Wednesday 8 December 2010

These books deserve your undivided attention

By Candy Gourlay

I visited my dentist the other day and had one of those inadvertent fillings.

Lovely Chris the Dentist, as dentists are wont, plied me for the latest information about my book sales as he dug around, searching for my tonsils.

He was rather shocked to hear that since I visited him last (to have an inlay reseated), I had failed to inform the little bookshop next door to his clinic that I am an author and that they should stock my books.

Jon Mayhew doing a drive by signing
Photo from Bookabook
You see, I've been a bit shy around bookshops, unlike Mortlock author Jonathan Mayhew who is known the world over for his drive-by signings (indy bookshops watch out - he's the guy always followed by a couple of scary oversized crows).

I just didn't feel I could walk in and say I was an author and be welcomed with open arms. Besides, anyone could see that the bookshop didn't have Tall Story on its shelves.

But Chris wouldn't hear of it. He said I  had to go. He said I could use Tall Story's nominations and shortlistings as an excuse to introduce myself. And because I make it a policy never to argue with men holding dental drills, I went.

And the bookshop lady didn't bite me or spit on me. She said she would order one hardback to have in the shop, and more when the paperback comes out in January. And I politely bought a packet of Christmas cards and promised to return with a poster.

There's nothing wong with visiting your local book store.
There. Done. It didn't hurt really. And I might even get up the courage to visit the other bookshops in my North London neighbourhood.


Which brings me to the purpose of this post. The other thing I do when I'm slinking around a bookshop wondering whether I should reveal I am an author, is check to see if the books of my favourite authors and my author friends are in stock.

Most of the time, they aren't.

One of the first things I learned when i became a published author was that writing the darn book isn't going to be the hardest thing you've ever done. It's getting the darn book noticed.

So this post is about all the books I want you readers to notice. You may have noticed them already, but it never hurts to look again.

These are really GOOD books. And it's CHRISTMAS. A time of good cheer and charity towards AUTHORS (I'm sure I read it in Dickens somewhere).

And if you are really feeling the good cheer, why not pass the list of books on to your friends, neighbours and countrymen? You won't regret it.

My pal Jan Markley (she's an author in CANADA!) says we authors can 
help each other by the simple act of talking to someone else about each other's books - just like Heather Locklear says in this commercial. So today, I'm talking 

So why not start with Jan Markley, since she brought up the idea.

Jan writes mysteries for 8 to 12s - she calls them "Nancy Drew for the ipod generation" - super cool! Her book Dead Bird Through a Cat Door, the second of her Megabyte series (the first was called Dead Frog on the Porch) has just become available on the Amazons (as in .com, .ca, and - although there's a lying glitch on .ca which says it's not available - it is!) 

These books are cool and funny like Jan herself - and are based on Jan's terrible penchant for dragging dead animals around wherever she goes (that might be a lie, but you'll have to check it out to find out).

And what about the famous Jon Mayhew of drive-by signingdom? Jon's gothic horror Mortlock is gorgeously produced by Bloomsbury with BLACK endpapers. I went to his amazing book launch in March. But I'm not recommending it just because I went to the book launch. 

Mortlock has been shortlisted to book prizes galore - the Warwickshire Book Prize, the Worcestershie Prize, the Chester, and the Nobel Peace Prize. So if you know any young horror fans - this is a really good one. 

And Jon plays the mandolin. (thought I'd throw that in).

Speaking of horror, my other favourite scary author is Sarwat Chadda, though when I hear about his US publishers (they happen to be Disney Hyperion) flying him to the States to visit Harry Potter world, my envy runneth over. 

The sequel to his dark thriller Devil's Kiss came out this year - it's called Dark Goddess. Sarwat's high concept is injecting Islamic mythology into the Knights Templar theme of his book - coupled with his brilliant writing, it's a rich seam. 

Sarah McIntyre must be one of my coolest and most prolific friends. Looking her up in Amazon is totally exhausting because this year she has produced not one not two not three but four beautiful books! And yet she has time to do kind things for her friends - if you check out the Facebook page of Tall Story - that profile pic is a Sarah McIntyre. I used to stalk her blog way back when and despite that, we've become friends! Woo hoo! (Morris has just won the coveted Sheffield Book Prize - coveted not just by me btw)

I am told on good authority that my friend Ellen Renner lives in a castle. So it's probably not surprising that her adventure books for 8-12s are set in castles. Ellen's had rave reviews - Castle of Shadows was picked for the Independent's 50 Best Summer Reads ... City of Thieves came out this summer and both books have been chosen for the Times Recommended Children's Books for Christmas. If that's not endorsement enough, what else is?


One of the absolutely outstanding debuts last year was Keren David with her book When I Was Joe. It's been nominated for everything that's going and for any prize to do with teen readers, so you can't go wrong with this book.

But if you're planning to give it to a teen reader this Christmas you might as well save time by getting both When I Was Joe and its sequel Almost True - because these are unputdownables and your teenager won't be able to wait while you try to figure out how to fire up the browser to order the next book.

Okay. Maybe this blog post is getting a bit long. I've got to go do Mum things like watch my daughter's play. I will just have to apologize to other author friends who I didn't manage to mention - but you folks can see this is already a mighty long post.

I have one more book though. And it's not something for you to buy anyone else.

It's a book I keep hearing about on the internet, on Facebook, on Twitter. I've got to have it - and not just because it's Mary Hoffman's choice for YA Book of the year (read her glowing Guardian review).

It's by Gillian Phillip and it's called Firebrand.

If you know my husband or children, please tell them to get it for me.


Finally .... Shhhh!

I've just visited Kathleen Duey's facebook profile and her status is: 
"I am writing writing writing and it is going really WELL"
Which is FANTASTIC for me and my kids because we can't wait to read the final installment of the Resurrection and Magic trilogy. I am in awe of Kathleen Duey's writing. If you are writing fantasy, these books are a requirement.

If you live in the UK, you'll have to order them though, you won't get them in the shops, nor will you be able to borrow them from me.

And this just in: Tall Story has been shortlisted (it's a very short shortlist) for the Blue Peter Favourite Story Prize. This is turning out to be a brilliant year. Sigh.


  1. Wow..thank you...I am about to write a very similar blog post, except mine will have the words Tall Story written all over it!

  2. They all sound great... but never mind about finding teenagers and children to buy them for, I want to read them myself. Except the scary ones, perhaps!

  3. So proud of you, now go forth and tell the world about your book! Thanks for the recommendation by the way! Some ace books there!

  4. Wow! Does Ellen REALLY live in a castle?

  5. Thanks loads Candy! You rock. I'm waiting for Tall Story to come out in the US, then I'll be able to get it in Canada. Funny story - three of my writer friends and I descended on a new indie bookstore here. We all started telling him about our books and he interrupts and says "wait, are you all authors?!" he looked a bit surrounded and slightly nervous. It was cute. he had some of our books and ordered in the others.

  6. What excellent taste you have Candy! I heartily recommend TALL STORY to anyone who stands still long enough - it's the most beautifully crafted book, I love it - buy tellign bookshops about it you are doing the world a service I tell you!

  7. Great choice of books, Candy. I've read most of them, and the others are definitely included in my letter to Santa. I've been really good this year, honest!

  8. A great list. Thanks!


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