Tag Archives: Charlie Fletcher

Treasures and mysteries

It’s interesting going to a two-author event where you have read one writer’s books but know nothing about the other’s. They will obviously have been paired for a reason. I know that Michelle Harrison is quite famous, but I still haven’t read any of her books. Charlie Fletcher, on the other hand, I have come across a few times. This event was good in that it had a large number of readers of the right age group, plus the unavoidable parents. And, erm, me and a few more un-accompanied adults.

Michelle Harrison and Charlie Fletcher

Calum McGhie, who chaired, let Charlie and Michelle fight it out as to who should go first. Charlie is clearly a man of the ‘ladies first’ brigade, and Michelle read from her current book, a prequel to her other novels. She likes writing the beginning, although these 300 words took her a day to write.

As Charlie finished reading the first chapter from Dragon Shield he got to the part where everything ‘freezes’ and that’s when our tent started moaning in the wind.

The best fantasy is where you put magic elements into the real world. London is old, and Charlie has enjoyed teaching his children some history by fitting his characters into a ‘real’ old world. He goes for walks, and stories simply fall out of the houses he passes.

Michelle Harrison

For Michelle the problem was that her characters grew older and that made the books older, so when her readers clamoured for more about these characters, she decided to write a prequel, to stay within the younger age range. She has read up on fairies, so knows for a fact that red makes you invisible (the walls and floor in the tent were red…) and to wear your clothes inside out means the fairies can’t hurt you. (I think I’ll take my chances, thank you.)

She is the second author this week who grew up on the Point Horror books, ‘where your best friend could be a serial killer…’ Quite.

Charlie was asked by his publisher to write another three book series, and at first he said no. Then he realised he writes for money and that he was stupid not to, so changed his mind. He reckons that museum exhibits simply must talk to each other at night, and that mass produced dragons are like cooking food without a saucepan. (I have to admit that made more sense when he said it, than it does right now.)

Charlie Fletcher

Asked if there is a book they’d like to write a sequel to, Charlie replied Far Rockaway. He feels there are many more old favourites he’d could put in another book. He always knows how a book will end, whereas Michelle only knows approximately how. Charlie loves finishing a book, and he pointed out that a book needn’t be perfect; it just needs to be finished.’

Michelle read the Famous Five books as a child, before moving on to Roald Dahl’s The Witches, which was the first one she decided to buy for herself. She likes being scared, and doesn’t care for the film version of The Witches. Charlie pointed out that to read books is more dangerous than the internet. It won’t be the same as what your friends do, and in films everything has been decided for you, while in a book you do.

His advice is to ‘read dangerously!’ That way you end up with interesting, awkwardly shaped people. Here Calum suggested that boys should read Michelle’s books and that girls should go for Charlie’s, in order to avoid stereotyping. He’d enjoyed both.

Before we went, Michelle mentioned that her favourite read is Julie Hearn’s The Merrybegot. So there you are!

There will be a singing

That’s not just my continued mis-reading of the promised signing after every event. As I got off the tram on Saturday, I found myself struggling to avoid becoming part of a happy group of singers from the something or other gospel. I let them sway on ahead, but they gospelled so slowly that I ended up joining them, eventually overtaking whenever a more spacially aware singer prodded one of the others out of the way. And finally I led the procession, but I speeded up so I’d be out of there completely.

Tram? I hear you ask. Yes, I let the Resident IT Consultant drive me (us) to the Park & Ride and the tram conveyed me into Edinburgh. (It was Saturday. I wanted to make sure I didn’t suffer a repeat of the Saturday in 2012 when the train home was simply too full to join.)

I cased the joint for a while, coming to the conclusion the bookshop doesn’t stock Into A Raging Blaze. Found that the photographers’ background carpet was a more mellow green than it has been. Checked the price of cake – as you do – in case the Resident IT Consultant would need some later. And I, erm, rearranged some books in the bookshop. Although it is hard to put books face out when it is at the expense of other top books. Where is Dan Brown when you need him?

Michelle Harrison and Charlie Fletcher

Joined the proper photographers to snap Charlie Fletcher and Michelle Harrison. Not unsurprisingly they were keenest on the beautiful Michelle (who reminded me of a black haired J K Rowling). Me, I sort of stood behind the dustbins. Which isn’t necessarily a bad place to be. Being short, I’d already come to the conclusion I might have to take photographs between the legs of the others who have this unwritten shooting order I will never ever be able to join.

