Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017 in Review

On the final day of 2017 I'm going to shout about some of the things that have brought me joy over the past twelve months. 

Personally, I had a pretty great year, and I'm hugely thankful to end the year in remission from Crohn's Disease.  Good health allowed me to have a productive writing year, with the publication of 'The Café in Fir Tree Park' in May and 'Joe and Clara's Christmas Countdown' in October.  I gained a friend and agent in Julia Silk in June and drafted the first book in a series, which I'm currently in the process of editing - it's due to go out on submission to publishers in early 2018.  I became a vegan.  I walked a lot.  I spent quality time with family and friends.

As a fan of live music I saw (amongst others) old favourites (Take That, Frank Turner) and little-known gems (Charlie Barnes, Felix Hagan and the Family); world-wide megastars (Blondie, Ed Sheeran, Harry Styles) and hot new talent (Declan McKenna).  I also listened to a lot of Blossoms, Bastille and Man Made this year and would love to see them live during 2018.

I enjoyed fabulous musical theatre, seeing 'The Girls' in London and touring productions of 'Rent', 'Grease', 'The Addams Family' and 'The Band' and am looking forward to more toe-tapping in theatres around the country in 2018.

Although I read less this year than usual, what I did read was incredibly satisfying.  I loved heart-warming stories of friendship and community from Kat French (The Bed and Breakfast on the Beach) and Cressida McLaughlin (The Once in a Blue Moon Guesthouse), and a chilling thriller (Then She Was Gone) from Lisa Jewell.  Top notch non-fiction came in the form of Johnny Marr's autobiography 'Set the Boy Free', surprise bestseller 'The Secret Lives of Colour' by Kassia St.Clair and Daniel Gray's love letter to football 'Saturday, 3pm'; and humour via Mary Jayne Baker's 'Meet Me at the Lighthouse', and Keris Stainton's 'If You Could See Me Now'.  'Radio Silence' (Alice Oseman), 'So This is Permanence' (Ian Curtis), 'Everywoman' (Jess Phillips), 'The State of Grace' (Rachael Lucas), 'Moxie' (Jennifer Mathieu), 'All That She Can See' (Carrie Hope Fletcher) and 'My Not-So Perfect Life' (Sophie Kinsella) were my other favourite reads.  I also fell completely back in love with the Sweet Valley books I adored in my teens, and looked forward to Fridays when my copy of trade magazine 'The Bookseller' arrived.

I discovered podcasts, devouring every episode of The Debrief, Hey, It's OK, Happy Mum, Happy Baby and Get It Off Your Breasts alongside any Sweet Valley themed podcast I could download.

Pleasure came in many other forms, too.  Sleepy cream from Lush.  Fluffy slipper socks.  Cake at Steel City Cakes on Sheffield's Abbeydale Road.  Crate digging at Spinning Discs record shop.  Meeting with a friend to watch favourite Disney films.  Booja Booja ice cream (and Booja Booja chocolate). 

Thank you, 2017.  Thank you.

I'd love to hear about the things you've loved in 2017 - tweet me @katey5678 or comment below!

Friday, 13 October 2017

When I Grow Up...

I'm a dreamer, always have been.  Since childhood I've had wild fantasies about dabbling in all kinds of different professions.

In (roughly) age order I've wanted to be...

A nurse
A writer (because I wanted to be like Enid Blyton)
An artist
A ballet dancer
Kylie Minogue
A librarian
An Olympic gymnast
A writer (again, because I wanted to be like Judy Blume)
A Red Coat at Butlins
A journalist
An actress
A nurse (again - I actually applied to do a nursing degree at this point)
A teacher
Manager of a nursery
A librarian (again - and I did get a job promoting library services to under 5s)
A burlesque performer
A professional book reviewer
A writer (again, because I wanted to write a Christmas book)

My mum has never been the pushy type but she's always encouraged me to strive to reach my goals.  Sure, being Kylie was never likely, but she still put up with me perfecting the dance moves to 'The Locomotion' and when I became obsessed with gymnastics during the Atlanta Olympics she took me along to a class at the local leisure centre even though my joints have always been weak (which put paid to the ballet ambitions too).  With time those dreams fell by the way-side, but Mum's encouragement didn't.  When I started submitting my writing to agents and publishers and my inbox seemed to be full of rejections, it was her telling me to keep going. 

So keep going I did.

From the moment I decided to focus on novel-writing rather than short stories, I knew I wanted to write a Christmas novel.  Inspired by the books of Miranda Dickinson, Scarlett Bailey, Amy Silver and Josie Lloyd and Emlyn Rees, I finally started writing Joe and Clara's Christmas Countdown last November.  Today I get to share it with the world, which I can't quite believe.  When I first decided I wanted to be a published author it seemed just as unlikely as waking up as Kylie Minogue. 

But I've done it. 

I've bloody done it.

I'm lucky, I know that.  In my day job I'm deputy manager of a lovely pre-school, working alongside a group of ladies I can call friends as well as colleagues, and the rest of the time I'm writing and dreaming and talking to other authors.

So if someone asked me today 'what do you want to do when you grow up?', what would I say? 

