Convention season is kicking off! I’ve already been to my first one this year, the fabulous Dutch Comic Con, and this weekend it’s EasterCon in Birmingham. A highlight of last year for me was attending New York Film and Comic Con, where I signed ARCs of GILDED CAGE every day. Ah-ma-zing.

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Until 2016, I’d never been to a con before – but now I’ve found them, I  love them! YES, they can be intimidating. It feels like everyone there knows everyone else … and you don’t. YES, they can be loud and full of crowds. BUT if you’re someone who feels like part of a wider books and/or genre community, attending a con will be a fantastic experience. And the easiest way to help with the nerves if you’re new is to go with a friend.

I’m speaking on panels at two cons this summer – YALC and NineWorlds – and will be attending several more just for the love of it: a day at EasterCon, hopefully a trip to Helsinki for WorldCon, and then FantasyCon in October. If you’ve not atended one before, here’s why you should consider going:

  1. Fangirl/boy – You’ll get to see authors and creators (games, TV, movies, art and more, depending on the profile of the con you attend) you love, in an environment where you can get close to them. Big cons attract big name writers all in once place, rather than trying to catch them as they pass through individually on book tours. Have you seen the amazing lineup for this year’s YALC (YA LitCon)? VE Schwab, Laini Taylor and more… And they’re an opportunity to catch and support emerging writers, too, who aren’t yet at the book-tour stage of their career.
  2. Love your community, and yourself – One thing I always notice about cons is the body positivity. Cons can be amazingly accepting and celebratory environments, even – and especially – with cosplay. You’ve never seen all that a wheelchair can be turned into, until you’ve been to a con! In Utrecht, I met a glorious crossplay Xena Warrior Princess who used a walking frame. Self-acceptance and self-expression is at the heart of the con-going mentality, and all cons should have a robust access and non-harassment policy, and be happy to address any concerns or questions you might have.
  3. Shop – Support small creators and find the most amazing, one-off things. I can never resist burning a bit of cash at cons. At Dutch ComicCon I came away with an adorable amigurumi Totoro from HotCuteGirlyGeek (see the pic above!). At London Film and Comic Con last year it was a Game of Thrones leather bracelet and a Toothless (How to Train Your Dragon) hairbow. Con t-shirts are always on point. You won’t find this stuff in shops, folks, and it’s all made with love.
  4. Learn – One of the things I loved about book cons was the author talks. Everything from worldbuilding to the craft of writing. I found them inspiring, and you can get a personal response from a writer whose work you admire. Now I’m published, I’m sometimes on the other side of panels, up on stage. And I can tell you authors really do take time to prepare and want to be as helpful as they can. If you’re nervous about asking a question, you’re not alone – at least half the authors up there will be nervous about answering!
  5. Try out new things – I’ve never read graphic novels before, but at Dutch ComicCon, where I was a guest author last month, I chatted to the fabulous graphic novels buyer of the American Book Centre and came away with two recommendations. I’m currently reading the super-dark MONSTRESS. You might find your next new fave author/game/artist/fandom….

One less happy note: cons often feel very white. The community has a long way to go on improving this, but there are many folk out there working hard. On initiative I love is Con or Bust, which raises funds to send fans of colour to SFF conventions. If you want to donate, or to see if they’ve a membership going for a con you’d like to attend – they have the UK’s NineWorlds and many US conventions – then check out their website.

It’d be awesome to see you at a con this year. If you’re going to any of the ones I’ll be at – YALC, NineWorlds, EasterCon, WorldCon and FantasyCon – then give me a shout on twitter!

PS If you’ve any more questions about the con-going experience, I can recommend Sam Magg’s fabulous The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy

 

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I was thrilled when GILDED CAGE was selected as the Radio 2 Book Club choice for March 21st! The club is hosted by legendary British DJ Simon Mayo, Vic+SimonMayowho’s been ruling the airwaves for decades with his charming chat and great music selection on the daily 5-7pm Drivetime.

