Lorena Carrington and I will be celebrating the launch of our picture book, Satin (MidnightSun Publishing)in Sydney on Tuesday March 14, 4pm at the lovely Better Read than Dead bookshop in Newtown. Lorena and I are both coming in person from our respective homes-mine in regional NSW, Lorena’s in regional Victoria–for it, and we’ll be reading the book, talking about how we created it, and of course signing books!
Everyone very welcome, children and adults, you just need to register(it’s all free of course) so the bookshop can have an idea of numbers. Here’s the link, to register.
I’ve had to sit on this super exciting news for ages, but now it’s been announced by the publisher, so I can announce it in my turn now!
In November 2023, my new novel for adults, The Paris Cooking School, will be published under my new pen-name of Sophie Beaumont, by wonderful Ultimo Press. It was acquired by them via my lovely agent Margaret Connolly, who has encouraged, supported and helped to inspire me every step of the way as I’ve been creating the novel. And it’s been an absolutely wonderful experience working with publisher Alex Craig and the Ultimo Press team, and I’m looking forward so much to the rest of the process!
This is a book that I have so loved writing, which has taken me in a new and exciting direction in terms of my writing, a delicious novel about love, hope, second chances–and food! And it’s also a love letter to the most beautiful city in the world.
Here below is the publisher’s announcement. I’ll be writing more about the book as the months go on, and starting a special page for it on this blog too, but in the meantime you can follow the Paris Cooking School on Facebook and/or Instagram, where I’ll be posting news, pics, bits and pieces.
The official announcement from Ultimo Press!
Oh la la, do we have a delicious novel on its way to you 🍓
It was impossible not to be enticed by The Paris Cooking School by Sophie Beaumont. It’s a treat for the soul – a delectable novel about love, hope and the consolations of the perfect strawberry tart.
Sophie says, ‘I love Paris. It’s as simple as that. Steeped in history, yet fresh as morning bread, elegant as spun sugar yet earthy as onion tart, it’s a city of delicious contrasts and magical charm. It’s also a place of potential and possibility: the perfect setting for a story of second chances. And of course, there’s the food! I loved writing this book so much: and I hope readers love it too.’
Publisher Alex says, ‘The Paris Cooking School is a sheer delight, and I couldn’t be happier working with Sophie on a gorgeous novel set in a city she knows inside out. Following three women’s stories during a springtime in Paris, this novel is for anyone who dreams of the what-ifs and second acts, escaping to the City of Lights, and learning to cook the French way.’
This piece of mine, about one of my favourite childhood books, was published in the wonderful books magazine, Slightly Foxed, in issue 18, in 2008. I know a lot of people share the same fond memory of Nicholas Stuart Gray’s gorgeous book, The Stone Cage(and his other lovely works) so thought I would republish it here, as a new year’s gift. Hope you enjoy!
Nicholas Stuart Gray
by Sophie Masson
first published in Slightly Foxed, issue 18, 2008.
If you were a bookworm as a child, your memories are measured not only in family or school or public events, but in stories you read. You remember vividly the smell, the touch, the sight of certain books. You clearly remember picking them up from the shelf—an ordinary act—and then the extraordinary happening, as you open the book and fall straight into another world. The pure pleasure of it, the immediate liberation. For me, who loved fairytales and fantasy, who longed to go through the looking-glass, the wardrobe, stepping through the borders into another world, where anything might happen, it was also a blessed escape from the confusing, disturbing and tumultuous family dramas that dominated my childhood. In those stories of other worlds, I found pleasure and consolation, transformation and possibility. And I found my own calling as a writer.
It can be dangerous revisiting those important, beloved stories, as an adult, for it’s not just a book that might be found wanting, but memory itself. And yet, when it works, when the barriers of time dissolve before the sheer magic of a real storyteller, it is probably the most thrilling experience a reader can have.
