Hey guys! So I’m still working on some publicity stuff for the US release of my debut novel, The Shadow in the Glass, so no normal blog post this week. But! Some of those publicity things are blogs, which I’ve posted here.
Here’s what I’ve been up to!
Breaking the Glass Slipper – here’s five questions about fairy tales which I answered for Breaking the Glass Slipper. I talk about gender (obviously), happy endings, and what it’s like to be an author and an editor at the same time.
Fresh Fiction – I played twenty questions with Fresh Fiction! I talk about characters, setting, writing advice, and my favourite 80s power ballad.
How to Read a City Like A Book – I wrote a blog post about how to use a city as a historical source for Frolic! Reading is only one way to research a historical setting, and architecture can teach you a lot!
Spotlight and Giveaway – and finally, Harlequin Junkie is doing a giveaway of my book! It’s US only and more details are in the link – and also some more questions I answered, plus a little extract for you!
So! As many of you are aware because this is how I start all my blog posts now, I have written a book! It’s called The Shadow in the Glassand it came out in the UK on the 18th of March – American friends, it’ll be with you on the 4th of May. Move over Star Wars Day, it’s my time now.
But as we all know, it is 2021, and we are still in the midst of a pandemic. My debut novel was released in the UK while we were still in one of our many coronavirus lockdowns and pals, it’s been a very weird experience. And I’m going to talk about it! Aren’t you lucky.
Here in the UK, we are only just coming out of a full lockdown. Shortly before Christmas last year, the government put this in place, closing all non-essential shops and banning meeting people outside your household. This meant that, like many others, I couldn’t go home for Christmas. This lasted into early March, when we could start meeting outdoors again, and on April 12th, non-essential shops opened back up again, including bookshops.
What this meant for me was that my book would be coming out at a time when, legally, no shops would be open to sell it. I WAS FILLED WITH CONFIDENCE YOU GUYS.
Needless to say this was an incredibly nerve-wracking time. Publishing a book is a pretty stressful business to begin with. It is the moment when the author loses all control. Once it’s released you have no way to affect your sales (unless you decide to try and game social media which, let’s face it, is not going to work for everyone). Even before we went into lockdown I was getting nervous about the publicity stuff, because somehow when I decided to write a book it did not occur to me that other people would have to read it. But then you add in bookshops closing, and whatever financial crisis is going to end up following this pandemic, and I was suddenly terrified that no-one would be able to read my book at all, even if they wanted to.
I was (and still kind of am) hugely nervous. Part of that was standard debt author anxiety, namely: “oh no what if everyone thinks I’m weird now they can read what goes on in the inside of my brain,” which I think most people get. I always get a little nervous in the run-up to doing anything I’m invested in, and like most people who aren’t great with public speaking, I was very nervous that at my events all the things I said would come out wrong. But part of the fear was also the looming knowledge that I could still try really hard and not actually be able to make an impact on my book sales because of forces way, way beyond my control. I started feeling anxious, which is unusual for me, and I’ve been consistently waking up at four or five in the morning since a couple of weeks before my book came out. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
But I have to say, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I thought it was going to be.
First of all, I’ve been really lucky in my sales, marketing and publicity team. They’ve been so supportive and wonderful, both in making me feel less nervous about events and reviews and in all their hard work selling in the book. I actually debuted at number sixteen on the Sunday Times bestseller list, and that’s absolutely thanks to all their hard work in promoting the book – and thanks to all the lovely bloggers, bookstagrammers and booksellers who’ve been involved in the press stuff too. Because in-person events aren’t really possible they’ve been setting me up with a lot of online stuff – I’ve been making videos, writing guest posts, doing Q&As and having virtual events, hence the slightly different content you’ve been seeing on this blog. Moving all of this online made me feel a lot less nervous about the whole concept, and now that I’ve done some book events, I won’t be as nervous the next time around. Also, I don’t have to worry about arriving late or something, which is a real weight off.
I’ve found that the publicity side of things gets easier the more I do it. I’m not a natural, but I feel a lot more comfortable with the whole concept now. But in some ways, it still doesn’t feel real. I haven’t had a chance to go to a bookshop yet but I expect that the fact that I’ve actually published a book won’t sink in until I do, and I actually see it on the shelves. (And I would like to pre-emptively apologise to whichever bookseller I end up laugh-crying in front of, let’s be real, we all know that’s what I’m going to do.) And of course, I haven’t had a chance to celebrate in-person with my friends and family. There’s nothing I want more than to pile everyone I know into a room and have it descend into an enormous group hug but for now, that’s going to have to wait.
The past couple of weeks have been a really weird experience. I expect it’s only going to get weirder. It’s been a very strange experience having a book release and a pandemic happening at the same time. On the one hand, there is something that I’ve been working towards my whole life, which I’m pleased and proud and excited and nervous about all at once. On the other, there is something enormous and terrifying which will change my life and the lives of everyone I care about even if everyone I know comes through unscathed – and there’s a chance, of course, that they won’t. I have been experiencing all of the emotions all at once, and it’s been exhausting.
