Posts Tagged ‘Publisher- Hot Key Books’

How NOT To Write A Novel

I can’t tell you how excited we are to be hosting this fantastic author as she promotes her latest book, Black Cairn Point. Not only is she responsible for a thrilling dystopian novel (we are still keeping our fingers crossed for a sequel to Bombmaker), she is also the author of Caroline’s favourite paranormal novel, Ferryman. Without further ado we will hand you over to Claire McFall
b c pTwo survivors, one terrible truth.
Heather agrees to a group camping holiday with Dougie and his friends because she’s desperate to get closer to him. But when the two of them disturb a pagan burial site above the beach, she becomes certain that they have woken a malevolent spirit. Something is alive out there in the pitch-black dark, and it is planning to wreak deadly revenge.
One year later Heather knows that she was very lucky to escape Black Cairn Point but she is still waiting for Dougie to wake from his coma. If he doesn’t, how will she prove her sanity, and her innocence?
How NOT to write a novel…

I was talking to a friend the other day about a project she was working on. She told me all about how she used Post-it notes to keep her ideas organised, how she had a timeline with deadlines to ensure she never got behind, how she planned steps in detail so that she could work her way methodically to a positive conclusion. Then she turned to me and said, “Well, you must do all this every time you start working on a new novel, right?”

Eh, yeah. Sure.


Or, you know. Not.

I think I must be a bad writer. Not a bad writer (I hope)… a naughty one. Because I really don’t like planning. You know those people who get ready to decorate a room by putting down dust sheets, moving any breakable objects, laying out all of their equipment beforehand? I don’t do that. I grab that bit of wallpaper – that bit that’s been ever so slightly hanging off the wall and bugging you for ages – and YANK! It’s a bit messier, and you’re likely to get stuck when you come to slapping the paint on in three days’ time and discover you haven’t prepped the walls right… but you know what, when you’re finished, it looks just as good!

And that’s kind of how I write.

When I get an idea, I get an idea. I’m filled with enthusiasm and I just want to get in there and start bashing away at my laptop before I lose it. That feeling. The one that gives your story an edge and makes it come alive. You can’t plan that, it’s got to sink its way in through your writing. I’m always afraid that, if I plan every little detail, I’ll lose the excitement. After all, if I know exactly what’s going to happen, exactly where it’s going to go, what’s left to discover?
The downside with that is that I have several novels which have gotten to, oh 25,000, maybe 35,000 words and then… died. It’s like one of those maze puzzles. You start out enthusiastically with your pen, get halfway through and realise that you’ve gone the wrong way. Some people might get out the Tip-ex and start again. Me? I just turn the page over. There’s always another puzzle.

Please note: this is a stupid, stupid way to write. It’s frustrating, leads to wasted time and it’s, well, stupid. It’s also my way. Doh!

What else do I fail to do that other, smarter, writers do as a matter of course when beginning a new project? Make character profiles.

That’s not true, actually. I usually start with good intentions – giving each main character a page in my notebook, creating a mind map with their name in the centre – and I dutifully fill in mundane details like their age, hair colour, rough height. That sort of thing. The problem is, I don’t keep it up. As the novel progresses I flesh out their characters, add in new people, and my notepad remains woefully under-filled. And then I find myself, and half eleven at night, eyes burning because I’ve already been writing for six hours, searching through seventy five thousand words of manuscript because I can’t remember if David had green eyes or brown. The air is blue, my wineglass is empty and I’m muttering to myself “Why the hell didn’t you write this down?” Why? Because I’m a bad writer!

As every author know, writing a novel is actually only about 30% of the process. And it’s definitely the most fun bit. Unfortunately, after writing come editing. I despise editing. Now, I can’t knit, but imagine you made a jumper and when you were finished and proudly showing it off to your mum (because mums always seem willing to point out faults, or mine does anyway!) she picks out five places where you’ve gotten the pattern wrong. A bit where the hem’s not quite right. To me, it looks fine. Not perfect, but fine. And my mum’s giving me that you need to fix it so that it’s right look. That’s the relationship my agent and I have with editing. I think it’s fine… he wants it to be perfect. And I know, I know, it’ll be much better after I fix it, but just like with knitting (I imagine, I can’t actually knit), it’s not a case of fixing those little bits you can see. As soon as you pull on that thread, there are eight more threads that will need adjusting.
Maybe it’s more like a Rubix cube. You get one yellow facing the way you wanted, but you’ve thrown six other little squares out with that move, so now you have to change them too!