The Stone Cage, by Nicholas Stuart Gray, was one of those books that I remember clearly not only because they were so good to read, but because they were also so influential on me as a developing writer. Picking it up again after a gap of more than three decades was one of those magical moments that made me rediscover not only my childhood self, but also the reason why the book stands out in my memory. For from the very first sentence, you are plunged into a briskly unsentimental fairytale world, tartly guided by Tomlyn the witch’s cat:
Ever heard of a ‘dog’s life’? I’ll bet you have. Everyone has. Means a low, miserable kind of life. Full of kicks and curses, and nothing much to eat. I don’t know, I’m sure—what about a cat’s life, then? There’s not much said about that, is there? Nine lives, yes—but what sort of lives are these supposed to be? I’ll tell you the sort I had—a dog’s life.
I have to admit it isn’t every cat who lives with a witch, though.
And what a witch! Bad-tempered old —! No, it’s not fair to a cat or she-dog, to liken her to one of them. Let’s say she was a bad-tempered old beldam, and leave it at that. She hated people. She hated Marshall, her raven. She hated her bats and her toads. She hated me. Sometimes I think she even hated herself. A great old hater, was madam.
A naïve young stranger intrudes on this loveless, isolated mini-dictatorship, and is forced to pay a terrible price for his presumption, as he must give up his only child to the witch. And so the poor child is taken from her parents and put into a world where no-one trusts anyone else, love isn’t allowed to exist, and bitterness and cruelty reign. But all is not lost, for this is a very special child indeed, who will achieve an extraordinary miracle, greater than the greatest of spells, greater even than the most malevolent hatred.
As I read, I was swept along, just as in childhood, on the irresistible tide of a gripping story that for all its wit, humour, accessibility and clarity is also a compassionate, tender and complex evocation of the transforming power of love. But it’s certainly not all sweetness and light. Going way beyond a mere retelling of the fairytale of Rapunzel, on which it’s based, The Stone Cage reaches deep into the darkest, most painful aspects of life, as well as its most beautiful and joyous. In the way of the best children’s literature, it attains a profundity that’s all the more remarkable because of its sheer lucidity and unpretentiousness.
I finished The Stone Cage exactly as I’d done all those years ago: with tears in my eyes, and a thrilling heart, for the book also ends in one of the most perfectly judged, moving yet unsentimental scenes of its kind. Allied to my renewed love was a keenly increased admiration for the artistry of the author, which had easily stood the test of time. The characterisation is superb, the dialogue crisp, the pace good, the combination of light and dark subtly achieved. And the beauty of the style! Fluid, graceful, it is humble—in that it doesn’t draw attention to itself—and yet it’s fresh, distinctive, individual. The Stone Cage had been so important to me because everything in it worked. It was all so natural, so flowing, so multi-layered, its world richly imagined, yet delicately evoked. It was a real masterpiece, a novel just about perfect both in concept and execution, and timeless in its appeal, a novel that should have just as many young readers now as it did back then.
Aye, there’s the rub. For The Stone Cage is out of print, and has been for a long time. In fact, and rather astonishingly, in a culture like Britain’s that generally does value its children’s literature, all of Nicholas Stuart Gray’s books are presently out of print. Beautiful, original and accessible though The Stone Cage, Mainly in Moonlight, Grimbold’s Other World, Down in the Cellar, The Seventh Swan, and his other works are, they are unobtainable except through second-hand shops and the Internet, although some are still in libraries. It’s not as if modern children don’t like them, or don’t understand them, either; I know of lots of young readers who, introduced to Gray’s books by their parents, have loved them just as much, and have found them just as easy to read. It’s not as if there’s anything dated or offensive in them, no obvious or hidden misogyny or racism or class stuff or anything like that. There is nothing really to properly explain this puzzling situation, other than that they’ve simply been overlooked.
And yet, Gray’s work has deeply influenced many of today’s writers working in the fields of children’s literature and of fantasy—Garth Nix and Neil Gaiman and Cecila Dart-Thornton, for instance. I’m certainly not the only reader-turned-writer to remember Gray’s books with great love and respect. Australian children’s novelist Cassandra Golds, author of the acclaimed Clair de Lune, wrote to me about the huge impact on her of one of Gray’s books, Down in the Cellar :’I will never forget the Sunday afternoon on which I finished reading it. I remember feeling a kind of mysterious desolation, partly because I’d finished reading it and would never be able to read it for the first time again, but partly also because I KNEW I had now read the best book I was ever going to read. And I felt, then and still, that the only possible response to that experience was to become a children’s author myself.’ As an eighteen year old, Cassandra had written the author a fan letter, and she still treasures his modest, graceful reply, in which he said, amongst other things: ‘As all my books and plays are only written for myself and not for any imagined audiences, readers, age-groups, publishers, etc, it is always a delightful surprise to get proof that anyone BUT myself ever reads or sees them..’