What you maybe don’t know about Simon is that he’s also a published YA author  his book BLAME is also set in a sinister alternate modern Britain. And as I discovered when I went in to chat with him this evening, he’s also a Civil War enthusiast, having specialised in the period when he studied History and Politics.

The whole experience was huge fun  a chat about the book between me, Simon and his co-host Matt in the R2 studios on the sixth floor of Wogan House, just alongside the main BBC HQ. (The studios were a touch funky, because DJ Sarah Cox had just completed a 24-hour danceathon for charity!) There was a break in the middle for some music  Robert Plant, I greatly approved!  and then I got to sit and listen as three reviewers gave their thoughts on the book. These absolutely blew me away, because they’d given GILDED CAGE to three teen reviewers: 16-year-old Lucy, 14-year-old Ben, and 17-year-old Hannah. All three were articulate, and a bit of Hannah’s I might just record and keep to play back any time writing feels like a struggle.

It was such a great experience! You can listen to the whole chat here (start from 1:08:51), or I’ve transcribed it all below. Hugest of thanks to Simon, Matt, and the whole R2 production team for having me on!

SIMON: [1:08:51] So, Book Club on a Tuesday. Our latest choice  you can read a chapter online  is GILDED CAGE by Vic James. Vic is here  how are you?

VIC: Hi! I’m very well, thank you for having me.

SIMON: Just arrived from San Francisco, that’s how fresh she is. Matt’s gonna describe the cover. What does this look like?

MATT: Yes, it’s a white cover, R2 dashboardwith the title and your name, Vic, in black, very nice typography on the front, with a picture of a black bird in silhouette in a silver cage. And then you know it’s quality because it’s got the Radio 2 Book Club sticker in the middle of it.

SIMON: And the slogan ‘Not all are free’ just under the words ‘gilded cage’. So, take us into the world of GILDED CAGE, Vic James  what do we need to know?

VIC: Okay, well, the world of GILDED CAGE is Britain right now.  It’s our world, all very recognisable. It kicks off with a teenage brother and sister: she’s about to go off to university, he’s lost in his console games. And then their parents drop bit of a bombshell. Because there’s something different about this world. It’s not ruled by parliament, it’s ruled by aristocrats with magical Skill. And if you don’t have magic, then bad luck, because you’re going to be spending ten years of your life doing your slavedays.

SIMON: Okay. So there’s a lot going on in there. We should say that this is your debut novel, and you’re a TV documentary maker  that’s what you do most of the time.

VIC: That’s right, yeah. I started in TV news, on a daily basis, and for the last five years I’ve been making long-form docs: social affairs, current affairs, politics.

SIMON: So, this is the UK now, but we’re governed by the Equals. So, I, like a lot of people at school, did the English Civil War. And we know what happened in 1642. The start of the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell, and we know how that ends up for the king, and the restoration, and so on. However in your book, in 1642, what happens?

VIC: What happens is power is seized instead from a non-magically gifted king, he is usurped by his magically skilled aristocrats who decide that frankly, being the best of the bunch, why aren’t they running the country? So they have a dark vision for how they want British history to unroll.

SIMON: And they are called…

VIC: They call themselves the ‘Equals’. It becomes bit of a dark joke in the modern era. The idea is that Cadmus Parva-Jardine, the person who comes up with the concept of the new ruling dynamic in Britain, he sees it as actually an equal arrangement: the guys with magic have to bear the burden of rule, and everybody else has to bear the burden of hard work. But needless to say the title of ‘Equal’ doesn’t go down very well.

SIMON: So, it’s not the Equals as in the 60s pop band with Eddie Grant on lead vocals. It’s not them. It’s the aristocratic magical class that runs Britain. Tell us about the family that we’re rooting for. Tell us about the Hadleys.