Well, in the words of the fabulous Ms Minogue, 'I wouldn't change a thing'.

Joe and Clara's Christmas Countdown is out today, published by HarperImpulse.  It's available from all good ebook stockists, with the paperback available from November 30th.

Amazon UK
Amazon US

The title of this post comes from When I Grow Up from Matilda the Musical.  You can watch a video of it here.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

I Know It's Over - 'The End' for Books with Bunny.

Many of you know that before I was a published author I was a book blogger.  My blog, Books with Bunny, was a place where I reviewed books of all kinds, interviewed authors and hosted guest posts.  I loved my time as part of the wonderful blogging community and am very proud of how I organised online events, had reviews posted in a number of books and was chosen to take part in many blog tours and marketing campaigns; but the time has come to say goodbye.  I have big plans and wild writing ambitions, and I want to be able to give these projects my all.

None of the posts at Books with Bunny will disappear, but the blog will no longer be active.  This does mean I'll be talking about other people's books over here from time to time because I will always be a reader, always shout about the importance of libraries and always support authors I admire - as anyone who follows me on Twitter will know.

You can read my final post at Books with Bunny here.

The title of this blog post comes from The Smiths song of the same name.  You can hear the song here.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

The Park Book, The Party, The Deadline and The Agent

I've been a terrible blog-keeper.  Again.

There's no excuse, other than I've been ridiculously busy.  Again.

I genuinely want to get into the habit of blogging regularly, and my plan (again!) is to post at least once a month, whether that's an update of what's happening with my writing projects, or something related to my interests (most likely books, music and theatre).  I'm going to schedule it into my phone, so if nothing appears you have every right to prod me on social media!

But for now I guess it's time for me to fill you in on my news...


Thank you to everyone who's bought, read and reviewed The Café in Fir Tree Park.  Since the ebook release on May 26th, so many readers have contacted me to say lovely things about Maggie, Fern, Lacey and Pearl.  Not to mention Paolo (and Matt, Warren and Carrick) who've also captured people's hearts!  I'm so proud of this book and knowing you're enjoying it too makes me very happy indeed.

The paperback is published on August 10th and can be preordered now.  


I was fortunate to be invited to attend the Harper Collins Summer Party last Wednesday evening.  Held in the gardens at the gorgeous V&A museum in London, this milestone celebration recognised Harper Collins' 200 years of trading.

Although an annual event, this was my first time at the party.  What a wonderful night it was!  The weather was glorious, the setting perfect, and the drinks were well and truly flowing.  Being in the company of authors I admire such as the inimitable Judith Kerr (my dissertation was based around her classic children's book The Tiger Who Came to Tea!) and David Walliams was an absolute pleasure, and spending time with the Harper Impulse team was the best bit of all.  Thank you to everyone at Harper Collins for a brilliant evening that I'll never forget.


I'm delighted to be able to share that book three is finished (except the line edits!) and will be published by Harper Impulse on October 13th.  Although I've been working on this book since last year's NaNoWriMo, it's felt like a bit of a whirlwind.  When I first started writing it last November I was also working on the final chapters of The Café in Fir Tree Park, and as the drafting of book three continued I was busy with edits and promotion for the summer release.  It's been a challenging time in many ways, but I can't wait to tell you more about 'the Christmas book' closer to release.
Joe and Clara's Christmas Countdown is a full-on festive romance set in present day Manchester and is available to preorder now

The other very exciting news is that I now have an agent!  I'm going to be working with the brilliant Julia Silk at MBA Agents, and I know she's going to push me to do the best writing of my life.  I can't wait to set to work on our first project together, and am currently tightening up a synopsis before cracking on with the novel itself.
I hope you're all enjoying the sunshine and I'd love to know what you're planning to read this summer!  Personally, I'm loving Cressida McLaughlin's new release and plan to get stuck into Louise Pentland's Wilde Like Me over the school holidays. 
Happy reading!

Monday, 27 February 2017

Cover reveal for The Cafe in Fir Tree Park!

Rainy days and Mondays always get you down?  Well, fear not!  I'm here to bring a sprinkling of sunshine to this drizzly February day by revealing the cover for my next novel The Cafe in Fir Tree Park
Books Covered (who've designed all my Harper Impulse covers) have hit the jackpot once again - I can't stop staring at the gorgeously vivid colours which grace the cover of my next release.  The vibrant blue sky perfectly compliments the uplifting romances within the novel (which is by and large a heart-felt story of family, love and friendship) whilst the silhouetted shadow of the café itself represents the secrets and fears held by the four main characters, Maggie, Pearl, Lacey and Fern.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the cover - is it what you expected? 

The Café in Fir Tree Park will be published by Harper Impulse (ebook May 26th 2017, paperback 10th August 2017) and is available to preorder now from Amazon and all good bookstores. 
Preorder from Amazon

Friday, 24 February 2017

Manchester, So Much to Answer For

I finished the copyedits for The Café in Fir Tree Park last week!  I can't deny the huge relief I felt when I pressed the 'send' button and pinged the final 297 pages of manuscript over to my editor at Harper Collins, and I'm hoping there won't be any more changes now.  Ebook publication day (May 26th) is drawing ever nearer.

