Launched!

As you may have seen, THE SILENT COMPANIONS have now been released into the wild to terrify you at your leisure!

I was thrilled to take part in a group reading with The Pigeonhole, which ended on publication day. The book was released in 10 ‘staves’, very similar to how Victorian novels were serialised in magazines. It was fantastic to see 200 readers experiencing the thrills and chills of The Bridge, making guesses about the mysteries. Most of these readers have also left me lovely reviews on Amazon, so I’m delighted that the experience was equally exciting for them.

The book has already appeared in several woman’s magazines and newspapers. The Sunday Express called it ‘A deliciously creepy ghost story’, whilst Stylist magazine listed it as a ‘Must-Read Book’ that they ‘had to finish reading in broad daylight’.

My lovely publisher Bloomsbury invited me to their London office on publication day to discuss the novel with their staff. The talk was filmed and you can watch it on Facebook live. This was my first event for the book. I was very nervous! But just look at the lovely backdrop, complete with candles …

 

Goldsboro Book of the Month

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It may only be August, but the busy people at Goldsboro Books have already selected their book of the month for October. Luckily for me, their pick is THE SILENT COMPANIONS!

I couldn’t be more thrilled. For those of you who don’t know Goldsboro, it’s an enchanting independent store in London for true book connoisseurs. They have a wide range of stunning signed hardbacks, most of them first editions, and other collectible books. Everything is wrapped in a clear, protective jacket to keep those covers in pristine condition. It also helps that the staff are the loveliest people you could hope to meet!

To celebrate the selection, Bloomsbury are printing an exclusive, limited edition of THE SILENT COMPANIONS, only available at Goldsboro Books. It will be signed and numbered with black sprayed edges to the pages (see picture above). It’s such a great touch, really brings out the detail in the cover. To order your copy, click here.

I haven’t received a special edition myself, yet, but my author copies from the first regular print run arrived this morning! My guinea pig Steve is using them as his throne.

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TSC US Edition

SilentCompanions_CVF_3Just a quick post to let my US readers know they can now pre-order THE SILENT COMPANIONS!

The book will be coming out from Penguin Random House on 6th March 2018. You can place your order here. I think it’s still undergoing some adjustments on the website, however, as it’s linked to ‘Historical Romance’ … you will be very disappointed if you are looking for a romantic read! It also describes 45-year-old Rupert Bainbridge as a ‘handsome young heir’. Well, I guess he’s still relatively young, but not for Victorian times…

But don’t you just love the understated, creepy cover? I’m so lucky with this book being published in multiple territories, I get more than just one wonderful cover.

Caboodle

SilentCompanions_AnimatedCoverJust a quick post to let you know that Bloomsbury are running a competition with National Book Tokens over at Caboodle. There are 100 advance proof copies of THE SILENT COMPANIONS up for grabs! To enter, simply click here and fill out the form.

As an added bonus, click on the cover picture at the top of this post. Hopefully you will see the figures coming to life!

By Candlelight

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I am very pleased to report that my publisher, Bloomsbury Raven, have started sending out proof copies of THE SILENT COMPANIONS to selected members of the industry! To make them extra special, each book is going with its own box of custom matches, enabling the reader to have a candle-lit Victorian experience.

It’s an apt ‘freebie’, as matches play a large part in the story: the heroine, Elsie, grew up in her father’s match factory and at the time the book begins, she is the co-owner along with her brother Jolyon. I thought I would take this opportunity to share with you a little bit of the research I did into Victorian matches and their manufacture.

The matches our Victorian ancestors knew were much more dangerous than their modern counterparts. While the ‘strike anywhere’ heads made storytelling easier for me, you can imagine the hazard of holding a match that can catch fire when scraped across practically any surface. Accidents could and did happen, particularly in the factories, where rogue matches would spark. Even the friction from stepping on a match could cause a person to go up in flames. The ominously named ‘Lucifer box’ was a slight improvement, whereby the match was drawn sharply between two pieces of sandpaper to ignite it. These came as a little book with the matches – it was not until later on that the sandpaper was pasted to the back of box.

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However, the main risk matches posed was not to their user, but to the poor souls engaged in making them. Before the invention of the ‘safety-head’, all matches were dipped in poisonous white phosphorous. Described as ‘the Devil’s element’, white phosphorous can burn the skin. If ingested, it will corrode the stomach lining, causing vomiting with blood. Victorian match workers would have to paddle the deadly mixture of white phosphorus, sulfur and glue over a stove – sometimes, the same stove they made their own food on – inhaling the toxic fumes. Consequently, many match workers gave off a fine white vapour, or found their clothing glowed in the dark.

