Who killed Janey Bradshaw? Suspect #3: Greg Cole

GregName: Greg Cole

Age: 19

Hometown: Brighton

Occupation: Footballer

Relationship Status: cohabits with Erin Smith.

Larger-than-life ladies’ man Greg Cole is a star and living legend in his hometown. Fiercely protective of his sister, Alisha, and his friends, Greg is also vain and self-centred.

As a pro-footballer, Greg has the highest profile and the most to lose if his involvement in Janey’s death became public knowledge. His temper is as hot as he is.

The question is, would Greg Cole kill to keep his secrets buried?


Who killed Janey Bradshaw? Suspect #2: Alisha Cole

AlishaName: Alisha Cole

Age: 19

Hometown: Telscombe Cliffs, East Sussex

Occupation: 6th Form student

Relationship Status: ‘Dumped’

Alisha is a notorious party girl with a bad reputation in her home town. On the night of Janey’s death, Alisha was known to be angry, drunk and out of control, although there is no known motive as to why Alisha would harm Janey.

However, Alisha was ejected from the prom and is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of Janey’s death.

The life and soul of the party, Alisha Cole has a red hot temper and her whole class saw her assault a fellow pupil. Approach with caution.


Who killed Janey Bradshaw? Suspect #1: Ryan Hayward

RyanName: Ryan Hayward

Age: 19

Hometown: Manchester

Profession: Performing Arts student

Relationship status: ‘Widely available’

Ryan thinks his whole life is a glossy TV show and the suicide of beautiful Janey Bradshaw made for quite the season finale. Only thing is, Ryan is convinced Janey would never kill herself and that she was murdered. What makes him so certain?

His alibi for the night she died is sketchy – he left the prom shortly after eleven, and arrived home around midnight. Where was he in the missing hour?

Full of charm, bravado and wit, Ryan isn’t as carefree as he may seem. He’s a boy with secrets. Not to be trusted.


Image credit: Lacymosagigia on DeviantART.

Cruel Summer – One Week To Go!

Hey y’all! So it’s one week until Cruel Summer hits stores. But what is it all about?

  • It’s totes different to HOLLOW PIKE, but also, kinda, the same. If you like scary bits and funny bits in a cocktail of teenage realness, this one’s for YOU.
  • Do you like Christopher Pike or RL Stine? This is also for you.
  • CRUEL SUMMER isn’t supernatural, but if you like a traditional ‘locked door’ murder mystery, you’ll like this.

Last year, Janey Bradshaw killed herself. Or did she? Ryan Hayward isn’t so sure, and on the anniversary of her ‘suicide’, Ryan and his friends reunite in a secluded Spanish villa. When an unwelcome guest arrives claiming she KNOWS Janey’s death was no suicide it’s not long until there’s a new dead girl floating in the pool. Ryan and his friends are left with a body and a murderer in their midsts.

 6 friends, 5 days, 4 secrets, 3 hot guys, 2 dead girls, 1 twisted killer. This holiday is going to be murder.


There’s still a week to pre-order – see the video for why you should! In a nutshell, anyone who proves they’ve pre–ordered will get a signed, personalised bookplate to stick into their copy of CRUEL SUMMER! Well it’s the least I can do right?

  • Pre-order the book
  • Tweet me a pic to prove it
  • Dm me an address
  • Wait for me to show up outside your house with night-vision goggles. KIDDING. (Probably)
  • Stick signed bookplate into your book.
  • Rub book lovingly against cheek.

Seriously! A big thanks you to all of you – those of you who chose Hollow Pike, and those of you who chose Cruel Summer. It blows my mind to think that these stories that started in my head are OUT THERE. You da best.


James xxx

Top 10 ‘Gay’ Couples

Jack-and-Ianto-torchwood-908118_1680_946Willow and Tarastepam






To celebrate the passing of the Same-Sex Marriage Bill I thought it would be fun to celebrate some of the most famous and well-loved same-sex fictional couples from books, film and television. It’s a shame there aren’t more to choose from really, isn’t it?

In reverse order, here are my personal faves:

10. Paul and Noah (Boy Meets Boy – David Levithan)

This sweet romance takes place in a idyllic American town in which diversity is welcomed with open arms. In a refreshing twist, Paul’s sexuality is no big deal. The ‘problem’ of the piece isn’t that he’s gay, it’s that his confused ex threatens the blossoming love with him and Noah. The lengths Paul goes to to win Noah back are sweet and heartfelt.

