Monday, 25 April 2011

Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon

The Faded Bookmark's recommended read for May is Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon.

Tamsin Jupp reviews it here...

Never judge a book by it's cover, or in this case the blurb on the back. 

Moving from a sunny American state to a mist-shrouded school?  Finding your soul mate who is also hiding a secret?  Sound familiar?  Our bookshops have been swamped with supernatural / vampire romances, so what's so different about this one?  With trepidation I started to read...and didn't stop until I'd finished the whole book, cover to cover.

The book starts off with Renée a sixteen-year-old girl, enjoying her birthday at the beach with her best friend.  On the way home something draws her into the woods where she finds the dead bodies of her parents, coins strewn around their bodies and gauze stuffed into their mouths.  They died of heart attacks at exactly the same time.

We follow her as she meets her mysterious, rich grandfather, is moved to an elite boarding school (Gottifried) and has to make new friends.  Then we find out a boy died last spring in the school woods, also of a heart attack, his tie stuffed in his mouth.  Something is lurking in the shadows and there are rumours of the Gottifried Curse.  Renée also has a strange ability to find dead things; dead birds, dead deer and bodies.  She meets Dante, so "intelligent, elusive and devastatingly gorgeous, most people can't decide whether they love, hate or fear him."

Yvonne Woon litters her story with clues so that just as you think you are finally putting the pieces of the puzzle together, another piece pops up.

This book has depth and layers, artfully woven together. She's taken a simple concept by Aristotle and expanded on it, ".. a single soul dwelling in two bodies." Throw in some transcendentalist concepts (your soul rising beyond your body), along with some Latin, and suddenly the book is more then just a Twilight wannabe. 

"How do you describe the briefest sensation?...The immeasurable grief we feel when faced with death?   We can't even begin to communicate these complex emotions to each other.  But Latin can illuminate sensations you never realised you had."  Actually Woon, does all this and more in plain, accessible English.

There was only one minor point that slightly detracted for me, would a sixteen-year-old really wear the clothes her mother wore at sixteen?  

Dead Beautiful has pace, romance and is skilfully written.  A worthy début novel by Yvonne Woon.  She's a writer to watch.

Dead Beautiful is published by Usborne on 1st May 2011. You can read the first chapter online at:

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Paris Diary

I just got back from a flying vist to Paris. I was there for business and pleasure, although I have to say that the business part of the trip was also a total pleasure.

First up I ran a writing workshop called Plotting Your Way to Writing Success. It's one I run quite regularly and it focuses on the business of writing rather than the actual writing itself.

The aim of the workshop is to help writers overcome any obstacles they may have when it comes to writing - and these can be internal, such as lack of confidence, and external, such as lack of time. Then, once we've tackled these, we move on to set writing goals and action plans.

It may sound odd talking about an art form in such business terms but for those writers who want to earn a living from their writing I think it is essential to treat it as a business.

The writers I met in Paris were a lovely group who meet regularly to critique each other's work. Writing can be such a solitary pastime there's a lot of benefit to be had from joining or forming some kind of writing group.

After the workshop I hotfooted it over to Erzsi Deak's apartment near the Louvre. Erzsi is my literary agent and founder of the Hen & Ink Literary Studio in Paris.

With Erzsi Deak, my literary agent and Hen & Ink Founder
Erzsi was throwing a party to celebrate the birth of Hen & Ink and so hen-themed gifts - and puns - were in abundance.

It was a great opportunity to meet some of the other writers in her 'coop'. Here we are at the end of the night after one too many 'cock'tails, and about five hundred too many hen puns!

The Hen & Ink Coop

The following day I went to one of my favourite places in Paris, Pere Lachaise cemetery.

Here is an example of some of the stunning sculptures on display...

Sculpture at Pere Lachaise

The cemetery goes on for miles and is like a beautiful walled city. It had such an effect upon me the first time I went I actually set a scene there in my next YA novel, Finding Cherokee Brown. The thing I love most about it is the way you never know what you might find around the next corner or down the next lane. Here's someone I found this time round...

Lady in Yellow
 Isn't she beautiful?

Back next week with more book news, interviews and reviews. Until then I'd like to wish you all a very Happy Easter!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Paris Workshop

This morning at the Faded Bookmark I am practically frothing into my cappuccino with excitement.

Tomorrow I will be running my first ever writing workshop IN PARIS!!!

I have been running writing groups and workshops in London for the past six years but this is my first 'international' workshop.

I'm particularly excited because I recently got my first French book deal - for Dear Dylan - so hopefully it will be the first of several Parisian writing events.

I don't know if I even have any French visitors to the Faded Bookmark but just in case, the workshop is called Plotting Your Way to Writing Success and is all about how to achieve your writing goals and market your work. It is taking place at The Big Round Table, Le Pain Quotidien, 2 rue des Petits Carreaux, 75002 Paris.

I shall be reporting back with photos later in the week, until then...

Au revoir!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Diary of a Novel-Writing Tortoise

When I was little I loved the story of The Hare and The Tortoise.

For those of you who aren't familiar with it, the basic plot line is that a hare and a tortoise have a race. The hare is so fast and so sure he will win that he arrogantly stops off for a nap half way through. When he wakes he discovers to his horror that the slowly plodding tortoise has won the race while he slept.

It struck me this week that being a writer is in many ways like being that tortoise.

The job of writing a novel is very much a plod, plod, plodding affair. You spend months researching and planning and building characters, then more months writing and writing and writing, only to spend even more months deleting and editing and rewriting.

It requires the patience and perseverance of a saint - or a tortoise!

I spent most of last year writing a novel for young adults called Finding Cherokee Brown. It was a particularly 'plodding' experience because I was working full time for a children's fiction development company at the time and only free to write late at night. Sometimes it felt as if I would never get it finished, but every night I would sit down at my computer and write something, even if it was only a page.

And slowly but surely the pages began to add up. The good thing about plodding is that you do eventually get to the finish line, with a fully formed manuscript to show for it.

And, after a while, you start to reap the rewards.

Earlier this year I got a UK book deal for Finding Cherokee Brown (it is being published by Egmont in 2012) and this week a US publisher asked if they could see it.

I don't need to tell you how relieved I am that I carried on writing no matter how tired I was or how inviting my bed looked, or how tempting the plotlines of EastEnders were. Just like the tortoise, I had no guarantee that I would 'win' at the end of it, but some kind of inner faith kept me going.

So to anyone reading this who wants to write a book but despairs that they will ever get it finished - you will. As long as you keep plod, plod, plodding along, keeping your eyes on the publishing prize.