book cover

The Bone Dragon book cover

Publication Day! Thank you to all the wonderful reviewers…

Today, I am officially a published author. I was expecting it might have sunk in by now, but a year on I’m still astonished from day to day to realise (a) I have an amazing agent, (b) I have a wonderful publisher, and (c) I’m being published. Am published as of today. It’s really quite nice that it won’t sink in because the realisation that it’s not just the latest in a string of daydreams is a lovely surprise each and every day.

And there have been all sorts of lovely surprises, not least that I’ll be speaking at the Hay Festival later this month along with Sally Gardner and Nick Lake. You can find more details about our ‘Happily Ever After?’ event here if you think you might be interested in coming along.

And then there’s the thing I’ve been longing for and dreading… finding out what people think of the book. Thank you so much to everyone who’s bought the book, read it, ordered it, included it in posts and cover reveals, and generally started getting the buzz going.

Luna’s Little Library was my first ever reader to comment. I literally jumped around for a little while being over the moon that my first reader liked the book. She’s also written an absolutely lovely review. Literally the sort of review I’ve dreamed about.

The first review to come out though was actually Annabelle Hammond’s detailed and thoughtful look at the book. It’s been amazing to hear that people are reading my book, but it’s the most wonderful compliment when people take the time not only to review but to review at length.

Katie from Storytellers, Inc.’s wonderful, insightful review picks up on so many of the things that I hoped readers would find in the book. Was so touched by the discussion of how I’ve handled the darker themes in the book: Katie review captures exactly what I was trying to do.

Laura from Sisterspooky’s review made my day by tackling many of the mistaken assumptions readers might make about the book if they only glanced at the blurb. It’s such a great thing for a writer to see reviews that address market forces so that readers can get a true sense of what a book is about.

Finally, INIS magazine have my first trade press review! So exciting to have one out before the official publication date. Now to cross fingers that there are more to come.

I know that everyone gets bad reviews. It’s part of the territory. But it’s so lovely to start with nice ones. Let the bad ones wait as long as possible!

It’s a strange and wonderful thing to read reviews of your work and especially to see the time and care people have put into thinking and writing about your book. I’ve been astonished with how many things these reviews have picked up on that really mattered to me as a writer. I wasn’t sure how much of what I see as the heart of the story would translate to readers. It’s a powerful thing to be told that it has translated: that readers are seeing what I see in the story… or at least partially. Seeing readers’ alternative interpretations of their work drives some writers mad, but mostly I’m curious. The book may be my creation but any reading of it belongs to that reader. I love that about the writing-reading process: there’s a point at which it’s collaboratively creatively, albeit it at a distance.

Thank you so much to the wonderful reviewers who have made my publication week so amazing. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the care with which you’ve treated my work.

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The Bone Dragon front cover

A thing of beauty…

… my first copy of my book!

Faber have done the most amazing job on turning my manuscript into a stunning physical book.

Thank you so much, everyone!

And thank you to my wonderful agent for persuading Faber to publish it!

 

front cover

back of the book

front inside boards

back inside boards

 

The Bone Dragon book cover

Cover Reveal: The Bone Dragon

Turns out there’s been a change of plans (either that or I slightly mixed up 1 March and 1 April – it happens) and the cover reveal is going to be… today. (YAY! [does happy dance] April seemed SOOOOOOO far away.)

So here it is. What do you think? [bounces in anticipation]

The Bone Dragon book cover

 

 

We’re also up on the Faber & Faber site! [Teehee!]

Pre-order at Waterstones, WHSmith, Amazon and most local bookstores… Now with our beautiful cover to enjoy!

Watch out for the new blurb coming soon…

Cover design process

Although it’ll be another few weeks before the official cover reveal for The Bone Dragon, I am now allowed to talk about our interim cover draft and the design process in more depth.

You may (or may not) remember that the first draft cover looked like this:

TBD draft cover

The book starts with a human rib-bone in a pot. It seemed a good place to start with the cover too. This initial cover draft released in August 2012.

What I love: I love the bottle – much more striking than what I saw in my head: the little plastic pot my very own rib sits in (among my socks in the drawer under my bed). I also love that the design isn’t genre or age-group specific: it doesn’t scream YA READERS ONLY! Also, it points to the fact that the book is a psychological thriller as opposed to fantasy. Not that I have any problem with fantasy (I may well end up writing some later on in my career) but it would be misleading to class The Bone Dragon that way.

Cons: I’m not terribly keen on was having the carved rib shown on the cover. I’d prefer for readers to be free to imagine this for themselves, with no visual prompting. Plus you could never carve a human rib like this. For one, they’re too narrow and for another they’re hollowish so it wouldn’t work, no matter how tiny the overall dragon. 

My feedback to the designers: If the cover is to show the rib-in-a-pot that sets the whole story in motion, it needs to look more like a human rib, rather than an ox thigh-bone.

