Why write reviews?

I have two questions. First: What was the last great book you read? Second: How did you hear about it?

I don’t know what the answer to the first question is, there are so many amazing books out in the world. But, I’m willing to bet that the answer to the second question is: someone recommended it to you.

A book recommended to me, and one I recommended to others.

This is especially true for child-readers. I can vividly remember pushing my favorite books on my friends and gleefully borrowing theirs. Rushing home after school to read what all the fuss was about. Kids don’t care what the current bestseller is, they care what their friends are enjoying. (Although, I imagine sometimes these things go hand in hand.)

When I don’t have any recommendations from friends and reading buddies though, a heartfelt review, is the next best thing. A good review has often tipped me over the edge into buying a book, and if I love it, I go on to recommend it to all my friends as well. If you like a book and want to support the author, leave a review (on amazon, goodreads, your blog) or recommend it to your friends. It makes all the difference in the world!

(psssst…in case I was too subtle….please go on amazon and review my books…thank you)

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Alice Jones: The Ghost Light

This January is a big month for me! Two days ago The Impossible Clue came out in America, and here in the UK the second book in the Alice Jones series is out today! It’s called The Ghost Light and I’m so excited for you all to read it.

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Old refurbished theatre, the Beryl, is re-opening.

Days before opening night, the ghost light – left on at night to appease the ghosts of actors – is extinguished. Alice digs into the Beryl’s past, sleuthing in a network of dark back-stage corridors and cobwebby storage rooms. Gradually, she starts to uncover the hundred-year-old secret of the theatre: a stolen diamond. Is the Beryl haunted by a ghost – or a living thief?

 

I had so much fun writing The Ghost Light mostly because I love Alice and helping her solve mysteries, but also because I love the theater! I acted all through school, and there is really nothing like the buzz of being backstage right before the curtain goes up. I hope this story gives you a taste of that excitement, as well as a tricky mystery for you to help Alice solve.

You can order your copy here:  Amazon Waterstones Hive

 

My Inspiration: The Boyd Theater

 

The second Alice Jones mystery is out in two more weeks! I can hardly believe it. In anticipation, here is another look behind the scenes…

Alice Jones: The Ghost Light is set in an old, run down theater called the Beryl. The Beryl was once the finest theater in Philadelphia, but after a fire in 1927, it fell into ruin, got a reputation for being cursed and sat  derelict for almost a century. It’s an amazingly grand building beneath the years of soot and decay, full of drama and majesty. It’s also completely fake.

There are a lot of reasons I chose to create my own theater instead of using a real one, but the biggest was so that I could have total control of all the exits and entrances and any secret spaces that *might* exist.

But, the (fake) Beryl Theater was inspired by a very real one in the heart of Center City: The Boyd.

My inspiration was twofold. First, The Boyd inspired the look of the Beryl. I love its art deco styling and the immense amount of detail everywhere in the building. I mean, it was a room for watching movies in the dark, but they still  intricately carved and painted the ceiling, and custom designed the carpets. Of course, the paint is peeling and there are chips in the moldings-but you can still see how amazing it was once upon a time.

Stairs to the balcony, a sign for the lounge and detail etched into the lobby door. Photos courtesy of Friends of the Boyd, Inc.

 

Colored glass detail, fountain-themed plaster molding and the lobby stairway niche. Photos courtesy of Friends of the Boyd, Inc.

But beyond just looks, I was inspired by the story of The Boyd and the people struggling to save it from demolition.

Starting in 2002, The Friends of the Boyd worked tirelessly to keep the theater going and restore the building to its former glory. I can remember seeing one Friends of the Boyd newsletter at my parents house and being mesmerized by the photos of the theater.

The exterior of the Boyd today.

The graffiti inspired a brand new character!

Sadly, the auditorium wing of the Boyd was demolished in 2015. The facade and Grand Lobby, however, are still standing and The Friends of the Boyd are working to rehome many of the period features saved from inside the building.

The Beryl, I’m pleased to say, gets a happier ending.

 

 

My Inspiration: The Patiala Necklace

Happy December. I can’t believe 2016 is almost over already!

Alice Jones: The Ghost Light is coming out next month (5 January!) and I thought it might be fun to ‘lift the curtain’ and share some of the things that inspired me while I was writing this mystery.

