Wednesday 14 November 2012

MIDNIGHT PIRATES.. going to print

This week my new book, Midnight Pirates is off to the printers.
It will be in the shops from January and will be published by Marion Lloyd Books.

Three kids, Jackie -10, Miranda -13, and Cal - 16, live in a big rundown hotel on the beach in Cornwall. When the hotel goes bust and their parents have to go away, the children sneak back to the boarded-up building and try to run the place themselves. But the chaos mounts as guests arrive, and the tide washes up a powerful, dangerous gift.    
You can pre order it here

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Mydnight Pierats proof readin updayte

No bad spellin' will escape meye eagle glaze, rest ashured dere readurs.

Ay'm goin over the prooffs, looooking for tyypos and booc bugs like bad spellin', lak of conzistency (as if!) too meny sad-case egclmashun marks and general tom -foolery!!!!!!!
Mydnight Pyratzes, about free kids ho try to run a hotle in Cornwall by themselfs!!!!wiv unspected conzequences!!!! (naturerally) !!!!is dew too bee poblished in Janyouary 2013.!!!!
am on caze   .
Am lyke puntuashion top-notcha warrior, my Backspace key iz my sworde.!!!
swishy swsh

Monday 17 September 2012

Taunton Literary Festival 2012

I will be appearing at Taunton Literary
Festival next week, on Monday 24th September at 4.30pm at Taunton School.
I'll be talking about BULLET BOYS.
Do come along. Tickets are £2.50

To purchase tickets: Visit Brendon Books, Bath Place, Taunton TA1 4ER.

Tel. 01823 337742 email: or order online

(Please note there is a £1.00 charge for posting out tickets)

Sunday 16 September 2012


Just finishing off editing Midnight Pirates. This book, I think, is aimed at age 9 plus, but the main characters are aged 10, 13 and 16. Something for everyone!  Putting together maps, glossary of Cornish plus surfing slang!

Hopefully this book will be publishing in January 2013

I think you can pre order it on this link. crikey.

Potential cover for MIDNIGHT PIRATES

Friday 24 August 2012

Edinburgh Book Festival 2012

I had an event with Alan Gibbons, chaired by Philip Ardagh (The Grunts, Eddie Dickens) in which we discussed Bullet Boys and An Act of Love, writing and planning (sometimes in that order) research, the army, and much more.
Photo by Helen Boyle.
The next day was a humungous event with 308 teens from surrounding schools. This event was hosted by Alan Durant and we talked all things Bullet Boys. The event was also filmed for GLOW, and streamed into classrooms all over the country... wow....there were some great questions from the students.

In the signing tent after the schools event.

And then, lunch with the glorious Elen Caldecott,

Thanks to all at Edinburgh International Book Festival. It was fantastic!

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Edinburgh International Book Festival 2012


I will be appearing at the  Edinburgh Book Festival this year. The first event is...

Guardian Children's Fiction Prize Event

CANCELLED! (did you know that in the US it is spelled 'Canceled' and here in Blighty we have 2 L's... well welll wel)

And later that day...

Alan Gibbons & Ally Kennen

19 August 2012 6.30pm (7.30pm) RBS Imagination Lab

Chairperson: Philip Ardagh

How cool is that??? I will be bringing my copies of these great authors' books to sign!

Then finally on the Monday, my schools event

Twists, turns and thrillers with Ally Kennen

20 August 2012 10.30am (11.30am) ScottishPower Studio Theatre

Events can be booked online
Hope to see you there!

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Reading for Pleasure...


I will be talking about Bullet Boys and Dartmoor and landscape and writing for teens on 6th July at a Guardian/British Library event as a part of a conference for teachers about reading for pleasure.

This event links with the exhibition 'Writing Britain: Wasteland to Wonderland' at The British Library.

Saturday 9 June 2012

Guardian Children's Fiction Prize

BULLET BOYS has been longlisted for this prize which is VERY exciting indeed. The longlist includes 3 books from my publisher, Marion Lloyd Books / Scholastic. Go Go Go Marion Lloyd! for the full list see below, So far I have only read Roddy Doyle's A Greyhound of A Girl, which is a beautiful, beautiful book and I intend to give copies to people I love for years to come. I look forward to reading the other titles.

This is a GOOD DAY!

Friday 20 April 2012

Marion Lloyd Books

This week sees the announcement that Marion Lloyd, uber children's publisher, is to retire at the end of 2012.  See Julia Eccleshare's report here

This is big news in the world of publishing, and for me, as she has been my fantastic editor and publisher for all my teen books and for SPARKS.

 However, Marion is expecting my new book 'Midnight Pirates' to  arrive next Monday, so for the next few months it is all very much business as usual!

Tuesday 17 April 2012

Answering your questions...

Check out The Guardian children's books pages for my answers to your questions about my books.

