WINNER OF BLUE PETER BOOK OF THE YEAR

THUNDERSTRUCK IS OUT!


...AND BEFORE YOU WATCH THE BRAND NEW TRAILER...
here is

THE MAKING OF THE THUNDERSTRUCK TRAILER

It started when the funky, fabulous Fraser from Oxford Children’s Books’ marking department said ’Shall we make another trailer?’ We’d had a lot of fun making the Feather & Fang trailer in 2016 (see further down). But I was in the mood for a live action trailer this time and so I cooked up a storyboard...



I knew it was going to need some really atmospheric music and some some lyrics were knocking around in my head, so I wrote them down and came up with Last Words. Next, though, I needed someone to create the song and the soundtrack for the trailer. Who to go to? Easy. Simon Tilley of the Harmonic Distillery has done the sound and music for all my trailers to date (except Wishful Thinking). He’s enormously talented and has a cool studio and also, most conveniently, he’s married to me.


Simon Tilley, being convenient.
 
So I gave Simon the lyrics and asked for something spooky but also a bit sad. What he came up with gave me goosebumps and a lump in the throat. Job done! But NOW I needed to find someone to sing it. Hmmm. Who to ask? Maybe this guy...


Jake in the studio.

YES! Lead singer of up and coming band TIRADE (check ’em out on Facebook, Twitter and Spottify), Jake Tilley would be just the thing - great vocals and all the right emotions. And, handily, he’s my son, so he’d do it for a nice dinner. Result!

Then it was the small matter of who would make the film. Step forward Thomas Miller Ltd, a small but madly talented creative agency based in Alresford, Hampshire. They were well up for this kind of fun, and quickly brought in their favourite film crew - Carl Austin and Mark Brennan of FACE - to get the footage. And finally - my cast! Who was going to play the kids in the film? No contest. It’d have to be the kids from SEEDS - a home education group in Southampton who’ve helped me out before. They said YES and off we all went to Southampton Common in mid February for the shoot.

Mid February. For a film set in the middle of summer. And this particular mid Feb day was ARCTIC level of cold. Poor William and Hiba, playing my recently struck characters Theo and Alisha, really had to suffer for art!



So did poor Jordan and Milly, playing ghostly teenagers Dougie and Lizzie...



Check out the groovy 70s socks and sandals combo as our young actors try to pretend it’s a sweltering summer’s day!

Despite the cold, though, we all had a lot of fun. And chips. When Hiba (my Alisha) and I got back on location with a massive cardboard box full of hot chips the cast and crew fell upon us like wolves. But with less bloodshed.

Next it was down to the film crew - Carl Austin and Mark Brennan of FACE productions - to edit the footage. And then Thomas Miller pulled it all together with some amazing post production for the full, spooky, stormy effect.

I could not be more delighted with it! But before you go and watch it on the TRAILERS page, have a quick look at my MAKING OF... and remember, several children were frozen in the making of THE MAKING OF...




CERYS DRAWS OUR ATTENTION
Fantastic storyboard from Berkshire student launches new Shapeshifter trailer


Back in the spring, my lovely publishers, Oxford Children’s Books, decided it was time Dax Jones got his own trailer. Over the past decade there have been trailers for Frozen In Time, Dark Summer, Wishful Thinking, Out Of This World and Destination Earth... but never anything for my most successful series - Shapeshifter.

So we thought we’d ask Shapeshifter fans at schools across the UK to come up with a storyboard to outline how they thought a brand new Shapeshifter trailer should go. We got some fantastic ideas, but the winner was 13-year-old Cerys Nolte who goes to Oakbank School in Reading - this is her storyboard:


Once we’d decided on it, we got to work with animator Rob Freeman to make it into a trailer. Rob loved the hand drawn effect of it and was inspired to keep elements of that in the mini movie as Dax realises what he is and Shapeshifts through several epic scenes, from boy to fox to otter - before we cut away to a quick hello from Dax’s other friends (& enemy) at COLA Club. Can you spot who is who in this scene?

Next we brought in musical and atmos genius Simon Tilley to create the soundtrack and bring in extra tension and excitement. This really made the hairs stand up on the backs of our necks!

