Tag Archives: Gillian Philip

Icefall

It’s… it’s… well, I don’t know. Compulsive! That could be it. I raced through Gillian Philip’s Icefall, the last of the Rebel Angels. In fact, remember the rebel angels. They are relevant. But you’ll have forgotten by the time you get there because it’s all too exciting.

It isn’t for the faint-hearted. You need to cope with cut-off bits of bodies. Lots of them; both the bits and the bodies. There is sex. More explicit than your average YA novel, so it is perhaps wise that it now describes itself as Adult/Young Adult & Fantasy. When wondering how Gillian could get away with some of her, erm, descriptions, I came to the conclusion that being a smaller indie publisher, Strident might feel more able to leave in what other publishers would undoubtedly have cleaned up a little.

Gillian Philip, Icefall

So, there I was, racing through. The one thing that slows old witches down is characters and their names. There are lots of them, and each character has a couple of names, at least. There is a very handy list of them, but I have to admit I could have done with the full blown family tree. You know, ‘who were her parents again?’ Each of the four books have centred round a young person. Sort of young, because the Sithe faeries grow very old, unless they die in battle first.

There were more mortals in this one, and it was ‘nice’ that the more ordinary end of humans were given a bit more of the action. Remember Lauren? Can you tell Sheena and Shania apart?

My favourite person this time was someone who has been there from the start, but not always very prominently. I was hoping he’d last until the end, even when things looked dicey.

Divided into two parts, first in our world and then in theirs, the war between Kate NicNiven and Seth MacGregor continues. Kate is evil, so it looks inevitable that she will win, or take everyone with her if she were to fail.

I can’t tell you more. Daren’t. They fight. They cut bits off each other. They love each other. And hate the others. People die. Obviously.

And, happily, it appears that Gillian isn’t totally ruling out more books about this world.

The Scottish novelists

Lists will rarely be complete. But some are more complete than others.

On Monday Herald Scotland published a list of Scottish children’s authors.* What prompted this seems to have been Julia Donaldson’s decision to leave Scotland and move back to England. It felt like an ‘oh god who do we have left in Scotland if Julia Donaldson moves away?’ kind of list.

Don’t worry, J K Rowling is one of their ten ‘best.’ So are others that I know and admire, along with a few names I have never heard of. Which is fine, because I don’t know everything, and I’m sure they are great writers. I don’t even know who counts as Scottish for this purpose.

Although, with J K topping the list, I’m guessing they allow English writers living in Scotland. That makes my own list rather longer. Harry Potter isn’t particularly Scottish as a book, even if Hogwarts is in Scotland. Do Scottish authors living in England, or god forbid, even further afield qualify? (I’m not so good at keeping track of such people, so I’ll leave them out for the time being.)

As I said, I have no problem with who is on the Herald’s list. But along with quite a few Scottish authors, I gasped when I realised who weren’t on it. Catherine MacPhail and Gillian Philip, to mention two very Scottish ladies. Linda Strachan, Julie Bertagna and Theresa Breslin, who are also pretty well known and very Scottish indeed.

Keith Charters and Keith Gray. Damien M Love and Kirkland Ciccone. John Fardell. Lari Don, Lyn McNicol, Joan Lingard and Elizabeth Laird. Cathy Forde. Dare I mention the Barrowman siblings, Carole and John? Alexander McCall Smith writes for children, too. Roy Gill, Jackie Kay. Cat Clarke. And how could I forget Joan Lennon?

I’m guessing former Kelpies Prize shortlistees Tracy Traynor, Rebecca Smith and Debbie Richardson belong. (There is one lady whose name is eluding me completely right now, but who appears at the book festival every year and seems very popular…) Have also been reminded of Margaret Ryan and Pamela Butchart. (Keep them coming!)

Most of the above have lovely Scottish accents and reasonably impeccable Scottish credentials. But what about the foreigners? We have the very English, but still Scottish residents, Vivian French, Helen Grant and Nicola Morgan. Americans Jane Yolen and Elizabeth Wein. Ex-Aussie Helen FitzGerald.

And I really don’t know about English Cathy Cassidy, who used to live in Scotland but has more recently returned to England. I think she counts, too, along with all those writers whose names simply escape me right now, but who will wake me up in the night reminding me of their existence.

