Tag Archives: Lauren St John

Return to Wonderland

Return to Wonderland

Many writers have a relationship with Alice. A whole bunch of them have now written their own new stories about Wonderland and the wondrous creatures you find there. It’s Alice Day on the 4th of July, or so I’ve been told, and here’s a whole new story collection featuring your favourite characters.

In fact, I was struck by how nicely these authors played; they all seemed to have an affinity with a different character from the other authors, which seems to mean there was no fighting. They simply sat down and mused in an interesting way about the Cheshire Cat, or the Knave of Hearts, or any of the others.

To tell the truth, I only ever read the original Alice once, and don’t have a deep and meaningful relationship with any of them. I like tea parties, but prefer them to be normal. I like my head attached. And so on.

Some of these stories were great, lots of fun and interesting new takes on the old tales. I didn’t like all of them the same, but that’s understandable as the eleven authors don’t write the same way, and maybe for me some of Wonderland’s characters are more my cup of tea than others.

‘One morning, Pig woke to discover he had been turned into a real boy.’

How can you go wrong with a start like that?

Kat Wolfe Investigates

This was such a fun book to read! I loved it!

Lauren St John puts her heroine Kat and Kat’s vet Mum in a somewhat bad situation, after which they decamp to Dorset, the way you always do in a good ‘let’s start a new life’ crime story. In Dorset it is beautiful and friendly and they feel they have ended up in just the right place.

Within hours odd things start happening, and Kat is the kind of 12-year-old who investigates. She’s also an animal person, so meets ‘all’ the village pets immediately on arriving, gets to know the nice people of Bluebell Bay, and finds a best friend in no time at all. Just as well, since there is much to investigate.

Kat is someone most of us have at some time hoped to be, and this book is the story we wanted to write when we tried our hand at ‘a Blyton’ and Bluebell Bay is definitely the place we want to go and live in.

There are bad guys and there are seriously bad guys. We have the army nearby and the Minister of Defence plays his part, as do the secret services of several countries. And there are animals, a ditzy American professor and his computer geek daughter Harper, Kat’s new best friend and partner in crime [solving]. Wolfe and Lamb, they call themselves. And where would you be without a librarian?

I know I will have to wait until next year for book no. two about these clever girls. But I don’t want to.

Unusually, for a book for this age group, a great cover and chapter illustrations, by Beidi Guo.

Lauren St John, Kat Wolfe Investigates

Putting the Edinburgh 2015 bookfest to bed

Charlotte Square

It’s time to put the finishing touches to my book festival bits and pieces report. If I can even remember what I did and who I saw. If I can even find my notes (Although, I can always make things up.)

The first few days I had my photographer, until she went and left the country. It’s understandable. I’m a hard witch to go gallivanting with.

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

Then I was on my own, holding pen in one hand (except for when the ink ran dry) and pad in the other, and my camera in my third hand. But it worked, more or less. My first photocall I couldn’t remember who I’d come for, although I recognised Yrsa Sigurðardóttir when I saw her.

Chris Close

And I was pleased to ‘meet’ Nicola Sturgeon and see her selfie skills at first hand. I came to the conclusion that to make your event sell out like Roy Gill’s, you create a Facebook event and invite everyone, even your second cousin in New Zealand.

Nicola Sturgeon and Val McDermid

One day I travelled into Edinburgh in the company of Helen Grant, who was going to the Teen Titles event at the library. In actual fact, an awful lot of authors were going to that, and more still would have gone had they not had book festival events. Crazy Kirkland Ciccone went as some kind of Andy Warhol meets Boris Johnson in a beret. I had the opportunity of admiring Nicola Morgan’s shoes, which is a not inconsiderable experience.

DSCN7691

Saturday gave me Eoin Colfer and the ducks.

EIBF ducks

For my last day I made a list of events to go to, official photocalls I was interested in and the unofficial opportunities of catching authors signing after events I’d been to and events I’d been unable to go to. I colour coded them, and had three columns, in strict chronological order, and I still had to refer back to it again and again because I got muddled up. I needed to identify breaks long enough to eat in, and got confused because it looked like the hour I was in an event, I’d be free to have lunch, and then worked out that wasn’t the case at all.

How nice it would be to be less old.

Which brings me neatly to my discovery when I got home and checked Google images to see what Sarah Ardizzone looks like, as I saw several people at her translation event and didn’t know which one was her. She turned out to be the one I’d taken a photo of in the signing tent that day, just because she happened to be sitting there with author Marjolaine Leray, next to Liz Kessler.

Sarah Ardizzone

Marjolaine Leray

Liz Kessler

Luckily some authors spend forever signing books. This helps people like me catch up with them, when I would otherwise have missed them, in the midst of that colour coded list with not enough food breaks. Francesca Simon is one, and she was there with Steven Butler.

Francesca Simon

Steven Butler

Lauren St John

Lauren St John is another long signer, very popular with her fans, as is Tom Palmer who is clearly doing something right with his sports novels.

