Tag Archives: Sam Hepburn

If You Were Me

It would seem that Sam Hepburn is good at taking a topic I’m not all that keen on and then writing a novel about it; a novel so good and so exciting you don’t know what to do, because you have to hold on to the book to keep reading, but at the same time you could really do with holding on tight to your chair. Or something. You know.

Sam Hepburn, If You Were Me

If You Were Me is a gut-churning thriller, about Aliya and her family who had to flee Afghanistan in a hurry one night, only to exchange a bad situation there for a bad one in London. Her brother who was an interpreter for the British, is accused of being a terrorist, plotting to kill the man who helped them enter the country.

With the help of Dan, who came to sort out the plumbing in their decrepit flat, she starts sleuthing, desperate to clear her brother’s name. Dan is keen to assist, but he also has reasons to hide certain aspects of their investigation, to keep his family safe and intact.

It’s amazing how these two manage to find any clues at all, let alone that they are able to make something of what they discover. Very, very exciting indeed. And basically, you must remember you can’t trust anyone. Had the introduction not suggested it might end well, I’d not have believed it possible.

Aliya and Dan are two incredible heroes. Not everyone else is bad, but very nearly.

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Leaving something of an echo of themselves

To have one biro run out of ink is a bit of a misfortune for a Bookwitch, who takes down notes the old-fashioned way at events. To have [her only] two biros become ink-free in the space of a couple of hours is something Lady Bracknell might have a few things to say about. So I’m starting with my second event on Monday, because it is in much more dire risk of not being blogged about, unless I make up half of it.

Edge of Your Seat Thrillers was a really good event, documenting how Tim Bowler and Sam Hepburn write their award winning and shortlisted books, chaired by witch favourite Ann Landmann. OK, so she did threaten us on the back row, but we refused to budge. Even Sam and Tim had to silence their mobile phones, because Hollywood would not be phoning just then.

Sam told us about her new book If You Were Me, and read a bathroom scene from it. Very more-ish. I suspect it might be as good as her first novel. Tim read from Game Changer, which is about a boy with a lot of phobias, but who doesn’t spend quite all his life in a wardrobe. Only some of it.

Sam Hepburn

They discussed reading aloud, which they both do and enjoy. They talked about writing dialogue, which can be hard. Normal conversations don’t sound anything like what you see in books. (I know. Not even the lovely Tim spoke totally grammatically when interviewed.)

They continued with their ‘terribly technical’ chat and Tim apologised for giving us all this advice we’d never asked for. He doesn’t plan, and both authors reckon things happen when you simply sit down and write. Characters start to behave uncharacteristically. Their advice is not to plan too much, if you must plan. Even Carnegie winners have doubts about their writing, and rubbish writing can be good raw material for what comes next.

Sam always types her stories, and Tim mostly does as well, including on his Blackberry (yes, he knows!), which helped him produce 2000 words on his journey to Edinburgh yesterday.

Does literature have a role to play? Yes, it does. Those cavemen didn’t have to start drawing pictures to survive. It was more the urge to leave an echo of themselves behind. It’s the same today. Authors don’t have more ideas than other people; they are just differently wired in how they use them.

If he could have, Tim would have liked to have written Tarka the Otter, while Sam rather fancies being the author of Northern Lights.

Tim Bowler

In the bookshop signing session afterwards, we had a veritable hugfest, as Tim needs to hug to begin with and then again when parting. This time I had both Offspring there who had to be hugged, although Tim rather doubts the existence of the Resident IT Consultant, whom he’s never seen. However, Ann Landmann could confirm he is real.

Numbers and meat cleavers

This is for people with a fondness for ‘interesting’ dates. And even for people who couldn’t care less. Today is the 11th day of the 12th month in the 13th year (well, you know what I mean!). But I will not now provide a list of the year’s best ten books. Or best 14.

I need to slim these lists down, but when I looked at the possible contenders for best Bookwitch book 2013, there were so many wonderful reads that it’s as hard as giving up cake and cheese and go on a diet.

Cough.

Let’s continue.

I have a bunch of six books, where I can’t say that one is an overall winner. I would like to, but can’t. One thing that has made me pick these over some others, is that they provided that special glow of happiness. Scary and good is obviously good, but happy and good wins every time. (Apologies for excessive soppiness.)

I’ll list them in first name alphabetical order:

Anthony McGowan, Brock

Debi Gliori, Dragon Loves Penguin

Hilary McKay, Binny for Short

Jonathan Stroud, Lockwood & Co – The Screaming Staircase

Marcus Sedgwick, She’s Not Invisible

Sam Hepburn, Chasing the Dark

If you – or your favourite book – are not on the list, please be gentle with that meat cleaver! Let’s face it; there are lots of wonderful books out there.