Michelle Harrison

After Charlie’s and Michelle’s event I repaired to the press yurt and most serendipitously came face to face with the newlyweds. I had more or less given up hope of fitting Philip and Lady Caveney into our respective schedules this week. So we had all of several minutes before Philip’s interview (for television, he claims) and I dashed on to The Siobhan Dowd Trust Memorial Lecture, where I was unable to avoid the Resident IT Consultant. Former children’s laureate Anthony Browne was there too.

The Caveneys

I had asked permission to bring the Resident IT Consultant to the yurt, so we went there for our dinner sandwiches, and the life saving coffee. Sat opposite a woman I slowly worked out must be a Swedish journalist, and even more slowly I worked out that she the man she was interviewing was Bernardo Atxaga (whose book Shola miraculously appeared in my Swedish letterbox over the winter).

Being on translating grounds here, I wasn’t altogether surprised to see Daniel Hahn, but I didn’t tug at his sleeve either, as he was intent on Bernardo. I trawled the square for some action and found I arrived just in time for the signing by Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf, who write the Oksa Pollock books.

Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf

Sara Paretsky

After some killing of time had taken place (it rained…) we finally got to the evening’s long awaited photocall with Sara Paretsky. She jumped straight into her star role, saying the attention she got from the photographers made her feel as though she’s important. Murdo Macleod pointed out she is important. I hung back by the dustbins again, knowing my camera would never totally overcome the fact that it was eight o’clock and a little dark, and that I couldn’t hope to achieve what Murdo and Co did. Meanwhile the Resident IT Consultant chatted to one of the photographers about why they all wear black. (I had no idea he was so into fashion!)

Sara Paretsky

We went straight to Sara’s event with Tom Rob Smith who – it turns out – is half Swedish. Naturally. Not knowing what he looked like before last night, I did miss his photocall on the green carpet. Apologies. (He looks sort of Swedish, if that helps.)

My skills for getting to near the front of the singing, I mean signing, queue had not deserted me, and I had my two minutes with Sara before too long. We agreed that facebook is the way to keep track of house moves and dogs. And stuff.

The light was far too bad for pictures, so I led the Resident IT Consultant back to the tram stop with no more singing, and from there it was a smooth trip home, without any need to get too close to any fellow passengers.

(In the small hours leading up to Saturday I had dreamed an alternate Sara Paretsky signing. She and her many (?) publicists, as well as a large group of fans, turned up outside my – old – house, to do the signing. I invited them in for soup and sandwiches. Her and the PRs, not the fans, obviously. Once inside it became my new house and that was so not good, because of its unfinished state. Also, my freezer isn’t that well stocked yet, and I was busy working out how to make the small amount of soup I had stretch between so many. But other than that, it was a fine signing.)

Dragon Shield

There is so much you can do with a large museum. You can play with its exhibits and you can give them life and put them in books. If you do that, and I read it, I will feel both intelligent and knowledgeable, because I get to hobnob with historically important items.

Charlie Fletcher, Dragon Shield

Thank you, Charlie Fletcher, for making the statues of the British Museum come to life. Admittedly, real live people end up as statues in their place (but this is fiction and I fully expect them to be turned back to soft and warm human beings again, some time). You need to make sacrifices to make a good book.

And that’s what Dragon Shield is; a nice and snappy, exciting and fun children’s book. Admirably short too, and like so many books, the first of a trilogy.

Brother and sister Will and Jo are the only humans left moving when the rest of London – and the world, I assume –  turn to ‘stone.’ Why, and what has actually happened? (The answer is I don’t know yet. OK, we know why them, but not much more.)

It’s lovely getting to know so many of London’s statues. Who knew they had such personality? Next time I’m there I will speak to them. Not the dragons. They are not nice. But the Georges – of dragon fame – are charming.

You might think the plot sounds similar to that of The Sleeping Army by Francesca Simon, but that just goes to show how it’s possible to take the same museum and statues awakening and make a totally different story with those ingredients.

It’s great playing with history.

