Tag Archives: Nicola Morgan

Bookwitch bites #118

We are mostly the same, whether we are girls or boys. By that I mean of equal value, but not necessarily quite the same, which would be impossible as well as boring.

(Girls rule!!!) And that will be why the ladies on Girls Heart Books have actually invited a few men to write for them. They’ve got that Steve Cole, for instance. He used the charms of Matt Smith/Doctor Who to get us interested. OK, and that rather lovely Spidey photo of himself. They have Tommy Donbavand, who surely inspires crazy behaviour in his young fans. I don’t see how they could have been like that before he turned up. The poor ‘orphan.’

It’s half term, and one night earlier this week Jacqueline Wilson made an appearance at a rather special sleepover for girls, reading a bedtime story from Paws and Whiskers. It was at Waterstones Piccadilly, where The Children’s Reading Fund organised for twenty girls in care to spend the night in the shop, providing them with new onesies and hot chocolate at bedtime (along with Jacky). And all I can think of is onesies and hot chocolate, and lots of girls having fun. Onesies and hot chocolate. Not the most practical of combinations, however nice…

I’d further like to recommend Nicola Morgan’s latest venture, her Brain Sane Newsletter, which you can subscribe to. You don’t need to be a teacher, or even a girl. And you know Nicola, she knows her stuff, and there’s bound to be something interesting in those newsletters. She recommends coffee or herbal tea for people to work their way through her rather long newsletter. Good value for money (it’s free, of course).

Meet the Somalis

And – this is something I’ve been meaning to mention for months – here is a link to Meet the Somalis, which is a collection of real life tales about Somalis who have left their own country and are now trying to make a life for themselves elsewhere in the world. You can download the whole thing to read. Are people the same? No. Are they equal? Not always. And you change when you live somewhere else, even if you don’t think you do.

I might have wanted to bring up two new young ‘Swedes’ but if that’s what I had in mind I was in the wrong place. And this will be multiplied whenever and wherever parents go and live somewhere different. Their children can’t be like they themselves were. And you generally only live once.

When I was younger and sillier I quite fancied myself here:


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.

The Passionflower Massacre

Nicola Morgan kills at the drop of a hat. You have your spunky – if slightly naïve – heroine Matilda, who has just gone to pick strawberries (as a summer job; not for dessert), and she’s surrounded by old friends, and a couple of new ones. Fine, you think, she’s not alone.

And then Nicola kills. Swiftly. Just like that. And because you are already realising, well before Matilda does, that she has ended up very close to being in the grips of a cult, you don’t want her to be alone. You want her to possess more common sense. To be cautious. Or at least careful.

As if! Matilda is 18 and finally away from home. She couldn’t wait to be somewhere free and wonderful.


The people who run the fruit farm are so beautiful, and so charming and very friendly. (Personally I’d have felt the Jesus lookalike would be a dead giveaway, but there you go…)

Nicola Morgan, The Passion Flower Massacre

This is interspersed with the story of an old woman visiting a man in jail 25 years later. He’s a charming conman, and he’s got his sights set on this gullible woman’s wealth and loneliness.

We can work out who he must be. We aren’t sure of her, nor of what has happened. Or if she can withstand his charm offensive.

Passionflowers play a great part in all this. I knew nothing about them before, and I can’t say they have inspired me with confidence. Creepy.

Not surprisingly, this is Nicola’s favourite book. Scary, but more-ish. The reader is forever shouting the equivalent of ‘he’s behind you!’ to Matilda. And she seems to be deaf. She wants to be loved and liked. Don’t we all?

The #6 profile – Nicola Morgan

Nicola Morgan is very kindly publishing two of her out of print novels as a double ebook today, thus enabling me to put my famous profile questions in front of her. She’s a woman made to answer questions, you know. Here, to celebrate the publication of Sleepwalking and The Passionflower Massacre, I give you epublisher Nicola:

Nicola Morgan

How many books did you write before the one that was your first published book?

Three and several halves. And an eighth.

Best place for inspiration?

Not at my desk. Either out for a walk on my own (but not in a scary place, otherwise I start worrying who might be following me with an axe, instead of whatever idea I need to be inspired by) or ironing, cooking or any kind of housework. In other words, things where my body is occupied and I can’t go on social media or check my emails. (Though, actually, I can and do check my emails in all sorts of places, including while walking or doing housework…)

Would you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? Perhaps you already do?

I don’t think so. But if I had to, I would. And then I’d go to the launch party and tell everyone how absolutely amazing that “Petronella Dietrich” is.

What would you never write about?

Space. And anything else that a) bores me rigid and b) I don’t understand.

Through your writing: the most unexpected person you’ve met, or the most unexpected place you’ve ended up in?

