The bound proofs of Love Song go out this week. They look like this:


Aren’t they beautiful? Bound proofs are the uncorrected version of the manuscript that publishers send out early to reviewers, with a cheaper (but oh so lovely, in the case of Chicken House) cover and paper. In America, they’re known as ARCS, or Advance Reader Copies. I don’t always get them for my books (sometimes they just send out finished versions) and when I do, I love them to bits. These ones will be sent out with bookmarks and (I think) badges, and lots of lovely swag, so I can’t wait to see what the package looks like. Then we just need to wait and see what people think of the book … *bites nails*

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to write the new detective story for 9-12s that’s been on my mind for ages. It’s the usual story – the plot is clear as a bell in my head, but the story just won’t write itself down. It’s too complicated. I need to bring out the characters more. Instead, I’ve been reading about the art of writing. ‘Reacher Said Nothing – Lee Child and the Making of Make Me’ is a book by a Cambridge academic called Andy Martin, who lectures in French literature. As an ex-Cambridge academic myself, and a student of French literature, I love Andy’s references to writers and writing from Derrida to Agatha Christie, Beckett to Dorothy Sayers. It’s how I think – how a lot of writers think, I’m sure – but it’s rare to see it written down.

This is a glorious book for someone like me, who’s fascinated by every aspect of writing. Andy sat behind Lee Child’s shoulder for 8 months, while Lee wrote his 20th Jack Reacher thriller (which went on to become an instant bestseller, of course), and noted down everything from his choice of font and line spacing to how many cigarettes he smoked a day (very Bridget Jones) to how he felt about Shakespeare, why he’s a fan of the four-word sentence and why he appreciates starting a sentence with ‘Which’. It’s funny, fascinating and a great distraction from, you know, actually doing writing myself. Although it has confirmed a lot of my thoughts about writing (I think of it as building a roller-coaster, whereas Lee tends to think of it as acrobatics, but we’re both trying to ‘roll a boulder up a hill’ through the middle section to create an easy, smooth ride at the end). And Andy Martin makes a great Virgil to guide the reader through Lee Child’s heaven and hell.

Did you know how Lee Child got his name? It’s in there. And it’s something to do with Renaults. Bet you didn’t know that.

I’m also finalising my next year’s school talk, called Winning Like A Girl, with the help of some great school librarians. It’s about giving girls the tools to find confidence and be themselves in stressful situations. It’s full of information, advice and tips I wish I’d had at 15, and I only wish I could pass on its secrets to every teenage girl in the country. But that might take a while!

Oh yeah, and Christmas. Did anyone mention Christmas? Or Chanukah? Most of the families I know are getting excited about trees and presents and food and holidays, but I know at least two who are desperately worried about a close relative in hospital, and other people who find just getting through the day difficult, and especially at times like these. So for you, I offer these 15 simple survival tips from Films for Action. They start with a simple glass of water. Give it a go, and you have my sincerest wishes for a festive season full of the light your heart deserves.

Sophia xxx

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