I meant to post this up back in Children's Book Week at the start of the month, but at the time I was chained to my desk checking the proofs of Shadows of the Silver Screen and writing the first draft of The Black Crow Conspiracy. Anyway, I just wanted to say how incredibly proud I am that Twelve Minutes to Midnight has been included in Booktrust's 2012 Best Book Guide alongside some wonderful books from fantastic authors such as Philip Reeve, Celia Rees and Eva Ibbotson to name but a few.
As well as appearing in the 2012 Best Book Guide, Twelve Minutes to Midnight also appears in a Booktrust's Children's Book Week list of their favourite stories with inspiring heroines, with Penelope sandwiched between Roald Dahl's Matilda and Neil Gaiman's Coraline. I cannot tell you how happy this conjunction made me!
Until next time when I'll have news of heroic adventures...
Happy New Year everyone! Don't worry, I haven't succumbed to a bout of rampant egomania; the title of this blogpost is taken from an internet meme called the #NextBigThing that I've been invited to take part in. The charming Piers Torday who I met at the CWIG conference in Reading last year tagged me to take part in this back in December, but due to a flurry of last-minute deadlines and pre-Christmas preparations, I'm only now getting round to posting this up. Piers's debut novel The Last Wild which has been described by one reader as a 'sci-fi Roald Dahl' is one of my most eagerly-awaited reads of 2013 and you can find out more about it by reading Piers's #NextBigThing post here.
Anyway, here are my answers to the #NextBigThing questions:
What's the title of your next book?
Shadows of the Silver Screen. It's the follow-up to Twelve Minutes to Midnight.
Where did the idea come from?
When I finished writing Twelve Minutes to Midnight, I knew there were more stories I wanted to tell about Penelope, Alfie and Monty and even stranger mysteries for them to solve. Shadows of the Silver Screen is set at the dawn of the twentieth century: a time when the new-fangled world of moving pictures was taking its first steps from the fairground to the cinema screen, whilst spirit photographers and charlatans claimed to be able to photograph the dead. I've always loved haunted house stories and when I had the idea of a mysterious filmmaker approaching The Penny Dreadful to turn one of Montgomery Flinch's stories into a motion picture, I saw the chance to combine these two strands into a haunted house story with a twist...
What genre does your book fall under?
Mystery and adventure with a touch of the supernatural.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie?
I think I'd have to scour the country, holding a series of Harry Potter-style open auditions to cast the part of Penelope Tredwell, but I'd love to see Mark Gatiss play the part of Montgomery Flinch. I'm a huge fan of his work in Crooked House, The First Men in the Moon and the remarkable Sherlock, so if he wanted to adapt, produce and direct it too, he'd be more than welcome!
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
What if the camera could capture more than just memories of the past - would you dare to watch the shadows of the silver screen?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Shadows of the Silver Screen will be published on the 10th January 2013 by Nosy Crow.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
It took me about a year to finish the first draft of Shadows of the Silver Screen. Moving house in the middle of writing and having to scribble away in an unfinished office whilst builders, plumbers and electricians knocked the house down around my ears probably didn't help my productivity!
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
One of the highlights of 2012 for me was appearing on stage alongside Philip Pullman at the Oxford Literary Festival. Although I wouldn't dare to compare my books to Phililp Pullman's, several reviewers of Twelve Minutes to Midnight said that it would appeal to fans of his Sally Lockhart series which was a comparison I was delighted by.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I think every book I write takes inspiration in some way from the stories I have read and seen. Shadows of the Silver Screen has its roots entwined with classic ghost stories such as The Ash Tree by M.R. James and The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
If you want to find out what happened to the man who invented cinema but who history forgot, you should read Shadows of the Silver Screen.
Who are you passing the baton to for next week's Next Big Thing?
Two fantastic authors who I share a roost with at the Nosy Crow nest. Helen Peters, author of the critically-acclaimed The Secret Hen House Theatre, who tweets as @farmgirlwriter, and Paula Harrison, author of the fabulous Rescue Princesses series and the forthcoming Faerie Tribes.
Amidst the excitement of the publication of The Black Crow Conspiracy, the third and final book in the series that began with Twelve Minutes to Midnight, I was thrilled to learn last week that Shadows of the Silver Screen, the second book in the series, has been shortlisted for the 2014 Lambeth Phoenix Book Award. I was particularly pleased about this as Twelve Minutes to Midnight was up for the same award back in 2013, appearing on the shortlist then alongside books by such wonderful authors as Michael Morpurgo and Jonathan Meres.
Nobody writes a novel in order to be shortlisted for a prize - not even Hilary Mantel - but since Twelve Minutes to Midnight was published back in 2012, one of the most exciting things for me as an author has been seeing it appear on the shortlists of regional book awards across the country. After months spent writing alone in a shed at the bottom of my garden, to suddenly find out that young readers from Northern Ireland to Warwickshire, Redbridge to Southampton, not to mention Hillingdon, Dudley and Oldham too, were reading the adventures of Penelope and her friends at The Penny Dreadful was completely amazing and rather thrilling to me. When Twelve Minutes to Midnight won its category at the Stockport Schools Book Award, it was fantastic to have the chance to meet the children who had voted for the award - to see the wonderful and creative work that their reading had inspired and hear their excitement about the books they had read. For me, these awards are about celebrating young readers - encouraging children to discover new authors, pick up books that they might not usually try, and, most importantly, to read for pleasure.
I'm really looking forward to attending the award ceremony in Lambeth on the 1st of May and finding out what the readers there have made of Shadows of the Silver Screen. And if you're a young reader in Lambeth, don't forget to vote!