Sunday, 27 October 2013

Let's Go On a Signing Tour!

Signing pen? Check. Husband-slash-roadie? Check. Chocolate? Check.


The #ILoveAngelTrilogy tour kicked off yesterday: a whirlwind signing tour of seven UK cities. Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Milton Keynes, Southampton and London. Whee!

A lot of you have asked if I'll be visiting your city or country this time around. I am, genuinely, so honoured when people enjoy reading my books and want to meet me, and I wish this could be a world-wide tour and that I could meet every single one of you. But I wouldn't get much writing done if that were the case. Cat-boy would be annoyed, and we don't want to annoy Cat-boy. So, for now, this is the extent of the tour. If I don't meet you this time, then fingers tightly crossed for the next!

Yesterday my husband and I loaded up our trusty Citroen, waved goodbye to the cat, and hit the road. First stop: Birmingham!

We got to the High Street Waterstones a little early and dropped off the splendiferous Angel banner (yes, the same one that lives in my office and that Usborne is never getting back). We went to have a coffee (you may have noticed coffee being a theme in these posts), and when we got back to the shop my husband was VERY smug to find out that not one, not two, but three different Waterstones employees had tried and failed to put up the banner. This then allowed him to step in, put it up in seconds, and say, "But it's easy."

I'm convinced he's sabotaged it. This is the same man, remember, who nicked my VIP pass.

(Actually, he's lovely and buys me chocolate. Not to mention that he wears special angel wing cufflinks whenever he comes along to events with me, so he's allowed a bit of smugness over his banner-putting-up abilities.)

The signing was wonderful - sorry to go all gushy here, but it just was. The fear is always that no one will show up, and you'll be stuck there at your table smiling hopefully at passers-by who are thinking, "Who is that strange woman? Why is she smiling at me in that slightly deranged way?" Well, this definitely did not happen in Birmingham. We had a really great crowd, and it was just a joy. AND! Birmingham turns out to be a hotbed of Seb-love! I met SO many members of Team Seb there, which made me very happy because I have a real soft spot for him myself.

So, THANK YOU BIRMINGHAM for everything! You guys rock!

Then we headed on to Chester to our friends Mike and Sue's where we stayed last night, to drink lots of wine and catch up. Mike sees my husband fairly regularly because they're both sad D&D geeks and have a game going (I too am a sad D&D geek, or at least I used to be, so I can say such things), but neither Mike nor Sue had seen me in years and were starting to think my husband had buried me under the patio.

I am happy to say this is not the case, though doubtless he's been tempted over the years.

Then this morning, off to Manchester to the Waterstones at Arndale Centre. We were so early this time that Waterstones hadn't even opened yet, but I was thrilled to see a few people already queueing outside it, HOLDING COPIES OF ANGEL! Hurrah! I wouldn't have to subject random strangers to my who-is-that-deranged-woman smile! (Seriously, it was a really lovely moment - thank you, girls, for caring so much about the series. You made my day!)

Once the signing started I was thrilled and touched by how many people turned up, especially in the rain. And if Birmingham was the home of Seb-love, then Manchester was the home of aspiring writers. I had so many conversations with passionate young writers during the signing, and if you're another one reading this blog, here's my advice in a nutshell: write what you love, and keep trying.

So, THANK YOU, Manchester! Another fab signing - it was wonderful meeting all of you!

Confession time: after the Birmingham signing, I couldn't resist buying Goth Girl by Chris Riddell. Today, after the Manchester signing, I couldn't resist buying two graphic novels by the wonderful Posy Simmonds.

There are six more bookstores ahead. This may turn out to be a expensive tour.

Anyway, tonight we're staying at a hotel called The Mere, WHICH HAS MEERKATS! Look what was on our bed!

I may die of cuteness. I NEED one of these in my life. I'd carry it around with me at all times and Warn People Off.

We've still got almost a week of events happening, but if you live in the UK, you'll know that a major storm is currently on its way. I'm not sure how we always manage to be on the road at times like this. Remind me to tell you sometime about when my husband and I were in the US doing research for Fever, and since we don't watch much TV, we literally had NO idea that Hurricane Sandy was about to hit Manhattan. Guess where we were heading to? 

Anyway, this may not have been the best week ever to schedule a tour, but it's been amazing fun so far, and however many of you are able to make it out over the next few days, I'll love to meet you!

