Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Author Interview - Liz Coley

Today, I'd like to give a huge welcome to Liz Coley, one of my fellow Lucky 13 authors whose debut novel, PRETTY GIRL-13, is out from HarperCollins in 2013. Liz has also self-published a YA novel called OUT OF XIBALBA, so I've asked her a bit more about both books and about the differences between the self-publishing and traditional publishing processes.

Hi Liz. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Liz Coley, mother of three teenagers, changing careers mid-life from volunteer extraordinaire/chauffeur to author. It’s going to be crazy interesting.

When did you start writing, and why?

I started writing seriously in 2002, when I wanted to create a sci-fi novel my two boys could enjoy. The Captain’s Kid was born over the next two years during piano lessons and taekwondo classes. It has never sold. I kept writing, though, because I was determined to give it a solid effort, and, I reassured myself, I was setting a great example for my kids of standing up in the face of rejection and plowing ahead with my dreams.

What is your writing process like?

First I have to go grocery shopping on the way home from school drop-off, then prep the vegetables or start a soup simmering. Some dusting or bill paying or sorting things or laundry might enter into it. Then there’s catching a missed episode of Daily/Colbert. Make a latte. Oh bother--it’s almost lunch time. You get the drift. Procrastination often steals the morning, but the afternoon can be a productive rush of writing frantically packed in before carpool.

You have a debut YA novel, PRETTY GIRL-13, coming out from HarperCollins in 2013, but you’ve also self-published a YA novel, OUT OF XIBALBA. What made you decide to self-publish XIBALBA, and what made you decide to pursue a traditional publishing deal for PRETTY GIRL-13?

I have written eight manuscripts by now, all with the goal of traditional publishing. OUT OF XIBALBA was a true labor of love, a story involving a lot of historical research about the Mayans, a sophisticated civilization that fell into ruins in the jungle a millennium ago. I drop a teenaged girl from Ohio alone into that world of human sacrifice, bloody warfare, and palace politics. As a time travel/alternate history/romance/2012 apocalypse story, it wasn’t something hot on the radar for teens, and in fact, many of my readers have been adult men and women. It refuses to be niched, which makes it impossible to sell traditionally. However, I knew I’d regret it forever if XIBALBA languished on my hard drive, so I made the decision to self-publish before the world ends.

Can you tell us a bit more about the process of self-publishing XIBALBA?

Using Createspace for my print platform and Kindle and Smashwords for my ebook editions, I learned so much from self-publishing--lessons that I believe make me a better author for my publishers. Since a self-pub author makes all the decisions, I now have a better appreciation for both cover and internal design--fonts and style decisions and typesetting. I appreciating what it means to be the final copy-editor and proofreader. I get the really important differences between e-pub and print, including use of images and fonts. Most of all, I appreciate the sizable challenges of promotion and distribution. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, and Nook all carry OUT OF XIBALBA now, and it is getting nice reviews. I’m working to get it into some libraries and schools. (see LCTeen.com)

And can you tell us a bit more about PRETTY GIRL-13’s journey to publication?

PG13 was my 2009 Nanowrimo novel. I had spent a year thinking about it, the prior summer doing the research, September and October clearing my plate of other projects, and November diving into what was a dark and difficult subject. I delivered the story to my agents in early 2010 and spent half a year in revision with them. They took the manuscript out on submission at the start of 2011, and I signed with HarperCollins in July.

If you could only own one book, what would it be (and why)?

This is too hard. Maybe the Oxford English Dictionary (with the magnifying glass and a really bright light) or maybe a favorite that I have reread to shreds but never get tired of--The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis or Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold.

If you could only own one album, what would it be (and why)?

A recording of Handel’s Messiah, because I could sing along.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

In terms of writing, I am always inspired by the stories and interviews I hear on NPR. In terms of how to live your life, I am inspired by my mom.

And finally, what’s next for you?

For Nanowrimo 2011, I am digging into another dark psychological story I hope will please PG13 readers. If PRETTY GIRL-13 is about secrets you can’t even tell yourself, this one is about a guilty secret that has to be told, even if it means losing everything.

Thanks for letting me interview you, Liz! It's been great to have you on the blog and to find out more about your books - they both sound fab!