VIC: So, we’re with the Hadleys. They are your every-family. They’re from Manchester. Three kids, Mum, Dad. Very much based on my own sort of background, working class kid with parents from London. I wanted it to be a kind of normalisation of this shocking thing that they and everybody else has to go through. This should be the kind of family that everyone can see their own in, young people have the same kind of dreams that they do now: a good education, a good job. But sadly for everybody in this world you have to have ten years  you can choose when, you can do them straight out of the gate the minute you leave school, or put them off till you’re 55. But you can’t get out of doing them. You owe ten years of service. It could be doing back office work, it could be in factories. Imagine the really crummy job you’d never, ever want to do  you’re doing that for ten years.

SIMON: This kind of slavery  you have no rights and no money.

VIC: That’s correct. You’re effectively taken out of society. The fact that the system originates in the Civil War is kind of relevant because that’s a time when the concept of indentured service was quite prevalent. A lot of people who went to America and the new world at that time went as indentured labourers. You would spend  you would effectively give up your freedom and owe service, and that the end of that time, you would have earned certain rights and privileges.

SIMON: Are there any good people with magic, or are all the magical people bad?

VIC: [laughs] Look, who doesn’t love wicked magical aristocrats? Okay. I am guilty of that. But what I wanted very much was for there to be a broad spectrum on both sides. What we have here is a system that is evil and oppressive and wrong, and we have many people within that system who do not see the wrongness of it. And we have people on both sides of that aristocratic and commoner divide who are fighting to change it.

SIMON: Okay, so, Matt, what did you make of GILDED CAGE by Vic James?

MATT: Yes, great, I loved this premise, this idea that everyone, regardless, has to do ten years of slavery unless they’re as you say, one of these magical aristocrats. I love how the story switches between different characters. As you’ve just said there are, you have some of the aristocrats telling the story at one point and certainly one of them can’t see anything wrong with this deal, absolutely nothing. It’s absolutely fine. And you also find yourself questioning that idea of, if this were happening, would I do my ten years when I was young so it was out of the way, or would I put it off until I was in my sixties.

SIMON: What did you decide?

MATT: Well I decided I would do it very early on, R2 Vic.jpgbecause you’d want to get it out of the way. So at least you don’t have it hanging over you.

SIMON: And you might meet a beautiful slave to fall in love with.

MATT: Yes, yes, that as well. But my question is really, because I was thinking, how on earth are these slaves going to overcome these aristocrats who, in one great sequence, you have one of the aristocrats is able to literally level a massive protest, reducing people to a gibbering wreck, just by waving his hand. So you think to yourself how on earth do you get through that? And the answer comes later in the book through this idea that the human spirit is stronger than magic. And I wondered whether that was inspirational as a starting point for you.

VIC: Yeah, I think the whole thing about power, as we’ve kind of seen in the US with people marching in the street, popular protest, people are thinking a lot at the moment about how on earth, if you don’t like the political system you find yourself in  how on earth do you change that? And sometimes that can seem almost impossible, particularly when it’s embedded, not just in who your government is, but in this world you’ve got no mechanism to replace the government, because you don’t have a vote. You’ve literally got no voice. So it comes back to peoples resources. I’m really glad you love that line, because it goes straight to heart of the book. One character tells another: ‘There’s no magic more powerful than the human spirit.’ GILDED CAGE is the first of a trilogy. Book 2 is coming out in September, TARNISHED CITY, then book 3, BRIGHT RUIN, is out next summer. So you’ll see how change is achieved  or not. But the one thing I can say is that it’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to be straightforward.

SIMON: More with Vic in just a moment. GILDED CAGE is the Radio 2 Book Club choice. There is a chapter online. We’ll talk more in just a moment. [MUSIC: ‘Big Log’ – Robert Plant TRAILER: other R2 programming]

SIMON: [1:21:48] This is the bit the authors really, really love [laughs], when they get to hear the comments of people who’ve reviewed the books. GILDED CAGE by Vic James is the debut for Vic. It’s considered young adult because it has teenagers at the front, but actually it’s just a good read, like most of the best YA stuff, it’s just a great read. That’s what we’re thinking. So, are you ready for the thoughts of Lucy, Ben and Hannah? That’s for you, Vic.

