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.
This time last year I wrote this post – 2014 in Pictures– summing up what had been an eventful year. At that point, I predicted that 2015 was going to be even more exciting… and I was right.
The Year of the Book, as I called it then, has certainly been a memorable one. The pictures above are my ‘best nine’ of 2015 from Instagram, and as you can see, the last year really has been (almost!) all about The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow. Here’s what happened…
It seems appropriate that the year began with the arrival of proof copies of Clockwork Sparrow. It was amazing to see it looking like a ‘real book’ for the first time…
The proof was soon winging its way to journalists and bloggers, complete with a clue to solve with the help of a miniature magnifying glass, and a tasty Clockwork Sparrow biscuit conjured up by my publishers, Egmont. They were (almost) too pretty to eat…
Meanwhile I celebrated my birthday in the traditional fashion – with cake, drinks and friends!
Lovely birthday presents!
March brought the publication of my lovely friend Anna McKerrow’s fantastic young adult novel Crow Moon. We celebrated at Anna’s book launch at Tales on Moon Lane, complete with crow cupcakes and tarot-card readings…
March is also, of course, World Book Day time! This year I got involved in World Book Day’s Teen Fest, and had a lot of fun interviewing ace young adult authors Non Pratt and Holly Smale on Google Hangout.
It was also time to reveal the final cover for The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow with artwork from incredible illustrator Júlia Sardà – how gorgeous!
In April, I was very excited to visit the Bologna Book Fair for the first time. Bologna is the biggest children’s publishing industry fair, and I was there with Malorie Blackman for the grandly-titled ‘International Laureate summit’. Malorie joined a host of other Laureates from around the world to talk about issues including children’s books, literacy and education.
Of course, there was also plenty of time to explore the Fair, look at many books, eat a lot of food (including quite a few gelatos!) and track down a Clockwork Sparrow proof on Egmont’s stand – check out my adventures here.
Back in the UK, I had a busy few weeks, including giving a talk about YALC at the London Book Fair, and organising an event to celebrate Malorie Blackman’s Project Remix, not to mention working on the sequel to The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow – The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth – in between everything else.
But in May it was time for a break – and a very exciting holiday! I haven’t been away on a ‘big’ holiday for a few years, but as a belated honeymoon, Duncan and I headed off to New York. We stayed in the Upper West side in an apartment in a gorgeous brownstone, and spent an absolutely amazing week exploring the city, and basically eating everything in sight.
Duncan had to head back home after New York – but my adventure was not over yet. My next stop was Palm Springs in California, for my friend Katie’s wedding!
Palm Springs was absolutely incredible – nothing like anywhere else I’ve been before. Katie and Kevin had a gorgeous wedding in these spectacular surroundings, and it was so lovely to be there to celebrate with them.
Back home in London, finished copies of Clockwork Sparrow arrived ahead of publication! I couldn’t believe how gorgeous the shiny, beautiful finished copies looked when they arrived in a big exciting box.
And my first proper ‘author interview’ was also published in The Bookseller magazine!
To celebrate all this, Egmont arranged a lovely afternoon tea at Harrods– what better place to raise a glass to Clockwork Sparrow?
Next up it was time for my first ever author event, at the Hay Festival, where I also espied a finished copy of the book on a bookshop shelf for the very first time! Eeek! I teamed up with Robin Stevens for what turned out to be the first of several fun events about our shared love of mystery stories. And as well as doing my own author event, I was lucky enough to chair some events with the fab Mel Salisbury and Cat Doyle, Maggie Harcourt and the Bookshop Band, and US YA superstar Sarah J Maas.
I was overjoyed and so grateful when Waterstones made Clockwork Sparrow their Children’s Book of the Month for June. It was incredible seeing the book in so many bookshops, and even more brilliant to see the fantastic displays that booksellers had made for the book. Check out this Pinterest board of all their incredible creations.
At around the same time, I was also delighted to be included on The Bookseller’s list of the Rising Stars of the book industry for 2015!
Later that month, I headed up to Lancashire for some more author events. I was lucky enough to be invited to take part in A Midsummer Mystery at Storytellers Inc in St Annes – a fantastic, fun day of mystery-themed events for kids.
As part of my trip, I visited a St Annes school with Storytellers Inc and met children from a local Cub Scout group, as well as doing some school events in nearby Chorley with Ebb & Flo bookshop. Doing my very first school events in Lancashire felt very appropriate as it’s where I’m from! We even went to Abbey Village School, my own old primary school. It’s a really small school in a little Lancashire village up on the moors, and going back there to talk to the children felt really special.
Super happy to be back at Abbey Village School!
Back in London it was time for lots of summer fun, including of course, YALC! This year’s event was crazy, fun, and (I think!) even better than the last.
After three completely intense but fantastic days, Duncan and I headed off to the countryside for a few days of relaxation! We went by train and bicycle to the same spot in a pretty Kent village that we had visited the previous year – it really was the perfect place to relax and recover with a few good books.