The Edinburgh author photos

Nicola Morgan by Chris Close

At last! I have a gap for the photos from the EdBookFest I so craved. I have already inserted Nicola Morgan into Sunday’s post where she belongs, but in case you don’t feel like going back to look for her, I give you Nicola once more.

My faithful photographer actually sent me over a hundred pictures. You don’t get to see all of them. Certainly not today, but obviously not even later. I will cherrypick and serve you the best. And like a true miser I shall eke them out over an awfully long time…

She did manage to cover almost my whole witchlist, pardon me, wishlist, and the ones she missed was because it is so hard to be in two places at once. And you know, a few of these authors I didn’t recognise. They are people I haven’t met, and somehow they didn’t look quite like they do in other pictures, or the way I’d imagined them.

But I’m sure they were really them. Maybe.

Jon Mayhew

Definitely Jon Mayhew. I know him. And I know the tree. It’s ‘our’ photo tree.

Elen Caldecott

And I recognise Elen Caldecott, even though we’ve never met.

Charlie Fletcher

This picture of Charlie Fletcher surprised me. I realised I had no idea at all what he looked like. Like this, I’d say, unless some perfect stranger started signing copies of Far Rockaway.

Not the EIBF – for me

I was so sure I’d be able to fit in a little EdBookFest this year as well. On top of everything else, I mean. But I’m not.

I have enthused about the programme. I have gone through it in detail. I finally picked my dates, allowing me four days in the middle. Yes! It was the mid-weekenders who would have won. Until common sense kicked in and I told myself very sternly that something had to give, and it would be really useful if it wasn’t me.

So, that’s one book festival less for me, and maybe for you, if you were counting on me doing it on your behalf. I spent the other evening undoing what I’d so far arranged to do, hoping that not too many people would be overjoyed by the witch-free aspect.

So that’s no tea with Theresa Breslin and Julia Jarman. Big sob. No meeting with Badger the lovely dog in person. No Jon Mayhew, or Elen Caldecott (finally, as it was to be…) or Charlie Fletcher. Similar fate for Prentice & Weil (who I hope are not solicitors, despite their names), Melvin Burgess and Keith Gray. There will be no Keiths at all for me.

I was going to hear all about Jonathan Stroud’s new book, and even get close to Arne Dahl.

The list could go on. I have it here, right next to me, colour coded and with indecipherable comments, that once meant something.

I would have had to miss Julie Bertagna and Teri Terry. Again. But these ladies at least have something exciting going. You can win their books, if you go here.

As for me, I’m looking ahead to the next thing, thinking if I plan properly – and early – I will not have to cancel more events. But things always look very doable when looked at in advance.

Edinburgh International Book Festival

For all others – and the crouching tigers – Edinburgh International Book Festival starts today. Mind the mud. And the puddles.

And have fun!

The EIBF 2013 programme

It’s not exactly a bad programme this year. It’s not exactly short on authors, either. I’ve probably missed a few, seeing as I have only browsed the pdf  in a hasty fashion, but even so, were it not for the fact that I actually know I am unable to cover the full two and a half weeks of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, I’d sign up for the complete works. Again.

I’d been thinking a weekend. Maybe a longish weekend, but no more than four days. But which longish weekend? And what about the fantastic midweek offerings?

This is going to be an easy post to write! I could simply list authors, one after the other. But that would be boring.

For the time being I will not cover the adult writers, although I noticed Salman Rushdie is coming. Roddy Doyle. And Patrick Ness is an adult this time.

So, first weekend ‘as usual’ we have Meg Rosoff, as well as her stable (yeah, right…) mates Eoin Colfer and Cathy Cassidy. Anne Fine, Tommy Donbavand, Helena Pielichaty, Linda Strachan, Andy Mulligan. Carnegie winner Sally Gardner. Obvious choice. First weekend it will be.

Meg Rosoff

On the other hand, during the week when it grows a little quieter we have Elizabeth Wein. Hmm. Debi Gliori with Tobermory Cat. Nicola Morgan. Lari Don and Vivian French. Damien M Love. Well, that would be good!

But Elen Caldecott is someone I’ve always missed. She’s there the second weekend. It will have to be the middle weekend. Charlie Fletcher, Teresa Breslin and Eleanor Updale, Jon Mayhew and Darren Shan. Need I say more? OK, Tom Palmer, Chae Strathie. Melvin Burgess. Keith Gray.

