Monday, 26 May 2014

Mr. Hallett

If you follow me along any of my various internet pathways, you'll know that last Friday (23rd May) I had a launch event for Blackfin Sky at Prestatyn Library. This post is a little bit about that, but actually the story began almost 20 years ago.

I grew up in a North Wales town called Prestatyn. When I was old enough to walk from my house into town by myself, I used to go and spend my hard-earned (or not earned at all, actually) pocket money in my local bookshop, Books Unlimited, owned by one Mr. Hallett.

It was a little shop crammed floor-to-ceiling with books, not built to be a shop at all, but actually a converted house, with little rooms on different levels sectioning the books by category. Naturally, I always made a beeline for the children's and teens' section, up the steps at the back of the shop.

This was a ritual of mine: every Saturday I went in and bought a book, and if I was reading a series, I'd order the next book in the series so it would be waiting for me the following Saturday. Then Mr. Hallett would wrap the book in a paper bag -- the same kind the lady at the sweetshop used to wrap the sweets in -- and I'd take my book home to read. And I wouldn't lift my head from the book until I'd finished reading, which was generally by tea time.

The routine went on for a few years, and though Mr. Hallett and I didn't really chat, he would occasionally recommend books for me to read. I think he could tell when I'd finished a series, and I had that lost, slightly forlorn look I know I still wear when I've had to part with beloved characters.

As I got older, I started to work on weekends (for beer money), so stopped going into Books Unlimited. The shop finally closed when Mr. Hallett retired sometime during my late teens, and I didn't see him again... until last Friday.

I have no idea whether Mr. Hallett recognised me from the flyer advertising Blackfin Sky's launch, or if it was purely an interest in books which brought him there, but when I looked up and saw him waiting to have his copy of my book signed, I felt like something had come full circle. I told him all this, about how I used to buy books from him every Saturday and how he and his shop played a huge part in developing my early love of reading. I don't know whether he remembered me or not, as I was talking far too much for him to get a word in edgewise.

Finally, I asked if I could double-check the spelling of 'Hallett' before I wrote my message in the front of his copy. He smiled, and said, "Please make it out to Victor."

So I did. I thanked him for encouraging my early love of books, and said that I hoped he would enjoy reading Blackfin Sky. Because without the inspiration I drew from the books he sold me all those years ago, I probably wouldn't have written it.

I'm still not sure I've spelled 'Hallett' correctly, so if not, I hope I am forgiven.

Kat out x

Monday, 19 May 2014

Review: EREN by Simon P Clark

YA novels are my niche, both in terms of reading and writing, but I was still chomping at the bit to get an advance copy of Simon P Clark's debut MG novel, EREN.

You see, Simon is an online friend from twitter, and he's also represented by marvellous agent Molly Ker Hawn of The Bent Agency. So I already knew that Simon was very funny and charming, and that he was bound to be very talented. When you know this about someone, you want to read their book.

This is what it’s about.

‘Tell the story to its end,’ says Eren with a grin. His yellow eyes are glowing like embers in the night. 

People are keeping secrets from Oli - about where his father is, and why he hasn't come to join them at his uncle's house in the country.

But Oli has secrets too.

He knows what lives in the attic. Eren - part monster, part dream, part myth. Eren who always seems so interested, who always wants to hear more about Oli's life. Eren, who needs to hear stories to live, and will take them from Oli, no matter the cost.

As much as I would tell anyone “I don’t really read MG”, I forgot about that within a few sentences of reading EREN. The story begins (or does it?) with Oli and his mother travelling from London to stay with relatives, and the author’s conjuring of British summer holidays, the awkward trips to visit unfamiliar relations, and the discovery of Important Things like a portal (sliding fence panel) between two gardens, transported me back to when I was Oli’s age. I could absolutely relate to his sense of being kept in the dark by the adults around him, but the mysterious draw of the attic invites him into the dark rather than keeping him there.

Oli is a smart, thoughtful character, and he worries about things like rumours about his politician father, his mother looking exhausted, tentative friendships which might last a day or a summer or longer, but who knows? And I could see how a shadowy creature who lived in the attic and fed on stories could be a relief from all those other things.

EREN goes to some dark places, but there’s a lot of light in there as well. His friends Em and Takeru are brilliant and fun, and when the three are together there’s an irrepressible sense of adventure that had me grinning. I liked the careful affection-building between Oli and his uncle and aunt, and the way Oli saw through his mother’s snappy moods and protected her as much as she believed she protected him from the truth.

I’ve read that EREN will appeal to fans of David Almond and Patrick Ness, and would absolutely agree. This is skilful storytelling; the kind that feels destined to become a classic.

You can add EREN to your Goodreads TBR, and preorder here from Amazon UK. It is due out on 18th September from Constable & Robinson. In the meantime, keep an eye on Simon's website, where EREN TALES -- companion stories to EREN, with wonderful illustrations -- can be found!

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Firefly's first 4 titles launched in Aberystwyth

So, it's the end of Blackfin Sky's official UK release week! (Yep. I claimed the entire week.)

I thought I'd update you with a few pics from the Firefly launch event that took place in Aberystwyth Arts Centre on 15th May. I was there, along with Dan Anthony - author of Steve's Dreams - and Heather Dyer - author of The Flying Bedroom, and of course Penny Thomas and Janet Thomas from Firefly Press, and a whole ROOMFUL of brilliant people who came to listen to us talk about our books.

We each said a little bit about the kind of stories we write, then read for a few minutes before people got their copies signed.

It was also great fun getting to meet Sarah Taylor (why didn't I think to grab a photo?!?!), who won the first Firefly writing contest this year with her story Arthur & Me, which is soon to be published by Firefly Press.

As is the tradition at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, I was asked to sign a pillar in the bookshop and quote the first line from Blackfin Sky. Here it is!

Thereafter, many drinks were had...

If you're in the North Wales-ish area and fancy coming to Blackfin Sky's local launch event, you can come along to Prestatyn Library at 7pm this Friday, 23rd May. Hope to see you there!

Kat out x

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

BLACKFIN SKY - Release Day Giveaway!

Hello peeps! Blackfin Sky is officially released in the UK today, and to celebrate I'm holding an international giveaway!

Enter using this nifty rafflecopter doojit.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway is international. If you're not in the UK/Commonwealth, the signed copy will be an ARC of the US edition (otherwise a finished copy of the UK edition).

Friday, 2 May 2014

First review!

Blackfin Sky received a Sunshine Star-rated review from Luna's Little Library review site today - HOORAY! You can read it here if you'd like (and you should. It's STELLAR.)

Kat out x

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Blackfin Sky's official UK trailer!

Check. It. OUT.

This was animated by the outstanding Whitney Gardner and Roger Braunstein of PartlyHuman, with illustrations by Shane Rebenschied who also did the cover illustration for the UK version of Blackfin Sky (and covers for Chuck Wendig, covers for The Walking Dead series, and so on...I know, AAAH! Check out his site here.)

What do you think??