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.

Jhalak Prize Shortlist

Here’s some news I never thought I’d be able to write about, because I imagined the chances of it happening were too small to consider – The Girl of Ink & Stars has made it onto the Jhalak Prize shortlist, from a long-list of eleven incredible books. It is the only children’s book on the list, and I feel so grateful and proud to be flying the kids’ lit flag amongst such company. Here are the books in the running:

I’ve read all but David Olusoga’s Black and British: A Forgotten History, and Jacob Ross’ The Bone Readers, which I intend to buy, borrow or steal as soon as possible. The shortlist has been covered by The Bookseller and The Guardian so far, and from these articles I’ve gleaned some of the lovely things the judges have said…just never read the comments.

For a prize with such hopeful and positive aims, it’s been a depressingly contentious process so far – I personally found Khorsandi’s decision to withdraw because her book is not about ‘ethnic issues’ – nor is mine – bewildering (great blog about it here) – and there have been gleeful accounts of how low the submission numbers were (51 the week before deadline, though this then more than tripled). The latter is surely an inditement of how much we need such a prize, that so few books fall into the criteria.

All prizes have selection criteria: in a way this one is less restrictive as it accepts all genres, from non-fiction to science writing, kids’ lit to short stories. In my view, the Jhalak Prize is surely a wholly wonderful thing: it aims to raise up the voices of writers of colour, whatever they choose to write about it. I am incredibly proud to be part of it.

NaNoWriMo 2016

For those of you who aren’t aware, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 i.e. a large chunk (or more!) of a novel, and this year is the first time I am partaking. It’s a pledge to myself that I won’t fall into the usual post-edits slump – book two just went to my publisher and I don’t want to waste the momentum by watching Netflix all day. To keep myself motivated I’m using the fab NaNoWriMo website, on which I found this beautiful advice from one of my favourite authors, Catherynne M. Valente:


I’m also going to follow this ace photobook challenge I found on Instagram:


Let’s do this.

Happy birthday take two


Today you come out across the pond. I am sorry I’m not there to take selfies with you in bookshops, or hover near displays to see if you’re on tables, or go into libraries and request you in funny voices as if the librarian knows what I sound like.


I’m relying on my friends and family to do these things for me, and the fact you are already down to two copies on Amazon.com (other retailers available*) gives me assurance that they have been preordering as frantically as my UK-based family did.

Happy birthday, dear thing. I hope to see you in the wild soon, and that you have a wonderful start to your adventures Stateside.

Kiran x

Bolton Children’s Fiction Award Shortlist

What a day! Just found out THE GIRL OF INK & STARS has also been shortlisted for the BCFA2017. From their website:


After much anticipation, the Bolton Children’s Fiction Award 2017 Shortlist has finally been announced! The six books were revealed to students from Bolton School Boys’ and Girls’ Divisions, in a launch ceremony. This annual award – which puts the voting entirely in the hands of the children under the age of fifteen – has been run by Bolton School for the past four years. Previous winners Gillian Cross, Tom Hoyle and Narinder Dhami as well as other shortlisted authors have gone on to be nominated for other national awards.

Find out more here.

Carnegie Award nomination

I am astounded. THE GIRL OF INK & STARS has been nominated for the Carnegie Award. From the website:

Often described by authors and illustrators as the “one they want to win”, the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards are the gold standard in literature and illustration for children and young people. Previous winners of the CILIP Carnegie Medal include Sally Gardener, Patrick Ness, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman and C.S. Lewis whilst previous winners of the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal include Chris Riddell, Levi Pinfold, Raymond Briggs, Shirley Hughes and Quentin Blake.

Click here to read more.

Waterstones and World Mental Health Day

It’s World Mental Health Day, and so today – like every day – I’m sending love and strength to anyone who might be struggling. I wrote this for Waterstones, about how where I write has changed as I got better.

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-11-07-54One of the cruellest things about my depression was that I couldn’t read (not ideal in the midst of a degree!), so it robbed me of one of my greatest escapes. Celebrating feeling well by re-reading AUBREY AND THE TERRIBLE YOOT by Horatio Clare, a gorgeous depiction of depression that I fully recommend to kids and adults alike. Take care, y’all.