I’m hoping to get to know all of you much better once this wretched move is over and done with. Unless you see me coming and make a swift exit, following Julia Donaldson south. Or anywhere else. I think Scotland has a great bunch of writers for children. (And also those lovely people who write adult crime, and who are not allowed on this list, even by me.)

Sorry for just listing names, but there are so many authors! One day I will do much more. Cinnamon buns, for starters. With tea. Or coffee. Irn Bru if absolutely necessary.

Theresa Breslin's boot

*For anyone who can’t access the Herald’s list, here are the other nine names: Mairi Hedderwick, Barry Hutchison, Chae Strathie, Claire McFall, Daniela Sacerdoti, Debi Gliori, Caroline Clough, Janis MacKay and Diana Hendry.

It’s Gillian Philip. Or is it?

I must have fallen asleep at some point, because when I woke up, there was Gillian Philip, travelling all over the place, the ‘victim’ of great success with.., yes, with what? In the end I had to bite the bullet and actually ask her. You can either be cool, or you can be informed. I wanted to be the latter more than the former. So, ladies and gentlemen, here is Erin Hunter!

Apart from writing some pretty fantastic fantasy set in Scotland, you have your writing fingers in a few other pies, don’t you? How many?

Let me see… I’ve just finished writing a teen dark fantasy series for Hothouse and Hodder, called Darke Academy – that’s under the name Gabriella Poole. The final book, Lost Spirits, came out in November. Just now I’m writing the latest Erin Hunter series, Survivors, which is about dogs surviving in a post-apocalyptic kind of world. That’s for Working Partners and Harper Collins. I’ve also written a couple of Beast Quests, also for Working Partners, as Adam Blade – that was HUGE fun because I used to read Beast Quest to my son. I get lots of Brownie points for that with the boy, though I have now been slightly overshadowed by a certain pal writing Skylanders.

Oh and I’m also trying to write another contemporary YA under my own name. That’s progressing s-l-o-w-l-y. And I’m writing the fourth and final Rebel Angels book (and thank you for the kind comment about those).

And I gather you’ve been very successful in the US with something? What, exactly?

That’s the Survivors series! Erin Hunter is pretty big in the US, so I’ve been lucky to become a part of that.

Tell us some more?

Erin Hunter’s Warriors and Seekers (about cats and bears respectively)  are really popular, and the teams at Working Partners and Harper Collins had always wanted to do a series about dogs. They wanted a different scenario to Warriors or Seekers, though, and they eventually decided on this apocalyptic storyline. There’s been some kind of huge disaster, precipitated by an earthquake, and all the humans have vanished. (Which is really important, obviously – kind of like getting rid of the parents in a children’s book.) So the dogs – wild, feral and domesticated alike – have to learn how to survive and adapt. It’s huge fun writing about all the different characters and breeds. Having my own three dogs – reliable Lab, naughty Jack Russell cross, and slightly prissy Papillon – really helps…

You even went to America on what seemed like a rather grand tour. Where did you go, and who were your audiences?

It was FABULOUS! Harper Collins arranged a five-city tour in September, which was just about the most fun I’ve ever had. It took in Atlanta, Houston, San Francisco, Chicago and Cincinnati, so cured two of my phobias – early mornings and flying. I had media escorts in each city, stayed in some gorgeous hotels – all a bit gobsmacking – and I made some really great new friends. There were lots of events, at schools and at some amazing bookshops, plus some interviews. And the lovely Karen Ball from WP came along for the first two cities to support me – literally at one point, since I fell on my face in Atlanta airport.

Why haven’t we heard more about this ‘back home?’

Survivors hasn’t got a UK publisher yet. *sad face*

Is all this making you rich? Or just very famous?

It’s not me that’s famous, it’s Erin! She has a lot of incarnations. I think it’s great that Harper Collins are very open about the fact that she is several people. All the fans know about that, and they’re fine with it. The fans are pretty fabulous actually – they know the characters and the histories intimately, They bring along gifts – anything from stuffed toys to pictures to character family trees. It’s genuinely touching and I keep every single one.

Do you still remember us, your old (very old, in my case) fans?

Hahaha! YES. And you can’t say you’re old because that would make me ancient.

(This Erin person might know about dogs, but she can’t do arithmetic. Just because I’m shorter than her doesn’t mean I’m younger. And please note how nimbly she sidestepped the wealth qustion.)

