Thursday, 7 March 2013

Happy World Book Day!

Happy World Book Day – the booklover’s equivalent of Christmas, birthday and Easter rolled into one!

As my new novel, Finding Cherokee Brown is, in part, a celebration of the written word, it feels only right that I should give away some signed copies today.

"Young adult writing at its best." We Love This Book

So, if you would like to win a copy, please tell me the book that means the most to you – and why.

You can either post your answer below, or email it to me at: siobhancurham[AT]yahoo[DOT]co[DOT]uk

The three responses that move me the most will win a copy.

Happy reading, booklovers!

Siobhan x

Monday, 4 March 2013

Publication Day!


Today, my new novel, Finding Cherokee Brown, was published.

Finding Cherokee Brown is the story of a teenage girl who decides to write a book about her life in the hope that it will force her to become more like the feisty literary heroines she loves to read about - and in doing so, help her stand up to her bullies.

Here are some early reviews:

‘Siobhan Curham has written a great book that deals with bullying, identity and being brave enough to be yourself. . . This is a lovely story that had me rooting for Cherokee all the way . . . and her journey of self-discovery is delightfully written.’ The Bookseller

‘I loved Cherokee as a character. Her voice and her plight drew me in from pretty much the first page. She is immediately likeable, and as a self-depreciating underdog, she is incredibly easy to root for. Not all authors can successfully pull off a witty, fast-talking stream of teenage girl monologue, but Siobhan Curham manages to do so in style. . . The strong writing and characters combine to form a mixture that feels meaningful, and had me emotionally engaged with the story throughout . . .The original narrative elements simply add to the enjoyment of the reading experience. The vividness of Cherokee's voice brought to mind that of Lennie from The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson.’ The Book Bag

‘A tightly woven, entertaining and moving story . . . Curham has met the challenge she outlines in a letter to the reader – Cherokee Brown is an ‘inspirational, interesting heroine’, a victim of bullying, ‘determined to fight back in her own original way…’ She is funny, resilient, but by no means perfect. She is never presumptuous, and always willing to fight back . . . A pleasure to read.’ The Nocturnal Reader

‘Anyone who is being bullied, has been bullied in the past, or is bullying someone should read this book. Cherokee is a very inspirational character and the book itself carries a powerful message. Overall, I loved this book! It is funny, poignant and really makes you think. 5/5!’ The Mile Long Bookshelf

‘I thoroughly enjoyed Siobhan Curham's debut 'Dear Dylan' which was published last year, so I've been looking forward to reading more from her ever since.  'Finding Cherokee Brown' is another great title which I read in one sitting because it was such a brilliant story.
It centres on fifteen year old Claire Weeks who decides that she is going to write a story about her life after finding an old copy of a book called 'So you want to write a novel?'.  What starts off as an attempt to escape from her day to day life, soon turns into something even more powerful and life changing when she discovers a huge family secret which makes her question everything she thought she knew about herself. Claire aka Cherokee was a great main character.  Curham can really write people who you warm to instantly and feel enormous empathy for.  She has several issues to deal with in the book, one being the fact that she is bullied at her school.  This is something that a lot of people have faced at one point or another in their lives and I enjoyed seeing her finally decide to fight back and not let the bullies get away with it.  I thought it was interesting that one of her teachers fails to deal with the teens who are taunting her.  It shows that even adults sometimes suffer confidence issues, feel powerless and cannot stand up against other people. Claire feels like she doesn't fit in with her family, since her mother remarried and had twins.  Throughout the book she gradually learns that everyone has the power to change their own life and that wonderful things can happen when you take control of your own destiny.  
Anybody being bullied or bullying others should read this book because it features a truly inspirational heroine and has a powerful message to convey about the power of both the written and spoken word.  It is also moving, poignant and funny and is another great title from a fantastic author.’ A Dream of Books

I feel very passionately about the subject matter of this book, so if you do read it, and enjoy it, please spread the word - especially if you know someone who has been a victim of bullying.

