Valentine’s Day extract + Clove and Ella get engaged!

Last year on Valentine’s day I posted a romantic extract from The Next Together. Let’s do the same thing this year, from The Last Beginning! Here are Clove and Ella being flirty cuties in love.

(You can also read it on Wattpad)


C a r l i s l e , E n g l a n d , 1 7 4 5

When Clove finally went back downstairs, Mrs Samson scolded her for disappearing halfway through making breakfast and put Clove to work in the wash-house doing laundry.

“Did you find the ingredients which you need for your spell?” Ella asked, as she arrived an hour later with another load of dirty clothes for Clove. She dipped a hand into Clove’s bucket of fresh water and flicked her with it. Clove leapt back, but the freezing cold water still splashed her arm.

Hey!” she said, trying to be serious, but she couldn’t help the way her mouth just wanted to smile. She ducked her head, giving in to the urge to grin.

When she looked back up, Ella’s expression took her by surprise. She looked … awestruck. Like she couldn’t believe what she was seeing, when what she was seeing was Clove. Just Clove. No one had ever looked at her like that before.

“What?” Clove asked, a little defensively.

“Nothing,” Ella said. “It’s just… I’ve never seen you smile before.” She sounded winded.
Clove swallowed hard, her laughter dying in her throat.

It was true that she had been very stressed recently. But surely she had smiled before? She couldn’t remember, right now, when Ella was looking at her like that.

Flustered, Clove flicked her hand into the water. Ella skittered away and let out a giggle.

Clove chased her out of the wash-house and across the lawn. But by the time she had cornered the girl by the kitchen door, all that was left of her attack was two damp palms. She pressed them to either side of Ella’s neck as she tried to squirm away.

Ella winced at the coldness of the water on her skin. The two girls were standing so close that Clove could see droplets of water clinging to Ella’s collarbone and the goosebumps standing up on her neck. Ella’s cap had come off and her hair was falling out of its bun again, messy spirals curling off in all directions.

There was a moment when they just stared at each other, breathing in unison. Clove felt like every molecule of her skin was alert and attuned to Ella’s movements.

Something had snapped their bickering into a meaningful tension. She parted her lips. If she just leant a little closer, if Ella just tilted her head a little to the right, then—

Ella stepped back. Then she lifted her arm, holding up Clove’s bucket of water – which she must have grabbed before running out of the wash-house. Clove didn’t have time to react before the water fell through the air in an iridescent arc, splashing Clove right in the chest. It was so cold that Clove couldn’t catch her breath to speak, and when she did all that escaped was helpless laughter.

“Ella!” she gasped.

Ella was laughing so hard she nearly fell over. “Yes!” she screeched. “Got you!”

“I’m soaking wet!” Clove’s bodice was drenched, and her skirts were rapidly darkening as the water spread.

“I’m going to throw you in the pond,” Clove threatened, tugging the damp fabric away from her skin.

Ella only laughed harder. “You look like a drowned cat! All bedraggled and furious.”

Clove hissed at her, baring her teeth like an angry feline. “If I get a chill and die, it’ll be all your fault.” Clove held a hand to her forehead, letting out an overly long groan of pain, which turned into laughter when Ella jabbed her in the ribs.

“I think you will recover, Miss Tabbycat,” Ella said.

“Especially as the last time you were dying you managed to wander off and escape me.”

“The salad days,” Clove muttered, sighing to herself and leaning into Ella’s side.

Ella tightened her arm around Clove’s shoulder.

FIN.


If you liked this extract, The Last Beginning is published by Walker Books in the UK and Australia. It will be released in the US in Fall 2017 by Sky Pony Press.

Amazon UK| Book Depository | Waterstones | Foyles  | Hive | iTunes | Kobo | Wordery | WHSmith

You can add the book on Goodreads or subscribe to my mailing list for updates, or read the prologue on Wattpad.


P.s. I also recently wrote a thing on tumblr about how Clove and Ella got engaged. You’re welcome.

After school, Clove does a degree at St Andrews while Ella finishes her degree at her home uni. Then Clove moves to Ella’s uni for a masters in theoretical morality, while Ella starts a PhD in classical history control potentiality. They live together in a tiny terraced house with a back garden, which Ella turns into a vegetable patch. It produces approximately 3 Brussel sprouts and a cucumber every summer. That’s all.

When they both finally graduate with a million degrees between them, Clove goes back to St Andrews to start running tests on the time machine with Jen, who now runs the St Andrews Physics department. Ella moves back with her. She commutes using her skin to a theatre company, where she works to gather accurate details about ancient greece for their productions, using her Skim.

They adopt a rescue dog, who Matt babysits during the day, because he works from home with Tom (they started a business together. they argue constantly.) Alfie, kate and matt’s three year old son, cries every day when Clove picks up the dog after work. Alfie hates goodbyes.

When Ella turns 25 she gets really nostalgic for how she and clove met (she reads a lot of fic written about then. Clove kinkshames her. It’s a Thing.). They drop the dog off with kate and matt and alfie and go on holiday to 1745. They hang out with 1745 Katherine and Matthew, and then Ella takes Clove on a picnic by the river, at the exact place where they met. The picnic is the same as the one Ella brought then, except there’s smoky bacon crisps too, this time.

After they eat, Clove naps with her head on Ella’s stomach. When she wakes up, there’s a bouquet of violets resting next to her. She laughs when she sees it, hysterically, and Ella gets offended that she finds her romantic gesture funny. Then Clove reaches into her bag and pulls out a box. She hands it to Ella.

Inside, there’s this:ring-in-silver-colour-flower-made-of-zircon-hearts-in-dark-violet

“I guess we both had the same idea,” Clove says, blushing bright red. “You gave me a violet once, a long time ago. I thought it was about time I repaid the favour.“

Ella’s eyes flick down between the ring and Clove. “Are you…?” she says.

Clove nods. “Elenore Walker. Will you marry me?”

Ella bursts into tears. “You weren’t supposed to propose for another two years!” she yells. “It’s in your autobiography!!”

Clove grins. She’s been planning for a while that when she gets around to writing her ‘autobiography’, she’ll include some lies. Gotta keep Ella on her toes somehow. “Surprise?”

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Source

Ella says yes, they get married the next summer, it’s very stressful for everyone involved. The wedding photos go viral on Ella’s social media. Obviously this is their wedding song.

#obviously as soon as they get home ella pulls out a ring she bought before she even officially met clove #she saved up her pocket money for it

Taking Stock of 2016

Happy 2017, everyone!

Sometimes as a writer, it can feel like you haven’t achieved much, because you can spend so long editing and reediting the same projects. I think a lot about how I only wrote one book all year, and worry whether that makes me lazy.

However, last year I wrote a summary of my achievements in 2015, and looking back at it helps me see that I actually did quite a lot that year. So I’m doing the same again this year: good and bad. 

The good

Writing

In 2016 I wrote the first draft of a new novel in a new genre. I also fulfilled my 2016 New Years Resolution and wrote a screenplay. It actually got through to the final stages of the BBC Writer’s Room (but no further! Next time…). 

I also started a  quarterly newsletter (subscribe!) and wrote some blog posts, including:

I blurbed some amazing books, including Mafiosa by Catherine Doyle, A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard, The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson and Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt.

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I spoke on over 10 panels with some amazing authors – Jennifer Niven being a particular highlight! I also finally appeared on a panel with Alice Oseman. 

I chaired a panel at YA Shot and co-ran a workshop at YALC (again, with Alice! The dream team).

