Tag Archives: books

Inside The Teenage Mind


HB 1 coverMy hormones are INSANE and NO ONE is respecting my boundaries and it’s all boys and drama and coursework and selfies and it’s like there’s fireworks exploding in my head – which is totally confused totally all of the time – and my body is ballooning in the weirdest directions and ZOMG I have BOOBS now although they are worse than pathetic they don’t even extend past my ribcage and don’t even get me STARTED on the cow in the corridor today who eyeballed my skirt like she’d never seen a skirt like it before and I’m, hello? It’s called a SCHOOL UNIFORM and double hello? YOU’RE WEARING IT TOO, and what the 1D’s wrong with everyone?

*snorts like a bull*

*applies more mascara*

So he says he’ll call me but does he call me of course he doesn’t call me because all boys are liars and I wish they weren’t even on the same planet as us and more especially I wish they weren’t on Facebook with 1643 friends until we actually need them and there’s this one boy? I don’t even like him but I could be twerking through the science block and would he notice me no because I don’t wear make-up HB 2 coverand my phone is the worst phone in the universe because it doesn’t have 4G (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and I’ve never been to Glasto (WRECK MY LIFE EVIL NON-PARENTS) and I don’t support Chelsea United or whatever other saddo teams are out there because footballers are too rich and drive cars that wreck the planet and also nick my mum’s favourite parking space at Waitrose and fill the magazines with their girlfriends’ insanely perfect skinny bodies and I have a BUTT so get over it H&M and make skinny jeans that actually FIT REAL PEOPLE why don’t you.

I need marshmallows. And FaceTime. And nail varnish. And I cannot WAIT for HEARTSIDE BAY to come out in February 2014 because the characters will understand this dumb whirlpool the world calls adolescence and those of us who have to endure its ENDLESSNESS and POINTLESSNESS and there will be hot boys that will notice me somehow through the pages and make me feel better about all of it.

AlexPBut I’ll probably have to keep nicking the books back off my mum sad cow who will read them too and pretend she’s fifteen again because it was fun when she did it (riiiight) and she wants to remember the good times they had in the Victorian days wearing a ra-ra skirt Gran made her out of a pillowcase and eating rainbow crystals from the sweet shop (totally not what they sound like) and watching Bruce Willis when he had hair on some TV cheesefest called Moonlighting.

Here’s Alex Pettyfer.

You know, because.


Children’s Laureate: the Challenge


_67955667_malorie-blackman-photoMalorie Blackman is the new Children’s Laureate 2013-2015. A triumphant choice. Here’s what I would like to see her do.

  • Introduce a primetime weekly TV show where people discuss children’s books with wit and humour while armed with large bags of Tangfastics. I will happily go on that show. Tangfastics fuel a tremendous urge for dialogue within me, plus a desire to climb trees and surf down Firgrove Hill on an ironing board. Haribo might like to sponsor this show.
  • Talking of ironing boards, let’s encourage people to act out famous scenes from children’s books like Alex Rider’s ironing board stunt in Point Blanc and post them up on social media with links to bookshops. (I am happy to volunteer. Price, one box of Tangfastics.)
  • Have a different celebrity a month commit to carrying a children’s book with them wherever they go, so children can see a book as an awesome accessory considerably less painful than a belly ring.
  • Ensure that national newspapers dedicate a quarter of their book review space to children’s books, as an accurate reflection of the 1 in 4 books sold today being children’s titles. (Thank you, outgoing Laureate Julia Donaldson for raising this.)
  • Start a guerrilla library movement. Set up libraries in unlikely places. Overnight. WITH NO WARNING. Make them mysterious, not municipal.
  • UnknownEncourage adults to hold children’s book clubs. Not children’s book-clubs, but CHILDREN’S-BOOK CLUBS. Instead of talking endlessly about Fifty Shades of Boring, grown-ups can read and discuss, for example, funny cancer, the perils of floating, parallel worlds and the role of dragons in society. They can then make informed choices for their children, passing on those books which have caused genuine tears / laughter / bladder-control issues instead of blind-buying titles they have vaguely heard of or maybe read themselves in Upper Fourth in 1953.
  • Enshrine library lessons in schools.
  • Make sure every primary school child has a library card.