Launching Shine

The custard creams made all the difference. They and the Coke. Halfway through the launch party for Candy Gourlay’s new book Shine, I was overcome by an urge to liberate ‘a few’ custard creams. They were looking lonely, sitting on a table at Archway Library. That sugar rush kept me going all night, more or less.

Archway Library

I arrived just in time for The Three Hundred Word Challenge. Candy read out as many entries as there was time for, and her collected authors pitched in with their thoughts. The advice was good. The fledgling stories were even better. It’s reassuring to find that young people still want to write, and that they know how.

Teri Terry, Candy Gourlay and Jane McLoughlin

While this was going on in front of an audience so numerous they ran out of chairs, people went about their business in the library, and there was a nice mix of festival special and ordinary library behaviour. (It was the first day of the first Archway With Words Festival.) The authors couldn’t always agree on their advice, which should go a long way to proving that there is no one correct way to write. (I thought they were going to come to blows. Which would have been exciting.)

Random's Clare, Simon Mason, Philippa Dickinson and Keren David

Once it was time for the launch proper, I had a job recognising people without the customary name badges. I managed some. I was discovered in my corner by Random’s Clare, who was almost on her own doorstep for this event.

There were speeches. MDs Philippa Dickinson and Simon Mason came. David Fickling, on the other hand, did not. Replacing him, Philippa and Bella Pearson spoke, but they couldn’t quite manage David’s voice, so Candy had to help out.

Candy Gourlay with Philippa Dickinson and Bella Pearson

In her own speech, Candy told us of the long hard slog to get there. What’s three years between friends? Bella went on maternity leave, and came back. Candy said nice things about her editor Simon, even after he told her that her first attempt was no repair job.

Candy’s daughter Mia and friends sang a cappella. Absolutely lovely.

Candy Gourlay at Archway Library

Dave Cousins

We mingled. There were more authors than you could shake a stick at. (Not that I’d want to, I hasten to add.) Fiona Dunbar and I met where we always seem to meet. I met several facebook friends for real. (They exist!) Teri Terry was surrounded by young fans. Dave Cousins came.I recognised Jane McLoughlin but took ages to work out who she was. Missed Joe Friedman. Ruth Eastham was over from Italy, which was very nice. She introduced me to Sarah Mussi, whose book I just ‘happened’ to be reading, so I hauled it out for an autograph. (Very scary. The book. Not so much Sarah.)

Sarah McIntyre

The other Sarah (McIntyre) also ended up signing stuff, although not for me. Keren David said hello, and then goodbye. I chatted to Inbali Iserles and Savita Kalhan. I spoke to people I have emailed with, and to people I haven’t. Sam Hepburn.

Steve Hartley

And then Mr Gourlay went round saying it was time to go home. So we did. To the Gourley home, where the eldest junior Gourlay was looking after food and drink. There was a lot of it.

The Gourlays

They have the loveliest of gardens! Admittedly it was dark, but it was all lit up and the evening was balmy, and there was somewhere to sit. Not the trampoline for me. Spoke to DFB basement man Simon, and the kind Tilda who once bought me a sandwich. At some point I had to admit to a fondness for the Circle Line. (Yeah, well.)

The wine flowed (the recycling men were most impressed with the bottle collection the next morning) and there was cheese beginning with the letter c, and for the carnivores pork sausages on the barbecue, very ably operated by Mr G.

It was dark. As I said. So I gave up on the camera and simply enjoyed, which is why there are no scandalous shots of anyone. I think the man who hugged me before he left long past midnight might have been Cliff McNish, despite him being underwhelmed by my drinking.

Recommended crime to beautiful blonde, who was impressed with my recent meeting with Colin Bateman… When it got too cold we repaired to the inner regions. In the end most people went home, and Candy was left with a mere five houseguests. Eldest son politely gave up his bed for an old witch, and was banished to his godmother’s ‘vomiting room.’

In the morning I got up long after the six o’clock taxi guest had departed, and people had dispersed to school and jobs and things. I met my brand newest facebook friend (less than 24 hours) in her pyjamas. And then Candy made us breakfast and we gossiped about the great and the famous.

But I had a noon train to catch, so shouldered my nightie and toothbrush and walked up the hill to the tube station hidden in mist. Once I got to Euston I encountered the Poet Laureate on the escalators, going the opposite way. Bought some treats for the Resident IT Consultant to celebrate our first 31 years, and hopped on my train.

Tired library visitor

(I know how that doll feels.)

