When last you heard from me, I was gunning to finish the draft of The Next Book. I had built up a head of steam, and was bearing down on the dénouement, when I was felled by my mortal enemies: sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and coughing. It was a whopper, by my lurgie standards, but I know from previous experience that I can keep on writing through these things.The Blackhope Enigma was born while I was home ill with a similar ailment, as was another novel I began last year, which is waiting in the queue while The Next Book is wrapped up. (Hmmm…do I see a pattern here?)

At any rate, last week my lovely editor granted me a bit of extra time to finish the draft and I promptly collapsed, briefly, into a heap. However, there were exciting things afoot, namely the Cheltenham Literary Festival. I managed to pull my stuffed-up brain together and get on that train south last Friday.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect, this being my first big literary festival. Reader, I loved it. From everything I’d heard, Cheltenham is one of the best organised of them all, and I can verify that. Very friendly staff, great hospitality and a pleasant town to boot (plus good weather – not to be sneezed at). As an illustrator used to doing a lot of DIY events (setting up the space myself, cleaning up, etc.), I have to say that it was amazing to have the support of staff to do all that, plus Waterstone’s dealing with the book selling area, plus Templar’s super PR lady on hand, as well as my super agent.

My event went really well – great crowd, full house and lots of friendly faces in the book signing queue afterwards. Of course, it was too short to do lots of drawing (we were drawing monsters in mazes, as you do), but enough for a taster.

Later that day we were trundling north again, heads in a spin, tired but happy. And then, somehow, magically, The Next Book draft has finished itself over the last couple of days. (Okay, I had something to do with it, but honestly, it seems odd how it happened.)

I am sitting here in the studio. The printer has just coughed out the last few pages of it. I have my Red Pen at the ready. There will be a word cull before my editor even sees this draft. And there will be much more red ink to come over the next few months. When we are done with this baby, it will be as gleaming and shiny as possible.

And did I mention illustrations? Yes, I will be making those, too. The Artpen is warming up.