Ramblings & More...

So long, 2017, & thanks for all the fish…

2017 – with its Weinsteins, ignorance, natural disasters compounded by human action, Brexit – hasn’t been great for the world, but it’s been extraordinarily kind to me in my personal and professional life.

My debut novel The Girl of Ink & Stars won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize in March, and the British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year in April. My second, The Island at the End of Everything, got shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book Award and the Blue Peter Book Award in November.

I wrote my third book: at my desk in Oxford, in a leather armchair by a storm tossed sea on the Isle of Harris, in pubs and cafes with my best friends.

I hosted the launch of my favourite author of all time’s new book in October: The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman. I finished it on Will and Lyra’s bench in the Botanical Gardens as the midday bells began to ring and rain began to fall. I cried.

I saw a wild sea otter.

I read and read and read: 111 books this year. Adventures, thrillers, love stories, horror, non-fiction, poetry. I glutted on other people’s words and worlds and it made me ache to write more, to write better, but never to write like them.

I got married three times: at a registry in Oxford in front of family, in the Bodleian Library in front of friends, by the sea in Goa. We exchanged rings, danced our first dance, threw rice and ghee into a fire. We promised across two continents in two languages, to continue growing our lives together.

We met our new niece, watched our other nieces and nephews become even more themselves. The years has ended with two engagements of two favourite people. We travelled to four tiny islands in the Indian Ocean and lived in our swimsuits, got sunburnt and tanned and freckled, swam with a sea turtle, drank coconut and rum, snorkelled away from a shark, spent £60 on dog and cat food for the strays, walked white beaches, saw no sunsets, fought once.

I made amazing new friends, and fell even more in love with my ‘old’ ones. I spent a lot of time in bed with our cat, Luna, or on the sofa with her, or taking pictures of her.

I had no panic attacks. I lost only one week to depression. I was anxious only for hours at a time. I am sure having a cat is part of the reason for this. I got my long-term health issues diagnosed. I completed Yoga with Adriene’s 30 Day Challenge.

In 2018 I will travel even more, for work and for just because: to Malaysia, Oman, UAE, Norway, Italy, France, Spain. I will continue to donate too much money to charity and send too much to Kickstarter campaigns and Unbound. I will learn to cook ramen from scratch. I will buy secondhand clothes and use my reusable water bottle, forgo straws. I will visit friends more regularly, and go dancing more.

I hope to care less about what my body looks like, and care more about my body. I hope to visit family in India. I hope to text friends back within an hour rather than a day. I hope to write two books and read a hundred.

I hope for another year of happiness and health, and I wish the same for you.

The Blue Peter Awards 2017

Thrilled to announce that The Island at the End of Everything has been shortlisted for Best Story by the Blue Peter Book Awards 2017! It’s already been an amazing week, and this is just extraordinary.

It’s an honour to see my book alongside Cressida Crowell’s Wizards of Once and Lissa Evans’ Wed Wabbit (again!) Thank you to the judges – now it’s over to the kids. More info here.

Come see me!

The next few weeks bring some really exciting events that I wanted to share with you. Click the links for more details!

September

26th – In conversation with Barry Cunningham at The Bookseller Kids Conference, 10:35am.

28th – In conversation with Anna James at #LushBookClub, 7pm.

30th – Adventures on Islands event at Wigtown Festival, 11am.

October

2nd – Online Q&A with Mslexia, 5pm.

3rd – Adventures on Islands event at Bath Festival, 10am, then in conversation with Sally Gardner, 6pm.

15th – In conversation with Jen Campbell at Cheltenham Festival, then I’ve Never Read… panel with Marcus Brigstocke, 6:30pm.

27th – Orpheus and Eurydice event with Tom de Freston at Translating Myth Conference, 2:15pm.

A month (& a bit) of madness

Well. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll know it’s been quite a few weeks for The Girl of Ink & Stars, all those involved with her journey, and me. The month after it won the Waterstones Children’s Book of the Year Award was full of joy, including window displays, interviews, and even re-entry into the bestseller charts.

It was wonderful to revisit the excitement I felt during my debut month. In fact, it was even better, because a year on GOI&S has had the sort of success I never even dared to dream about. The Island at the End of Everything came out early too, and there was a rather special week when my debut and second book were two of the top three bestselling middle grade books at Waterstones. Here they are, making a Robin Stevens sandwich.

But this wasn’t even the most exciting part of April, because at the end of the month, I got married to my long-time love and best friend, Tom de Freston. We had a whole weekend of happiness, with a low-key official ceremony at the local registry office with family on one day, and a huge celebration with family and friends the next. This of course meant I had to have two outfits.

They were the happiest two days of my life, and we’re still caught up in the giddiness of it all.

A short week later, the Branford Boase Award shortlist was announced, and I am delighted to say GOI&S is on there alongside some of my favourite authors and friends.

A long time ago now – three years in fact – when I’d just signed with Chicken House, I remember that year’s shortlist being announced, and saying to Tom that this was the award that I’d dearly love to win. It rewards and recognises the work of the editor, as well as the author, and GOI&S was an especial team effort owing to the eight drafts I completed with my wonderful editor, Rachel Leyshon. It was a different book when she found it, and without her and Barry’s guidance, it could not have become what it has. I found my voice thanks to her hard work. I feel very emotional and blessed to be considered for this unique award, though looking at the shortlist a win may be too much to hope for.

The evening after the Branford Boase was announced, we found ourselves at the British Book Awards, where GOI&S was shortlisted for Children’s Book of the Year. Chicken House were kind enough to host Tom as well, and we had a brilliant night.

Tom, me, Barry Cunningham on the red carpet!

When I found out it was shortlisted, I was also told it was the Oscars of the book world – and it totally was! Held in the same venue as the BAFTAs, compered by the Strictly Come Dancing voiceover guy, and replete with red carpet and photographers, it was a truly amazing evening even before this happened…

Yep. WE ONLY BLOODY WON. Which, considering the shortlist looked like this:

…is pretty remarkable, and a testament to the incredible job Chicken House did of editing, designing, and marketing the book. I had no idea we would win, and my speech was not the most eloquent, but at least we were told to keep it brief. Then we ate, drank, danced (Barry C has MOVES) and drank some more. It was one of the best nights of my life. Here’s an article Sian Cain at The Guardian wrote about it all.

If all that wasn’t enough, The Island at the End of Everything launched the next day at Waterstones Piccadilly.

It’s had some gorgeous reviews, including this in the Telegraph last week.

I’m overjoyed it’s having such a good reception. I loved writing it, and in some ways prefer it to GOI&Shere is a Q&A I did about it with The Bookseller.

So, that’s us all caught up. Now TIATEOE is out officially, school events and festivals are starting, and I have a busy time ahead. More than anything, I am looking forward to finishing my next book, and taking the next steps in a career that has been given such an amazing start.