Sunday, 25 November 2012

A book's journey- from idea to launch

I find that writing a book is a mixture of delight and despair, depending on which part of the process I'm at when you ask me.

I find delight in the initial idea, which is greeted with a quiet bubbling excitement that grows as I begin to see it take shape in my head. The cast of characters emerge, warts and all, as if coming out of the mist and gradually taking shape. Showing me their true nature as I slowly learn more about them.

The dismay usually comes in about half or three quarters of the way through the book when I become convinced that it is terrible and should be consigned to the bin.  Thankfully it is usually soon after that when I begin to see the end and the delight creeps back. I get all excited about the story again because I can see how it is all going to come together.
 It is a real emotional rollercoaster.

Writers approach their books in different ways and I don't think there is a right or wrong way to write a book, there is just the way that works for you.  Some plan and some don't.
I don't really plan, at least not much. I prefer to see where the book takes me.
 I knew what I wanted to do with Don't Judge Me. I wanted to look at the way we all make judgements about people around us, our friends, our family, even people we meet in the street.
I wanted to look at how these judgements can affect the way we react to people. How even family or friends will underestimate each other, or have preconceived ideas about what someone is capable of - good or bad.
These ideas people have about us might be so different to the way we feel inside; who we feel we are or could be, given the chance. It is a 'whodunnit', but for a long time while I was writing it I could not decide exactly who had done it.   I kept changing my mind.
So the book took a bit longer than I had expected, that is when you need a patient publisher.  My thanks to Keith at Strident for believing in it, and me!

Once I did get to the end the next thing was to make sure I didn't give away too much too soon- that the suspense is kept up, and basically that the book works!  That is when you need a good editor who understands what you are trying to do and keeps a clear and calm head when you are losing the plot, figuratively as well as literally!
So, my thanks to Alison, whose voice is always smiling, as she is here, standing at the back of this photo!
I often need to do research for the books I write and I always enjoy that part of it. When I discover just how much I don't know about the subject I am writing about, that is when I start to ask people. I go out and about, and try to find experts. 
Members of the Fire Service checking up on me!
 I have to say at this point no one is responsible for the way I use the information they give me, because it is after all a work of fiction! And sometimes writers have to use a bit of creative licence in interpreting reality to make it fit the plot.
The hope is that if I do my job well enough most people- aside from the aforementioned experts - will not notice or realise where I have been economical with the facts.
Also I hope that where I have cut corners it is not something that will misinform my young readers in any to any great extent.
 I feel there is a responsibility to give them a reasonably accurate view of the world, but most of all I hope to give them a great story that they will not want to put down, one that they will want to read, and tell their friends about.

The book is finally ready and the cover design has to be finalised.  Despite the fact that I have had some great book covers over the years, I still get nervous until I see the finished version.

With Don't Judge Me I loved the cover images the designer came up with and then it was only the choice between two or three that were similar but had slight differences.
 I was absolutely delighted with the finished cover. It is really dramatic!

The lovely thing about having a book launch is that you can have a party and CAKE and you can share the excitement of launching a new book into the world with friends and readers.
 I was especially delighted that we had so many young readers at the book launch from library and school reading groups, along with their teachers and librarians. Some had travelled quite a distance to be there.  These are the readers the book was written for and hopefully they will find something in it to interest, intrigue and engage them.

 Thank you to all the lovely readers, writers, teachers, librarians, members of the fire Service, also family, friends and neighbours, who came along to share this great evening with me - it would not have been as much fun without you!

The youngest person at the launch
Thanks also to Caroline and the great staff at Waterstones who helped to make sure everything went so smoothly.

Holding the finished book in my hand it always seems as if it is a familiar stranger.  The ideas that began this journey tossing about in the seas of my imagination have finally reached land and in doing so transformed themselves from intangibles to the physical, tactile thing that is a book.

Now you can hold it in your hand, turn the pages and read the words, hopefully turning it back into those intangible emotions and ideas.

Dip into the book and you will find out about Suzie, Jack, Jenna and Malky and the people in their lives.   But they would each ask of you - DON'T JUDGE ME!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Books and cakes

 DON'T JUDGE ME Launch cake -

I think a celebration deserves a cake. 

A book launch is a celebration so there needs to be cake, at least I think so.

 With the launch of DON'T JUDGE ME last week I thought it was time for another celebration cake and the lovely people who came along seemed to agree with me!

 The first book launch I ever had was in 2003, for my picture book

 I was keen to have the front of the book on the cake and the only way I could think of doing it was to ask a good friend of mine, who made wedding cakes,  to make me a cake and paint the cover on the cake,(in edible food colour of course)

.I think she made a great job of it.
What colour is Love? Cake and some of the cuddly toys I use for school visits..

When I had my book launch for SPIDER in 2008 I discovered a great on line company (Caketoppers) who send you an exact copy of a photo printed on icing,  It comes through the post and works wonderfully!
2008 was a busy year and my second book launch that year was for WRITING FOR CHILDREN and the lovely Mary Hoffman was staying with me and she showed that she is not only a great writer, she bakes a mean sponge cake!
We had a few laughs messing about in the kitchen but thankfully the cake was ready in time for the launch party and quite delicious!


The same year saw the launch of a new Hamish McHaggis.  The Hamish books have been launched in various great venues such as the Falkirk Wheel, Edinburgh Castle, Glamis Castle and also Stirling Castle.  But in 2008 we had the launch of The Lost Prince, in the grounds of Balmoral, on a beautifully sunny day.  Back at home we also had a small launch party at Waterstones in Edinburgh and it was time for another cake!

 Dead Boy Talking was launched at North Berwick High School in 2010 - by the great team of Platinum Pages Publication Promotions and their teacher who organised and promoted the launch, wrote reviews and even wrote and performed a short scene from the book. So once more a cake was the order of the day and was enjoyed by all.

