It’s been a bit of a dream bank holiday weekend. It started on Saturday when I opened the Review section of The Guardian to discover that Imogen Russell Williams had included The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day in her monthly round-up of the best new children’s books. You can see the review from the print edition below and the longer version of the review is online here. It was so great to be included in this round-up alongside brilliant new titles from Lauren St John, Sophie Anderson, Philip Reeve and David Almond, and truly thrilling to read Imogen’s wonderful words about The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day.
Then on Bank Holiday Monday I headed west to the Hay Festival, where I was appearing alongside Robin Ince in an event entitled ‘Science in Stories’. I’m a huge fan of Robin’s work from his brilliant stand-up to the freewheeling Book Shambles podcast he hosts with Josie Long. Robin is also, of course, the co-host of The Infinite Monkey Cage, Radio 4’s award-winning series that brings together figures from the arts with leading scientists to discuss questions such as ‘What is Reality’ and ‘How to Build a Universe’ – which is also the title of the brilliant book by the Monkey Cage team of Robin, Professor Brian Cox and Alexandra Feachem.
In the acknowledgements page at the back of The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day, I thank The Infinite Monkey Cage for helping to expand my understanding of the universe. In our society we often confuse seriousness with intelligence, but what makes The Infinite Monkey Cage so brilliant and utterly unique is the fierce intelligence and joyful silliness it brings to the subject of science, capturing I think the true sense of joy and wonder that lies at the heart of so much scientific endeavour. On the show mind-boggling topics such as infinity are explored in such an entertaining way that, for me, it made researching The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day a real delight. So I was hugely excited to have the chance to talk to Robin on stage at Hay.
I must admit this sense of excitement took on a slightly nervous twinge as I stepped onstage at our sold-out event to see 750 faces staring back at me, but with Robin seated to my right, the audience were soon laughing with delight as his comic skills and boundless curiosity took us on a tour of the universe. Our conversation explored how science and stories both help us to make sense of the world, touching on topics such as the Large Hadron Collider, Schrödinger's cat, extraterrestrial life and the nature of reality, whilst Robin revealed that the best way to get him to stop talking is to apply a strong magnetic pulse to the left-side of his brain! (A feat accomplished by Professor Sophie Scott in her 2017 Christmas Lecturesat the Royal Institution.)
At the end of the event when Robin asked for questions, a forest of hands was raised with those hands held highest belonging to the youngest audience members. From them we fielded questions about the significance of human existence, the possibility of parallel universes, the chances of alien life and whether we should colonize Mars. It was so wonderful to see how their imaginations had been fired and it reminded me that young people’s hunger for wonder is one of the reasons I write children’s fiction. For those questions we didn’t have the chance to answer, Robin invited the questioners to come along and ask them at the book signing after the event, which I think explained the epic length of the signing queue!
As Robin and I chatted to readers it was brilliant to hear about the different ways in which science inspired them and how they were channelling this inspiration, from taking part in after-school science clubs to writing their own science fiction stories. I must admit it made me feel proud to think that books like The Many Worlds of Albie Bright and The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day are helping in some small way to fuel this excitement about science and stories.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to Julia Eccleshare and the team at Hay for inviting me to be part of this year’s festival, to Robin Ince for agreeing to take part in the event and being such wonderful company, and a huge thank you too to everyone who came along, especially the youngest audience members. I think Spaceship Earth will be in good hands with you at the helm.
And for anyone who wants to put a little more science and wonder in their life, I’ve just got time to let you know about a couple of events that are taking place in June. On Friday 15 June Robin Ince and Chris Hadfield are hosting Space Shamblesat the Royal Albert Hall, a star-studded evening of comedy, music and science. You can find full details of the stellar line-up for this event here and I think there are still a few tickets available for what’s bound to be an amazing evening.
Then on the evening of Saturday 16 June, I’m hugely excited to be appearing at the Royal Institution where I’ll be joined by cosmologist Andrew Pontzen and the scientist and BAFTA-nominated science presenter Fran Scott at an event to illuminate the exciting physics and cosmology that can be found inside The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day. The Royal Institution is describing this as “the perfect event for science enthusiasts and bookworms alike!” and to say that I’m absolutely thrilled about it would be a bit of an understatement! You can buy tickets for the event hereand I really hope to see you there.
I've also had the pleasure of chatting about the book with Bex at Fun Kids Radio and Robin Ince for a Book Shambles Extra podcast. (I'm also thrilled to be appearing alongside Robin Ince at this year's Hay Festival on Monday 28th May - please come along to our event if you can make it!)
