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The Five Books That Changed My Writing by Simon P. Clark



All writers start out as readers – and all reading then becomes research, in a way.
Every book has something to offer – a word you like, a scene that strikes you, a clunky plot you vow to avoid – while certain books stand out as different, important - even life-changing. ‘Read like a butterfly, write like a bee’ said Philip Pullman – meaning, basically, that we steal the things we love, and that’s how writing works.

Looking back over the last few years – long before Not Yet Dark or Eren were written or even published – certain books have been signposts for me, changing my path, pointing me on a new course. They’ve marked the way to where I am now as a writer, opening my mind and teaching me more than any classroom lesson ever could. They’re my core texts, I guess – the ones that will always mean something special (and from which I will always shamelessly steal. Sorry.)  

Skellig

I don’t remember how I ended up with this book – I think the cover just looked nice, so I bought it – but I can’t imagine being a writer without David Almond’s stunning, toned-down prose. Skellig’s a fairly simple story, but the way Almond writes took me by surprise. The chapters were so short! The words were just laid bare! Could you do that? Were you allowed? I’d never known the rules could be broken so easily. Suddenly a whole world opened up – and, at the back of my mind, a story started to grow …  

The Wind Singer

William Nicholson’s Wind on Fire trilogy was the first series I loved and followed as they came out. I waited for the third book to be published because I had to know what happened – and it felt like the first series that was mine, and not something I’d been told about by a friend. I still like to think it’s an undiscovered gem, though the book’s multiple awards probably mean that’s not true.

Clockwork, or All Wound Up

This book is small – it’s a short story, really – but it’s also a clever way of looking at how stories work and what they mean to people. Do stories work like clockwork, ticking away once you’ve let go? The ending took me by surprise and I loved the feeling of being tricked by the writer’s cleverness. Could I ever do that? One day, maybe.

Frankenstein 
I wasn’t a huge reader as a kid and the idea of reading ‘classics’ was a chore. Then, Frankenstein came along, and I thought it’d be easy since I already knew the story well enough (I did not). The beauty of the writing was one thing, but the way it made you think about things without laying them out too obviously was an eye opener. Stories could say so much! It led me to others books I’d ignored before then – Wuthering Heights, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and on and on and on.

Harry Potter

Of course. I’m a child of the 90s, after all. More than the craziness around the books’ popularity, though, I think the sheer magic, the imagination, the friendships, the world, all showed us what books could do. I remember clearly realising that these books had been written by someone, that you could do that as a job, that people would buy books if they were good enough. Right, I thought. I’ll do that. How hard can it be? Let’s do it.


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Simon’s new book: Not Yet Dark, is out now. Order your copy today:

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Posted on Monday, November 20th 2017

Astor, Ontario. 1904.
A boy staggers out of the forest covered in blood and collapses at the feet of 16-year-old Emmy. While others are suspicious and afraid, Emmy is drawn to him. Is he really the monster the townsfolk say he is?
Astor, Ontario....

Astor, Ontario. 1904.
A boy staggers out of the forest covered in blood and collapses at the feet of 16-year-old Emmy. While others are suspicious and afraid, Emmy is drawn to him. Is he really the monster the townsfolk say he is?

Astor, Ontario. 1994. 
Megan arrives from London for her great grandmother Emmy’s 105th birthday. It should be a happy family occasion, but Megan is nursing a broken heart and carrying a secret she fears might consume her.

One family. Two women. A century of secrets. A timeless love story.

This unique and unforgettable new book by Keren David is out April 2018, pre-order your copy today: http://fal.cn/qyUF 

#StrangerBook

Posted on Sunday, November 19th 2017

15-year-olds Philippa and Danny have been best friends for years, but things are starting to change between them.
Danny has a new set of friends - the rugby boys - and suddenly whispers of ‘Phil the Thrill’ start to follow Philippa around school, and...

15-year-olds Philippa and Danny have been best friends for years, but things are starting to change between them.

Danny has a new set of friends - the rugby boys - and suddenly whispers of ‘Phil the Thrill’ start to follow Philippa around school, and she knows exactly where those rumours started. 
One evening, Philippa escapes to an abandoned seaside house to clear her head, but quickly discovers that she is far from alone. Not only has Danny secretly followed her, the two of them are about to witness something that will change their lives for ever. 