Then, in October, I received the new cover, which was supposed to be the final cover. Only it wasn’t. I can only share part of it (and I can’t explain what I mean by this being only ‘part’ because that’s a secret too). Anyway, here it is:

BoneDragon-draft

What I love: I love the hazy, impressionistic feel: I really like that the image isn’t too clear and that you can’t tell what Evie looks like. The feel is right for the book too: the slightly out-of-proportion arms and the way she’s holding them out, almost like wings. And the colours are fantastic. Even as a little thumbnail, the title stands out and the colours are eerie, though there’s slightly too much yellow and red for me: in my mind, the book is black and blue and purple. But I think the image is striking both in thumbnail size and in larger scale. Again, I love that it’s not YA specific and doesn’t speak strongly to any particular genre, though it hints more at literary fiction than the previous cover, which is fine. The book sits astride a whole bunch of genre boundaries without being one thing or another, though literary fiction and/or psychological thriller are the best fit with the book. What I love most is how this image combines with the second part of the design – the secret bit I still can’t show you. It’s the two together that make this magical.

Cons: Only tiny quibblettes. Not that it really matters what I see in my head, but the nightdress (?) isn’t something Evie would wear and her hair is longer than this. Also, I like the idea of readers being able to picture Evie for themselves without too many visual clues. Plus, while I really like the typeface, perhaps the crayon effect is too young, not just for Evie but for the intended readership (16+).

My feedback to the designers: Basically, what I said on Twitter.

what I said on Twitter

As for the official cover…

questionmark

The new design is perfect: absolutely gorgeous, sumptuous, stunning. I can’t wait to share it with you all… and to explain more about the missing part of cover #2 that explains why I adored that design, even though it’s not a patch on the official cover. I’m not positive that the ‘secret part of cover #2’ will turn up as part of the final cover (I still haven’t seen the finished version of that aspect of the design yet), but I’m hoping so.

So, what do you think  of our interim cover?

snow around a frozen pond in a wood

The definitive proof

On Thursday afternoon, The Bone Dragon is going to be ready for publication. This might seen a long time in advance since it won’t be released until 2 May, but in the interrim it needs to be printed and distributed… and there may even be ARCs going out.

I have now learned that bound review copies are not the same as ARCs (advance review copies). Or not necessarily.  I’m still a bit shaky on the terminology but I think bound review copies and bound proofs are basically the same thing in everyone’s books (or should I say ‘for all books’?). They’re copies of a book that are produced from a relatively early proof. They’re printed and bound  like a book, but usually with a different cover to make sure that they’re not confused with the final publication version when it comes out. ARCs, on the other hand, are just copies of the book-as-published-for-sale (i.e. they’re printed from the final proof). Thething that makes them ARCs is that they’re sent out to people before the official publication date: they’re not actually different in any way from the books people buy off the shelves after the publication date.

So… the bound review copies have now been sent out. I am getting twitchy waiting for mine to arrive.

Meanwhile, the final proof – the definitive version of the book – will be done by next Thursday afternoon. It should include the final version of the cover (which I’ve yet to see). I’m just slightly excited*, though I know hitting send on my proof approval email will doubtless be as anticlimatic as handing over my PhD. (‘Oh, right. It’s done. Right. Um… Well, I guess that’s it then.’)

Sometime after that I’ll be able to share the cover (probably mid-March), and some sample material (probably  2 April) and… hopefully some reviews (no idea).

I can’t wait to see what you all think. I do hope you’ll like it.

 

* English understatement. Please translate appropriately.

Frosted fir branch

Waiting

The final proofs are done (though there might be one last read-through). The review copies are being printed (I think). Next week the cover will be finalised. But right now there’s not a lot going on that I’m involved with. Since the start of December, I’ve been wading through the quiet pre-publication post-end-of-editing strange and trying not to gnash my teeth. It’s all about waiting, torn between impatience, excitement and terror… And, while I’ve never been very good at patient or waiting, I can do excitement and terror like a star so am spending much of time revved up to no purpose.

Soon we’ll have the cover reveal and I’ll get to see what people think. Soon there will be sample material available… and maybe some early reviews or at least informal feedback on the reception of the ARCs (advance review copies or bound proofs, as Faber tends to call them). Soon I’ll be having a meeting to plan the promotions and publicity work and after that there will be dates in the diary about events and activities and all sorts of things…

But right now it’s all very quiet. It’s less than 4 months now till TBD is published and it feels very strange not to be rushing about like a headless chicken trying to help the book find an audience… but I see the reasoning about how important timing is. Apparently things need to happen 6-8 weeks in advance tops because otherwise there’s such a lot of time between getting people’s attention and the book actually being available to them that it’s largely wasted effort. After all, I’m a debut author. No one knows if they’ll like my work yet so drawing out any anticipation that can be raised is unlikely to be productive. I see that… but it’s so strange for everything to have gone quiet.