So when it came to creating a soundtrack for The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day, one soundtrack was never going to be enough! When The Jamie Drake Equation was published on World Book Day last year, I had the chance to chat to BBC Radio DJ Chris Hawkins about the soundtrack I’d created for the novel on his 6 Music show. So when bound proofs of The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day rolled off the presses, I got in touch with Chris to see if he fancied reading this and creating his own soundtrack for the story. Luckily, he said yes and this is the message he sent along with his specially-curated soundtrack for the book.
“The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day is out of this world…a kid’s epic adventure to infinity and back. These are the songs that matched the story for me.” Chris Hawkins, BBC Radio
I really love the soundtrack choices that Chris has made – I knew from his 6Music show that he has brilliant and eclectic musical taste, but it’s been fascinating to see this reflected through the prism of The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day and be introduced to tracks by bands like dEUS and Dutch Uncles that I hadn’t heard before. I especially love the song he has chosen to close the soundtrack – One Day Like This by Elbow – as this really evokes for me the emotions that I hope readers take away from the story.
In terms of my own choices I could’ve created an infinite playlist for the book, but stuck to eighteen songs that for me soundtrack key moments in the story. You’ll find tracks by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Massive Attack, David Bowie and The Charlatans, to name but a few. But the one song that makes it onto both soundtracks is the mesmerizing Birthday by The Sugarcubes, whose eerie beauty captures for me the mood of the opening chapter.
You can listen to the Spotify playlist of my soundtrack here and Chris Hawkins’ soundtrack here, and find the chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the songs on my soundtrack below if you want to listen along as you read The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day.
And if you fancy making your own soundtrack for the story, let me know what songs you’d choose by tagging me on Twitter with the hashtags #MaisieDay #infinitesongs
The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day – the author’s chapter-by-chapter tracklisting:
1 Birthday by The Sugarcubes (Chapter 1)
2 There She Goes, My Beautiful World by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (Chapter 1/Chapter 3)
3 If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You by Super Furry Animals (Chapter 3)
4 Way To Blue by Nick Drake (Chapter 5)
5 Pictures of You by The Cure (Chapter 5)
6 Space and Time by The Verve (Chapter 6)
7 Lazarus by The Boo Radleys (Chapter 7)
8 Black Milk by Massive Attack (Chapter 7)
9 3 a.m. Eternal (Blue Danube Orbital Mix) by the KLF (remix by The Orb) (Chapter 9)
10 The Private Psychedelic Reel by The Chemical Brothers (Chapter 9)
11 Midnight in a Perfect World by DJ Shadow (Chapter 11)
12 Where Are We Know? by David Bowie (Chapter 11)
13 Infinity by The xx (Chapter 11)
14 Two Months Off by Underworld (Chapter 12)
15 Inbetween Days by The Cure (Chapter 13)
16 Hymn (David McAlmont version) by Ultramarine (Chapter 14)
17 Where The Light Gets In by Primal Scream featuring Sky Ferreira (Chapter 15)
18 Hey Sunrise by The Charlatans (Chapter 16)
The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day – the Chris Hawkins soundtrack
1 In the Beginning by Mike Oldfield
2 Time by Pink Floyd
3 She Blinded Me With Science by Thomas Dolby
4 Birthday by The Sugarcubes
5 Close To Me by The Cure
6 Dreaming by Blondie
7 I Hear Voices by Kasabian
8 We Are All Made of Stars by Moby
9 Ball of Confusion by The Temptations
10 Little Arithmetics by dEUS
11 Hello Spaceboy (Pet Shop Boys remix) by David Bowie
12 Television The Drug of the Nation by The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy
13 Supermassive Black Hole by Muse
14 Time Is My Everything by Ian Brown
15 Magical Mystery Tour by The Beatles
16 Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space by Spiritualized
17 Particle Man by They Might Be Giants
18 Go To The Mirror! by The Who
19 Big Balloon by Dutch Uncles
20 Help The Aged by Pulp
21 There Is A Light That Never Goes Out by The Smiths
“Wow, I wish Christopher Edge had been my science teacher. The writer, who in timely fashion nods to Stephen Hawking early in this gripping story, has a magical way of distilling difficult concepts for the very young: relativity, gravity, time and space, infinity. It helps, of course, that he weaves these ideas into a high-energy thriller about virtual reality, black holes and strained sibling relationships.”
I’ve also got some exciting events coming up. On Sunday 6th May I’m running a creative writing masterclass at the Shrewsbury Bookfest and the following week on Sunday 13th May, I’ll be appearing at Barnes Children’s Literature Festival where I’ll be talking about The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day.