What? The library card one’s already in hand? Hot damn, I knew she was a good choice.

Split Personality


I write lots of different kinds of books. Animals, aliens, fairies, monsters. And now I’m writing about… teenagers. But also writing about… penguins. And shortly pitching about… jungles.

This could end badly.


Mwa mwa mwa

The teenagers are kissing, fighting, acting, singing and dancing, dreaming of boys and girls, organising parties, painting each other like zombies. There are French exchange girls with boys on the brain, a moon with the kind of powers you don’t want to mess with and a dude in dodgy trainers. Did I mention the kissing? There’s lots of kissing.


Aim at the teenager! BOOP!

The penguins are zooming around in space, escaping from warring weirdos with too many eyes and a vast space zoo full of creatures to give Mexican bird-eating spiders nightmares as they fold up their long hairy legs and quake in the Central American undergrowth. Wham! Blam! Boop! (Intrepid pilot Rocky Waddle wishes to advise you never to peer down the barrel of a stun gun when it goes ‘Boop’.)

The jungle is enduring a cross little girl with too many opinions and absolutely no idea that she’s being followed by something large and hungry.


I have bare red knees innit

AND NONE OF THEM ARE BEING WRITTEN because I’m writing YOU. I have to concentrate or lose not just spinning plates but entire meals balanced thereon. At least one of my plates has a full roast lunch on it and gravy is going everywhere.

Where was I? Oh yes. Zombie penguins in the jungle.

*pootles off, whistling vaguely*


Library Love


booksI had a tremendous time on National Libraries Day at Fleet Library last weekend, reading to a lovely audience about the odd assortment of animals and characters in my book KOALA CRAZY: specifically scary girl Cazza (“OK in a strangely terrifying way, with her death motif badges, regular detentions and insanely illegal school shoes”), dappy Taya (“If my plans to be an actress stroke fashion designer stroke singer don’t work out, perhaps I’ll be a teacher or a politician or some other kind of person who talks a lot and impresses people because I’m pretty good at it”), Taya’s sci-fi obsessed, spiky twin sister Tori (“K9  as robot dog – fine and actually pretty funny. 2thi as human person – not fine and about as funny as measles. Spelling stuff in stupid ways is just really annoying”) and confused kangaroo Caramel, who has no quotes because she’s a kangaroo and can’t talk. The atmosphere was relaxed, the room was airy, the children were attentive, the parents didn’t fidget too much, and everyone wanted to know what happened next because–

chapter 3 ended on a cliffhanger. *sly smile*

Ah, la Lumley

Ah, la Lumley

I also got to share a paragraph about it with Joanna Lumley in the Bookseller.  Ha!

All of which makes me doubly sad that a well-known author like Terry Deary should attack libraries and the important community work that they do.

Possibly he was saying it for effect. I understand that he enjoys taking a combative stance on things, which doubtless serves him well in his taekwondo classes, knife-throwing target practice and Special Forces training, but isn’t much help to these precious, endangered public spaces with their free reading material, free WiFi, cheap coffee, computer desks, e-book lending, knowledgable staff, toddler music sessions, rainproof roofs, blessed silence (except, admittedly, during said toddler sessions) and warm all-ages-welcome human environment. Humanity needs just as much investment as fibre-optic technologies, pork bellies and wind farms. More actually.

I have a Kindle and I see the value of e-books. I also spend an inordinate amount of time on my computer. But I try not to forget that we are still people in need of comfort, communication, kinship and communal spaces where these needs can be met. There is nothing sentimental about that, nor about the PLR money hard-pressed authors earn from library lending, not to mention the important publicity following library appearances like my own last weekend.

Perhaps Mr Deary will give away his PLR earnings this year. Perhaps he’s been stealthily doing so for years?


Wolves and Angels


Fresh-faced from my first conference: The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators at the University of Winchester. What a gas! Brilliant speakers in Celia Rees and Debi Gliori, more spent on books in 2 days than I normally manage in a month, good food and conversation, and a terrific workshop with experts Julia Bell and Julia Golding which revealed to me how LAZY I am about characterisation.