Chasing the Dark

Sam Hepburn – author of Chasing the Dark – is a woman who knows how to end a novel! She also knows how to write the part of the book that comes before the end, which is why this ending felt so very perfect. Her book was my only reading option during my recent day on planes and trains, and to be honest, I frequently find myself so sleepy when travelling that any book I have with me goes almost un-noticed. Not this one. I read and I read, despite heavy eyelids.

Sam Hepburn, Chasing the Dark

The premise is sad; 14-year-old Joe has been orphaned when his single mum Sadie died in a car crash. Joe is living with his aunt Doreen, who makes no secret of hating him, just like she did her younger sister.

But then things start to happen. By chance, Joe runs into a mysterious man hiding nearby. And on the one occasion Doreen speaks almost normally to Joe, she shares the memory of an old mystery with him. It seems like too much of a coincidence to have two puzzles like that, and then Joe finds that perhaps his mum’s death was connected as well, and that it wasn’t an accident.

He digs a bit deeper, and what he finds is very intriguing, and pretty dangerous. The people he comes across during his search, whether ordinary citizens or criminals, are ‘nicer’ and more interesting than you usually get. There’s none of this ‘you are just a child and what do you think you can do?’ stuff. Joe talks to people, and tries hard to understand his mum’s death, and people help him, or try to hinder him. But there is always something going on.

Jewels, politics, Russian spies, lords, the University of Cambridge, drugs and joy-riding all feature in Chasing the Dark. But what can these things have to do with the death of a woman trying to make it, singing in pubs for a living?

Chasing the Dark ticks so many boxes. I believe it’s a must read. In fact, I can almost feel that most unusual urge to re-read.

Lots of new books

And some old ones, too. You can never re-issue certain books too many times.

It’s understandable that the publishing world would pick a day like today to publish lots of books. 6th of June has a lovely ring to it. It’s sort of made for books, I’d say.

Originally I was going to review something today, just because it had a 6/6 publishing date. But then I discovered it’d be almost impossible to choose which one. (And I sort of ran out of time, too. I kept working on the May books for longer than I should have. They were good, too. Don’t misunderstand me. But June beats everything.) So I’ll let you have a June book tomorrow. And later.

Terry Pratchett’s publishers have really gone to town today. I’d like to think they had me in mind. But maybe not. Anyway; Terry’s Johnny trilogy is out again, and it is such a fantastic set of stories. I think I sometimes say stupid things such as I like Johnny and the Bomb best, but then I remember that I don’t necessarily, because they are all great, so I won’t say that. At all.

And, Maurice and the rodents are also back, and you just can’t not read it, if you haven’t already.

Theresa Breslin’s Queen Mary book is out in paperback, and Sam Hepburn’s Chasing the Dark is also available now. Andy Mulligan has a new book today (thank you!) and so does Elen Caldecott.

Kate Maryon and Margo Lanagan, likewise. Nicholas Allan. Sean Stockdale, Alexandra Strick and Ros Asquith.

So perhaps it becomes clear why I don’t read all of the books, however excellent and marvellous they are, or seem to be. I will read some, and some I will put in my ‘house arrest’ box. They will be most welcome when the time comes.

Actually, I will leave you today with an almost review. Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart have a new picture book, Just Imagine. It has many very lovely pictures. Naturally. The kind you could sit for hours finding new details in. It has words, too, including the word ‘bewitching.’ Despite that, and despite the fact that there is a witch in the book, I don’t think they have covered just what I’d want; the time to read all the books I would like to read.

Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart, Just Imagine

Just Imagine shows the reader a lot of different scenarios for what or who they could be. Since the book-reading-time thing isn’t on offer, I’ll go for ‘parent-frightening’ which actually sounds quite fun.

Grrrr! (Although that is only if you don’t go out and read one of the books I’ve mentioned. One of the very special 6th June books.)

Margo Lanagan, Yellow Cake

(Or I could scare you with Yellow Cake by Margo Lanagan. It’s a great title. I’m just a little scared of Margo, whose writing is not exactly run of the mill.

The other titles I’ve not mentioned yet are Theresa Breslin – Spy for the Queen of Scots, Kate Maryon – Invisible Girl, Nicholas Allan – The Royal Nappy, Stockdale, Strick and Asquith – Max the Champion, Elen Caldecott – The Great Ice-Cream Heist, Andy Mulligan – The Boy with 2 Heads, Terry Pratchett – The Johnny Maxwell Trilogy, and The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents.)

Chicken House at Cornerhouse

Not every book event can be reached by 19-minute train trips from the bottom of my garden. I almost wish they could. So, full marks to Chicken House for coming ‘up north’ in the first place, and second for picking that rather excellent watering hole Cornerhouse as their venue for breakfast on Thursday morning. Good and convenient.