I've taken a much-needed week away from drafting/edits and have come back to my laptop refreshed and ready to tackle my next projects (yes, multiple projects, because one book at a time is obviously not enough of a challenge).

Although quite different in style and content, both the novels I'm working on are set in Manchester. 

The first, a contemporary Christmas romcom, will be published by Harper Impulse this winter.  I've written around half of it already, and (at the moment) I'm really enjoying working on it.  I do love a festive book!  I've made trips to Manchester to reacquaint myself with the city in the hope that I'll be able to weave both landmarks and the city's unique vibe into the novel in much the same way as I did with Sheffield in The Singalong Society for Singletons.  Creating a sense of place is really important to me as a writer, so I'm going to try to cross the Pennines as many times as I possibly can in the name of research over the coming months.

The second project is proving more of a challenge, despite being the book I've wanted to write for a very long time.  It's a departure from my usual romcoms, more in the style of book group fiction or accessible literary fiction, so that in itself is impacting on the way I'm writing.  There's also the small matter of the fact it's not yet under contract anywhere, and I'd be lying if I said that didn't make a difference - I'm prioritising the first project as it's got a home and a deadline.

But the biggest challenge I'm facing with regard to the second project is that it's set between 1976 - 2000.  I'd never been to Manchester until 1997 (when I went to watch Sheffield United play at Old Trafford), and although I made a few visits to the city when two of my closest friends went to university there the following year, my first-hand experience of the city between these dates is limited to say the least.  I wasn't even born in 1976!  There are specific events that happened in Manchester in this period which are key to the plot, and I'm reading a ridiculous amount of non-fic about Manchester, the post-punk/indie/Britpop music scenes as well as watching YouTube documentaries about Thatcherite Britain to try to create something as authentic as possible, but nothing can compare to actually experiencing the change the city was going through at this time.  I really want to talk to people who lived through this, especially those who were heavily into the local music scene, so if you or anyone you know can help...

Epping Walk Bridge, the scene of Kevin Cummins' famous Joy Division photoshoot

The book opens at the Sex Pistol's now legendary Lesser Free Trade Hall gig, and I have so many questions about it that I'd love to ask someone who was there.  The trouble is, although thousands of people of a certain age claim to have been there, the reality is the audience that night was small and select.  Furthermore, of that small, select crowd (estimated by Dave Nolan who wrote 'I Swear I was There' to be around 35-40 people), a significant number went on become the musicians that shaped the cultural landscape in the years that followed.  Morrissey, Peter Hook, Mark E Smith... I imagine they're all a bit too busy being musical legends to talk to me about a gig forty years ago.

Next weekend I'm in Manchester again, and I'm looking forward to exploring possible settings and locations that I can mention in these books as well as hopefully finding new information that'll get the words flowing out of my fingertips.  Wish me luck!

Outside Salford Lads' Club, which has influenced both my current projects in different ways!
The title of this blog post comes from Suffer Little Children by The Smiths.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Everybody's Talking About Jamie

It's no great secret that I love a musical, so I was thrilled to hear Sheffield Theatres were putting on a new original production.  Since the opening night I'd heard only good things about the show and last night I finally got to see what the fuss was about for myself.

A contemporary musical set in Sheffield, 'Everybody's Talking About Jamie' is the story of sixteen-year-old Jamie New who wants a career as a drag queen (despite his psychometric careers testing inexplicably suggesting his future lies elsewhere).  More than anything, he wants to wear a dress to his leavers' prom. 

Inspired by real-life events, this coming-of-age musical about friendship, family and acceptance has a definite northern flavour which will appeal to anyone who enjoyed the dry wit of 'The Full Monty'.  That easy humour, along with a belting score written by Dan Gillespie Sells of The Feeling and Tom MacRae, makes for a fast-paced romp through Jamie's final days at school as he discovers how important it is to be true to himself and hold tight to those around him who'll watch his back.

I couldn't help thinking that even Hope, the one character in The Singalong Society for Singletons who grumbled about musical theatre, would have loved this show with its 'out and proud' stance and unashamed swearing, and more than anything, she (like me) would have found comfort in being part of an audience who had no time for bigotry of any kind.  By the time I leapt to my feet for the standing ovation I'd laughed, I'd cried and I'd felt.  Everything about the show was electric; the staging, the casting, the costume and make-up... it was just wonderful. 

I can't help but carry Jamie close to my heart, and I'm sure everyone who's seen 'Everybody's Talking About Jamie' will feel the same, because there's some of him in all of us.

This show needs a longer run.  It needs to tour.  And it's genuinely better than some of the productions I've seen both in the West End and on Broadway.  It runs until Saturday 25th February at Sheffield's famous Crucible Theatre, and I strongly urge anyone who can to go and see it.

How Am I Gonna Be An Optimist About This? (Or Why 'Boyband Indie' is NOT destroying Guitar Music)

This blog post is a response to Mark Beaumont's NME article entitled ' Mark, My Words : want to save guitar music? Kick out boyband...