Publication

I published a novel, a novella and a short story!

TNT was also published in translation in Czech Republic, Brazil and Turkey.

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My books so far!

We sold 16,000 copies of TNT- and it’s on its fifth or sixth print run, so there are now 23,000 copies in print. This number is so big I can’t understand it.

It was also longlisted for Branford Boase Award and chosen as iTunes book of the week in October!the_loneliest_girl

The Last Beginning was chosen by Scholastic Book Clubs to become a special edition including the novella Another Together. It
was reviewed in The Independent as one of the best LGBT inclusive children’s books of the year – my first press review! It was also reviewed in Diva Magazine.

I got a new 2 book deal with Walker, and the cover for my next book was revealed.

Personal

I went on holiday to Cambodia, Thailand, Edinburgh and Wales.

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I lived in London for a month (and decided I never want to do that again!). I saw my brother sworn in as a Special Constable, which made me very proud.

I adopted 3 adorable guinea pigs from Lucy Powrie.

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I went to the theatre a LOT. I saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (twice!), Les Liaisons Dangereuses, As you like it, In the Heights, The Maids, Groundhog Day, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Cymbeline, Jersey Boys, The Lion King, Aladdin, Guys and Dolls, The Phantom of the Opera, The Woman in Black and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. I also saw in concert Hozier, The Lumineers, Monsters & Men and Jurassic Park at the Royal Albert Hall.

I read nearly 200 books. Last year I was in a reading slump because I kept reading contemporary YA in an attempt to be part of the cultural conversation. I DNFed lots of books because they weren’t interesting me. This year, I took a step back and started really thinking about what I enjoy to read about. I’ve started to love reading again, and I happily ignore the conversations about books I’m not interested in without panicking. I don’t write contemporary YA, so there’s no reason for me to treat those books as competition just because they fall under the umbrella of Young Adult.

I started doing yoga and donating blood.

I was very, very happy.

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The Bad

carI passed my driving test and bought my first car! …..but it took me three attempts to pass my driving test – and I still struggle a lot still with my confidence about driving. It’s my biggest weakness. My New years resolution is to try and drive somewhere every day. I haven’t done well on this so far..

I missed a few events I was really looking forward to due to illness, particularly a panel at Waterstones Piccadilly which I was so excited and honoured to be asked to participate in.

I intended to write some more non-fiction articles, like my ones for The Toast and The Guardian Children Books in 2015, but didn’t find the time. Also, sadly, both of the publications I wrote for have since closed down (not my fault, I promise!).

I spoke about this last year, but I still struggle a lot with jealousy/envy/comparing myself to other authors. The solution, as far I’ve been able to determine, is to avoid going on Twitter as much as possible. But I feel like I’m drifting away from a brilliant community at the same time as improving my mental health. It’s a dilemma.

As I found last year, I did a lot of work for free this year – both my novella and short story were unpaid works. I think it’s all good practice and publicity, but it can be difficult at times to know that I’ve spent whole months doing full time work for free. I have started blogging a little less – I decided against doing a blog tour for TLB because I wasn’t sure of the payoff compared to the amount of work it takes.

In more positive news, last year I was very worried about my long term career plan. I had absolutely no idea whether being an author was possible permanently. This year I’m feeling a lot more settled and confident about my career and chances. Money is still tight, and the payments are very irregular, but I’m hoping to move into my own home in 2017. So I’m getting there! Slowly…

My 2017 resolutions:

  1. Drive every day
  2. Write a new novel
  3. Write a second screenplay

In other news: I’m doing an event at Waterstones Birmingham:

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The Loneliest girl on the universe was featured on Book Riot.

Simonlevvis on tumblr posted these amazing photo sets about TNT and TLB!

 

Easter eggs you might have missed in The Last Beginning

There are lots of references in my books – adding them in is one of my favourite parts of writing! Some of which are obvious, like Kate and Matt’s flashbacks to past lives. Others, you might have missed, especially if you were reading fast! So here are five tiny references in The Last Beginning.

1) The Loneliest Girl in the Universe 

In the epilogue, there are not one but three references. The first is to my next book, featuring Romy Silvers, my new character!

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2) Celebrities

You might have spotted the second reference in the extract above! Vlogger Casey Neistat and his famous skateboards gets a mention, as does Beyonce & Kim Kardashian’s famous offspring.

3) One Direction Fangirlsbeings-2

On the side of a webpage, there’s a little clickbait advert which is a (loving!) jab at Larry fans.

 

beings-34) Death and Dream from The Sandman

On the same page, I reference one of my favourite books – The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman

5) Ella’s sneaky cameo in the prologueThis one is a favourite of mine. It’s one of the very last things I added to the book, and I’m so glad i thought of it in time! If you’re writing about time travel, you just have to embrace the tropes.

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Ella also appears in The Next Together, by the way – let me know if you spot her!

Special edition of The Last Beginning!

Exciting news! Scholastic Book Clubs have commissioned a special edition of The Last Beginning, which includes the short story set at Bletchley Park ‘Another Together‘ at the end.

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Hello, feels! The gorgeous finale to The Next Together, with an exclusive new short story! Romance plus reincarnation: who said undying love is a myth…? Sixteen years ago, after a scandal that rocked the world, teenagers Kate and Matt vanished without a trace. Now their secret daughter, Clove, has found out who she really is. She knows she’s got to find her long-lost parents. But where do you start looking for a couple who seem to have been reincarnated at every key moment in history? Who were Kate and Matt? Why were they born again and again? It’s not over for Matt and Kate – and Clove’s own (love) story is just beginning. But does love start at first sight? Or does this story begin at its end?

  • An epic and passionate time-travel love story like no other
  • Includes a totally exclusive short story set at Bletchley Park
  • Sequel to the breakthrough bestseller The Next Together
  • Technology, danger, political intrigue – plus undying love!

I’m so excited that this e-book exclusive short story is finally in print! It’s extra thick and chunky and means that you can have the whole series on your shelves together. THE DREAM.  graphic.PNG

Unfortunately it’s only available through schools, or online if you are connected to a school. You can also discuss setting up a teen book club with your school.

It’s out today, and it’s a limited edition so if you want a copy, don’t wait around! Here are some pictures of the edition, to keep you going (or make you extra jealous if you can’t get  a copy – I’m so sorry!!).

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Just a little bit thicker than the normal edition!

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In other news: There was a Bookseller article about my new book deal! Career goal achieved. My old school also said some nice things about me.

I have a Facebook page now. Like, if you wish.

The Brazilian version of The Next Together is out now! Someone posted this video review about it, which I obviously don’t understand – please don’t tell me if she’s saying lots of horrible things.

I reached 50,000 words on my fourth novel. I think I’m going to do a writing progress update soon, if anyone is interested?

FREE EBOOK + other bits & bobs

This week The Next Together is free on iTunes as their Book of the Week. It’s also free on Kobo and Amazon Kindle. (UK only, I believe, but maybe Australia too? I’m not sure.)

Amazon UK | Kobo | iBooks 

It’s currently #400 in the Kindle charts – let’s see how high we can get it!!

Some more things that have happened this week: I did an interview with Jasmine at Wenlock books.

The storylines of The Next Together and The Last Beginning are completely intertwined. Did you write both books together or did you write one first and then cross reference?
I actually didn’t know there was going to be a sequel until I finished writing The Next Together. When I got to the end I realised that there was this whole other story to be told, from the other side of things. I then wrote the first draft of The Last Beginning, and luckily it coincided quite well because I was working on the edits for TNT.

