Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve. I've got a proper version of this book of course. But I had a sudden longing to read the opening chapters again. So I got a Kindle version too. Anyone who loves good writing will adore this cross-dressing, re-envisioning of an epic tale.
Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones. Another re-reading! I am currently writing a historical novel, in which I'm crafting a massive culture clash not just between West and East, but between past and future. Because I write both for a Western and a Filipino audience, I am constantly aware that what one reader from one culture will find acceptable may be totally repulsive to another. I went back to Mister Pip to experience again how Lloyd Jones manages to be unflinchingly true to a painful setting.
brilliant book trailer made by illustrator Dave McKean.
DARK AND LIGHT
By March, the CILIP Carnegie shortlist was announced.
Then I read Anne Fine's Blood Family, which was wow but pretty heartbreaking. Anne Fine is never the first to look away when a plot is playing chicken.
I read Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper of The Dark is Rising fame, not quite my thing but it had a twist right in the middle that jolted me right out of my seat! I love lyrical writing and debut Julie Berry of All the Truth That's In Me is definitely an author to watch! I started The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks, but I'm not a very brave reader and I had to stop fairly early on. I will try to finish it sometime. But with all the lights on.
Sadly, I got busy and didn't manage to read the other Carnegie books. The Bunker Diary won, and I was kicking myself for putting it down too quickly.
TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED
Speaking of heartwarming, another favourite author who's somehow turned to the light side is Marcus Sedgwick. The brilliant She is Not Invisible had no beheadings and no gruesome deaths. Marcus, Cliff, are you guys on heartwarming medication or something?
Jon Mayhew (Mortlock) messaged to ask me to stand in for him at a school visit in my area. Sure, I said. And then, as authors do, we got to talking about books.
You've got to read The Girl Who Had All the Gifts by M R Carey, Jon said. But it's a zombie novel! I said. You'll see, he said. So I read it. Ahhh! Wonderful - I had no idea that zombie novels could be so filled with pathos.
About May, someone asked me what I was going to do about my unpublished novel Volcano Child.
Well ... I've cannibalised so many ideas and characters from Volcano Child for Tall Story and Shine. Volcano Child needs a total reimagining. So I'm thinking of turning it into a fantasy adventure for younger readers.
What did I learn? It's NOT going to be easy. I had thought I could write the adventure book in the afternoon and my historical work-in-progress in the morning. No, no, no. Focus, Candy. I got back to work on the historical book.
Spring was an explosion of graphic novels.
I took an evening course in graphic novels at the suggestion of my friend Bridget Strevens who, ever since we met, has been convinced that I'm an illustrator pretending to be a writer.
After the course (with Emily Haworth-Booth), I realised that Bridget might be right. I LOVED it.
I realised that I'd been suppressing my love of drawing maybe because I can barely keep up with myself now, why take up yet another interest?
I think it's too late now to train to become an artist of the caliber of Craig Thompson (Habibi), Stephen Collins (The Gigantic Beard that Was Evil), Isabel Greenberg (The Encyclopedia of Early Earth) and Jon McNaught (Dockwood).
I was very much intrigued though by the non-fictionish storytelling of Pyongyang by Guy Delisle and Line of Fire by Barroux (translated by Sarah Ardizzone) and Fun Home, Alison Bechdel's autobiographical reflections.
The graphic novelist I'd most like to emulate? Marjane Sartrapi who applies magical realism to true stories like Chicken With Plums.
SUMMER OF LOVE
In the summer I signed up for SCBWI's picture book retreat. What a joy to hang out with illustrators. They sit around scribbling in their sketchbooks all the time. It kind of re-orients your brain.
I've joined a picture book critique group to focus my mind. I'm writing picture books again. Fingers crossed, maybe this time I'll be more successful.
Meanwhile, oh the stories, oh the pictures, here are some picture books to fall in love with:
WORKING HARD, READING HARD
Then I realised that I had to crack on with the novel I was writing. I had a big book tour in the Philippines in September and I had to make lots of progress before then.
So I went on a frenzy of research which involved buying obscure, out of print books from obscure out of print online bookstores, downloading lots of diaries and old government documents from Open Library and, sigh, lovely research time at the British Library.
It looks like hard work, but the truth is ... it's addicting. I have to physically force myself to stop researching and get on with writing the book!
Go, go, go!
Moymoy Lulumboy Ang Batang Aswang (Moymoy Boy Monster) by Segundo Matias opens with a strange creature clutching a baby passing unnoticed in a mall because people think he's part of a Cosplay event. Anina ng mga Alon by Eugene Evasco caught my eye because of its cover, and when I opened it, I was hooked by the lyrical prose (you can hear me reading passages from it here). Fish Hair Woman by Merlinda Bobis -- I haven't read it yet but there's a woman with 12 metres of hair who trawls the river for corpses ... what's not to like?
Another friend Jo Franklin just got a book deal in the United States. At last, I will be able to read her book Hilf Ich Bin Ein Alien (Help! I'm An Alien!) in English!
Chitra Soundar is in my other critique group and she seems to be roaring away with her Farmer Falgu series -- Old Macdonald doesn't hold a candle to what Farmer Falgu gets up to! I just got a copy of her second Farmer Falgu and I can't wait to read it!
her blog. She's published THREE books this year -- There's a Shark in the Bath, Jampires with David O'Connell, Cakes in Space with Philip Reeve -- how will I ever catch up? The woman is a whirlwind!
And hey, Jane McLoughlin, is your new book out in 2015?
In related news, writing buddy Kathryn Evans has at long last been discovered - her book More of Me will be published by Usborne in 2016. I've been in critique groups with Kathy and she writes with a to die for voice. Look out, world, your favorite author is about to be published! You can read about her amazing book-to-be here and her inspiring blog post announcing the deal is here.
... that was MY Reading Year. I can't wait to see what books will be coming my way in 2015. What was YOUR reading year like?