Tag Archives: Paul Stewart

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.


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


At 9.59 there was considerable panic among Horrid Henry fans. Parents were seen running with their children across Charlotte Square, and then back again a minute or so later. It’s also known as ‘I didn’t need the toilet before but now I do.’ The event started at 10.

Liz Kessler

Francesca Simon

My first – literary – port of call was with Liz Kessler. I then had half an hour in which to take pictures of her signing, run across the square to see if I could catch Francesca Simon still at it, and then get myself to my second event with Gill Lewis. That’s when I remembered I had a book I wanted Liz to sign, and being a popular sort lady she still had a long queue and I wasn’t anywhere near the front of it. So I thrust the book at her publisher Fiona Kennedy and asked her to see to it that Daughter got an autograph. Surprisingly, Fiona seemed to know who I was.

Gill Lewis

Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

After Gill’s event I had slightly longer, so had time to take pictures of her, and to dash across the square for Chris Riddell and Paul Stewart in the other signing tent. Had to remember to go back to base and get my hopefully signed book back. Then I went to meet Caroline Lawrence, whose Saturday event I had been forced to miss, but who very kindly sacrificed some of her time on me today.

Norse monster

Norse monster

Norse monster

Kate O'Hearn

We decided there was time for an ice cream – because we both carried spare food in our rucksacks, so didn’t need lunch – and we exchanged news and discussed what’s hot and what she’s working on now, and then she ran on to hear Kate O’Hearn, whose rather fantastic team of Norse monsters were a sight to behold. I caught up with them in the bookshop an hour later, where they chatted to babies (who will never forget this early literary experience) and posed and were generally rather unsusual.

Michael Rosen

Meanwhile I had found Michael Rosen signing across the square, talking to his young fans with his normal charm and performing facial acrobatics. He too had caused a late rush on the toilets, so that seems to be a hazard with young fans.

Simon Armitage

‘Backstage’ I found Carol Ann Duffy and I saw Peter Guttridge at a safe distance from sleeve-tugging. Again. While I waited for Simon Armitage to come to his photocall, Kate O’Hearn and her monsters returned, and thanks to Chris Close I got another opportunity to snap these fantastic creatures.

Kate O'Hearn

Elizabeth Wein

Elizabeth Laird

Chris Riddell

My final event this book festival was another couple of Elizabeths; Laird and Wein. I even had a few minutes during which to take photos of Liz and Liz, as well as of Chris Riddell who was still signing away an hour after his Goth Girl talk, before I ran off to find a tram to the airport. It was high time to collect Daughter from her Californian adventure.

The Bone Trail

Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, The Bone Trail

It says something about my enthusiasm for the Wyrmeweald trilogy that I was willing to get up close to this A4 sized, one inch thick manuscript of the third book, The Bone Trail, which Random so kindly sent me when I moaned impatiently back in November.

I have to agree with Chris Riddell again. He and Paul Stewart really have written a very fine story. (Maybe he didn’t put it quite like that. That sounds like boasting. He’s a more modest man than that. But I can say it.)

The story carries on exactly where we left the characters in Bloodhoney. Micah and Eli find themselves with another couple of travel companions, and I spent some time working out how people would get paired off. I wrongly sacrificed one of them to a very bad fate.

There is discontent spreading from so many directions, and I worried in case the whole thing had to end in mayhem. It was bad for some. Some of them deserved it. Others didn’t.

When there is love, the love is very tender and good. The hate is pretty magnificent, too.

This is nearly all about migration. People and other creatures want – or need – to move somewhere new, and it doesn’t always work out. But just as in real life, immigrants aren’t to be despised; nor are they always going where they should go.

It’s touching, the lengths people go to to save or improve their lives. Wyrme-weald could be about both the European emigration to the new world in the west, as well as the spread of people from the east to the west, once they got there. Respect the natives when you arrive. Don’t assume you know better than those who have been there longer than you.

As usual, I kept hoping Paul and Chris would have a reasonably happy ending to offer, despite the bleak outlook when all the bad developments gathered. But I really couldn’t see how.

You won’t be disappointed.

Bookwitch bites #93

Luckily I didn’t run into either of these two chaps as I haunted Edinburgh this week. Twice. That’s twice I didn’t see them. In fact, I forgot to even think about Philip Caveney and whoever that is behind him. ‘He’s behind you!’ Lucky, seeing as I was running around all alone in the dark.

Philip Caveney with Plague Doctor on The Close

Lucky too, that I had not yet come across Chris Priestley’s A Creepy Christmas, the story he has written for 247 tales. That is another thing you don’t want to have on your mind as you’re out alone, in the dark or otherwise. Good to see that the 247 tales are still going strong.

Pleased to hear that Bali Rai won one of the categories at the Sheffield Book Awards this week; his quick read The Gun. Obviously, other books won too, and even more were commended. Read all about it here.

Have been alerted that Sophie Hannah – who seems to be successful at just about everything these days – has been shortlisted for the Nibbies. The event is on Tuesday next week. Lots of other authors are also on the various shortlists, and pirates would appear to be in as far as children’s book titles are concerned. (It was hard to find the lists, however. Something wrong with google? Can’t be me, can it?)

But I did find it a little tricky to discover the Costa shortlist, as well. (So definitely not me, then.) Sally Gardner, Diana Hendry, Hayley Long and Dave Shelton are this year’s hopefuls. I’ve read two.

Barry Hutchison, The Book of Doom

And speaking of awards, I was very happy to hear that Barry Hutchison got married last week. He had proposed in a fairly public sort of way, by putting it in one of his books. Glad it paid off, and that he has now been made an honest man of. More good Hutchison news is the arrival of the cover for The Book of Doom. Would quite like for the rest of the book to get here, too. Fast.

Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, The Bone Trail

Fast is what another book would have managed, had I not been so busy running around a darkened Edinburgh. (See top.) A very early incarnation of The Bone Trail, the last in the Wyrmeweald trilogy by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell has been made available to me. I happened to mention I wasn’t feeling especially patient.

Arrived home to find DHL had missed me. (Miss you too.) I arranged for redelivery on Monday. Except they turned up yesterday. As I squeezed the package (to find out what it might be, the way you do) it felt like a rucksack. Couldn’t see why Random House would send me one of those.

I will now stick a plain sheet of A4 to the back of The Bone Trail to prevent me accidentally looking at what seems to be the last page of the book. A witch likes some element of surprise.


‘Do not feel you need to review it’ said Chris Riddell about his and Paul Stewart’s second Wyrmeweald novel. I need to! Badly. Bloodhoney is even better than Returner’s Wealth, and as Chris pointed out ‘It doesn’t suffer from the slow start of the first and has some rather deeper subtexts.’ It does. It certainly does.

Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, Bloodhoney

I should probably not bring up the sourdough bread again, but it works. Now that I know what Wyrmeweald is and that I like Micah and Eli Halfwinter, and Thrace and Aseel, and a few more (not many more, though, because the book is populated by unpleasant people and creatures), it’s like slipping into something comfortable. No further need to get to know this world. You know precisely where you are.

Mind you, it’s not necessarily comfortable knowledge. Eli and Micah and Thrace are under threat, and now that fullwinter has arrived, it seems nowhere is safe. If your enemies don’t get you, the climate will. Don’t get too comfortable; it can’t last.

Kith or kin, you get bad ones and you get good ones. With keld you only get bad. There are good wyrmes and bad wyrmes. And both kith and wyrmes are looking for somewhere safe to stop, where they can live in peace. You can see history repeating itself over and over, and in more than one place.

This is another violent and bloody story, but I think I have an inkling of where we are heading. Eli is a very wise man, and Micah is lucky to have him for his friend. As for the Bloodhoney of the title, you don’t want to know. Stay away from it.

More beautiful black and white drawings by Chris at the start of each chapter make this a very attractive book, as well as a marvellous read. Virtually unputdownable.

Putting EIBF 2012 to bed

Edinburgh International Book Festival

At least here. They have a few more days to go in Charlotte Square, but I shall bore you with some photos. Or infuriate you, because it will make your page too slow to load.

We aim to please.

Reader at edbookfest

This is what it should be all about. Reading. On the spot.

Jenny Colgan

Jenny Colgan, who so very kindly helped out a Doctor Who fan in distress. Here is a link to what her event was like, courtesy of HG2G. (No, not the hitchhiker…)

Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, Bloodhoney

Another thing the edbookfest is about. Books.

Interview room in Charlotte Square

And the ‘interrogation gazebo’ where interviews can take place.

Chris Riddell in Charlotte Square

Stumbling across illustrators illustrating al fresco.

Celia Rees and Sally Gardner

Or being told off for profile photos. Sorry…

Edinburgh International Book Festival

The famous water in Charlotte Square, where it hides underneath the walkways and jumps up to get you.

Michael Grant

Californian authors can’t be too careful, and might as well adopt the local custom of carrying a brolly.

Hopes of a Nation at Edinburgh International Book Festival

The competition Hopes of a Nation in the bookshop.

Mirror in Charlotte Square

I have absolutely no idea why this photo was taken.

Light in Charlotte Square

Tree light.

Chris Close at work

Sitting down on the job.

Gordon Brown

And the MP for Kirkcaldy dropped in. We nearly dropped. But we are almost rested again, and as good as new.

(That was a lie, intended to make you feel better.)

Wyrmeweald – Returner’s Wealth

‘I hope you enjoy this!’ said Chris Riddell when he sent me his and Paul Stewart’s first book in their Wyrmeweald trilogy. So did I. I knew I liked the writing on the jiffybag. It’s not every day you get stuff addressed quite so artistically.

Returner’s Wealth is rather like sourdough bread. It’s a long and slow-ish process to begin with, where not much happens. With the bread you know the end result will be worth it, if you’ve eaten it before. If you haven’t, you worry a little that you’ll arrive and find you wished you hadn’t bothered with all that warm water and flour. You realise you don’t like sourdough. It’s good stuff, but not for you.

But the jiffybag spurred me on. I wanted to like this book. I just wondered if and when things would happen, and whether I could like the characters, another hundred pages along.

I needn’t have worried. It really is sourdough (which I like), and you barely notice as you get to know the characters, and slowly feel that you actively like (some of) them. I even grasped after a while what was going on and why. I’d been afraid I was too thick. Besides, I’m not madly keen on dragon-like creatures per se.

Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, WyrmeWeald - Returner's Wealth

Returner’s Wealth is a kind of fantasy western, and the man who teenage boy Micah meets is a Clint Eastwood/Lee Scoresby type. He grows on you.

There are ‘dragons.’ Wyrmes. They are birdlike in some ways, and there are very many species of them in the Weald. Some of them have relationships with their own very special human; their ‘kin.’ The others are called ‘kith.’ Some hunt the wyrmes, and others don’t. Micah happens upon some fairly bad kith, and also some really very OK kin.

It’s hard to explain what happens. There is some pretty gruesome violence. But above all there is love and trust and respect between some men and some wyrmes.

Knowing this was part of a trilogy, I was curious to see how it would end. Would it feel partly finished, or might there be a cliffhanger? Well, I’m obviously not going to tell you. But now that I know I like sourdough I can see myself eating it again.

I don’t know how they divide up the work, but Chris’s drawings for each chapter are absolutely beautiful. I still don’t like the dragons, but that’s beside the point. I am not a bad kith.