Visitor’s Guide: Ravenscourt Manor

About an hour’s drive from Eboracum in the north of Anglia, deep in the pre-historic forest known as the Blackwood, the crumbling ruins of an ancient manor house lie abandoned to the elements. The oldest stones of the house that once dominated Ravenscourt Manor were laid back in medieval days. Between then and now, however, the estate saw numerous additions and reconstructions, slowly transforming into a labrynthine, ever-evolving structure of magnificent proportions — at least until it was abandoned sometime in the late 1800s.

No one really knows what happened to the Crowes, the family that occupied Ravenscourt from its medieval founding until the days before the turn of the century, but rumours abound. The family is thought to have dabbled in illegal magic, and so the decline of the family and the abandonment of their estate may merely have been an unsurprising outcome of Brytannia’s War of Inquisition. But if the local farmers are to be believed, there are still places within the manor grounds where the world turns strange, and the possibility of stepping into the Feyrealm becomes more than mere imagination. Given that no records exist documenting the last of the Crowe family to inhabit the house, perhaps, it is up to us to draw our own conclusions.

In any case, my warning to those who might be interested in following my footsteps: tread carefully. The manor, though abandoned, remains a place of many tricks and surprises.

Finding the Site

The main approach to the house is well hidden amongst the hedgerows of the main road south out of Eboracum. Following the drive, which is fairly overrun by blackberries and over-grown shrubs, the house appears through the trees like a fairytale castle, its high north tower looming above windows dark and shattered by time.

The house itself lies in mournful disrepair, front door hanging off its hinges. The foyer, grand as it once was with its twin staircases curling up into darkness, is now cluttered with dust and debris — the remains of what were once masterworks and artifacts from all over the world. The rest of the house has suffered a similar fate, though there are still several places of interest that may be worth a closer look for those of us inclined to ferret through others’ abandoned lives.

Points of Interest

Straight through the double doors off the main foyer, the Grand Hall remains set-up for some grand soiree, though the champaigne flutes and gold-edged plates now lie tented with cobwebs, the canapés dissolved to dust and mould. The hall is expansive, with a vaulted ceiling and alcoves along the walls for private entertainment. French doors open to the house’s central courtyard, and it’s easy enough to imagine this space hosting parties of several hundred guests in its heyday. More intimate gatherings would’ve been held in the nearby Dining Hall, which plays host to a single enormous table, which could easily have been outfitted for several dozen guests.

The rest of the manor is a maze of sprawling hallways — corridors laid out at strange angles to each other, rooms and galleries placed as if by the mind of some madman. The Upper Halls, where the family itself would’ve resided, is by far the most derlicit part of the house, windows smashed and the rooms turned over to the elements — with one room even completely overtaken by weeds. The Middle Halls, on the other hand, are where the Crowes would have entertained up to a couple hundred guests. These rooms are sparser, and by consequence seem to have weathered the years less dramatically. It’s here that you can find the portraits of all the former residents of Ravenscourt Manor, from the original founder of the house to its last resident, Dr. Edward Crowe.

The Lower Halls are overtaken by a warren of servants quarters, kitchens, scullaries and storage rooms, including a smashed-up laboratory tucked into the base of the North Tower. The only thing that’s still intact here is a full-length mirror with a gilt frame — though why anyone would’ve left such a thing in a laboratory is beyond me. The stairs into the tower, as well, seem to have been bricked off long ago. If any of you, dear readers, manage to ever get a peek at what’s up there, I do hope you let me know.

Finally, the manor’s back gardens are reached through the overgrown Greenhouse. This magnificent structure, built in an art-neuveau style, moreso than any other part of the house has stood the test of time. Its exotic flowers remain preserved against the harsh Anglian winters, a veritable jungle of flowers and fronds. Beyond, the tangled branches of what may once have been a rose-hedge maze stands bristling with thorns.