I was able to go back in and seed in lots of scenes and conversations and plot developments that I’d come up with while writing TLB. It was lots of fun, writing offhand mentions of certain characters in TNT, knowing that readers would glide over them without paying attention – and then the minute they read TLB, they’d be like “OH MY GOD. I’ve known them since the last book!””

Alice did several more excellent drawings of Clove and Ella that have literally destroyed me.

Eek! I think some more AU short stories are in order…

If you missed any of my countdown extras last week, here’s a list:

Some of my favourite reader reactions so far:

“First of all, let my start by saying that this book is so CLEVER. Honestly, the way it ties in with the first book is brilliant and well thought out. I had to grab my copy of The Next Together from my shelf and go back to certain parts now that I understood it more. There were so many ‘OOOOHHHHH’ moments and I need to praise Lauren James for her wonderful brain.” – Queen of Teen Fiction

“Unique, funny, chaotic and full of adventure, The Last Beginning picks up with a new heroine. A passionate knitter and whiz-kid programmer, Clove is smart, impetuous, hot-headed and prone to making slightly disastrous and immature decisions, but her heart’s (usually) in the right place.” – The Paper Alchemist

“The Next Together was left on a cliffhanger that had me screaming for more, and The Last Beginning answered all of the questions I had and more. It was a perfect sequel! The Last Beginning picks up in a slightly different place to The Next Together but works better for it. Although the main characters of The Next Together are in The Last Beginning, this book is really Clove’s story. I don’t usually gel with new characters in sequels, but I fell in love with Clove from the get-go. I really would like to be best friends with her. Can it be arranged please?” – Queen of Contemporary

I did a panel this weekend with Alice Oseman and Caighlan Smith about being young authors at the YLG conference. It was lots of fun – and our outfits were coordinated excellently.

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I’m currently preparing questions for an event I’m chairing at YA shot – details here:

Finally, keep an eye out on Maximum Pop on Thursday lunchtime for some exciting news….!

THE LAST BEGINNING IS RELEASED TOMORROW!! – Fancasting the characters

LESS THAN TWENTY-FOUR HOURS TO GO. DO YOU ALREADY HAVE YOUR COPY?! ARE YOU ALL FREAKING OUT AS MUCH AS I AM?

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You might remember my very detailed and enthusiastic fancasting of the characters of The Next Together. It’s the obvious one-day-to-go choice, none of you are surprised. So here’s the updated version for TLB.


Clove Sutcliffe is Ellen Page.

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My quiet, sad little darling. For a lot of the book she doesn’t have the best time of it. She’s got the perfect features to match her parents’, and Ellen Page is so expressive. Plus: gay. Very gay.

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Elenore Walker, Clove’s love interest, is Kate McKinnon.

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Firstly, it should be noted that Ella is officially the naughtiest name. That was not an accident. Ella is v v naughty, just like Kate McKinnon. The wild blonde hair, the nonsense facial expressions and the extreme gay-ness are all very Ella.

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Dr Tom Sutcliffe (née Galloway), Clove’s dad, is Karl Urban.

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Unf. Tom melted a lot of hearts in TNT, and I hope he’ll do the same in TLB. He’s clever and witty and chill, and he’s got the whole cocky thing going for him. Plus: a motorbike. Nuff said.

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Caveat: young Tom, as seen in The Next Together, is still and always will be Dylan O’Brien. He just is.

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Dr Jennifer Sutcliffe, Clove’s mum, is Jessica Hynes. 

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Jen is very smiley and mothering, with a good sense of humour.She’s also a killer scientist at the top of her field, and bisexual. Jen is my fave, tbh.

Clove’s best friend Meg is Amanda Seyfried. She’s blonde and pretty but also kind of dorky. She’s a huge fangirl and gets nervous when she doesn’t know how to deal with things.

Katherine Finchley is obviously still Rose Leslie, as so:

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Matthew Galloway is, as always, Ben Whishaw.

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And here’s the whole gang, all together. Working as a team, like all families should.

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Sources: (x) (x) (x) (x) (x) (x) (x) (x) (x) (x) (x)

Okay, so you’ve met the characters. You’ve got the reading soundtrack. You’re been reminded of the events of The Next Together. There’s nothing else for it, guys. You’re officially ready to read The Last Beginning. GOOD THING IT COMES OUT TOMORROW, HUH?! TOMORROW!!!!!!!!!!


The Last Beginning will be published by Walker Books in the UK and Australia on 6th October 2016. It will be released in the US in Fall 2017 by Sky Pony Press.

Amazon UK | Book Depository | Waterstones | Foyles  | Hive 

You can add the book on Goodreads or subscribe to my mailing list for updates, or read the prologue on Wattpad.

More extras:

A rebloggable version of this post can be found here.


Okay, you’ve finally reached the end of this terribly long countdown series. I HOPE YOU LIKED IT, BUT IF YOU DIDN’T AT LEAST IT’S OVER NOW.

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Countdown to The Last Beginning: 2 days to go! – PLAYLIST TIME

TWO DAYS TO GO. TWO! DAYS! TO! GO! WILL I BE ABLE TO MAINTAIN THIS EXCITEMENT LEVEL FOR ANOTHER 48 HOURS? LETS FIND OUT TOGETHER.

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So. My favourite way to procrastinate: make playlists for my books. I love how they evolve as I write/edit/change my taste in music. I love hearing a new song on the radio and going THAT’S IT! THAT’S MY BOOK!

I’ve posted an old version of this playlist before here, along with the playlists for TNT & my enovella Another Together. I cut a lot out of the frankly insane 30 song list in the old post. This is a real breakdown of the song choices too. It should be a great soundtrack while you read the book!

You can listen to the playlist on Spotify here or below.


THE SONGS, AND WHAT THEY MEAN.

  • girls like you/the naked and the famous

This is the very first song I came up with for The Last Beginning. I listened to it on repeat while I was plotting out Clove and her story, because it perfectly summarises her character.

  • love you much better/the hush sound

This is how Clove feels about her best friend Meg at the start of the book.

  • a better son daughter/rilo kiley

Clove has a lot of feelings about herself and her parents in the book, and this really captures that.

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  • campus/vampire weekend

Clove spends a lot of time at St Andrews Uni campus, and fancies a girl she sees there, so….

  • why am i the one/fun. 

Clove’s minor breakdown over how much damn stuff she’s gotta deal with, in one song.

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  • she’s got you high/mumm-ra

When Clove meets Ella.

  • samson/regina spektor

Clove finds out some things about Kate & Matt’s place in history.

  • get home/bastille

If you’ve read the prologue, you know that this book has a time machine in. This song is about that. AKA, the “what fresh hell is this” song.

  • brave/sara bareilles 

Get your act together, Clove.

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  • become the colour/emily wells

Clove gets her act together.

  • elenore/the turtles

I mentioned this song in my acknowledgements, because I owe it that much. Clove’s feelings for Ella. Enough said.

  • she’s electric/oasis

Again….Clove is super into Ella. Why aren’t any of the songs about girls sung by girls? It makes compiling these playlists so difficult.

  • how you get the girl/taylor swift

I’m obsessed with this song because you can totally read this as Taylor Swift singing about how she’s getting a girlfriend. Like, there’s nothing in the lyrics to disprove that?? Anyway, it’s about Clove and Ella again.

  • high hopes/the vamps

Ella’s feelings about Clove.

  • riptide/taylor swift

Another T-Swift anthem for wlw.

  • philomena/the decemberists

This song is just me being really rude, really.