I'll be tweeting about the tour all week, so keep an eye on my twitter feed: @LA_Weatherly, #ILoveAngelTrilogy.

Meanwhile, the meerkat and I are savouring a very nice glass of red and enjoying life rather hugely. 


Sunday, 20 October 2013

The Things You Don't Need

OK, here they are: the non-essentials of writing. Or, at least, the non-essentials of my writing.

First: what to wear. Writers don't need a uniform, it's true. Except, if you're me, you kind of have one, because I'm a creature of habit, and I'm also VERY into being comfy when I write, and let's face it, one of the perks of writing is that you don't have to get dressed up to do it. So I tend to throw on the same outfit most days, because I'm boring like that. Here is the bottom half of it:

Yes! Stripey socks. I can tell you're jealous now. My husband bought them for me at a festival, and I wear them all the time. In fact, they may not be non-essential at all, because I'm coming to believe that they have magical powers and enhance my writing ability and I can never take them off, not ever, not even when they're old and smelly and unravelling.

(I bet he's sorry he bought them, now.)

So I wake up, get dressed in my leggings and stripey socks and old slippers, and then I make coffee. Note: THIS IS NOT ONE OF THE NON-ESSENTIALS. THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT STEP.

Then I go into my office.

Let's be clear: you definitely don't need a home office to write in. For years I wrote at our dining table on my laptop. But my office is my haven and I love it. And yes, my desk is always that tidy. (Don't worry; the rest of my house isn't. I'm not weird or anything.)

You also don't need to have a banner of your last series, which is the coolest office accessory EVER, and your publishers have dropped lots of hints that, actually, they'd kind of like it back now please, and you keep ignoring them and now they've pretty much given up.

Another thing you don't need is to have inspirational objects to do with your work in progress, though I almost always do this. I've craftily hidden my current ones in the above photo, because they'd give quite a bit away, and I haven't gotten bored with being Mysterious yet. (Also, Usborne have asked me not to share any details at this stage, so I'm not just being evil.) (Though I'm perfectly capable of it, it's true.)

Almost the whole time I was writing the Angel series, a small rock sat on my desk. I found it in New Mexico, when my husband and I were there doing research for the series: trying to find exactly where Alex grew up. I looked down and saw this stone with an 'A' on it. 'A' for Alex, and for Angel. It seemed a good omen. It sat on my desk for years. 

OK, those are some things you don't need. Here's something you do. Notebooks are essential. I MEAN THIS SO MUCH. Big ones, small ones, expensive ones, cheap ones: I MUST HAVE THEM ALL. See? I'm not kidding:

I buy a new notebook for each book I write. There's no real reason for this; most of the notebooks you can see there are only half-full. But I'm kind of obsessed with notebooks and will grab any excuse to buy a new one. I found the notebook for my current WIP in France. It's hardback and looks like battered leather; I could just imagine my main character using it. 

But notebooks don't have to be something fancy; they can be very plain. The notes that eventually became the first book of the Angel series were in a cheap red spiral notebook that came from Tesco and started with:

Jhia is a psychic - teenage, doing it after school. Everyone thinks she's weird, avoids her. Still learning her craft.

Someone comes to see her. Or school fair? Inexperienced, she blurts out something she shouldn't. 

New boy starts school. Makes friends with her. Alex - he's been hired to shadow her and find out what she knows. Alex is outside of system. No one knows who he is - he doesn't exist. Bizarre childhood, trained killer, trusts no one. But can be v charismatic. 

You can see that it was just a rough idea at that stage - Willow had a different name, and there wasn't an angel in sight. But that's what notebooks are for: a playground of ideas where you can jot down anything that comes and see what develops. So, if you want to write and don't already have one, rush out and buy one now. YOU WILL THANK ME.

Back to the non-essentials for one final thing: you probably don't need a large, bossy tabby who sleeps on your filing cabinet. 

But I find it helps.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Then, Now, Forever

So there's that poem in Angel Fever.

(US readers, don't worry - this is only a teeny tiny spoiler!)

If you've read the book, you know the one:

Then, I came to you with the sound of battle ringing in my ears - the screams of men I have known.
Your touch made it fade.
Now, there are dark nights and sometimes darker days.
Yet there are also your eyes. They find who I am; they pierce through me like a lance.
I am pinned forever in your gaze.
And speaking of forever, I do not know what will come. 
But my home is in your touch and in your eyes - and when you laugh, it lifts my soul to the sky and reminds me what could be.
There is no greater universe than holding you.
Then - or now - or forever.