VIC: Bring ‘em on.

SIMON: So, first up, Lucy age 16.

LUCY: I wouldn’t have chosen this book for myself, however I did enjoy it once I started to read it. I liked how there were multiple points of view as we could see different sides of the stories, see how the system affected lots of different people. I especially liked Luke and all the characters in Millmoor. The plot was really interesting, because it was a mixture of politics and action and drama. And despite the magical elements I liked how the story was about people rather than the powers. So, it has a good plot twist I hadn’t predicted and the writing was easy to read. I could pick it up and read a chapter or two without having to dedicate an afternoon to it. I’m really looking forward to reading the sequel when it comes out.

SIMON: Interesting point from Lucy is that it’s about magic, but it’s not about magic.

VIC: Yeah, and you know every book has to begin and end in the people and the characters, you’ve got to care about them. I mean, the choice I made when I wrote this book was to tell it from lots of different perspectives. So at first it can feel like you’re plunged into this world with lots of different views. But the goal was always to, through the eyes of those different people, to let you see into every little corner of the world, and to bring it all together in one explosive ending.

SIMON: Okay, that was Lucy age 16. Now Ben, who’s 14.

BEN:  Well I liked the book and the way the characters were in it and I liked the way they matured and grew throughout the book, and I liked the way they progressed in relationships with the other characters, and I liked the way the book had a very diverse plot, with different stories and subplots often joining other plots. And I also liked the ending. That made me want to buy the next book and the next book, because I want to see what happens but, there were quite a lot of characters in it, and if I put down the book, and picked it up again, it was quite hard to carry on because I couldn’t remember what had happened because there was just so much stuff happening at once. It’s a bit more advanced than what I’d normally read, but I really liked the book and I can’t wait to read the next one.

SIMON: Did you editor at any stage, Vic, ever say ‘too many characters’?

VIC: [laughs] No. I think the thing about characters is you have to make sure that each one sounds different. And the thing about this book is that you’re not only meeting a whole bunch of characters, you’re also being plunged into a world that is familiar yet different, so yes, of course there is a lot going on, and I think you just have to relax into the characters’ voices and let them each show you their bit of the story, and hopefully trust me that it’s all going to go in one direction.

SIMON: And finally, here’s Hannah, she’s 17.

HANNAH: I thought the book was really well put together. Her writing is brilliant. I loved the detail she puts in because you can imagine it. I loved reading when the author can go in so much detail that it literally creates the image in your mind. I love that about reading and she did that so well. The scenery and all the character descriptions and the sets. It was brilliant. I can’t wait for the next one. I’ve already got the dates written down for when the next books are released. I really enjoyed it. It was so well put together. I loved it. I think it would appeal to the older generation as well. It’s a fantastic read and I thoroughly recommend it.

SIMON: Okay, there’s Hannah, who will have put a big smile on your publisher’s face. Just one other point, briefly. It’s just worth saying how this story ended up being published, because you put this online. This was on Wattpad, one of those online sites. So just say briefly how that happened, because I think it’s an encouragement to anyone who’s writing.

VIC: Yeah, I found Wattpad because I have a busy day-job, like 99 percent of people who want to write a novel. And the really hard thing is just finding time to commit to get the words down on the page. And it can also be hard if it’s just you trying to believe in your story by yourself day to day, trying to tell yourself it’s worth it to keep on going and that this is a story you’ve got to tell. So what I did with Wattpad is I wrote a chapter a week and put it up, and because it’s online people read it and they give you feedback and encouragement. And for me that was what it was all about, knowing there were people out there waiting for the next bit of the story, that helped me carve that time out in my really busy week to keep writing.

SIMON: Vic, we appreciate you coming in. Thank you very much and congratulations on this, the first part of the trilogy, the next part coming out in September. GILDED CAGE is new from Vic James, a chapter available online. Vic, thank you very much for coming in.