Finally, a note on the wider Manor Grounds. As mentioned, the estate lies on the outskirts of the Blackwood, and venturing too far into this old-growth forest is definitely risky. There are few paths, and it is all too easy to get lost among the ancient trees. However, if you’re brave enough to attempt the wandering trails, you may find yourself at the edge of Blackwood Lake. I’ve also heard rumours of a cottage that once belonged to the groundskeepers, and of a grove of aspens deep in the old-wood, where the world tilts strange, but if you are brave enough to seek those places out, I should be glad to read your account of it.

As for myself, I ended my trip to Ravenscourt with a pint at the nearest pub, The Magpie Inn, situated in the nearby village of Corvick. I should think it a far more comfortable fate than that of the Manor’s former residents. Though what would I know of that?

A dead father. A missing spirit. An ancient manor with way too many locked doors. Buy A Murder of Crows in paperback through Waterstones,, or | Also available on kindle or at

The Absolute Beginner Writers’ Guide: Freewriting, or how to get started with creative writing in just ten minutes

Every morning for the past three years, I’ve had the same daily ritual. First thing after breakfast, when the world is quiet — or just as I’ve sat down on the train for my commute — I take out a little notebook or open my laptop, and I write.

The topic doesn’t matter. Neither does the artistry. All that matters is putting words on the page. The prose might be dire, but this practice of writing on demand has, without a doubt, made the process of developing stories, novels, and scenes easier in the long run.

If you’ve never done any sort of writing before, this type of writing (that is: freewriting) provides an easy and risk-free way to take your first dip into the waters. Freewriting can seem daunting at first, but the point of the exercise — whether you do it daily, weekly, or whenever you have a few minutes to spare — is to take the fear out of the blank page.

Freewriting as Practice

My particular brand of freewriting routine was first and most widely popularised by Julia Cameron as “morning pages”. In her book The Artist’s Way, Cameron promotes three pages written by hand first thing in the morning as a way of emptying your mind of distractions and obsessions, readying both the conscious and subconscious for creative action. As a sort of journaling exercise, it provides the foundation for the rest of Cameron’s creative practice.

For me, the more important bit is the combination of discipline and freedom that morning pages provide: the time and imperative to simply sit down, and now, write, without worrying about quality. Your only goal is to fill the page. If you’re just starting to explore writing as a creative outlet, freewriting is a key skill to practice in order to take the challenge of the blank page head on.

For those who are more experienced at writing, you may find that freewriting helps as a tool to overcome writer’s block. By removing the pressure to produce anything good or even readable, you separate the act of writing itself from the performance of creating something publishable, and allow yourself to create without judgement.

Which all goes to say, writing, like any other skill, is something that needs to be practiced. Freewriting is the easiest and gentlest of writing exercises, a way to build up your creativity and writing stamina without critical pressure. And the best part about it is that it can be done anywhere, any time, so long as you have something to write with.

So let’s try it right now.

The Basic Freewriting Exercise


  • A timer
  • Anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes of uninterrupted time (though 5 minutes will also do in a pinch)
  • A writing medium: notebook and pen or pencil; the wordprocessor on your computer or laptop; a typewriter with fresh tape and a blank sheet of paper; a cafe napkin and stub of eyeliner
  • Courage and curiosity
  • Optional: A starting prompt such as “I remember…”, “Right now, I feel/think/see/hear…”, “I hope…”, “Yesterday…”, “When I was a child…”, “In the beginning…”, “Once upon a time…” etc. For more ideas, you might try a prompt generator like this one or a questionnaire such as this.

The Process: Open your notebook or laptop, or prepare your typewriter. Set your timer for ten minutes to start with. Take a deep breath, and begin by writing whatever comes into your head at that moment — use a prompt if you’re having trouble knowing where to start. Once you’ve started writing, do not stop until your timer goes off.

If you get stuck: simply write the word you’ve gotten stuck on over and over until your mind latches onto another word, image, or idea.

Remember: it doesn’t matter if your ideas are cohesive, if your grammar is correct, if your spelling is wrong, or even if you’re writing in sentences. The only goal is to build the connection between your two major writing instruments: your brain and your fingers.

Once the timer is up, finish whichever thought you’re on and put down the pen. If you never reread the words you’ve just written, that’s absolutely fine. On the other hand, you may find that one or two of the thoughts you’ve dashed down have real meaning and poignancy for you. There may be words or phrases that point to themes you hope to explore, or situations you might want to include in a story. Whether or not your freewriting has brought up anything inspirational, acknowledge the accomplishment of simply having written!