Prolonged exposure could give rise to the dreaded condition of Phossy Jaw. With this terrible disease the teeth fell out, the jaw swelled up and the bones rotted with a discharge that glowed. Abscesses appeared on the gums, oozing a garlicky smelling pus.  In some cases, it was possible to see straight through the skin to the jawbone beyond. The only treatment that stopped the phosphorous from damaging the internal organs was to remove the infected bones, but this wasn’t always successful, as you can imagine with the surgery of the time.

In THE SILENT COMPANIONS, Elsie is a conscientious employer who insists on the use of ventilator fans and separate buildings for the matches to dry in. Many workers were not as lucky. They would have to work in sheds, consuming their meals where the phosphorous was heated, or where the frames of ready-dipped matches were left to dry. A large number of these workers were children. Relentless, day after day exposure to a stuffy, chemical environment inevitably took its toll upon the workers’ health. But even when this was noted, and the red phosphorous ‘safety-heads’ were introduced, many factories went on making Lucifer matches in the old fashion. Why? Public demand. It was pricier to buy safety matches and some of the working classes could simply not afford them. As Dickens writes in Household Words, ‘The Lucifer Matches sometimes fail, but they cost little, and so they are freely used, even by the poorest.’

Even before the famous Match Girls’ strike of 1888, philanthropists made visits to match factories to report on the health of the workers. One of my favourite quotes comes from Mr Whites Report on the Lucifer Match Manufacturer; Children’s Employment Commission, First Report (v.18) 1863. ‘ In this drying room,’ he writes, ‘the late owner, Mrs Halsey’s husband, was burned to death a short time since in trying to put out a fire, said to have been caused by a child out of mischief.’ While of course I feel terrible for Mr Halsey, I love the human element of this anecdote. It is yet another reminder that children+chemicals+matches are a very bad idea … And yet they continued together for many years after.

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I Spy …

Look what has arrived! I’m thrilled to show you the cover for my Gothic ghost story, THE SILENT COMPANIONS, coming on 5th October 2017 from Bloomsbury.

It was designed by the wonderful David Mann and features silhouettes of key images in the book. I’m particularly glad that Jasper the cat, my favourite character, attained pride of place! Although the story is scary, I didn’t want the cover to be too dark and brooding. I think David’s design strikes just the right balance between interesting and creepy.

Even better, this is actually a ‘double’ cover. The keyhole is cut out in the card, so when you open the book there’s a portrait of my character Hetta looming behind. Watch out ….

If you are super keen, you can pre-order the hardback at Bloomsbury and on Amazon (UK) now. My American readers will have to wait for a slightly later launch date from Viking, and possibly another interesting cover… I will let you know more when I do.

Bloomsbury

By Concord - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27472860
By Concord – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

 

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I have some very good news to share! After a few months’ hard work with my agent on a new draft of The Silent Companions, we went out to to submission with publishers in August. The response was extremely positive! I was thrilled to learn of editors and their teams really getting into the book, even having nightmares about the creepy wooden figures who dominate the story. There’s something wickedly satisfying about spreading a wave of fear through your readers…

In the end we had four publishers looking to make an offer. I had the good fortune to go and meet them all in their offices before the auction started – I have to say, they were all wonderful and I was thrilled to think so many people were interested in my little book! After an exciting few days, my work finally found its perfect home with the auction winner, Alison Hennessey from Bloomsbury.

Best known for publishing the Harry Potter series, Bloomsbury won my heart with afternoon tea in their gorgeous Georgian era offices on Bedford Square. Every person I have met from the team is simply fantastic. I’m over the moon to be working with them all, particularly Alison. Other books she has worked on include Ruth Ware’s In A Dark Dark Wood and Eva Dolan’s Zigic and Ferreira series. She is launching a new imprint with Bloomsbury – the name has yet to be announced – and I am so proud to be one of its first authors. Hardback publication is scheduled for around October 2017. I will let you know when I have firm dates.

The US will be publishing slightly later, around the first months of 2018. US rights were picked up by the lovely Sarah Stein at Viking.

If that wasn’t good enough, I actually have a two book deal with Bloomsbury, so I can say with confidence you will also be able to read The Corset, another Victorian Gothic tale about a seamstress with supernatural powers. I’m working hard on this at the moment between edits. Watch this space for more news.

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