That YALC Line-Up

This July, the UK’s first YA convention will take place at London Film & Comic Con at Earl’s Court. It’s going to be MAYJAH, with the best in UK talent – Malorie Blackman, Patrick Ness and Robert Muchamore joining forces with the best in US talent – Rainbow Rowell and Holly Black!

Tickets for both Sat July 12th and Sun July 13th are available HERE starting from £8 for a single day.


Malorie BlackmanHolly Bourne

Steve Cole

Sarah Crossan

Kim Curran

Frances Hardinge

Charlie Higson

Catherine Johnson

Derek Landy

Andrew Lane

Amy McCulloch

Anthony McGowan

Sarah McIntyre

Patrick Ness

Natasha Ngan

Bryony Pearce

Andy Robb

Rainbow Rowell

Lucy Saxon

Marcus Sedgwick

Darren Shan

CJ Skuse

James Smythe

Jonathan Stroud


Holly BlackTanya Byrne

Alexia Casale

Lucy Christopher

Cat Clarke

James Dawson

Phil Earle

Sally Gardner

Sally Green

Matt Haig

Isobel Harrop

Will Hill (I think)

Nick Lake

Sarra Manning

Julie Mayhew

Sophie McKenzie

Robert Muchamore

Non Pratt

Beth Reekles

Meg Rosoff

Holly Smale

Ruth Warburton



AWWWWW YEAH. Book now and check out the film, TV and comic book talent on offer. I can’t wait!

Easy, Breezy, TERRIFYING…Covergirl!

SAY-HER-NAME-JAMES-DAWSONI am totally feeling the cover for my new book, SAY HER NAME. I’m sorry, I know I should be dead humble but I think it’s GORG. In all honesty, if I hadn’t written this book, I’d buy it. I suppose that makes sense, why would an author write a book they didn’t want to read?

I’m living, breathing proof that people DO judge books by their covers. I have bought the most random books because I wanted them to be objects du art upon my shelf. I think I’ve been very lucky with all my covers actually. I’m in awe of the art department, I think they have such a cool job and I’ve also been very lucky in that at both Orion and Hot Key I’ve been asked what I’d like to see on the covers.

Getting the right cover is vital to the success of a book as first impressions count. I find the cover process fascinating so I asked Hot Key cover guru Jet Purdie to talk me through the design stages on SAY HER NAME.




4sht_SOTD_Master_5-2?image002When asked what I thought the cover should look like, I just said ‘grimy, horror filmy’, using the teaser posters for The Conjuring as a reference point.

With this in mind, Jet commissioned film poster designer Andy Nicholaou to work on the campaign. You’ll know Andy’s work because he designed the famous Shaun of the Dead poster.

In the first instance, Jet and Andy devised a concept that could be taken to the whole HKB team for approval. Had they hated the initial concept, it would have been back to the drawing board (literally).

Andy borrowed some actual horror film art from The Unborn to give HKB a taster of what the final, licensed image would look like.













Also there was a bum cheek on the front. No good.


Cover direction approved by me, my editor and the all-important sales and marketing team (who get final say because they know what booksellers are likely to go for), Jet and Andy were able to develop the idea for commercial use.

It was felt that having a character (Bobbie Rowe presumably) with her back to the reader wasn’t a winner, so it was decided that the character should look OUT at the reader instead. This approach took several directions of gradually increasing scariness.

Option A – Not that scary.

SAY HER NAME green and clean

Option B – Quite scary


Option C -HOLY SHIT.

SAY HER NAME_bloody and scary


I KNOW. As cool as the last one is, it was deemed inappropriate. The scariness wasn’t actually the major deciding factor. Firstly, on a practical level, green prints very badly so this is something Jet wanted to avoid. Second of all, as scary as little Japanese ghost-girl Mary is, that’s not at all what the Mary character in SAY HER NAME actually looks like.


IMG_2884The green was removed for better printing, the blood levels were reduced as not to worry gatekeepers. The grimy ‘Saw’ factor was kept but the colours brightened to be crisper and cleaner. Mary’s eyes were made darker to be more menacing, but not inhuman. In the end, Jet used his own bathroom sink to get the right angle!

