Wait… What happened to June?

Goodness, where did that month go?!

In Scotland the schools break up at the beginning of July so it has been a whirlwind of end-of-term activities (including a school awards evening for my daughter and an emotional last-day-of-primary for my son) and a race-to-finish as much work as possible before the summer holiday.

I will, of course, still be working throughout the six weeks, but I’m planning to move at a slightly slower pace and to allow time for impromptu days out and fun activities. I’m also taking a complete break next week as my lovely husband is on holiday and I can’t wait!

I’m also looking forward to catching up on my reading. I brought this haul home from the library (and my parents’s bookshelves) the other day. Yay!


In other news, Episode 5 of The Worried Writer podcast is up. It features an interview with fellow Carina author, Annie Lyons, and we talk about writing routines, dealing with criticism, pre-publication nerves and comfort blankets. Hope you like it!


Podcasting, Writing and the Joy of Rereading

ID-100305236It’s been a lovely sunny Easter holiday. We’ve had the first picnic of the year and even been to the beach a couple of times (which means, of course, the first outdoor fish and chips of the season – yum).

In between the fun, I’ve been busy editing and uploading my new podcast. The first episode is now live and you can subscribe in iTunes or listen via The Worried Writer site.

The first episode features an interview with YA author (and my good friend) Keris Stainton. I really hope you like it!

Writing-wise, I’ve been trying to work on a new project that just doesn’t feel right. I don’t usually hit my first, serious ‘I can’t do it’ wall until around 20,000 words, but I am seriously flailing at just 4000. I need to decide whether it’s the wrong project or the wrong idea or whether I’m just burnt out and need a little break.

Speaking of feeling a bit odd, after finishing the excellent The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey, I couldn’t settle on a new book to read.

So, I decided to visit some old friends…

I used to reread a lot and it’s something I’m trying to find time to do again. It’s nice, every once in a while, to step off the ‘shiny new book’ conveyor belt (so many new books, never enough time!) and to slip between the worn covers of an old favourite.

Sometimes it’s like coming home, with everything just as I left it – and is just as comforting as that sounds. Sometimes, though, it’s deliciously unsettling; familiar stories made strange with the fresh perspective of another decade (or two) of life.

How about you? Do you like to reread books or is once enough?

[Image credit: pannawat at FreeDigitalPhotos]

Author Interview: Katlyn Duncan

kateauthorpiclargeI’m delighted to welcome YA author Katlyn Duncan onto my blog today. Soul Possessed, the second book in The Life After trilogy is out at the end of this month. 

1. Soul Possessed is the follow up to your debut YA, Soul Taken. Can you tell us a little about it?

Soul Possessed takes place roughly two months after Soul Taken. Without spoiling too much… Maggie is in training and she goes on a mission with Cooper, Ally, and Jackson to find the Shadowed.

2. Did you always plan to write a series? And will there be a third book?

I didn’t plan on writing a series. I knew I had to sell one book before the next. The story I originally submitted was neatly tied up in one book, but I am so thrilled that I can explore this world through three.

3. Did you always want to be a writer? How did you get started?

It wasn’t a conscious choice to “be” a writer, I’ve just always written. Whether it was movie scripts, plays or short stories I just had a lot of ideas I wanted to share, even if it was just for the fun of exploring the characters and world I thought up. I think my love for books was what started everything. The more books I read, the more ideas for stories came to me.

4. I love YA literature and am always looking for new recommendations. Can you give us your top five YA books?

Oh geez! I love so many books, but if I have to pick five… in no particular order… The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins; Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick;  Rampant by Diana Peterfreund; The Iron King by Julie Kagawa; Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris

5. Could you tell us a bit about your path to publication?

I tried the traditional route of getting an agent but I didn’t have any success with that. I might have jumped the gun a bit when submitting but I did learn a lot in the process. I submitted to a feedback request from Mills & Boon late last year and they offered to sign me. It was quite a pleasant surprise and I am so thrilled Maggie’s story found a home!

6. What advice would be you give to aspiring writers?

Write as much as you can and read as much as you can. Writing is a daily activity for me whether it is 300 words or 3000 words. You can’t publish an empty document. Being a reader and a writer, I can see what I like and what I don’t like in books and I constantly strive to bring out the emotions that other authors bring out in me.

Read more

Yours Is Mine Blog Tour: Guest Post from Amy Bird

I’m back! I’m out of the writing cave just in time to introduce you to playwright and fellow Carina author, Amy Bird.

Yours Is Mine is Amy’s debut. It’s a psychological thriller and is out now.