You can also find out more about Liz here:






Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Christmas Preparations…

…and a pile of edits have got the better of me this week, so I left the blog in the capable paws of The Hound. He promised me he'd come up with something witty, insightful and, erm…

Oh dear.

Seriously, I want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who's taken the time to read and  comment on my blog since I started writing it a few months ago. Wherever you are and whatever you're doing, I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!

N.B. - No Hounds were harmed in the making of this blog post.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Those Were The Days…

I had a blog post all ready for today. A serious one, about serious things. Then I saw a tweet from someone about a website that sells 80s TV-themed clothing and accessories, and of course, having grown up in the 80s and 90s, I just had to go and check it out. I also read a post by the lovely Rebecca Brown on her blog My Little Notepad about her forthcoming Happiness Project, where she talks about the things that used to make her happy as a kid. And after that, I didn’t really feel like being serious any more.

Instead, in a fit of internet-induced nostalgia, I’ve decided to share with you my top five favourite TV programmes from when I was a kid. The programmes that used to cheer me up after a long, frustrating day at school, or on a dark winter’s evening. That inspired the games me and my sister used to play when we were young and even, without me really knowing it, helped set me on the path that led to me becoming a writer.

So without further ado, here they are…

The Moondial
This was originally a novel written by Helen Creswell, who then adapted it for a BBC TV series. It told the story of Minty, a girl sent to stay with her aunt after her mother is injured in a car accident. She discovers a moondial that allows her to travel back in time, and ends up trying to help two children from the past. Deliciously spooky and at times, downright terrifying!

Children’s Ward
Children’s Ward was written by Paul Abbot and Kay Mellor. It ran for (I think) 12 series, but the first is the one I remember most clearly. Gritty and fast-paced, it dealt with many difficult issues, and although I watched it long before I realised I wanted to be a writer, I used to make up new storylines in my head that were even more dramatic than the existing ones. Plus, in one episode, a character played by a young Tim Vincent called someone a dickhead. You’d never get away with that now…

 I’m not even slightly ashamed to admit I own the entire box set of this. I was dog-mad as a kid (and still am), so this swashbuckling adventure, a cartoon adaptation of the Three Musketeers with canine and feline characters, was right up my street. It was jointly created by Spanish and Japanese animation studios and first broadcast in Japan, which meant the cartoon had a distinct anime flavour. And the theme tune was awesome (at least, until you got it stuck in your head…).

The Mysterious Cities of Gold
I was even more excited when I found the box set of this a couple of years ago. Another Japanese co-production, this time with a French studio, this was a truly epic series about a boy called Esteban who accompanies his father on a dangerous voyage to the New World in the 1500s to search for the lost Cities of Gold.

Hosted by the fabulously sinister Treguard of Dunshelm (Hugo Myatt), Knightmare was a fantasy-adventure game show where a team of kids guided one of their friends, known as a dungeoneer, through a virtual-reality dungeon that used CromaKey (bluescreen) technology. The dungeoneer would be ‘blinded from reality’ by a gigantic helmet that completely covered their eyes, meaning they had only the directions given by the others to help him or her overcome a series of puzzles and traps. They also had to pick up items of food to sustain their life-force, represented by an animation of a head, which would lose pieces as the force diminished. Hardly anyone ever completed their quest, so you were always wondering what sort of horrible end the dungeoneer would come to this time.

And then there's Thundercats… and Maid Marian and her Merry Men… and Count Duckula… and Trapdoor…

What TV did you love when you were a kid? Tell me in the comments below!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Author Interview - Talli Roland

I'm thrilled to welcome the lovely Talli Roland to my blog this week. Talli's latest book, BUILD A MAN, launches today, so she's here to talk to me about it, and about a few other things too.

Welcome, Talli, and thanks for dropping by! Tell us a bit about yourself.
Oh, that’s a tough one to start off with. Um, okay… I’m Canadian, I’ve lived in London for almost eight years (oh yes, and I’m British now, too). I trained as a journalist, but soon discovered I much preferred making things up! I’m married to an Egyptian, which provides an endless source of entertaining cultural misunderstandings.

When did you start writing, and why?

