Wednesday, 29 February 2012

A thing of beauty

When Julian Barnes won the Booker prize, The Guardian told how in his speech he thanked the designer of his book's cover, Suzanne Dean. And this was noted as unusual, amidst the traditional agent and editor thanks. The piece went on to talk about how in our increasingly digitally-driven world, making tangible books look beautiful, as desirable items to have and to hold and to keep on a bookshelf reminding us who we are and what we love, is more vital than ever.

Thanks to my publisher Headline, The Book of Summers is a visual and material treat. For starters it's in hardback, something I never presumed as a given. It has proper weight to it, and the pages are a deliciously creamy hue. When I run my fingers over the cover the finish is beautifully matt. All in all, there's nothing flimsy about its presence; it proclaims itself as a book to keep. The cover and endpapers, designed by the very talented Yeti Lambregts, are gorgeous. Morning Glory flowers, picked out in gold, trail across a perfect sky blue background, twining the letters of the title, creeping on to the spine. Look closely and there's a smudgey, painterly touch to this same blue. The effect is elegant, refined, and evocative of summer days, while not sending our minds in too particular a direction. Inside, the flowers continue in antiqued styling, and the page appears pre-loved, with the creases and blemishes of time. Polaroids are taped in, just like in The Book of Summers of the story. It's a delicate and lovely piece of design.

Here, Yeti explains the different stages the book went through on its design journey:

Many of us judge a book by its cover - or form a first impression, at least. I was delighted to see the cover art celebrated on the 'creative living' site Jackie Magpie, as one of 'a treasure trove of fictional gems.' Elsewhere online, it was interesting to see some debate (and a lovely review) on the blog Dog Ear Discs, suggesting that some male readers might be turned off by the outward prettiness of The Book of Summers. Perhaps idealistically, I always hope that would-be readers will stick around long enough to browse the opening lines, or jump-flick to random pages, maybe not getting the full story but at least enough of it to decide whether they think a book's for them or not. All I know is that on the eve of Publication Day, I couldn't be happier with how my novel looks. On this last day of February, the sun showed its face for a while this afternoon and finally it felt like spring. But it's cold again now, and we're heading towards the bleary evening. Yet here I am, holding The Book of Summers in my hand, admiring the beauty of its cover design, the care with which it's been printed and made, and I'm basking. It's as if we're skipping seasons, as if summer has arrived and for a while at least, is here to stay.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Deep thought, deep Devon

The other week I took myself off to the seaside for a few days, to bury myself in the writing of my second novel. Since September I've been edging my way into it, ticking along with my daily wordcount, feeling it start to slowly take shape. But I hadn't yet been consumed by it. And the manuscript was throwing up difficult questions that I needed time away to answer. The Devon air proved just the thing.

I tucked myself away in a little hotel for a few days, and wrote from dawn until dusk and into the night. All of the usual distractions were entirely absent and although I felt a shade lonely at times, this feeling never lasted long. As soon as I let them breathe a little, I found the new characters I'm creating to be excellent company. And the story I've been working on for several months caught a hold of me at last, and refused to let me go. Happily trapped and writing feverishly, I stayed in my Devon hideaway just long enough to get over that awkward mid-point in a novel's progress. And whenever I sought diversion I could stare out of my window and see a view like this... comforting in its abstraction.

The village I'd chosen was devoid of most of the usual seaside trappings, the shops stuffed with lurid paraphernalia, cutesy 'gone surfing' signs and the like, but one souvenir did catch my eye. Its motto was peculiarly fitting. For much as I was intent at shutting the world out for those few days, I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that when I got back to Bristol the first finished copies of The Book of Summers would be waiting for me, and that publication day is just around the corner. And so, like a grockel (def: a tourist but, really, anyone who doesn't hail from Devon), I went home with a reminder of happy days spent working by the water. And even happier days still to come.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Ten terrifying questions

... only they weren't. They were actually a lot of fun. 

The Australian-based Booktopia is rapidly becoming one of my favourite books sites, for entirely narcissistic reasons. Not only is it offering very cool sounding tote bags with every order of The Book of Summers (while stocks last!), it was also one of the first sites to review my novel, and it now features what is my first online interview.  A lot of love coming from Down Under. You can read my responses to Booktopia's Ten Terrifying Questions here, and find out why ditching class, crazy-good artists, and heroic husbands maketh this writer.

Friday, 17 February 2012

The joy of criticism - a Book Slam blog

With publication just under two weeks away, my mind can't help turning to... reviews. I wandered across to the Book Slam site and decided to chew it over some more there. Click here to read about a boy called Holden, how we all love to criticise and my best keep-it-sanguine (as a wise man once said) pep talk...

Saturday, 11 February 2012

A new home

So... I've a new online home, at And rather lovely it is too, don't you think?

As with all the best things, it was a collaborative effort. My father hand-painted my name (disobeying all his inclinations for a perfectly executed classical script), my husband came up with the questions that form the Q&A section (equally resisting his natural impulses for slightly sillier inquisitions), and friend and former colleague Dan Hunt thankfully did everything just as he always does, and put the whole thing together, designing and building me a truly lovely site. I'm indebted to all, but especially to him. Thanks also to Vicky Cowell at Headline and Erika Imranyi at MIRA for much valued advice, along the way. 

The creation of my website has also given me the chance to show off, for the first time, the gorgeous cover for the US edition of The Book of Summers. The artwork includes very lovely quotes from best-selling author Marisa de los Santos, 'Elegantly written and intensely intimate... a moving, poetic debut', and Rebecca Rasmussen, 'So tender and lovely, this is a novel I will keep on my bookshelf forever.' I'm enormously grateful to both for reading my novel in proof form, and being so very kind about it.

This gorgeous thing will be on US shelves in June - I can hardly wait. But for now, it's all about the UK countdown.... after all, it's only nineteen days until Summer's here, hadn't you heard?