Monthly Archives: February 2014

Sally’s blog: 17th Feb 2014

Editing

I’m trying to edit HALF WILD, the second book of my HALF BAD trilogy. But at the moment it’s not going well, in fact at the moment it’s not really going at all. This is not because of writer’s block (which I’m not sure I really believe in) but lack of time.

I had been warned by Ben Horslen, my editor at Puffin, that the months around publication of HALF BAD would be very busy. He’s right. I’ve taken a week out of writing for a tour of the UK and another week for a tour of the US. But I got back sixteen days ago and had planned to work through an edit of HALF WILD in that time. So why haven’t I? Well, I’ve been busy on other things, I’ve written a few blogs, done a couple of phone interviews, a few Q&A’s by email for magazines and . . . I’m sure there must be more . . . oh yes, I’ve read a book (one and a half actually) and washed, ironed, shopped, cooked, done the school run and watched a bit of the Olympics on TV. But still I feel like there are lots of hours unaccounted for.

To be fair to myself I have been editing, but as usual I have too high an expectation of what I can do in any given time. I’ve worked through half of the full draft of HALF WILD, cutting, adding and polishing and every few days I’ve been going back to the opening chapter to rewrite that. All told I’ve spent days if not weeks on the opening chapter, partly because it’s the opening chapter and also because the style is unusual and I’m not sure it’s working.

Anyway, when I got to the half way point of the novel I realised that I needed to tweak the plot – I had a surge of inspiration but the idea needs refinement. So I’ve decided to stop reading my manuscript for the time being and instead go for walks and stare out of the window whilst I work it all out. I’m nearly there, but still not yet ready to put fingertips to keyboard.

Sally’s blog: 10th Feb 2014

Empowerment

After my tour of the UK and then the USA in January I’m now back into the usual routine at home of school pick-ups, house chores (where does all this ironing come from?) and writing, oh and watching the rain pour down outside – gosh it can rain in England!

On Friday, for the first time, I got my hands on the final UK version of HALF BAD. It’s gorgeous and I was feeling a little teary eyed as it sunk in that this was my book. It really is a dream come true.

But neither the rain nor the fast approaching publication date of HALF BAD are foremost in my mind at the moment, instead I’m thinking about a tweet I received from someone who had read an advance copy of HB. She said she’d like Annalise (one of the important females in the story) to be more empowered in book 2 of the trilogy.

This set me thinking about my female characters and empowerment and all that. HALF BAD does have a good number of females, both Black Witches and White Witches, old and young, powerful and weak, and from good to really nasty. Most of them are strong characters, but not all.

My first instinct was to reply that I’m not sure I want Annalise to be ‘empowered’. She’s strong, intelligent and empathetic. And she can be brave too, but she can also be afraid and unsure what to do. And that’s what I like about her – that she isn’t ‘empowered’ she is lost sometimes and confused and uncertain. That’s the real bit of her and the bit I relate to most of all.

Then I thought, ‘Hold on a minute, I’d better check what empowered really means.’ According to my Chambers dictionary to empower = ‘to authorize’, and empowerment = ‘the giving to individuals of power to take decisions in matters relating to themselves’.

Hmmm, so that means Annalise is empowered, as she does take decisions relating to herself. But that doesn’t mean she is sure about her choices or happy about them. Isn’t that so much more like real life? The torture of wondering if you’ve made the right decision is terrible, as is the sick feeling of finding out you’ve made the wrong one. Empowerment can be pretty crappy.

I hope Annalise will eventually (over 3 books) be seen as deeper than she might first appear as I certainly find her the most difficult to write – she is for me the most complicated and torn of characters in HALF BAD.

Sally’s blog: 2nd Feb 2014

USA

I’m back in the UK after my eight night, five city, flying (in both senses) trip to the USA. I can’t begin to cover all I’ve done whilst there so here’s a bit of detail of one 24 hour period.

Wednesday, 29th January 2014

8 a.m. A chauffeured car arrives at my hotel in Chicago ready to take us to the airport. Us is me and Ken (Ken Wright – my US editor at Viking (part of Penguin in the US) and my constant companion on my pre-publication tour).

8.10 a.m. I arrive in the hotel lobby (as ever) ten minutes late, just as Ken is texting me to check I haven’t overslept.

10.35 a.m. Despite the freezing weather (a relatively warm -7c today) we take off on time for Los Angeles.

1.09 p.m. Arrive in LA (a cool, for them, +20 c) and we are met by our new driver, Michael, collect our bags and I nip to the loos to do what I can to freshen up and make myself look like I’ve had more than 4 hours sleep (trying to cover the bags under my eyes with make-up doesn’t really do the job).

2.15 p.m. We arrive at the offices of CAA on Avenue of the Stars. The offices are like something out of a SciFi movie – the one which takes place on a replica, more beautiful, manicured planet – the building is predominantly glass and space and more space with occasional leather seating and more and higher spaces. And it is largely populated by air, though there are also a few beautiful people dotted around.
Ken and I have a meeting with my agent here – I’m still amazed that I have an agent in Hollywood.

3.30 p.m. Ken and I are back in the car and wanting to see the Hollywood sign (OK maybe Ken wasn’t that bothered) but Michael can only point to the low cloud and assure me that it’s in there somewhere. Traffic is heavy and slow.

5.00 p.m. I am in my lovely room in my hotel in Pasadena. I realise I haven’t eaten since the breakfast muffin and coffee at Chicago Airport. As this is California I order room service – a kale and quinoa salad (with grapes and other stuff I can’t remember, but this was actually delicious).

5.50 p.m. I arrive in the lobby only 5 minutes late where Ken is waiting (and hasn’t yet texted me) with Nicole, the Penguin sales rep.

6.15 p.m. We arrive at the restaurant where we are to have dinner with various booksellers (largely people who work in independent bookshops) from the LA area. We have a private room so that we can make a couple of speeches (oh joy!) Ken introduces me and then I have to stand and talk about myself and HALF BAD for about ten minutes. I’m actually getting used to making this speech so I’m nowhere near as nervous as I was the first time. Once the speech is out of the way I can relax a little and enjoy the meal and conversation with the booksellers. Everyone here, as at all the dinners I went to, is full of enthusiasm for books – they really are wonderful people.

10.15 p.m. I’m back in my room and trying to write up my journal but I can’t keep my eyes open.

10.30 p.m. Sleep.

6.30 a.m. I’m wide awake (this is 9.30 a.m. New York time, 8.30 a.m. Chicago time, 2.30 p.m. UK time, who-knows-what-time according to my body). Get up and shower. Pack. Again.

7.45 a.m. Meet Ken in the lobby – Ken is in shock as I am actually there ahead of him (first and last time that happened).

8.00 a.m. We’re in the car on the way to Fox Studios for a meeting, before going to LAX for the flight to San Francisco and another dinner. But that’s the next 24 hours.