Kentish Weald A photo posted by Katherine Woodfine (@followtheyellow) on
August was a bit momentous as I finished working at Booktrust after just over six amazing years. I was so sad to say farewell to working on the Children’s Laureate, which has been an immense privilege, as well to lots of other fantastic children’s books projects that I was lucky enough to work on. In particular I was sorry not to have more time working with Chris Riddell on his laureateship, which I know is going to be brilliant. And most of all I was sad to say goodbye to my lovely team. But I was excited to be able to spend more of my time focusing on writing, and to have the opportunity to take on some freelance projects. We celebrated my departure with prosecco, doughnuts and a quiz!
But before I had much time to get used to my new freelance lifestyle, it was time to whizz up to Edinburgh for this year’s Edinburgh Book Festival. I love Edinburgh, so I was really excited to be part of the festival programme, taking part in a joint event with fab debut author Gabrielle Kent.
Autumn got off to a pretty good start with the announcement that there were going to be two more books in the Clockwork Sparrow series. I also shared more exciting news that the rights to the first book had been sold in Germany and the USA – and there’s going to be an audio book version too!
Another exciting autumn announcement was Mystery and Mayhem – a new anthology of middle grade mystery stories coming from Egmont. I was so delighted to be asked to contribute to the book, alongside a list of fantastic mystery authors aka the Crime Club – the book will be published in May 2016.
To celebrate all this good news, I went for a lovely day of boating on the Serpentine and afternoon teawith Louise and my editors at Egmont, Ali and Hannah. (The boating was inspired by the sequel to Clockwork Sparrow, The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth… although it turned out that it’s possibly easier to write about rowing than it is to actually do it… The below photos of me and Louise putting our boating skills to the test are undoubtedly two of my favourites of this year!)
Meanwhile, I had a very busy autumn, packing in all kinds of author events. As well as a fantastic visit to the Isle of Man for the Manx Literature Festival, I took part in the Cheltenham Festival, STREAM and YA Shot, as well as school events and a visit to Heffers Bookshop in Cambridge. I’ve had such a great time doing author events this year – huge thanks to everyone who has invited me to visit them!
I’ve also been busy with some freelance projects, including writing about children’s books for a brand new children’s magazine The Week Junior, and perhaps most excitingly of all, continuing to look after YALC working with Showmasters, who run London Film and Comic Con. I’m so pleased that I’ll be able to keep working on YALC, which is one of the things that I’m most proud of from my time at Book Trust – bring on 2016’s event!
Of course, Down the Rabbit Hole has been keeping me, and my collaborators Melissa and Louise, very busy throughout this year too. We’ve had a lot of fun on Resonance FM, with some great shows, fantastic guests and amazing author interviews. Our DTRH Christmas special felt like the perfect way to finish off the year! Check out all our episodes from 2015 here.
In the studio
Also to conclude the year, we revealed the cover ofThe Mystery of the Jewelled Moth – another gorgeus creation from Júlia Sardà. The book also got its first review – from Fiona Noble in the Bookseller who chose it as one of her picks for March 2016 – a great conclusion to a fantastic year!
Phew – this has turned into an essay. And that’s without even mentioning all the great books I read, the fantastic events and launches I attended, the exhibitions, films etc. etc. This blog has had a lot of different incarnations – from its early days as very much a personal blog, to the times that I’ve used it to write about books or visual art- but this year, more than any other it really has been a space to document the process of becoming a published author.
And I’m looking forward to writing too about everything else that 2016 has to bring – publishing two more books (Jewelled Moth and Mystery and Mayhem), getting to grips with my new freelance/author life, lots more writing, and hopefully lots more adventures too.
Huge thanks to everyone who has supported me and Clockwork Sparrow in 2015. Happy New Year, thanks for reading, and here’s to a great 2016!
I’ve just returned from a lovely holiday in the south of France. Staying in the depths of the countryside, we spent a happy week wandering through sunflower fields and meadows of long grass, reading books in the hammocks, cooking large and chaotic meals, swimming in a nearby lake and visiting the local market and hypermarché to stock up on yet more cheese, bread, saucisson and local fruit and vegetables.
Wine tasting at the local chateau of Montbazillac (mmmmm…), a stroll around the town of Bergerac (decked out in coloured garlands for a local festival), a visit to the Jardins suspendus de Marqueyssac and a night in the beautiful Ecolodge des Chartrons in Bourdeaux completed the trip. Here’s just a few of the many photographs:
I’ve just returned from a much-needed holiday in Italy where I spent a week staying in a beautiful cottage in a small hillside village in Liguria… a week of walking through sunwarmed olive groves; handfuls of wild cherries straight from the tree; views of a bright blue sea; befriending local cats; discovering tiny sun-faded churches; meadows sprinkled with daisies, wild sweet peas and butterflies; eating spaghetti scoglio, stuffed courgette flowers, local figs, foccaccia and torta verde; drinking prosecco and homemade grape juice; and by night, watching fireflies and hearing owls hooting to each other in the dark.