Monday, 24 March 2008


My talk at the Essex Book Festival last week seemed to go really well. The library ladies were lovely and very welcoming, and a friendly, interested crowd gathered to hear me talk about Blood Ties and how I became a writer. I read and chatted away and read some more and then there were questions and after that I signed some books. Apparently, all the feedback was positive, and even the M25 home was flowing along. So all in all, a good day.

Talking of talks, I've been invited to speak at Leicestershire's National Year of Reading launch event at County Hall on 4th April. The event runs from 12 noon until 2pm with lots of other writing/reading things going on. I'll be talking about how I came to write, what reading means to me, and generally encouraging folk to get reading. Do come along if you can.

For me, the Easter weekend is a time of gardening but this year not one seed has been sown, not one twig pruned, and not one blade of grass cut. This is due to a number of things: 1) Snow. 2) Work. 3) I can't get into my garage to find my stash of seeds/gardening tools/mower because of all the boxes still stacked up from when we moved. I feel a sorting out day coming on. Spring does that to you. Makes you want to sort out. Sort of.

And congratulations to Neil and Aliya for getting their co-authored story into the new Elastic Press anthology. I don't quite understand how they do it, write together, but I'm looking forward to reading the result.

Sam xx

Friday, 14 March 2008

Don't Mention the War

I'm well and truly stuck in to Next Novel. I have a synopsis - or rather pages of confusing notes - and the drive to get on. But it's very hard leaving behind characters that I'll never see again. Rather like having to move in with a new family. I hope I like them. I hope they like me.

I had an email today saying that an extract of BLOOD TIES will soon appear in a New Zealand Sunday paper - The Sunday Star Times - as part of an Easter promotion. Another Headline author will be featured too so I won't be alone. I get quite a few emails from New Zealand readers. In fact, I get emails from lots of far-flung places - all of them so far have been nice messages; all of them encouraging, supportive; all of them saying they got something out of my book and wondering when the next one's out. Warm and fuzzy kind of emails - the sort that every author dreams of. And I really do appreciate that anyone who hasn't enjoyed it, didn't bother to write. Thanks to you, too.

But this fragile-egoed author needs a little extra support. My message to you dear readers is... if any of you speak German (fluent German!), please pretty please could you visit and counter the recent review with a few lines of praise and a few more stars than the last person saw fit to leave. It makes me worry that I can't understand it (although babel fish gave me a pretty good idea!) and it also makes me worry that I can't read the German edition of Blutskinder. No - it just makes me worry. My words and I can't read them. So I have made a pact with myself not to obsessively check the amazons around the world. I have made another pact not to let one-off reviews get to me. Tell me I'm not the only author who feels like this.

Oh, and a reminder about the Essex Book Festival. I'm at it next week - Hullbridge Library 18th March 3pm. I believe all tickets sold but then they issued some more. Not sure of the status now but if you're interested, it would be worth making a call to 01206 573948. I'll be reading, talking, answering questions, trying to sound interesting and like a real writer should sound. Emerging, blinking, into the world from my study (which is now fully unpacked and tidy post-move) is a hard thing to do. I have an hour and a half to fill. Perhaps I'll get She-Devil to teach me a tap dance in case I need a filler.

Right, I'm off to hunt for my Fawlty Towers DVDs.

Sam xx

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

DIY and Doing Lunch

What does an author who doesn't seem to have been out of the house for weeks and is sick of boxes and decorating do? Have lunch in London with her agent, of course.

Yes, on Monday I picked the plaster out of my hair, untangled myself from the sheets of stripped wallpaper, brushed off the dust, and took the train to London. (Of course, I had a shower too.) After a weekend of grot, it was nice to escape the dust and dirt and put on a bit of lippy and 'do' lunch. Having sworn never to get involved with a scrap of DIY again (after our last seven year renovation project), here we are, gasping and tut-tutting at quotes from professionals and rolling up our sleeves saying, We can do this much cheaper.

So I met with Anna here and we spent a few hours eating the tastiest food ever (way nicer than dust) and brainstorming my new novel. Having an agent is a Very Good Thing. Apart from being taken out for yummy lunches from time to time, it's like having a sensible me to talk to (acutally, it's way better than that!). Anna has a knack of being able to steer me away from ridiculous notions and set me straight on the ideas that have real substance. I pitched my idea to her. She loved it. She gave me ideas, we solved a problem, we got excited, and she was totally on my wavelength and had the same vision for this novel as me. She even loved the title.

Oh, and not that I'm one for name dropping or anything but cough *Jacqueline Wilson* cough was sitting a couple of tables away. As you can imagine, she kept pointing at me and saying really loudly, Oh my God! That's Sam Hayes over there! Of course, I just smiled sweetly at all the attention and got on with my scallops. It was funny. She'd been in the news that morning. Kids grow up too fast, apparently. Some people are saying that kids who read her books are helped along to premature adulthood by the themes in them. Suicidal mums, child abuse, death, divorce, teenage drinking and promiscuity.

But real life is real life. If Jacqueline Wilson's next book is about pink rabbits and happy families, apart from being boring, it's not going to change the world we live in. It's the 'Hundredth Monkey' effect. Now, if every author writes about bunnies and clean, happy people, then maybe we stand a chance. If you ask me, which no one is, then I reckon it's down to the parents. Yes, blame the parents. We don't have enough guilt. But when I buy a book for my daughters, I do wish they'd have an age rating printed on them. Something more specific than just being shelved in the 9 to 13 section. I don't have time to read the entire novel while browsing to check for disturbing bits. And what is a 'Young Adult'? Is that the same as an 'Old Child'? It's confusing. It's individual. It's down to the parents, up to the kids. But hey, good publicity if you can get it, eh?

Right, I'm off to get on with my killer idea. Fluffy bunny massacred by smiling child.

Sam xx