… author of Escape From Furnace, The Fury, The Inventors, and the brand new Devil's Engine series

Fury (and cake) in Manchester!

I’ve been to pretty much every city in the UK to do events, but Manchester was a very notable exception, so I was thrilled to be able to do a mini-tour up there this week! My girlfriend, Lynsey, went to uni in Manchester and she loved the city (although she did tell me that at some point I’d probably be mugged, which was based on her own experience as a student when she was mugged for a pizza, which I kind of pointed out wasn’t exactly a real mugging…), and I was dying to have a good look around.

The best book shop in Manchester!

My events were all outside of the gorgeous city centre, arranged through the absolutely wonderful folk who run the Urmston Bookshop, Peter and Frances. I just want to give a shout-out to them, because their shop is gorgeous. Amazing books, a great atmosphere, friendly faces, and a cafe that serves homemade cake!!! What more could you ever want? Now, I know that all independent bookshops are great places, but this one is amazing, and well worth a trip. Next time you’re browsing Amazon and you’re about to add something to your basket, head up the road and pop in to Urmston Bookshop instead, you won’t regret it!

My first event was on Tuesday, at Chorlton High School. I even got to perform in their theatre! I followed this up with a horror creative writing workshop for some awesome students. Some fantastic stories, and enough to give me nightmares… Well done, guys! It was great fun, and they rewarded me with chocolate!! I think I may make this my new payment system – don’t worry about the money, just fill a bag with sweeties and I’ll be happy!

CHOCOLATE!!!!!!!!!!!

The next morning Peter picked me up and drove me over to the Well Acre Academy, where I did another show for a brilliant audience. Thanks guys! We popped to the book shop for lunch where I got FREE CAKE!!!! Once again, I was a happy man. It’s no wonder I always put on weight when I’m away. We did make up for it with a very healthy lunch before dashing over to the extraordinarily named Blessed Thomas Holford Catholic College for the final show of the day. I often worry about doing my talk (guns, explosions, puking, angels that eat people…) at Catholic schools because the teachers sometimes frown at me, but these guys were awesome! Thank you!

That night I went to dinner with Peter, which was lovely. Usually when I’m away I eat alone, unless I know people in the area. And there’s nothing more tragic than a lonely author sitting on his hotel bed watching telly and stuffing his face with a kebab… So anyone reading this who is organising an event for me, hint hint…

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My final show was on Thursday, at the Ashton on Mersey Grammar School. It was another fun event, and more questions than I knew what to do with (I think you lot would have kept asking questions until the end of the month)! I stayed behind for the longest signing of the week, which was nice. It was great to meet you all!

It was a whirlwind trip, but I managed to run around the Imperial War Museum before I had to head home – a fantastic place if you ever have the chance to visit. Then I found the most awesome restaurant on the way to the station. It was a Chinese / Indian / Japanese / BBQ / Italian all-you-can-eat buffet, and I tried pretty much everything! I kind of regretted it on the five-hour train journey home, but in a way it was great because the seat next to mine was the only empty seat for the whole journey…

A huge thanks to all the schools, pupils, teachers and librarians for making me feel so welcome, and to Peter and Frances at the Urmston Bookshop for being awesome. It was great to finally see Manchester, and I’ll be back again soon!

Doggy Would Be Proud!

Not the Reading Music Festival, the Aylsham Reading Festival (which is loads better, if you ask me).

It’s always lovely doing events in places where you spent a lot of time as a kid, and yesterday was one of those occasions. I was invited out to the Aylsham Reading Festival, courtesy of Gail from Waterstones and Jo from Aylsham High School (thanks guys!). When I was young (about six, seven and eight I think) I used to live out in a little village called Colby, and Mum used to drive us in to Aylsham all the time to go to the market, get our groceries and pick up some bonbons from the little sweet shop (one of my fondest memories of childhood, which isn’t surprising, really, considering how much I still love sweeties and cake).