I don’t even remember starting to writing – I just did! I was always scribbling down something . . . a poem, a short story, a make-believe newspaper article. When I was nine, I wrote my first travelogue, a non-fiction piece called ‘Disasters in Florida’, based on a family trip to Orlando. My real piece de résistance, though, was my novel called ‘Glint off the Gold’, which I completed on the Commodore 64 at age thirteen and sent off to various publishers. And thus began my long love affair with rejections!

My first big break was when a small publisher contracted me to write a London travel guide. I’d always dreamed of writing fiction, but as a former journalist, writing non-fiction came more naturally. Although non-fiction was never really my dream, I figured being published in any genre was a good first step. It taught me a lot about how the process works.

What is your writing process like?

I sketch out my characters and a basic plot – turning points, etcetera. Then, I sit down and write. I power straight through to the end. My first drafts are always rubbish, but there’s no way I could edit as I go – usually because while I know the main turning points, I have no idea how the characters will get there. It’s only once I have everything on paper that I can begin to shape it all into a narrative that makes sense. I do another four or five drafts, and voila! I’m done.

Your new novel, BUILD A MAN, is out today - congratulations! What's it about?
 BUILD A MAN follows an ambitious tabloid reporter who goes undercover to construct the nation’s perfect man. It’s set in a cosmetic surgery clinic, and it was inspired by my time working in a five-star spa in one of London’s wealthiest boroughs. I had so much fun writing it, because my main character gets to express many of the things I would have liked to!

You already have two novels, THE HATING GAME and WATCHING WILLOW WATTS published by Prospera Publishing, but you decided to publish BUILD A MAN yourself. Why was that, and what has the experience been like?

There are a lot of reasons why it’s the right decision for me to self-publish – you can read more about my thought process here. I’m not one of those self-publishing evangelists who thinks it’s the only way, though. If a big print publisher (or Amazon!) came my way, I’d definitely be more than open to hearing what they had to say.
The experience is remarkable similar. I worked with an editor and a cover designer on BUILD A MAN, the same way I had with a publisher. I always did my own marketing and promotion, so that hasn’t changed at all. In a way, I find it easier, because now I have complete ownership of my work and timelines.

Describe your perfect writing day…

I can sum it up in three words: coffee, writing, wine.
…and your actual writing day!
Coffee, writing, wine! Seriously, I am very lucky that I’m a full-time writer, so my time is my own. I love that, but it’s quite a responsibility to be ‘in charge’ of yourself. I sit down at the desk at eight and I do a good four or five hours of writing or revising before even attempting to answer emails and do promotional work. Writing has to come first for me.

If you could only own one book, what would it be (and why)?

Another tough question! Right, I have to say THE TIME TRAVELLER'S WIFE. I love the elaborate plotting, and the ending always makes me sob.

If you could only own one album, what would it be (and why)?

I’m going to be a dork here and admit I’m not really into the music scene. If I could only own one album, it would have to be something by Chopin or Sibelius, my two favourite composers.

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would that be?
I’d tell my younger self that it’s okay to stop driving forward all the time; that you should stop to enjoy your accomplishments a bit more. Even now, I find that very difficult to do.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
Cheeseball alert! I really admire my husband. He works full-time, yet in the past five years, he’s managed to write, direct and edit two feature-length films. His dedication and determination is truly inspiring.

And finally… what’s next for you?

I’m currently working on CONSTRUCT A COUPLE, the sequel to BUILD A MAN. It will be out in Spring 2012.

Thanks again, Talli - it's been great talking to you!

Talli Roland has three loves in her life: chick lit, coffee and wine. Born and raised in Canada, Talli now lives in London, where she savours the great cultural life (coffee and wine). Despite training as a journalist, Talli soon found she preferred making up her own stories – complete with happy endings. Her debut novel, The Hating Game, was an Amazon Top 100 bestseller and shortlisted for Best Romantic Read at the UK’s Festival of Romance, and her second, Watching Willow Watts, was selected as a 2011 Amazon Customer Favourite. Build A Man is her latest release. Talli blogs here and can be found on Twitter here.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Have You Read… THE IRON JACKAL by Chris Wooding

It was seven feet tall to the shoulder… part human, part animal, part machine. Its short fur was wet and greasy, like something newly born. Its arms were thin and disproportionately long, ending in outsize hands with double-bladed bayonets in place of fingers…

Darian Frey, Captain of the Ketty Jay, is more than familiar with danger. But now his ship is fixed up, he and his crew are celebrities and for once, everything seems to be going their way.

