Thursday, 5 March 2015

World Book Day 2015

It’s World Book Day 2015! To celebrate, here are ten facts about the distribution of literature in the Scion Citadel of London.
  •  In Scion, only books approved by the Minister for Arts are published. Most are thinly veiled propaganda with unnaturals as the antagonists. 
  • In 1902, the Great Biblioclasm, or book-burning, took place in Paternoster Row, organised by the Marquess of Salisbury. Texts dealing with fantasy and the supernatural were burned.
  • A small number of texts and fragments were saved from the ashes and hidden in the library of the Spiritus Club, Grub Street, I-5.
  • The Spiritus Club soon became the citadel’s only publisher and keeper of illegal literature, including documents discussing clairvoyance.
  • Their most celebrated author is Jaxon Hall, also known as Obscure Writer or the White Binder, who wrote On the Merits of Unnaturalness, a groundbreaking and controversial pamphlet on clairvoyance. It was published in 2031. 
  • In one of the pamphlet’s footnotes, Hall famously lamented, ‘Alas for Literature! Alas!’
  • Against the odds, the Spiritus Club continues to thrive, producing controversial, unique – and occasionally, downright terrible literature.
  • Other Spiritus Club bestsellers include Didion Waite’s Love at First Sight; or, the Seer’s Delight and The Mysteries of Jacob’s Island
  • Mr Hall states that Mr Waite must have enough copies of his own work to cover England, as no sane person could it consider it well-written. Mr Waite vehemently disagrees.
  • A surprise bestseller in 2059 was the anonymously written The Rephaite Revelation, telling a most bizarre tale of monsters in Westminster.

A few extra sets have been added to my World Book Day event at Seven Dials tonight, if you have a spare hour. You don't need a ticket, but you should turn up early if you can, as space is limited. Details can be found here

Happy reading!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Out With the Old


Apologies for several weeks of silence – I've been incredibly busy with Book 3, the Mime Order publicity, and resolving the stomach pain I mentioned in my last post. I am absolutely thrilled that The Mime Order became not only a #10 Sunday Times bestseller, but went straight to #11 on the New York Times bestseller list, too. I really wasn't expecting that. Thank you so, so much to everyone who bought or pre-ordered, and I hope you enjoyed the book if you've read it. Do let me know what you thought!

My tour in the States was fantastic. I did a great event with Sarah J. Maas in Pennsylvania, followed by talks in Tennessee, Missouri, Utah, and California. What was particularly amazing was that several people drove for hours, sometimes from different states, to come and see me in the bookshops. (Thank you, all of you!) While I was on the road, I had the privilege of visiting Borderlands Books in San Francisco before it closes. It's such a quirky bookshop, with dedicated and knowledgeable staff, and I'm very sorry to see it go. Once I was back to Britain, it was straight to Scotland for a research trip in Edinburgh, where Book 3 is partially set. I spent four days exploring, riding on tour buses, and scribbling away, having the time of my life. It's such a beautiful, inspiring city, layered with history, like London. I'm looking forward to reinventing it as the Scion Citadel of Edinburgh, and to sharing it with you when the next book is published. 

On Saturday, I went to hospital to have my appendix removed and my pains investigated via a laparoscopy, a form of keyhole surgery. I was fairly nervous, as I haven't had an operation since having my tonsils were removed when I was four, but the nursing staff made me feel at ease for the whole of my stay. First I had to put on my operation gown, highly fashionable foam slippers, and white compression stockings to prevent deep-vein thrombosis. Then I was walked down to the operating theatre and given a general anaesthetic, which knocked me out midway through saying 'Wow, that feels weir—'. When I woke up, I was in the recovery room with an oxygen mask clamped over my mouth, and everything was swirling around with all the charm and bliss of the world's worst hangover. After being wheeled back to my room, I had to clamber from the trolley to my hospital bed – which, when you've just had surgical instruments and a camera poking around near your intestines, isn't quite as easy as it sounds. Bizarrely, I also had a sharp pain in my right shoulder, which was due to gas being pumped into my stomach during the laparoscopy. The gas gives the surgeon more room to work, but it can become trapped and cause excess pain. Then it was just rest and tests until I was discharged.  