Thank you Erin/Gillian/Adam/Gabriella!

Gillian Philip

2012’s best twelve

For the 12th day of the 12th month of 2012 (I love this kind of thing!) I give you my list of the very best books. All twelve of them. (I know, there are really 13, but two for the price of one, sort of thing. Yes?)

All the books I have reviewed have been good, and it’s hard to pick the best. Except for the bestest of the best, because that one stood out by several miles, even back in January. And once we’ve got the twelves out of our system, next year I will have to go for a more restrained list. Always assuming people continue writing great books. Please do.

As always, I only include books published during the year. And here, the VERY BEST is:

Elizabeth Wein, Code Name Verity

Elizabeth Wein, Code Name Verity

Swiftly followed by some alphabetically listed and very marvellous runners-up:

Philip Caveney, Spy Another Day

Joshua Doder, Grk and the Phoney Macaroni

Daniel Finn, Call Down Thunder

Sally Gardner, Maggot Moon

Nick Green, Cat’s Cradle

Barry Hutchison, The Thirteenth Horseman

Wendy Meddour, A Hen in the Wardrobe, and The Black Cat Detectives

Gillian Philip, Wolfsbane

Terry Pratchett, Dodger

Celia Rees, This Is Not Forgiveness

Teri Terry, Slated

That’s it, dear readers. It was a good year, both generally, but also specifically for producing Code Name Verity, one of the best ever.

The next big thing is Higashoo

Those of us who braved the unexpected rain on Sunday morning, could enjoy a discussion on The Next Big Thing with Barry Forshaw, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, editor Jade Chandler and Val McDermid.

Barry Forshaw, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Jade Chandler and Val McDermid

In between pronunciation issues and translations that made sanitary towels into bath towels, Barry kept hinting he knew the answer. It’s Higashoo. Sort of. I cornered him afterwards and even he didn’t know what he’d been saying, so there is little hope for me.

Barry Forshaw

The cream of Nordic crime has now been joined by less creamy novels, and the future might lie on some hitherto unheard of Scottish island. Or Man. Manx murders, anyone?

As long as president Putin doesn’t say he likes – or dislikes – what you write, you’ll be all right. Hopefully.

After Yrsa had said how she just likes creepy stuff, we crept uphill to the Highland Hotel and the one children’s books event of the weekend. It was free, which only goes to prove how undervalued children’s books are. We had the excellent Gillian Philip and Cathy MacPhail, along with the to me unknown, but now very scary, Helen FitzGerald talking to Christina Johnston.

Gillian Philip, Cathy MacPhail and Helen FitzGerald

The ladies chatted on the subject of Once Upon a Crime, and were photographed next to a clothes hanger. I worry a bit about the significance of that. They each read from their books, and Helen’s piece was about seeing your mother’s dead body. I think she said Deviant is her happiest book, so I don’t know… She road tests her books for teen authenticity on her daughter. For money.

Helen FitzGerald

Cathy, who does ‘like a good murder,’ learns about her genuine child characters on school visits. She likes writing from a boy’s point of view, and her next book, Mosi’s War is another boy book. What Cathy does not like is to be put in the Scottish section in shops, next to Nessie.

Cathy MacPhail

Gillian read from The Opposite of Amber, and said she tries to avoid slang for fear of it dating too quickly. But she doesn’t tone down content for YA. For her it simply means the protagonists are younger. And she does swear in her books.

Gillian Philip

All three bemoaned the lack of room for reviews of children’s books in the papers, and seemed to feel the answer might lie in reviews by young readers.

After getting a couple of Seth MacGregor books signed, we rolled down the hill, back to the Albert Halls for The Red-Headed League. An all star cast of crime writers read a dramatised version of one of Sherlock’s best known mysteries, with Gillian Philip as the villain. Karen Campbell had the most unlikely red hair, and Craig Robertson was Lestrade. Members of the audience – OK, other crime writers dotted about – made up the other hopeful redheads.

The Red-Headed League

Waiting outside beforehand provided a parade of Who’s Who in Scottish crime, with most authors walking past our sandwich-bench under a tree. (It was still trying to rain.)

Sarah Reynolds

Once an arrest had been made, it was on to the Worth the Wait short story competition, where out of 232 entries, they had chosen the best 19 for their free ebook (download it now!). The winner Sarah Reynolds received her price from one of the sponsors.