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Halbert knows.
  • i’m a believer/the monkees

Any song that just sound like it’s about someone complaining about all the stuff they’re going through always reminds me of Clove.

  • laughter lines/bastille

I try to avoid repeating artists in these things, but Bastille just have so many good songs about time travel, man. What is their plan for this stuff.

  • help/the beatles

Clove assembles her team of Avengers.

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  • pencil full of lead/paolo nutini

A song for GETTING THINGS THAT NEED TO BE DONE, DONE.

  • year 3000/busted

This is an inside joke that you’ll understand when you’ve read the book. I hope.

  • shut up and dance/walk the moon

A happily-ever-after kind of song. Everyone, stop talking and just shut up and dance. Enjoy the peace (while it lasts).

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The Last Beginning will be published by Walker Books in the UK and Australia on 6th October 2016. It will be released in the US in Fall 2017 by Sky Pony Press.

Amazon UK | Book Depository | Waterstones | Foyles  | Hive 

You can add the book on Goodreads or subscribe to my mailing list for updates, or read the prologue on Wattpad.

More extras:

A rebloggable version of this post can be found here.

 

Countdown to The Last Beginning: 3 days to go! – TITANIC CROSSOVER

Yesterday, I wrote a Disney crossover of my new book.

Clove was walking through the market square one day, running errands for her master, the evil Lord of Tring (who not only paid her minimum wage but also made her fetch all the groceries and sleep with only one eiderdown pillow).

“Do you think I’ll have time to visit Miss Perriwinkle?” she asked Spart, her pony, who trailed along behind her with bags of flour strapped to his back.

You can read the rest here.

Today I’m making this second picture by Alice into another AU. (By the way, there’s also some art drawn by Alice in the book. I’m not going to post a pic because it’s a spoiler, but it’s on page 267.)tumblr_nnjppmXut21tjvbzjo1_1280

Okay, so this one is a looot more serious. They both look so sad. This is straight out of some indie film, or a really intense fanfiction. Clove looks like she’s just realising that the fact dating thing isn’t working because she’s accidentally fallen in love with Ella. The style really reminds me of Lost in Translation too.

Oh! Wait! It’s a Titanic AU. They’ve just found out the ship is sinking! And for maximum angst, it’s clearly POST BREAK UP too. Let’s get those tears flowing.

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Clove had known that Elenore was also travelling on board the Titanic. She’d known for over a year, ever since their parents had bragged together about having secured tickets on its maiden voyage. That didn’t make the sight of her any less painful. She was following her mother up the gangway, parasol over one shoulder and skirts lifted to avoid the puddles. Their servants trailed behind, dragging a trolley of leather suitcases.

When Elenore caught sight of Clove, standing on the docks with the breath knocked out of her in surprise, she stopped in her tracks.

Elenore’s eyes ran across her face. She opened her mouth to speak. Then her mother turned and said, “Come along, Ella.”

She blinked once, twice, and then turned away from Clove, her jaw tight. When she followed her mother onto the Titanic, Elenore didn’t look back at Clove even once.

It had been over a month since they had broken up, and it still felt like Clove’s heart had been torn out of her chest every time she thought of her. Every time she remembered how things had been once, when they’d been in love and Clove had been happier than she’d ever thought possible. But she had to try to move on, just like Elenore had. Their families were emigrating to completely different states in the New World. After the voyage, they would probably never see each other again. Their relationship wasn’t meant to be.

That didn’t stop Clove wanting to spend the rest of her life with Elenore, curled up in front of the fire reading in a peaceful silence (Clove studying the work of Ada Lovelace, while Elenore translated Latin texts), or riding across open countryside side by side, or engaged in any of the other pursuits they had enjoyed for most of their childhood.

She wondered if Elenore had any regret at all for the way they’d left things.

Clove ducked her head, rubbing the back of her neck, and vowed to put all thoughts of Elenore out of her mind.

Only one week, she told herself, as she followed her parents on board the Titanic. Only one week on this ship, and she’d never have to see Elenore again. And it was the largest ship in the world, after all. What were the chances they’d bump into one another?

*

The next time she saw Elenore, four days later, she was standing at the bow of the ship. The first thought that crossed Clove’s mind was: she’s wearing the scarf I knitted for her. The second thought was: I am totally, and utterly lost.

It was past eleven at night, but Clove had been desperate for some fresh air. It seemed Elenore had had the same thought. She was framed by stars and the boiling waves of the sea below, her curls glowed golden in the moonlight, and her cream dress swept across deck in an elegant curve. She was absolutely wonderfully stunning. And Clove was still as in love with her as ever.

Clove took a step backwards, trying to slip away before Elenore saw her, but she knocked a life jacket off its hook. It looked to Clove like it fell in slow motion.

When it crashed to the floor, Elenore span around.

Clove,” she said, the words an exhale.

tumblr_nnjppmXut21tjvbzjo1_1280“Ella.” Clove nodded tightly at her, and paused, unsure whether she should leave. There was something that looked a lot like longing in Ella’s eyes. “I hope your parents are well?” she asked finally.

“Very well.” Elenore looked at the ground.“Alfie is very much enjoying the voyage so far,” she added.

 “I miss him,” Clove said. Alfred was her younger brother. They had played croquet with him all summer, before things had been broken forever.

“He misses you too.” Elenore looked away. “Clove, I-”

Elenore stopped speaking as abruptly, the floor beneath their feet seemed to shudder. An earthquake, Clove thought lightning-fast, before remembering they were on a ship.

“What was that?” Elenore said. She leant over the handrail, looking down at the sea far below them. “Oh! Clove, look!”

Clove walked to her side and peered overboard, breathing deeply to try and still her heartbeat. She wasn’t sure if it was racing because of surprise, or because of Elenore’s arm touching hers.

“Is that-”

“An iceberg!” Elenore said.

It was enormous, white and blue with frost. It was rapidly disappearing in the wake of the Titanic, but smaller shards of ice surrounding it made it clear what had happened: there had been a collision. The Titanic had hit an iceberg.

“Do you think it caused any damage?” Clove asked, worried suddenly. Everyone made a huge fuss about how robust the Titanic was, saying that it was like no ship that had come before it, but the iceberg was enormous. It had been large enough for the ship to shudder noticeably when they had collided.

Elenore bit her lip, frowning. “I hope not.”

Clove shivered, suddenly aware of the ice cold air around them. Just the thought of the sea below them was enough to make her freeze. “Let’s go inside,” she said. “I’m sure it was nothing.”

*

Two hours later, Elenore and Clove clung to each other in the ocean, gasping for breath. Clove fought to think above the ice cold sting of the water. It felt like daggers, digging into every inch of her body.

“Ella,” she said, and pulled her closer. “I can’t- it’s-”

Elenore sobbed. “It won’t be long. The lifeboats will pick us up soon, I promise.”

Clove didn’t want to say that she thought the boats probably weren’t going to come back for them. The crew had been too scared to risk their boats being overturned.

“I love you,” she said instead, wiping strands of hair away from Elenore’s face – strands which were already turning to ice. “I wish we’d never decided to end things. It wasted the last time we had together.”

Elenore kissed her, cupping her face calmly. Below them, their legs kicked violently to keep them afloat. Clove kissed her back, even though her lips were so numb that she could barely feel the touch.

When they parted, Elenore was crying. “I’m going to love you for the rest of my life, Clove Sutcliffe,” she said. Her voice was determined. “And I’m not letting that end just yet.”

