Saturday, 23 August 2014

The Edinburgh International Book Festival

I have just returned from the Edinburgh International Book Festival and I am still buzzing – because I wasn’t there as part of the audience – I was there as an author.

Mine was a joint event with the lovely Sarah Crossan, author of dystopian duology Breathe and Resist as well as the Carnegie nominated The Weight of Water. Or event was called The End is Nigh and formed part of the Baillie Gifford Schools programme of events, hosted by Hannah Love of Faber, who was as lovely as her name suggests.


We read extracts and answered questions about our books, both about the writing process and our inspirations as well as the environmental issues our books address and the emerging genre of Cli-Fi (Climate Fiction).

Afterwards we had the opportunity to meet some of the kids and sign books for them in the festival bookshop. A couple of school groups had come across from Glasgow and they’ve given the event a lovely write up here.


 The Book Festival was held in the beautiful Charlotte Gardens, event venues and bookshops set up around the edge with lawns and seating in the middle where people gathered to drink coffee or eat their lunch. The authors had a separate area, the Author’s Yurt, where we could chat and relax both before and after our events


Of course no visit to Edinburgh during festival time would be complete without checking out The Fringe and we spent some time sampling all that the city has to offer at this time of year. Some of the street acts we saw were quite superb and the whole city was vibrant and alive.

Participating in The Edinburgh International Book Festival was a wonderful experience and has to be one of the highlights of my year so far.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Guest: Children's author A.C. Hatter

Please welcome children’s author Amanda Hatter who has just released her first book – Callum Fox and the Mousehole Ghost, and she has kindly agreed to pop over and answer a few questions.

Hi Amanda. Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself and your writing?

Hi Kate, I have always told stories and loved writing.  At school I wanted to go into journalism and spent a summer working on my local newspaper.  I loved the excitement of the news room – but I have mild dyslexia and pre computers and spell checks there was no way I could pursue a career in writing. So I went off to university to study Economics instead of English and forged a career in industry. I returned to writing about 5 or 6 years ago as a hobby – and loved it.  I entered a few competitions and to my great surprise my stories kept winning prizes. I had a number of short stories published and I was finding it really rewarding.  One competition I won was judged by Fay Weldon, she gave me such kind feedback about my writing that I was spurred on to write a novel.

What inspired you to write this book?

About the time I was starting to think about writing a novel my children were at the top end of primary school and I was onto my second ‘come to school as an evacuee’ day. I am quite the pushy parent, so I insisted that the children read around the subject and I went off looking for WW2 themed books.  I love period novels but my kids thought everything I came up with was really dry.  At the time I had been reading Kate Mosses’ Labyrinth, which wove a historical plot line with a modern day story. It‘s set against the back drop of Carcassonne in France. I’ve never been there but the author painted such a vivid picture that the city itself became a character in the book – and I felt I knew it.  I wondered if I could take the same approach with a children’s book. Have an exciting contemporary story, weaving in and out of a historical children’s story – set somewhere beautiful and possibly a bit mystical.  The idea for Callum Fox and the Mousehole Ghost  grew out of that idea.

Tell us about Callum Fox and the Mousehole Ghost.

Callum is a pretty typical  12 year old, soon to be 13, who goes down to Mousehole in West Cornwall to stay with his grandparents.  He doesn’t know his grandparents well, and he and the reader soon realise that there’s something’s a bit strange about the Fox’s. At the same time as Callum is travelling down to Penzance we meet Jim who is being evacuated from London to Penzance as part of Operation Pied Piper, in September 1939.  There are many parallels between the two boys journeys. In particular, they both end up staying with Bob Fox, Callum’s Grandad.  He’s aged 7 in 1939, and 82 in 2014. Jim’s story is one of friendship and war time adventure. Meanwhile Callum starts seeing the ghost of Jim, the evacuee – which freaks him out completely. He has problems of his own in trying to convince his friend Sophie that he really can see ghosts and that he’s not going mad. And the whole time more and more ghosts are realising Callum can see them and he’s getting into deeper and deeper problems.

I’ve tried to combine a lot of action with a light, humorous, ghost story. I’m really happy with how it’s worked out – and the reviews and feedback I’m getting so far have been great.

Why did you choose to set your story in Cornwall?

I wanted somewhere beautiful, that would really add something to the story. It had to be somewhere children were evacuated to, and somewhere that people stayed for their whole lives. A place where families were strongly rooted. Where people know their neighbours, and their neighbours parents and grandparents.  It just had to be Cornwall.