The final consideration was the finish. By finish we mean the textures and layers used on the cover. In this instance, I was lucky because HKB found the budget to spot varnish sections of the cover. When you get your hands on the finished product, you’ll feel the mirror has a mirror like surface while the lettering is pure matte perfection. It’s a tactile finger party, make no mistake.

Job done! Reaction to the cover has been overwhelming – proof again that covers do matter. They’re a vital part of gathering excitement about a forthcoming title and the poor thing is expected to conduct a silent sales pitch to every passerby who might see it in a bookshop or library.

I really can’t thank Jet and Andy enough for their work on SAY HER NAME. We’ve already started the process for the 2015 title and we’ve set the bar really high!

The nightmare begins June 5th 2014, but you can get Mary early by PRE-ORDERING SAY HER NAME (it’s the only way to keep her at bay):

On Amazon

On Waterstones


PHBC: The Yearbook by Peter Lerangis

41SA3EJ197LWhat’s it all about?

High IQ boy next door David Kallas only agrees to work on the yearbook to be near his crush, Ariana. However, when he discovers a corpse at the local make-out spot, David soon finds himself balls deep in a historical mystery, a yearbook that seems to predict who will soon die and a calcium-based squid monster from Greece.


This isn’t a joke. A calcium based squid monster from Greece.

Also…a BOY next door?

Yep. AND it’s told in first person. The Yearbook simply isn’t like any other entry in the Point Horror cannon. I’m not sure there were ever any other titles with a male lead. The author, Peter Lerangis is a hugely prolific author for children and young adults with some twenty titles under his belt.

I wouldn’t be hugely surprised if The Yearbook was not originally written to be part of the Point Horror range.

The Boy

David could have time travelled back (not surprising given the timey wimey elements of The Yearbook) from a current John Green era novel. He’s pleasingly nerdy without being neurotic, he’s cute (until he gets lumps all over his face) and comes with both a past and present (timey wimey) including a bereavement. It’s nothing to do with his gender (Jenny Jeffers is as well rounded), it’s all in the excellent writing.

The Yearbook is sophisticated beyond the average Point Horror novel. The insinuation of teen sex (‘Ariana was discovering heaven in a Chevy’) and multiple deaths put this in a different camp, not to mention readership. The first person perspective of David allows him more humour and more of an inner world than most Point Horror girls. He’s also allowed to joke about shitting himself.

Cyb6The Love Interest

Ariana Maas, who sounds like a Mouseketeer, is no pushover. For most of the book she’s into secretly evil Smut (with whom she has the aforementioned car sex) and sees David as a bit of a sex pest.

However, as she’s from the Nancy Drew school of running a Yearbook, she seeks out David when things get weird and they fall in love like falling asleep: slowly and then all at once.

Ariana gets bonus gross out-points for biting heartily through a tentacle until goo spurts all over her face. That David is one lucky guy. With her thick red hair, Ariana gets 90’s TV star Alicia Witt to play her.

Dialogue Disasters

By and large, the writing is excellent, so the dialogue disasters are few and far between. Even the poems…very shaky in previous Point Horror offerings – remember Funhouse – are fun.

However, special mention for every line the immortal Reggie Borden says: ‘You-know-who is pretty bugged about the biting. If you don’t speak up you could both be sacrificed, dig?’ Reader, I am not hip to his jive.

Of course, the most hideous moment comes with the revelation that ‘Mark’s’ segments of the novel aren’t from the past, but the future. OR, in fact, 2016, when we’ll all be printing HOLOGRAMS IN OUR HOMES. Wow, futuristic. Get down off your hoverboard, Mark.

Finally. ‘Smoking gash’. Tee hee.

Body Count: Numerous, both past and present, but three ‘on-screen’ deaths. And they have their bones sucked out.

Did the best friend do it? No. Not that kind of horror.

Some Mild Peril

The gross corpses could be pretty spooky, but I’m afraid a Greek squid monster isn’t VERY scary whichever way you frame it. However, The Yearbook is certainly compelling. The unraveling mystery, if anything, could have been slowed down as the revelations come thick and fast with little time to breathe.

Mr DeWaalt, a sort of warty version of Mr Schuster from Glee, is definitely the creepiest addition in a ‘hey kids, where are the cool parties?’ kind of way. I bet he’s having an affair with Liz off the yearbook staff. Or he’s gay.

Is It Any Good?

