Warning: Writer at Large

I need to tell you about a couple of events. First up, I’m thrilled to be reading at Pulp Fiction; a science-fiction/fantasy/cult bookshop in Edinburgh run with great passion and enthusiasm by Steve Rapaport. There’s going to be a discussion about the writing process led by Helen Jackson, and we’ll be joined by artist Paul Mudie, who will talk us through his wolfish work for the cover. Q&A to follow, signing of books (buy one on the night or bring one along) and maybe a few drinks after at the pub… Pulp Fiction is also host to an excellent cafe – seriously, try their chocolate brownies – so there should be plenty to grab your attention. Leather jackets optional – werewolves of all ages welcome.

FREE tickets available here or you could be very wild, and just turn up on the night: Wed 23 May, doors 6.30 – event 7PM, 43 Bread Street, EH3 9AH

The next day – Thursday 24 May – I’ve been asked to contribute to a debate titled ‘Other Worlds- Other Dimensions: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal, do they have a place in Literature? at the Scottish Writers’ Centre, currently hosted at the CCA in Glasgow. Panelists include John Birch, Kirsty Logan, Gordon Robertson, Douglas Thompson (chair) and Neil Williamson. Entry is free, and I’ll have some copies of The Daemon Parallel with me, so please come up and say hello.

I’ve been out and about elsewhere too… Last week, I popped into Firhill High School and spoke to two s1 classes. After, I enjoyed being interviewed by four enthusiastic readers for Teen Titles. So, if you want to know the true story behind Mrs Ferguson or the Temperatori, you’ll need to track down the next issue.

The week before I was at Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre. A calm and quiet train journey took me from Edinburgh to Inverness – with lots of writing and reading en route, while glancing out at snow-capped hills – then a swift car ride along the edge of Loch Ness, up a steep single track road, and there it was…

An amazing location, and amazing weather too (check out the images below – much brighter than rainy Edinburgh).

I was there as a visiting speaker for The Pushkin Prizes (- a long-running award scheme that offers a week-long residential writing course to ten Scottish S1 or s2 pupils, and two from in or around St Petersburg in Russia -) talking about how I had worked towards becoming published. The hour long session flew past, with lots of queries to field from the young writers. They were a lively and engaged bunch, clearly passionate not just about writing, but about reading too. Tricky questions included whether I’d ever felt like chucking my novel in the bin (oh yes…), and whether I wanted to sell more copies than…

No.

We’ll maybe not share that bit. I guess you had to be there…

Tutors Cathy MacPhail and Gerry Cambridge (who also took the interior shots below) made me feel very welcome. I’d love to make another visit.

On the way home, I even got a little book-shopping done. The train was running ahead of time, and at Pitlochry station we were told we could all get out and stretch our legs. Lo and behold, just where in years gone-by you might’ve expected to find a stationers, or a kiosk selling inedible sandwiches, there was a tiny-but-delightful charity bookstore (see pics here). I had just time to snaffle a mystery novel by AA Milne (better known for his philosophical bears), and dash back before my train trundled off through the highlands…

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Reviews of The Daemon Parallel, by Paul Magrs, Lari Don, Daniela Sacerdoti, Bookwitch and Krissie West…

I’ve mentioned before that the first review of The Daemon Parallel was courtesy of brilliant author Paul Magrs, who I’ve been a fan of for ages. Paul’s recently had to relaunch his blog, which means much of his back-catalogue of reviews, stories, and encounters with time-traveller extraordinaire Iris Wildthyme are currently offline. Thankfully, he’s given me permission to repost his original review in full here, below. You can also investigate his brand new shiny blog at Life on Magrs.

Review of The Daemon Parallel by Paul Magrs

Really good kids’ adventure books with supernatural elements always give away the things their author loved as a child. There are ‘reading footprints’ all over their books. It’s like how we can tell CS Lewis adored E Nesbit, when the witch Janis is transported into 19th century London in an echo of the Queen of Sheba’s adventures in ‘The Magic Amulet.’ And there’s a delicate link from Will’s growing awareness of magic in ‘The Dark is Rising’ that takes us back to Kay in Masefield’s ‘The Box of Delights.’ Kids’ books talk to each other across the generations like this – and I think it has something to do with the magic of how deep those tropes and images are planted when we read them first.

Anyway – this is all to say that when I was reading Roy Gill’s first novel this week, I was delighted by a sense that this was a writer who had read and loved the same things as I do. There were footprints in the snow. Little shivery echoes of Susan Cooper and others in this tale of two worlds – of Daemons and humans – that touch and intersect at certain points in the year. We’re in the genre of liminal spaces between shadowy worlds that only certain children can see and understand. We’re in the world of magic powers shared by kids who have to learn to be brave, and older people who will stop at nothing in their quests for magic and immortality.

Heady, wonderful stuff. Also, all of this rang bells for me, because it is set in one of my favourite places in the world. Edinburgh is conjured brilliantly and beautifully here, and we can really believe in it as a place suffused by magic. Whenever Cameron steps sideways into the Parallel, the world around him alters and shifts and familiar places are strangely transformed. I loved the scenes in the old department store on Princess Street – which becomes a kind of forest cathedral, where antlered beings tend to a sleeping Winter God. All of these moments are touched with the Celticy atmosphere of the Herne the hunter scenes in both Masefield and Cooper – and I just adored them.

There are some wonderful characters here – including Morgan the wolf boy, who lives in an abandoned cinema, and who becomes Cameron’s friend. Cameron’s gran is an ambiguous and magical being – drawing him into this weird world of alternate dimensions. She reminded me a little of the granny in Robin Jarvis’ ‘Whitby Witches’ books – but with a touch, perhaps, of that Mrs Coulter in Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials.’ This is much, much more readable than Pullman, though, I think. The kids here speak in a wonderfully realistic way – slapdash, slangy and cod-Californian, like kids everywhere.

I don’t want to give much away about the plot. It’s a quest story ranging over the layered streets and stories of the city; a story about returning the missing dead to life, and finding the arcane means to do so, through a series of scary encounters with mythical beings all over the Old and New Town of Edinburgh. There are mythic underpinnings and a mythos that we believe in completely – and we don’t get too much fussy backstory to weigh us down. Also, all the magic isn’t mystical and wishy-washy. It’s all about action and keeping the story moving, and hurtling towards a fabulous climax up in the hills above Holyrood Park.

I adored this novel. I really, really want it to be the first in a sequence. I want it to be a boxed set of novels that are just about falling apart with repeated rereadings. That’s how much I enjoyed this first one.

review courtesy of Paul Magrs, originally posted to paulmagrs.com , March 2012

Since I last blogged, Daemon Parallel has also been scrutinised by the BookWitch (who thinks that ‘for a a werewolf/daemon fantasy with a difference… you can’t do better’), the indomitable Lari Don (who was convinced by the ‘world of faeries, antlered forest spirits, enchanted child servants and upside down buildings, just a fingertip away if you know how to find it…’ in a ‘damn good first book‘), put in Daniela Sacerdoti‘s recommended ‘books for all ages’ at Sauciehall Street Waterstones (see images – and if you hurry along to the shop, you may find some signed copies) and described by Krissie West (KidsReadBooks blog) as ‘ – without doubting for a second it’s originality – it’s like a version of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere for teenagers – and there’s not much higher praise than that.’

Gosh! *blushes furiously*

So pleased people are enjoying the book – if you’ve recently reviewed Daemon Parallel, please drop me a message and let me know.