Questions to ask when you come up with a character.

1. Who is this person?
2. What is their mood colour?
3. What animal do they remind you of?
4. What do they smell of?
5. What was the last thing they ate?
6. What are they thinking, the first time you see them?

*cracks knuckles, settles down to task, tongue firmly clamped between teeth*

Right. Let’s take, say, a wolf. 1) He’s a wolf. 2) He’s wolf-coloured. 3) He reminds me of a wolf. (This gets better.) 4) He smells of wet dog. 5) The last thing he ate was me. 6) He was thinking, ‘I’ll eat that author right there because she’s rubbish at characters.’

Hey, this is fun! I’m good at this! Let’s try another one.  1) He’s an angel. 2) He’s bright orange. 3) He reminds me of a golden eagle. 4) He smells of fire. 5) The last thing he ate was completely irrelevant because he’s an ANGEL, haven’t you been listening? 6) He was thinking something much too profound to put into words.

Fine. One angel, one wolf. So far so good. OR SO I THOUGHT.

Now swap one of the wolf’s six elements with one of the angel’s. Suddenly your angel smells of wet dog, and your wolf is bright orange. Or your angel likes eating authors and you have a zen wolf with a PhD in Philosophy. Zing!

This is so totally cool that I’m just going to leave it there.


Ding Dong Bluebell


There’s nothing like a walk through the woods to stoke imagination’s engines. I went in hope of bluebells because I live in hope of bluebells even in October, so I’m hell come mid-April. I should have it as my epitaph (makes note in will):
“She lived in hope of bluebells.”
Bluebells were denied me, but a new and fabulously exciting idea shuffled across the brain lane instead, somewhere between “Where are the bloody bluebells?” and “That’s an astonishing fact about magnolias, I must remember it and tweet it soonest”, and the idea is THIS.
… …
Ah. Mustn’t blog it yet because there’s nothing more annoying for readers than to have an author say WOW I’ve just had the best idea EVER and it involves animals and spies and feisty girls and mysterious men in black and dogs of indeterminate breed and it’s all roiling around in my head like a marvellous Scotch broth of incomprehensible pasta and ill-thought-out root vegetables and makes no sense to anyone but me. So I shall hold off on the details and merely offer you this little crouton of loveliness: my working title is the most ace acronym ever conceived while walking past a grey lag goose.
If you want the magnolia fact you’ll have to follow my Twitter account. Here’s a good bluebell one to tide you over.
Bluebell bulbs were once used to make book glue, as the toxins killed silverfish and other book-eating insects.
If it weren’t for the native British bluebell (don’t get me started on the unscented Spanish ones), I wouldn’t be writing today, because the whole concept of books and libraries would have been killed stone dead halfway through the Middle Ages and all we’d have to show for the work of those ink-stained monks of yore would be pestilential swarms of VERY FAT BUGS.

“O Fazio!”


Ah, Italia. Land of tomatoes and hair gel, Caravaggio and cobbles, gelato and alleyways smelling of wee. It’s on my mind at the moment. This can partly be blamed on the children’s book fair junket taking place in Bologna this week (where hopefully my books are going down a storm), and partly on last night’s viewing of BBC4’s Inspector Montalbano on iPlayer. I am now intermittently muttering “Ecco-la!” and “Fazio!” around the house and fighting the urge to get operatic with the washing machine, which has sprung a leak.

Ecco-la!” means “Look at that female object!” I’m not employing it to draw attention to anything female or otherwise; it just bursts out of me like water from an ill-fitting garden hose when I’m making tea or checking my emails and fills me with vigour and purpose. The experience is highly recommended.

Fazio – or more accurately, Fazio! – is Inspector Montalbano’s sergeant, constantly summoned down the airy corridors of the Vigata police station with magnificent emphasis thus. The quality Montalbano imparts to the “Fa” part of “Fazio!” is as bright as gold and summarises everything that’s beautiful about the language.

Another reason for watching Inspector Montalbano is balcony envy. A moment of reverential silencio, please.

Buona fortuna to all in Bologna this week. And if you make me rich and famous enough to get a balcony like this one day, so much the better.