Monday, 17 March 2014

In praise of gentle girls

There's been so much talk recently about bossy women and gender specific books and I, as usual, have kept quiet, not joined in the debate. But now, I think I would like to take a stand for gentle girls. Do you know what bossy meant to me at school? Bossy girls were bullies. You did what they said, you agreed with them, because of course they were always right. I grew up and met more bossy girls, and they were the same manipulative females,  making decisions for everyone else. Did I ever admire them ? Want to emulate them? No. Did I ever stand up to them? Probably not. I like a quiet life. Does that make me less of a woman than them? I know it didn't. But the comments I read seem to assume they are the kind of females our daughters should aspire to be. As if having a sweet, quiet nature is something to be frowned on. It means you're weak when of course what you must be is feisty . Feisty! How I hate that word! Every bit as good as a boy? I never had any doubt that I was. So I am writing in praise of sweet, quiet girls. Girls who love pink bedrooms, and princesses and prams and dolls and babies. They love wearing their mummies high heels and her lipstick and reading books with pink covers . Don't they deserve representation too ? These are the little girls who will grow up to be the kick ass women and mothers who will fight tooth and nail for their children, their families and their communities. Do not underestimate them !

Friday, 1 November 2013

November :Another Me and Jenny's Choice

November, and this will be a big month for me. On the 15th of November the film of my book, Another Me, is to be premiered in Rome. How exciting is that! and, it is now going to be called, Another Me, and not as originally planned, Panda Eyes.  That is yet another thrill for me. However, in spite of all the talk of me walking down the red carpet, I'm sorry to say, it won't be happening in Rome. The film is going into competition  and will be more of a low key affair with only the two young stars, Sophie Turner and Gregg Sulkin, and the director Isobel Coixet planning to be there. So, I am going to wait for the premiere later in London to wear my fancy frock. I'm not complaining. Just to be able to say one of my books has been made into a film is excitement enough.
    But it is not the only exciting thing happening for me in November. One of my short stories which was included a few years ago in an anthology WOW!366, is being published this month as a book.  In Leap Year,366 authors were each asked to write a 366 word story for this anthology. Mine was Jenny's Choice. Simple little story, but I was quite pleased with it. Then, earlier this year Barrington Stoke, that wonderful publisher, asked if they could publish this story as a short illustrated book. I was delighted, of course, but when I saw the illustrations, by Vladimir Stankovic, they were so darkly creepy, it gave my story another dimension. Barrington Stoke too were so pleased with the illustrations, they asked me if I could write a book from that short story. That's quite a challenge. But, wasn't that what I had done with Another Me? Short story to book, it's always an exciting project, and now, I had these sinister illustrations to inspire me. So not only do I  have  Jenny's Choice coming out this month,( and I can't wait to see the final book)  I also have the longer book due out in March of next year.Won't be called Jenny's Choice though. We're still looking for the perfect title.( Can't have two books called Jenny's Choice)  And added to that... I have an illustrator named, VLAD!
   So much to look forward to. I am so lucky.
   November is going to be a very special month for me!

Thursday, 26 September 2013

And now it's Another Me!

I cannot explain how excited I was when I was told that the film of my book was no longer to be called, Panda Eyes, but was going to revert to the original title, Another Me.  I always liked that title. I thought it was intriguing, and captured the spooky nature of the story too.And, did anyone ever notice that if you take away the A in Another Me, what you are left with is, Not Her Me ? So it is Another Me which is going to have its world premiere at the Rome Film Festival. Still can't believe I am typing those words. It's a dream come true, a goal reached, something I used to think was beyond my wildest dreams( who am I kidding? Nothing was beyond my wildest dreams!) But now, it's going to be premiered and is also going into competetion in Rome beside several other fantastic movies. All I know is that this is going to be a quality film. I know that because I know the marvellous people who have worked on it. Isobel Coixet, fabulous director who also wrote the screenplay, Rebekah Gilbertson and Nicole Carmen Davis, producers, cinematography by Jean-Claude Larrieu and all the rest of the wonderful cast and crew. Couldn't be anything else but quality.
   Well, thanks to the wonderful Mary Hoffman I now know I can add to and edit this! I am a slow learner. But I did want to add how this amazing journey for me began. I can still remember hearing on a radio Scotland programme which hosted a creative writing item regularly. ( Time for one again, methinks!) that they were looking for a Scottish ghost story for their latest competition. I knew I had to go in for that one. And I started to think of misty lochs, and ruined castles, and ghostly pipers on the battlements...then, I remembered I lived in Greenock. Not a lot of castles here. I lived in a high flat, 13th floor,  I worked in the local mill. .And to get to work I used to walk up a long narrow flight of steps, and on dark winter evenings when I would be coming home from work, sometimes the fog would drift in from the river and I could see nothing, in front of me, or behind me. Just the fog. And then I would hear footsteps coming down those steps and I would frighten the life out of myself thinking of the scariest thing I could imagine coming out of that fog.  I never had any doubt what that something would be. Another Me. and of course throughout the world myths and legends abound about doubles, doppelgangers, wafts. Your own double, your other self without a soul. In Scotland we all them fetches. and the legend says if you come face to face with your fetch it means you are going to die very soon. No wonder I was scared. So I wrote my ghost story about a girl who was being haunted by herself as she walked up and down those stairs. It won the competition, but it was one of those stories that just wouldn't let go, and the book, Another Me, grew from there....and now, I'm going to see it on the big screen. From such a simple beginning! I can't wait to see the film, hope you can't either!!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