A mysterious Society is meeting in the house to try to summon Death, and Danny and Philippa are caught up in their dark spell. The pair manages to escape but they soon realise that they’re being followed by two children who, as they begin to talk, claim to not be human.

Where do these creatures really come from? And what is that they want?

Get your copy of Not Yet Dark today: 
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Posted on Tuesday, November 7th 2017

Read an extract from Before the Devil Breaks You, book three in Libba Bray’s brilliant Diviners series.
“Thick evening fog clung to the forlorn banks of Ward’s Island, turning it into a ghost of itself. Across the dark calm of the East River, the...

Read an extract from Before the Devil Breaks You, book three in Libba Bray’s brilliant Diviners series. 

“Thick evening fog clung to the forlorn banks of Ward’s Island, turning it into a ghost of itself. Across the dark calm of the East River, the glorious neon whirl of Manhattan was in full jazz- age bloom— glamorous clubs, basement speakeasies, illegal booze, all of it enjoyed by live- fast- forget- tomorrow flappers and Dapper Dons eager to throw off their cares and Charleston their way into tomorrow’s hangover. On Ward’s, it was quiet and dark, just a fat fist of neglected land housing the poor, the addicts, and the mentally ill, all of the city’s great unwanted, kept well out of sight, the rivers separating the two worlds— the living and the dead…”

Click here to read on… 

Posted on Sunday, October 22nd 2017

Would you just LOOK at that cover! One for the Christmas list… Shirley-Anne McMillan’s #TheUnknowns is out this DECEMBER.
Tilly is perched at the top of Belfast’s largest crane. She likes to climb up high at night in order to feel free from a city...

Would you just LOOK at that cover! One for the Christmas list… Shirley-Anne McMillan’s #TheUnknowns is out this DECEMBER.

Tilly is perched at the top of Belfast’s largest crane. She likes to climb up high at night in order to feel free from a city which, despite the best PR, is still full of trouble and conflict. Eventually, she comes back down to discover her bike is missing and in its place is a boy named Brew. Wearing eyeliner and high-heeled boots, he offers her a drink from his flask of coffee before disappearing into the night. The next morning, Tilly’s bike is returned, but tucked into the spoke of the wheel is a card with Brew’s number on it. 

As Tilly learns to trust Brew, he leads her into a world she never knew existed - a world of parties in abandoned houses, completing missions that involve break-ins, and risking everything just to help strangers in need; the world of The Unknowns. What Tilly doesn’t anticipate is that they will also make her question everything she was brought up to believe in, and force her to make a choice that will stay with her for the rest of her life.

The Unknowns is a story about hope in a city where increasing numbers of young people are struggling to get by, a place where there is no trust in the political system, and where some people still dare to dream.

Pre-order your copy today: http://tidd.ly/934e93a7

Posted on Wednesday, October 18th 2017

A Note to the Readers of This Collection
When I was sixteen, I traded my prep school in Manhattan for an alternative boarding school in upstate New York’s Hudson River Valley to make Elijah Huck love me.
As is usually the case when one follows an...

A Note to the Readers of This Collection

When I was sixteen, I traded my prep school in Manhattan for an alternative boarding school in upstate New York’s Hudson River Valley to make Elijah Huck love me.

As is usually the case when one follows an up-and-coming feminist fashion photographer to a remote Quaker boarding school, I was in for a few surprises. These surprises were manifold, but perhaps most poignantly: Elijah broke my heart, I stuffed all my belongings into a vending machine, and I kissed a budding Marxist.

I left for Quare almost three years ago, before Elijah won his one-hundred-thousand-dollar MacDougall innovation grant and opened a gallery on Orchard Street. Before I started my freshman year at this small East Coast liberal arts college in one of those cramped dorm rooms I’m laying out these documents—the letters, journal entries, clippings, forms, and reports that comprise this collection—in chronological order on the floor… 

Click here to read an extract from the ‘funny, witty and feminist’ (Stylist Magazine) Everything Must Go!

Posted on Monday, October 16th 2017