Building your Practice

For maximum impact, try to engage with this exercise daily if you can. I have a dedicated morning pages notebook that I use for my daily freewriting. In any case, this exercise is only the first step to developing a creative writing practice, though it’s a technique that you can come back to no matter where you are in the process. Once you’ve gotten into the habit of writing wherever and whenever you have ten minutes to spare, you can try using freewriting for more complex tasks such as plotting, character creation, idea generation, and even structural editing. No matter what, writing only becomes easier the more you do it. So get out those notebooks, and start freewriting.

Goodbye 2020, and Moving in the Midst of a Pandemic

So, wise children that we are, in the middle of the last lockdown, the boy and I finally enacted our move to Nottingham. It’s been an interesting time getting used to living in a new city while in the midst of lockdown, nevermind tier three, when most everything worth doing is still shut down.

Mainly, we’ve managed to get by with long walks around the city’s numerous green spaces. Our place is smack dab in between two amazing parks, with the grounds of the University of Nottingham on one side and Wollaton deer park not too far away. I’ve also managed to do quite a bit of writing before being called back in to sling books full time — NaNoWriMo saw me finish a 50k rough draft of a new middle grade project that I’m hoping to be able to shape into something useful over the next month.

All in all, this season has given rise to a strange mixture of stress and ennui. The new year arrives with more of a wet flop than a bang this time around it seems, but I’m still hopeful for everything that lies ahead. So here’s to new years, new lives, new possibilities. I sincerely hope you’ve got a few things to light the road ahead of you as well, no matter where you ended up in 2020.

Salvaging Stories: On the Publication of Like Clockwork

Click Here to read Like Clockwork.

Back in 2007, I found myself in a place that was becoming all-too-familiar in the worst possible way. Once again, my mind and body had betayed me, and several weeks removed from the flow of my life was the result.

From the barred window of my room in the intensive psychiatric unit of Bellvue hospital, I could catch a narrow glimpse of the original facade of New York City’s first “pavilion for the insane”. Here’s a truth that perhaps you’ll understand better these days, having lived through this year and the pandemic. When you’re locked up inside, with none of the expectations and pressures of every day life to contend with, time stretches.

The effect is compounded by a lack of electronic devices: no computers, no phones, a single fuzzy old-school tv that you’re only allowed to work with assistence. Paper and pen become your best friends, the only way to really escape. So I watched the street from my window, drew portraits of the other patients, wrote scraps of stories that I wasn’t sure I would ever find the end of:

Thursdays, Mother would clean the shop. Mira would often watch from the back window as her Mother and the girl, Adne, took unwound springs and bent gears out to the alley…

It was only years later, and after several more encounters with the mental health system in the US, that I finally found something that worked, to some extent: a little round pill — ten milligrams of some unpronouncable chemical compound — that balanced the dopamine in my brain. It took the edge off of the darkness and prevented me from spiralling into the deepest of my moods, so long as I made sure to take it every day. It was at that point, as well, that I finally looked back over all my old stories, and found a few things to salvage.

Like Clockwork turned out to be the story of a girl who felt the way that I did, locked up in that mental ward all those years ago. A girl who wants the freedom of exploring everything that life has to offer, but finds her own body turned against her. Worst of all, even the people most concerned for her welfare seem intent on thwarting her ability to live a free and meaningful life.

Mira’s story was one of the first I ever wrote, and now, after five years in publishing limbo, I’m so excited to be sharing it with you, courtesy of the wonderful editors and volunteers who run Ember, a Journal of Luminous Things. I sincerely hope that you enjoy it.

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An Advent Calendar of Prose Poems 4

It’s officially the beginning of The Season. This year, I’m challenging myself to write a piece of prose poetry for each of the days leading up to Christmas. This is week four — for days one through six, start here, days seven through twelve, here, and the previous days here. Check back for new ones regularly, and let me know your thoughts!

