David Fickling Books (DFB) is set to publish the paperback edition of Simon Mason’s highly acclaimed Running Girl. Shortlisted for the 2014 Costa Children’s Book Award, Mason’s debut foray into YA crime writing was described by the judges as ‘unputdownable’.A former imprint of Random House Children’s Books, newly independent DFB – of which Mason is MD – have acquired the rights to the paperback edition of Running Girl from Penguin Random House, with publication scheduled for June 2015.DFB Publisher David Fickling said: “Our focus at DFB is on all of our authors – past, present and future – and, having had the privilege of working with Simon as his editor over many years, it seemed only natural that we might take on the paperback edition of Running Girl.”There is a huge gap in the market for excellent teen crime fiction, making Running Girl, and its sassy teen detective Garvie Smith, a particularly exciting proposition for us. We’ve been thrilled to see the success the book has – quite rightly – already enjoyed, and can’t wait to bring it home to the DFB stable. We’re also eager to find out what’s in store for our teen sleuth as Simon develops the series.”
from The Guardian’s quickfire interview series:
What was your favourite book when you were younger?
Anything by Diana Wynne Jones. One Easter holiday I read The Dalemark Quartet five times in a row and became convinced that Mitt was a real person.
Did you read a lot as a child and do you still read children’s books now?
I read everything within grabbing distance, almost at random. While other children were outside learning how to socialise I was taking up residence in my school library. These days I still read a huge amount of children’s fiction. I’m enormously lucky to actually have a job in children’s publishing, which means I get to work with children’s books all day.
The 54-year-old [Jo Nesbo] is known throughout the globe for his gritty crime novels featuring serial-killer chasing Oslo detective Harry Hole. But he has another, more upbeat, side to his writing: as the best-selling children’s author of the Doctor Proctor series.
Nesbø’s children’s fiction has been a runaway success in Norway and throughout Europe although the books started simply as a way to amuse his daughter, Selma, who was seven years old when the series began in 2007.
The Oslo-born author says: “Selma began asking for stories but she had a few stipulations. She wanted a dinosaur, and a boy character who was smaller than the girl. Oh, and she wanted a Princess and a potato. And a mad professor.”
The crazy professor turned into Doctor Proctor and in making up the bedtime stories, he realised he liked the characters. “The farting and anti-farting powder was all my idea,” he jokes. “Selma just said: ‘Not again, Dad. We used to joke that she was the co-writer, until she suggested we share the royalties.”
The Ultimate Truth: A Travis Delaney Mystery by Kevin Brooks, reviewed by Mal Peet
Brooks’s novels for older readers often centre on loss, and suggest that dealing with it is a matter of acceptance and stoicism. Thirteen is a little young for stoicism, and Travis is dependent upon the support of his family and his friends. So, as well as being fast-paced, sharp and absorbing, The Ultimate Truth is, at another level, honest.
This is the first novel in a projected series. Uncharacteristically, I’m glad of it. Travis Delaney deserves a large and appreciative following among young readers who are sceptical about the unfettered derring-do of adolescent superheroes. MAL PEET
Victoria is my entry point into London and usually as soon as I’m off the train and through the ticket barrier I’m striding across the forecourt aiming to catch a tube or bus into another part of the city. Consequently, I rarely explore the streets surrounding the station – with the exception of Vauxhall Bridge Road, if I am heading for Tate Britain or Walker Books, and Victoria Street, if I am headed for Westminster. I know it’s not much of a walk to Sloane Square and the Saatchi Gallery, but it’s only one stop on the tube and you’re there in a flash. Which explains why I had not ventured on foot in a westerly direction from the station for many a year. Not since Macmillan Children’s Books were based in Eccleston Place and hosted many a party in the 1990s, when Kate Wilson was at the helm.
So I was unaware of the existence of Belgravia Books, an independent bookshop that opened in September 2011 tucked away in Ebury Street, until I noticed a tweet from Scott Pack sending out a general invitation to a launch of one of his Friday Project titles.
If you’re a regular user of Victoria station, the shop is less than five minutes away. Best way to get to it is to go up the escalator to the upper shopping mall (currently undergoing reconstruction) and walk through to the upper exit into Buckingham Palace Road. Cross over into Eccleston Street (directly opposite), walk up past Eccleston Place then turn right onto Ebury Street. Voila, you will see the blue Belgravia Books shop sign.
Belgravia Books is an adjunct of Gallic Books, a small publishing company founded (by Jane Aitken and Pilar Webb, committed francophiles and previous colleagues at Random House) with the aim of making the very best French writing available to English-speaking readers. The bookshop, while specialising in books in translation, is by no means simply an outlet for Gallic Books’ own publications. They feature prominently in the window displays, but inside the shop itself they sit side by side with the wide range of other stock.