And then it was time for the inaugural Scottish Crime Book of the Year  Award 2012, introduced by Sheena McDonald and presented by William McIlvanney. The winner was Charles Cumming for A Foreign Country.

Charles Cumming

Once this was done, we trooped out and most of us went home. Sort of.

Except the witch who likes to meet authors. She had tea with Helen Grant, who is even scarier (in her books) than most of the Bloody Scotland lot.

Then we went home.

Wolfsbane

It’s raw. Very raw. I’d say practically unedited (alternately, so well edited you can’t tell), and that is precisely what we need in a world of over-sanitised books. It’s only as you read a book like Gillian Philip’s Wolfsbane, that it becomes obvious how much editorial input most novels have these days.

It’s fantastic! If I don’t get to read the next – the fourth and final – instalment of Rebel Angels soon, I’m going to scream. Gillian is simply getting better and better. She is also growing ever more murderous. Expect deaths, both where you want them, but also where you don’t.

Looking on the bright side, some characters are alive at the end of this third book about the Sithe, those wild Scottish faeries who love and kill with equal skill.

Gillian Philip, Wolfsbane

Time has moved on a little, and we have two new teenagers, as well as the two teenagers from Bloodstone, who are now mature. Sort of mature. I’m not quite sure whether time has moved as much on one side of the Veil as it has on the other. I don’t always ‘get the time.’ But the list of characters was a godsend. It helped me remember, because let’s face it, Gillian doesn’t pick the easiest of names.

Queen Kate is evil, as we well know. But we don’t see so much of her this time. It’s mainly ‘at home with the MacGregors’ and that is exciting enough for me. A lot of anger and a lot of not-so-romantic love. Which, of course, makes it really very romantic indeed.

The kelpies and the wolves are real characters, and if it’s possible to love man-eating horses, I think I now do. But I wonder what goes on in Gillian’s mind, for her to be able to write stories like these. I’m glad she does, though. (And that Strident leave her to it.)

If you haven’t started, get a move on. You will thank me later.

(Especially if you get the first edition with the mistake. Bound to become a collector’s item… Hurry.)

Martinmas drugs

I’d like to show you the drugs I sent with Daughter, for use this Martinmas term. (I think it’s so quaint with these terms for terms…)

2012 leisure reads

Following on from the session we had in the Scottish Parliament back in August, we fully agree with the use of books for medicinal purposes. They make you feel better. Probably much better than the stuff you get on prescription. (Even when prescriptions are free, as they are north of the border.)

Anyway, when exam nerves or essay stress take their toll, Daughter can grab one of the lovely titles you see above. (Guess which one is her own input?)

So, there are fairies and faeries, Irish and Scottish, and their cousins the angels. Nicholas Flamel, a Stockport cinema, cat people, various Victorian ladies, code breakers, resistance boys and ugly people. Keith Gray’s wonderful anthology. And the Doctor.

We think there is enough for one term. If not, I suppose she will actually have to buy a book. Shocking concept, but a feasible solution.

The photo is partly to make sure I get back what I sent out, but also to assist when I need to advise on which one to choose, according to specific needs.

Keiths bearing gifts

‘The real deal,’ is how Keith Gray described his co-eventee Patrick Ness. This time we had Patrick round the back for a photocall and that might be ‘bizarre,’ but you do need to treat a double (or should that be triple?) Carnegie winner as the star he is.

Patrick Ness

While we waited, we sat outside the yurt in the sunshine. My photographer in one of the fun deck chairs, and myself more modestly on a plastic, blue folding chair. It was a good spot. We watched Chris Close making Vivian French play the toy guitar, while waving her leg in the air.

The deck chair

And just as we started feeling lonely, Keith Charters came past. He stopped to talk, because he’s such a lovely man that he even chats to witches. Especially to witches. And as he regaled us with tales of Gillian Philip finishing writing her latest Sithe instalment while balancing on a li-lo in Barbados, he sat down on the somewhat soggy carpet at our feet. Which was so not a good thing. He resorted to kneeling after a while. That’s how I like them.

When Keith heard I didn’t yet have my Wolfsbane, he went and got me copy. Just like that!

While he was down, the other Keith (Gray) arrived, and joined us. He, too, brought a gift. Which was very nice of him. They are a bit like that, those Keiths. Then we talked about lack of sleep and courgette baby food. Admired the second Keith’s blue and yellow lanyards. So very Swedish!