19 | Gingerbread

‘Tis the season for sweets, from almond cookies and marzipan rounds, to gingerbread cut out in the shapes of men and houses. Candied chestnuts roasting on the street corners, the smell of burnt sugar carries its own siren song. Christmas treats come in all shapes and sizes, tiny German gingerhearts and delicate Belgian spice cookies, thin as lace, jam-filled window biscuits, piled high next to chocolate drizzled macaroons. Sugared almonds and spiced plums, liquored fruit baked into dense, chewy-sweet cakes, puddings that we steam for hours on end, to bring them out, with a flourish, at the end of our shared meal.

20 | Darkest Night

Shadows gather, long and creeping, and the lamps burn small and weak. Winter snakes its way in through every crack; the season has arrived. With frost and rain and chill, this night stretches — it arches its back into the high reaches of heaven and makes even the stars glare cold. Tonight, there is no escaping the ice and gloom. On this, the longest night of the year, darkenss reigns.

21 | Solstice

Thwarted day, brief candle. How quickly it fades. Not even a glimpse of sun between lashings of rain. But tomorrow will be longer, brighter. Tomorrow, the sun will rise.

22 | Yule

In ancient times, we sheltered from the cold, wielding firelight and story against the dark. These long, withering nights heralded the turning of the year, the hope of brighter days yet to come — for after every winter there must be another spring. But for now, for today, there is only the threat of death and hunger in the air, the crushed leaves, the frozen streams. There is only the late dawn and the early dusk, the wasted fields, the frost-bound boughs, and yet still, somehow, somewhere, the trill of birdsong on the wind.

An Advent Calendar of Prose Poems 3

It’s officially the beginning of The Season. This year, I’m challenging myself to write a piece of prose poetry for each of the days leading up to Christmas. This is week three — for days one through six, start here, and days seven through twelve, here. Check back for new ones regularly, and let me know your thoughts!

13 | The Marketplace

At the furthermost edges of the square, the flowerstalls burst with winter blooms — delicate heather and nodding pansies and bright yellow stars of fresh-scented jasmine. Through the tight-twisting aisles, the rest of the market beckons, tables crowded with porcelain and metal, canisters of tea and beeswax candles, cakes and vases and potpourri. Despite the winter chill, the crowds have descended, and though we keep our distance, our excitement hums through the air.

14 | Christmases Past Part II

Afterward, Christmases are spent in other people’s homes. Aunts and cousins, friends and their families, all of them open their arms to me. One season, I cross the continent in a sleeper train to observe midnight mass in Warsaw, tour the frozen marketplaces until my feet go numb from cold, join Christmas dinner as the thirteenth guest, taking my place at the setting meant for passing strangers. The next, I visit a friend at the edge of the Austrian alps, warm my hands around mugs of gluhwine, and join his family for shots of schnapps and liqueurs. I drift, alone and anchorless, yet somehow, every Christmas, I find a place.

15 | Migrations

What if, instead of the cold and dark, we basked ourselves beneath the light of a summer sun? What if, as soon as the air began to bite, we fled and made our way to warmer climes? What if we did not tie ourselves to this piece of land, these four walls, this familiar shore? What if those borders meant nothing? What if we wandered where we wished, following the light, with no thought to spend on visas, passports, tickets, baggage? What if we simply migrated like birds?

16 | Winter Flowers

Heather lifts its buds even in the chill winter winds, tiny florets of purple blooming beneath the frost. Primrose petals still unfurl beneath the ice-steel skies. Poinsettas flame bright around doorways and garden gates, though the violets have only just now started to wither. While everything else dies, the hellebores bloom. Even here, in this aching darkness, there is life.

17 | Snow

In the heavy gray clouds, the threat of it lingers. In the edges of the chill, tiny crystals begin to form. The rain comes down, misting and delicate. It needs only the slightest shifting of degrees to turn it into snow.

18 | Lights

In every window and over every door, the twine of greenery and lights shines bright. Beneath the eerie cold of the gray-setting sun, they twinkle to life, glittering and shifting by whims. Above us, the sky is blank, a dark quilt heavy with the threat of snow. But here, down below, in the cold and dark and gray, the night is alive with fairylights and bells. They cast their glow on our faces. They brighten even this lingering dark. Tonight, the heavens are empty and all the stars are here.