Aylsham is also the place where I found my most favourite teddy bear of all time. He wasn’t really a bear, he was a dog. And I gave him the imaginative name Doggy. My sister, Kate, got a teddy bear from the same place (which was actually a bear and yup, you guessed it, she called it Teddy). From that point on Doggy and Teddy became the very best of friends, and we invented a whole backstory to go with them. I, being the annoying, bullying older brother, made Doggy a multi-billionnaire mega popstar. And Teddy became a downtrodden, slightly smelly street urchin who Doggy deigned to live in his vast mansion. We spent hours playing with them, and their coterie of followers (Big Black Teddy, Big Brown Teddy, yeah, we really weren’t great at names…). I honestly think that acting out those stories with the teddies as a kid is one of the reasons I fell in love with writing and storytelling. It was just so much fun.

Anyway… I did think about taking Doggy out with me yesterday. I decided against it, though, because I didn’t want to look like a weirdo (or at least any more of a weirdo). I think he was proud of me, though. It was a fantastic day of events. I did a talk in the marquee, then a horror-writing workshop to a room full of incredibly creative and talkative children (and parents). I got to meet Dave Shelton, too, whose new book looks absolutely fantastic, and my old pal and awesome poet Molly Naylor was there doing a talk and a workshop. All in all, a fantastic lineup! Thanks to everyone involved for inviting me out!

Sadly, though, the little sweet shop was no longer there. And I missed out on homemade cake, too, because by the time the event was over the stall had gone. I had to quell my rage with two Double Deckers from the garage on the way home.

I had a very interesting meeting in the evening about Film Stuff for next year, too, but more on that very soon. It does look like something cool will be happening with Fear Driven Films in 2013, though…

Ireland!!!

I wrote this guest post for the CBI blog but I thought I’d put it up here too (to save me having to write another blog)!

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Mini Me!

Getting to go on tour is one of the best parts of being an author, and there are certain places that I absolutely love to visit as much as possible – Edinburgh, New York, and of course Dublin. The first time I visited Dublin was a couple of years ago, and I flew in on St Patrick’s Day. My first event was on the morning after, and out of two schools that were supposed to show up one came with half a class, and the other one didn’t show up at all, apparently because the teachers were off sick…

It was still a wonderful experience, and I’ve been looking forward to coming back ever since, so I jumped at the chance to be part of the spectacular CBI Children’s Book Festival! My event took place in Ashbourne Library, and this time I had a full house of truly awesome pupils from local schools. I talked about writing, reading, making scary masks to cure writer’s block, playing video games, exploring haunted houses, coming up with ideas, how anybody can be a writer and, last but not least, how writing is the best job in the world because you get to shoot cow pats with shotguns and call it research.

There were some brilliant questions and a signing too. It was fantastic to see so much enthusiasm for books and for writing, and there were definitely some future bestselling writers in the audience. Remember, just never give up on your dreams! I followed this with an event at Wesley College, which was great fun (even though I had to fit my talk into twenty minutes, speaking non-stop at roughly thirty words a second, which I think left a few people dazed and confused). Thanks to everyone who came to my events, and to the delightful Aoife Murray for looking after me!

The day wasn’t over yet! I enjoyed pizza and drinks (and cake!) with the amazing David Maybury, Carrie Anderson and Juliette Saumande from Inis Magazine, and I got invited to the premiere of Frankenweenie, which was great! It summed up why I love this city so much – it’s always full of pleasant surprises, fun and friendly people, great food and drink (and cake!), and endless laughter. And that’s just what you need when you’re a horror author and you spend all day holed up writing about monsters, mayhem and murder…

Thanks to CBI for inviting me over, and to the amazing people of Dublin for making me feel so welcome. Hopefully I’ll see you all again soon!

Read the original post here, and check out the other stories on the brilliant CBI blog. Oh, and I also got interviewed at the Frankenweenie premiere, talking about how my dead cat came back to life, which you can see here!

Oh, and I didn’t poo myself with terror on the flights there and back, which I always consider to be a bonus!

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