VIC: Thank you.

ENDS 1:26:34

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My day-job, before writing the DARK GIFTS trilogy, was in television. But I was always behind the camera. I was the person writing the questions for my presenter to ask our interviewee. Only now I’m an author, it seems people want to interview … me!

I was ridiculously excited to be invited on to Front Row, the UK’s flagship radio arts programme on BBC Radio4. But I was BBCFrontRow also so nervous! The programme moves fast, and you have to deliver soundbites – not the easiest thing to do when talking about books, let alone your book. Oh, and they wanted me to do a reading. Oh. Em. Gee.

But I needn’t have worried. The producer rang me earlier in the day for a background chat, so she could brief her presenter. And though we spoke for half an hour when I would have only 7 minutes during the programme, it gave me an idea of the topics in which they were interested.

I also hoped I wouldn’t sound too strange! Like many people, I’m self-conscious about my voice. Because I’m deaf, I had speech therapy in my childhood, with the result that I now sound rather posh. I hated the idea that I might sound elitist and stuck up – especially when GILDED CAGE is about the injustice of elitism!

But I had a fabulous time, thanks to the welcoming Front Row team and especially its smart, warm presenter, Samira Ahmed. The minutes flew by – and when I listened back later that evening, I was happy I hadn’t made an idiot of myself. Booktubers and podcasters? I salute you for doing this sort of thing regularly!

You can listen to my episode here, but if it’s not available in your region, here’s a transcript.

SA: We’re used to American dystopian fantasies such as The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, which pit young people against authoritarian regimes. Now Vic James’s debut fantasy novel GILDED CAGE is set in a very contemporary corrupted Britain. It’s a Britain ruled by an aristocratic class with magic strength, who compel commoners to serve them for ten years as unpaid slaves. Vic wrote the story on Wattpad, the online story site where writers post their work, and it was read there over a third of a million times. She went on to win Wattpad’s Talk of the Town award in 2015, and she joins me now. Welcome to Front Row, Vic. You worked as a political journalist, including at Channel 4 News for many years. Has this book been brewing in you for a while?

VJ: Well, it kind of came together in an instant, but it couldn’t have been written without the previous ten years of work as a journalist. It was one of those classic ‘lightbulb moments’. I was producing a TV series called The Superrich and Us, and in the course of that I was, as you do, talking to billionaires. Hearing their view of their place in the world, the power and ability they have, the lightbulb went off. I just thought the money these people have gives them a kind of potency that’s almost like magic.

SA: It’s a contrast with the world we’ve seen develop in the last ten years, the world of foodbanks, isn’t it?

VJ: Yeah, I made the foodbank report at Channel 4 News, I’ve reported on sexual harassment at the Houses of Parliament. Last year I was working with Jeremy Paxman on the US elections, and on Brexit, and all of that has come together in this world. The idea for me was that GILDED CAGE should be instantly recognisable as our world today. The dilemmas the characters face are the dilemmas that many of us face: how do we make our own way in a world in which the odds sometimes seem stacked against us?

SA: Well, let’s have a reading. These aristocrats with magical powers, you’ve incorporated their powers into recognisable rituals, like the opening of parliament. Will you read us a bit from an opening of parliament?

VJ: So what’s happening here is that once a year the Chancellor of Britain gets to introduce a proposal, their own desired bit of legislation. And this year, the Chancellor is sitting on something really rather earth-shattering, so he’s announced that at the end of the discussion, the Silence and the Quiet will be laid. These are magical acts. We are seeing this through the eyes of Bouda, who is an ambitious, thrusting young female politician, who does dream of being Britain’s first female Chancellor.

“Bouda sat forward in her seat, tense and excited. She had never seen the two ancient acts of Silence and Quiet bestowed publicly.