Elenore wrapped her arm around Clove’s waist, tugging her with her as she swam towards the lifeboats, distant lights in the pitch blackness.

“We won’t make it,” Clove gasped, kicking her legs as much as she could. She felt dizzy with weakness, and so cold that her heart was slowing. “It’s too far.”

“We don’t have to,” Elenore said, and grabbed onto a piece of wood floating in the water, one of the last remnants of the Titanic. She pushed Clove onto the debris, and climbed on after her.

“Big enough for both of us,” she said, gasping. She was trembling.

Clove pulled her closer, wrapping her arms around her. She pressed her lips to her ear.

“It’s going to be all right,” Clove said, her voice hoarse. “It’s going to be all right.”

*

Every year for the rest of their lives, on the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, Clove and Elenore would remember. Quiet and sombre, they would spend the day on the beach at the end of their garden, staring out at the deceptive calm of the ocean. Then they would return to their family and try not to think, for another year, of all the ways they’d nearly lost each other.


The Last Beginning will be published by Walker Books in the UK and Australia on 6th October 2016. It will be released in the US in Fall 2017 by Sky Pony Press.

Amazon UK | Book Depository | Waterstones | Foyles  | Hive 

You can add the book on Goodreads or subscribe to my mailing list for updates, or read the prologue on Wattpad.

More extras:

A rebloggable version of this post can be found here.

Countdown to The Last Beginning: 4 days to go! – DISNEY CROSSOVER

Four days until my second book is out!! Amazon orders are being wrapped up and shipped out as we speak!!

For the release of The Next Together, I posted the book as a series of different genres, which you can read here. So for the next two days I’m doing something similar for The Last Beginning, inspired by two drawings of my characters Clove and Ella done by the lovely Alice Oseman. Both drawings are of the same scene in the book, but the styles are so different that they look like they are alternate universe versions of Clove and Ella’s story. So, obviously, I’ve got to write them.

Here’s the original scene, as seen in TLB, just so you know what we’re all working with here.

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Bring on the crossovers! Today’s picture looks really storybook and cute, so at first I was thinking about making this an Enid Blyton Famous Five fic. tumblr_obah8bt2AS1tjvbzjo1_1280

But I changed my mind.This is unquestionably an Disney AU. These two are straight out of the first gay Disney animated feature. They’re clearly plotting to overthrow a terrible villain (voiced by Jeremy Irons).


Clove was walking through the market square one day, running errands for her master, the evil Lord of Tring (who not only paid her minimum wage but also made her fetch all the groceries and sleep with only one eiderdown pillow).

“Do you think I’ll have time to visit Miss Perriwinkle?” she asked Spart, her pony, who trailed along behind her with bags of flour strapped to his back.

Probably not,” he intoned miserably. “There’s a lot of traffic on the crossroads, you might be late home.”

Clove looked over to the far side of the square, where three carts were at a standstill. One of them was overturned, with apples spilling across the ground.

“Ugh, this town’s infrastructure is the worst,” Clove said. “You’d think the evil Lord of Tring would install traffic lights so there were less collisions. Anyway, I think I’ll be fine. You can get past them.”

It’s your funeral,” Spart said, and huffed a sigh so strong that it sent her hair flying in all directions.

“I want to borrow some more books,” Clove said. “I’m stuck on a transfiguration spell and I think Miss Perriwinkle has another ‘How to … for Dummies’ which might help.”

One of these days the evil Lord will find out you’re training with the local hedgewitch and there’ll be hell to pay. He’ll probably make you wash up by hand instead of using the magic dishwasher.”

“It’ll be worth it,” Clove said decidedly. “Magic is my way out of here, Spart. One day I’ll work out how to open the locket that they found me with at the orphanage, and it’ll tell me who I really am. I’ll find my real parents and escape this awful, awful place, where there are only three temperature settings on the showers and no bubble teashops. I’ll see the whole world, every shimmering, splendid inch of it. 🎶 Somewhere out there, I just know that waiting for me, there’s a bright and dazzling place, full of people who love me, like my heart says- 🎶”

Just as she was building up to a crescendo, several voices said “STOP HER!” at the top of their lungs. She broke off, thinking for a second that they were talking about her solo.

Then she caught sight of a girl, running at full speed across the market square from the direction of the overturned carts, her wide skirts lifted in both hands. She knocked over the baker with his basket of pastries and galloped through a whole border of flowers who trilled out their disapproval, turning from pink to an angry red.

“Who on earth is that?” Clove asked, stunned. The girl was being chased by three of the evil Lord of Tring’s guards.

Trouble,” Spart said, and bent his head to pluck a dandelion from the cracks between the cobblestones, chewing on it thoughtfully.

The girl swerved around a farmer herding half a dozen sheep to the barbers. She was close enough now that Clove could see her panicked expression – all pink cheeks and frowny eyebrows. When she caught sight of Clove, her eyes lit up.

For a second, Clove was flustered – the girl was very pretty, with a mess of blonde hair. It only took her a second to realise that the girl wasn’t looking at Clove at all, but Spart. In a running jump, the girl jumped onto Spart’s back. He spat out a mouthful of yellow dandelion petals and gave a surprised whinny, skipped forward a step or two.

“Hey!” Clove and Spart both said, miffed.

“Hop on if you want your horse back,” the girl hissed, watching the guards navigate the chaos she’d left in her wake. Black ink edging her eyes in the style of the neighbouring country, Clove noticed. They had those kind of luxuries there, not like here in Tring, where you could barely find a decent lip balm. “They’ll catch up any second and I can’t wait for you.”

Clove couldn’t see any other choice. She couldn’t lose Spart – he was her only friend! – and she couldn’t exactly leave this girl to the fate of the guards either, not without knowing what she’d done. She’d seen the state of the evil Lord’s dungeons, and the prisoners only got the stalest croissants, and no cream for their porridge, only milk. Nothing the girl could have done deserved that horrible fate.

She jumped up behind the girl, and within seconds they were galloping across the market square, leaving a trail of angry guards and shopkeepers in their wake.

“Who are you?” Clove gasped, grabbing onto the girl’s shoulders awkwardly as they jolted down the main road and out into the countryside.

“Ella Walker, professional investigator. Pleased to make your acquaintance,” the girl said, reaching around to shake Clove’s hand, then wrapping Clove’s arms more securely around her waist. “Hold on properly – you’re going to fall off.”

“What did you do?” Clove craned around to see if the guards were still following them. Ella made Spart jump a stile into a field, galloping through the corn until they reached the river.

They pulled to a stop. Spart dropped his head, panting. He hadn’t had this much exercise in years. Ella twisted down, dropping to the ground. Tied to a willow tree, bobbing in the water, was a small sailing boat.

“I stole a scroll, nothing important,” Ella said, flicking her hand carelessly. “It was barely worth all that drama.”

Clove dismounted and smoothed down her hair, which had gone a little windswept during their getaway. She found herself looking down, just to check which of her dresses she was wearing. She realised with relief it was the pink one – the nicest of Lady Tring’s old cast-offs. She only gave her silk gowns to Clove when they were a month out of fashion, which was terrible of course, but Clove hoped that Ella hadn’t noticed that.

“What kind of scroll?” she asked.

Ella tucked her skirts into her undergarments, tied up her hair with a black ribbon and jumped down into the boat. She started unravelling the sail as Clove tried not to look at her bloomers.

“Just the Tring country records,” she said. “Really, nothing major. I think they thought I was after the jewels!”

“Jewels! Why would you want some old records if there were jewels?”