I love mysteries. Real life mysteries let you use your imagination to create solutions for yourself. The Princes in the Tower? What really might have happened to them? Did Princess Anastasia really survive?Was there someone on that grassy knoll when JF Kennedy was shot? and because I love mysteries I sometimes leave unsolved myteries in my books. I'm always receiving e mails and letters asking me about them.
Right from the very first book, Run Zan Run, I left an unanswered question. You never learn Zan's real name, and even if I knew it I still wouldn't tell. Because I want to give readers the chance to come up with their own answers, their own stories. In Missing, who was the boy buried instead of Derek? He must have had a story to tell too.  I'm always being asked what happened to Stash, the boy who died mysteriously in Tribes. Well, I know and I don't think it is what anyone would suspect. Maybe one day I will tell, but not yet. In Underworld, is Angie an angel? Did she die and come back to help her friends, or was she ever really alive in the first place? These are the questions I am constantly being asked. But leaving a question unanswered lets you make up your own story about these characters. Unanswered questions abound in the Nemesis series, most notable being...what is Ram's real name. We never find out, because by the end, Ram feels unworthy to use it. He feels he has to earn the right to take back his name again. You think I'm finished with Ram? Think again. I have lots of adventures in my head about this boy.
     But perhaps the top mysteries I am asked about are from two of my most popular books. Roxy's Baby and Another Me.
    What happened to Anne Marie in Roxy's Baby? Roxy doesn't find out, and neither does the reader. I know the answer to that, but I can't tell, not yet. But I know from e mails and letters that so many readers have come up with their own answers.
    And which one survives in Another Me? Fay, or her fetch? Well, the clues ar there in the book for you to see, but I deliberately left it open, once again, so the reader can make up their own mind, come up with their own answers. In the short story I wrote from which the book grew I was more definite about which one survived, and if you go to see the film, Panda Eyes, adapted from Another me, you'll see an answer too. I'm still not going to tell you what that answer is!  Want you to go and see the film, don't I!
  There is an unanswered mystery in my latest book, Mosi's War, too. We find out one of Mosi's secrets, but he has another. I don't reveal it in the book, but the clues are there for the reader to find.
    Here's a mystery I heard of on the radio just last week. The key codebreaker at Bletchley Park, was worried that if Hitler invaded, the banks would not be safe. He'd lose all his money. So he put it all into silver bullion, and he took it and buried in the forest around Bletchley Park. He marked the spot, kept a map, but by the end of the war...he couldn't find it. Key codebreaker ! And he couldn't read his map or find his treasure. It's still there, all that silver bullion. But for how long....?
   Mysteries! I love 'em.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Cathy MacPhail Club!

June already! and all my plans for more regular blogs out of the window! Everyone seems to be writing blogs, much more interesting than anything I can come up with. And between writing, and visiting schools, and answering e mails and fan mail, and posting on Twitter and Facebook, I never seem t have any time. I salute all of those who manage it so well. But I had to blog now. I love receiving fan letters and I answer every one, so if anyone has written to me and hasn't yet received a reply, you will get one. Promise!  But just recently after one of my school visits, some fans, Jay and Sandra and Tegan decided to set up The Cathy MacPhail Club. How fantastic is that. They have regular meetings and lists of books they plan to read, and one of their first events is a quiz, for which I supplied the questions and the prize: a signed copy of one of my books. It's things like this that make you realise just how much you love being a writer. Letters or e mails telling you how much a book has meant to someone, or how much they have enjoyed it, or saying, ( and this has got to be the best) how much you  have inspired them. So keep them coming. I love getting them.
    And of course Mosi's War is out now. On Monday we had a wonderful launch at the Mitchell Theatre in Glasgow. Over 400 pupils came, and because of the Glasgow vampire story contained within the book, I included loads of urban legends in my talk, and it occurred to me for the first time how often I have used urban legends in my other books.  The alligators in the New York sewers, ( have you heard that one?)flushed down toilets when they were just babies, and because they were never exposed to light, they're white.White alligators! Can you imagine coming across one of them in the sewers? Well, read Sinister Intent, and you will see how I used that urban myth in that book. And of course, doppelgangers, doubles, fetches. I love and yet fear those kind of myths, and used that fear in my book Another Me. Soon, can't wait, coming to a cinema near you. ( Using its doppelganger name, Panda Eyes!)  Do you know any urban myths? If you do, send them to me, I'm collecting them. Who knows, they all just might turn up in yet another book!