And I had family in Mousehole.  My family farmed near the harbour and ran a hotel on the coast.  My uncle had written up a lot of the family history so I had newspaper clippings and his anecdotes to help me picture Mousehole in the 1940s. As a child we camped near Mousehole every summer, and invariably would end up at Myrtle and Kath’s bungalow, looking out across the sea to St Michael’s Mount. It is such a beautiful location – and the kind of place where anything could happen.

What was your journey to publication like?

I found an agent relatively quickly. She was very excited about the book and her confidence rubbed off on me. I thought it was sorted…. But publishing is having a very tough time at the moment – and the market is awash with debut children’s books from unheard of authors.  One by one all the big publishers reviewed the book, some feedback was positive, some didn’t even bother giving feedback. It was tough and in the end it didn’t find a home.  My agent called me to say it wasn’t going to find a mainstream publisher and suggested I get it out there myself. I wasn’t sure. I hated the idea of vanity publishing – and there’s a real mixed bag of stuff under the banner self-published.  I turned to my writing mentor, Margaret Graham, who put me in touch with a group who had formed their own publishing company, sourced professionals for editing, proofing, cover design and formatting and the quality of their work was really top notch.  If Callum Fox and the Mousehole was going to see the light of day then that was the way to go.  But I wanted to do it entirely myself. So I did

How did you find the self-publishing Process?


Hard work! I read everything I could get my hands on and whilst my manuscript was being proofed and formatted and the cover designed I was busy comparing Ingram Spark to Create Space and double checking the value added from the companies selling publishing packages.  None of the packages provided the quality I was looking for, so I set up Woodside White Books and purchased my own batch of ISBN numbers. I manage my Amazon sales through Create Space, Kindle through KDP (but not KDP Select), I’ve also uploaded the eBook to Kobo and Smashwords accounts to cover all eBook sales.  I’ve signed with Gardner’s that supply Waterstones, and am mid-way through a very long drawn out Waterstones supplier process – but I am confident that it will be sorted within the next fortnight, and then I can supply through Waterstones too.

One of the more difficult decisions was how to source really good quality paperbacks, to supply to bookshops and support author talks and signings.  CreateSpace can print author copies of their books but it’s only really cost effective if you live in the US – and they are US standard size, not UK.  So instead I have sourced a fantastic small printing company in Padstow, TJ International, and I have had a short run of books printed. Next week I’m going down to Cornwall to collect another 100f books to distribute to Cornish book shops and gift stores. It’s been hard work, but I have absolutely loved learning about the ins and outs of the world of publishing.

I see some of the proceeds are going towards supporting the Words 4 Wounds charity, could you tell us how this came about.

I wanted to kick the book off with a launch.   I started to think about doing it as a coffee morning, with people dropping in to a local restaurant / coffee house to meet up and chat about the book. I liked the idea, but I didn’t want it to be all about the book, it didn’t feel right – it had to be something more worthwhile and I wanted to give something back.  Words for the Wounded is a fabulous charity that raises money through writing competitions to help injured servicemen and women. They ran one of the competitions I had entered in the past and  I wanted to tie them into the celebration of the book’s launch, because they had become part of my journey back into writing – and it is a really good cause.  I offered to give £1 for each book sold at the launch to Words for the Wounded, and the venue, the Beech House in Beaconsfield, agreed to give £1 for each drink sold at the launch too.  I got the local press involved, learnt more about social media than I ever thought I needed to know and in the end we had a fantastic turn out. We raised over £200 for Words for the Wounded and I sold 124 books that morning alone – I was thrilled.

What are you working on next?

At the moment I’m still working on marketing Callum Fox and the Mousehole Ghost.  Next week we have the Cornish Launch – Tuesday 15th July, 10.30am at Geevor Tin Mine.

If the book continues to sell well, and if there’s a demand for it, I will write another two Callum Fox books.  I have some ideas where I’d like to take him, and which historical periods I’d like to explore. I also feel I have an adult novel in me too – but that might have to wait a while. I still have to fit the writing around my day job – and being a very pushy parent.

Thank you Amanda for such fascinating answers. You can find out more about Amanda at her website and Callum Fox and the Mousehole Ghost is available on Amazon.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Cli-Fi Author Joshua David Bellin

Please give a warm welcome to Joshua David Bellin. Joshuas debut novel, Survival Colony 9, will be published in September 2014 from Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster). Forget the past.  Fight to stay alive.