Tom Palmer

I had ignored the name Gordon Brown on the photocall list, assuming that since I’d seen the politician last summer, it was bound to be the crime novelist this time. But it was the former PM, and I even caught him signing after his popular event, shaking the hands of everyone in the queue.

Gordon Brown

Chris Riddell made a second appearance that day, this time with his long time writing partner Paul Stewart.

Chris Riddell and Paul Stewart

Before I ran for (OK, hobbled towards) my train home, I photographed the still very cute Christophe Galfard, physicist and former PhD student of Stephen Hawking.

Christophe Galfard

Dead Man’s Cove

Lauren St John, Dead Man's Cove

I wanted to read this modern day ‘Famous Five’ as soon as I received my copy, but things got in the way as usual. Didn’t feel I could come face-to-face with Lauren St John last week without reading her book, so started it on the train to London.

Good thing, as I was able to ask her a few questions I’d come up with. Set in St Ives, I wondered what she’d made up about the town and what is real. I’ve spent all of one day there, so can’t lay claim to much knowledge, but it’s enough to visualise what it will be like for Laura, the heroine.

Laura is an orphan who has lived all her eleven years in children’s homes, and like Tracy Beaker she has tried living with foster parents, too, without much success. Then – somehow – a real uncle is discovered and she goes to live with him in Cornwall.

Uncle Calvin isn’t your typical uncle, but he suits Laura quite well as he lets her have a lot of what she has never had before. Freedom. He has a housekeeper straight out of Rebecca, but although she is horrible she cooks like a dream. Laura isn’t quite sure what her uncle works with or where he goes all the time, and neither does the housekeeper.

Being used to starting a new school often, Laura finds that aspect of her new life OK, but she longs for a friend. She thinks she has found one in Tariq, the boy in the grocer’s shop. Or has she? There is a definite mystery surrounding both Tariq and his ‘parents’, Mr and Mrs Mukhtar, who are an unpleasant couple.

You can work out quite quickly that there will be things happening at Dead Man’s Cove, and that somehow the housekeeper and the Mukhtars will be involved. The mystery to me is why this shopkeeping pair and Tariq are described as speaking Hindi to each other, but perhaps I missed something.

It’s not the Famous Five. It’s more Two and a Dog, but that’s good enough. Laura’s Skye is a very lovely dog, and Tariq is not quite what he seems at first. Rather like Uncle Calvin. It remains to be seen how they will all develop. The second book is set in the Caribbean, so I’ve no idea whether this is the end of Cornwall and the series will turn out to be more of a roving affair.

It’s good to have new mysteries of the old, traditional kind. And there’s something special about Cornwall. (Although the Caribbean might not be a totally awful place either.)

Orion’s party

Lucy Coats

The first to arrive and the last to go, is how Lucy Coats described herself last night. I have to take her word for it as Daughter and I took slight detour en route for the October Gallery (I have to admit here that it was my fault and Daughter would have made a better job of it) and arrived when things were in – if not full – then some sort of swing. And we didn’t outstay our welcome (at least I hope we didn’t) so weren’t there to witness Lucy washing up at the end.

Orion's party at the October Gallery

Lots of Orion’s very lovely and our favourite authors were there. Lucy, as I said. Caroline Lawrence, who by now will be feeling she has to put up with us every week. Nice to see Mr Lawrence again. Liz Kessler, fresh from ‘research’ along the coast of Norway. The Michelles, Lovric and Paver, and Annabel Pitcher, Angela McAllister and Viv French. I was introduced to Lauren St John, whose book I was reading on the train, getting me into a very St Ivesey mood. Daughter has obviously been around the literary world too long, seeing as she was clinging to the fire escape throwing names about; ‘there’s Francesca Simon, and that’s Tony Ross!’. Right on both counts.

Michelle Lovric and Annabel Pitcher

Boss Fiona Kennedy made a speech, praising her writers. Nina Douglas and Kate Christer had worked hard to organise things, and the October gallery, complete with bones and ‘dead babies’, not to mention glittery paintings was a good place for a party. The weather helped. We were all out in the courtyard in the mild and sunny evening. London at its best.

Caroline Lawrence

Francesca Simon

The courtyard

Among the ‘non-authors’ present were the other Stockport blogger, Wondrous Reads (we’ll have to stop meeting like this, Jenny), Geraldine Brennan (about whom I had a strange but nice dream last week), Julia Eccleshare, Ted Smart, Catherine Clarke, and I am sure I have left out lots of worthy people, but I’ll stop now before I turn into Hello Magazine again. (Better class of people, but too many lists of human beings clutching champagne glasses, if you know what I mean?)

I have a dreadful suspicion that in among everyone in the photos there will lurk someone with a dark secret, or someone committing a crime or an indiscretion or something. If you find anything like that, don’t tell me. I was the one in the flower pot. I noticed a dreadful smell and realised the pot was a geranium pot and I had disturbed the leaves. I hate the smell of geraniums!