Of course, to call it ‘Silence’ was misleading. The act didn’t really silence a person; it hid their own memories from them. It was forbidden to lay the Silence on one’s Equals – though practice obviously couldn’t count, Bouda had long ago decided, or how would anyone ever master it? All Chancellors had to be able to perform it, so from childhood Bouda had practised on her sister. Darling DiDi hadn’t minded.

The only permitted use of the Silence was within the House of Light, when it was laid upon commoners – the Observers. They were sometimes privy to Proposals or other business deemed too sensitive, too incendiary, to become common knowledge. Once the Chancellor had bestowed the Silence, the commoners would remember nothing until he lifted it again.”

SA: It’s wonderful – as you say, you turn it into a fancier, dystopian kind of world, but it is recognisable. There is this ordinary family that is serving their slavedays in the novel. One of their sons, Luke, is sent off to this awful factory town. And it seems that you’ve drawn on this British history of the industrial revolution, to comment on today.

VJ: Yeah, the world of the book, um, we experience it in two locations that probably have a historical feel: there’s a Downton Abbey-style aristocratic estate, and then there is the slavetown. The idea is that each city in Britain has its shadow town where you’re sent to serve your slavedays. Manchester’s slavetown of Millmoor is very much inspired by the early industrial period.

SA: He joins a kind of resistance there, because he’s sent off on his own separate from his family. Which I thought was really important. It’s these small gestures of resistance, like painting slogans or just defying brutal authorities. Would you say you’re on a political mission, because it does pit young people against this apparently intractable system that has been there for hundreds of years.

VJ: I think the key dilemma for many of the common-born characters in the book is how to protest. And I think we’re seeing that now, with the marches at the weekend. I mean, if you are protesting against patriarchy, or global capitalism, you are effectively protesting against how the world is now, and this is really the dilemma Luke has in Millmoor, where he sees first time injustice, insensitivity – not a kind of willed cruelty, but an unfair, unjust system.

SA: A system. It really resonates as a kind of commentary upon the present. You published this first online on Wattpad, where anyone can read your work. How did you use it? How did it work for you? Presumably you got discovered by an agent that way.

VJ: No, no not at all, actually. Wattpad for me, it’s interesting, was a tool to keep me motivated. It’s a bit like if you’re trying to lose weight, going to a meeting once a week and being weighed in. It’s a way of keeping yourself accountable.

SA: But you didn’t take their advice, did you? Because people leave comments saying you should do this, that and the other.

VJ: [laughs] There are a few people who say things like that. I remember there was someone who was quite incensed by my use of long dashes. That really got them under the collar. But no, it’s people saying ‘I love this story, please continue’. I think many people in all walks of life, this desire to write a novel is an almost universal desire. Many of us have jobs we have to work 9 to 5 – much longer than that. Where do you create the time to stay true to that dream of writing a novel? For me, writing this one chapter a week, uploading it every Friday, knowing that people would be waiting for it, kept me doing it.

SA: Very briefly, the book’s a trilogy. How far ahead have you planned, and have you always planned it that way?

VJ: From the beginning, I saw the end.

SA: The final scene?

VJ: Yeah. It’s slightly hard to explain, but it opens with a boy in a slavetown, and it ends … hmm – cut me off!

SA: Well, I’m looking forward to reading the next one. GILDED CAGE is already available in ebook and it’s available in paperback from tomorrow. And the second book is out in September, so not long to wait for that.

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“Go on,” some bookish friends encouraged me. “It’s lots of gorgeous pictures of books. You’ll love it.” So I joined Instagram. And they were right, and I did. But nothing quite prepares you for when the bookstagrammers get their hands on … your book!

I’m wowed by the artistry of these creators. So I’m going to feature some of my favourites in a series of posts, alongside a line from GILDED CAGE that I’ve picked to go with each. First up, in this post, are some incredible ‘layouts’, using all sorts of exquisite props!