Jonathan Stroud has a new book coming, which I like the look of. And he’s there the second week. So are Julie Bertagna and Teri Terry, and Daniel Hahn is talking translation. That is interesting.

Having said that, the last, extra long weekend looks by far the best. Doesn’t it? Judit Kerr. Neil Gaiman. Our new children’s laureate, Malorie Blackman. Our own Liz Kessler, and Tim Bowler. Philip Caveney from ‘home’ and Derek Landy, whom I’ve not seen for a long time… Jo Nadin and Spideyman himself, Steve Cole.

Yes. No competition there. Except maybe all the other days.

What do the rest of you think?

(Sorry. I see I have done a list after all.)

Old men with sticks

Patterns are odd things. When reading a totally random list of books, you discover things that go together in the most unexpected fashion. I suppose you could plan to read lots of novels featuring yetis, should you be so inclined. But it’s more fun when the yetis simply happen to you. (You end up feeling that maybe there is a reason for all those hairy creatures.)

Sorry, but this isn’t going to be about yetis.

All that’s happened here is a week featuring two grandfathers with sticks. Brave ones, and interesting sounding ones. The kind of grandfather I would have loved to have had. (I did know one grandfather, and he most definitely walked with a stick, but I don’t reckon he was adventure novel material. Although, you just never know these things, do you?)

The first one was in Far Rockaway. In order to avoid spoilers, I’ve not said as much about Victor Manno as he deserves. He reads books and is fun company for his grandchildren. He is brave. He attacks a fire truck with his stick, to save his granddaughter. He appears in her delirious thoughts/dreams as she fights for survival. He’s a real hero.

Then there’s Alex in Like Clockwork, who also has a grandfather of the more unusual sort. With a stick, which he handles in un-grandfatherly ways. He’s an odd man, but sounds like fun. Alex certainly didn’t know him as well as he had thought. Not once the robots began to…

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you much more. This ‘book’ Like Clockwork, by Damien M Love, is being published in six parts for Kindle. So far I’ve read the first part, which also exists in some kind of old style newspaper format. And you know me; I am cynical enough to expect the worst of gimmicky things.

But, this is pretty good. In fact, I’d say, very exciting. A person could easily be forgiven for feeling that it would be nice if these parts could appear quicker. Like now. What’s worse is that the first part is only published in mid March, and the rest will appear weekly after that.

They had better! I want to know what this weirdo grandfather is going to do with the robots, and those men he… And whether he and Alex..?

Like Clockwork is rather like Clockwork. Philip Pullman’s Clockwork. Not so much the plot, as the feeling of general creepiness. It’s continental, and it’s got machines that seem to think. Nicely menacing.

I think it might be possible to find out more here.

And, you know, I am sure time will go faster soon.

Tried to google me an illustration to go with this. Like Clockwork didn’t appear. At all. Spooky.

Far Rockaway

Oh wow! This really is the perfect way to write a book. You pick characters from your favourite books and put them in a new story. Simple. Or perhaps not.

At first I was quite cynical both about Charlie Fletcher using classic characters in his book Far Rockaway, but also having his heroine Cat exist in two ‘realities.’ The book begins with Cat being hit by a fire truck, and the rest of the book is about her fight to survive.

Most of Cat’s fight for survival is done in the settings of old classics, with some very well known characters showing up. And to be frank, I thought that seemed a bit over the top. But I changed my mind, very quickly.

It would have helped to have read Last of the Mohicans, which to my shame I have to admit I haven’t. And now I feel I might need to. So that is clever. Not only do you want to read Far Rockaway, but it will make you interested in reading in general, and in the ‘featured’ classics in particular.

Charlie Fletcher, Far Rockaway

What happens to Cat in her adventures with these borrowed people, is mirrored in what happens to her in the hospital, where she is being operated on, and where it is touch and go for a long time.

It was her beloved grandfather Victor who tried to push her out of the way of the truck, and he too was injured. She meets him in her dream-like adventure, because he’s the one who has always encouraged Cat to read. Now she needs to work out what to do, to try and get them both out of there and safely home.

And quite possibly to Far Rockaway.

There can be no better way to revisit old favourites. I’ve been back to childhood again. (And it goes without saying that I borrowed my classics from the library.)