Take it away, Amy…

Who would you magically exchange identities with?

In her best-selling debut, my lovely host Sarah has brought some magic into our lives.

In my debut, just released, I’m exploring what it would mean to exchange identities with someone. No magic, just the stark reality of North London.

But what if you could use a little bit of magic to exchange identities with anyone you wanted? Actually become them? I guess for a start, you’d have to know you were them – otherwise it wouldn’t be worth doing.

If I suddenly looked like Scarlett Johansson, or had Gwyneth Paltrow’s physique, I would want to know about that and internally gloat – particularly as a magic swap would be a much more fun way than gruelling daily workouts to achieve Gwyneth’s frame.

And sure, it would be great to inhabit J.K. Rowling’s life, without having to be the one for whom Harry Potter strolled into existence. But again, I’d want to know it was me, in there.

Because that’s the thing: it can be easy to think ‘Oh, I’d change places with someone more beautiful, fit or successful than myself in an instant.’ But where would ‘you’ go? What would become of all those projects and plans, all the friendships and unique inner monologue you’d built up over the years? Your life, your self?

YoursIsMinecoverIn Yours is Mine, my protagonist Kate gladly accepts the opportunity to exchange identities with another woman, Anna, on the basis that they will masquerade as each other for three months. Kate, recently bereaved by the death of her father and lonely following the departure of her military husband, thinks this will be a chance to get her spark back.

She relishes living in Anna’s North London flat, enjoys impersonating Anna on her on-line dating sites, and has fun taking an acting class in Anna’s name. But throughout it all, the aim is to go back to her own life at the end of it. Imagine the shock when Anna has other plans.

So for me, although I’ll happily keep eating carbs on the basis that I might suddenly find enough magic to become Gwyneth (any excuse), I think I’ll politely decline the idea of a magical life exchange for now. Or even a non-magical one. For all we really mean when we say ‘I’d give anything to be ‘so and so’’ is that we would like to be a prettier, thinner, or more successful version of ourselves. We don’t want to lose the identity that we hold dear, or the projects that make us who we are.

To be fair to Kate in Yours is Mine, she knows that – she is just hoping that agreeing to impersonate Anna for a bit will mean that when she, Kate, steps back into her own life she will return a refreshed, happier version of herself. But in making the pact with Anna, she puts all that at risk.

If Kate had a wand, or the skill of ‘Finding’ that Sarah’s characters have, maybe she’d be alright. But she doesn’t. So all she can do is fight to get back what’s hers – and hope that’s enough.

Yours is Mine is available now from Carina UK, Amazon, Kobo and iBooks.

You can follow Amy’s progress at www.amybirdwrites.com, on twitter and facebook.

On her last blog tour stop, here on 7 August, Amy will be doing a giveaway of a MIRA goodiebag, filled with some great titles from that Harlequin imprint. So be sure to catch her there!

Thanks so much, Amy!

Soul Taken Release Tour – What is Digital First?

kateauthorpiclargeI am delighted to be hosting YA author Katlyn Duncan on her debut release tour. 

Take it away, Katlyn…

Hello everyone! I am so happy to be on Sarah’s blog today!

My topic for today is about the phrase “digital-first”. This is a near and dear topic to me since my publishing company, Carina UK (newest imprint of Harlequin UK), is a digital-first imprint. So what does that mean to you?

  1. My books will be published within a few months of each other. Skipping the printing process brings my words to you sooner rather than later. It keeps the excitement of the series alive knowing you will get the next installment quickly.
  2. Affordable pricing. Again without printing costs, the price of the book becomes more affordable for everyone’s budget, which is something important to me. I want my book to be available for everyone and what better place to start then the price?
  3. On the go! With a click of a button you can have the book in your hands. With the ability to read it on your smart phone or e-reader you can pull it out quickly at a moment’s notice to continue reading whether you are in between classes, waiting at the doctor’s office, at your kid’s soccer game, or on your lunch break. The possibilities are endless!

I have always been on top of new trends when it comes to reading and I am so excited to be a part of an innovative imprint that is moving up with the times.

So what if you don’t have an e-reader? Do you have a smart phone? You can download free reading apps to your phone for free! No smart phone? Do you have a computer? You can download my book to your computer to read it!

Want your book digitally signed? There is a way!

Authorgraph is a website where I can send a digital signature with a swipe of my finger and even personalize a message for you. It sends a pdf and BOOM! There you go. Want your copy of Soul Taken signed? Go here.