9. Kitty and Delilah (Hollow Pike – me)

OK, it’s pretty egotistical to feature my own creations, but they were based on real people and hey, can you name any other queer girl couples in YA? I wanted Kitty and Delilah to be properly fifteen. They don’t know if they’re gay, but they sure know they are each other’s universe. They make each other stronger.

8. C3PO and R2D2 (The Star Wars Saga)

Although never explicitly stated (and do robots even have gender?), this pair’s marital bickering has led many a fan to assume the droids do have romantic feelings towards one another. The sparring masks a pretty obvious and deep love.

7. Alec Lightwood and Magnus Bane (The Mortal Instruments – Cassandra Clare)

This slow-burning subplot is my favourite thing about this saga. For one thing, Magnus is as sexy and charismatic as you could hope for, but as with Buffy and Angel and Bella and Edward, what complicates this relationship is Bane’s immortality. At the end of the last book the couple were officially OFF, but we’re all rooting for a reunion.

6. Tara and Pam (True Blood)

Possibly the ONLY reason (beyond Erik) to watch True Blood these days is the fiery relationship between Tara and her maker. Both very angry women with troubled pasts, their storyline is about them finally learning to trust and open up.

5. Ennis and Jack (Brokeback Mountain – Annie Proulx)

No-one ever said a great love story had to end well right? It’s a good thing too because you’ll need a box of tissues for this one, and not just for the tent scene. Cruelly, cruelly robbed of the best film Oscar, Brokeback Mountain, although much parodied, is gay culture’s finest weepy.

4. Vince and Stuart (Queer as Folk)

One of the most complex same-sex relationships ever scripted. Unrequited love, Vince points out, never has to end. Vince loves Stuart, but Stuart is toxic and won’t allow people to love him. Stuart loves Vince but doesn’t feel it ‘in his blood’. The end of the UK series was ambiguous, but one way or another, Vince and Stuart are bound to each other.

3. Jack and Ianto (Torchwood)

Another clever Russell T Davies creation. Jack initially sees Ianto as another in a long line of conquests, but their relationship develops and Ianto tames the wayward Jack with tailoring that would make any letting agent jealous. Erm you’ll need that box of tissues again…

2. Willow and Tara (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)

Willow was with Oz for two years so her gradual, subtle relationship with fellow wicca, Tara, came as a surprise but felt entirely organic. This was due to the expert scripts of Joss Whedon and co. Willow and Tara’s relationship felt balanced, sweet and fun – it looked like the relationship we’d all want. Until ‘magic addiction’ and Warren went and ruined everything.

1. Jamie and Ste (Beautiful Thing)

If you haven’t seen it, Beautiful Thing is an urban fairytale in which a pair of teenagers fall in love one sweltering summer on a South London council estate. The message is how love can bloom in the unlikeliest of places and if this doesn’t tug at your heartstrings there’s something wrong with your heart. The final scene…I’m getting teary just thinking about it.

What would your top ten be? We’ve missed some classics: Charles and Sebastian in Brideshead, Mouse and John in Tales of the City, Bette and Tina from The L Word and many, many more!

PHBC3: Funhouse by Diane Hoh

UnknownWhat’s it all about?

The Devil’s Elbow roller-coaster derails, killing one student and maiming two. Everyone thinks it’s a tragic accident, except Tess Landers who saw a mysterious figure tampering with the tracks. Before the night is out she’s getting scary purple messages.

At the same time, the mysterious culprit unveils a web of lies from a secret diary. The children of Santa Luisa will pay for the sins of their fathers…






The Girl

Debbie_GibsonTess Landers, described briefly as tall and skinny with straight fair hair, is a difficult one to pin down. She’s a bit of a contradiction. There are flashes of compassion, independence and resolve and she sometimes acts like a human being – after her initial note (inexplicably written in purple crayon, a fact which is repeated throughout as if purple is truly the mark of a psychopath), Tess does go to the police like any sensible person would. However, she’s also whiny and sullen and prone to moves of genius like walking home alone through forests at night during a storm. Too much of her behaviour suits the plot unfortunately.

She has excellent YA broken home credentials. In a MASSIVE infodump in the first chapter we learn that Tess has opted to live with her free-spirited step mum, who despite a lengthy description, is never actually in the book.

