At last. A new letter. Even I was getting sick of the old one. But it took so long to get the website off the ground, I thought I’d rest on my laurels for a while. Like when you write your first book you think, phew, now I can relax for the rest of my life. And then your publisher sends a friendly reminder saying “when can we expect the next one?”

Speaking of the next one, the release date for What I Was is August 28th. And I know I’m the last person you should listen to, but I like this one a lot. I’d go so far as to say it’s my favourite of the three (click here to read the first few chapters). You’ll be amazed to hear that it’s about love, a subject for which I have something of a weakness, but it’s not your run-of-the-mill love story. And it makes even me cry, which none of the others has done. Maybe it’s the thought that I have to start number four….

And what about the Carnegie? What a wonderful event that was! Poor mixed-up Justin Case has a strange combination of fanatical fans and people who really can’t stand him, so I didn’t think an entire jury of librarians was going to agree for the prize, especially against such stiff competition. But lo and behold, they did, for which I’m eternally grateful. When I heard that I’d won the Carnegie, my first thought was that they’d phoned me by mistake. But I have the engraved medal now, so it must be true.

I survived my tour of Australia – thanks to the best breakfasts in the world (is there some reason London can’t get breakfast right?), my wonderful Penguin PR, Anyez Lindop (which is an anagram of Zap Neon Idly, for what it’s worth), and Chrissie, Henry and Lucy in Melbourne — who plied me with wine and sleeping pills (though not at the same time). What a fantastic place Australia is, but why’d they build it so far away? If it were just 11,000 miles closer, I’d definitely live there, if only for the best poached eggs on the planet. Oh, and the people. Not sure I could get used to all that sunshine, though. One of the highlights of the tour involved shopping for wombats at midnight in the lobby of the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney with my old friend, Pico Iyer. He’s lived in Japan for about fifteen years now, and speaks fluent broken English with a Japanese accent. Extremely impressive.

kangaroo crossing

What else? I’ll draw a discreet veil over my new addiction to Australia’s Next Top Model. The fact that I didn’t see a single kangaroo still rankles.

But enough jollity. Now it’s back to the grind. I’m hard at work at book four, tentatively titled Nomansland, after the village of the same name in Wiltshire at the edge of the New Forest.

When my scary editor reads this, she’ll shoot off an e-mail instantly saying that she already nixed that title for my last book, and I should start thinking of something snappier (suggestions on a postcard, please). The book takes place in 1850, but (as I realized over lunch today) it’s really just a cleverly disguised version of my twenty-five year hunt for a decent job. In Hollywood speak, I’m aiming at something along the lines of Black Beauty meets Pride and Prejudice. Meets Bridget Jones.

(Isn't everyone?)

(Isn't everyone?)

Before I sign off, a quick word about what I’ve been reading (other than a lot of stuff about rural life in Victorian England). Cathy Cassidy’s new book, Lucky Star (brilliant as ever); almost everything by Anne Fine (on the advice of my daughter, who’s a huge fan); Shaun Tan’s amazing graphic novel disguised as a picture book, The Arrival. And for my secret guilty habit, adult books, I loved Hilary Mantel’s memoir Giving up the Ghost (and her novel, Beyond Black) and Justin Cartwright’s The Song Before it is Sung. Also Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and Jane Smiley’s Horse Heaven and A Year at the Races.

Now back to book four. Wish me luck.

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