Monday, 6 May 2013

Mosi and the Grampian Book Award

I am so bad at posting blogs! I always mean to do it more regularly, then I get caught up with other things, and before I know it, a month has passed. But May is going to be such a big month, and indeed, this is going to be such a big week I had to write here today.
    On Tuesday I head off for Aberdeen, and the Grampian Book Awards. I am so looking forward to it. Out of the Depths has been shortlisted for this wonderful award. But I am up against so many other fabulous books and authors I'll try not to be disappoointed if I don't win...who am I kidding. Of course I'll be disappointed. I'd love to win, even though I have already won twice before. I have two Grampian Quaichs taking pride of place in my cabinet. Keeping my fingers crossed I might add a third. ( You can always hope, can't you?) Here's what I'm up against.
   15 Days without a Head, by Dave Cousins
   The 13th Horseman, by Barry Hutchison
    Socks are Not Enough, by Mark Lowry
    A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness
    My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece by Annabel Pitcher
You can see why I'm worried, can't you?
   Never mind, win or not, it is going to be a terrific day!
  After the awards I am heading even further up north to Buckie for school sessions on the 9th May. I love going to Buckie, my day is always organised perfectly. There are always enthusiastic pupils, and teachers. And what can I say about the wonderul librarians who invite me there. I will be there on Sara Marsh's final day. Sara is one of the most inspiring librarians I have ever met, and she and I go back a long way. Fabulous librarian, lovely person. It has been a pleasure spending time with her over the years. And it just happens that 9th May is the publication day for Mosi's War, and we intend to make it a special launch day in Buckie! I will definitely keep you posted about that! ( I promise to do better!)
   I am very excited about Mosi's War coming out. I loved writing this book, the characters came to life as I wrote about them, Patrick and Mosi practically wrote the book themselves! So every day, till publication day I am posting a little extract of the book on Twitter and Facebook.  So, really I should post a little extract here too.
     ' It was in the afternoon that the whispered rumours started flying around the school. One wilder than the next.
      It began with a body found in the cemetery.
      But the story blazed out of control.
      Cut into little pieces.
      Blood everywhere.
      Beyond recognition.
      The police were back on the estate in force. Sitting in the classroom, everyone could hear the sirens.
      A body found.
      Let it be Papa Blood, Mosi thought. Then he could live without fear of ever seeing him again.
      But that wasn't the whispered rumour that raced round the school and was sent on text messages from one school to another. For them, there was a growing, excited suspicion.
     The vampire had struck again.
Mosi's War.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

The Scottish Children's Book Award

Well, the Scottish Children's Book Award winners have been announced at a wonderful ceremony in Dundee's Caird Hall. It is such a wonderful book award to be involved in and just gets better every year. This year over 32,000 children all over Scotland took part and voted, and on the day almost 1,000 children attended the ceremony. Pupils who had travelled from the furthest corners of  Scotland just to be there. The whole thing was also watched live on Glow  in schools all over the country. The Scottish Book Trust have to be congratulated for organising such a massive event, and doing it so well.
     I had a great time, from the moment my son dropped me off and I popped into the Pancake Place for hot pancakes and coffee. Then I made my way past the wonderful statue of Desperate Dan to the Caird Hall. What a venue! The place was buzzing with excitement from the beginning and myself, Jonathan Meres, James Kilmore, all shortlisted for the 8/11 category were taken into the main hall to go through what was going to happen that day. Pupils from St. Joseph's Primary, Bonnybridge, and St. Mungo's Falkirk were rehearsing the dramatisations they had prepared, with the help of a fantastic drama teacher, Lesley Russell, for each of our books. So, of course, we couldn't resist a sneak preview. " We're doing a musical for yours," I was told. A musical! For a creepy ghost story like Out of the Depths!  I hadn't a clue how they were going to manage that. But by goodness, I was amazed at the fabulous song Lesley had written, and the way they had put the whole thing together. ' Tyler, help me' is still running through my head, and Lesley and I have decided that we are going to make, "Tyler, the Musical". They had gone right to the heart of my story, and they sent shivers up many a spine in the audience when they finally performed it that afternoon. I know Jonathan and James were equally impressed with theirs, based on The World of Norm and Soldier's Game...but they didn't have a song!!! The excitement grew as the pupils arrived, filling up the hall, being entertained by the terrific host,Chae Strathie, who even managed to get Elizabeth Laird, Elizabeth Wein, and Barry Hutchison doing a gangnam style dance. Barry Hutchison doesn't surprise me, he's up for anything. ( He even changed his name to Elizabeth on the day so it would be a one name line up!) but Elizabeth Laird and Elizabeth Wein...they did a fabulous job of it, and the pupils loved it. For the Bookbug section, Julia Donaldson and her lovely husband Malcolm performed their song from Jack and the Flum,Flum Tree, Catherine Raynor read her enchanting story about Solomon Crocodile and John Fardell had children create their own story while he illustrated it on stage! What a fabulous day. 
    In the end, Out of the Depths didn't win. But I signed loads of books, and met lots of fans, and that's what it is all about really.
    But to be honest... I wuz robbed!