Definitely. The Yearbook has made me question EVERYTHING. At the time, 1994, if I’m right, I HATED The Yearbook with a vengeance. It was all wrong. The voice was wrong, having a boy lead was weird, having a monster was bizarre. As a thirteen year old all I wanted was teenage girls being terrorised by their best friend in a weird mask. There was a formula, a VERY SIMPLE FORMULA and The Yearbook didn’t follow it.

As an adult reader, The Yearbook is head and shoulders above most of the ones we’ve covered. While there’s way too much going on, The Yearbook feels fresh and original. David is witty and funny and well-realised.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what this says, if anything, about adult and teen readers of my own books. I can only speak for myself of course, but as a 12 year old, I very much craved the regularity and predictability of series fiction, something I suspect has an enduring appeal with modern mid-grade readers and why The Yearbook isn’t remembered as fondly as say, The Babysitter.

9780590112918Next month we get seasonal with April Fools by Richie Tankersley Cusick. After Trick Or Treat, will Ms Cusick redeem herself?

Over to you…

1. Is the monster called Omphalos or Pytho? What’s Omphalos? I’m very confused.

2. Why does Pytho bother with an overly complicated numerical system to pick her victims?

3. WRITING TASK: Write the scene where Rachel Green (I KNOW) discovers her boyfriend has been eaten.

4. Why don’t Chief Hayes and Mr Sarro just pour the coke on Pytho and how does she survive?

5. Why is Mark such a douche?

So This Happened

As you may have seen on Twitter today (1.4.14) I had a nasty surprise in my inbox and I wish it were an April Fool. It’s not.

So, as you know, I LOVE doing school visits and I like to think I’m quite good at them. I have testimonials from librarians in the ‘Contact’ section of my site if you’re interested. I work for First Story and Stonewall visiting secondary schools every week. I think it’s important to state I am more than qualified for the role I went for.

As you can never do too many school visits, I approached an agency that sends authors abroad as well as to UK schools. Within minutes I got this response.

Thanks for getting in touch. I have had a quick look at your web site and although not a  problem from our perspective i am afraid it is a non starter when working with the majority of international schools we work with. The BOYQUEEN reference would be a big NO NO in the UAE and Gulf region in general. Many of the international schools are extremely sensitive and culturally very wary of upsetting any section of their school community – it may not be very forward thinking but that it just the way it is in many international schools

I am afraid we will have to pass on this occasion and wish you all the best with your school visits.

As you know, #BOYQUEEN has been my tag in the run up to this year’s Queen of Teen Prize.

So my reaction went like this: At first I was shocked but not surprised. I’m not sure I’d go to the UAE even if I was offered a trip. It feels morally weird.

Then I wondered if, three years ago when I started writing full-time, I’d made a terrible mistake in being as open as I am. Had I made a terrible career choice?

And finally I thought NO. This is what homophobia does. It makes you doubt your choices, your worth, your existence.

When the dust had settled I realised there was no real reason for this agency to ‘pass’. They could have said ‘we might struggle with the UAE, but we’ll give it a go’ or ‘we’ll focus on Europe’. After talking to some other authors, one wondered if she, a Jewish author, would get the same response given that she wouldn’t be welcome in the UAE either. The more I think about it, the more this was discrimination. It is discrimination. My sexuality is being used as a reason to not give me work.

I’m looking into legal advice. Why? Because the days where I used to keep quiet and keep my head down when bullies said things to me are over. That was five years of school I’m not looking to repeat. That voice in my head is right now saying NO, NO, DON’T MAKE TROUBLE, IT MIGHT AFFECT YOUR CAREER. But if it does, that’s more discrimination and I won’t take that either.

I draw strength from the response on Twitter and Facebook. Thank you to the readers, authors and librarians who agreed this isn’t good enough.

Whereas once I would have crawled under a rock and taken it, I won’t any more. I will be your Gayzilla because I hope my readers, especially those in school can see me NOT TAKING IT ANYMORE. This is another reason I’d like to be Queen of Teen sometime. I will NOT ‘tone it down’ because it makes some small minded people uncomfortable. I’m not doing anything wrong. Nothing. Not a single thing.

I like the books I write, I love my characters and I really love getting out into schools and meeting readers. I hate that, even for a second, I doubted myself.

Once more, for those of you who have always let me be me, thank you.


James xxx