It has been fantastic that Bullet Boys has been the first book of the new Guardian Teen Book Club,
I've really enjoyed all of it, we've had podcasts, pictures, interviews, an introduction to the book, a nice fat extract and the Bullet Boys Quiz. Simply brilliant! Huge thanks to everyone at Guardian Books for their support.

And now back to the grindstone, a new book, Midnight Pirates, is soon to fly off to my publisher for an early viewing.

Thursday 29 March 2012

Bullet Boys Quiz

Read the book? Now do the quiz...

It's so fantastic that Bullet Boys is The Guardian Teen Book Club's first book... over on The Guardian Teen Books webpage you can find links to the first chapter of Bullet Boys, an introduction to the book by me, and a discussion the book on The Guardian's kids books facebook page. There are some great atmospheric photos to view, a podcast of me talking about the book and reading an extract, some suggested discussion points and an interview with a young army cadet, and now.... the quiz.

Friday 2 March 2012

All about Bullet Boys

The Guardian is featuring BULLET BOYS as its first Ultimate Teen Book Club Read.

You can also ask me questions about the book on the site

And here is my blog about the book

And read an extract!

You can also enter a competition to win a copy of the book.

Wednesday 29 February 2012

Bullet Boys Podcast News and more

Bullet Boys is mentioned on The Guardian's BOOKS BLOG.

I recorded a podcast for The Guardian a few weeks ago which I believe will be featured within the teen pages in a week or so. I've also written a blog entry about BULLET BOYS and lots more stuff is planned for the next few weeks.

I'll be attending the Leeds Book Awards on May the 24th. (Quarry has been shortlisted)

I snuck into THAT dinner last Thursday (The Book People Gala Dinner) as a guest of my buddy, author Elen Caldecott  and it was most exciting. I saw lots of Authors, wore high heels for the first time in my life (sad I know) and donated a pristine copy of Fungus The Bogeyman (is that an oxymoron?) by Raymond Briggs.

I SAW Jacqueline Wilson. I did! AND KORKY PAUL (faints) I leered at Patrick Ness from behind a pillar, informed Jamie Oliver his wife should write a book about toddlers (failing to mention the glorious food). I wittered  about worms to Axel Scheffler, challenged Catherine Bruton to a height contest and addressed Andy Stanton as 'Mr Poo Bus' (I'd never met him before)

A career in PR for me??

All this would pass for wit in my corner of Somerset.....but at least I didn't fall down the stairs in my high heels (cramp)

OH, and I heard Mr Morpurgo sing 'John Barleycorn,' which was lovely, like being in the pub on folk night, and then Anthony 'Alex Rider' Horowitz  made a scary speech (remind me never to offer him a choice of mugs) which caused gurning and then smiles of relief.

Here is a pic of me and Elen on the red carpet. (Elen is the beauty in red, I am the one who is about to fall over)

Friday 3 February 2012

Bullet Boys launch tour

Bullet Boys is well and truly launched. I went North with the lovely Catherine from Scholastic and we visited Preston and Salford.
Look at this cake, made by All Hallows Catholic School, how fantastic! and it tasted great too. I've never had a book cake before and I am much in favour.

 Over the course of the tour I held raffles with fabulous prizes (ahem) had lovely dinners and held creative writing workshops and Author Talks at lots of great schools. It was great to meet all of you. Even the student I had to convince that a fiver was a fair price for a book.( remember, coffee and a cake in a cafe don't give much change from five pounds these days. I hope you've read the free book you conned out of me!)                                             I hope I didn't give the 700 odd kids I met my cold, sorry if I did.   I had a most interesting time watching the Indian dancing, and sampling some most splendid canteen grub. We went to Askews in Preston and met Hazel and I saw all the children's books ever published stacked up on shelves and shelves and sheves. it was like the library in GHOSTBUSTERS. Fantastic! Here's a pic of Catherine and Hazel finding MY books.

On Friday morning was the Salford Children's Book Award and I met authors Candy Gourlay, Pat Walsh and Alan Gibbons and Jon Mayhew AND Richard Platt AND I met the mayor and lots of kids and Ebony read out a stonking review of SPARKS (thankyou). Michael Morpurgo won with SHADOW. He wasn't there as I believe there is the small matter of a major motion picture galloping around at the moment. Here is a picture of everyone's backs and Catherine haring up the aisle. Wow Salford is proper cool with massive boats and the ship canal and the BBC and Imperial War Museum and the Lowry Centre, I didn't know where to look. We need all these things in Taunton please.
After a quick lunch it was off to another school in Salford, Moorside High (waves) then back on the train to Somerset.
I found the letter above waiting for me; Intelligence of an attempt to sabotage and derail the whole book thing, by a member of my inner circle. Shocking stuff. Come Monday, it was off to Leeds, where I met Hannah, who bravely took over from Catherine as publicist for the tour. here is a picture of Hannah, Donna, librarian at Mount St Mary School, Debbie and another Hannah, trainee! (What a beautiful library I might add)