Late in the summer term, I pitched up at Oakbank to do one of my school presentations. At the end of it, we launched the beta version of the trailer to a stunned Cerys, who sat in the audience TOTALLY unprepared for the big reveal (her teachers and even her mum knew and kept it from her!). She was in a state of shock in the above photo.

Although the finished trailer differs here and there, it’s 90% true to Cerys’s storyboard and we are all delighted with it. Her idea can now be seen by Dax fans all around the planet. Thank you, Cerys!!!

Go to the VIDEO TRAILERS option on the menu page and you’ll see the final result...


FESTIVAL FABULOUSNESS

What a summer! For most of us it’s been sunny, warm and glorious. For children’s authors it’s also festival time, when we traipse around the country doing our presentations and talks for big (or sometimes small) audiences in tents and marquees, theatres and libraries. This year I was honoured to be invited back to Edinburgh Festival once again - and also to take part in EdBookFest’s outreach programme - Booked! - where authors are sent to other locations in Scotland to spread the EdBookFest fun. Here’s my photo diary.

WYCHWOOD FESTIVAL, CHELTENHAM
June 2016

This is a favourite event with many children’s authors, in the Waterstone’s Tent at this very chilled out music and literature festival.


Fellow author Philip Ardagh sank to his knees as he met me (he is ABNORMALLY tall). Aaaw, bless. He thinks he is not worthy...and who am I to argue?




In a hot, hot tent with a very cool audience, doing my Fantastic Master Fox show. Catch it in Cheltenham this October if you can. You will never feel the same way about fox poo again...




There were bands playing in all the other tents. Not to be outdone, in my gig, I played my recorder.


EDBOOKFEST BOOKED! EVENT
BEACON ARTS CENTRE GREENOCK
August 2016


Oh, I DO love a theatre. This is the father fabulous main theatre at the Beacon Arts Centre, with all the lighting and whistles and bells that make me come over all luvvie. I started calling everybody ’Darling’ and thought about getting an armpit dog. But the moment of truth came when, after a request from the audience, I found myself miming, live on stage, what a peregrine falcon looks like as it brings up a pellet.

That’s professionalism, that is! Somebody get me an armpit dog!


Earlier that day, I got up and went for a run along the Inverclyde which was wonderfully cool after the heat and stickiness of Southern England - and on the way back... I found a little shop that Leonie out of CAR-JACKED would have LOVED. Look closely...

Closer...

You’ll have to read Car-Jacked to get this. Go on. What are you waiting for? Read it. REEEEEEEAD IT!

EDINBURGH BOOK FESTIVAL
August 2016


This was the picture postcard view of the EdBookFest while I was there. Weather so rare, the locals thought the End Times had come. Actually, it’s been like this most years I’ve visited. And Edinburgh is an enchanting place to be in the sunshine. Way back in the year, when I filled in my Author Event Requirements form, I was in a slightly silly mood. I listed all the usual stuff... table, screen, PowerPoint, remote slide prompt... and then added ’Watermelon’. As you do.


And I got one. This is no less than Janet Smyth, EdbookFest boss of Children’s Events, presenting me with said melon upon my arrival. I’m thinking of asking for a hamper of exotic fruit next time...

SPRING 2016

CHATTERBOOKS READING DOUBLES LIBRARY MEMBERSHIP


As a Chatterbooks Champion I was delighted to hear the news that children signing up to public libraries has DOUBLED over the past year, in schools which have a Chatterbooks Group.  
 
Here’s me and fellow Chatterbooks Champion (or ChaCha as we like to calls ourselves) Steve Cole doing some daft stuff in front of the audience at the Reading Agency’s Free Word Centre in London, shortly after the news of Chatterbooks’ success was announced.


Steve frenziedly played ukulele until he hurt his fingers and then I expanded his head to scary proportions with my whirly-whirly device.


And Reading Agency goddess Lynne Taylor still agreed to be photographed with us afterwards, although she’s clearly nervous that Steve will get the uke out again - or I will try to expand her head.  
 
Great to hear the statistics, though. Chatterbooks Groups really do work – they get kids together to chat about books they’ve read. If you’ve got a good mate at school who loves a book, you’re much more likely to read that book yourself. This is what is so brilliant about Chatterbooks groups. Like-minded kids can meet up and talk excitedly about their favourite stories - and everyone gets it.  
 
If you want to set one up in your school, click HERE for info on how to do it.