Wishgranting

When I go into schools, I often tell people that I have the best job in the world. I get to spend all my time with imaginary friends. I get to be all of them: the good guys, the bad guys, the ones with the funniest lines and the happiest endings.  And if I feel like it, I can do the whole thing in my pyjamas. Good, huh?

But last week, I was asked to do something so special and exciting and joyful that I’m still dizzy. Make-A-Wish grant the wishes of children and young people living with life-threatening conditions. And Sophie’s wish was to meet me, to get some advice on her future career as an author.

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We met for afternoon tea in Oxford, and between scones we chatted about all kinds of important writerly things, the way I do whenever I meet writing friends. We talked about the books we love (like me Sophie likes to reread, and she’s very picky – if she doesn’t like the cover or the first page, off it goes back to the library!); the writing things we struggle with (I throw in too much plot, and I’m rubbish at planning; Sophie finds she gets stuck after a while, and goes to start something new instead, which means she often has lots of stories on the go at once); the kinds of stories we like to tell (I always seem to write about the real world, because those are the ideas that come into my head; Sophie writes more adventurous fantasy stories, where her protagonists travel to strange and thrilling imaginary worlds and have to escape – or choose to stay?).

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I told her about how I first got published, by entering a competition with the BBC. Sophie got through the first round of the BBC’s 500 Words, with an amazing-sounding piece about being transported to a world like Monopoly. (I wish I had ideas this good!) I shared some of the ways I keep myself going when I get stuck – it happens to me a lot too, so I try going away from my desk, getting some fresh air, reading or watching a film to get inspired again – and where we might get fresh story ideas from. We talked about all the practical side of being an author: how to get an agent, what an agent does for you. Her mum took lots of notes. I gave Sophie a very special TOP SECRET present – she’s the only person in the whole world to have read it – and Sophie has promised to send me the story she’s been working on most recently, just as soon as she’s figured out what happens next.

We took a little walk through Oxford, so I could show them the exhibition at the Bodleian Library (sadly it was closed by the time we got there, but they had the whole of the next day to explore as part of the Wish). Then we waved goodbye.

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It was a really magical experience for me as well. Many many thanks to the Make-A-Wish wishgranters, to Emily and Annabel, and to Sophie’s lovely Mum for making it all happen. Thanks to the author friends who helped put together some tips and tricks. And Sophie, it was an absolute treat to meet you, and to share some writing ideas. I can’t wait to read your story, and I hope you keep feeling inspired!

 

 

More Secrets of Billie Bright + GIVEAWAY!

She’s here! The Secrets of Billie Bright is out now – as are all the shiny new covers of the Pea and Sams books.

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To celebrate, here are ten Billie Bright secrets:

  1. Billie has three older brothers. I do not have any brothers. I had a big panic – I don’t know anything about teenage boys! – until I remembered that I have spent the last ten years living in a boarding school full of them. Duh.
  2. This means some of the things they do are real things, such as making an imaginary friend out of a big ball of sticky tape. (My students’ one was not called Mr Pantalon, though. And he was not obsessed with trousers. I made up that bit.)
  3. I started writing this book on holiday in Marseille, while eating a lot of pistachio chocolate and cherries from the market. Gabriel and Alexei’s fancy flat (where everything is white, apart from bright green cushions and cups and rugs) definitely has some French roots.Capture3
  4. I wrote about 12,ooo words in that flat. And then threw almost all of them away and started again. Ah well. Sometimes that’s what writing a book is like.
  5. I’m a bit scared of dogs. All the characters in the Peas and Secrets books so far really love Wuffly and Surprise (except for Dr Skidelsky, and even she’s sort of come round to the idea) – so I thought perhaps Billie might be more like me.
  6. There’s a Year 7 sleepover at the Natural History Museum in London in this book. I got really excited about being able to do research by sleeping under a dinosaur! But it turns out you aren’t allowed to if you’re a grown up (or only once a year anyway). Boo.dippy-landscape
  7. Pea’s not in this book (apart from one very quick mention – see if you can spot it). But Billie is in the same class as the twin Sams, along with some other new friends: nervous Efe, and a very complicated girl called Ruby. If you’ve read The Secrets of Sam and Sam you might recognise some of the rest of class 7E too – but you don’t have to have read my other books before this one, you can start with Billie.
  8. This book has periods in it! Because it’s about some eleven-year-olds, and lots of eleven-year-olds have periods. Plenty of people who nine or ten do too. And even if my readers don’t have periods themselves yet, or they never will, I think it’s important for them to know they exist, and not to keep them hidden away like a secret or something to be ashamed of.
  9. The big secret in this book – Mum’s secret, the one Billie has to try to unlock by finding a special key – is also something that’s been hidden away, and is all about things people might be ashamed of. I’m not going to tell you what it is. But I will tell you that this book is a bit more direct at talking about what might get called an ‘issue’ than my stories usually are.
  10. If that makes it sound gloomy or a bit too sensible, I can also promise that there is a coat that looks like a muppet, confused teenagers who kiss their boyfriends on the eyebrow, an imaginary rabbit, stealth-vegetable cakes, and a very exciting wedding. Hooray!

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Want to know more? Find out what Billie’s story is all about (and where to buy it) here.

GIVEAWAY!

Billie’s new teacher Miss Eagle sets the class a Hero Project. To win a copy of the book, signed by me, just tell me – who is YOUR hero?

This giveaway is now closed.

COVER REVEAL: new jackets for all!

Remember when I showed you the amazing cover for my next book, The Secrets of Billie Bright? (It’s still a peach. I’m still crying. Aieeee.) And remember how I promised there were new amazing covers for all the Peas and Sams too?

Well, what with it being ONLY ONE MONTH till they’re in the shops, I thought it was about time you got to coo at them too.

Here’s the first one I saw, for the first in the Pea’s Book series.

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Look! Hair! Freckles! Gorgeous typography, and just joyfully lovely artwork from Lisa Horton. And here’s the full set of Peas and Secrets (so far):

WOW. They all have brilliant contrast spines too with glorious little details. I am a lucky, lucky writer.

Unfortunately you now have to wait till 7th July 2016 to own them in their shiny beautifulness. But till then, here’s a peek at the back cover of Billie:

Billie Bright- the back cover blurb

Out 7th July 2016 from Penguin Random House | available from all good bookshops

Amazon | Waterstones | Blackwells | Foyles | hive.co.uk (supporting independent booksellers) | The Book Depository (free international delivery)