Monday, 29 June 2015

Whitby Last Week

Just before 'The Brenda and Effie Mysteries' won gold at the New York Radio Awards, I made a lightning visit to Whitby to soak up some of the atmosphere again. Ten years on from starting to write the first novel, 'Never the Bride', it seems I still end up going there in my imagination and sure enough - sshhh - but I've started writing a new Brenda and Effie story. Whether it ends up being a story, a sketch, an episode or a whole novel - who knows? It's just nice to be back with the ladies again!

Here are the paintings that resulted from my return to Whitby last weekend. (Two of the originals have already sold!)

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Brenda and Effie Won a Glitzy Gold Award in New York City Last Night!

An announcement from Bafflegab Productions - "Fighting off stiff competition from 30 other countries, 'Bat Out of Hull' scooped Gold for Best Audiobook at last night's glitzy New York Radio Awards. Which means it's officially the BEST AUDIOBOOK IN THE WORLD!"
From scifi bulletin: "The New York Festivals Radio Programming Awards recognise the world’s best work in radio broadcasting, awarding radio stations and independent producers from around the globe. The awards ceremony was held at Manhattan Penthouse last night, and is considered to be the ‘Oscars’ of radio. This is the first year that audiobooks have been included.

Spooky comedy series The Brenda and Effie Mysteries, starring Anne Reid, won Gold for Best Audiobook (Fiction) for the second story Bat out of Hull. B7 Media’s adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles by Richard Kurti and Bev Doylefor last year’s Dangerous Visions series on Radio 4 won Silver for Best Drama Special.
Bafflegab producer and director Simon Barnard explained: ‘It’s wonderful to get this award from an international jury of respected radio peers, particularly since we’ve just been making it up as we go along. The award really belongs to two people: to our narrator, and national treasure, Anne Reid, who told the story so beautifully; and to our author Paul Magrs, who really should be a national treasure and who wrote it so beautifully.’
Writer Paul Magrs added: ‘I was actually in Whitby yesterday, exactly ten years since I started to write the first novel about Brenda and Effie. To write a script about these characters I love, and then win a a prestigious award like this is just wonderful. Thank you! Bafflegab and Simon Barnard and the cast are geniuses and I love their brand of spooky mayhem. I’m proud of the work we’ve done together.’"

UPDATE:  If you order 'Bat Out of Hull' via the website before next Wednesday, you get the feature-length episode for the 90%-off price of 69p!  Just use the code NYC at the checkout! 

Monday, 15 June 2015

Brenda and Effie's 10th Anniversary

Today's picture is to commemorate the fact that it's ten years this week exactly since I sat at the bottom of the garden and wrote chapter one of 'Never the Bride.' Sending out huge thanks to everyone who has stuck by Brenda and Effie and me.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Twenty Years Ago I Moved to Edinburgh

We would sit at the top of our fire escape and drink red wine from the bottle. Up here we were far above Thistle Street and Hanover Street, level with the purple slate of the rooftops and the honey coloured lights in those lonely cobbled alleys. I used to think the lampposts looked like illuminated giraffes peering into our warehouse windows at night.

Ours was the coldest flat I’d ever lived in, even in the height of summer. Edinburgh was a shock to the system at first. I loved it all: the hops in the air from the brewery and the garlicy steam from the Italian restaurant kitchen at the bottom of our narrow lane. I loved the ice on the tall sash windows in the morning and the simplicity of having five pounds a day to live off. It was my first time in a new city, apart from my university town of Lancaster. This was a place I’d chosen to live in myself, and it was somewhere that had nothing to do with a course or qualifications or any kind of work other than the writing I wanted to do.

We would go to the Blue Moon café on Broughton Street, at the apex of the city’s gay Triangle, and sit in the back room, where they played records all night and served pints of lager and nachos dripping and molten with sour cream and golden cheese and fierce jalapenos. Any time of day or night we would sit at their glossy tables on rickety kitchen chairs and talk about where we thought we were up to in our lives and what we wanted to do next. It was one of those times of trying to figure out just what to make of it all. We were in our mid-twenties. It was 1995. Everything was cool and easy. It was all about Britpop and loving new pop music and digging out the Beatles and the Stones LPs and glorying in being Common People, like Pulp reminded us to do, and at the same time there was a buzz in the air about Scottish stuff, about Scottish fiction and films and dialogue-heavy prose, stiff with sweet and sour dialects. Arriving right at the start of the summer, with all the arty festivals and stuff about to begin, it felt as if we were bang in the middle of something.