It’s important to be methodical when you’re editing. To keep track of changes. You know what’s really helpful with this? Word Track Changes (it does what it says on the tin and all that). Do I use it? No. Why not? Well, it makes things go all funny coloured and it looks messy and I get all confused and…

Another things it’s really important to do, is keep track of your versions. There’s often a bit of back-and-forthing between me and my agent, me and my editor, me and my agent and my editor. Things can get confusing, fast. My agent’s always really careful to label anything he works on. You know, like Black Cairn Point v1.0… Black Cairn Point v 2.2 (I had to get a wee plug for the novel in somewhere!) Me? I label my manuscript stupid things like Bombmaker_fixed or Ferryman_for_Helen. You know, helpful names that will enable me to remember which one’s the latest version… at the moment I’m saving it. Three hours later when I’m looking at the manuscript folder and trying to remember which one to email? Not so much.

So there you are. A “how not to write a novel”. If you think about what I do…. then do the opposite, you’ll be all right. 😉
Thank you to the lovely peeps at BigBookLittleBook for having me on today so that I can share my little pearls of wisdom!

Claire xxx

Posted by Claire McFall

User commentsClaire McFall grew up just south of Glasgow in the heart of Celtic and Rangers country. She teaches English in a secondary school in Peebles, Scotland, where she lives. Her debut novel, FERRYMAN, was long-listed for the Branford Boase Award, nominated for the Carnegie Medal and won a Scottish Children’s Book Award. Follow Claire at or on Twitter: @mcfall_claire

Black Cairn Point was published by Hot Key Books on the 6th of August 2015

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Buddy Review: Say Her Name

James Dawson
say her nameRoberta ‘Bobbie’ Rowe is not the kind of person who believes in ghosts. A Halloween dare at her ridiculously spooky boarding school is no big deal, especially when her best friend Naya and cute local boy Caine agree to join in too. They are ordered to summon the legendary ghost of ‘Bloody Mary’: say her name five times in front of a candlelit mirror, and she shall appear… But, surprise surprise, nothing happens. Or does it?
Next morning, Bobbie finds a message on her bathroom mirror… five days… but what does it mean? And who left it there? Things get increasingly weird and more terrifying for Bobbie and Naya, until it becomes all too clear that Bloody Mary was indeed called from the afterlife that night, and she is definitely not a friendly ghost. Bobbie, Naya and Caine are now in a race against time before their five days are up and Mary comes for them, as she has come for countless others before…

Posted by Caroline and Faye

Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication Date: June 2014
Format: ARC
Pages: 240
Genre: Horror, Mystery
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline and Faye
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
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Bookish Brits Buddy Review: Fearsome Dreamer

Laure Eve

fearsome dreamerThere is a world where gods you’ve never heard of have wound themselves into hearts, and choice has led its history down a different path.
This is a world where France made a small, downtrodden island called England part of its vast and bloated empire.
There are people here who can cross a thousand miles with their minds. There are rarer people still who can move between continents in the blink of an eye.
These people are dangerous.
And wanted. Desperately wanted.
Apprentice hedgewitch Vela Rue knows that she is destined for more. She knows being whisked off from a dull country life to a city full of mystery and intrigue is meant to be. She knows she has something her government wants, a talent so rare and precious and new that they will do anything to train her in it.
But she doesn’t know that she is being lied to. She doesn’t know that the man teaching her about her talent is becoming obsessed by her, and considered by some to be the most dangerous man alive

Posted by Faye and Caroline

Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication Date: October 2013
Format: Hardback
Pages: 384
Genre: Dystopian, Speculative Fiction
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye and Caroline
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British book
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Cover Reveal: The Illusionists

We are absolutely delighted to be a part of this fabulous cover reveal for The Illusionists, by UKYA author Laure Eve.