I slept in the house where Alfred Noyes used to live, at the invitation of his daughter (because I was writing The Highwayman’s Footsteps.) I sat on my bed after dark, reading The Highwayman poem while listening to a cassette of Noyes reading it, and when I opened the curtains and looked out of the window, the moon was a ghostly galleon.

Which of your characters would you most like to be?

Matilda in The Passionflower Massacre. But only after the massacre and before the last chapter. And also probably a year after the book ends, because she’ll take at least that long to recover, though she will.

Do you think that having a film made of one of your books would be a good or a bad thing?

Definitely good. Even if they changed everything, as they can, it was and is still my book and they can’t change that. They just create something new out of it, which is good. And I get paid, which, frankly, is not to be sneezed at.

What is the strangest question you’ve been asked at an event?

“What is your name?” and “How does someone as nice as you write such nasty books?”

Do you have any unexpected skills?

It depends what you expect! I’m damned good with an electric drill. Shelf, anyone?

The Famous Five or Narnia?

Narnia, as long as I can alter the personalities of all the children and ignore the religious references. And add in Timmy the dog.

Who is your most favourite Swede?

You mean apart from you?! Well, perhaps Greta Garbo, because I also often vant to be alone. But perhaps Astrid Lindgren. Now, I confess I didn’t know much about her other than that she was obviously a hugely successful children’s author, but I’ve just discovered that she once incurred a 102% tax rate, so I reckon she deserves a mention. And a rebate.

How do you arrange your books at home? In a Billy? By colour, or alphabetically?

Teenage and children’s books in my study (children’s books by age of child or size of book and by visual rules; teenage books alphabetically) and others wherever shelves can be found, never alphabetically but according to where Mr M and I agree they should go, adhering to unspoken rules and our own internal logic. A selection of interesting and light fiction and non-fiction in the spare room.

Which book would you put in the hands of an unwilling eight-year-old boy reader?

The Marvin Redpost books by Louis Sachar. And The Legend of Spud Murphy by Eoin Colfer. I know you asked for one book, but an unwilling reader needs lots of choice. Then he could read all the other Louis Sachar and Eoin Colfer books. When he got tired, because reading is tiring when you’re eight and unwilling, I’d read Clemency Pogue, Fairy Killer, by JT Petty, to him, followed by One Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson. And that would be that.

If you have to choose between reading or writing, which would it be?

You mean forever? I’d never be able to do the other one? Meh. Reading. I’d have to be very arrogant to think my writing would keep me more inspired than all the other books there are to read. And I’m lazy and writing is hard.

Thank you! Very interesting questions.

Yes, they were, weren’t they? And finally an intelligent person who could detect my ulterior motive regarding the Swede question! Honestly, how hard can it be? (After today no one is allowed to pick me, however. Copycats.) And I’ll have a shelf or two, thank you, Petronella.

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.

Monsters, Mayhew, Melvin, Morgan

When Daughter sat down to hear what Jon Mayhew had to say about his Monster Odyssey on Saturday afternoon, my only option was open up the book and start reading. Admittedly, that’s a pretty good thing to do as well. But it’s not exactly the EIBF, is it?

I encouraged Daughter to go for the day, since it might be fun, and it would mean that at least one of us managed a few hours of the 2013 bookfest. I even – sneakily – hoped there might be the odd photo I would be allowed to use. (I only emailed her a long wishlist of who to stalk round Charlotte Square…)

Odd is not the word for Nicola Morgan. But I had heard a rumour that she had been given the Chris Close photographic treatment and I wanted to see what he had done to her. That, too, required someone to go and find Nicola and take a picture of the findings.

Nicola Morgan by Chris Close

Will Hill did an evening event for slightly older children (like mine, or thereabouts). I always reckon they offer something for young readers to go to while their parents do something more mature, like an event for the elderly or a visit to the bar. Or something. Daughter has liked Will’s books ever since one caught her in a bookshop a couple of years ago. Dangerous places, bookshops.

Melvin Burgess is doing a YA event in Charlotte Square today, and did an adult one on Saturday evening, complete with photocall and everything. His two Wagnerian novels, Bloodtide and Bloodsong have just been reissued, and very good they look too. I mean the covers. I read the blood books when they first came out, and they are fantastic.

Some of Melvin’s other oldies are also out again, including my personal favourites The Cry of the Wolf and An Angel for May, as well as The Baby and Flypie and Burning Izzy. So, lots of topnotch books to read for those who didn’t last time round. (The best excuse is to have been too young then.)

And let’s face it; by not travelling to Edinburgh we have more time for reading, don’t we?

The teatowel

I never win anything. Ever. And now I have!

Nicola Morgan, Blame My Brain

That loveliest of shopkeepers, Nicola Morgan of brain fame, sold me a book recently, and all of a sudden I find she has somehow made me winner of the week, and I am a teatowel richer, as well as the owner of a fantastic bag.

