Cruel Summer – Cover Reveal

It gives me great pleasure to reveal the GORGEOUS cover for my new novel CRUEL SUMMER:

Cruel Summer_FC_hi-res

Pretty striking huh? I love that it’s totally different to Hollow Pike, but just as eye-catching. So what’s it all about?


Ryan is looking forward to spending the summer with his old school friends at Katie’s luxurious Spanish villa. He hasn’t seen the gang since their friend, Janey, committed suicide a year ago. He hopes this summer they’ll be able to put the past behind them and move on – until someone else arrives, claiming to have proof that Janey’s suicide was murder – and it’s only a matter of time until her killer strikes again…

Ryan was hoping for sun, sea and sand. Suddenly, he’s facing a long, hot summer of death, drama and deceit . . .

If you like a racy teen thriller, some edgy humour, or you’re a fan of Christopher Pike, I think you’ll like Cruel Summer too. As we get nearer to the launch date of AUGUST 1ST 2013, I’ll give away a few more details about the fabulous RYAN HAYWARD and his sexy beach chums ALISHA, KATIE, GREG, BEN and ROX, but until then I’m gonna keep you guessing…

Until then, if you enjoy pre-ordering you can do so at THIS LINK. And if you’re a Goodreads user you can add it HERE. Gorgeous bloggers, please do feel free to share the hell out of it on your blogs, tumblrs and just about anywhere else you see fit! Thank you x

YA: The Starter Kit

booksI had the most interesting conversation the other day. ‘So what do you do?’ a gentleman asked me.

‘I’m an author.’

‘Oh wow! Like JK Rowling?’

‘Yes. Exactly like that.’

‘I have an amazing idea for a YA novel.’

‘Oh. OK.’ The chap then went on to describe, in very close detail, the plot to Michael Grant’s GONE sequence. I asked if he’d read this and he said he had not. After further digging, it transpired that beyond a bit of Harry Potter, he had read little to no YA. Well, that’s just bad planning. How can you possibly write for a market you haven’t even slightly researched?

I prescribed our wannabe writer chum a capsule wardrobe of essential YA that any starter should cast their eye over. Now, this is just MY list – the books which have most inspired me. I imagine your YA essentials will be different and you should certainly tell me in the little box below!

Here’s the YA Starter Kit:


Why? The imagination. YA was a uniquely American concept when this trilogy begun in 1995. As such, the rules were still being made and Pullman presented a breadth and scope far beyond most children’s fiction. His Dark Materials is an epic fantasy with intriguing and loveable characters but is also a thought-provoking dissection of religious zeal.


Why? The passion. I doubt that any ‘adult’ books have addressed racism in such a concise and poignant fashion. That’s the best thing about YA – it doesn’t have to be showy and florid to be profoundly moving. A dystopian Romeo and Juliet tale that features everything you’d want in YA: romance, treachery, terrorism. Malorie Blackman is truly the queen of UKYA.


Why? The originality. Few YA novels (the jury scurries back and forth as to whether this is YA or not. I think it definitely IS) have toyed with form in the way that this one has. Lead character, Christopher, has an autism-like condition and presents a truly unique narrative. A novel which will change how you see the world.


Why? The sales. When something becomes a true phenomenon, I believe it’s vital to analyse the appeal. For this reason, I think writers should explore Brown, James, Rowling and Meyer – because we ALL aspire to reaching their global audience. The appeal of the Twilight Saga lies in Bella’s transformation and, more importantly, the fact she attracts not one but two gorgeous suitors. I want to smack the bottoms of authorly Twilight haterz because Meyer blew the market open and allowed us to be here. That said, perhaps just read the first two.


Why? The character. You could substitute this for THE HUNGER GAMES should you wish. Both Sabriel and Katniss are fantastic role-model characters – capable, intelligent and brave. Personally I prefer Nix’s fantasy quest because who doesn’t love a bit of necromancy? Sabriel is one of the best examples of a book that will appeal to literally any reader – it really does have everything. Mystery, magic, danger and romance are all in the mix.