Clove thought that now Ella was safely away from the evil Lord’s guards she could probably leave, but there was something captivating about her. Besides, she told herself, Spart needed a rest. She rubbed his neck reassuringly. “You deserve three carrots, later,” she whispered. He flicked his ear at her, still panting too hard to reply.

“I’ve been asked by King Matthew and Queen Katherine of the neighbouring kingdom to search for the long lost Princess. I’m the only member of court who can speak your language,” Ella said, preening a little proudly as she said it. “But your evil Lord’s evil accountant refused to give up the Tring citizen records without months of paperwork, so I thought ‘Evil bureaucracy isn’t going to stop me!’ and I stole them.”

“Tring is the worst,” Clove agreed. “Did you know the public library only lets you take out books for five days at a time, and then you have to go back and renew them in person?”

Oh my God,” Ella said, her eyes tight with horror. There was a moment of silence as they both contemplated the foul state of the country. “Anyway, I’ll bring the records back in a day or two if I find no trace of the Princess. It’ll be fine.”

“The Princess? What, the one with the silly name? Princess Anise?” Clove asked, confused. “I thought she was long dead!”

“Oh, no! She’s been missing for years, but they have never given up hope of finding her. The prophecy says that when she’s found, the evil Lord of this land will finally be overthrown, and peace and five-temperature shower settings will rule again. I would tell you about it in a song, but I’ve got a terrible singing voice and no time for a flashback.”

“How on earth are you going to track this princess down?” Clove asked. “She was barely a year old when she fell into Prince Thomas’ potion cauldron and disappeared. She must be my age by now!”

“She had a locket with her when the dreadful accident happened,” Ella said, as she started untying the boat from its mooring. “They are hoping that wherever she was transported to, she still has it.” She jumped into the boat. “Thanks for helping me, by the way. You’re a life-saver, I would never have got away from those guards without you. Look me up if you’re ever in the citadel. I’ll buy you a flaming sea witch.”

A spike of cold had been trickling its way down Clove’s spine as Ella spoke. “What kind of a locket?” she asked, voice cracking with hope. “Did it – did it look anything like this?”

Clove pulled her mysterious locket out from her neckline and held it up for Ella to see.

Ella, who had been pushing the boat away from the bank, looked up. Her eyes widened. She spluttered, tried to grab onto a clump of bulrushes to stop the boat from drifting downstream, and abruptly flailed into the river with an enormous splash.

Clove looked down at the water, and then across at Spart, who was chewing on a stem of cow parsley.

You should probably go in after her,” he said, glumly. “You’ll never overthrow the evil Lord and regain your throne if she drowns in two inches of water first, and she seems the type.”

Ta da!  It was a lot of funny trying to fit in as many of their tropes as possible. If only there was a way to portray the visual gags of Disney films in writing.

Tune in tomorrow to see what kind of AU I make out of this picture of Clove and Ella (or leave your suggestions in the comments!).

tumblr_nnjppmXut21tjvbzjo1_1280

 


The Last Beginning will be published by Walker Books in the UK and Australia on 6th October 2016. It will be released in the US in Fall 2017 by Sky Pony Press.

Amazon UK | Book Depository | Waterstones | Foyles  | Hive 

You can add the book on Goodreads or subscribe to my mailing list for updates, or read the prologue on Wattpad.

More extras:

A rebloggable version of this post can be found here.

Countdown to The Last Beginning: 5 days to go! – A SCENE FROM START TO FINISH

Last year I posted the different versions of a scene in TNT as it went through editing from first draft to final published book. It was quite scary to put my terrible early writing out there, but a lot of writers said it was really helpful, so I’m doing it again!

tumblr_odaym41upe1qa24muo1_1280
The first drafts and finished copies of both books!

I’m going to be using a scene from Chapter One, when Clove’s parents tell her some important news. Warning: it does contain a spoiler for the end of TNT, so maybe hold off on reading ahead if you still haven’t read book 1. Let’s start with the final version, for ultimate impact:

Published text:

A message from Spart, their household Artificial Intelligence system, popped up on Clove’s watch screen and interrupted her thoughts.

“Your mother is about to enter your room. Hide any and all illicit substances now.”

Clove rolled her eyes at the message. Their AI lived in all their home computers and watches and picked up vocal instructions from anyone near by. Spart organized their lives, and tended to make a general nuisance of himself as he did so. Clove thought this was because her dad had programmed him with a few extra features, including a personality, which meant Spart tended to think he was human. 

“Come in,” she called to her mum.

“Can you come and sit with us for a moment, Clove?” her mum said after opening the door. Her voice sounded oddly nervous. “Your dad and I want to talk to you about something.”

Clove followed her mum downstairs to the living room and settled on the sofa. Her curiosity increased as she watched her parents communicate with each other silently. They were so in sync that they sometimes seemed able to talk to each other without speaking at all.

A notification popped up on Clove’s watch. Meg had replied to her goodbye with a snap of herself smiling dreamily into the camera. She’d written alec ❤ across it in red. Annoyed, Clove swiped left to delete the message. 

“Clove,” her dad said, after clearing his throat, “we’ve got something to tell you.” He let out an exhale. Clove saw her mum squeeze his hand. “It’s time to tell you the truth. We think you’re old enough now to understand it.”

All Clove could hear was the blood pounding in her ears.

“Now, Clove, we love you. You are a wonderful, beautiful daughter—” He paused.

She stared at him. “What? What is it?” Her words came out croaky. For an agonizing heartbeat, nobody spoke. 

Then her dad continued. “This is hard to say…” 

“What?” she said hoarsely. “Just tell me.”

Her dad sucked in a long breath. “When you were born, something happened to my brother … who was your natural father. Something happened to him and your natural mother.” 

Clove felt her face go stiff. She couldn’t think. She couldn’t process anything he was saying. Adopted. Adopted? She didn’t feel adopted. Wouldn’t she have guessed?

“We raised you because they couldn’t,” her dad went on. “Genetically, I’m actually your uncle.” 

“Why didn’t you tell me before?” Clove asked. She felt betrayed, displaced, horrified, and a hundred other emotions she didn’t know how to put into words. 

Her parents exchanged glances. “Your birth mother made us promise to wait until you were old enough to understand,” her mum said. “She was worried you might not be able to handle it. It’s sensitive. But now you’re sixteen, we thought—”

“What?” Clove said, in a choked-off half-laugh. “That now I can handle it?”
“It’s more than just you being adopted. It’s also … because of what happened to your natural parents … because of who they were.” Her mum stared down at her hands.

Her dad shifted in his seat.

Clove was itching to move, her knee jumping with the hyperactive twitchiness that always came when she was upset. She leant forward to stop it. “Why? Who are they? What happened to them? Is it because they didn’t want me? Is that what you’re saying?” Clove was finding it hard to process her thoughts. 

“Oh, Clove,” her mum said. “No, no. It wasn’t like that at all. They loved you very much.” 

“Clove,” her dad said, trying to speak calmly. “Darlin’, it’s … it’s hard to explain. They were—” 

“They were what ?” she demanded. “Tell me.”

Clove stared at her parents – her adoptive parents, not her real parents at all – and felt the hairs on the back of her neck rise. She didn’t understand. Nothing made any sense. 

“I’m getting this all wrong. Clove, I’m sorry,” her dad – Tom – said. “Let me explain properly.” He faltered. Her mum − Jen − took his hand again. “Maybe it’s best if I just come right out with it. What do you know about Matt Galloway and Kate Finchley?”

