Publication eve!

One more sleep until the publication of my debut novel!

Long time in the making, this moment, given that I decided I wanted to be a writer at six (before that I wanted to be a ballerina, principally because I was in love with pink tutus and wanted a career where I’d get to wear one). By fourteen, I was trying out and practising different versions of my signature, so that I could do my novels justice when the time came for selling signed copies for my launch. I still use the version I decided on today.

Now that the moment is here, of course, the times, they have a-changed. The publishing contract for ‘Let Down Your Hair’ is “digital-first”, which means that carefully rehearsed signature won’t have anywhere to go (unless I sell over 500 copies, whereupon they’ll offer it as print-on-demand). As a model that enables publishers to take a risk on new authors, I’m all for it, even if my Inner Fourteen-Year-Old is pouting.

The same goes for the launch, which is all a bit virtual when the book is a digital file. Still, it’s mid-December, and however great that may be for sales, it really ain’t ideal for launches. Who can fit in yet another function two weeks before Christmas? My plan is to content myself with a small night out, and hope for a physical book to launch next year. Until then, I’ll satisfy my launchtime urges by printing off a flyer, folding it into a plane, and releasing it tomorrow from a Rapunzelesque top floor window…


Fairytales: Difficulty ratings

When I was ten, I wrote a story called ‘Petrolella’, inspired by ‘Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes’. I found this story recently, and while it made me cringe, I’m glad I never threw it out. Childish as ‘Petrolella’ looks to me now, it was my first step on a road that led to my Rapunzel adaptation ‘Let Down Your Hair’ being published (

As I muse on which fairytale I want to do next, I’m finding not all tales are equal, especially for retelling in the present-day real world. Some are quite easy, because the plot revolves around characters doing things real people do. Some are much harder, because the plot depends on magical trinkets and unlikely events.

At the Easy Street end of the scale, we have Cinderella. Winner of the Most Adapted Fairytale Award, because the story is just so accessible. Put-upon girl triumphs over nasty step-family and lands herself rich, handsome husband. It’s your basic rags-to-riches, with a side-serve of revenge. The only tricky bit is the business with the shoe, which doesn’t turn up until the end. Work around that, and you can set Cinderella just about anywhere in any time you like. Difficulty rating: 2/10.

At the School of Hard Knocks end is Snow White, which is jam-packed with tricky magic trinkets. That mirror, for a start. It’s central to the story, and quite a challenge to adapt. Not long afterwards is the first of four attempts on Snow White’s life, all of which she survives. Four attempted murders. Setting up motives and escapes for one attempted murder is enough to make a whole novel! Some Snow White versions wriggle out of this by paring down to two: the huntsman and the apple. But if you want to go the whole hog with the lace and comb as well, you really need to get creative. And that’s before you even start to think about how to fit in seven dwarves. Difficulty rating: 9/10.

Rapunzel falls somewhere in the middle. It only has five characters—Rapunzel, her parents, the Wicked Witch and the Handsome Prince—and the tower is easy enough. The most challenging part is finding some way to make the plot hinge on Rapunzel’s long hair. Once that’s sorted out, the writer also needs a way around the Prince going blind then having his sight restored by her tears. Difficulty rating: 5/10.

In ‘Let Down Your Hair’, I found ways to meet all these challenges, which I might tell you more about later. For the moment, though, I’m giving the fairytales a rest, and working on a fantasy trilogy. When I’ve finished Book I of the trilogy, though, I plan to switch into ninth gear and tackle Snow White and the Seven Dwarves…

The hard sell?

Long, long ago, at the dawn of publishing, the writer’s job was to write. The tawdry task of selling the writing was left in the hands of the publisher.

These days, however, the writerly hand can no longer expect to stay pure. The dog-eat-dog digital age is upon us, and with it comes a new and daunting duty. The hands which hold the pen and caper on the keyboard must soil themselves with the sordid business of sales.

“Start a blog!” they said. “You need one!” they said.

The subtext here is plain. The aim of a writer’s blog isn’t posting photos of my pets, or documenting my scandalous personal life. It’s to LURE IN READERS by dazzling them with my witty and deathless prose.

The pressure!

The problem with the hard sell is that it’s just so hard. Marketing is the curse of the modern age. I’m heartily sick of people trying to sell me stuff. Why would I want to inflict the hard sell on other blameless people?

Well, OK, I do know why. It’s because Momentum Books is publishing my debut novel ‘Let Down Your Hair’. It’s a modern-day adaptation of the Rapunzel fairytale. Not the sanitised versions of Grimm and Disney, but the darker original story with the gritty bits put back in. The coming of age tale of a cloistered young woman, part comedy, part tragedy, part romance, With two towers for the price of one, each ruled by a different Wicked Witch.

Look, here it is:

Much as playing saleswoman makes me wince, I would, of course, like people to buy it. I suppose the trick with marketing is to market at people who’d like to buy what you have to sell. It’s why Facebook and Google watch what you write and send you targeted ads.

Does this make this entire blog a kind of targeted ad? What a disturbing thought. So disturbing I think I might leave this entry here and drown my fears in hot chocolate.