I’m also proud to be a part of this year’s Hay Festivaland will be appearing alongside the ace Robin Ince, stand-up comedian and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s The Infinite Monkey Cage on Monday 28 May at 4.00pm, in an event entitled ‘Science in Stories’ where we’ll be discussing science, creativity and the nature of reality.
And finally, on the evening of Saturday 16th June, I am appearing at the Royal Institution where I’ll be joined by Cosmologist Andrew Pontzenand the scientist and BAFTA-nominated science presenter Fran Scott at an event to illuminate the exciting physics and cosmology that can be found inside The Infinite Lives of Maisie. The Royal Institution are describing this as “the perfect event for science enthusiasts and bookworms alike!” and to say that I’m absolutely thrilled about it would be a bit of an understatement!
When I was growing up, the only time you ever saw a trailer was when the Pearl & Dean theme boomed out across the cinema. From Raiders of the Lost Ark to Romancing the Stone, the trailers shown at the Princes Cinema in Eccles gave me a first glimpse of coming attractions that left me counting down the days until the actual films arrived on screen.
Times move on and now books have trailers too, so I’m hugely excited to be able to share the amazing trailer that Nosy Crow have created for my new novel, The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day, which you can watch above.
The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day will be published on the 5th April 2018 and you’ll be able to take a sneak peek at the opening chapters soon, but until then here’s a bit more about the book:
It’s Maisie’s birthday and she can’t wait to open her presents. She’s hoping for the things she needs to build her own nuclear reactor. But she wakes to an empty house and outside the front door is nothing but a terrifying, all-consuming blackness. Trapped in an ever-shifting reality, Maisie knows that she will have to use the laws of the universe and the love of her family to survive. And even that might not enough…
Huge thanks to Matt Saunders for the wonderful cover art he’s created for The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day, Tom Saunders for his amazing animation, and Tom Bonnick and the team at Nosy Crow for all their brilliant work on the trailer.
As I wrote when The Many Worlds of Albie Bright was nominated last year, the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards are described as ‘the gold standard in literature and illustration for children and young people’ because they are chosen by the experts in children’s literature and illustration – librarians.
The Jamie Drake Equation is a book about astronauts and aliens, family and friendship, and was written for anyone who has ever looked at the stars. When I was writing the book, I wanted to use the following quotation from the film, A Matter of Life and Death, as the opening epigraph, but sadly wasn’t able to clear the permission to use this:
“This is the Universe. Big, isn’t it?”
I believe that reading opens the door to the Universe. Every one of the books nominated for the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals is a shining point of light in the sky, and beyond this list there are countless more brilliant books shining there too. Libraries are the spaceships that help us explore this universe and librarians the starship commanders, helping readers to aim for the stars and discover new worlds. Thank you to all librarians for the vital work that you do. Thank you for nominating The Jamie Drake Equation.
So begins my new novel, The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day, which will be published by Nosy Crow on the 5th April 2018. As the d ark nights draw in, April seems like an age away, but the brilliant team at NosyCrow have already created beautiful bound proofs of the book which are now making their way into the hands of some early readers.
“The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it alive: a live thing, a story.”
It’s thrilling - and a little bit scary too - to realize that The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day is now coming alive and becoming a story, so it’s been incredibly heartening to hear some early responses to the book:
One of the highlights of my summer was attending the Edinburgh Book Festival. After a flying visit last year where I took part in the brilliant Baillie Gifford Schools Programme and talked quantum physics, parallel universes and The Many Worlds of Albie Bright to a packed theatre of awesome young readers, I was thrilled to be invited back to the festival this year for events in both the children’s and adults’ programmes.
Arriving in Edinburgh on Friday evening, I headed straight to the Author’s Yurt where I was greeted by Janet Smyth, the festival’s ace Children & Education Programme Director who took me along to the swanky new Greenhouses that had sprung up along George Street opposite the festival’s home on Charlotte Square. This was the venue for my first festival event – a creative writing workshop for adults on ‘Writing for Young Readers’.
I’d asked all the attendees at the event to bring along a favourite children’s book and as we talked about the ways these books had shaped us and explored the craft of writing for children, it reminded me of how important children’s books are to us at different stages of our lives and what an honour it is to write for young readers. At the end of session, some of the attendees shared the openings of the stories they had worked on in the workshop with me and I’m sure I’ll be reading more from these writers in the future. Huge thanks to Joely Badger for her ace organisation of this workshop and the lovely folk at the Printing Press Bar and Kitchen who prepared cocktails on the night!
