The YA Book Prize

mrlIf you follow me on Twitter, and Instagram, you’ll know that to celebrate the forthcoming YA Book Prize, this week is #TeamSalisbury week – during which the YA Book Prize focuses The Sin Eater’s Daughter, one of the ten nominees this year.

Tonight, I’ll be taking part in an hour long Twitter chat, from 8pm, where you can ask me questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them. Please come and chat with me!

For now, I want to talk a bit, about The Sin Eater’s Daughter, and what it means, both to me, and apparently to a lot of young people too. And how unexpected that was.

I expect that to some people, at first glance The Sin Eater’s Daughter being on the list is a little strange. On a list featuring multi-award winning and critically acclaimed authors like Sarah Crossan, Louise O’Neill, Frances Hardinge and Patrick Ness. Against books that fight prejudice, raise awareness, and tackle big societal issues. Books that are both beautifully crafted, innovative pieces of literature and also complex, deep and essential explorations of the world we inhabit. Standing alongside some of the most important children’s fiction to have been produced EVER, is my book.

I thought I was writing a fairytale; a girl in a tower who falls in love at the wrong time. A wicked queen, and a handsome prince and a damsel in distress. It’s a tale as old as time, and one we all know. Sin eater  cover share

And I did write that. All of those things are in the book. What I didn’t realise until the end was that it was also a story about emotional abuse. Control. Manipulation, lies, and threats. Neglect. Growing up in a loveless environment. Being taken advantage of. Being used.

In writing about a girl who is trapped by her heritage, and her abilities, and her gender, I wrote about a girl discovering who she is, and what she wants, in a world that’s never considered she may be anything more than what it decides for her. I thought I was telling a story about a caged bird who longed to be freed. And I was. but it was also more. Darker. Less palatable. Twylla’s story might be fiction, but for a lot of girls it isn’t.

My heart breaks, at least once a week, when I get an email, or anonymous message on Tumblr. Girls (because it’s always girls) who thank me for writing Sin Eater, tell me they loved it. And then tell me their parents won’t let them go out with their friends, or stay over at people’s houses, or date. Girls who tell me they’re 15/16/17 and have to be in bed by nine o’clock at night. Girls who tell me they’re emailing from a computer in their school library because their parents check their messages. Girls whose parents choose their clothes for them. Girls whose parents choose their GCSE subjects, tell them what to eat, who they can and can’t talk to, and when.

Girls for whom natural obedience to their parents, and familial respect, has tipped over into something deeply sinister, and deeply damaging. “If you just do this, I’ll love you…” “If you’d just behave, things would be so much easier…” “It’s for your own good.” It’s always “YOU“, always the girls who are responsible for the way they’re treated. Often they don’t have relatives or friends they can run to, they don’t have money, or street-smarts. A lot of them don’t even have friends, because their lack of ‘normalcy’ makes them weird in the eyes of their peers. Makes them – wait for it – ‘unlikeable’.

We talk a lot, as readers, about wanting to ‘see’ ourselves in books. I wish so much that no one saw themselves in Twylla.

Because I know that without support, a lot of girls in Twylla’s position won’t be able to escape their abusers until well into adulthood. And the sad fact is that for some of them, they’ll escape controlling and abusive home relationships, only to end up in comparable romantic ones. When you are brought up in an oppressive environment, when love and support and basic kindness are lacking, it’s too alluring to believe in the first person who shows you those things, whether they mean them or not. To a person who has been brought up in an environment of emotional security, it’s easy to look at another person making what’s clearly a huge mistake and judge them for it. To think them weak, and stupid. To be smug in the knowledge they’d never make that decision. To walk away and leave them to it, alone, and vulnerable. And so the cycle continues…

We don’t talk about this kind of abuse very often. We don’t talk about the often-irreversible damage it does to be undermined, manipulated and neglected by the very people society tells you are bound to protect and love you. We have mechanisms and support in place for children who are physically abused. But there is so little exposure for children who are emotionally abused, day to day, in their own homes, by the people who are supposed to love them. They are the hidden victims, the forgotten ones.

For some girls, life is, and always has been a little medieval. We forget that having a voice, having agency, is a privilege not afforded to everyone. So I’m proud and honoured that my book has been a comfort to girls like Twylla. If my book has made them feel less alone, and feel less hopeless, then I’ve already won.

