September 13, 2018

Seth's Theme - music inspired by The Last Chance Hotel

One of the totally lovely things that happens when you get published is that people start to share how your writing made them feel.

And one of the most wonderful things that happened to me was when local composer and music teacher Ollie DN contacted me to say reading The Last Chance Hotel had made him think of music. He has shared with me the theme he has written for Seth.

It lasts for two minutes - have a listen and see what you think:




It's a lovely, atmospheric piece of music. Absolutely huge thanks to Ollie. This was a brilliant thing to hear, not least because the music conveys to me exactly the sort of feeling I wanted to create in my readers. 

Writing something that creates those feelings in readers on the page might sometimes feel hard. But I wouldn't even know where to start to create those feelings by creating music. That truly is a whole other special skill. Hope you enjoy listening.

July 11, 2018

Thanks for such brilliant support


Firstly, thank you to everyone who helped me celebrate my debut novel by coming to my launch party.




I have done some more school events – and I’ve had some lovely feedback – so do take a look at my dedicated events page if you’d like to invite me to come and visit.




And huge thanks for so many fantastic reviews of The Last Chance Hotel.

You might have to forgive me for a whole month of blowing my own trumpet, but some of the reviews themselves are works of art!


You can have a look at some of the photos from my wonderful launch event at Our Lady’s School on my Facebook page and find out about upcoming events here too.

And don’t forget – you can ask me anything about writing, reviews, The Last Chance Hotel or events by contacting me here

Best wishes - Nicki

June 13, 2018

A whirlwind week - and a big thank you

I can confirm it is a nail-biting time waiting for your books to be officially published and to go on sale for people to (gulp) actually read it.

As an author you are lost between simply hoping that people will actually hear about it, want to read it and go out and buy it - and enjoy it!

So this week I have lost count of the number of 'firsts' I have done. Got my first book published. Thank you Chicken House. Done my first school author event. Thank you Thomas Reade Primary School. Done my first book signing. Thank you Mostly Books. And received my first reviews. These have been so lovely I have pulled them together in one place to share, and have even found reason to have a brand new 'review' tab on this website here.




And the lovely Lilley Mitchell from BBC Radio Oxford was kind enough to invite me onto her show. If you want to hear our chat about The Last Chance Hotel and get my amazing writing tips, then you can listen here. I arrive at 2 hrs 8 mins (between Prince and David Bowie no less).

A really huge thank you for everyone who has supported me in so many ways - and who has bought The Last Chance Hotel.

nicki

June 04, 2018

Welcome to the Last Chance Hotel

I have the great news that my debut novel The Last Chance Hotel will be published on June 7, 2018.

Apart from making it a beautiful book anyway, with the exquisite artwork by Matt Saunders, my wonderful publishers, Chicken House, are doing limited print run of an exclusive edition.

This edition will be on sale only through independent bookshops.



Don't miss out on this exclusive edition! 

It will be published to celebrate Independent Bookshop Week in June, so please contact your local bookshop to reserve your copy as the edition with printed edges and absolutely stunning.

If you are an independent bookshop and you will be stocking the limited edition I'd love to feature you here and will try to list everywhere that is stocking the exclusive edition.

Where you can buy the limited edition:

Mostly Books, Abingdon
Kenilworth Books, Kenilworth
The Mainstreet Trading Company, St Boswells
Seven StoriesThe National Centre for Children’s Books, Newcastle Upon Tyne Learn more: http://www.mattsaunders.ink/
https://www.chickenhousebooks.com/


April 27, 2018

The Last Chance Hotel - hot off the press!

Becoming a published author has already given me the chance to do some things I never would have dreamed of . . . and one of the first was heading to CPI Print in Chatham, Kent, to see my book being printed. All I can say is Wow

It all starts with a lot of paper. One roll is enough for 700 books and will fly
 through that first machine in a staggering 15 minutes.



 The pages are printed on large sheets, then it's a matter of a lot of cutting, binding, pressing, buzz saws, hot glue and giant guillotines to turn them into the right size. Honestly, a printers would be a great place to write a great scene with a really evil baddy.


CPI print 100 million books a year so this paper will barely last a day.

Covers are printed elsewhere. Yes, these are just the covers. Some exciting names to be printed alongside I can tell you.

My guide, Kevin Martin and my excited smile as I take on the scale of the whole process.

Everything whizzes past so fast you can barely see it, but this is The Last Chance Hotel going into production.



Lots of printing, binding, gluing and cutting and the books are nearly ready.
The pages are bound in sections and put into place. I spy my lovely inside pages. I spy Nightshade!


The whole of the inside of the factory is my book, whizzing on conveyor belts in every direction as my book fills the whole room as it flies through varies parts of the printing press.

And this is where the finished copies appear! (Note my excited smile as I see them for the first time.)
My first ever copy of my first ever book. In my hand.
Thanks to all at CPI for giving me an Inside the Factory day to remember. It was amazing!

April 25, 2018

Killer covers

It’s a well-known say that you should never judge a book by its cover. But where did that saying even come from?