There are lots of new schools being built up North, I visited many sites where a gleaming new building was being raised next to a crumbling old mouldy one. I'd like to see more of that down south too please!
We rushed over to Sheffield where I told Hannah my two lengthy cat stories (sorry) and on Tuesday visited TWO MORE SCHOOLS, The City School and Fir Vale Secondary. Here's me in the BRAND NEW LIBRARY at the City School with Richard from Rhyme and Reason Bookshop (obviously a fan of The Phantom Tolbooth, though I did not ask if he had a son called Milo) and Marion Milroy, Librarian. Thanks for a great visit!
THEN on to Fir Vale, where, despite the fire alarm, I met some great, inspiring kids. Here's their display.
In the centre, there is a picture, by Aliyah, of ME wearing a crown. This is continuing to delight me, thank you.Then I went home, phewy. Thanks Scholastic (And especially Catherine) for organising such a great tour for me and thanks to everyone who had us to visit, we appreciate your hard work and hospitality. BULLET BOYS HAS ARRIVED.....

Tuesday 24 January 2012


A busy day in London yesterday, doing talks and writing workshops at Fortismere School (fantastic kids, lovely lunch...)and then a podcast at The Guardian, note, twenty minutes before this was was recorded I was only able to mutter BIG CAFFEINE PLEASE to the man in the cafe, so I'm a little concerned I may not be as sparkling and clever-by-half as I would have preferred. We shall see. (trembles with nerves) Whenever I come to London Town I expect to see celebrities as this is where they all seem to live, and I was pleased to spot Jarvis Cocker and then Sarah Beenie. My taxi driver told me how he never ate baked beans and had some good parenting advice for me which I fully intend to try. On the train the woman in front was having a most interesting conversation with her gentleman friend which I eavesdropped in a writerly way and will come in useful some day I'm sure.
A winner of a day!
Today I powered up the M5 in the rain and fog and landed at Brimsham Green School, Yate and spoke to some great students (120!!) about writing and BULLET BOYS. We had a raffle and a good chat. Thanks to Becky Harrison, the librarian, and her colleagues at the school for looking after me.

I was very impressed with the dedicated fiction room (as well as the library). All students get a fiction/reading lesson every fortnight. How intelligent! Why don't all schools do this?

Backwell School does! and I had the pleasure of meeting students there this afternoon. Here is a picture of uber-librarian Anne Gibson in her fantastic fiction room.
Backwell also has a great pasty shop. (I found no pasty shops in London I might add, celebs yes, pastys no -this is why I live in Somerset)
Tomorrow I press on to Preston with a mountain of badges, then to Salford for the Salford Children's Book 

Monday 16 January 2012


The Bullet Boys juggernaut is revving up! Here are some details...and more are TBC

Monday 23rd Jan, London.- Fortsimere School Muswell Hill
Tuesday 24th Jan, Yate- Brisham Green School and Backwell School, Backwell
Wednesday 25th Jan, Preston
Thursday 25th Jan, Preston, All Hallows Catholic High School and Our Lady's Catholic High School
Friday 26th Jan, The Salford Book Award, Salford
Monday 30th Jan Leeds, Mount St Mary Catholic High School
Tuesday 31st Sheffield, The City School and Fir Vale Secondary School
Saturday 18th Feb Yeovil, Empty Shop Project Quedam centre

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Bullet Boys Review and DAYBREAK

Here's a new review of Bullet Boys

And my new book for Collins Big Cat school reading series, DAYBREAK, illustrated by Liz Monahan, is also out now!

Tomorrow is Linnie’s birthday, and all she wants is to see the bore: a tidal wave about to crash down the estuary. But there’s a problem on the farm and (to her sister’s delight) mum says she can’t go. Desperate to see it, Linnie makes a big mistake, but finds help from an unlikely source.

Thursday 5 January 2012

BULLET BOYS...has officially arrived

So Bullet Boys is published today. Big thanks to everyone at Marion Lloyd Books and Scholastic. I will be launching the book with a tour later this month (please, no snow) visiting London, Bristol, Preston, Salford, Sheffield and Leeds.