In the story, Alex gives Willow this poem for her 18th birthday, saying it had been written by his grandfather for his grandmother, and now it reminds him of Willow. Well, originally, Alex was instead going to say something like:

"I saw it somewhere, and I don't know - it just always stuck in my mind."

Because even though I was pretty sure that Alex's gift needed to be a poem, I don't really write poetry - and didn't think I could even begin to write something I'd be happy with for such an important moment in the book. Which meant, obviously, that I'd have to use a poem written by someone else, that Alex could have 'seen somewhere'.

So I started reading poetry. Lots of poetry. I wanted something that, even though Alex hadn't written it (because I think we can all agree that Alex wouldn't write a poem), still sounded like him. Tough but tender. Romantic but not sentimental.

Well, I can get kind of obsessed, and dear readers, I am not exaggerating when I say that I spent almost two weeks trawling through poetry books and the internet, looking for the right poem.


It was by a poet named Pablo Neruda...and it was still in copyright.

In point of fact, pretty much all of the poems I liked were still in copyright. Up until about the 1930s, love poetry was a very hearts-and-flowery affair, and none of it sounded like Alex. In the slightest. So I kept coming back to the Neruda poem, and finally thought, OK, how difficult can it possibly be to clear copyright for something like this?

"It is VERY difficult. But we can try," said my agent when I asked her.

Wow, she wasn't kidding.

I've since come to understand that poetry copyrights are the work of the devil and many-headed like the hydra. We'd have to get permission for not only the underlying copyright of the original poem in Spanish, but also for the translator's copyright, both held by different agencies in different countries, and then there's also the fact that the Angel series is published in almost ten different languages and might be a film someday, which made the whole thing far more hydra-headed than anyone sane would want to cope with, and in the end my agent literally begged me to figure something else out.

It's not nice to see a strong woman like my agent crumpled on the floor in tears.

So. Back to the drawing board.

Also: Head, bang, wall.

Finally I realised that there was no way around it: I was going to have to write the poem myself. Terror. I DON'T WRITE POETRY.

I suppose my first attempt wasn't too terrible, in an e.e. cummings kind of way, but it just didn't sound like Alex. It was this:

I like how I love you.
I like how the sound of your voice echoes through me as no other,
And how your hand lies on the cover when you sleep –
Your bones so fine,
So complicated.

I like the warmth of you in the morning,
And how your foot nestles against the curve of mine,
Intimate as a leaf curling to a leaf.

I like taking refuge in watching you do the most ordinary things.
Small pieces of your life that I know like the planes of your face:
A hairbrush, a stocking. Soft private moments
That call to me when I am away.
I could sit and watch for hours.

I like how your laughter enters me,
And how my laughter enters you, too.
I like how I am more with you.
How the two of us together fit so well
That we are a puzzle completed.

I like how I love you.
And how for you, my voice echoes too, as no other.
And how for the two of us, just how much it adds –
To lie together and feel the heat of each other’s skin,

Like small, burning suns giving life.

Hmm, I thought. Maybe if I shorten it? So draft two was:

I like how I love you.
I like how the sound of your voice echoes through me,
And how your hand lies on the cover when you sleep.

I like the warmth of you in the morning,
And how your foot nestles against the curve of mine.
I like watching you do the most ordinary things:
A hairbrush, a stocking.
I could sit and watch for hours.

I like how your laughter enters me,
And how my laughter enters you, too.
I like how I am more with you.
How the two of us together are a puzzle completed.

I like how I love you.
And how for you, my voice echoes too.
And how for the two of us, what it adds –
To lie together and feel the heat of each other’s skin.
Small, burning suns giving life.

I have no idea if that's better or worse - if you've somehow failed to grasp the point by now, I don't really write poetry. But I definitely knew that it still wasn't Alex. 

So I let the whole thing mull for a few weeks. And then out of nowhere I remembered a bracelet that my father gave my mother: a slim gold bangle with the inscription, Then, Now, Forever. Jack. 

I've always thought that was one of the most romantic inscriptions ever. And as the strong, simple words played in my mind, suddenly I had the structure for the poem I wanted to write.

Then. Now. Forever. Something written by a soldier who'd been to war and knew he'd soon have to go again. Something that wasn't written by Alex, but the emotions were the same as if they were.