As it turned out, my appendix was the culprit all along. It was swollen and stuck in an unusual position, so it had to go. I'm hoping, now that the offending area is gone, that my stomach pains have been resolved for good. I can walk, albeit stiffly, and I should be back to full health within about two weeks. After having antibiotics in hospital, I'm on a course of painkillers and anti-inflammatories while I heal. All that will remain is three scars: the largest by my navel, and two smaller marks on the left side of my stomach, where the surgical tools, laparoscope, and a tube for gas were inserted into my abdomen. I'm going to try and get back to writing Book 3 tomorrow, as I'm still aiming to hit my target of mid-April for finishing the first draft. Onward!

My next event is, appropriately, at Seven Dials on Thursday at 6pm. I'll be doing a free reading, with complimentary Prosecco and popcorn, at the Book Exchange in Shorts Gardens. You can enter for tickets here. Hope to see some of you there!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Mime Time


At last, The Mime Order is out in the wild, and it got to #4 in The Times's hardback bestseller list! It has also got some absolutely lovely reviews, both from bloggers and from publications. Thank you so, so much to all of you for being so patient and enthusiastic after the delayed release date, and I hope you all enjoy the result. Don't forget to check my refresher if you're about to start The Mime Order and need to jog your memory.

A few days ago I was hospitalised for two nights after having stomach pains and discomfort for about four months, which suddenly peaked while I was performing at BookSlam on Thursday. The next day, I checked myself into hospital and ended up staying for two days to be monitored. One good thing that came out of this is that my phobias of blood tests and having my blood pressure taken have finally been beaten, as I had so many! Sadly I'm still not much closer to finding out what's wrong, but at least anything serious has been ruled out.

Photo © Katherine Webber

Fortunately, on Saturday, my surgeon let me out of hospital for a few hours to do my event at the Sheldonian Theatre with Andy Serkis and Jonathan Cavendish, co-founders of the Imaginarium Studios, who hold the film rights to The Bone Season and its sequels. Andy actually read a passage from the book, which was amazing – aside from the audiobook, I haven't heard anyone else read my work out loud. I spoke about writing The Mime Order, while Andy and Jonathan discussed their ideas for how to bring the world of Scion to the big screen, along with the various next-generation storytelling techniques they're looking into to make all of Imaginarium's films visually engaging: performance capture, virtual reality (à la Oculus Rift), and so on. I love these ideas; in my mind, nothing is too "out there" to be considered. We learned that the screenwriter has delivered a first draft to 20th Century Fox, which I haven't seen yet, as he wants it to be cleaned up a little more before I take a look. Jonathan thinks that the film could be ready to go into production by the end of 2016. Although that seems like a long way away, in the grand scheme of things it's a relatively short period of time, given how long some films spend in production hell. I'm looking forward to seeing where 2015 takes this project.

I'm now hard at work on Book 3 in the Bone Season series, which I aim to finish in time for publication next year. I've just hit 80,000 words, which I estimate is just over the halfway point. If I keep up my current pace, I should have finished a first draft by the end of April at the latest, which gives me plenty of time to edit the manuscript over the remainder of 2015. The book does have a working title, but as it could still change, I won't tell you. I will tell you that Paige will finally be leaving London in Book 3 and visiting two other Scion citadels in Britain. You'll get to see what clairvoyant culture is like outside London, and as always, there will be new characters, old friends, and fresh threats. 

My publication gift from Bloomsbury,
made by David Mann

One thing I'm trying to do in the Bone Season series is to give the reader a very different experience in each book. I don't like to repeat the same formula over seven books, and I shy away from sticking to one clear-cut genre. My aim is to make it difficult for you to guess what will happen in each installment. The Bone Season was what I might call a "jailbreak" story, much of which centred around Warden and Paige's relationship, while The Mime Order has a central murder mystery that The Bone Season lacked. Book 3 is no different. This one is shaping up to be more of a revolutionary tale, with Scion itself as the primary antagonist. I picture the later three books focusing more closely on the Rephaim, but for now, Paige's fight is with the anchor.