Here is one of the first reviews

Research, photos and book notes
When I began this book I had no military knowledge whatsoever and I have some characters in the story who are soldiers, so I scoured the internet, using youtube, military websites, and emailing contacts, but I also did some research in the real world, going into my local army recruitment office armed (ha ha) with a list of questions. I was scared I admit, would they make me do press-ups? Would there be shouting? Luckily a very nice chap in clean boots answered my stupid questions, though I was first rigorously interrogated about my credentials.
'So you're a children's writer?'
'Well yes, well, mostly teen fiction...'
‘Are you a terrorist?’
‘Er, no,’
‘OK, a journalist?’
‘A ecologist?’
‘Fine then, let's see your questions.’
And that was that. And no press ups. Phew. Good to know no one gets past that lot very easily. I then had a delightful 20 mins asking how one might steal an armoured vehicle say, or what might happen if one strayed into a firing zone on Dartmoor and so forth. Thanks! I spoke to other military personnel, what exactly might a group of squaddies be wearing on a physical training challenge on a hot day on Dartmoor, or how might one smuggle military equipment out of a war zone. All my contacts were most helpful and I now have some good ideas about a new career in gun-running should the writing not take off.

The book is set on and around the north moor of Dartmoor. I have spent quite a lot of time on Dartmoor in my life, but this book required some specific knowledge, (though those familiar with the moors will not recognise  invented valleys, drains, vast trees and farm buildings) So I took a few trips over last summer, here’s a picture of my dad and my son enjoying a picnic amongst the sheep droppings.

On another trip we travelled on the Dartmoor railway, from Oakhampton to Meldon Quarry and beyond. Hammerton is very loosely geographically based on Oakhampton, though the town centre is completely different to my creation and as far as I know there are no Celtic chieftains running pubs with skulls around their necks. (sorry Max)
I persuaded my aunt to come with me on a long Dartmoor walk up and around Cosdon hill. We got lost before we had even properly begun, but not unpleasantly so. Like Alex, we were well equipped with maps and food and water and phones. There were a few incidents with some persistent cows (and I grew up with the creatures so am not usually rattled) and some ‘boggy bits’ (understatement, my aunt and I had conversations about whether one should or should not 'struggle' in quicksand etc) and of course the weather changed every five minutes, and forests and mires and slopes seemed to pop up all over the place. But I considered it my duty to feel as lost as Max on Dartmoor, all for an AUTHENTIC VOICE. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I think my aunt’s feet have recovered. (She did have shoes on, unlike poor Max
Nosey cows at stone row.

Here is my aunt on Cosdon Hill. ‘I’ll just check the map, Ally !’ (said in fearful tones) She wasn't reassured when I said we should rely on The Force to guide us.

Where would you hide?

At the beginning of the book there is a story about a hare, who could make time stand still. This story was told to my parents by  Radley Greenslade, a seasoned countryman who used to walk for miles to come and buy milk from our farm. He always wore white shirts, wellies, and a coat belted with string. He died about 16 years ago. I was only small but was entranced by the vigorous waving of his walking stick to punctuate his talk, and his croaky voice, so thick with somerset accent, I could barely understand him, even though he talked for ages. (he took a shine to my mother, who was a hard-working farmer in her early twenties when she met him) He was full of stories about the area (in this case, Exmoor) but this one was something he had seen. It was about two hares who began dancing together in the fields, and then time stood still; the wind stopped blowing, the birds sat still in the trees, and the river ceased to flow. Then the hares turned into humans, a gentleman, and a lady, and continued to dance. When the dance was over, time continued, and the dancers returned to their original form. It sounds like a crazy story, I know, but if you are going to find magic anywhere, it would be up there, on those hills. When we meet Alex in Bullet Boys, he has his gun sights trained on a hare, but cannot shoot it. The story, told to him by his mother, is one of the first things he mentions and a hare appears, at a moment of great need, later in the book.

Listen to Radlegh tell the story in his own words here…

There is a farm in the story which is central to the action and to one of the character's lives. It is called Strangeways Farm,  a fictious place, once owned by Alex's family, now belonging to the military for training exercises. I needed an exciting name for the farm, and Strangeways is the name of the family farm of my husband's childhood. I asked if I could 'borrow' the name and he agreed, though my farm bears no resemblance to the real Strangeways. I love the name, it implies all sorts of mischief and mystery, and for a time, considered it as a title for the book!

Buy it here!

For more information about the story, see below.

I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday 4 January 2012

BULLET BOYS is published tomorrow!

Fireworks, clinking of glasses, rustling of pages, roaring. The countdown has begun for the official publication day. All right, some  copies are in the shops already and can be ordered online but Thursday 5th January is the official book birthday for my new teen novel BULLET BOYS.

The book is set on and around Dartmoor and is about Alex, a cool-headed, crack-shot gamekeeper's son, Max, a turbulent and mixed-up trouble-maker who has been kicked out of his posh school for extremely bad behaviour and Levi, a friendly shrewd boy who holds the gang together.

This unlikely set ricochet off a young squad of local army recruits. And when the boys discover something very real and deadly, buried in a bog in the depths of a military training ground on the moor, explosive events are set in motion.

       A man hunt, with armed soldiers, takes place on the moors, with unexpected and terrifying results.
For a review, see below....

I will post some extra notes about some of the adventures I had in the creation of the book tomorrow...on publication day.