Our trees are silhouetted against a John Martin apocalyptic sky to the west of us - orange, gold, crushed strawberry and purple. It's October and I love it, as I always have, when the days get excitingly short, and each day (when it isn't raining) ends in this visual drama, and Old Man Winter's breathing his exciting cold breath down the back of my neck.
I've spent some of the past few weeks collaborating with an illustrator on an online picture book text: CHIP HEAD, which will be published by uTales - a company which enables its customers to access a large number of picture books online. A proportion of its profits go to a Third World educational charity which I'm happy to support. What's been so interesting about this project, for me, is that it sets up a contact page on Facebook where authors and artists can connect and collaborate on work. I've been working closely with illustrator/animator called Duncan Beedie (duncanbeedie.co.uk) on a totally daft little text about a chip-obsessed little boy who turns into an outsize version of one of the chips he can't stop eating (and yes, since you asked, it does have a happy ending).
It would have taken me ages to get (even!) a response from a conventional publisher for this, and I'm very well agented. This way, I feel exhilarated by the immediacy of finding and working with a visual artist and of us developing the whole thing ourselves with the very real prospect of publication. I have two picture books coming out conventionally next year, and the whole process, at least for one of them, has taken an aeon... feels like the awful daisy-plucking question: 'do they love me or do they not?' - which is debilitating, and I'm tired of it.
This leads me into the problem, for me, of moving into this challenging picture book area, because I started out as a children's novelist, and I deeply miss that total involvement with characters who became, in the course of writing, very real people I still relate to. And while I'm still in the process of e-publishing some of my out of print books, I'm also playing with the idea of e-publishing one of my YA novels I feel passionately about. SIRIUS RISING is a thriller about an inter-sex adolescent caught up in a sect, and I want it to be read.
This afternoon I took part, along with a number of other children's authors and illustrators, in the 80th anniversary celebrations of my local London library - Muswell Hill. It was a fun event, supported by our well-known Children's Bookshop which stocks most of my books. There was a cake, which I was chosen to cut - excruciatingly embarrassing for me because I'm hopeless at cutting cakes and always hand the task over to someone else. Press photographs will show a woman with a frozen and probably terrified smile attempting to apply what looked like a large fish knife to an elaboratedly decorated cake with ribbons an' all. My private big moment came when a small boy called Fred confided his passion for pirates, and persuaded his mum to buy my Franklin Watts story - PIRATES OF THE STORM. I did warn them that the pirates in question were female, but that didn't seem to deter them.