Having a ball….

Yesterday was a smashing experience as I attended a media day, organised by Puffin at their offices on the Strand, overlooking the Eye and Westminster. It was their opportunity to present a selection of their publishing highlights for the year to press, media, librarians and bloggers, so it was bloomin lovely to be invited along as one of their authors.

Each author had three minutes to talk about their new project, but far from feeling like a bizarre twist on speed dating, it was actually a great exercise in condensing what the book is really all about and why I wrote it in the first place. It was certainly gratifying that folk came to speak to me afterwards and dig a bit deeper about the kids I worked with.

The other great part of the whole thing was meeting a number of other authors, many of whom I’ve read and respected for a long time, writers like Jeremy Strong and Meg Rosoff. I was also lucky enough to chat to one of the people who really inspired me to write in the first place, David Almond. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book that affected me as much as ‘Skellig’, so to meet him was a bit special, and what a terrific, warm man he is. (I’ll stop there before I start to sound a bit psychopathic).

The rest of the afternoon was spent in interviews with ‘The Big Issue’, with the fabulous Ciara from ‘Spinebreakers’ (who recorded a video interview for the site), and with my good friend Graham Marks, who was asking questions for ‘Writeaway’. It’s an odd experience talking at length about yourself, but certainly not unenjoyable when an old mate like Mr Marks is asking the questions….

When I left the offices, six hours after arriving, I had a sore throat, a heavy bag of books (some crackers as well) and strangely enough, a rather good feeling about it all.

A day to remember. I hope there will be more to follow….

A day to remember….

And so, the big day arrives.

Publication day.

It’s been a while in the offing, since August 2009, but it’s most certainly been worth the wait.

Quite a bit has changed since then. We now have three children instead of two, live in a building with stairs of our own, drive a car with more seats that I ever thought I’d need. Oh and I’ve written a second book as well, or at least I’ve tried to. Agent and editor may yet disagree.

In some ways publication day itself doesn’t really mean much. The book has been in some stores since before Christmas, but it feels important to mark the date somehow, as it’s a big moment in many ways.

It’s twelve years this month since I worked my last shift in a children’s home, and for a long time I didn’t think I would find anything that would fulfil, challenge or make me as happy as those long shifts ironically often did.

What made it harder was leaving because I emotionally couldn’t do it any more, well, not without sending myself completely doo-lally.

For quite a while, whichever way I looked at it, I felt guilty, like I hadn’t finished the job off properly or was running away from it.

How bloody lucky am I then, to not only find something that I feel as passionately about (children’s literature), but to be able to use it to talk about the kids that I worked with.

I don’t believe in fate, nor want to slip into sentimentality, but there’s something so pleasing about this book coming out. It doesn’t offer closure or any such nonsense, but it does make me feel like the last twelve years without these kids in my life hasn’t been a waste. If anything it’s given me the headspace to get around to writing about them, in all their brilliant, flawed and feisty glory.

It is of course possible that this will be the only printing of ‘Being Billy’.

How many people will really want to read about the kids whose existence we choose to ignore?

To be honest, maybe all that doesn’t matter (although I’ll probably feel differently tomorrow!), for I have a penguin on my spine, and no bugger can ever take that away…..

First of the year…

Hello all,

A quick post to say happy new year and to make sure I can remember how to use this spangly new site without breaking it……

Christmas in the Earle household was manic, if not a little on the exhausting side, our first with three smashers under five, so no wonder there was little reading done, and absolutely zero writing….which is slightly problematic given that book two is due in in January. The good news is that there’s only really one chapter left to complete.

I wish I could say that I’m putting off writing it, that I don’t want to finish, but to be honest I’m keen to get the first draft in the bag, send it off to my agent and editor and tinker with some new ideas for a few weeks. A year pretending to be a fifteen year old girl is long enough for a thirty six year old bloke….too long many would argue.

The other writing that needs doing is some blog interviews for various wonderful sites. The blogging and reviewing community is still pretty new to me, but it’s fabulous to be involved, and incredible to see reviews start to appear….and no stinkers yet either… (let’s give it time, eh?)

So, if you’re a UK blogger, and would like to review ‘Billy’, give me a shout and I’ll do my best to find a copy that I can send…..and if you’ve read it already, let me know what you thought…..

Cheers for now….

Location Location location….

…well this is all very nice isn’t it?

Who’d have thought it, my own site…

A lot of exciting things are happening, smashing christmas presents, Singin’ in the Rain on the telly box, and my book starting to appear in the shops.

I’ve poppd in to a couple of fabulous bookstores to sign copies already, a brilliantly surreal feeling, and like any paranoid want-to-be writer, been carefully plotting the books rise and fall in the amazon chart. So far, peaking at 11,466! (note to self, must get a life…)

I really do love this rather snazzy site, put together by my good friend and ever-so-patient designer, Jason. He’s done a cracking job hasn’t he? Don’t let the fact that he supports the Aussie cricket team put you off, he’s a mighty talented man…

So I’ll be doing my best to keep updating the blog as we go, especially with official publication of the book looming. It’s a big month, and one I’m determined to enjoy, not worry about!

Anyway, enough waffle from me. Take a look around the place while you’re here, don’t laugh at the photos and put the door on the latch when you’ve finished….oh and come back whenever you like….

Word gets around…

I’ve banged on before about word of mouth and how important it is to the success of any book, so it’s been really lovely these last couple of weeks to start hearing back from people who’ve given the proof copies of ‘Being Billy’ a whirl.

Most of the feedback has come via librarians, people who I guess picked up a copy whilst at the YLG conference in Cardiff, and so far their responses have been incredibly encouraging. I’ve had a couple of invites to go and speak to both book-groups and attendees at a conference. What will make both of these events really interesting is that I’d be speaking directly to children in care, a prospect that both excites and terrifies in equal measure…

Obviously, it’ll be fascinating and humbling to talk to kids in the midst of similar situations to Billy, to hear their stories, to see how much life in homes has changed since I worked in them in the late 1990’s, but at the same time, what if they don’t relate to what I’ve written at all?
I’ve never lived through the things they have. I was a carer (or as Billy calls them ‘scummers’), on the other side of the fence, someone who was lucky enough to have a family to go home to at the end of the shift, so how can I possibly imagine what it must be like to live their lives?

I suppose this is the biggest challenge for anyone writing, to capture a level of authenticity, to enable the reader to say ‘yep, that’s exactly how I feel’.
And that’s why writing for kids or Young Adults is such a fantastic challenge, because they are the harshest critics. Why would they waste time wading through a book that they aren’t enjoying or can’t relate to, when there a hundred other things fighting for their attention…the simple truth is, they won’t, and this thought always keeps me on my toes when I’m writing.

Anyone who knows me will tell you I spend too much time worrying, my old boss even nicknamed me Eeyore for that very reason, so I’m keeping all this in check, trying not to let the worry take over, remind myself that I have got inside Billy’s story after all.

I got a message this week from a lady I’ve never met. She got in touch via Twitter, and her message really made me smile. She liked Billy enough to get in touch and tell me. She even went as far as posting a review on the Puffin website, and I’ve decided that whenever I worry about whether I’ve got inside Billy’s head, I’ll just give it a read.

Her review says…….

‘Borrowed this pre sale book from my daughter who is doing a review for her local library. I didn”t expect to like it but quickly found I couldn”t put it down. Having fostered a child in a similar situation several years ago this story really hit a cord. The whole book is compelling and the characters totally believable full of strength and dignity. If this is the first, I can”t wait for the follow ups. Well done Phil for tackling such a difficult subject.’

Original blog post appears here.