Joshua David Bellin has been writing novels since he was eight years old (though the first few were admittedly very short). He taught college for twenty years, wrote a bunch of books for college students, then decided to return to writing fiction. Survival Colony 9 is his first novel, but the sequel’s already in the works! Josh is represented by the fabulous Liza Fleissig of Liza Royce Agency.

Welcome Joshua. Please tell us a bit about yourself and your book.
First, Kate, I wanted to thank you for inviting me to appear on your blog!  I’m a college teacher who’s been writing since I was about eight years old, with the dream of publishing a novel some day. It’s taken a while, but here I am!

My YA Cli-Fi debut, Survival Colony 9, tells the tale of Querry Genn, a fourteen-year-old member of one of the small groups who survived the wars and environmental catastrophes that devastated the planet. Querry’s dealing with a number of problems: the authoritarian commander of Survival Colony 9 happens to be his dad; the girl he loves, Korah, is someone else’s girlfriend; and the injury he suffered six months ago left him without long-term memory. Oh, and did I mention that his colony’s pursued by the Skaldi, monsters with the ability to consume and mimic human hosts that mysteriously appeared on the planet in the wake of the wars?

How has climate change played out in Survival Colony 9?

The world of my novel is a searing desert with little water, next to no plant or animal life, and temperatures exceeding 120 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s one possible effect of climate change, and in fact it’s already beginning to manifest itself in some parts of the world. As originally drafted, the climate angle was much more prominent; there was a whole chapter that gave a history of the planetary changes that made the world what it was. My editor and I decided that was too much, so I let it become more a backdrop than an overt statement. But the image of a world ravaged by climate change was in my mind from the moment I started writing this book.

Had you heard of the term Cli-Fi when you started writing Survival Colony 9? What first brought the term to your attention?

I hadn’t heard the term when I started writing, but I’m glad it exists! I first encountered it on Twitter from a gentleman named Danny Bloom, who’s been involved for years in the fight for political action on climate change. Once I discovered the term, I started to discover just how many Cli-Fi stories there are, written by authors from Ursula K. Le Guin to Paolo Bacigalupi to Sarah Holding to . . . well, Kate Kelly! And these stories are starting to garner more media attention, which I take to be a very good thing, since it shows that concern over climate change has passed from the realm of scientists and specialists into the wider culture.
 
What compelled you to write about climate change?


I saw the Al Gore movie An Inconvenient Truth when it came out in 2006. I’d heard about climate change before then—in fact I recently discovered that one of the books I loved as a child, a science fiction story about a boy and his alien friend, had a climate-change subplot—but I hadn’t paid much attention. But in 2006, I was a father of two young children, and what I saw in the Gore film terrified and galvanized me. I knew I couldn’t live with myself if I sat back and let the world my children were due to inherit go to hell. So I became active at the grassroots level in the fight to raise awareness and promote action on climate change. I don’t see my novel as a political manifesto in any way—it’s a story about survival under harsh conditions, about finding one’s identity, and about the healing power of love, with some very scary monsters in the mix!—but at the same time, I do see it as a logical extension of my career as a climate activist.

How do you feel about Cli-Fi as a means of getting the climate change message across?

I always hated preachy stories as a child, and I still do. If Cli-Fi is nothing more than a morality lesson wrapped in a narrative shell, I think most people will tune it out, and rightly so.

Fortunately, that’s not what Cli-Fi is. Like all science fiction, Cli-Fi extrapolates from what we know to what we imagine; it raises issues and awareness, but it doesn’t dictate belief. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which most people see as the first science fiction novel, raised troubling questions about the power of science, the nature of life, and the existence of God, but (at least in the original edition) it didn’t try to resolve those questions in any simple way. (In the second edition, alas, a much older and sadder Shelley turned her novel into a sermon.) So if Cli-Fi gets people thinking and talking about climate change, imagining possible scenarios, debating the issue in a productive way—not the reductive, “hoax or no hoax” way that dominates the airwaves—it will be part of what moves us as a people toward a solution.

Are we already starting to see the effects of climate change and what do you think the future holds for our planet?

I read recently about a cluster of tiny volcanic islands that have vanished due to rising sea levels, creating hundreds of climate refugees. That’s only one of many signs of climate change, but on a small scale, it shows what the future may hold for millions if not billions of people.

