the great writing space clear out

For reasons best known to my subconscious, I have to do an enormous clearout of the house before I start work on a book. I have no idea why, because as soon as I start writing I completely ignore everything and everyone, pausing only to shout “I don’t care what you have for dinner, why don’t you just have pot noodles”. Sometimes there’s swearing in there, depending on how well the book is behaving.

So as I said yesterday (get me, with my two blog posts in the same month – this is blooming miraculous) I’ve been clearing out the study. And today I finished it, and here are the after photos…

Fireplace, complete with Buddha from a trip to Bali when we were moving to Australia when I was little, and a heart shaped stone R found on Polzeath beach on our first family holiday.

Bookshelves which are very much not ordered or organised (despite living with a librarian). If you zoom in you’ll see an entire shelf dedicated to HRH Jilly Cooper, of course.

My desk, which has an in tray the size of a novel (it’s been a busy few months) and a sparkly lava lamp and a wolf (for my next YA novel) and lots of research books for A Secret Thing I’m working on as well as for the adult book, which will be out in 2020.

Enormous reading chair (impossible to get out of) which currently faces the television where they used to play the Xbox. I’m wondering if I should leave it there so I can watch Netflix for, er, research. The Hallmark Channel is research if you’re writing romance, isn’t it?

So that’s my (lovely, tidy, nobody else is allowed except the dogs and only if Martha doesn’t try to eat the guinea pigs) writing room.

Now all I have to do is write the book. I might just have a cup of tea first…

resolutions

I’ve never been much good at resolutions. I’ve done “keep a diary” (fizzles out every February) and “join the gym” (I’d be better off sending the direct debit to charity) and all the usual stuff, but I’m hopeless at all that New Year New You stuff (plus I quite like the old me).

So instead of writing a list of things that will remind me of all my terrible failings, I’m going to write one that cheers me up.

I resolve to:

Use my new camera and share my photographs here. Here’s a funny thing – I stopped years ago, pretty much as soon as my blog won an award for best photography. Why? Because I felt like I wasn’t a Proper Photographer because all I did was look at the world through a lens and share the things I saw and I didn’t really understand all the twiddly bits (still don’t) and that’s ridiculous. So: more photographs.

And more baking. Because I’m determined to perfect the art of the cinnamon roll (so determined that I’m off on an, er, research trip to Copenhagen in February).

More writing. That might sound bonkers when I have two books out this year, but last year was a really tricky one for writing – not just for me, I’ve discovered, but for lots of other people too. So less time worrying about what happens to the books once they’re done (that’s not my job, after all) and more time concentrating on what I love, which is telling stories. And I have SO many stories to tell this year.

More reading. Because that’s never a bad thing. Last year I got lost in the Game of Thrones books and it was such a wonderful feeling to escape into another world when so much awful stuff was going on in our own one.

More: time with friends. Laughing. Even more sitting on the front step drinking tea and watching the world go by in spring.

And most of all: spending time with these four. As I explained to one of them (who is now, amazingly, 6’2″) they might be turning 18, 16, 14 and 12 this year, but in my head they’re this size. I suspect they always will be, in a way.

I have exciting news!

In fact I have three pieces of exciting news. The first one is that I will be writing another two adult books for Pan Macmillan – the first is out next October and is the story of Ella, Matthew, and a little girl called Hope. It feels amazing to know that books six and seven will have a home, and I can’t wait to share them with you.

rachael lucas bookseller deal announcement

The second is that my next YA novel, My Box Shaped Heart, is now available for pre-order.

If you want to learn a bit about it, read on…

My Box Shaped Heart

Holly’s mum is a hoarder, and she is fed up with being picked on at school for being weird . . . and having the wrong clothes . . . and sticking out. All she wants is to be invisible. She loves swimming, because in the water everyone is the same.