And what was I doing? I guess I was on a mission. I was writing my journals in cafes. I was drawing everyone I could see at the tables around me, whether I was sitting in the Blue Moon, CC Blooms, the National Portrait Gallery or the Filmhouse café bar. I’d have a pencil case crammed with felt tip pens, some missing tops and bleeding colour everywhere, and I would scribble away, drawing details from life, capturing every quirk and expression of the folk I was earwigging on as they forked up sticky cake or slurped pints of bitter or genteely sipped their cups of tea. Each day I’d pack my haversack with books and pens and novels and set forth, exploring each corner of the city. Drinking it all in, cup after cup. I wrote down almost everything I heard, glorying in the gossip once I keyed into the various accents. I thought long and hard and listlessly and let the thoughts just tumble through my head and onto the page. I made myself over-excited and crazily inventive, letting my diaries and stories go wherever they wanted to go. I also made myself thoroughly upset and miserable sometimes, dwelling on the past and things that had gone wrong, or those that had never been right. I depressed myself at times in the way that you inevitably do when you think long and hard about your life and what it’s all adding up to and you start to realise with horror how lonely you actually feel, sitting there amongst strangers with your coloured pens and scribbly pages and a cooling cup of coffee.

But mostly I was excited. I was deciding for myself where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. I wanted the life of a writer and I wanted to find a boyfriend. I wanted to grab hold of the next bit of my life. I put myself out there into the world and all its dizzy silliness, determined to make sure that when I bumped into the rest of my life and my future I would recognize it. I wouldn’t be tempted to remain sitting indoors and missing out on it all. I would stand as good a chance as anyone of being in the right place at the right time and welcoming happiness in.

So, I was at every fringe play I liked the sound of – traipsing up staircases into attic theatres high above the city; I was making dates to have coffee with men I chatted to in bars, I went to parties with friends and friends of friends, meeting lots people my own age and getting along and finding that they were just as mad with indecision and excitement about life as I was. Those that weren’t as dizzy were those who’d already embarked on their careers and they were harassed and tired and they couldn’t wait to get out at the weekend or every week night, downing tequila slammers or staying up all night dancing in dry ice in underground car parks that boomed with ambient noise.

I wrote until my fingers were sore and I learned to switch to my other hand to draw. I made myself ambidextrous because I wanted to fill even more of the time and even more of the pages with everything I could record or make up. I drank myself stone drunk night after night with my flat mate and we’d roll back through the Old Town and the New Town, hooting with laughter or inconsolable with misery and then we’d help each other clamber the six deadly flights of fire escape to our flat at the very end of Thistle Street.

Whether we got home at two, three or five in the morning, and whether we were doleful, gleeful or numbed by exhaustion, we would put the same record on several times, full blast, before bedtime and bounce up and down, jumping on the sofa and the armchair until the springs and cushions went shapeless. Our song was Love is in the Air. It was our song for those months of feeling utterly free, despondent, poor and queasily smashed and like we could do anything, anything at all. It was our song for quite a long time that year. Love was in the air. More than anything we were in love with the idea of at last becoming ourselves.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The Hay on Wye Book Festival

Last week was great because I was invited to the Hay on Wye festival for the first time and it was just brilliant. I'd managed to shake off my hideous tonsilitis of the week before and we had a drive down the country in brilliant sunny weather, playing the double cd of the previous weekend's Eurovision Song Contest all the way...

I was going to Hay to talk about 'Lost on Mars', my epic SF YA novel, which Firefly has just published. That wasn't until the second day, though. On the first evening I was drafted in as interviewer for two gentlemen writers of spooky stories - Chris Priestley and Dave Shelton. Both were on top form as we discussed  their recent terrifying books under the dark, twinkling canopy of the Starlight tent. I really loved chairing this session - and getting the chance to read both writers's most recent books, which are excellent. (Check out Chris Priestley's disturbing ghost tale 'Through Dark Eyes' and Dave Shelton's portmanteau of horrors, 'Thirteen Chairs'.)

Then on Wednesday I was teamed up with the marvellous Moira Young, whose 'Blood Red Road' I'd just enjoyed. It's a heart-rending and gritty dystopian quest narrative that really puts all its characters through the wringer. It was great to get a chance to hear more about it, and then to read a chapter from 'Lost on Mars' to a packed house in the Starlight Tent. We took lots of very good questions from our chair and the audience and wound up having a terrific conversation about science fiction and writing trilogies and everything else we could pack into an hour.

It was a lovely trip, into the vivid green of the Welsh hills. Hay itself is a magical town, teeming with bookshops and cafes. There just wasn't time to see even a fraction of it all. I was desperate to spend hours in places such as the bookshop dedicated solely to mystery novels. But we managed to do as much as we could - even getting to meet up with some old friends and making some new ones.

I'd forgotten how much I loved road trips like this - going off to talk about my latest book and getting the chance to convince people to buy it! It's like heading off on an adventure each time.