And sometimes I get pretty gloomy about our capacity as a species to deal with this issue. I live in southwestern Pennsylvania, and recently, on a drive across state, I saw a billboard with a picture of a clown saying “I believe in global warming, don’t you?” The idea, I guess, was that since we’ve had a cold winter this year, climate change must be a fabrication. When I see that kind of thinking, it troubles me to realize how many people are unable or unwilling to imagine the world beyond their backyard. There are no kangaroos in southwestern Pennsylvania, but I’m willing to believe there are kangaroos elsewhere in the world. So even if, for the sake of the argument, one concedes that southwestern Pennsylvania is not at present experiencing the worst impacts of climate change, does that mean those impacts don’t exist elsewhere in the world?

But that’s my gloomy side. My upbeat side sees that there are lots of people who can embrace the global scale, who do recognize what’s happening to our planet. Cli-Fi, I believe, has played and will continue to play a role in that elevation of global consciousness. At a climate rally in Washington, DC last year, I saw a sign that said: “We must rise faster than the seas.” When I see powerful and poetic signs like that, I believe it’s still possible for my children and everyone’s children to inherit a world very different from the one I imagined in my debut novel. And in this instance, I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong!

Thank you Joshua, and good luck with Survival Colony 9. It sounds like a great read and I’m looking forward to it.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Cli-Fi at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

The brochure for the Edinburgh International Book Festival is now live and within a few days the tickets will be on sale, and I am thrilled to say that I’m going to be taking part! I’ve taken part in Literary Festivals before, but nothing quite as high profile as this one.

My event will be on Monday 18th August and forms part of the Baillie Gifford Schools programme. I’ve been teamed up with the very lovely Sarah Crossan, author of the superb YA dystopian novels BREATHE and RESIST and our event is called The End Is Nigh. We’re going to be talking about our books and in particular the environmental aspects – the melting ice caps in Red Rock and the loss of the forests in Breathe.

You can download the full brochure here and find out more about the wide and varied programme of events here.

I’m really looking forward to seeing Sarah again, and I’m really looking forward to talking about Cli-Fi with the kids.

But there’s another reason I’m so excited about heading up to Edinburgh - it’s the city where I was born and whenever I go back there I have the feeling that I’m coming home. I can’t wait.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Cli-Fi Author: Risa Bear

This week please welcome Cli-Fi author Risa Bear who has kindly offered to answer some questions about Cli-Fi for this blog.

Hello Risa and welcome. Please tell us a bit about yourself and your book.

I farm one acre in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. A former tree planter, forest fire fighter, and timber cruiser, I retired in 2009 after twenty years at the University of Oregon and holds the M.A. in English and M.S. in Arts Management. I edited and compiled the pioneering e-text website,Renascence Editions, and my primary blog is A Way to Live. Here's my Amazon author page. And my Amazon Associates Store. :)

Starvation Ridge began as a blovel, written because the ones I was seeing didn't seem to me very realistic. It's had 120,000 pageviews. Some folks said they thought it was worthwhile, So I took it to Lulu and from there to the distribution channels. http://www.amazon.com/Starvation-Ridge-Risa-Bear/dp/1304772683/. It's print-on-demand and there does not seem to be much demand so far, but I'm not very attached to that. More on the process here: http://theredmullet.blogspot.com/.

It's the story of Karen Rutledge, who at fourteen in 2048 escapes from the underground home she was raised in when it becomes a deadly trap. Everything above ground appears to have been devastated some time ago. She wanders through the Pacific Northwest, which has very few, but mostly very dangerous, people left in it, then throws in with a group trying to revive farming. There are bandits, pandemics, crop failure, forest fire, and general lack of infrastructure to contend with. Sort of Seven Samurai meets Day After Tomorrow.

How has climate change played out in Starvation Ridge?

Capitalism might be more the focus -- resource depletion, really. The infrastructure collapses before climate (in the form of obvious heat) gets all that much play. Hunger and resource wars have brought about the "Great Undoing" before most people had time to notice that you can't grow much food after you've wrecked the jet stream. A youth in a late chapter does ask about climate and does get a detailed answer from a respected elder, but I try to lowball the preaching so as to help people make it to the end of the book even if they're used to only getting their news from Fox News.

Had you heard of the term Cli-Fi when you started writing Starvation Ridge? What first brought the term to your attention?

I first heard of it by reading an article by Daniel Bloom, to whom I am eternally grateful.

What compelled you to write about climate change?

It's going to kill my great-grandchildren. I'd like people to try harder to prevent that, though the horse may be out of the barn.

How do you feel about Cli-Fi as a means of getting the climate change message across?

Imagination is the most powerful tool we have. Look at the effect of On the Beach.