An Advent Calendar of Prose Poems 2

It’s officially the beginning of The Season. This year, I’m challenging myself to write a piece of prose poetry for each of the days leading up to Christmas. Here comes week two — for days one through six, start here. Check back for new ones regularly, and let me know your thoughts!

7 | Christmases Past part 1

I grew up opening presents under the silent watch of a plastic tree, with snow gathering upon the eaves and the howl of winter winds filling the attic. We spent one Christmas in the distant summery lands of my mother’s childhood, singing carols under the harsh sun and lighting fireworks to celebrate the season. When we returned, the blizzard had thrown up walls — I wandered between the snowbanks, the familiar neighborhood turned into a labyrinth. At eleven, we left it behind.

The years following, we celebrated in a bigger house, further south, in warmer lands, fields and suburbs stretching away as far as the eye could see. We hung garlands and lights from the peach trees, and made our own fascimile of winter snow. Away to university, I came back on trains, on over-night sleepers, on long, exhausting red-eye roadtrips to make it back in time for Mom’s turkey, for the carols, for midnight mass. All of that came before.

8 | The Tree

Delivered to our doorstep, she stands to my shoulder, leaning and bowed in the winter chill. I haul her into the house, where she fills the space with the fragrance of pine forests, wrapped in a snow-white blanket. My first real Christmas Tree sheds needles onto the floor, even as we tend to her roots.

9 | Christmas Presents

It’s hard to break our magpie habit; though we’ve been hidden away most of the year, still the pile of trinkets in our closet has grown. Sweets and candles and cups and scarves, a treasure trove for all the people we have loved. Day by day, they are wrapped and ribboned; day by day, we tuck them into stockings and underneath our lopsided tree. In time, they are revealed, with gasps and hugs and thank-yous all around — yet we know that the unwrapping is not what matters.

10 | These Days

We count down our hours of daylight, measuring it against the dark. But the dawn is long in coming, and night creeps in too soon. It will be days yet before the nights start growing shorter. It will be days yet of waking up to the dark

11 | Nothing Grows…

beneath the frost. No new leaves unfurl to catch the few wan hours of winter sun. The grass remains ice-bound and stunted. The flowers have long since withered away. And yet, in the wilted petals and the last clinging leaves, in the bitter chill of the air, there is an expectancy. Nothing grows, and yet we wait for something wonderous to be born.

12 | Night comes…

On soft-shod feet, the gray sky turning suddenly gold and rose. But beneath this marvelous cape, darkness encroaches at the edges of things, too soon. Too soon, the unfeeling stars will pierce the tattered clouds, and the moon will shine down it’s ice-cold light on the gathering frost. However we draw the curtains, the night still creeps its way in.

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An Advent Calendar of Prose Poems

It’s officially the beginning of The Season. This year, I’m challenging myself to write a piece of prose poetry for each of the days leading up to Christmas. Trying to get back into the rhythm of writing prose poetry — we’ll see how it goes. Check back for new ones regularly, and let me know your thoughts!

1 | Day One

For now, the ducks and red-billed geese still cut the mirrored surface of the pond, the feathered heads of the reeds that line its banks crowned with winter’s first cracking frost. At island’s edge, a single red-cloaked maple remains adorned with all its autumn finery, the robin’s song cracking through ice-laden branches. Still, the yolk-golden light of morning breaks over grove and water. By the barest of degrees, the frost begins to melt. We step out into the sugar-plum light, and the first deep breath of cold braces, but does not leave its teethmarks on our lungs. We do not shiver. This is only the first day of many. There is time, yet, before the world will fall asleep. There is time yet for the cold to come.

2 | The Next Morning

Night still lingers at the edge of things, dawn hesitant to show itself in full glory. We wake from tangled dreams to frost patterning lace upon the windows, the world outside reduced to crystalline shadows of fog and glass. Lamps flicked on, the heating hisses, we pad downstairs on naked feet. Water boils with a rumble like distant thunder, but this bleakness comes not from the storm, only winter’s touch. Coffee tastes better in the dark.