Thanks so much,

Siobhan x

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

In Memory of Max

Last week my beloved dog, Max was put to sleep. Max had become such a crucial part of my writing life that I felt I had to write a tribute to him here . . .

 I got Max eight years ago from The Dog’s Trust. They had found him as a stray so we never knew his actual age or where he had come from. However, within minutes of getting him home it became clear that wherever he’d been before he’d been very badly treated. For the first few weeks with us, he refused to leave the house for a walk and stayed stuck to my side at all times. In the end it took a box of his favourite cocktail sausages to get him to go out anywhere other than the garden. I would have to walk ahead a few feet and hold out a sausage to entice him to creep forward. It took us about half an hour to get to the end of my road! The first time I got him into a park I discovered that he had an absolute phobia of footballs – I can only imagine that whoever had him before must have kicked balls at him because just the sound of a ball being kicked would send him fleeing in terror.

But, as the months passed, Max gradually came out of his shell. It was so rewarding to see his fears dissolve and a fun-loving, affectionate dog appear. And for me as a writer, he provided the perfect companion. Writing can be such a solitary profession but whenever I sat at my desk, Max would plonk himself down at my feet and wait there patiently until it was time for his next walk. And our walks became an intrinsic part of my writing process too. Over the years we walked for miles and miles together. And as we walked, I would work on my book-in-progress in my head and every time without fail, plot problems would solve themselves, and characters would become more fully formed. And Max would be there next to me, every step of the way.

In the past few months, old age had started to set in, and my fun-loving, bouncy dog became tired and in pain. As Max had had such a traumatic start to his life I didn’t want him to suffer in old age. The vet told me that having him put to sleep would be the most loving thing to do. It also turned out to be the most heart-breaking. But Max died quickly and peacefully, with his head in my lap being fed his favourite treats.

For the first couple of days afterwards, I wandered around in a daze. My constant companion of eight years had gone and I felt utterly bereft. Then, on Friday night, I had to give a reading at an event at Keats House in London. It was my first reading from my upcoming novel, Finding Cherokee Brown. I always get really nervous when I’m reading from a new book for the first time, and when the host called me up to the microphone my heart was pounding. But as soon as I got there something really strange happened. A picture of Max appeared in my head and I imagined him plonking himself down at my feet. I instantly felt calm and my reading went really well. My trusty writing companion might no longer physically be at my side, but he’ll always be in my heart.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Diary of a French Book Launch

Being a writer is a real Jekyll and Hyde job. For months and months on end you lock yourself away and write – only coming out to do essential stuff, like feeding the dog and the son – and then, suddenly, Publication Week arrives.

Publication Week means three drastic changes to your daily routine:

  1. You have to stop wearing your favourite writing outfit of choice (in my case baggy jogging bottoms with an attractive hole in the crotch, a pair of woolly knee-high socks, and an ancient Washington DC sweatshirt that I bought one time in an airport to use up my leftover dollars).
  2. You have to start wearing ‘respectable’ clothes, involving really uncomfortable things such as heels, and belts, and zips.
  3. You have to venture into the world outside of your imagination and talk to people that you haven’t actually made up inside your head.

This week, the French edition of my next novel, Finding Cherokee Brown was published. So, I had to do all of the above, and go to Paris and do it in French.

Once I’d got used to wearing a dress again it was so much fun. And I wanted to share my French adventure here because there was a time, not so long ago, that I didn’t know if I’d ever have a book deal again – let alone one in France! So, to all you aspiring authors out there, take note – this is what can happen if you refuse to give up on your dream…

My day began ridiculously early as I had to get to London in time to catch the 8.30 Eurostar. Over night, it had snowed quite heavily, so I was first notified that my cab had arrived when I heard it crashing into the wall opposite my house. Despite this rather shaky start, the cab driver managed to get me to the station just in time – and provide me with a whole new range of swear words. I got to St Pancras to discover that the Eurostar had been delayed, due to ‘the wrong kind of snow on the line’ but at least it was still running. And the extra hour of the journey flew by once I got into an engrossing discussion about Come Dine With Me with the guy sitting next to me.