Ed goes to the swimming pool to escape the horrible house he and his mum have been assigned by the women’s refuge. In his old life he had money; was on the swim team; knew who he was and what he wanted. In his old life his dad hit his mum.

Holly is swimming in one direction and Ed’s swimming in the other. As their worlds collide they find a window into each other’s lives – and learn how to meet in the middle.

 

I love the cover – designed again by Rachel Vale, it’s just perfect!

I’ve got one other bit of news – over the last few years I’ve had so many people saying to me that they’d like to take the leap and write a book, or create a blog, or just start doing something creative. I’ve learned quite a lot along the way about creativity, and courage, and why so many of us have a few chapters of a book in a drawer somewhere, or a dream of trying something new.

Later this year I’m going to be offering a six week e-course called Create Courage where I’ll be tying together my writing, my coaching work, and my training as a mindfulness and meditation teacher. If you’re interested in being one of the first to find out more, you can sign up here. I’d love to have you on board!

 

 

the story of a book cover

 

Rachel Vale, the brilliant artist behind the cover design for the State of Grace, has written a blog post for me (I like this delegation lark – I should have been off having a painting day in exchange, but in fact I’ve been gardening) about the thought processes that led to the gorgeous cover…

the state of grace - rachael lucas

The cover for The State of Grace was a really great project to work on. As with all cover designs I kicked things off by reading the book – I absolutely loved it! We follow Grace, a teenage girl with Asperger’s, and see how she deals with everything life throws at her. It’s written with great humour, which I wanted to reflect within the design as well as sympathetically referencing Asperger’s. The story also raised questions for me over what is ‘normal’? A lot of the emotions, anxieties and questions Grace deals with feel relevant to absolutely everyone with regards to whether we ‘fit-in’.

So book read and notes made (my keyword list included cat, Doctor Who, pattern, horse . . .), I generated some typography. I knew immediately what I wanted this part of the cover to look like. I can’t quite explain why – sometimes it will take a few attempts and I’ll be working on the typography and image together so that they evolve as one creation. But even without any imagery, I already knew that this had to be big, bold and simple, and to look hand-drawn, therefore giving it a human element.

Typography done, I hit Google and Pinterest for research and image-collection. I wanted to find out more about Asperger’s, and if there was anything visual I could generate that may nod to the syndrome, along with finding a voice for Grace.

Repetitive pattern of behaviour and interests came up quite a lot. So a sort of repeat pattern felt like something I could definitely work with. I generated numerous ideas that included various themes. Some were better than others (as is often the way), but what they all seemed to be lacking was Grace. I needed to revisit her and her journey.

Grace experiences emotions around many different relationships, with her mum, sister, best friend and love interest. A lot of these are conducted to some degree via texting – something we all do and can all relate to. I use emoticons nearly as much as I use actual words whilst texting these days, so a visual take on that felt like something that could appeal to all. For me this idea felt like it relied on simplicity however, so the almost 3D nature of emoticons on modern mobile phones felt too complex – it was the emotion element that I needed, not a fancy rendered graphic.

Using a more ‘old skool’ approach of keyboard characters (brackets and semicolons, etc.) contained in a circle to resemble more recent emoticons felt much more like the right route. A smiley face for the main pattern made me think of Grace immediately. Grace is happy – she’s just a little confused sometimes, so a confused emoticon felt like the perfect way to suggest not fitting in. The change between the two emoticons is subtle (a closed bracket vs a forward slash depicting the mouth), which is perfect, as changes in human emotions can also be so subtle and difficult to read. Obviously I didn’t want this to be so hard to read that it was missed altogether though, so I highlighted it in a different colour. The typography from a couple of months earlier sat perfectly atop my pattern – it’s always nice when these things come together.

Some of the best book covers for me are the ones that don’t try too hard. They rely on a simple and clean concept, and the more you add means the less you actually say. For me The State of Grace does just that. At a quick glance you get it – well, I hope you do! I’ve a copy on the shelf next to my desk, and every time I catch a glimpse of it it makes me smile. I hope it does the same for you. 🙂

the state of grace by rachael lucas

 

The State of Grace is published by Macmillan Children’s Books on the 6th of April.