After the Keiths wandered off, a semi-Swede came up to chat, and the Guardian’s Claire Armitstead joined us, doing a good impression of knowing who Bookwitch is. She’s rather like the Head Girl and I’m a little scared of her. But she’s lovely.

The time for Patrick’s bizarre paparazzi moment came, which was when Chris Close borrowed him for a bit, having him hide his face behind his hand, and later, rummaging through the recycling bin… (If that’s not bizarre, I don’t know what is.)

I had time to re-connect with Patrick’s new-ish publicity lady Sarah, and when they went to get ready for Patrick’s event, we wandered off to find Philip Ardagh and Axel Scheffler signing after theirs.

Philip Ardagh

Axel Scheffler

After which I headed towards the Corner theatre queue, to listen to Patrick and Keith argue about who’s boss. But that – as they say – is another story…

The next place

Keith Gray, Next

I really wonder what goes on in the head of Keith Gray! First he writes a book about boys travelling round with their friend’s ashes. And then he comes up with this short story about death (again) which is similarly unusual in looking at dead friends.

In Next, Keith has edited an anthology on death. He got together a fabulous group of YA authors and made them write about death, and this they have done in the most varied fashion. They are all good. I thought ‘this is the best one’ for each and every story.

Take purgatory. I never stopped to think about what it actually is. It was just purgatory. Now it is so much more.

Jonathan Stroud has got a downright weird tale and I’m not sure I want to be in his world. Philip Ardagh, on the other hand, offers up death with muppets and humour. Naturally. Julie Bertagna is romantic, killing abruptly, and trying to fool the reader into thinking… something else.

Gillian Philip covers the kind of sensational death to which people seem to be addicted (unless it’s their own, maybe). Malorie Blackman writes about evil twins as though she has personal experience. Death isn’t always the worst thing that can happen to you.

Religion is less obvious than you’d expect in a book about death, but Sally Nicholls knows a thing or two. I was about to say that Sally is no stranger to death, but that actually goes for all of these writers. Frank Cottrell Boyce, finally, kills on something like facebook, and whereas I first thought that would be rather boring, it turned out to be very chilling indeed.

It’s fascinating to consider how many different deaths these eight people could come up with. I wonder if any stories were too similar to any of the others and had to have their view of the next place changed?

The afterlife anyone?

Evil and deadly and Scottish (ish)

It’s going to be blo*dy difficult to choose. I am talking about Bloody Scotland. The programme goes live today, and I have to urge you to buy tickets while stocks last and all that. Hurry.

You might also want to stock up on stamina. I began making a list of what I want to see and hear, and setting aside that little inconvenience of having mislaid my timeturner, meaning I can only go to one event at a time, I have come to realise it could turn out to be too taxing going to one event for every slot in the day. Do you think? Or perhaps I can?

Bloody Scotland venues

It’s in Stirling, and what better place for it? The organisers have commandeered the Albert Halls and the Stirling Highland Hotel. They are near each other, so the toing and froing will be OK. Or would be but for that little matter of the hill. The hotel is the former Stirling High School, the alma mater of the Resident IT Consultant. (No, he didn’t go to school in a hotel. He had to go somewhere else.) The Albert Halls sounds grand, and seeing as it has been good enough for the Singing Kettle, it will be good enough for the cream of crime.

I’m aware that I haven’t listed all the crime writers who are appearing. You will just have to check out the programme. Karin Fossum and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir are coming, which means it’s not exclusively Scottish. It’s northern, though, and Scotland has expressed this understandable interest in joing the Nordic countries. And I daresay that if they murder well enough, we might let them.

There are so many great looking events I don’t know how to choose, and I won’t even try to list them here for you. What I absolutely mustn’t miss is Gillian Philip and Cathy MacPhail with Helen FitzGerald talking about YA crime.

A couple of fancy dinners are also part of the programme, where you can dine with your favourite crime writers. I hope that the former school does nice meals. They say the dinners go on until late. Luckily it’s downhill on the way home (unless, of course, it isn’t – depends on where you intend to sleep), so that’s all right.

Get on that website now and book your tickets. There are even reduced prices if you buy lots (except I’m not sure they have been reading those maths books I’ve mentioned) of tickets.

See you there!