See! This is what was in the post yesterday. (I’ll try not to mention what comes in the post every single day, but I just couldn’t keep this from you.)

Nicola Morgan, Blame My Brain

You too could win a teatowel (there is a choice of two designs) and a very useful Blame My Brain bag. All you need to do is buy something from Nicola’s shop, and you might be as lucky as I was. (If you’re not, you could always just pay for a teatowel and/or a bag. I see the bag is in the Sale! And the teatowels. Hurry!)

Nicola Morgan, Blame My Brain

There’s bound to be something you need. Stock up on a pile of teatowels for those unexpected needs (easier to carry than a bottle of wine for when you next visit someone). Buy several copies of Nicola’s books for Christmas, and for anyone lucky enough to have a birthday before then. I often feel a book is better than wine. Lighter to carry. And if you’re tempted to sample it, unlike the wine it will all still be there. More battered, unless you are a careful reader, but there all the same.

As for Blame My Brain everyone should have a copy. And whether or not you want to write a book, Nicola’s Write to be Published is a most entertaining read.

Get it all in one big shop, or spread the shopping pleasure out over several weeks. You pay. Nicola posts. (As it says on the bag; Nicola is both fascinating and reassuring.)

It’s even possible to put non-Nicola Morgan books in the bag. I will mention some in the near future, so the bag will come in useful.

Bookwitch bites #111

Stephen Booth returns to Reading Matters in Chapel-en-le-Frith tomorrow, at 10.30. I’m guessing to sign books in general (mainly his own) and to promote his new Cooper & Fry novel Already Dead. According to Stephen himself, he is not, and never has been, J K Rowling. (I can see these jokes going on for some time.)

Although, to me it’s not so much of a joke that people yet again mind so awfully about J K, that they find it hard to accept that she still writes books, gets them published, and sells some copies on the strength of the young wizard. And some of us just happen to believe she might be worth reading anyway. We can’t simply magic Harry Potter away. He exists. We like him. Some of us will like what comes after Harry because of what it is, and not because it’s got her name on the books. Or not her name, as the case may be.

Another big name, Terry Pratchett, will soon have a new book out, and I can’t help but think he had our family in mind. It’s about trains, and it will be published on somebody’s birthday. Raising Steam arrives on October 24th (unless there are leaves on the track, I suppose). While you wait, there is some kind of iPad map of Ankh-Morpork to be had at half price until the end of the month.

Since I seem interested in making you spend money, let me introduce the Nicola Morgan online shop! Yes, a dream come true for Nicola, where she can play shopkeeper to her heart’s content. So far it’s bags and books, but I’ve been led to understand there could be even more exciting stuff available later. Keep checking in, and keep Nicola in shoes and baked beans.


Meanwhile, I’ve received yet another book in my temporary jiffy receptacle. I’m guessing the postperson doesn’t know how lucky he/she is not to be carting them hither every day or every week. Let’s just hope the senders know when to stop.

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.)

Bookwitch bites #109

If my bites didn’t already have such an excellent title, I’d call today’s post Hoffman & McGowan. It’s got a nice ring to it. Solicitors. Or television cops. Yes, that’s more like it.

Ladies first, so we’ll go to Mary Hoffman who has a new website design. Again, you could say, but that’s OK. Mary has been writing books for a while, and needs to go through a few web designs. They are like shoes. You must have them. They wear out. And with so many books, Mary simply has to be able to organise all the information sensibly. And beautifully. Like the shoes.

We’re not leaving Mary yet. Earlier this month she wrote this beautiful blog post on the History Girls blog about her mother-in-law. I find it fascinating to read about the lives of ‘reasonably ordinary’ people. Because once you start looking at an individual, you soon discover that many people have something special or exciting in their past.

The Knife That Killed Me

On to Anthony McGowan, who is excited about his upcoming film. Or more correctly, the upcoming film of one of his books; The Knife That Killed Me. I gather it’s just appeared at Cannes, which in itself is pretty exciting. I’m a little wary of knives, so I don’t know how I feel about watching the film. I found the build-up in the book almost unbearable. Well done, but hard to cope with.

And from the topic of knives, it’s a short step to bullying, and to another couple of ‘solicitors/cops;’ Morgan & Massey.

Nicola Morgan blogged about cyber bullying on the Huffington Post. And about teenage stress, also on Huffington. (I suppose I need to find out how to get blogging there…)

Finally, awards time! You remember how I mentioned David Massey a couple of weeks ago? Like, he was at the Chicken House breakfast, and I helped myself to a copy of his book Torn? Now he’s just gone and won the Lancashire Book of the Year, which just proves I move in the right chicken circles. The ceremony isn’t yet (can’t find when…), but the announcement came yesterday.