Next week I'll be in the States for my Mime Order tour, and I hope some of you will be able to come! Dates, booking details and locations can be found here. I'll also be speaking in Waterstones Birmingham this Thursday at 7.30pm. 

Saturday, 24 January 2015

The Sound of a Story, Pt. 2

Good evening! Only three more days until The Mime Order is out. I'm so incredibly excited for you all to read it. It's already out in some bookshops around the world, so if you've been able to have an early read, do let me know what you thought. Thank you to all of you for being so patient during the extra months of waiting for the book – I'm already hard at work on Book 3...

Last year, just after the publication of The Bone Season, I did an interview with Alana Kerr, who narrated the audiobook version of the book and provides the voices for not only Paige, but for all of my characters. Today, I'm delighted to have her back at A Book from the Beginning to talk about her experience narrating The Mime Order, and what she's been doing since I last spoke to her. Here are her answers to both my questions and those that some of you asked on social media.


Alana Kerr is originally from Belfast, Ireland. She graduated from Trinity College, Dublin with a joint 2:1 in Drama and English. She has trained in Meisner technique at the Impulse Company, London and takes weekly classes at the Margie Haber Studio, Los Angeles. She is also an alumnus of the National Youth Theatre (NYT) and the National Youth Music Theatre (NYMT) and is an accomplished actress, singer and voiceover artist.


Alana, it's been over a year since I did my last interview with you on the blog. Welcome back! What have you been up to since 2013? 

Thanks, I’m absolutely delighted to be voicing the next instalment of the Bone Season series. I’m such a fan! 2014 was a really varied for me. I voiced my second audiobook, shot a few commercials and my first US TV show, Murder Book, and travelled to Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Easter Island! 

How was your experience narrating The Mime Order in comparison to The Bone Season? Was there anything you set out to do differently? 

Thankfully with The Mime Order I had more time to prepare before recording than I did with The Bone Season, although it takes a surprisingly long time to do. I think I averaged 100 pages a day and there were approximately 450 pages. I’m a naturally slow reader but prepping a book isn’t just about reading it. I have to manually highlight each line of dialogue and make notes on character and tone. This all then helps tremendously when in the studio and hopefully makes for a more consistent read.

In terms of setting myself a new challenge for The Mime Order, I really wanted to up the ante in the action sequences and you certainly gave me plenty to work with! In particular, the final few chapters proved to be pretty exhausting but were so much fun to read. I felt like I was right there in the middle of the action. 

You did a stellar job with all the accents in the first book. Did you have to learn any new ones for The Mime Order

Thank you! I think the only one that threw me slightly off course this time around was Ognena Maria’s “light Bulgarian”. I hadn’t seen that one coming! For her, I decided to do a slight variation on Russian and mainly focus on clarity. There is a fine line between getting an accent 100% spot on and making it accessible to the audience, who might hail from anywhere from Lancaster, Pennsylvania to Lancaster, England. As a narrator, it is of utmost importance to be clear and understood and often that can mean softening an accent a little.

The Bone Season was the first audiobook you narrated. Aside from this series, have you narrated any others? 

Yes, I also narrated The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of the Titanic by Hazol Gaynor and am in the middle of prepping for Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner. 

There are invented songs in both books: An Ember Morning in The Bone Season and Five Ravens in The Mime Order. You didn't sing An Ember Morning, as I didn't provide the tune at the time, but you did sing Five Ravens. How did you find the experience of singing for an audiobook? 

I loved it! I was disappointed I didn’t get the chance to sing the first song so I was delighted to get your guidance for a tune for the second. I found Five Ravens so evocative and it really brought the streets of Scion London to life for me. It’s also fun to throw something in that and audiobook listener can experience above and beyond what’s written on the page. 

Who was your favourite character to speak for this time? 

This is a hard one as there are so many great characters to choose from. I did enjoy getting to know Paige a bit better though, I do have a soft spot for her! 

Did knowing more of everyone's story change the way that you voiced the characters?

I think it definitely helps to understand the character on a deeper level and that inevitably helps to shape your portrayal of them. 

I should tell you that my dad listened to the audiobook every day on his way to work, and has yet to read the paper version... Do you listen to many audiobooks yourself? Any you recommend, if so? 