Then they’re offered a job. Frey’s former fiancee Trinica Dracken wants him and his crew to retrieve a relic from Samarla, a desert land where old enemies of Frey still lie in wait for him. But getting the relic to Dracken turns out to be the least of Frey’s problems. Soon, he’s in a race against time, fighting to save his own life as he’s stalked by the terrifying Iron Jackal…

I’ve been a fan of Chris Wooding for a long time. I love his young adult novels, particularly THE STORM THIEF and the BROKEN SKY trilogy, and his adult novels are every bit as good. In fact, THE IRON JACKAL, the third in the Ketty Jay series, has to be one of the most exciting books I’ve read all year.

Starting with a shoot-out in the opening pages, the action never lets up, and the aircraft race scene is absolutely breathtaking. Chris Wooding is also a master at black humour, and there were many moments in the book which made me laugh out loud. The IRON JACKAL’s characters and the relationships and conflicts between them are expertly drawn, the world of the story involved and intricate, yet you never feel like you’re getting bogged down in description or details. I absolutely loved this book and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

For the first two tales of the Ketty Jay, check out the equally excellent RETRIBUTION FALLS and BLACK LUNG CAPTAIN. And you can find out more about all of Chris Wooding’s books on his website here.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Gotcha Day

It was a chilly November day, and as we drove over to the Crossing Cottage Retired Greyhound Trust kennels in Nottinghamshire, fog hung over the fields and blanketed the dips in the roads. The trees were wet and black and leafless. But we were paying little attention to the wintery landscape outside. We were going to choose a dog – our first dog – and could talk of nothing else.

We arrived, met the kennel manager and had a walk around. I didn’t really notice him the first time. While the other dogs flung themselves against the wire fronts of their kennels, barking and wagging their tails, he stood there quietly, patiently, not making a sound. I think I glanced at him, but then my gaze slid away to his more boisterous kennel-mate.

We started meeting some of the dogs. The first had been returned from another home a few days earlier. He was so bouncy and energetic his owner couldn’t cope with making him the fourth addition to her pack. He hauled me up the path and back again, me clutching the lead in both hands. D and I glanced at each other and subtly shook our heads. He was lovely, but not for us. Our first dog needed to be one that wasn’t going to drag one of us under a bus if he saw a cat on the other side of the road.

The second dog was calmer, but there was no spark, no connection between us. He was aloof, and didn’t respond to my touch or my voice. Despite this, he was clearly a steady, sweet-natured animal, so we marked him down as a maybe, and moved onto the third dog.

She was tiny, and so nervous she had never raced. So nervous she wouldn’t even walk with us. I tugged gently on her lead, trying to get her to move, but she’d put on the brakes. I knew we didn’t have the experience to deal with a dog who was so frightened of everything, so sadly, we handed her back to the kennel manager.

“Wait,” she said as we began to wonder if we’d ever find the right dog. “There’s one more I want you to meet. He’s big – really big – but don’t be put off by his size. He’s a real teddy bear.”

And collar and leash in hand, she went to fetch…

The Hound.

She was right about his size. Somehow, when I’d glanced at him before – probably because he was being so quiet – I hadn’t really noticed it. But he came to mid-thigh on her. He had a great square head – much bigger than the other dogs’ – and a back as broad as a table. I started to worry again. Could we really cope with a dog as large as that?

And then he walked up to me. He wagged his tail. He leaned on me, and he looked into my eyes.

I felt something, somewhere, go click.

“Look at him,” D marvelled. “He’s like a tiger.” And he was. His coat was fawn and red, overlaid with black and charcoal stripes and flecks. His muzzle, paws and chest were splashed with cream, and there was a narrow white stripe, like a chalk line, it on, all the way from his forehead to the end of his nose. And his eyes were gold-brown and ringed with black, the flicks at the edges making him look as if he was wearing eyeliner.