On Saturday morning, I got the chance to hang out with Kathryn Evans, author of the amazing YA novel More of Mewhich won the Edinburgh Book Festival First Book Award in 2016. Popping into Jonathan Stroud’s ‘Freedom to Think’ creative workshop at the festival, Kathryn and I promptly invented the HOW TO MAKE IT BIG IN BOOKS board game which you can see below. I’m sure this will soon get snapped up by some forward-thinking publisher, so keep an eye out for it under your Christmas tree!
At the Edinburgh Book Festival the Author’s Yurt is a constant hive of creative brilliance with ace authors, illustrators and festival folk buzzing around. It was great to catch up there with Jonathan Meres, Andy Seed, Sam Gayton, Helen Peters and Harry Baker. At one point, I was sitting in the summer sunshine outside the yurt whilst inspirational former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell sharpened his pencils on the table next to mine, but I managed to resist the temptation of asking him to draw me like one of his French girls…
Sunday morning in Edinburgh brought with it my ‘Strange and Unexpected’ event with Ross Welford, author of Time Travelling with a Hamster and What Not to Do If You Turn Invisible, in the Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre. I had tons of fun talking about astronauts, aliens and The Jamie Drake Equation and a big thank you to the audience members who got up on stage to help me to prove that any aliens orbiting Gliese 131, a star system seventy light years away, would probably be big fans of Elvis Presley! It was great to have the chance to chat to so many readers at the signing after the event and inspirational to learn from them how books like The Many Worlds of Albie Bright and The Jamie Drake Equation are sparking their interest in science.
After this, I just had time to get the author portrait you can see at the top of this blogpost taken by super-talented festival photographer Chris Close and finally attend the Jenny Brown Associates summer party after ten years of being represented by my wonderful agent Lucy Juckes there, before bidding a reluctant farewell to Edinburgh and finally heading home.
Huge thanks to Janet Smyth and all the fantastic team who make the Edinburgh Book Festival run like a dream. Thank you for inviting me to be part of the wonderful carnival of ideas and excitement that you create every year in Charlotte Square Gardens.
I’m really excited to be heading to Edinburgh at the end of this week to take part in the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I had an amazing time at the festival last year in a whistle-stop 24-hour visit, so was thrilled to be invited back this year. My ‘Writing for Young Readers’ creative writing workshop on the evening of Friday 18 August is sold out, but there are still tickets available for my ‘Strange and Unexpected’ event with Ross Welford at 10.30am on Sunday 20 August. So if you’re in Edinburgh on Sunday morning, please come along to find out which one of us is strange and who’s unexpected!
Later this year I’m appearing at the Cheltenham Literature Festival on Sunday 8 October in an event entitled ‘Get Creative!’ alongside authors Jonathan Stroud, Katherine Woodfine and Lizzie Stewart. To quote the festival website this is ‘a creative madcap event for the whole family discussing all aspects of creativity, from things they made as children, to finding time for it in their busy adult lives and sharing top tips for budding creatives’ and apparently we’ll be ‘proving our creative skills live on stage too’ which sounds like enormous fun/potentially disastrous!
I’m also appearing at the Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum on Saturday 14 October as part of the Birmingham Literature Festival for a ‘Cosmic Adventure’ event exploring the science behind The Jamie Drake Equation and The Many Worlds of Albie Bright.
At the start of the summer I was thrilled to see my books The Jamie Drake Equation and How to be a Young #Writerincluded in the Best New Children’s Books Summer 2017 guide, published in The Guardian for Independent Bookshop Week. The Jamie Drake Equation was also picked by Alex O’Connell of The Times as one of her recommended summer reads in her round-up of her favourite children’s books of the year to date, alongside brilliant books by MG Leonard, Emma Carroll, Patrice Lawrence, Gill Lewis and others. I hope any readers who were inspired to pick up a copy of The Jamie Drake Equation as a summer read had a cosmic holiday! Although I’ve spent most of my summer working on edits to my new novel which will be published by Nosy Crow in Spring 2018, I’ve also made time for some of summer reading of my own, and plan to share some of the books I’ve enjoyed in a future blogpost.
Looking back, I’ve been absolutely delighted by the reception The Many Worlds of Albie Bright has received since its publication. The US edition of the novel was published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, at the start of the summer and was selected by Amazon as an Editor’s Pick of the Best Kids’ Books of June. Earlier in the year The Many Worlds of Albie Bright was also voted the winner of the Brilliant Book Award organised by Inspire: Culture, Learning and Libraries for schools in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Nottingham City. Then, in a totally thrilling flurry of announcements in June, The Many Worlds of Albie Bright was voted the winner of the Harrow School Library Service Award, the Hounslow Junior Book Award, the West Sussex Story Book Award, the East Sussex Children’s Book Award and the Redbridge Children’s Book Award!
