…and other answers to Random Questions at the Leeds Book Awards.

I need a new camera to replace my dead one. if I had had one, I could have taken lots of fun photos at the 2011 Leeds Book Awards ceremony yesterday, like Candy Gourlay did on her blog. Meeting Candy and the other short-listed authors was one of the many excellent aspects of the day.

I was really pleasantly surprised when The Blackhope Enigma was nominated in the 11-14 category and impressed with how well organised the Awards are. That’s because Leeds has some very together and lovely librarians who oversee the whole process. Once the short-list of titles is created, Leeds pupils read as many of them as they can and vote for the winner in their age category: 9-11, 11-14 and 14-16. They also review the books and many of these reviews are on the Leeds Book Awards website.

The whole process culminated in yesterday’s gala event in the very classy Banqueting Hall at the Leeds Civic Hall. This venue really made the event special, and once it was full of cheering kids, the atmosphere was superb.

I was hosted by the lovely librarian Michelle Ackroyd and pupils from Boston Spa High School. We had time for a quick Q & A session before the afternoon ceremony and it was the pupils who asked me the Random Questions. Here are two of them:

What would your last dinner be? Chicken, asparagus and ice cream. (Upon reflection, I might have said lasagne instead but I had to think on my feet.)

What’s your shoe size? 6 (depending on what country I am in. Since I am currently in the UK, it’s a 6. If the Boston Spa kids asked this because they would like to send me some new shoes, I gladly accept.)

I liked the Random Questions, but I really liked their questions about The Blackhope Enigma, including:

Which of your characters would you like to meet? Marin. What girl wouldn’t? (But then I had a rethink and said I’d also like to meet Fausto Corvo, which is true.) This is a question that could be answered in a number of ways, because I like all my characters, even the evil ones. But yesterday the answer was Marin (and you’ll have to read the book to know why).

Are any of the characters based on real people? No, but the two main characters, Sunni and Blaise, who want to become artists, are a bit like some of my friends from high school. We were crazy about art and hung out in the art classroom whenever we had free time. Luckily we had an inspirational teacher who put up with us being there a LOT.

Are you working on any other books? Yes! This was the shazam moment when I could pull out the cover proof of The Crimson Shard and inform everyone that it will be published on October 1st by Templar Publishing.

After the Q & A, the Master of Ceremonies, Paul Seem, kicked the event into high gear and the golden envelopes were ripped open, revealing David Gatward and LA Weatherly as the worthy winners for their books The Dead and Angels, respectively (in the morning ceremony, Jon Mayhew won for Mortlock in the 9-11 category). Lee Weatherly couldn’t attend the ceremony, but it was great to witness David’s excitement and experience his ‘evil laugh’, which spread through the audience as you’ll see on Candy’s blog photos.

Even though Blackhope didn’t win this time, I still feel like a winner because Leeds made me so welcome and I met so many fans at the book signing after the ceremony. My hand was about to cramp up permanently from signing so many autographs, but I can think of far worse things to complain about. On top of the great ceremony, lunch and nice cups of tea, each short-listed author also received a cool diamond-shaped crystal trophy. Mine went straight onto my shelf of honour in the studio and I will look upon it with gratitude at having been included in the Leeds Book Awards.

And a little note about the city of Leeds: interesting place with quite a variety of architectural styles, old and new. Since my photos are non-existent, I can only tell you that Leeds is the kind of place where you want to walk around staring upwards. While doing this, I spotted stone cherubs, gargoyles, gryphons and two giants holding up a roof on their backs. I also saw The Black Prince statue, which is awesome. But what stood out were the owls. There were carved owls everywhere, including four gilded ones on plinths outside the Civic Hall. Apparently owls feature prominently in the local heraldic tradition. If you are a carved owl collector, head for Leeds!