My lovely French translator, Marie Hermet, met me at the station, where we caught a cab to the publisher’s office. On the way she told me that she is also translator for one of my writing heroes, Roddy Doyle, and I had one of those, if I die right now, I’ll die happy moments. Which very nearly came true as it turns out that French cab drivers are even crazier than English ones …

The ‘wrong type of snow’ meant that we were now too late to go out for our planned lunch, so I met all of the lovely team at Flammarion and they ordered lunch in instead. As we tucked into a delicious desk buffet of salad and assorted French cakes we compared notes on the French and UK book industry – I’d rather naively assumed that it would be exactly the same, but it’s not at all. It was really interesting to learn that YA blogging is only just starting to take off over there and Flammarion were just in the process of setting up their own blog.

After lunch, I was taken to a meeting room and an afternoon of interviews with French journalists began. Now, my French is embarrassingly bad, I literally know about twelve words (which includes the numbers from one to ten) so thankfully Marie was there to help me out. I had imagined that the questions would be pretty basic but au contraire, it turns out that French interviews are just like their movies – intense and emotionally forensic.

Being interviewed - French style!

Every so often, I would have to pinch myself that not only had these people read my books, but they had analysed them for themes and meanings, and had really got what I’d been trying to say. It was massively humbling and affirming – especially as the message behind my books is so important to me.

After the interviews were over my editor asked me if I would sign a few copies of my book. 

I think you can see me behind them. I have to tell you, my signing skills were slipping a bit towards the end!

I left Flammarion feeling like one of the luckiest people on the planet. Much as I love the months of writing hibernation, it is so nice when your writing sends you out on an adventure like this.

My day ended in a cosy Parisian restaurant with my American-friend-in-Paris, author / illustrator Doug Cushman. We chewed the fat about life, the universe and books then returned to his studio, which also doubles as a hotel for Hen & Ink authors whenever they’re in town.

Now I’m back at my desk in the UK, in my trusty Washington sweatshirt and woolly socks. It’s still snowing outside, but I’m keeping warm drinking gallons of hot chocolate – from my brand new I Love Paris mug.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Competition Time

Whoop! Whoop! It's competition time again :) 

To celebrate the upcoming publication of my next novel, Finding Cherokee Brown, I thought it might be fun to give away a signed copy before it hits the shops.

So, if you would like an exclusive sneak preview, either write a poem or a piece of prose inspired by one of the following pictures - both of which are settings in Finding Cherokee Brown.

This is a church in Spitalfields, East London, where Cherokee hides out right before taking a massively courageous step in her life.

And this is taken at the Old Truman Brewery, again in East London.

Please send your entries to me at: siobhancurham[AT]yahoo[DOT]co[DOT]uk by Monday 11th February.

Entries should be no more than 600 words long.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

How Photography Can Help Your Writing

Dear Writer,

It is a truth universally acknowledged that unimaginative writing = sucky writing.

And nowhere does this apply more than when it comes to description. Check out the following examples:

‘It was as black as night’

'His heart pounded like a drum'

‘Her eyes were as blue as the sky’

Yawn. Yawn, Yawn,

But how can you get your description to stand out and remain imprinted upon your reader’s mind long after they have put your writing down?

The answer, or one answer at least, is PHOTOGRAPHY.

A few years ago I wrote a novel set in Hammersmith, London. As this was an area I wasn’t all that familiar with I decided to go there and take some photos. I ended up spending hours pounding the streets, looking for the kind of buildings my characters would live and work in, the cafes and bars they would drink in and the places they would shop. It was a lot of fun and hugely productive. I came home feeling like I knew a whole lot more about my characters and their world, without even writing a single word.

When I did get down to the writing of the novel I made a collage from the photos, which I put up over my desk. Whenever I got to a piece of description I would study the relevant photo, looking for any unusual details that would help bring my writing to life.

Using photography to complement your writing soon becomes a virtuous circle: the more you train your eye to look for an interesting or thought-provoking picture, the more you train your writing mind to focus on the unusual and imaginative.

