Look, the Mars Evacueees microsite went live! Find out if you’ve got what it takes to be an Exo-Defence Force Cadet (you do not necessarily want to be an Exo-Defence Force Cadet, bad things happen to them)! Read the extracts, play the game!
There are so very many things I must tell you – practically all of them could and in some cases probably should be a blog post in themselves. There’s a sad announcement I need to make – but perhaps I should start off with some news you can actually act on:
The Hay Festival! I’ll be talking about Mars Evacuees and the power of story at the Hay Festival, on the delightfully named Starlight Stage on June 1st from 2.30pm. For ages 9+.
Monday, June 23rd, 2014, 5.30 pm
Coventry Festival, Earlsden library. I’ll be discussing Romanitas,Mars Evacuees, how history influences my writing and exploring the role of women in contemporary fiction. Teen plus! Not that I think I’ll be saying anything particularly scandalous, but this is the one focusing as much on my writing for adults as for children.
Thursday, June 26th 2014, 4pm
Chichester Festival, Chichester Library, Tower Street, Chichester, PO19 1QJ The inspiration behind Mars Evacuees and the importance of stories. 9+, free entry.
It lately occurred to me that none of my hair was blue and this needed to be rectified immediately, so I will be looking somewhat like this.
THE OTHER KIND OF EVENTS
(The ones you don’t plan and don’t like)
And now, mildew. Readers, I was staying in such a terrible flat, such an elobarately terrible and probably haunted flat. It looked kind of okay when I rented it, but turned out to be grim and dark and damp and all the utilities failed one after another, the black mould caused me persisistent headaches; the lights kept flickering and going out and hot water gave up but, you know, cold water that poured through the bathroom lights so it evened out I guess. I learned how to cook chow mein using a SANDWICH TOASTER because the oven didn’t work for weeks. When there was finally nothing else that could could go wrong, irritated at my pleas for this fancy-schmancy “hot water” nonsense, the letting agents demanded £300 for “re-referencing” and then gave me a month’s notice to vacate. Leaders of Beckenham! I cannot recommend them in any shape or form at all. They are vile and vicious and I hope their days are haunted by a nagging scent of vomit they can never quite pin down to any one place.
Anyway, so this happened while I was running all about the country being a bad influence upon the young.
Thank you very much to all the schools who have welcomed me! If you are a school and would like to have your students encouraged to take up an inherently unstable and frequently nerve-wracking profession, get in touch! I mean, it’s also all about stories and enjoying reading and stuff. I have spoken at about … twelve (?) schools now. Preparations for my debut went like this:
Me: So, how many kids are there going to be?
Jo the wonderful publicist: Oh, about seventy, I think.
Me: Oh. Goodness. That’s a lot! I had been expecting, say, about forty or fifty.
Jo: I might have remembered wrong. I probably did remember wrong! I’m sure it’s far fewer than that. I have to go to a meeting soon, but let me check.
[Jo leaves me talking to other Egmont staff about various book related matters.]
[Some time later, Jo returns]
Jo: Oh hi by the way it’s 155 kids see you later bye!
Me: Right. Well. That’s. Fine. Fine. Expected. Everything’s all right here, and I’m in no way about to pass out.
So I figured if I could survive one of those I need never be frightened of anything ever again. And so it has proved, for it turns out talking to kids, even vast, intimidating hordes of them, is actually enjoyable and exciting and I think I’m fairly good at it. I read bits from the book (with accents and voices) I play cruel tricks on the children, I feed them into something called the Story Machine and make them tell me stories, and sometimes they come back with the most amazing stuff. Librarians swimming in warm seas on other worlds! International crime thrillers! THIS STUFF IS GOLD, KIDS, MAKE SURE YOU WRITE IT DOWN.
BLOG TOUR and INTERVIEWS
When not warping young minds, I have been speeding around the internet talking about books. Here’s the blog tour I did with Egmont, alongside fellow authors Jane Hardstaff, Jason Rohan and Jamie Buxton.
Day 1: at BookBabblers, talking about how we each came to write our book
Day 2: at It Was Lovely Reading You – talking about dream casting (or how I learned exactly how much time you can spend image searching “ten-year-old Filipino child actors” before you start to feel kind of creepy: spoiler, not much!)
Day 3 at Wondrous Reads. WR: “Does music have any influence on your writing?” Me: OH JESUS THANK YOU FINALLY SOMEONE HAS ASKED ME THAT QUESTION. You can legit get clues to the Mars Evacuees sequel by checking out the playlists I’m building on Youtube!
Day 4 The Library Mice: Favourite Middle Grade books, now and then.
Day 5 at Nayu’s Reading Corner. FREESTYLE! Enjoy this last piece with the knowledge that I am sitting on an offcut of of carpet on the newly steam-cleaned floor in a flat that contains nothing but me, the laptop and the modem as I write it!
(I had hoped to be able to write it in a library, like a civilised human, but the library was shut on Thursdays because OF COURSE IT WAS and later a taxi drove away with one of my suitcases and the company tried to hold it to ransom. It was that kind of week/day/month where’s the Friends song when you need it.)
And here’s an interview I did with the excellent and insightful Liz Bourke for Sleeps With Monsters. On women, Romans, aliens and plans for the future.
I’ve been consoled for the whole eviction nonsense and life-of-constant motion by some lovely reviews.
The Book Smugglers just about made me cry, they’ve captured so exactly what I was trying to do with the book, so precisely what hoped it could be. And it’s rather incredible (especially after a fairly gruelling slog getting the thing written and published) to have a review that says yes, you did it, it is that.
“Mars Evacuees is a fantastic, fun, funny book. It’s a perfect example of the awesomeness of middle grade speculative fiction as it’s never written down, yet still manages to hit the target demographic perfectly. More importantly, Mars Evacuees is a smart story with genuine main characters (human AND Morror alike), logical (familiar yet also uniquely refreshing) worldbuilding, and a plot that will appeal to readers of ALL ages because it is that damn good a story. “
The Bookbag said what pretty much all writers long to hear: “Read this book. If the gods of publishing are at all fair it will be popular and well-known, discussed and debated and re-enacted (well, some bits of it) up and down the country. And best of all? It’s the first of a series. Bliss.”
One Chapter More said: “Whatever the plot was, however strange and fascinating and brilliant fun, Sophia McDougall’s Mars Evacuees was exactly what I needed.
I was feeling jaded. I’d read a fair bit in January and February, core genre, mostly fantasy. That fantasy was adventurous, yes, fun, yes – Neverwhere and The Copper Promise – but McDougall’s work soothed me in a way these didn’t.”
And there was this nice little review in the Sunday Times culture supplement (I always wanted to be in the Sunday Times culture supplement!)
So. TL;DR. A lot’s been happening, and some of it’s wonderful, other parts of it much less so, but it’s all been pretty intense and gruelling, and it’s not over yet. I still need to find somewhere permanent to live, (I’m currently renting a spare room from kindly friends, no need to look for me under bridges just yet), continue touring, and finish a book. And therefore – and this is the big, probably should be a piece by itself – I have had to resign as co-chair of Fantasycon. I will remain on the team and do as much as I can, but there is just no room in my life at present for more than a background role. I really wish it hadn’t happened. I am pleased with what I did get done as co-Chair– about half the programme is worked out, and there are some panel items I think will be really interesting, and some guests who I am certain will bring fascinating perspectives to the con. Lee Harris has decided to continue as Chair by himself rather than appoint a replacement. I wish him and the convention all the best and am looking forward to attending.
… Okay. I think that’s us all caught up.