3 | In Childhood Dreams…

Christmas arrives with a whiff of magic. Out of the attic, we pull out the old dusty tree we’ve had since I was three, fitting together faux-pine branches and making sure the biggest ones end up properly at the bottom. Still, somehow, it always ends up lopsided, but draped with lights and tinsel, we all pretend not to notice. Mom shows me how to turn paperclips into bauble hangers and points out where to place them. Dad lifts me up to place our golden angel at the very top, and in the glow of the fairylights, her wings shift and shimmer with an echo of life. She looks down upon us, her porcelain face patient and unblinking. She will watch as the presents gather, will watch as the visitors flit by, day after day. And at the end, we will take her down, and tuck her away with the tree again, stow them back upstairs in the dark.

4 | The Wreath

The empty house is a nest of possibilities, our sparse furniture only beginning to show the barest outline of what might be. Upstairs, the bedroom comes with a walk in closet, which we stuff with books and blankets and fairy lights, a place for rediscovering childhood pleasures. The walls are bare, the curtains left threadbare by the previous occupants, the furniture unloved, well-worn. Even after our first trip to the grocers, there are too many hollow cuboards, the fridge still half-empty, just milk and eggs. But among the precious staples: pasta, rice, fresh-baked bread — the wreath gleams, all glossy needles and gold dust. Hung on the wall, it makes it feel more like Christmas. Hung on the wall, it gives this place the first feelings of home.

5 | Hibernation

Even the maples, as the weather snaps and the first ice crystals drift down from cloud-swept skies; even the squirrels, who have spent all the shortening days industriously gathering their winter crop; even the badgers, the bears, the hedgehogs and voles will spend months curled up together to stave away the winter’s chill, their little bodies turned to soft, breathing heaps of warmth beneath the snow, sleeping and dreaming of the spring to come. In their slumber, winter will not touch them. Winter will pass them by. Meanwhile, we trudge on, braving the elements — for what we cannot say. Even the maples will spend this season recovering their strength. Why not us?

6 | This Room

On every surface, the gloss of evergreen. Baubles in a vase on the makeshift coffee table, their colourful shine. A candle winking on a shelf. The smell of cinnamon and pine. Lights shining bright on strings along the window. The tree in one corner, fragrant and glittering. And in the middle of it all, two people searching together for home.

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Rivers of London Award Shortlist Interview: Dan Buchanan

The skeleton of my story … serves as a useful guide, not only in terms of inspiring the questions my world-building needs to answer, but also as a kind of framework on which I can bounce the story around, and chop and change as needed.

Dan Buchanan on knowing the story you’re telling

Shortly after Gollancz’s Rivers of London Award, I got in touch with the winners and other shortlistees to find out more about them and thier projects. In this post, Dan Buchanan talks to me about her novel, The Scent of Cloves, and her influences as a writer.

Tell us about the work you submitted to the RoL award in a tweet or less.

The Scent of Cloves tracks the story of the restless years preceding the war through the eyes of Bahira Solomon, Arbiter, and on the trail of dangerous sentiments brewing in the corners of vampire society.

Where are you in your process with the work?

At this precise moment? Writing through the nascent urge to delete everything I’ve done so far and begin again.

What are a few things that inspired or influenced your novel?

The first is an abiding love of vampires, as a concept. This is balanced by the second thing, which can best be described as a particular weariness with the shape and heft of the vampire canon as it currently stands. Finally, I wanted to tell a story cooked up in my world, all mixed up and anxious and brittle with culture and history, with enough of both that it hasn’t cracked under the pressure. Yet. This project is fuelled by that.

Could you share the first line or paragraph?

*breathes gently-like into a paper bag* I wish I could…

What is one key part of your writing process?

An important element of storytelling, for me, is knowing the story you’re telling. Within my process, I find it helpful to lay out the skeleton of my story before getting on with most of the other bits and pieces. It serves as a useful guide, not only in terms of inspiring the questions my world-building needs to answer, but also as a kind of framework on which I can bounce the story around, and chop and change as needed. It’s by no means a fixed thing, but it is a starting point

Which book or author has most influenced you and why?