IG3

I love this ominous dark one by @darkfaerietales_ (Bridget is so talented!) and those petals make me think immediately of blood…
“Her pale skirts floated on the widening pool of his blood. A crimson tideline crept up her dress.”

IG2

This breathtakingly stylish one from Kristen at @myfriendsarefiction is full of elegance and menace – so evocative of the great estate of Kyneston…
“It seemed like everything here was busy hunting everything else: the animals with wings and claws going after the animals with neither.”

IG1

This exquisitely outdoorsy one by Kimberly at @bookswoon stole my heart.
“Sunlight filtered through the tree canopy, making the already colourful foliage vivid and bright, like stained glass cast by someone who liked only the first half of the rainbow.”

IG4

The glittering bird and glowing lights from Rachael at @redrchl.reads made me think immediately of Kyneston’s magical gate, illuminated by Skill…
“Like molten metal flooding a casting mould, it bloomed with brilliant life: an effloresence of ironwork, leaves and fantastical birds.”

IG5

And finally, one of the very first bookstagrams GILDED CAGE ever received, and still one of my favourites, from @hafsahfaizal – who (as Icey Designs) also created this website! I heart Hafsah. The books, the box and the key are my favourite details in this one.
“She led him over to the box on the table, fished out the little key around her neck and fitted it to the lock. … Lifting the lid she carefully took them out, one by one. Eleven slim volumes bound in pale vellum.”

These amazing creators make these beautiful images purely for the love of it, and I, for one, am hugely grateful for their talent.

If you’re on instagram, check out and follow their fabulous accounts (using the links above) – or me! I’ll be posting another selection of fabulous bookstragrams soon…

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In my imagination, writers work at old, leather-topped desks, by a window. They might have a sleek laptop, but there they sit, tapping out 1,500 words in a morning before spending the afternoon in cultural pursuits such as a museum, reading, or a walk in the park.

Then I became a writer and …. hahahhaah. Oh dear, how wrong I was. You write anywhere you can, whenever you can grab the time. I’ve written on ferries, planes, trains and cruise ships.

I thought you might like to see some of my many writing spots this year!

JANUARY: 72WorningtonUntil Spring this year I was living in a rented room in London; it was all desperately unglamorous, and the house roof burned off the week we sold GILDED CAGE. Worried by the length of time I was spending sat down, I wanted to try writing while standing, so cobbled together a temporary solution (aka a cardboard box)!

MAY: Apt19Publishing a book changes your life in many ways. For me, one of those ways was being able to buy a tiny place of my own. At last, I could create that sleek writing space I’ve always dreamed of – no room for a desk, though! My dining table doubles as my desk. I sit facing the wall so I don’t get too distracted by the view, but I love to bring the outside in by having cut flowers.

AUGUST: OldLightI took myself away for a week to Lundy, a small island off the south-west coast of Britain. The Landmark Trust owns and rents out the historic properties there: everything from cottages to a castle and a lighthouse! I stayed in the lighthouse keeper’s converted pigshed,  and it was joyous. I had a week off from the Dark Gifts trilogy, and wrote the first three chapters of a possible post-Dark Gifts sequence.

NOVEMBER: LittleTollerDeskI believe in supporting small presses, and earlier this year I donated to a crowdfunder for fabulous Little Toller press, which publishes new and classic nature and rural writing. As a thank-you, they invited me down to stay in their converted store one weekend. It was a gorgeously cozy place: a roaring wood burner and a press of strong coffee! I want to go back and stay longer next year….

DECEMBER: So here I am, ending up the year (almost!) at Virginia Woolf’s house in Sussex. I’ve rented her garden studio for a week. The weather is freezing but the studio is cozy, the view of the garden and village church is beautiful, and I am putting the finishing touches to Book 2 before we send it to copyedits in the new year. My trusty laptop comes with me everywhere, and I wouldn’t be without it!

2017 will hopefully see me writing in Antarctica – but not until December, when I get to make a visit I’ve always longed for!

Where will you be writing next year, or where would be your dream spot to write?

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