In her second case, Alice investigates a possible haunting at an old theater. While looking into the theater’s history, Alice discovers a fabulous diamond necklace went missing the same night a fire nearly destroyed the building. The necklace was called The Midnight Star, and it was never found.

I looked at a lot of pictures of famous necklaces while I was plotting The Ghost Light, but the second I saw The Patiala Necklace, I knew I’d found ‘the one’.

The NecklaceThe Patiala Necklace was designed by Cartier for Maharajah Bhupinder Singh in 1928. It took three years and 2930 diamonds to create (962.25 carats of diamond!). The square yellow (tobacco colored for you fancy people) diamond pendant is the De Beers diamond and is the seventh largest diamond in the world.

It is a stunningly beautiful bib of jewels and I was entranced the moment I saw it. But, as I did more research, I discovered there was another reason to be inspired.

 

Like The Midnight Star in Alice Jones: The Ghost Light,  The Patiala Necklace mysteriously disappeared from the royal family’s treasury in 1948. No one knows who took the necklace (or if the family sold it off on the quiet), but it resurfaced in a second-hand jewelers in London in 1998. All of the large gems had been removed from their settings. Cartier bought the necklace and spent the next two years restoring it to its former glory.

Like Alice, I spend a lot of time wondering just where the Patiala Necklace WAS for all that time. And how did it come to be in that second hand jewelers? It makes me wonder about all the other missing treasures out in the world: Where are they hiding right now? And who will find them? Maybe, it will be me.

 

It’s A Mystery!

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I’m very excited to be speaking at the Cheltenham Literary Festival next month. I’m doing a panel with Katherine Woodfine all about mysteries and how we write them. Katherine is the author of the fabulous Clockwork Sparrow and Jewelled Moth Mysteries as well as host of Down The Rabbit Hole, a radio show all about kids books.  Our moderator is Alex O’Connell, The Times’ Arts editor. I am feeling very fancy.

This will be my first festival appearance and I’m equal parts nervous and thrilled. I’ve been having a lot of fun, though, going through all of the notes I made before writing The Impossible Clue and The Ghost Light (the next Alice Jones mystery) and  trying to figure out what the secret to writing a gripping mystery really is. If I figure it out, I promise to share.

It’s a Mystery will be on 8 October at 5pm in the Little Big Top. If you’re interested in coming to see me, you can find out more and book tickets here.

You can find out what other great events are going on at the festival here.

The Impossible Clue gets an American Cover

I love getting new covers for my books!!!

One of the most exciting things for me when my first book, Dreamer Ballerina, was published was seeing all of the different covers it got in different countries. (You can see them all here.) And now it’s Alice’s turn.

Alice Jones: The Impossible Clue will be published in the US January 2017. It’s still a long ways off (I wrote about the lengthy publishing process here and here), but I’m excited to share the fab American Hardcover illustration. It was designed by Melissa Manwill (you can see more of her work here) who did an amazing job capturing the story.

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Isn’t it stunning?!

If you’ve read the book, you’ll see all sorts of clues in the illustration. If you haven’t you can pre-order your copy of the American edition  OR if you can’t wait, you can get the UK edition right now! (What’s the difference? Well the UK edition has a lot more U’s in it, and a lift instead of an elevator, and pavements instead of sidewalks, but the story and the solution are the same!)

Alice Jones: The Impossible Clue

My latest book, Alice Jones: The Impossible Clue is officially out today!

I’m having a glamorous pajama party at home with my daughter while she ‘helps’ me work on the outline for my next book. It’s a bit of a slog at the moment, so it is very nice to see The Impossible Clue out in the world and be reminded that ‘yes, I can do this.’

When I wrote my first book, I assumed that writing would get easier. In some ways it does. It took me 20 drafts to finish Dreamer Ballerina, and only 11 to finish The Impossible Clue. I’m better at finding problems and fixing them now. I still struggle with most of the same old worries and false starts when I’m working on those first drafts. But, I suppose, with experience comes the knowledge that, even though it feels like the book will never come together, if I just keep writing, one word at a time, it will.

If you do get a copy, I hope you enjoy it! Alice is a really fun character to hang out with. Happy reading!