Lucky for me, the two are linked. I first read Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey when I was about fourteen years old, and it’s been a well-thumbed favourite ever since. Above everything (which is saying a lot, since the plot, character creation and development, and worldbuilding are *chef’s kiss*), Carey’s luscious, gorgeous prose has always stirred a certain part of me that lives and dies for beautiful word craft. It has influenced every word I’ve ever written since.

Finally, what are you reading at the moment?

Well, first up is Katy Rose Pool’s There Will Come A Darkness; no feedback yet, unfortunately, but I’m only a few chapters in so time will tell. I’m also eyeing up Gideon the Ninth by Tamysn Muir, and Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.

And what is one book you would wholeheartedly recommend everyone to read right now?

Stop everything you are doing and read the first instalment of the Terra Ignota series by Ada Palmer. Too Like The Lightning, a phrase borrowed from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, is a book that wavers brilliantly between science-fiction, fantasy, dystopian utopias, and alternate futurism. It is sharply and exquisitely flavoured with magic, cosmic philosophy, intrigue, mystery, religion, lust, and a profound and liminal commentary on society and us. Also, it will blow every single one of your nerve-endings like a bulb and it’s sensational.

You can find out more about Dan and her writing by following her on twitter, instagram, and goodreads.

Rivers of London Award Shortlist Interview: Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson

This is a story we are hesitant to tell…

Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson – The Principle of Moments

Shortly after Gollancz’s Rivers of London Award, I got in touch with the winners and other shortlistees to find out more about them and thier projects. In this post, Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson talks to me about her winning novel, The Principle of Moments, and her influences as a writer.

Tell us about the work you submitted to the RoL award in a tweet or less.

It’s about a girl living in the far future, under an oppressive regime, who discovers she has a sister imprisoned by the emperor and risks everything to go and save her. But it’s also about the power of righteous anger, family, and the importance of friendship.

Where are you in your process with the work?

Somehow, I have managed to finish writing it! At the moment I am going through the first round of edits with my agent, and hoping they’re the only ones I have to do before we go out on submission.

What are a few things that inspired or influenced your novel?

  • The idea of Black Girl Magic! It isn’t often that Black girls and women get to see themselves as powerful beings in huge adventure stories, and so I wrote what I always wanted to see.
  • My love of stories set in space that are character driven rather than just about the Cool Space Stuff (though I have definitely written more than my fair share of Cool Space Stuff into this book!)
  • My sisters! I have two sisters, and they mean the world to me (even if they drive me up the wall most of the time). But I remember thinking when I knew I wanted to write this book, that sisterhood would be at the centre of it. Essentially it asks the question: how far would you go for your sister? And the answer is: as far as it takes. Which is true for me too!

Could you share the first line or paragraph?

This is a story we are hesitant to tell, though it is true we are many years removed from it now.

What is one key part of your writing process?

One key part of my writing process is not having too much of a process! I really think that (if you are someone who enjoys going with the flow) it can be very helpful to let the characters lead at times. Mine are especially bad at following the plot, so for the first two thirds of the first draft, I’m usually plan-less, letting them run around in the world.

Which book or author has most influenced you and why?

The list is so, so long, but probably N.K. Jemisin. She is my absolute hero. I don’t think my writing style is similar, but in terms of showing me what it is possible to do — to make people feel! — with the medium of a novel, or a series in three parts, she is the one I keep returning to. Also to see a Black woman in science fiction become as successful as her is like wind beneath my wings when I’m questioning everything. She feels like an awesome aunty I’ve never met. One day I’d love to be able to tell her that!

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m in the middle of The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson. It’s incredible on every level! It’s definitely an aspirational book in terms of craft. One day I’d love to have such a handle on political writing and the things that make a rebellion — but for now I’m just enjoying being completely blown away.

And finally, what is one book you would wholeheartedly recommend everyone to read right now?

It’s always anything by N.K. Jemisin, and An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon.

You can find out more about Esmie and her writing by following her on twitter, and of course, make sure to check out her winner’s video from the Gollancz awards ceremony!