Whip-smart, hilarious and unapologetically honest, The State of Grace is a heart-warming story of one girl trying to work out where she fits in, and whether she even wants to.

A sweetly funny look at first love, family and faking it told from the perspective of a heroine with Asperger’s and her own particular way of looking at the world. (Red Magazine Online)

This brilliant coming of age novel for young adults is set to become a classic. (AGA Magazine)

Buy here:

Waterstones

Amazon UK

Hive

Book Depository (with free world wide delivery)

The one where I bin 35,000 words

It’s been a bit quiet round here of late. I’ve been on a mission, you see. I wrote The State of Grace in a whirl last year and it sold just before Bologna Book Fair. So with all that excitement over, I settled down to write my next adult book. 


I did the research. I wrote pages and pages of notes. I plotted and character sketched and doodled pictures of the horses who were a major part of the story. I’ve loved horses all my life, and the book was set in Wales, somewhere I’ve loved and visited many times since childhood. 

This was going to be such an amazing story, I thought. And I started writing and it galloped along until I got to 35,000 words and then I stopped.


It’s nearly Christmas, I told myself. I’ll read some comfort books and let the plot carry on sorting itself out in my head and it’ll be fine. 

“How’s it going?” people started asking.

“Good,” I’d say, and change the subject.

It was a perfectly nice story, but I had this niggling feeling something was missing. And whatever the something was, it didn’t seem to be hiding in the millions of post it notes or the pages of research or the piles of notebooks. It was an intangible thing.

It’s fine, I thought. I’ll fix it in the next draft. Only the thought of the next draft made me feel a bit sick, and I started waking up thinking ugh, I don’t want to do this. And I agonised over what to do and didn’t listen to my own instincts (which were by this point parading around the sitting room on a protest march waving placards).


And then a voice in my head said this is supposed to be fun, remember? 

The missing thing was joy. Happiness. I felt like I was writing it because I was supposed to, and somewhere, right in the very heart of the story, it showed. Because the heart of the story was missing. I didn’t connect with the main character and if I did, how could I expect that from a reader? 

So I put all the notebooks in a little pile and shoved them in a file. And I left my messy desk and decided to stop thinking about books for a bit until my brain stops whirling. The words I’ve written might end up somewhere else, one day, but they might not. And that’s okay. 

It’s my birthday today and I’ve decided this will be a year of doing brave things and saying yes to things that scare me (and no, instead of politely going along with things, too). And getting back to writing here – even if it’s about not writing – is a good start. 

Here’s to blank pages. And all the words and pictures to come. 

Coming Up Roses – my new book is here!

Coming Up Roses has arrived…

buy now!
coming up roses by rachael lucas

Coming Up Roses is here! This week has been amazing – I got home from the school run (no glamorous launch parties here, just the usual early morning chaos) to find that #cominguproses was a trending topic on Twitter on release day. There has been lots of excitement all over the from Pan Macmillan Towers (where you can actually try out the first chapter of Coming Up Roses by visiting their site)

to authors like Rowan Coleman, Miranda Dickinson, and Jill Mansell (which is a pretty amazing sentence to write) all cheering on Coming Up Roses which was brilliant. The blogging community has also been its usual supportive self and I’ve had so many lovely reviews, all of which I’ll be linking to over the next few weeks.

There’s loads going on over the next week or two – I’ve got signings coming up at Broadhursts in Southport and a brilliant new books-and-coffee shop called Write Blend in Waterloo if you fancy coming along. You can also find me at Blogtacular on the 13th of June – there are just a handful of tickets left!