“Here.” The kennel manager handed me the lead. It stayed slack. Only when I moved did he start to walk too, stuck to my side as if by velcro. When I stopped, he stopped, freezing with one paw lifted mid-stride. The only time he broke away from me was to water a tuft of grass at the side of the road, and then he came straight back. The cars thundering past didn’t seem to faze him. Neither did the boxer that threw itself at its garden gate, barking hoarsely at him. By the time we’d returned to the kennels, we knew we’d be coming back the following week to take him home.

The two years since then haven’t always been easy. A few weeks after he came home he developed serious health problems, and the fight to get him well again took almost eleven months. It was terrifying. But somehow, he pulled round.

Our routine has changed drastically, too – I’ve had to adjust to getting up every morning at a time that, previously, I barely knew existed, and both D and I have had to get used to going out for walks in horizontal rain and feet of snow. Our once-lush lawn has turned into a balding sea of mud. Our carpets have a permanent coating of hair.

And you know what? We wouldn’t change a thing.

The Hound, Asleep
A liquorice nose.
Long legs tangled, ears and paws
Flickering with dreams.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Liebster Blog Award

The lovely Laura E James, a singer and fellow writer who has a blog and website here, has awarded me the Liebster blog award! 

Liebster is a German word meaning dearest, and the award is given to up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 followers.

If you receive the award, you should:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you. 
2. Reveal your top five picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog. 
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Hope that the people you've sent the award to forward it to their five favourite bloggers and keep it going!

So without further ado, here are my picks (although it's VERY hard to choose - there's a lot of awesome blogs out there!):

Abi Burlingham - a really interesting, intelligent blog. Abi – who's the author of the fabulous RUBY AND GRUB books and the forthcoming BUTTERCUP MAGIC: A MYSTERY FOR MEGAN – posts every Friday about all sorts of different things, and I always look forward to reading what she has to say.

Julia Monroe Martin at wordsxo.com - writing, life on the Maine coast, squirrels and more, and the Great Crow Experiment has me hooked!

Martin Shone at Like the Sun Shone - a shiny new site - glad to see you up and running again, Martin.

Mel Rogerson at lifebeyond - Mel is a SCWBI longlisted writer and fellow YA fanatic, and I really hope I'll be seeing one of her books on the shelves soon!

Nettie Thomson at Words and Pictures - not only is she a talented photographer, but her stories about her mum and posts like 'Writing Roolz' always give me a giggle, and her flash fiction is wonderful. 

Thank you, Laura!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

First Draft Doubt

As some of my Twitter friends know (because they told me about it - thank you!) ACID was announced in the Bookseller yesterday, along with three other dystopian YA novels by Sangu MandannaLissa Price and Jennifer Bosworth which will be coming out from Random House Children's Books in 2012 and 2013. Their books – THE LOST GIRL, STARTERS and STRUCK – sound amazing and I can't wait to read them! You can see the announcement here: 


And now (ahem), on with today's post…

When I first start a new story, I’m always excited. It’s a shiny new idea, one I’ve thought about for months, even years, and I can’t wait to plunge in and start start that mysterious process of alchemy which brings my plot and characters to life. But as I continue – usually when I get to the end of the first third – uncertainty sets in. And then all my insecurities come flooding in. This is the worst idea ever. I didn’t plan it enough. My characters suck. My writing sucks. I suck.

…You get the idea.

It used to paralyse me. I couldn’t keep going with anything. I’d rip every story up and start over, again and again, until I had to give up on them because I’d completely lost sight of what I was trying to write about in the first place.

Something had to change.

One day, I happened upon a quote from Jacqueline Wilson, where she said that with each book she writes, about halfway in, she starts to doubt whether it’s ever going to work, and that she ‘never write[s] with great confidence.”

Yes, you read that right – Jacqueline Wilson. Former children’s laureate and bestselling, multi-award-winning author of around 90 books. Books which fill almost half a shelf in the library where I work – when they’re there, that is, which isn’t often because they get borrowed so often (she’s one of the top ten borrowed authors in the UK).

I was astonished. Because back then, if you’d asked me who I thought was least likely to have confidence crises in the middle of writing something, I’d have said Jacqueline Wilson.

And it made me think. Apparently, other writers suffered from First Draft Doubt too. Writers who were published, and published many times. So how did they deal with it? How did they get their books finished? Was there a top secret formula which, when applied to wavering plotlines or flagging characters, would bring them round as effectively as a sharp smack in the face (or smelling salts, if violence wasn’t your thing)?