Why? Ralph. More than thirty years on, Forever is still THE teen sex book. The gentle coming-of-age story is as relevant now as it was then. Perhaps it’s a little misty-eyed, but Forever introduces sex in such a non-threatening way that by the end, you do feel as if you’re a little older and wiser alongside the characters. Honest without needing to be shocking.


Why? The voice. You could also have HEART SHAPED BRUISE by Tanya Byrne in this position. Green’s characters (in any of his books, I just favour this one) are wise, world-weary, intelligent, funny, witty and wry – I always get a taste of Kevin Williamson era Dawson’s Creek – which is no bad thing. The voice is compelling, distinctive and in no way patronising. Green doesn’t write ‘for young adults’, he writes stories about young adults. Byrne achieved the same realism with a UK flavour.


Why? The power. YA has the power to reduce big, giant, iron-soul people (like me) to tears. There are so many books I could have featured here, but I opted for A Monster Calls because it weaves a fantasy element (scary tree monster) with the harrowing real-life drama, making that little bit more distinctive than your average weepy. I’m also a sucker for a portmanteau story-within-a-story.

I think those ten novels would give a well-rounded view of what it is we YA writers are aiming for. Powerful, honest, exciting and imaginative stories about intriguing, rounded characters. Well, that’s what I’m working towards anyway! What books would you air-drop into the home of someone who had never read YA? TELL ME HERE:


News and Stuff

Red Lemon PressAlthough we must always strive against info dumping, there’s a few bits and bobs so I thought I’d stick them all in one handy post.

1. BEING  A BOY: Keeping this one a secret was quite a task (especially for someone whose nickname is James ‘Take It To The Grave’ Dawson). Last year I was working on this secret project – a real labour of love. When I was a teacher I specialised in PSHCE and I firmly believe thorough sex education is vital. Sadly, even the best teachers can’t compete with the darkest corners of the internet. The goal of BEING A BOY is to give young men (and for that matter anyone) a manual on every aspect of puberty, sex and relationships. It’s frank and (hopefully) funny.

BEING A BOY was acquired by Red Lemon Press, the sister publisher of Hot Key – who you know as the home of Maureen Johnson, Dawn O Porter and, recent Costa winner, Sally Gardner. It’ll be published (with gorgeous illustrations from Spike) in September.

2. CRUEL SUMMER…is done. I’m so proud of it and can’t wait for you to get your mitts on it. It’s a little different to Hollow Pike, but I hope you’ll like it just as much. If you like your twists and turns twisty and turny, I think you will. It’s a total homage to the Christopher Pike books I read when I was fifteen. The cover is ready ANY DAY NOW, so I’ll be able to share soon. CRUEL SUMMER is out 1.8.13 and I am planning a TROPICAL THEME LAUNCH, so you better bloody come.

3. EVENTS: I was mega excited to be invited to speak at the SOUTHBANK IMAGINE FESTIVAL this coming Thursday. If, like me, your Valentine’s plans are non-existant, I recommend you come on down to London and listen to me, MAUREEN JOHNSON, ABIGAIL GIBB and GEMMA MALLEY (yes, how amazing is that line-up) talk about the ALLURE of the supernatural. My motto is, if you’re single, snog a ghost. Come and join us. TICKETS are but three English pounds.

NEXT THURSDAY I am also super excited to be speaking at The Booktrust panel, YA:COMING OUT OF THE CLOSET at the Free Word Centre in London. It’s FREE, yes FREE but you need to reserve your space. I’ll be in conversation with HAYLEY LONG (who wrote on of my favourite books of 2012 – What’s Up With Jody Barton) and we’ll be discussing why there are so few LGBT characters in YA and what we’re doing about that. PLEASE come. All the deets are HERE.

4. BOOK WEEK: Is March 4-8. If you are a librarian or teacher and would like a visiting author that week, I still have a couple of slots free.

5. SKITTLES: I have recently been enjoying Skittles. I suggest you do too, as they are a much underrated sweet. You’re welcome.



You're welcome