ILLUSIONISTS_PBA shocking new world. A dangerous choice. Two futures preparing to collide…
Having left White behind her in Angle Tar, Rue is trying to make sense of her new and unfamiliar life in World. Its culture is as baffling as is it thrilling to her, and Rue quickly realises World’s fascination with technology can have intoxicating and deadly consequences.
She is also desperately lonely. And so is White. Somehow, their longing for each other is crossing into their dreams, dreams that begin to take increasingly strange turns as they appear to give Rue echoes of the future. Then the dreams reveal the advent of something truly monstrous, and with it the realisation that Rue and White will be instrumental in bringing about the most incredible and devastating change in both World and Angle Tar.
But in a world where Life is a virtual reality, where friends can become enemies overnight and where dreams, the future, and the past are somehow merging together, their greatest challenge of all may be to survive.

The Illusionist is the sequel to Laure’s Debut novel, Fearsome Dreamer and it is to be published by Hot Key Books in July. To learn more about Laure and her work, visit her Goodreads author page (here).

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Carnegie and Greenaway: Maggot Moon

Sally Gardner

Maggot MoonWhat if the football hadn’t gone over the wall. On the other side of the wall there is a dark secret. And the devil. And the Moon Man. And the Motherland doesn’t want anyone to know. But Standish Treadwell — who has different-coloured eyes, who can’t read, can’t write, Standish Treadwell isn’t bright — sees things differently than the rest of the “train-track thinkers.” So when Standish and his only friend and neighbour, Hector, make their way to the other side of the wall, they see what the Motherland has been hiding. And it’s big…

Maggot Moon won this year’s Costa Coffee Children’s book Award and is probably the one to beat when it comes to Carnegie. Incredibly original Maggot Moon tells the story of Standish Treadwell, a dyslexic boy, who struggles to read and write, and therefore everybody has decided that he is stupid. The book is set in a dystopian world, but in this case a historical one. The book has the feel of 1950’s Britain, but one that is a totalitarian state of the likes of Hitler’s Germany or Stalinist Russia. The country is now a satellite of the Motherland and every aspect of life is closely monitored.

I read this around the time that my daughter was taking the initial screening for dyslexia, which was both a good and a bad thing. It meant that I got distracted by that element of the storyline a little too much, but at the same time was incredibly reassuring. Sally Gardener, the author, is also severely dyslexic and this really shows in how Standish appears to feel about his difficulties with reading and writing. That a dyslexic author has written such an extraordinary book, a book that would be so extraordinary no matter who had written it, really does highlight that dyslexia has absolutely nothing to do with a lack of intelligence and that everybody really can achieve anything, as long as they put their minds to it.

It is probably the most heart wrenching book that I have read so far from the shortlist. I defy anybody to have completely dry eyes when they finish the book. The characters of the book are constantly watched; have to guard every word and action, this atmosphere of close oppression just serves to make the emotion feel all the more intense. This is not a book that gives you hope, but then it tells of a world where there is very little hope. It is because of this atmosphere that Standish’s voice is so important. Standish is different, because he thinks outside the box and this is not a regime that is tolerant of differences. That Standish has managed so far is testament to his grandfather. Their relationship highlights the positive side of human nature, in a book that concentrates so heavily on the negative. It highlights the good that people can do even when everything is against them.

The writing is just beautiful, whilst at the same time being brutal. The story is told in short chapters, giving the story a stop, start feel that just seems to highlight uncertainty present in the world in which it is set.

The short chapters make the book look like it is intended for younger readers, when it probably isn’t. It is a true crossover book in that adults will enjoy it too, but I wouldn’t give it to a child younger than secondary age, the content is quite dark and they wouldn’t necessarily understand some of the complexities of the plot. It is however a book that should be read, not for light hearted enjoyment, but just to experience the incredible writing.

Verdict: Beautifully written, if a little brutal at times, a book that just cries out to be read.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication Date: January 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 288
Genre: Historical, Dystopian
Age: YA
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: None
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