Night of the Party – Lulu

One of the main characters of Night of the Party is Lulu the dog. All the other characters are out of my imagination, but Lulu is taken from life; she is my friend’s dog.

I was looking after her one day at a very early stage of developing the characters and story of the novel, and as I walked her round the block I suddenly thought, ‘Oh. This is what Ash does. He walks his dead sister’s dog.’

It was a transformative moment for the book. Lulu’s presence brought many scenes to life.  She became somehow symbolic of Sophie and her memory: when Ash thinks all that life he is thinking equally of Lulu and of Sophie.

And as I worked and reworked the story, Lulu ended up having a major impact on how the latter stages of the plot unfolded. If it wasn’t for her, Ash reflects at one point, none of this would be happening. 

Here she is.



With a week to go until the publication of NIGHT OF THE PARTY, here’s a sneaky preview of the opening pages.


Hey Soph,
It’s 12 December. Almost the end of term. I should be in school but Miss D’s off sick so Philosophy was cancelled and the others were arsing around Blu-tacking balloons and tinsel to the common-room ceiling. I couldn’t be bothered. Checked out, went for a walk, ended up at the South Bank. Wrote an essay. Did some maths. Do you know it’s possible to prove that infinity minus infinity equals pi?
Had my interview this week. Uni starts in 292 days. Just over 25 million seconds. If I get an offer. If I get the grades.
The Xmas market’s up. Remember? All those overpriced stalls along the river? You used to love it.
I should go.

He deletes the letter, empties the recycle bin, packs his laptop away, swallows the last mouthful of cold coffee. The cup’s left intersecting rings of moisture on the table, a Venn diagram of empty sets. He wipes it clean with his hand, finds a philosophy lecture on his phone, jams his headphones in and heads outside.
It’s nearly dark; the huge, projected images on the buildings across the river are already on: the right-angles of the English cross alternating with the curled flames of the Party torch. The images flicker, break up, go off, and come on again.
The voice in his ears asks if it’s possible to prove that anything exists outside his mind.
It bloody better.
Everything that’s happened in the last sixteen months (approximately 41,500,000 seconds)? He doesn’t want to have invented all that; doesn’t want to be stuck in the kind of mind that could invent it. Continue reading “NIGHT OF THE PARTY – preview”

Song writing season… some reflections

This is my song writing time of year. I’m writer in residence for the Da Capo Music Foundation and we’re in the run-up to the annual summer school which always features a new suite of songs – music by composer in residence John Ashton Thomas, words by me. I’ve just finished this year’s lyrics, and I’ve been reflecting on what this exercise involves, and what it teaches me about writing more generally.

It’s an unusual task in many ways. Where most songs are pre-existing text set to music, here the music comes first Continue reading “Song writing season… some reflections”

St Joseph’s School Poetry Week

I was delighted to be invited back to St Joseph’s school to take part in their poetry week on Wednesday. I had a great time meeting year 5 and year 6, talking to them about poetry, books and writing, and sharing some poems…

A poem I found floating on the canal (the names of boats)

Two hoots, Wellington!
Footloose, Mathilda Mae!
Bob’s your uncle, Talisker!
We used to make things
Spick-and-span and Prosper
Just Helen
Violet May
Bonnie three
And Serafina


A poem I loved when I was young…

Overheard on a Salt Marsh by H Munro

Nymph, nymph, what are your beads?

Green glass, goblin. Why do you stare at them?

Give them me.


Give them me. Give them me.


Then I will howl all night in the reeds,
lie in the mud and howl for them.

Goblin, why do you love them so?

They are better than stars or water,
Better than voices of winds that sing,
Better than any man’s fair daughter,
Your green glass beads on a silver ring.

Hush, I stole them out of the moon.

Give me your beads, I want them.


I will howl in a deep lagoon
For your green glass beads, I love them so.
Give them me. Give them.


Almost a poem: the naming of colours

I was in Cambridge today for an event with the Skylark Literary Agency (discussing children’s writing in general and an early draft of my new novel in particular). While I was there, I dropped into the Fitzwilliam Museum which currently has an exhibition of illuminated manuscripts. Vivid, burnished, brilliant: they are a glorious collection… And I found myself equally entranced by the names of the colours that their makers had used.

Red lead
Red earths and ochres
Brown earths: siennas and umbers
Armenian cochineal
Root of the rubia tinctorum
Murex shell
Gold leaf
Shell gold
Silver leaf
Mosaic gold
Gypsum and red bole
Yellow earths and ochres
Lead tin yellow
Lead white

Isn’t that a luscious list?!