I’ve decided to cast Debbie Gibson. Just because. Some excellent Tess dialogue: “Well you’re in a pretty good mood tonight,” she said crankily, because she herself was not. It’s a shame Gina, the best friend isn’t the main character – she’s a far more likeable creation.


The Love Interest

'Gary"Uh. Just uh. As half the book is from the culprit’s perspective, we quickly establish that one of Tess’s friends is the killer. Therefore, a certain amount of suspicion is thrown on all of them. One of the gang is Tess’s on/off boyfriend, Sam.

I have a theory about Sam. His constant sportswear wearing leads me to think he might be on steroids. It would explain his snappish and impatient temperament in any case. It’s hard to understand what any girl (or guy for that matter) would see in Sam. This is how he talks to Tess: “Oh great!’ Sam complained, “Now not only do I have to worry about you, I have to worry about my sister too! That’s just perfect!”

Sam. Not only is this roid rage annoying, it’ll make your testicles shrink to the size of chocolate raisins. Once again delving into 90’s board game HEARTTHROB, I select GARY. Out of the guys in the book, if I HAD to, I’d pick hot dog vending bit-of-rough, Doss.



Dialogue Disasters

I’m afraid so…

“The smell of hot dogs brings out the beast in me.”


“Ha ha! Shredded tyres! Now her car won’t go!”

“And to answer your next question, it wasn’t booze or drugs. It was probably brownies.”

“We have, of course, questioned the possibility that Robert might experiment with controlled substances.”

And special shout out the the killer’s poetry skills:

Dade and Sheree went up the hill, with Joey right behind them.

Now Dade is dead and Sheree’s ill, and Joey’s leg can’t find him.

Body count: 1 (3 if we include historical characters)

Does it pass the Bechdel Test?: Yes.

Is it scary?

Scary isn’t the right word. A dead cat pinned to the door is unsettling, but there’s little room for suspense. Seeing inside the killer’s mind slightly removes some of the mystery too. That said, the set pieces are fun. Final Destination 3 showed us how nerve-wracking fairgrounds can be and it’s a shame there aren’t more scenes at the Broadwalk – for example there are only two scenes inside the titular funhouse. My personal favourite is Tess’s (actually quite funny) tumble into an empty swimming pool.

Did the best friend do it? No, and the final reveal is quite a surprise.

Is it good?

Wel helloPerhaps for the first time since we started our little group we stumble across an episode that doesn’t quite work or stand up to modern YA standards. There is a lot of good in Funhouse, however. The gradual reveal of the killer’s motive IS efcective. He has a believable reason to be angry at the gang – and the fate of Lila O Hare would work in a modern YA. The historical element adds much needed texture to the somewhat pedestrian plot. It’s a shame as, in 1993, a new Hoh installment was something I greatly looked forward to – I was obsessed with the Nightmare Hall range. ‘The Wish’ is one of my all time favourite Point Horrors.

I also think we should mention Trudy Slaughter, easily the best thing about the book. A straight up Regina George. She’s gloriously blunt and has a mean line in leather jumpsuits. PINK LEATHER JUMPSUITS. Amazing.

Overall a competent, if slightly boring, whodunnit with plenty of disposable teens. I just wish more had been made of the fun fair setting.

Over to you!

1. If you had to kai-kai with one of the gang, which would it be and why?

2. Is the killer right to exact revenge on the kids instead of the parents?

3. Why doesn’t Tess just go back to her dad’s?

4. What role does the postal service play in the killer’s downfall?

5. Do you think Sam and Tess are well matched as a couple?

Join us on 13th August for THE CHEERLEADER by CAROLINE B COONEY.

the cheerleader




Dear Mr Gove (again)

michael-gove1Are you there Gove? It’s me James.

I know I write about you a lot, but I felt compelled to once again. So I see that you want grant schools power to set their own term dates, meaning a possible end to the ‘six week summer holiday’.

Like most of your other ideas, I think this one’s crappola too. Allow me to elaborate. Please bear in mind that I was a teacher for eight years, so that’s eight years more than you ever were.

The reason young people need a long holiday is BOREDOM. Hear me out. I think learning to manage boredom is one of the most important skills we should teach young people. It is only through boredom that we get CREATIVE. Eventually, if bored enough, imagination kicks in and we MAKE something. I think this is really important as industry is crying out for more creatives to enter the workplace.