 

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Marchin’ On

Well, March has been EVENTful (badum-tsh!). March has been the month that contained my first bookshop event, my first literary festival, and my first time approaching a bookshop to sign copies for stock. And it has all been MAGICAL.

6tag_060315-090456Firstly, I got to spend World Book Day at YA Birmingham, which was beyond incredible. Incredible to be on the other side of an event I’ve celebrated for so many years, incredible to meet people who liked my book enough to come out on a chilly Thursday evening to talk to me about it. Some of my family came, friends came, and fans (you cannot imagine how amazing it is to think my book has fans) came too.

I got to meet people like Sofia and Lize – who I first spoke to on Twitter – face to face and chat to them about the book, as well as catch up with people like Chelley Toy, who I met at the Scholastic Bloggers’ Brunch in January, and who is rapidly becoming an excellent friend/potential arch-nemesis.

During the event I answered questions posed by the very wonderful Jamie from YA Birmingham (who also presented me with THE most amazing present afterwards). I read two passages from the book, the beginning, and one of my favourites, and then took some audience questions, before finally holding a book signing! A more detailed version of the night can be found here on Chelley Toy’s Blog, Tales of Yesterday, and the photo above was also taken by her.

There’s no way of writing it down without it sounding trite, or saccharine, but it was the most wondrous thing for me, to have this real-world experience of seeing the book out there, in people’s hands, and talking about it. If I’m honest, it made me hungry for more of it.

So it was a very good thing that on Saturday 21st, I was invited, along with my fellow YA authors Catherine Doyle and Lisa Williamson, to be part of the Young Adult Rising Stars panel at Oxford Literary Festival. Chaired by the very warm and witty Caroline Sanderson, we each got to talk about the worlds and characters we’d created, what our inspirations were, what being published meant to us, and what we planned to do next, before taking questions from the audience.

Oxford Literary Festival is a huge, well-respected, and vital part of the UK, and global, literary scene and it was an absolute privilege to be invited. I was more than a little overwhelmed by it; I’m still pinching myself, and again, it was a brilliant opportunity to meet people who were really interested in how we’d come to write our stories, and why we wanted to in the first place. I loved hearing more about what inspired and drove Cat and Lisa, and if you want to know more too, then the very lovely Lily Golding has written a full report of the panel on her blog The Whispering of the Pages.

Finally, today I did something I’ve been building up to for a long time. For a long time I’ve seen people tweeting about how they’d been into bookshops and signed copies for stock, and I wanted to do the same thing, but had no idea how you’d go about it.

A quick ask online informed me I could either nip into my l6tag_230315-123007ocal shop and offer to do it there and then, or email/tweet/call in advance and see if it was something they’d be interested in. I decided to bite the bullet and do the former, and I’m so glad I did.

They let me sign all the copies they had, said they wished they’d known I was local, and told me I should come back, soon, and often and that they’d love to do an event with me in the future. So I’m going to try and be braver when I go to new places and ask if I can sign a few copies in lots of bookshops.

That’s all for now, but I’m hoping I’ll have some news to share soon. If not, I’ll write a post about how much I love my new bicycle. It’s a real beauty xxx

BIKE

Poland and Pictures!

pierogi 2

Pierogi festival in Maly Rynek, Krakow, August 2012

Tiny little post, firstly to say that the very wonderful Zielona Sowa in Poland have bought the rights to the entire The Sin Eater’s Daughter trilogy, so all three books will be published in Polish, in Poland, beginning next year! Updates on dates and covers and general exited flailing will happen as and when.

Naturally I’ll be stuffing my face with pierogi and kielbasa in the very near future in celebration! If you’ve not tried pierogies, you’ve gone really wrong in life.

pierogi

Pierogi Ruskie – AKA “My Faves”

I’d also like to share with you this amazing picture of Twylla from The Sin Eater’s Daughter, drawn by the crazy talented Alice Oseman, who shares an agent with me (hence having read the book early enough to make art about it). Alice, when she’s not studying English Lit or drawing ludicrously beautiful pictures, is the author of Solitaire: “The Catcher in the Rye for the digital age”. It’s worth a look, she’s pretty cool.

the sin eater's daughter pic

Twylla from The Sin Eater’s Daughter, drawn by Alice Oseman.