Of course not.

Because there is no secret.

Only this: it’s normal to doubt your first draft. You should doubt your first draft (because that’s what drives you to make it better). And you shouldn’t let that get in the way of you writing it.

That’s not to say if it’s not working that you shouldn’t find out why. These days, I do this by writing letters to myself, starting them “What needs to happen next?” Then I keep writing, trying to switching off my conscious, logical brain and allowing my characters and plot to lead me from my unconscious brain, where the answers have usually been brewing all along.

I also turn to my favourite book about writing and storytelling - STORY: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee. Although it’s not an easy read – I had to take notes the first two times I read it! – I’ve learnt so much from this book. If I’m having a serious plot problem, a combination of dipping into this book and a What Happens Next letter get it back on track.

The most important thing I’ve learnt, though, is that the first draft doesn’t need to be perfect. It can’t be perfect. It’s a sketch, a roughing-out, a shuffling-together of ideas, and if you try to make it perfect, it won’t get done.

Instead, ignore those doubts, accept and note your story’s flaws, and get the damn thing down anyway. Because then you’ve got something to work with. Something to make better. Material for a second draft. And that’s where the real fun begins!

What about you? Is there a particular point in your writing you always lose confidence at? And how do you deal with it when you get there?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Finding Narnia

I'm multi-blogging today - you can also find me over the Lucky 13s, talking about the film that made me realise I wanted to be a writer, here.

Like millions of people the world over, I read C.S. Lewis’s THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE when I was a kid, and afterwards, dreamed of finding Narnia at the back of my own wardrobe, even though it was barely big enough to hold all my clothes, never mind the secret entrance to a whole other world.

It seemed I was doomed to disappointment. But if I’d only stopped to think about it, I’d’ve realised that portals to parallel worlds existed all around me, and that I’d already been through them many times.

The first was a gigantic weeping beech tree which grew at the edge of the grounds of the environmental studies centre where I grew up. In winter, the branches which cascaded from its crown were bare skeletons, the ground beneath them muddy and wet, but in summer, it underwent a transformation. The branches became leafy umbrellas, with a circle of bare, dusty earth beneath each. For my sister and I, this was our ‘house’, with each branch-umbrella forming a separate room – and there were enough of them for a grand mansion. The leaves became walls, the trunk a spiral staircase (although we never tried to climb it), the ground richly-patterned carpets, and the sunlight filtering through the canopy around us the light from glittering chandeliers. We took tea, ordered the maids about (and each other), and generally had a splendid time. At least until we got called in for dinner.

My second Narnia was on the other side of the centre grounds where, just before they gave way to fields, there was a tiny wood of horse chestnut trees. They had grown up around an ice house which dated from the days when the centre was a private home, and the family who lived there needed somewhere to store ice to keep food cold. As well as being my very own conker supply depot, each summer the wood would be transformed into a lush green paradise as a carpet of cow parsley sprung up beneath the trees. I remember my mum helping my sister and I to cook dinner over a campfire there one year, listening to episodes of THE HOBBIT on the radio while we ate, and being surrounded by a frothing sea of scented white flowers. We each had a horse, too (two long branches that grew beside the domed roof of the ice-house, which we’d climb onto to reach them), and would travel many miles to distant and exotic lands.

Finally, next to a little pond in our garden, there was a small box hedge. It was hollow inside, so my sister and I claimed it as a den. There was just room in there to sit upright, using an old plank of wood as a bench, but in my mind it was vast, a giant’s cavern with a ceiling hung with stalagtites and glittering crystals studding the walls. Once, I found a ring in there – silver, with a small blue rabbit on it – that I’d lost several years before. I hadn’t lost it in there, though, so how it ended up there, I was never sure. Perhaps it really was a portal to another world – one where lost things wait to be found…

I left my Narnias behind eventually – like the way in to the real Narnia disappears for the older characters in the series, their doors quietly closed behind me while I was busy getting older – but being a writer means that even as an adult I get to live in other worlds all the time: the worlds I create on the page. Each new story I write is a doorway into another reality, and when the time comes to move on, it’s always a wrench.

But not for long, because there’s always another story forming somewhere. Another world waiting for me to notice it.

All I have to do is start writing…