I may soon wish for a little bit of the quiet back though, so I’m trying not to wish it away. After all, there are two other books to fill it with…

For now… Happy New Year!

Raindrops on roses

My favourite things: TBD has a new cover…

… Only it’s still a secret. Sorry about that. I know it was a little sneaky.

But I’m so excited about the cover I just have to write something about it, even though it is going to be very vague.

I’m not sure when the reveal will be but probably around Christmas/New Year. The wait will be well worth it. The cover is absolutely stunning. THE perfect cover. I opened the file and the design just clicked. “Ah!” I thought. “So this is what the book is supposed to look like!”

So what can I say about the new cover? Well, it’s clever, fun and full of secrets.

And completely different to the ‘old’ cover. Which I did really like too. The concept was something I’d thought from the start that Faber might pick and I loved the fact that it was a good ‘cross-over’ concept in that it didn’t appeal specifically to the YA market. But, for me, it was a bit weird to see the bone carving in such detail and so prominent. I quite like the idea of the reader being left to imagine that for him/herself.

The new cover… Well, it’s not that it doesn’t feature the ‘bone dragon’ of the title but it’s not that it exactly does either… Very helpful, I know. (Well, I never said I didn’t enjoy being a tease. :P)

In other news… Advance Review Copies (ARCs), as I now know they’re called, will be printed soon, so the proofs are nearly complete. No update on where we’re going with the breaking words over the line/text justification issue yet, but it is something we’re working on. Or rather my wonderful Project Editor is working on it. It was a very liberal use of the word ‘we’, there. But then I am being sneaky here… Might as well go the whole hog and be sneaky AND plural while I’m about it.

TBD draft cover

The Bone Dragon to be published 4 April 2013

Just confirmed with Faber that the publication date for The Bone Dragon has just been moved up to 4 April 2013! So excited… and now not quite so long to wait!

Pre-order now from Amazon, Waterstones and WHSmith. Currently on offer at Amazon and Waterstones, so grab a hardback for a fantastic price while you can!

BTW, book is actually 300 pages, not 240 – shortly to be updated on the relevant sites – so it is a full length novel!

Photoshoot: a short guide on how to look evil

So, somewhere in among the edits, Rebecca emails me to ask for a photo.

I am one of those people who are just not photogenic. Or at least I hope that’s what the problem is: if I really look like I do in most photos I have MUCH bigger problems than not being photogenic.

Anyway, suffice it to say I don’t like being photographed much. Oh, I don’t mind a photo with a group of friends or at a family party or a big event – I don’t make a big deal out of it – but generally I don’t let people take photos of just me, by myself. So when Rebecca asked for something, even a photo taken by a friend on a reasonable camera, I didn’t have many options.

My favourite photos of myself are (a) the one with a cherry blossom branch in front of my face and my eyes peeking over the top (thank you, Lizzie!), (b) the one of me barely visible behind my exceptionally long (and beautiful) cat, (c) the one taken from a long, long way away of me in a meadow in the hills above Prague, and (d) a very low res one taken at a ball hosted by a big Cambridge tech company where I’m wearing a lovely strapless ballgown, only the photo is from the shoulders up so it looks like I might be wearing… less. And… well, that’s about it for photos of me that I like. I have one taken with a group of friends (so not perfect anyway) at the Clare Hall (Cambridge college) Summer Ball, and in this one you can see dress straps… but my eyes are mostly shut.

Mostly I look recently dead in photos. So it didn’t help that, when Rebecca asked for a publicity photo, I was recently out of the hospital (after having had the latest rib out) and completely morphinated… Just the look I wanted to go for.

Anyway, after much trawling around for local photographers, I finally found the fabulous Louisa Walsh at ArtbyLAW. Louisa was absolutely brilliant (and extremely kind) and, thanks to tea and music from Tom,  and a fantastic job on the make-up from Jade, I made it through the shoot… and even had a few pictures where the morphination didn’t show too much.

For the most part, I focused on looking like I was thinking evil thoughts. This, I suspected, would stop me from looking vacant… and it would also fit the book. And just me in general.

For instance, when asked what objects I’d brought to give a sense of my personality in the photos, I produced my gorgeous carved slate notebook with the celtic knot on one cover and the dragon on the other…

‘Would you like a flower, too?’ Louisa asked.

‘No, thanks,’ I replied, smiling sunnily. ‘I brought a knife instead.’

So in several of the longshots there I am with my notebook… and my knife (it’s a very pretty knife, as you can see: one of my favourites).

I did think about bringing a rib in a pot, but I suspected that might be too morbid… especially given the evil glint in the eyes that decided my favourite headshot.

headshot

So how did I work on looking evil? Well, mostly I just thought about the book. There, there be sneakiness… and a Dragon (sort of)… And a little bit of evil for good measure.