Isn’t it incredible?! Speak soon xxx

 

Czech it out!

Hello!

Just a quick, but deeply exciting note to say that The Sin Eater’s Daughter is going to be published by Fragment in the Czech Republic and Slovakia in Autumn 2015!

This is especially exciting for me, as Prague and the Czech Republic had quite an influence on The Sin Eater’s Daughter – In fact, *SPOILERS* there is a scene that takes place in a mirror maze in The Sin Eater’s Daughter, and you can visit the real-life maze it is based on at Petrin Hill, in Prague!

Behold some pictures of me (and my friend, Greg) IN THE MAZE.

mel maze 2        mel maze

I thought about using the world domination picture again, but you can have too much of a good thing, so instead here are some photos I took in Prague the first time I went.

prague 1      prague 3

prague 4       prague 5

I’m so happy! Going on adventures is my biggest hobby, and I’ve mined tons of details and experiences from my travels and used them to build the world of The Sin Eater’s Daughter. So it’s amazingly cool to know the book that came, in part, from those memories is returning to one of the places where they were made. It makes a nice circle. Není to vzrušující? Áno, je!

Olá Brasil and Vive la France!

Olá and bonjour!

I have EVEN MORE EXCITING NEWS. As the Sherlock fans amongst you may have deduced, there’s a smattering of Portuguese and French in this here post… And that is because it’s my very great pleasure to announce that The Sin Eater’s Daughter will be published by Editora Rocco in Brazil and Gallimard Jeunesse in France! THEREBY CONTINUING MY GLOBAL TAKEOVER.

Let’s see that visual representation again:
artist impression

beautiful

I know.

I’m in some very good company with both Editora Rocco, and Gallimard Jeunesse (they publish the Brazilian and French versions of some of my favourite books, respectively), and it’s an honour to be published by them. I’m very excited, not least because it means new cover art and translations! As soon as I have more details about publication dates, etc. I’ll share them, and of course the cover art!

Finally, the beautiful cover for The Sin Eater’s Daughter, designed by Jamie Gregory at Scholastic UK, is in the running for Mr Ripley’s Book Cover Wars. It’s in the first heat and it’s up against some really stiff competition. It’s doing really well so far, which is astounding considering the book isn’t out, but a great testament to how beautiful Jamie’s work is. The poll ends at midnight tonight, so if you haven’t already and would like to, I’d appreciate the votes! Of course you can vote for someone else if you like, I did, so I understand.

I think that’s it for now.

Sneaky peek!

Happy Halloween Month!

Things are definitely getting scarier, but it has nothing to do with ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night. It’s mostly to do with the fact that the release date for The Sin Eater’s Daughter is getting closer and closer and that means you can read it. YOU CAN READ IT. Which is simultaneously my fondest dream and worst nightmare for complicated and egocentric reasons.

Thankfully, Scholastic, and Amazon UK and US have decided to help me out a little with my fears by releasing a preview sneaky peek of The Sin Eater’s Daughter RIGHT NOW. So those of you with Kindles (other e-readers are available) can hop along and download a bit of it! Thereby gently easing me into life as an ACTUAL AUTHOR.

The link for the preview from Amazon UK is here

And the link to it on Amazon.com is here

Sin eater  cover share SinEatersDaughter

And finally a link to Jeff Goldblum advertising some  lighting is here. Just in case.

ENJOY.

Exciting News and Wondrous Artwork!

Hi there!

It’s been a while since I posted, but today it gives me very great pleasure to be able to SHOW YOU A THING.

As you may know, my first novel, The Sin Eater’s Daughter, is going to be released on March 5th in 2015. What you might not know is that as well as being released in the UK, it will also be released simultaneously in the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

World domination!

Here is an artist’s* impression of how that might look:

artist impression

no expense spares
*Obviously, that’s a lie and I made it in Paint.

But something that wasn’t made in Paint IS THE US COVER OF THE SIN EATER’S DAUGHTER:

SinEatersDaughter

LOOK! BEHOLD!

I love it. I cried when I saw it because it’s exactly what I wanted it to be. I can’t believe I’m at this point already, where there’s artwork and it’s glorious. February is coming up so fast…

Until then, you can see it in the wild here at Amazon.com and it’s also available for pre order at Barnes and Noble too, though the art isn’t up there yet.

Tell me what you think!