BOOKS and CAKES  - I think they go together really well!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

What Colour is Love? Giveaway

 If you visit Picturebook Den  (one of the collaborative blogs I write for) sometime before 28th October 2012 you  have the chance to win a signed and dedicated copy of What Colour is Love? in either English or in Portuguese.


Thanks to all those who entered the giveaway.

The winner of the English Version of What Colour is Love? is - CLAIRE F

The winner of the two Portuguese versions of What Colour is Love? (Qual e a Cor Do Amor?) are


Could the winners please contact me on with their full names and addresses, also who they would like the books to be dedicated to (or if you simply want it signed let me know that, too.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Don't Judge Me

I always feel a mixture of excitement and dread when it comes to the cover of a new book.

 Excitement because after spending all that time writing it it is going to be great to see someone else's vision of what the book is about.

Dread because this is your baby and you want it to be right, even if you don't really know what 'right' should look like!

SO what is the book about?     DON'T JUDGE ME  is about just that. We all make snap judgements about people we meet or see in the street.

We even make judgements about our friends. But do we really know them and do they know us as well as they think they do?
Among other things  DON'T JUDGE ME is about Arson, sometimes called Fire Setting.  It is about a group of teenagers and an arsonist. It's about lots of different kinds of people and how we make sometimes make judgements about them.

Thankfully when I saw the ideas for the cover I was delighted, and after some small tweaks it was settled.  I love the cover and I can't wait to see the finished book.

I really like the way the flames continue over the spine and onto the back cover.

The title font works really well, too.   It is the same as on the titles on SPIDER and   DEAD BOY TALKING

I like the way the font looks so different on each book, but still links them together.
There's a great poster, too.

And as it says on the poster

comes out  in OCTOBER 2012

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Road Trip - France - vineyards and sculptures

Not being too good at making decisions and being hopeless at planning in advance........
deciding where to go on holiday often seems to involve throwing a lot of ideas in the air at the last minute, and seeing what happens.
Perhaps it is partly because we are so fortunate to have this lovely beach practically on our doorstep although admittedly the Scottish weather at home in East Lothian is not always wonderful.  

  In the opposite direction there is beautiful countryside to wander through and we are only half an hour from a capital city.  Makes you wonder why we go elsewhere!

But a few weeks ago we decided to take the car and head across the channel.  A road trip.  It's not something we've done for a good number of years. 
When the children were small we drove to Italy a few times to visit relatives.  A few years back we did a similar journey on a research trip. So it felt like time to pack up the car and head off again.

With no particular plan we set off and finding ourselves in the south we headed for the Channel Tunnel crossing  early one Wednesday morning.

This kind of trip has positives and drawbacks. You can find yourself missing things you pass by that you later wished you had known about at the time,  but there are also the unexpected discoveries. 

We stayed a couple of nights in the Loire valley at a lovely vineyard where our room had patio doors opening out onto a great view and we had breakfast out on the sunny terrace.

 Later we were looking for a place to stay and it was late in the afternoon when someone suggested we stop at Chateaubourg where there was a hotel, an old mill with a beautiful 10 acre garden. We stayed a couple of days there and had time to wander around and look at all the amazing sculptures. They were all quite unique.
I love the colour and movement in this one
This bird was about half again as tall as me!
Reminded me of Eduardo Paolozzi's foot  in Edinburgh- Not sure about the red toenails!

I really liked these figures on bicycles - but Stuart wasn;t quite so convinced

 It turned out that this was the 10th year that they have held this exhibition of sculptures in the gardens. Local people are encouraged to come and choose their favourite.

This tree had little ceramic nests each filled with a small roll of paper
A local school class had written wishes on the paper
A tumbling man

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Creating a loveable character from a Haggis!

Creating loveable characters  on  Picturebook Den Blog.

Pictrebook Den is a blog by10 different picture book authors.  

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

New Hamish McHaggis adventure - Glasgow Book launch

Hamish goes to Glasgow!

The 10th Hamish McHaggis  book is being launched this weekend .

On Saturday 27th April at the wonderful Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow and on Sunday 28th April at the new Glasgow Riverside transport museum.

It's all free!

I will be there reading from the new book and Sally J. Collins, the illustrator, will be drawing with children.  There will be all sorts of activities for families all through the day. You might even catch a glimpse of Hamish himself! 

Why not come along and find out what happens when Hamish and friends try to discover clues for the Great Glasgow Treasure Hunt.
at  Kelvingrove Museum - Saturday 28th events

at Riverside Museum - Sunday 29th events

 Information about the events are on the Glasgow Life website

Saturday, 21 April 2012

# Days 3/4 -at MES Cairo The primary school

On my second and third days at MES (Modern English School) in Cairo I met some of the Foundation Stage children in FS1 and FS2

We talked about colours, animals and feelings such as being happy, or sad, or shy and about what colour love might be.

After that I read from What Colour is Love?

And some of the children came up and helped to tell the story with some toys of the characters.

 I spoke to some of the primary classes about  Hamish McHaggis and some of his friends.   
We also tried out some Scots words like Coorie Doon and Blether ..........and they all became honorary Scots for the day!

With the oldest primary classes we talked about myths and legends and I read the much loved story of Greyfriars Bobby. 

One of their teachers came up at the end of the session and said that he had read one particular book of mine hundreds of times! 

He told us all that  What Colour is Love? had been a family favourite in his house for years.

It was a lovely end to the day!

 I would like to thank the MES for inviting me to Cairo, I had a wonderful time.  And a big thank you to the teachers, all the other staff and the students for giving me such a warm welcome and for making my visit to Cairo so special.

I hope they all enjoyed it as much as I did and are enjoying reading their books.