Annexe at Cornerhouse

It was quite nice meeting authors there, too. Melvin Burgess, being one of our token Mancunians, I had not seen since our Christmas dinner, and newbie Fletcher Moss not since that coffee-less morning coffee a couple of months ago. They were the only advertised star turns, but there were more Chicken people present; a fact which had me resorting to stealing. (Sorry.)

Dan Smith

Fletcher introduced me to Dan Smith, whose book I had not thought to bring. So I sort of helped myself to another copy of My Friend the Enemy (out in July) in order that Dan could sign it. I had to lend him my pen – which he actually returned after some further borrowing – but at least he didn’t need to practise his signature. (By the time Fletcher had warned him that I’d head straight home to write all kinds of stuff about everyone, it was too late for Dan.)

That was one wonderful breakfast! I have rarely been so well fed at an event. By the time I’d checked out the double buns with sausages on Tony Higginson’s plate (did I mention Formby’s no. 1 bookseller was there?), I noticed Melvin and raised my camera to photograph him, which caused the poor man to pause his sausage bun eating… They had a veggie version too, meaning I could join in, and it was Very Delicious! (Now that I think about it, maybe it was Fletcher who had a double helping. Or someone.)

Melvin Burgess and Barry Cunningham

At this point Barry Cunningham started the chatshow, so the eating had to cease. First Barry told us why children’s books are so good. We knew that already. He mentioned the peculiar fact that it wasn’t raining. Apparently you can’t use the words sunshine and Manchester in the same sentence. Then he talked to Melvin about the background to The Hit, and after that Melvin read the first chapter. (He’d done some research into the willingness of teenagers to sleep with someone who was about to die a virgin…)

Fletcher Moss

Our second Mancunian was Fletcher, who talked about winning a book competition only to have to re-write the whole thing. He read the first chapter of Poison Boy, by which time I had liberated a chair to sit on, right at the back where I could do as I wanted.

Sam Hepburn

The third author was Sam Hepburn, who is a girl, despite the name. Sam writes what Barry wants most; crime for and about young people. I’ve had my copy of Chasing the Dark in my tbr pile for a while, and I knew I wanted to read it even before hearing Sam read a chapter to us. She told us her children thought she’d based the really horrible aunt character on herself!

Stuart Hill

Author no. four was former bookseller Stuart Hill, who wrote lots of – unpublished – books before finally sitting down to write the one he really wanted to write; the one no one would read anyway, so he could do what he wanted. And that’s the one Barry published. Apparently his prequel Prince of the Icemark happened because readers wanted to know what went before Cry of the Icemark. And you know, I don’t exactly love zombies and werewolves, but I liked what Stuart read. Even though I was under the impression he had a witch called Cadwallader. It turned out to be the cat.

David Massey

Dan Smith (about whose name I said some less than polite things, on account of it being a bit common) and David Massey were not there to read, but mingled nicely, and I helped myself to a copy of David’s book Torn.

Jake Hope's shoes

It was good to meet some new people, and nice to see old acquaintances like children’s books expert Jake Hope (wearing very snazzy shoes). I noticed from the un-claimed badges that I could have met up with even more old friends, and I hope they are now thoroughly regretting their absence from this culinary-literary event.

Chicken House breakfast

Then I went back for another of those sausagey things. I don’t know what I was thinking. Not only did it make my subsequent chat with Sam a little difficult, but it was very filling. As I stood staring at the cake selection, I realised just how filling. I ate a slab of carrot cake. Large piece, since it was the only size available. (I reasoned the icing made it impossible to smuggle home in a napkin.)

Cake, Cornerhouse

I witnessed someone else wrap a blueberry muffin (ginormous variety) to take home, so went to get a napkin to do the same thing, seeing as my earlier stealing of books had gone so well. Had barely touched the napkin when Tony demanded I take a photograph of him and some of his closest author pals. So I did.

Dan Smith, blogger Kate, Sam Hepburn, Tony Higginson and Fletcher Moss

Tina from Chicken House

As I got closer to the muffins again, I was waylaid by the lovely Tina who had organised the whole shebang, and we had a nice long chat, seeing as it was our first meeting in person. She was also vaguely thinking of pocketing muffins.

When I finally thought I was in the clear, Waterstones new events manager Louise came up to talk, while valiantly dealing with some carrot cake. So we talked events, we talked John Green – as you do – and books in general. Barry came up and discovered Louise had moved here from Reading, which is a most suitable place for someone involved with books. (Even when you know how to pronounce it correctly.)

Barry Cunningham

With Barry’s blessing I finally helped myself to the muffin, while he apologised for having said bad things about the Mancunian weather. Which was when I happened to glance at my watch, realising I had just enough time to catch my train home so I could make dinner. There was a Resident IT Consultant who needed feeding.

I – on the other hand – didn’t.