You can find reviews, interviews, and Q&A features on the brilliant blogs below as part of the Coming Up Roses promotional whirl – and you can download Coming Up Roses now whilst it’s available at the promotional price of just £1.89  – which is less than the cost of a cup of coffee!
coming up roses rachael lucas author southport

Coming Up Roses – my next book!

Hello. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? For that I blame the fact that I ended up slightly drowning in rewrites of my next book, which is out on the 21st of May. Turns out I’m not very good at just fixing this and that. I ended up pulling at the written equivalent of a loose thread and unravelling the whole jumper into a woolly mess and having to rewrite the WHOLE thing.

I could lie and say it was easy… but it was one of the hardest things I have ever done (and I’ve run a marathon, and had a 9lb+ baby at home with no pain relief, so I know lots about doing hard things, I think). I cried a lot. I threatened to give up writing. I contemplated breaking limbs or paying back my publishing advance. (Okay, I might be a bit of a drama queen…)

And then it all came together. I really love the story it became, thanks to my lovely agent Amanda and my equally lovely editor Caroline, both of whom could see the story that was lurking underneath, waiting to get out.

And so here we are: in May 2014, Coming Up Roses will be released to the world. Here’s the cover – isn’t it gorgeous?

Coming Up Roses Low Res

What’s it about? Well, here’s the official blurb:

 

Would-be gardening expert Daisy can’t believe her luck when her parents announce they’re off on a midlife crisis gap year, leaving her in charge of their gorgeous garden, much in need of her expert TLC. And coming just after a break up, some peace and quiet in the countryside is just what she needs. Only, village life turns out to be anything but – with nosey neighbours and greedy developers instantly stirring up trouble.

What Daisy really needs is a good friend, or two. So when she comes across Elaine and Jo, she’s relieved to have multiple shoulders to cry on. But her new friends are dealing with dramas of their own – a marriage in crisis, a family secret and managing the local gossips.

As Daisy wrestles the garden into something like beautiful order, can she get a grip on her new feelings for handsome Irish rogue George and stop her parents selling up to a developer?

 

You can already pre-order it here (or you can wait and buy a copy in the shops!)

but how does it FEEL? (the writer roller coaster)

I went on Facebook just now and saw this.

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 17.25.35

And I started to write.

What’s on my mind Facebook

Is that I’ve been up since 5am. I’ve had a million and one tweets of congratulation from blogging friends and famous writers and people I’ve met along the way.

I’ve featured in newspapers and online interviews and in blog posts.

At lunchtime Amazon had already sold out of their stocks of the paperback of Sealed with a Kiss and they’ve ordered in more.

I’ve jumped 176,200 places in their paperback chart since yesterday and that’s amazing.

I had a long thinking sort of shower and the characters for my NEXT book, the one that isn’t even due until next year, were talking in my head because they’re desperate to get out.

I went to the bookshop and they looked at me blankly and didn’t have any copies ordered.

I felt a bit deflated and we went for coffee and to do the school run (because all that stuff still goes on)

Then I saw this photo my mum had sent – from Waterstones in Milton Keynes

IMG00021-20140508-1337

And that’s MY BOOK on a bookshelf. And I felt amazing.

And then I read a text from my mum which told me she was proud of me, and that my dad would be too. And I cried, in the school car park, in the rain.

And then lovely Waterstones at the Trafford Centre told us on Twitter that they’ve got copies and they’d love me to sign some and I felt like A Real Writer for a moment.

And people keep asking how does it feel. And the answer is it feels amazing and terrifying and scary and wonderful and exhausting.

And tomorrow I’ll get up and go and sign some books, and then I’ll get on with writing my book.

And that, Facebook, is what’s on my mind. A bit much for a status update, really, but it’s been a bit of a day.

You can order Sealed with a Kiss here and have it delivered to your local indie bookshop.
You can buy Sealed with a Kiss here for Kindle or in paperback
You can click and collect Sealed with a Kiss at Waterstones here
I don’t mind how you do it really – but I hope you like it.