Okay. Seems pretty solid, right? I can’t really offer any feedback on my own work here, because if I saw anything I thought could be improved, I did it. This is my best work as of a month ago.

Let’s go back to the first draft, and see what my best work was like as of 2013. This first version was written before I’d even properly finished The Next Together. It’s based on an ending for Book One that got completely changed, so fair warning, it’s a bit confusing to read now.

Some lines did actually make it into the final draft, which I’ve bolded.


Draft Zero:

Her mother and father stopped her when she was in the middle of loading the dishwasher with the remnants of their guests’ meals. The interruption of chores was such a rarity that Clove paid more attention than their sheepish expressions would usually have prompted.

“What’s going on?”

“Can you come and sit with us for a moment, Clove? We have something to talk to you about.”

Clove followed them into the living room, settling down on the sofa with a curiosity only increased as she watched their silent conversation. A notification popped up on her wrist: pictures from her party were being uploaded by her friends. She flicked it away absently, frowning at her parents. Her mother sat on the edge of her seat, eyes darting between Clove and her husband anxiously.

Clove raised her eyebrows at her Dad, who cleared his throat.

“Clove, you’re sixteen now. It’s time to tell you the truth.” He let out an exhale and said tightly, “You’re adopted .”

Clove felt her face go stiff. She was itching to move, her knee jumping with the hyperactive twitchiness that always came when she was upset. She leant forward to stop it. She couldn’t think of anything to say. She didn’t feel adopted. Surely she would have guessed?

“Mum couldn’t conceive, so we looking into adoption,” her father- adopted father, she corrected with a worrying lack of emotion- continued. “A woman called Katherine Galloway chose us to be the parents of her child. She wanted a family of scientists, like herself.”

Clove tried to picture this unknown, pregnant scientist, choosing the parents of her baby. “Why…why did she give me up?”

Her mother broke in for the first time, saying in a quiet voice, “She was British.”

Clove blinked again, and for the first time felt a sense of dread. She was British? Clove had learnt a lot about Britain at school. The island was separate from Europe, and had been a once great Empire that had ruled the world. Over time they’d lost their power, and a century ago, at the start of the Google era, in desperation to regain their lost power they’d created the Virus, releasing it across the globe as a weapon during the last world war. For several years humans had struggled to recover from the crippling Virus, which had destroyed everything it touched. By the time a cure had been found Britain had cut off all contact with the rest of humanity, isolating themselves on their island. Apart from a few refugees no one from the country had been heard from since.

Clove had written an essay comparing the actions of Britain to North Korea only last month. It wasn’t a nice country, despite the quaint accent and idyllic image that was portrayed in all the old films. Apparently Clove’s mother was born there.

“No,” Clove said in a panic. “She wasn’t. I’m not British!”

“Oh, sweetie,” her mother said comfortingly, “Of course you aren’t British. You’re Australian. You were born here , and you were raised here.”

“But- my mum was British! What happened to her? Where is she? Why did she leave?” Suddenly the questions were flooding out of her.

“I can’t…why didn’t you tell me?” Before either of them could reply, a thought struck her, and she said, aghast, “What if she came back? Would you have to give me up?”

Her mother shook her head. “No, an adoption can’t just be taken back like that; you are our daughter through and through. We did try to discuss what would happen with her though, but she was convinced she wouldn’t be returning. It seems she was right.”

“Mum, what happened to her? Do you know where she went?”

“Clove…your mother was Katherine Finchley.”

So, this is wild. A lot of the set-up of the story is completely different in this version. I’d completely forgotten that for a while it was set in Australia. What was I thinking?!

Her parents also aren’t Tom and Jen in this version, and didn’t know Kate at all, which is interesting.

The way her parents tell her that she’s adopted is also very blunt and not really accurate. It reads like what it is, a scene written by a 21 year old, rather than actually like real parents. Clove doesn’t even pause to process the information – and refers to Katherine as ‘mum’ straight away! She seems more focused on the nationality change than the genetic parent change. Bonkers.

 


Draft One:

Here’s how that scene had developed by the time I finished writing the first draft at the end of 2014, two years later:

She was in the middle of loading the dishwasher in the aftermath of the party when her parents stopped her. The interruption of chores was such a rarity that Clove paid more attention than their sheepish expressions would usually have prompted.

“What’s going on?”

“Can you come and sit with us for a moment, Clove? We have something to talk to you about.”
Clove followed them into the living room, settling down on the sofa. Her curiosity only increased as she watched them look at each other in some kind of silent conversation.

A notification popped up on her wrist: pictures from her party were being uploaded by her friends. She flicked it away absently, frowning at her parents. Her mum sat on the edge of her seat, eyes darting between Clove and her husband anxiously.

Clove raised her eyebrows at her dad, who cleared his throat.

“Clove, you’re sixteen now. It’s time to tell you the truth.” He let out an exhale. “Now, Clove, Jen and I love you. You are a wonderful, beautiful daughter, and we couldn’t have chosen anyone better. But-” He paused.

Clove stared at him. “What? What is it?”

For an agonising moment nobody spoke, and all Clove could hear was the blood pounding in her ears. No. No. They couldn’t be about to say what she thought they were. They couldn’t.

The words came, just like she knew they would, but Clove couldn’t take them in.

“Clove, you’re adopted.”

“What?” she said hoarsely.

“You aren’t our genetic child . . . I’m actually your uncle.”

Clove felt her face go stiff. She was itching to move, her knee jumping with the hyperactive twitchiness that always came when she was upset. She leant forward to stop it. She couldn’t think of anything to say. She didn’t feel adopted. Wouldn’t she have guessed?

And – uncle? She’d never heard anyone mention a brother or sister. Why were there no pictures of them? Who were they?

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” she asked. She felt betrayed. Why had they pushed this on her, on her birthday? Why were they doing this?

Her parents exchanged a glance. “We didn’t think you’d be able to handle it sooner,” her mum said. “It’s sensitive.”

“What?” she said, in a choked off half-laugh. “Why wouldn’t I have been able to handle it? Who are they?”

They stared at her.

“Who are they?” she asked, urgent and terrified. Terrible thoughts were running through her mind. Were they- murderers? Something worse? “Who are they?”

“Clove,” her dad said, trying to speak calmly. “It’s- it’s hard. They were-”

“Who?” she demanded. Why weren’t they telling her? Why were they making this so difficult? “Tell me.”

“They were terrorists,” her mum burst out, and then raised a hand to her mouth in horror, darting a look at her father.

Clove let out a noise, a kind of brittle bark.

“Not like that, Clove,” her dad said, speaking quickly. “Just listen. It’s not like that at all.”

“How can it be not like that?” She stared at her parents – her adopted parents, not her real parents at all – and felt the hairs on the back of her neck rise. She didn’t understand. Nothing they were saying made any sense. 

“Listen. Your dad was my brother, Matthew. When we were at university in England, he, your mother and I were involved in a kind of- well, an international incident. We revealed a conspiracy in the government.” Her father – her uncle – explained, looking pained.

Clove stared at the floor. She couldn’t bear to look at him, to see how embarrassing this was for him, how much he wished he didn’t have to be here to tell her this.

“Matthew,” Clove repeated, feeling the name out. “Matthew Galloway?” The name was familiar, and suddenly it clicked. “-and, Katherine Finchley?”

Tom nodded, but she didn’t need his confirmation. Her parents were Matthew Galloway and Katherine Finchley. The terrorists. Those terrorists. There was a film about them. About her parents, and their attempt to take down the English government. She’d watched it in a history class once. She’d had to write a paper about them. They were her parents. And they hadn’t been terrorists at all. They had saved the world.

