Thursday 26 December 2013

End Of The Year Round-Up

So after seven long years of writing, this was the year that my new book Phoenix was finally published!  It's been amazing to see it get some fantastic reviews, and even appear on some Book Of The Year lists...

The Guardian picked Phoenix in their Best Children's Literature Of 2013 selection, where Michelle Pauli described it as an "epic space quest", and said: "Not only is the story of boy hero Lucky's journey through galaxies completely absorbing, launching the reader into an alien world with its own mythology, but the book is beautiful – lavishly illustrated by Dave McKean, with words and pictures working seamlessly together." (Click the links to read the full reviews)

Metro picked it in their Top 20 Books Of 2013, where Imogen Russell-Williams described it as "fierily poetic on a galactic scale... totally transporting – as are McKean’s space-spanning illustrations."

Phoenix featured in the Independent On Sunday's Christmas Books, where Daniel Hahn described it as: "A powerful story of great scope and ambition, from an expert storyteller. And with these gorgeously deep black-and-white illustrations, the great McKean is on absolutely top form here."

I've been delighted to see Phoenix appear on some excellent book blogs recently. Georgia Walters of Books and Writers JNR featured it on her End Of The Year Books Survey, alongside books by writers like Patrick Ness and John Green. She gave Phoenix a fabulous five-star review, and said: "I feel in love with this story... HIGHLY recommended for any sci-fi fans, fantasy fans, etc., out there- and also anybody who wants a new favourite book (:"

Phoenix was also featured in Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books Favourites Of 2013; and Mr Ripley was kind enough to offer me a guest spot on his blog. So I wrote a piece about the inspirations behind Phoenix, where I talked a lot about collaborating with the great Dave McKean.  Definitely worth reading if you want to know some behind-the-scenes stuff about how the book was made!

The Book Addicted Girl also kindly offered me a guest spot on her blog, for her 'Book Addicted Boys' feature.  So this time, I wrote a piece about space stories, and why I love them

Sister Spooky gave Phoenix a lovely review, where she said: "I zoomed through Phoenix... [It] will tickle fans of Doctor Who and Star Wars that love a bit of adventure with a dash of morality."  I also did Sister Spooky's fab Twenty Random Questions interview, so if you'd like to know my answers to questions like "What superpowers would you have?", click the link to find out!

Finally, I was knocked out to see Phoenix reviewed in Interzone, a great science fiction magazine I used to read in the 1990s! Barbara Melville gave it a fantastic review, in which she said: "Not only does it break new territory – epic space adventures are, after all, not in abundance on the children’s shelf – but it is layered with depth and meaning right from the get go... These multilayered themes and ideas, reinforced by strong characterisation, make this book shine. It could have worked without them, making for a fun but depthless guilty pleasure. I’m glad Said picked the path he did. The result is a touching, meaningful story for children and adults alike." 

Unfortunately Interzone is not available online, but if you'd like a print copy, you can get one here.

I'd like to say a huge & heartfelt thanks to all these writers for taking the time to read Phoenix, engage with it, and write such lovely things about it!  You have no idea how much it means to see someone take your work seriously; it really makes those seven years feel worthwhile! 

Sunday 15 December 2013

Author Visits: Hazelwick Book Awards & Greenfield Community College

My school visits have taken me to many primary schools over the years. But last week, I visited two secondaries, and absolutely loved the experience!  So if there are any more secondary schools out there who would like me to visit, just get in touch.

On Monday, I visited Greenfield Community College, and met lots of fantastic readers and writers from Years 8, 9, 10 & 11.  It was totally brilliant to meet you all, to hear your stories, and to see the amazing work you've been doing with my new book Phoenix. I heard some really excellent pieces of creative writing during the day, saw some fabulous artwork – and was presented with incredible cakes shaped exactly like Axxa eyeballs!  Fortunately they were delicious...

On Wednesday, I visited Hazelwick School, for the Hazelwick Book Awards.  I met lots of awesome Year 7s from Hazelwick, as well as students from many other local schools, who are all voting in the Awards.  There were many interesting questions and discussions, and much enthusiasm for reading and books, which was great to see!

If anyone from any of those schools would like to leave me a comment about the visit, or my books, this is the place to do it!  In the meantime, I'd like to wish you all Happy Reading!