School is regimented. Your delightful curriculum is so ‘rigorous’ that children don’t have a second at school to think for themselves – they’re too busy being prepped for tests. In the years I taught I also noticed that many parents fall into the trap of entertaining their kids 24/7 meaning some children never develop strategies for dealing with boredom – namely creative play. That said, even the most engaged parent can’t provide six weeks worth of puppet shows and baking. Sooner or later, every summer, kids will get bored. And this is a good thing.

As well as creative play, boredom also inspires kids to find others like them. These important social skills are also hard to teach in amongst all the SATs prep. I feel without a long holiday we are timetabling every second of childhood.

I’m a jolly good case in point. It was a long, cloudy summer holiday in 2009 that I sat down, bored off my tits, and said ‘you know what? Imma gonna write me a novel.’ And I did and now I’m a published author with a whole new career. See? Those holidays changed my life.

And as a final word: Have you seen how long private school holidays are? Nuff said.

Thanks Gove. One day I hope we can sit down and talk about my ideas face to face. That’d be sweet.

All best

James xxx

Another year on…

Huge in Spain.About a year ago, I wrote this post about my first year as a full-time writer. It felt a bit expos-y (yeah, that’s a word) and, to be honest, I’d much rather talk about bums and willies (pre-order BEING A BOY, yo!). BUT, it was by far and away my post popular blog post of last year and people seemed to appreciate the inside info. Maybe writers are deprived of staffroom gossip or something.

So, on the eve of the release of Cruel Summer, here’s what I’ve learned in my sophomore year as a full-time author.

1. I have the best job ever. I attended a conference last year for young people at which a VERY famous author stood up in front of a crowd of Year 10s and announced that being a writer is really tough because it’s really hard to start a book and there’s no-one to tell you what to do and you have looming deadlines and, and, and…


If you’re lucky enough – and with the industry in the way it is we are lucky –  to be able to write full-time, get a grip! Being an author is hardly national bloody service – no-one asked us to put pen to paper. Philip Pullman, in a different speech, pointed out that we get to TELL STORIES and GET PAID for doing so. How is that not luxury? My dear friend Will Hill has a saying – ‘never forget to be grateful’. Some days I have to write this on my arm as an aide-memoire, but I am. I really am so, so grateful to be in the position I’m in.

2. Eat garlic to keep cynicism at bay. When I was a rookie I made rookie mistakes, but innocence is nicer than cynicism. You hear a lot of cynicism in publishing.

3. The industry is in a bit of a state. Publishing, somewhat ironically, is a little like The Hunger Games. A load of debuts are thrown into an arena and one *might* do well enough to eat for the rest of their lives. The rest, seemingly, are roadkill. Name a children’s author (not David Walliams) who was a debut smash overnight. Nope. Me either. Rowling, Pullman, Blackman and Wilson were given YEARS to build a following and an audience. The same luxury isn’t afforded to debuts in 2013. It seems that publishers want to see sales figures within the first few weeks of sale. This is why I’m always pleading with people to pre-order and why authors are increasingly offering incentives to do so. Obviously no-one in THE WHOLE OF THE WORLD would normally do so, but publishers and stockists seem keen.

It breaks my tiny homosexual heart to see The Lion and Unicorn in Richmond cease trading. I am angry that Clapham Books has been priced off Clapham High Street to make way for another fucking fried chicken outlet. I do not understand why it’s so tough to get debuts and UK novels into high street books stores – what will they do when everyone has a copy of The Hunger Games?

Kids/YA is in a particular pickle regarding ebooks. It seems likely (as with music) that the future is downloads – although I do think people cherish books more than they ever did CDs, so the printed book will always be with us. Problem is, to have an Amazon account (where most people buy downloads) you need a bank account/debit card etc. Therefore the key YA market doesn’t have access to Amazon unless an adult is buying for them. This is why specialist children’s bookshops like Tales on Moon Lane or The Book Nook, to name but two, are SO important.

4. Word of mouth is key. But also impossible to buy. With YA, at the moment, it’s all about John Green. He’s the hot author to be seen with. He’s fashionable like half a shaved head or backwards caps. However, there is no way that publishers or authors can make fetch happen – it’s organic.

Importantly though, The Fault In Our Stars was Green’s fifth, yes FIFTH novel. His debut was published EIGHT YEARS ago. So I think we can agree WORD OF MOUTH TAKES YEARS TO BUILD. I’m so grateful (god, I’m starting to sound like Leona Lewis) that my publisher is standing by their man while we see if I can build that elusive ‘fandom’ you read about on Tumblr.