Okay, this is a lot closer to the real thing, now. But the time I’d finished the first draft, I’d clearly eased out some of the kinks. There’s no Australia (!), Tom is Clove’s dad, and the backstory actually matches up to the ending of TNT.

In terms of how they break the news, Tom actually tries to ease Clove into the topic, and his nerves are clearly visible. Jen referring to them as ‘terrorists’ was a misstep, I can see now. I was trying to go for a shock factor, as for part of TNT they were considered terrorists – but that’s all cleared up by the end of the book, so it’s irrelevant. And what mother would say that to their child?! It would never happen.

I’d also already got some solid details about Clove’s character and hyperactivity in there too, as well as the basic technology of the computer-watch. There’s no Meg or Spart, which are in this draft, but not for a while. One of the big things you learn to do in editing is really distill the key points to make scenes do two or three things at once. This is extra important in the first scene in a book, when it’s easy to lose a reader’s attention.

This is a ‘telling her she’s adopted’ scene, plain and simple. The final version has that, but it also sets up Meg and Clove’s friendship and the ominous threat of ‘Alec <3’, Spart and Clove’s teasing dynamics, Tom’s feelings about what happened to Matt and Kate, and Jen’s support for Tom. It makes the situation feel more real, and even if a casual reader doesn’t notice it, it foreshadows what’s to come. Fast, multi-faceted scenes are much better than lots of separate scenes all focusing on different plotlines one after the other. That can just create a disjointed reading experience.


Draft Two:

Okay. Let’s see how a scene like that ends up looking like the one in the final book. The answer to this? Editors. Excellent, excellent editors. From this point on it really is a joint effort. A new set of eyes (especially a very well trained one!) can really make a difference to a scene.

1

23456

This looks like an intimidating amount of changes, but it’s important to note that a lot of this is just moving sentences around so that it flows more smoothly. This is also a big moment for Clove, right at the start of the book, so there was a lot more focus on getting it exactly right, and therefore more changes, than there might be anywhere else in the book.

I didn’t necessary accept all these changes – this is just the suggestions my editor made to prompt me with. It’s always up to me as the author to decide whether I like the changes, prefer the old version, or have thought of something even better altogether.

Draft Three:

Here’s what I did with my editor’s suggestions. As you’ll see, even with all the changes she made, there was a lot more still to come. This is the version she suggested in the line edits above, with my new additions in bold and removals struck out. Some of the removals are of things she suggested, others are things I didn’t like from the last draft myself. This is now the final version of this scene, as published.

A message from Spart, their household Artificial Intelligence system, popped up on Clove’s watch screen and interrupted her thoughts.

“Your mother is about to enter your room. Hide any and all illicit substances now.”

Clove rolled her eyes at the message. Their AI lived in all their home computers and watches and picked up vocal instructions from anyone near by. Spart organized their lives, and tended to make a general nuisance of himself as he did so. Clove thought this was because her dad had programmed him with a few extra features, including a personality, which meant Spart tended to think he was human. 

“Come in,” she called to her mum.

Hi, darling, are you busy? Can you come and sit with us for a moment, Clove?” Her mum said after opening the door. Her voice sounded oddly nervous. “We have something to talk to you about.”

Clove followed her mum downstairs into the living room, settling down on the sofa. Her curiosity only increased as she watched them her parents communicate with each other silently. They were so in sync that they sometimes seemed able to talk to each other without speaking at all.

A notification popped up on Clove’s watch. Meg had replied to her goodbye with a snap of herself smiling dreamily into the camera. She’d written alec ❤ across it in red. Annoyed, Clove swiped left to delete the message. 

Her mum sat on the edge of her seat, eyes darting between Clove and her husband anxiously.

She raised her eyebrows at her dad, who cleared his throat.

“Clove…” Her dad paused said, after clearing his throat, “we’ve got something to tell you.” He let out an exhale. Clove saw her mum squeeze his hand. “It’s time to tell you the truth. We think you’re old enough now to understand it.”

“You’re sixteen now.  All Clove could hear was the blood pounding in her ears. There was something going on.

Her dad cleared his throat. “There’s something we need to tell you. First I want you to know how much your mum and I We love you. You are a wonderful, beautiful daughter. But-” He paused.

Clove She stared at him. “What? What is it?” Her words came out croaky. For an agonizing heartbeat, nobody spoke. 

Then her dad continued. “This is hard to say…” 

“What?” she said hoarsely. “Just tell me.”

“You’re not ours,” he said, “at least not … not genetically. I’m actually your uncle. I … I adopted you when you were just a baby.”

Her dad sucked in a long breath. “When you were born, something happened to my brother … who was your natural father. Something happened to him and your natural mother.” 

Clove felt her face go stiff. She couldn’t think. She couldn’t process anything he was saying.

Clove opened her mouth and then closed it again. Her knee jumped with the hyperactive twitchiness that always came when she was upset. She slapped her hand down to stop it. She couldn’t think of anything to say. Adopted. Adopted? How was this possible? She didn’t feel adopted. Wouldn’t she have guessed?

“We raised you because they couldn’t,” her dad went on. “Genetically, I’m actually your uncle.” 

 “Why didn’t you tell me before?” she asked. She felt betrayed, displaced, horrified, and a hundred other emotions she didn’t know how to put into words. 

Her parents exchanged glances. “We didn’t think you’d be able to handle it sooner,” her mum said. “It’s sensitive.”

Your birth mother made us promise to wait until you were old enough to understand,” her mum said. “She was worried you might not be able to handle it. It’s sensitive. But now you’re sixteen, we thought—”

“What?” “But it’s OK for you to just drop it into conversation now?”

“Why did they leave me? Didn’t they want me?” Clove let out a noise, a kind of brittle bark.

Clove was itching to move, her knee jumping with the hyperactive twitchiness that always came when she was upset. She leant forward to stop it. “Why? Who are they? What happened to them? Is it because they didn’t want me? Is that what you’re saying?” Clove was finding it hard to process her thoughts. 

 “Oh, Clove,” Jen said, “darling, no, no, it wasn’t like that at all. They loved you very much.”

 “Clove,” her dad said, trying to speak calmly. “It’s- it’s hard to explain. They were-”

“They were what? ” she demanded. “Tell me.”

Clove stared angrily at her parents – her adopted parents, not her real parents at all – and felt the hairs on the back of her neck rise. She didn’t understand. Nothing they were saying made any sense.

“I’m getting this all wrong. Clove, I’m sorry,” her dad – Tom – said. “Listen to me and I’ll try to Let me explain properly.” He faltered. Her mum – Jen – patted his hand again. “Maybe it’s best if I just come right out with it. What do you know about Matthew Galloway and Katherine Finchley?

As you can see, it gets very arbitrary at this point. Both versions work well – the changes are just down to personal preference and flow. No big changes occur, and are unlikely to occur from this point onwards unless there’s something majorly wrong with the tone of a scene.

You really could keep making these minor changes forever – there are still things which could be done better now, of course. But eventually you get to a point where the impact on the scene is so negligible that it’s not worth the effort – especially when I’d much rather be writing new books! So this version gets published.

And so we got there in the end. Three years later. Phew.


The Last Beginning will be published by Walker Books in the UK and Australia on 6th October 2016. It will be released in the US in Fall 2017 by Sky Pony Press.

Amazon UK | Book Depository | Waterstones | Foyles  | Hive 

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A rebloggable version of this post can be found here.