The poem wrote itself. I mean that. I sat down at my desk, and the words literally flowed out as if they were being dictated. I finished it in under an hour, then read over it in wonder. The writing-gods had stepped in, I'd written a poem that I really loved. And which was perfect for Alex's gift to Willow.

Inspiration comes from the most amazing places sometimes. I love it that in this case, my parents' real-life love story has become entwined with Alex and Willow's fictional one.

Thanks, FF.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

London Film and Comic Con (Or: Tribal Fun A-Go-Go)

So I spent yesterday signing books at London Film and Comic Con.

I’m saying that really casually, aren’t I? Just nonchalantly dropping it in. But inside my brain, it’s more like: LONDON FILM AND COMIC CON! I WAS THERE! WOOHOO!

It was arranged kind of at the last minute – another author was unable to make it – and I literally gave a shriek of joy when my publicist asked. What? Go to LFCC for free AND sign copies of my Angel trilogy? And hang out in the green room with Doctor Who stars and sip champagne and make scintillating conversation?

Oh, twist my arm.

(Ahem. There may not have been any actual champagne. But there was a bubble-sparkling vibe to the day nonetheless.)

My husband came along; he insisted that someone needed to carry my Angel banner for me. (Basically, he’s as geeky as I am and LFCC is Geek Mecca.) We got to Olympia early, so went and found a Costa Coffee nearby. And then we just sat outside and drank cappuccino and watched all of these amazing costumes parade past down the sidewalk. Green Lantern. A trio of Ghostbusters. Batman and Poison Ivy.

London being London, no one paid any attention. BUT IT WAS SO COOL. And I found myself thinking about the need to belong to something: how in modern life we don’t often have a sense of tribal identity, yet these people had all found who they were – or who they enjoyed pretending to be – and at LFCC they could come together and celebrate it.

Admittedly, maybe my mind was buzzing on caffeine. But I think the best thoughts always come then.

When we got inside it was almost painful to have to walk past all the booths and the people and pretend to be professional when I just wanted to stop in my tracks and say “OH, WOW,” a lot. We were taken back to the green room, an enticingly unmarked door in the corner. Inside were some tables and a lavish spread of food. I went to use the loo; when I came back my husband was wearing a VIP badge and had one marked ‘Guest’ for me.

“What?” I said. “How come you’re a VIP and I’m just a guest?” (Yes, I am this petty.)

He smirked. “Don’t know. But the girl insisted it was right.”

I put on my ‘Guest’ badge, but kept looking over at his. After a few minutes, I said again, “Yes, but how come you’re a VIP and I’m not?”

He’s allowed to smack me at times like this.

(Raise your hand, dear readers, if you think he switched the badges.)

So then the signing. I was there with Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass) and Samantha Shannon (The Bone Season) and I don’t think I’ve ever had a signing with such a fun buzz. A huge thank you to everyone who came by my table – I loved meeting all of you, especially those who came clutching such well-read copies of Angel: for a writer there’s no greater compliment. And some of you even brought little presents, and chocolate, and – wow. People are so amazing. THANK YOU.

Halfway through I had a mild panic when Sarah and Samantha rose to go give the authors' talk. The authors' talk?! Wait, no one told me I was going to have to give a talk. Thankfully, this was because I didn’t have to, having been such a late addition to the programme.

So instead I got to go watch them. Authors never get tired of hearing how other authors work, and both Sarah and Shannon were articulate and passionate. “I really love what I do,” I thought as I listened to them, having the sense that here I was, in my own weird little world of writing, where I thoroughly belonged.

See? That tribal thing again. Any writers reading this: you are my tribe! We should have t-shirts made.

Afterwards my husband and I roamed around to our heart's content, geeking out on comic books and Vincent Price DVDs. When it came to the stalls, I especially had my eye on one that sold amazing handmade notebooks (writers to notebooks = moths to flame). Look: Is this not amazing?

And he takes commissions! So I’m going to get one specially made for my work in progress, and the sheer awesomeness of this is just taking my breath away. I wish I could tell you what’s going to be on the cover, but I’m still being Mysterious until the new project is officially announced. Soon all will be revealed, I promise. 

Maybe we didn’t meet any Doctor Who stars, but it was a memorable day. On our way out, we asked if they needed our badges back, and they said no. So my husband gets to keep on being a VIP.

I think he probably deserves it.