Tuesday 1 November 2011

HarperCollins Afternoon Tea with Robin Jarvis, Will Hill & Maureen Johnson - 22nd October 2011

Last week I was very excited to go to an afternoon tea organised by HarperCollins to meet some of their authors - Robin Jarvis, Will Hill & Maureen Johnson - and to find out about some of their latest & upcoming books.  We arrived at Les Deux Salons a little early so spent some time at the bar downstairs chatting with Robin & Will while Sarah was getting the room ready for us and then it was time to get started.  I had asked Sarah & Rosi if it would be OK to bring some of my childhood books with me for Robin to sign (I was a massive fan of his Whitby Witches, Deptford Mice & Deptford Histories trilogies when I was younger and still had my original copies) so was very excited when I found out I was sitting next to him for afternoon tea!  Hopefully I didn't come across as too much of a fan girl and embarrass myself lol.

We were well and truly spoiled with a feast of cakes and sandwiches!

Each of the authors had a chance to talk to us about their latest books starting with Robin Jarvis talking about Dancing Jax (that was released in HB earlier this year and will be available in PB in Feb 2012) and the sequel Freax and Rejex (which will be released in HB next February).  Before talking about the books Robin told us that he used to make models & puppets for TV shows and has made them in the past of characters from his books to take on school visits with him.  There was one rather embarrassing incident at a school with a puppet of a sea demon that had rather large claws - he pulled it out of his bag in front of a class of children to find the claws had attached themselves to a pair of underpants (luckily clean ones lol).

Dancing Jax is a story about a mysterious book written in 1936 by occultist Austerly Fellows.  Anyone who reads the story is pulled into the world inside the book.  Although the book was published it was decided that the world wasn't ready for it so the only copies were boxed up and kept in a basement, now in modern times the book has been found again by a group of teenagers and they are quickly sucked into this dangerous world.  Robin described Austerly Fellows' book as Narnia on crack and said it's like pushing drugs on kids but in book form.  Sequel Freax and Rejex is set 5 months after Dancing Jax, Austerly's book has been re-published and nearly everyone in the UK has read a copy and been taken over by the story.  The rest of the world is watching in horror and trying to decide what they should do.  Some children are naturally immune to the book and they are bullied by the people who have been taken over.  As a publicity stunt they are taken to a holiday camp to prove to the rest of the world that they aren't being badly treated but things at the camp aren't what they first seem and not all of the children taken there will survive the experience.  I haven't read either of these books but I have a copy of Dancing Jax and am really looking forward to reading it.  I'll get a review posted as soon as I can for you.

Next up was Will Hill talking about Department 19 (released in HB & PB this year) and the sequel The Rising (releasing in HB in March 2012).  I was lucky enough to meet Will at the launch party for Department 19 earlier this year so it was lovely to see him again.  Department 19 was one of my favourite reads of the year so far (you can read my review here) so I can't tell you how excited I am about The Rising, I am itching to get my hands on a copy and it will be jumping straight to the top of my to read pile as soon as I do lol.  Will told us that The Rising is a really, really long book that picks up the story straight after the ending of Department 19.  Where the first book was a rescue mission the sequel is a fight for survival. 

It took Will over a year to write the second book and where Department 19 was 135,000 words long The Rising is 191,000 (and that's after chopping out a massive 50,000 words!) so this is really going to give us something to get stuck into.  Will would describe the series as epic horror / fantasy and confirmed that there is a little more romance in the sequel.  He did say that The Rising should work as a stand alone story if you haven't read Department 19 but I would highly recommend reading D19 first - it's such a good book you really don't want to miss it!

Last but by no means least was Maureen Johnson talking about her newest book The Name of the Star.  This is the first book in her Shades of London series and is a supernatural story about a copycat killer who is murdering victims in the style of Jack the Ripper.  The Name of the Star is a great book (you can read my review here) and I'm really looking forward to reading more books in the series.  Maureen said she was worried about the reaction from her UK fans because she knows they will spot any mistakes she has made about British culture, she can get away with errors with her US fans because they won't know that it's wrong.  She had spent the morning at a signing though and had a very positive response which I'm not at all surprised about. 

When asked about the inspiration for the story Maureen told us that she was on a historical tour and the guide told them that practically every building they visited was haunted.  She was annoyed because it was supposed to be a historical tour not a ghost tour and she thought that the so called ghosts they kept mentioning were rubbish - just cold spots, doors closing by themselves and spooky feelings.  It got her thinking about what would happen if there were more proactive ghosts.  Maureen also told us that she has come up with the name of the sequel which she is currently working on, after a quick check with her editor Rachel (who hadn't heard the title before either!) she confirmed that it will be called The Madness Underneath and it will be released sometime in 2012.

After lots of book chat and we had all stuffed ourselves full of cake it was time to get our books signed.  I already have signed copies of Department 19 and The Name of the Star but I was very excited to get my books signed by Robin - I'd brought him 10 books to sign for me so that kept him busy for a little while lol.  He even drew a picture in one of them for me!

The copies of the Whitby Witches, Deptford Mice & Deptford Histories trilogies that Robin signed for me

The picture Robin drew inside my copy of The Alchymist's Cat

We were given a fab goodie bag from HarperCollins containing several books (Muse by Rebecca Lim, Slide by Jill Hathaway and Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda), a presentation of their upcoming Winter 2011 & Spring 2012 titles (watch out for a spotlight of some of these titles coming later this week) and a fab memory stick containing some exclusive sneak previews and snippets.  I've not had a time to look at the memory stick yet but as soon as I do I'll try and get some of the content posted on the blog to share with you all.

After the event had finished several of us bloggers got to hang around in the bar with Will, Robin, Sarah, Rosi & Rachel.  We had a few drinks, got loads of book recommendations and discussed everything from Will's ipad to comic books.  I love being allowed to let my inner geek out at events lol.

I'd like to say a massive thanks to HarperCollins for a fab event and to all the authors who helped make it even more special.  I had an amazing time & can't wait to read all the books we were talking about!

Who was there?
Sarah, Rosi & Rachel - HarperCollins
Maureen Johnson - Website
Robin Jarvis - Website
Will Hill - Website
Casey - Dark Readers
Dwayne & Hannah - Girls Without a Bookshelf
Liz & Mark - My Favourite Books


  1. Fab write up Sarah, it was lovely to (finally) meet you and it was a fab event :D

    Now what have I done with that USB stick hehe (I'm pretty sure I know where it is lol)

  2. OMG! What am I doing with my hands in the photo? Aargh

    Fab write up as always Sarah.

  3. @ Jesse - It was so nice to finally meet you too :o) I still haven't had a chance to look at the USB stick but at least I know where it is lol

    @ Viv - lol I think you might be pretending to play the piano :op I only just noticed that though! I deliberately took the pick of Andy doing jazz hands hehehe



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