The shop is managed by Andy, a bookseller with over 18 years experience, many of them spent working in various branches of Books Etc, until the Borders/Books Etc. collapse at the end of 2009. On the day of my visit he had just returned from a 3-week break. I told him how many books I was seeing for the first time. “Well, there’s no point being independent if you just stock what Waterstones and Smiths have.” Andy is the only full-time person on the shop floor, but he is supported by three or four other part-time staff, including Emily, who had responded to my initial email enquiry, but was not working on the day of my visit. The Gallic Books office is immediately alongside the shop and Andy tells me that the publishing team are more than ready to help out on the shop floor at busy times.
“Crime never goes away” was something Andy repeated more than once in our conversation. And crime is a particular strength in both the shop and the Gallic Books catalogue . Many of the titles that Gallic Books has translated into English come from the French crime genre. And the shop holds a series of Crime Month talks that are very popular and attract audiences upwards of 40, many of them regulars. Each panel talk is country-themed; there has recently been a Latin-American Month (with two people from the independent Bitter Lemon Press presenting), a Spanish Month (with a professor from UCL) and an Italian Month. Coming up next in this series is a Polish Crime Evening.
The shop is also a favourite launch venue for Scott Pack (seen on the left in the image below), publisher at the Friday Project. Scott says, “Belgravia Books is the perfect place for our book events because it is easy to get to (right by Victoria station), is a nice space (not too big not too small), has a great team (Andy, the manager, always has a great display of the book set up by the time we arrive) and is one of those wonderful curated bookshops that it is impossible to leave without a pile of books you never knew you wanted. I am pretty sure most of the people who come to our launches return to the shop on their own at a later time and buy even more books!”
For a slideshow of images from this particular launch event, click the next image:
The shop has a mailing list that you can subscribe to via the website to keep informed of upcoming events, such as the crime evenings and book launches. Andy explained to me that the current bookshop web design will be changing in the not too distant future, to make it more responsive and mobile friendly. There will also be a different back-end system for book inventory and e-commerce.
Antoine Laurain introduces his novel, The President’s Hat [the first few frames show the author entering the bookshop from the street]
In the last of three posts about the craft of writing, Tony Bradman tells us a thing or too about Plot:
Firstly, remember that plot grows out of character. If you have a good central character, with a real problem to face or conflict to overcome, and a specific goal to follow, then it should be fairly straightforward to devise actions that character will take. Those actions will lead to reactions from other characters, and so on. But all those actions and reactions should be consistent with the kind of characters they are. As soon as you lose sight of that, your characters will become puppets that you manipulate, and the story will feel unreal and contrived. It’s taking the easy way out – it’s much easier to think up what feel like dramatic scenes on their own than to create living characters. But it’s often the kiss of death for a story.
Secondly, it’s vital not to give too much away, especially at the beginning of the story. That might sound paradoxical – isn’t plot all about giving hints and clues? But that’s the point – you’re teasing readers, making them interested in your world and characters, hinting that there are thrills and spills and surprises to come. The temptation to start a story with huge chunks of exposition and character description is strong, but must be resisted at all costs. Remember, you can hint at something and then not mention it again for hundreds of pages, but if you do it properly you’ll have readers in the palm of your hand. And if you can let them
work things out for themselves sometimes, they’ll love you even more.
And thirdly – study plot in all its forms. Try to be aware in your reading of what the writer is doing. Watch out for those early clues and hints, and try to follow them through the story. Do the same with the films you see and the TV programmes you watch. Stories told on screen are often very plot-driven – they have to be to hold an audience’s attention. One particularly good example of plot is in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. What Macbeth hears from The Weird Sisters in the first act sets him off on a course that leads ultimately to tragedy. And at the end their words come back to haunt him. It’s a brilliant example of a number of storylines coming together and delivering a satisfying surprise. Reading crime fiction is also a good way to study plot – it’s all in the clues!
Icelendic crime writer gives a rare interview and talks to Jake Kerridge about his new novel, Strange Shores and explains that he likes to surprise himself:
“I’ve been a film buff ever since I can remember. From my very early years I was always in the cinema. Saw everything. I think that’s a very good upbringing for a writer, just go to the movies,” he laughs. He worked as a film critic for many years. “I saw a lot of movies, ninety per cent of them bad ones, but even from the bad ones you learn how to construct a story, or how not to do it. I think I learned a lot from films about how you present a character, how you move a story on.” He cites Hitchcock as a major influence on his work.
Any more tips for aspiring crime writers? “My method is not to know what’s taken place. The themes of my story I will know, but not who the characters are. The greatest fun when I’m working on the story is to look at what I’m writing and say ‘What? What? Is this what happens?’ And then the reader will enjoy it too. This is my advice: surprise yourself!”