This made me laugh out loud as my dad is such a fan too! He’s a big walker and loves to listen to audiobooks when he’s out and about. He loved The Bone Season and has pre-ordered The Mime Order in anticipation of its release. Audiobooks such a great way to experience a story and I often listen to them myself in the car. I find that living in LA doesn’t give me the same opportunity to read as London where I used to spend hours on the tube reading almost every day. Now I like to listen as I drive and in LA you do a lot of that! I’ve just finished listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point which is actually a social study rather than a novel but I absolutely loved it. I’m love being able to learn new things on the go. It’s funny how we often think of audiobooks as a new medium but it really harks back to the origin of storytelling. It is quite literally that, telling a story, and I think it’s a wonderful way to be swept away. 

Did you peek at any reviews of your narration online? 

Peek is the perfect word! Because The Bone Season was my first ever audiobook I felt not only a natural curiosity at how people received it but I was interested to learn what I could do to improve my narration. So yes, I did peek from behind my fingers once or twice but I didn’t dwell on it too much. I’m not sure to what extent I’d check on them in the future. 

When reading a second book in a series, do you go back and listen to your recording of the first to remember how you did different voices or does it just all come back to you? 

It seems strange but somehow I seemed to remember most of the voices. I tend to picture them in my mind and the voice comes with the image and the line. As with all good writing, each character speaks in a particular rhythm and this helps keep them separate and individual. We do, nevertheless, have a snippet of each voice available at the studio should I need a refresher which was very helpful. It was harder to remember smaller, more incidental characters but all of the major ones I was able to replicate fairly accurately just by conjuring that image and reading the given line of dialogue.

How much research do you do of the book before you read it out loud or is it the first time that you read it when you are recording it? 

It’s usually best to read the whole book before stepping into the studio although sometimes that isn’t always possible, as was the case with The Bone Season. Not only does it give you a better sense of the overall arc of the story but also gives you further insight into the characters. For example, something might be referenced quite late on in the novel that helps you better understand a character and how they approach certain situations. Or on a more basic level, you might only know where a character grew up, and therefore what accent they have, until you meet them for the second or third time. This happened to me with The Bone Season when I discovered Liss’ Scottish upbringing after I had decided in my head to make her Mancunian! Thankfully, I hadn’t started to record her dialogue yet and there was no need to go back and correct it. 

There's a big action scene towards the end of The Mime Order. It was one of the tougher scenes for me to write, as it's movement-heavy, involves a large number of characters, and spread over several chapters. Without spoilers, how did you tackle narrating it?

It’s really interesting to hear about your experience writing it. It’s such a wonderfully descriptive scene and it definitely proved to be one of the toughest, but most enjoyable sequences to record. As I already mentioned, I was keen to develop the action throughout The Mime Order and I felt as though I was really building to this moment. I found myself narrating from the edge of my seat with much of my energy focused on my core. It can be very draining to not only voice characters who are engaged in high energy action but to also accurately describe how something “whacked” me over the head or “thumped” into my back. It’s not enough to simply read those words but instead you have to find a way to describe not only the action but the impact it has on the character. The audience has to feel just how painful that thump was or how tired her aching arms are as she pulls herself up. I was pretty exhausted myself after that one! 

Thanks to Alana for taking the time to answer these in such detail! It's always so interesting to hear about the process of narrating an audiobook. You can pre-order The Mime Order in audiobook format from Audible here, and here's a sample of Alana's wonderful narration.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Blog Tour

Good morning from snowy London! 

I just wanted to make you guys aware of the two blog tours for The Mime Order that are running at the moment, kindly hosted by twenty-four book bloggers from the US and UK. The posts feature reviews of the book, audiobook clips, giveaways, and more.

The UK tour also contains some exclusive content written by me. Several of the bloggers will be posting pages from A Voyant’s Guide to the Scion Citadel of London, which I wrote specifically for the tour. It will give you some details about several of the important districts of London that feature prominently in The Mime Order. Thank you very much to all the bloggers who are participating in the tour! 

Here's the full list of posts. An asterisk indicates that this blog stop includes a page of exclusive content.