s Books Ireland conference. The title of the panel was inspired by An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, and teamed up four authors called ‘Katherine’ – me, Catherine Doyle, Katherine Rundell and Katherena Vermette, to talk about what our writing process had in common. I had such a lot of fun at the event, which I’d highly recommend to anyone working in children’s books – all the sessions I heard were great but I especially enjoyed hearing Alan Cumyn talking about his book Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend – surely one of the best titles for a YA book ever? (And I also got to pick up some lovely new Oliver Jeffers swag!)
October brought around the annual celebration of bookshops from Books are My Bag – and me and my brand new Winnie the Pooh Books are My Bag tote headed off on an adventure!
First up was Times Cheltenham Literature Festival for a lovely event in the bustling Little Big Top with Sarah Rubin, author of the Alice Jones mysteries. We were chaired by Alex O’Connell of The Times, and had a wonderful time talking about all things mysterious!
While I was there I also got to hang out in the Green Room with lots of lovely folks – including meeting fellow middle grade author Shane Hegarty, author of the Darkmouth books!
Next stop was the Bath Children’s Literature Festival, where Julia Golding and I talked about our mystery books with fab festival director Gill McLay.
I also teamed up with ‘History Girls’ Rhian Ivory, Helen Maslin, Emma Carroll and Lauren James for a couple more history-themed events – one in Milton Keynes, and one at Waterstones Oxford. I always have lots of fun with this gang!
In October, I headed down to beautiful Totnes for an event at the Turn the Page Festival. While I was there I was lucky enough to have the chance to see some other events, including Lucy Letherland talking about her Atlas of Miniature Adventures and Josh Lacey’s event about The Dragonsitter.
October was also time for YA Shot! I saw some fantastic events at this year’s one-day YA and MG festival in Uxbridge, including Melinda Salisbury & Julia Gray, and Laure Eve & Anna McKerrow. I was lucky enough to join an amazing line-up of historical fiction authors – Lydia Syson, Tanya Landman and Catherine Johnson – for a really interesting panel exploring what it means to write about history.
Finally to wrap up my autumn events, I went along to the Dulwich Book Festival for an event all about how to write mystery stories. Here I am in the amazing surroundings of venue Dulwich College.
I had a great time with the children in the audience, who also had the chance to enter a mystery writing short story competition after the event. Here’s winner Daisy with Gabriel from Dulwich Books!
If you’ve come along to one of my events over the last few months, I hope you enjoyed it! Don’t forget to keep an eye out on the events page on my website here for details of where I’ll be going and what I’ll be up to for my next round of book events!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
What could be a better finale to a brilliant tour to celebrate Mystery & Mayhem? Thanks to Hay Festival and everyone I visited!