So, your mission this week, should you choose to accept it, is to take yourself out with your camera and seek out some killer shots to help enhance your writing. They could be photos that are in some way linked to your work in progress, or you could use them as starting points for brand new pieces of work.

If aliens have abducted your camera / phone and you aren’t able to get out there and take any photos of your own I’ve included some pictures I’ve taken while I’ve been out and about in London the past couple of days. I hope they help and, if you do end up using one of them as a writing prompt I would love to see the results so please do email them to me.

Till next time,

Happy writing and happy snapping!

Siobhan x

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Writing Resolutions

Dear Writer,

Happy 2013!

How was your Christmas? I hope it was happy and healthy and hearty – and all other good things beginning with H. And hope you’re now relaxed, rejuvenated and raring to get on with your new writing goals.

You’re not?

You’re too tired?

Too fed up of school / college / work already?

Got a terminal case of the January glums?

Okay, worry not – here at Dear Writer we just so happen to specialise in turning that writer’s frown upside down – and no, I’m not gonna get you to stand on your head.

The only good thing about January is that it’s clean slate time. A fresh new writing year awaits, and what better way to get focused and ensure you make the most of it than to get yourself a swanky new set of writing resolutions.

Writing Resolutions Action Plan

Now, before we go any further, I have to clarify one thing – I am not from the New Years Resolutions Should Be a Form of Torture school of thought. I have no idea why, in the bleakest month of the year, people draw up lists depriving themselves of life’s pleasures, like chocolate, wine and cake. I mean, seriously, why would you do that to yourself? New Years Resolutions should be fun. They should be about resolving to do things you’ve always longed to do, not depriving yourself of the things you love. So, when it comes to writing resolutions, set yourself goals that make you feel excited, not depressed.

And the very act of writing your writing resolutions should be fun too. So, set aside some time when you won’t be interrupted, put on your favourite feel-good tunes, and close your eyes.

While you have your eyes closed take a few moments to let go of any nagging irritations that might be buzzing round your mind. Focus on your breathing and, when you’re feeling relaxed, picture yourself living your writing dream.

Now, for the purposes of this exercise, there is no such thing as impossible. This is your writing DREAM – and the whole point of dreams is that you get to dream them up. So go ahead – if you could do or be anything writing wise, what would it be?

Really have fun with this. Try imagining a typical day in your Dream Writer Life. Where would you be? What would you be doing?

The very first time I did this exercise I was living in a flat above a chip shop in London. I hadn’t had a single word published yet, but my dream was to one day be writing novels in a cottage in the countryside. I pictured myself tapping away on my PC, stopping every now and then to check out the beautiful view from my window.

I’m typing this blog now in my bedroom, in my cottage, in the country. I just stopped to look out of the window at the woods on the other side of the valley. My seventh book is coming out in March. Life is good. Dreams come true. Believe.

With my seventh book, Finding Cherokee Brown

So, once you are clear on what your big, massive, writing dream is, it’s time to open your eyes and write yourself a set of fun and achievable writing resolutions for the year ahead.

Think of these resolutions as stepping stones to the big dream.

If your ultimate writing goal is to become a novelist, how about setting a writing resolution to write a short story first (this is one of the resolutions I made before I wrote my first novel).

Or you could resolve to find a new writing place – somewhere that makes you feel alive and inspired (I used to go up to London’s South Bank – it was people watching heaven!)

Or how about setting yourself the goal of developing the characters for your novel in the coming months? (Please see my previous blog post for a free character questionnaire to help you with this one).

Maybe this year you could resolve to start posting your work for feedback in online writing forums.

Or you could set yourself weekly word count targets – but if you do this one, make sure you come up with rewards for meeting them (remember, it’s got to be fun, people!)

When you’ve written your list of resolutions be sure to keep them somewhere you can see them – and tick them off as and when you achieve them.

Nothing is more satisfying than a ticked off resolution – apart from a ticked off resolution and a big chunk of chocolate cake.

May 2013 be the year all your writing dreams come true!

Siobhan x