Are we already starting to see the effects of climate change and what do you think the future holds for our planet?
https://www.skepticalscience.com/ has some of the best summaries on this, with extensive citations.  We are already losing crops and lives and my personal view is there will be triage.

Thank you Risa, great answers.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Seven Things...

I’ve been nominated for the very Inspiring Blog award by Emma Haughton, a young adult author whose debut “Now You See Me” has just hit the shelves!

I do love awards, even though I don’t get them very often, and this one also involves me telling you seven things you didn’t know about me.

So here goes.

1.    I’ve recently adopted three ex battery hens which the kids have called Nugget, Tikka and Tagine

2.    I once played cricket on an ice floe in the Greenland Sea.

3.    I have a dalek on my desk at work. If I switch it on it wanders around shouting ‘Exterminate’ but I don’t switch it on very often as it annoys my office mates.

4.    I am a Runrig fan. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen them play live.

5.    My favourite flower is sea thrift

6.    When I was a student I had a summer job working as a sewage sifter – and yes, it was as disgusting as it sounds. We were part of a team carrying out a survey of the mudflats surrounding a sewage outfall in the Tay Estuary.

7.    According to my grandmother I am a direct descendant of MacIain of Glencoe. I’ve not been able to verify this and I don’t really want to because it’s much more fun to think that it could be true rather than find out it isn’t.

Now I’m supposed to be nominating some other authors for this award, but I think that anyone who stops by and reads my blog deserves an award for that alone, so if you’ve read this far consider yourself nominated.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Cli-Fi Authors: Natasha Carthew

Cli-Fi, or Climate Fiction, is on the rise as more and more authors become aware of the impact that climate change is having on our planet and start to explore the possible effects through fiction. We are shown futures beset by rising seas, deforestation, frozen wastes and endless droughts. None of these futures are ones we wish to see – and yet all are frightening possibilities!

But what of the authors of these books? What drew then to climate fiction? What are their fears for our planet? How realistic are the scenarios they describe?

In order to answer these questions I have invited a number of my fellow Cli-Fi authors to answer a few questions on this blog over the coming weeks.

First up is author of the wonderful Winter Damage -Natasha Carthew.

Natasha Carthew is a Country Writer who lives in her native Cornwall with her partner of eighteen years. She writes full-time and runs wild writing workshops for all ages.

She has had three books of poetry published but Winter Damage is her first novel. Her second book The Light That Gets Lost will be published by Bloomsbury in February 2015.

Welcome Natasha to The Scribbling Seaserpent. Please start by telling us a bit about yourself and your book.

WINTER DAMAGE is a story about youth reclaiming their future whilst navigating forever snow and sub-zero temperatures in a never ending winter. A presentation of suffering and despair and the nature of our broken society set against the beautiful, harsh landscape of Bodmin Moor, Cornwall.

How has climate change played out in Winter Damage?
The climate has already changed for good in Winter Damage and plays a part in societies collapse. It’s set in what most people would call Dystopian Present but I call Justopia (It’s just happened or just about to happen). The fall in temperature and the snow in a part of the world that only occasionally gets this kind of severe weather gives the reader some indication what the book is about. The weather get worse through the unravelling of the story and the characters (and us as readers) know without much doubt that this is how things are going to be from now on.

Had you heard of the term Cli-Fi when you started writing Winter Damage? What first brought the term to your attention?

I had heard the term before but didn’t think to apply it to Winter Damage until you did.

What compelled you to write about climate change?

The climate, the weather and the changes and temperature of the seasons plays a massive part in my life (I write entirely out of doors and run Wild Writing workshops). It’s very important to me to include issues that affect us all in my work, especially environmental ones. Strange climate patterns feature heavily not just in this book but also my next two books.

How do you feel about Cli-Fi as a means of getting the climate change message across?

It’s a great way to get the message across, especially in Young Adult Fiction. It’s also important to get a few facts in the writing somewhere, push the seriousness that this could happen/is happening. So many young people have concerns about climate change which is great, their awareness means they are the ones who will ultimately take further steps to protect the planet.

Are we already starting to see the effects of climate change and what do you think the future holds for our planet?

I believe we have been seeing the effects of climate change for a long time and most people, especially in this throwaway culture of ours, don’t do enough for the environment because they don’t believe that the changes are happening or will happen. I believe that some kind of climate/doomsday scenario if not too far away (Justopia) and then maybe the planet can get on with the business of healing itself. Until that time, I’ll just keep on writing about it.

Thank you Natasha. I’m looking forward to your next book!