9781472017093_CoverNow if you are oh so dying to have Soul Taken in your hands so you can feel and smell the fresh pages…there is a way. Carina UK is digital-first, not digital-only. If there is a strong enough demand for my book to be printed, it will. And you have the power to make that happen. But that is completely up to you. If you want it, tweet and Facebook about it. If you are okay to enjoy the book on your phone, e-reader, or computer that is awesome too!

So even though I won’t see this book on the bookshelves in my favorite bookstores on June 4th, I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of the success of Harlequin UK’s newest imprint and to share it with some pretty amazing ladies, like Sarah (whose book is now available digitally too!).

More about Soul Taken. Available to pre-order here.

After-life just got a lot more complicated

Maggie is a Soul Collector. It’s her job to transport souls from the Living Realm to the After – but during a mission to find a stolen soul, she ends up stuck in a teen mean girl’s body.

Trapped, Maggie’s soul is catapulted into Ally’s life – and the human world she hasn’t experienced for one hundred years. But, as a descendant of the most powerful beings in the After, Maggie must rescue Ally before the girl’s soul dies…

To survive, Maggie must uncover devastating secrets – because with one soul taken by a terrifying enemy, Maggie’s could be next!

Enter Katlyn’s fabulous giveaway – just click below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can visit Katlyn on her website or Facebook page or connect with her on Twitter.

Author Interview: Keris Stainton

I’m very excited to introduce my very first author interview on the blog – YA author, journalist and blogger, Keris Stainton.  

Me: The book is set in New York and one of the main characters is American, but it all rings absolutely true.  Did you do a lot of research and was it a nightmare getting the language right?
Keris: Thank you. If watching American TV and films counts as research then, yes, I did loads 🙂 I also asked on Twitter about certain words – “Would an 18-year-old American boy say this?” It was funny because I’d almost always get a lot of different answers. But it wasn’t a nightmare – I really enjoyed it. The only thing was – still is, actually – panicking that I’d got something wrong. I noticed Finn using the word “tap” in the very final run through. Faucet! Not tap!

Me: The setting of the book is a triumph. The city feels more like another character than mere scenery and I’m guessing you’re a fan of the place. Could you tell us your favourite things to do, see and eat in New York?

Keris: Thank you again! Yes, a reviewer described the book as “a love letter to New York” and I really think – hope – it is. I was obsessed with the place before I ever went there. When Jessie’s parents take the mickey out of her for pretending to live in New York as a child, that’s totally based on me. I first went there in 1999 and have been four more times since. I’d love to be able to go every year, but haven’t quite sorted myself financially for that yet!
I think I put almost all of my favourite things to do, see and eat in the book! The main thing I tell everyone to do is go to Top of the Rock. I’ve been up the Empire State Building a few times and while that is, of course, wonderful, I think Top of the Rock is better. It looks gorgeous, you get a breathtaking view of Central Park and you can see the Empire State Building (which is the one thing missing from the view *from* the Empire State Building!). The Roosevelt Island Tramway is fabulous too, as long as you’re not scared of heights (also there’s nothing to do on Roosevelt Island so you just have to turn around and come back, but it’s still worth it). Food-wise, you have to get a pretzel and a hot dog from a street vendor. That is a definite must. 

Me: What are the best and worst things about writing YA fiction?

Keris: The best thing is getting to create characters and settings and stories and then just live in them for a while. And getting sweet, funny, enthusiastic comments from readers. The YA blogging community is wonderful too. The worst thing? Same as any genre: waiting and worrying. 

Me: I know that you have two children and work as a journalist as well as writing novels. I am in awe of your productivity. What’s your secret? If there isn’t a secret (boo!), what’s a typical working day like for you?

Keris: Thank you, but it’s all smoke and mirrors – I’m incredibly lazy, honestly. I do very little work. I work well with a deadline so I can actually cram quite a lot of writing into a short timescale, but the rest of the time I don’t do much at all. I think because I blog quite a lot and I’m always on Twitter I come over as being a lot more productive than I am! My typical working day is spent faffing around online until an hour before I have to pick my son up from school and then going into a mad panic!

Me: That sound reassuringly familiar! To wrap up, can you give us any hints about the next Keris Stainton book?

Keris: I don’t know if I can say since nothing’s definite yet, but I’m hoping to write more books set in glamorous locations… Keep your fingers crossed for me! 🙂

Thanks so much, Keris!

As promised, you have a chance to win a (literally) shiny new copy of Jessie Hearts NYC.  Just leave a comment before the closing date (midnight GMT, Sunday 17th July 2011) and I’ll pick one name at random.

*Competition open to UK-only, I’m afraid.