I said in my last post about pandemic books that it’s important to remember that you’re more important than the things you make. That’s still true, although it can be difficult to remember this when everything around you feels so much bigger than you are. At this point, I’m just going to keep making things and hope that, for the people who read them, my books will be something good that came out of this pandemic.
Friends! My debut novel, The Shadow in the Glass, has officially been released and it is a SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER.
This is totally wild.
What this means for the blog is that at the moment I have to focus on publicity stuff for the novel, so it’ll be mostly book-related content while I sort out stuff for interviews etc. But! I’m not going to leave you all in the weeds because I have a rare treat for you – me, actually being serious for once when I tell you how to write a book!
Below you will find my genuine tips on how to write gothic fiction. I don’t even talk about capes once, so you know I’m being serious!
Hopefully some of you who come here for writing advice will find this useful. I’m only giving tips on gothic fiction, but there’s a whole host of other writing videos on the channel, so do go ahead and check them out!
Guess what pals! It is officially FIVE DAYS AND THAT’S IT until the release of my debut novel, The Shadow in the Glass, and I’m fine. I’m tooooootally fine.
It’s a dark retelling of Cinderella and when I say dark, I do mean dark. (In my defence, the Brothers Grimm started it.) But it got me thinking about all the other great books which have been inspired by fairy tales, because that’s my whole thing. If you like the sound of my book, but can’t wait until it’s out to fill that fairy-godmother-shaped hole in your life, I can heartily recommend any of these:
Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente
A beautifully written retelling of the Russian fairy tale Marya Morevna, set in early 20th century Russia. I was intrigued by this one from the beginning because I always associate fairy tales with Ye Olden Times, and I was so curious to see how the magic would fit with a more industrialised setting. If you’ve ever wondered how undead sorcerers could merge with the Siege of Leningrad, this is the book for you. So dark and lovely that I have to sit with my feelings for a little bit every time I finish it.
2. Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
A cleverly done retelling of Rumpelstiltskin rooted in Jewish history and culture. It plays with a lot of different cultural elements from Eastern Europe, which I loved, and I found it really refreshing to see a familiar story told from a cultural background which I’m not familiar with. Also it’s got a nice splash of enemies-to-lovers in there, and I know that’s one of everybody’s favourite tropes.
3. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
This one isn’t a retelling, but it is hands down one of the most atmospheric and dark modern fairy tales I’ve ever read. The story centres around Alice, a girl plagued by bad luck whose grandmother wrote a collection of extremely creepy fairy tales. You get snatches of the stories as you read (and they’ve just been published as a new book, Tales from the Hinterland) and they feel so real, I could completely believe they were written centuries before. It’s wonderfully creepy.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
A retelling of Snegurochka, the old Russian fairy tale about a childless couple who make themselves a daughter out of snow. It’s set in the wilds of Alaska and it will break your heart ten times over.
5. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
I mean I’m contractually obliged to put this on the list, aren’t I? Angela Carter is an absolute titan of the genre and her collection of fairy tale retellings set the standard for every single one which came after. They’re great, you should read them. I think my favourite of the collection is probably The Werewolf, a Red Riding Hood retelling which plays on traditional werewolf beliefs and kind of implies that Red maybe murdered her grandmother for her stuff. I always appreciate an enterprising protagonist.
6. Lost Boy by Christina Henry
A very dark retelling of Peter Pan told from the perspective of Captain Hook. Turns out the boy who never grew up has also not grown a conscience and knows a crocodile, so proceed with caution if you aren’t great with gore. Spoilers: no-one lives happily ever after.
7. Poison by Sarah Pinborough
A short read and definitely only for older readers, but one of the best Snow White retellings to really get into why the prince was so into the idea of a girl in a glass coffin. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: he is not a nice boy.
8. The Raven and the Reindeer by T. Kingfisher
A wonderful LGBT retelling of The Snow Queen. Gerda chases after Kay when he is taken away by the Snow Queen, as in the original fairy tale, but he doesn’t really deserve to be rescued. The robber-maiden, on the other hand, definitely does. Kingfisher has a fantastic knack for balancing dark and funny and makes the weird seem completely believable – she’s hands-down one of the best SFF writers out there and more people need to read her.
9. Snow, Glass Apples by Neil Gaiman
A Snow White retelling from the perspective of the evil queen, which makes it clear that she had a very, very good reason for cutting out Snow White’s heart. In this version she succeeds, which you’d think would put a crimp in Snow’s stride, but turns out Snow White is made of sterner stuff. Very dark and beautifully written, but what else do we expect from Neil Gaiman?
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire
A Cinderella retelling from the perspective of one of Cinderella’s stepsisters (as you may have guessed from the title). But it’s one that recasts the villains as sympathetic, believable characters all too aware of how good looks can affect a woman’s life. It’s firmly historical rather than fantasy and has a certain amount of frankness which you don’t often see in fairy tales, which I appreciated.
And there you have it! My recommendations for your fairy tale fix. Happy reading!