Just how much more important could a book jacket possibly be?

It is the very first thing that attracts any browser (potential buyer/reader) in a book shop. 

The cover design, the blurb on the front, the description on the back are doing the job of convincing someone that if they spend a few hours of their precious time reading these pages that they won’t be disappointed.

And particularly for a debut author, no-one is picking up that book because they know your name.

So how did book jackets go from being something you should never judge the contents by – to being so important? Check out this cover.

If you did a random quiz and asked folk to guess the story, having removed the title and author, how many would ever get that this is the very first Miss Marple mystery ‘The Murder at the Vicarage’.

And what is with that giant ear? 

The one for The Caribbean Mystery is too gruesome to even want to show here. Sure I don’t remember it being quite that nasty!

Book jackets are as much victims of changing tastes and ideas. My own bookshelves act like a potted history of jacket design.

You can read the minds of some of the early jackets designers. It's the lure of a splash of blood and a dead body that are bringing in the readers - right?  So  that's exactly what you need on the cover.

They must have been thinking you entice in those pulp fiction readers who are after the thrill of the chase, a smoking gun and a damsel in distress.

So ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’.

You’ve got the world’s most famous, iconic detective, you’ve got an inheritance, Dartmoor, a prison and rumours of a killer gigantic hound.

What would you put on the cover . . . ?




Second-hand books generate a whole feeling that can bring back memories of a book instantly. Not only the crack of old glue on an ancient spine, the way the pages might fall may tell you how much this book has been enjoyed before. But I also love looking at old covers. 

There was a noticeable vogue in the fifties, sixties and into the early seventies, for crime fiction to feature a series of artfully arranged props possibly (or not) referred to in the story.
I loved the story in Mrs McGinty's dead and I sure remember that giant fly on the jacket - but would that make you want to buy that book if it wasn't by Agatha Christie? (And do I remember a fly in the story . . . ?)

But some are also brilliant. 

My favourite crime fiction jacket of all time has to be for Death in the Clouds. 

This time a wasp really is a pivotal part of the plot (genius story with that genius cover featuring a giant wasp attacking a plane).


You can notice the evolution of an early Inspector Morse jacket, and how the publishers and designers slowly wised up to the fact that it was largely the puzzles twinned with the intellectual setting of Oxford that was bringing readers to these books.


















And now murder mysteries for children have really taken off, bringing a whole new challenge to murder mystery jacket designers (as well as authors).

Robin Stevens' ‘Murder most Unladylike’ series are brilliantly plotted puzzles, featuring proper dead bodies and blood. Children (even pretty young children) have totally fallen in love with this series.

The book jackets, featuring Hazel and Daisy have already become an iconic design, already much imitated.


Another thing that has noticeably changed is the fact that it is possible to discover who designed that jacket (Nina Tara) – but it has proved impossible to find any jackets getting credit at all until recently.

This long overdue and very welcome change. Because, I think we can all agree, jackets tell stories in their own right.

Finally, the jacket for my own debut novel, The Last Chance Hotel.


This so neatly builds on all of those jacket journeys that have gone before. It is beautiful in its own right and makes the book such an object of beauty I defy anyone not to long to pick it up.

It cleverly features the setting in a rather lovely Morse/Oxford way, gives a lovely spooky and mysterious feel, which is perfect for the story. 

And also features a couple of good props  – the forest and the cat (and, of course, the hotel itself), all help to tell the story that appears on the pages within.

So my heartfelt thanks goes to Matt Saunders for such a beautiful design. I feel sure will definitely make people want to pick it up in a bookshop and to hold it in their hands. And to Rachel Hickman and the team at Chicken House for steering the design.

It is just one of the many ways that the journey to being a professional author is very much of a creative process that involves being part of a team because I could never have possibly dreamed up such a beautiful and brilliant jacket as that.


November 29, 2017

The importance of bookshops and author diversity

I was extremely proud to be invited to speak at this year's Oxford Children's Book Group AGM, which hosted an inspiring range of talks that underlined that stories are most definitely alive and thriving across Oxford.

As well as authors Tom Moorhouse and Julia Golding giving insights to the art and the craft of writing for children, the Story Museum gave an update on their refurbishment and outreach plans and how stories don't even have to be written down to be worthy of a place in a museum. 

The OCBG members have been busily creating imaginative story sacks for sick children and it was joyful to hear just how valued these are in local hospitals and learn the value of the power of stories to engage children of all ages in really challenging situations.

The incredible thinking behind the Roald Dahl dictionary, published by OUP, was another inspiring insight into endeavours into why we should prize the world of children's books. It was fascinating to hear how the words children use can tell us so much about their lives. I could have listened all day to the story behind the incredible academic precision, planning and creativity that went into bringing this most child-centred celebration of words out into the world. Riveting. Or should that be gloriumptious.

Next I told my own story of how a lifetime love of books led to my first opening a bookshop, and now getting my first book for children 'The Last-Chance Hotel' published next year.I was honoured to be asked to join such a great day.