A key example is the slow climb that the excellent Code Name Verity took to the NYT Bestseller list.

5. Carve your niche. When I signed my first deal in 2011 with Hollow Pike, the initial idea was to write a series of sixty sequels and spin-offs. Wisely, my publishers were well aware that long-running supernatural series might not be *quite* the freshest fruit at the stall. They steered me towards what I am now – a teen horror writer. I like this because there aren’t really many others so I feel a bit more unique. It’s scary because I don’t know if there’s a market for teen horror, but at least if it all goes tits up I can say I was true to myself. And now we’re in Glee territory.

How the horror works with the non-fiction stuff remains to be seen. Scary willies? Horror sex?

I guess the lesson is ‘lead don’t follow’. Do you really want to be ‘the British John Green’ or just ‘you’?

6.  It’s addictive. I don’t know if you’re meant to say things like this. It didn’t do Cassandra (from the myth) much good. There is one thing that TERRIFIES writers. More than taxes, more than typos in finished books, more than being overlooked for awards…

You guessed it, it’s GETTING A PROPER JOB. This is why it’s possibly advisable to keep one foot in the real world. Once you’ve been a full-time writer, anything else just isn’t as lovely. We’ve known the glory of no alarm clocks. More than the practical stuff it’s an ego thing too. I worry that if I had to get a proper job people would think I was a FAILURE (literally no-one except me would think this, but we’re our own harshest critics).

This year has been easier (for me at least), in that my job with First Story (look them up) has kept me in the real world AND means I’m still a full-time writer.

7. You go mad. Closely related to the last point. Now that I have more of a routine with First Story I see that last year I spent WAY too much time by myself. At first you’re like THIS IS AMAZING, but quite slowly you realise that things that never bothered you before become really big deals. Waiting for guys to reply to text messages became a Sunset Beach melodrama. I wonder if spending most of your time in your head with fictional people is entirely healthy. Whole days would pass during which I would only think about fake things.

Writing with other members of the YA Massiv and getting out of the flat has been a blessing. Much, much happier and I’d recommend working out and about. Those people with laptops in coffee shops aren’t *just* being posers.

Basically this whole blog post is what happens when you’re procrastinating. I HAVE FOUR DEADLINES, PEOPLE.

8. It’s out of your hands. Adding to last year’s list, these things are out of an author’s control: Where your book is stocked, how much it costs, what the cover looks like, who reviews it, reviews, awards short listings, festival appearances, sales, word of mouth…

The list is endless. All I can do is write another book and hope for the best. You can help your chances by saying yes to every opportunity that comes your way. I hate saying no to stuff because I worry I won’t get asked a second time.

9. Don’t compare yourself to other authors. That way madness lies. Books are a magic, not a science. Being competitive about the things on the ‘out of your control’ list is stupid, but I’ve witnessed (and probably felt at some points) professional jealousy. When I was a primary school teacher, it was really hard to get parents to see that you had to manage 32 kids. I guess it’s the same with books. To the author, THEIR book is the brightest, most gifted in the class. To everyone else, it’s a book.

Any book that is selling well is helping the industry as a whole and getting people into bookshops. Don’t be hatin’!

10. It’s not life or death. But don’t forget what you’re writing for. ‘X got half a million for two novels’, ‘Y sold her movie rights to Disney’. Gossip folks. And I’m totally the gossipiest. As the brief twitter parody account, Self-Important Author taught us, we REALLY shouldn’t take what we do too seriously. What we do, in the grander scheme of things, doesn’t matter. Yes, we get young people into reading, and there are ‘important’ novels but C’MON, we’re not doing the hard work that teachers and learning mentors and social workers are doing on the front line.

And, as has been said many times over, don’t be an author if you wanna be rich. Go work for Credit Suisse.

While writing this very post, I got an email from a Spanish reader thanking me for writing Kitty and Delilah in Hollow Pike because she never read about characters like her and her girlfriend. Firstly can we take a second to appreciate that a book I wrote on my summer holidays in an attic flat in Brighton is now on sale in SPAIN? Secondly, that reader had a good time. We write our books and then people might read them and then enjoy them. Again, that’s enough and we should be grateful – they didn’t have to after all.

THAT’S what it’s about.

11. Writing about writing is a cynical way to boost…. So erm…yeah. Thx bye!