I was able to attend the Redbridge Children’s Book Award ceremony in person and had the pleasure of meeting fellow authors Peter Bunzl, Anne Cassidy, Katherine Evans and Teri Terry, as well as the wonderful readers who’d voted for the award. In his essay ‘The Lost Childhood’, Graham Greene wrote, ‘Perhaps it is only in childhood that books have any deep influence on our lives’ and seeing the passion these young readers had for the books they’d read and the joy they shared as readers, I could only agree with this sentiment. These young readers are the future and I’d like to say a huge thank you to Nina Simon and all the team at the Redbridge Schools’ Library Service, Claire Morley and the team at East Sussex, Susan Heyes and the team at West Sussex, Rachel Marshall and the team at Inspire, the librarians and teachers responsible for the Hounslow and Harrow awards, and all teachers and librarians involved in similar awards and schemes, for all the work they do to inspire and celebrate young readers.
Children’s books help children to make sense of the world, provide a refuge from it and maybe, one day, inspire them to build a better one. pic.twitter.com/NFbXAMXGbk
The Many Worlds of Albie Bright is also making it’s way round the world, with Delacorte Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, publishing the North American edition at the end of May, with translations also appearing or on their way in Poland, Italy, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Turkey, China, Japan and South Korea. Huge thanks to all the team at Nosy Crow for their work helping Albie to see the world!
Finally, I also received the brilliant news last month that The Many Worlds of Albie Bright was the winner of the 2017 Brilliant Book Award! This award is managed by the Nottinghamshire Education Library Service, with the winner voted for by KS3 students from schools in Nottinghamshire, Nottingham City and Derbyshire. A huge thank you to Rachel and all the team at Inspire behind the award for the work they do inspiring readers and to all the students themselves, especially those who voted for Albie!
On Thursday 2 March 2017 - World Book Day appropriately enough - The Jamie Drake Equation will be published by Nosy Crow, although, as I’ve heard reports of copies finding their way into shops already, maybe I should just say OUT NOW!
Some fantastic book bloggers, librarians and reviewers are already sharing their first reviews of The Jamie Drake Equation and I’d like to thank them for these kind and thoughtful reviews.
Thank you too to the brilliant Matt Saunders for the amazing cover he’s created for The Jamie Drake Equation. And the ace team at Nosy Crow for all their work too.
Just like for The Many Worlds of Albie Bright, I’ve created a soundtrack for The Jamie Drake Equation which you can listen to on Spotify below. Theseare the songs that accompany the action or inspired me in some way as I was writing the book. You can read my guide to creating a book soundtrack here, but I’m very excited to say that I’m going to be talking about the soundtrack to The Jamie Drake Equation and why I think every book should have a soundtrack on Chris Hawkins’ Early Breakfast Show on BBC 6 Music tomorrow to launch World Book Day week. I should be on just after 6am, so tune in and let Chris know what songs you’d like to soundtrack the books you love.
The Jamie Drake Equation - a chapter-by-chapter tracklisting
1. Wish You Were by Pink Floyd [Chapter 1]
2. D’Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman by Oasis [Chapter 2]
3. Observatory Crest by Mercury Rev [Chapter 4]
4. Pi by Kate Bush [Chapter 8]
5. Out of Space by The Prodigy [Chapter 10]
6. Stars All Seem To Weep by Beth Orton [Chapter 12]
7. Pictures of You by The Cure [Chapter 15]
8. Space Carnival by The Comet is Coming [Chapter 15]
9. New Light of Tomorrow by Husky Rescue [Chapter 16]
10. The Hive by BE [Chapter 16]
11. 1st Man in Space by The All-Seeing Eye [Chapter 18]
12. Lux Aeterna by Clint Mansell [Chapter 20]
13. Space Oddity by David Bowie [Chapter 21]
14. Around by Tim Burgess & Peter Gordon [Chapter 22]
15. Blackstar by David Bowie [Chapter 23]
16. Light & Day/Reach for the Sun by The Polyphonic Spree [Chapter 24]
17. Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space by Spiritualized [Chapter 25]
18. Sky Holds The Sun by The Bees [Chapter 25]
19. All We Have Is Now by The Flaming Lips [Chapter 25]
20. The Moment by Tame Impala [Chapter 26]