Perhaps that answer gives a clue as to why Gray’s work is not recognised as it should be. This was not a man who blew his own trumpet, not a writer who sought publicity, but one who loved his work and felt privileged to be doing it, and who was too humble to thrust himself forward. Who was perhaps also at heart a rather private, reserved, even secretive person, despite his long association with theatre, which many people would consider the home of trumpet-blowing, egotistical extroverts. Certainly, when I went to research his life, I found precious little information.
Nicholas Stuart Gray was a Highland Scot, born in 1922, the eldest of four children. As a child, he wrote stories and plays for his siblings. Not one to bend easily to the routines of school, he left at the age of fifteen, to become an actor. He kept writing as well, and his first play was produced two years later. His first children’s play to be published was Beauty and the Beast(1951), and from then, he wrote and produced a good many plays for children, before turning his hand to novels and short stories(where I think his true gifts flowered). Some of his novels, like The Stone Cage (1963), he also adapted for the stage: he told Cassandra Golds that he himself played Tomlyn in the play’s premiere at the Edinburgh Festival and its subsequent successful seasons in London and on tour. (That would have been something to see! ) He never married or had children. His plays fell out of fashion, but his novels and short stories continued to be published until his untimely death from cancer in 1980, and right into the late 80’s, we were still seeing frequent reprintings of his books.
But in the last fifteen years or so, there have been no more new editions. In this new Golden Age of children’s literature, it’s more than time to bring his books back so that a whole new generation can fall under their spell. Any publishers out there listening?
As a present-day coda to the end of my piece: as I mentioned in the article, second-hand copies of The Stone Cage are not easy to track down–and I’m certainly hanging onto my own beautiful hardcover copy, found by chance in a secondhand bookshop in Oxford some years ago . So it always astonished me that The Stone Cage hasn’t been republished, but when, five years ago, on behalf of the little publishing house I’m involved in, I made enquiries as to who might own the rights, it appeared that no-one was actually sure what had happened to them. Gray had no direct descendants, though he did have extended family, but a letter to an address I was kindly given by the ALCS (Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society) in the UK went unanswered.
I am so looking forward to the publication next year of Satin, my forthcoming picture book with the wonderful illustrator Lorena Carrington, to be published by MidnightSun Publishing in March 2023. I am really excited about this book, which came about in the most magical way (which I’ll write about in another post, later), and which I think is going to be just loved by both children and adults.
Here’s the gorgeous cover:
And here’s the blurb:
Every morning early, when no-one’s about, Satin slips out of the forest and walks along the sleepy sunrise streets, looking for blue…
He’s collected all kinds of blues, from all kinds of places. He’s making something beautiful, with all those blues. But something’s missing, and he doesn’t know what it is. And then, one day, he comes to a street he’s never been in before. And what he finds there will change his lonely life forever.
A beautiful, haunting fable by award-winning writer Sophie Masson and acclaimed illustrator Lorena Carrington.
Lorena’s exquisite, superb creation of Satin’s visual world is just stunning in its depth and beauty, conveying a mix of natural enchantment and human warmth which goes right to the heart of the story. (Below is a sneak peek at the first page spread)
I am so happy that Lorena is co-creator with me on this gorgeous book, and so happy too that it was taken on by such a wonderful publisher as Anna Solding of Midnight Sun.
I’m delighted to announce that just one week away from official release and our celebratory event, A Hundred Words for Butterfly is now available to buy at several online audiobook retailers across the world, including Authors Direct, Kobo, Nook, Google Play, Audible, Libro, Apple, Booktopia, and others.
The book is three hours and 10 minutes long, and superbly narrated by the wonderful voice artist Sarah Kennedy. Sound design and editing are by Martin Gallagher, and production is by Spineless Wonders Audio. Hope you enjoy it! And please do consider writing a review and sharing it on the retailer platforms, your social media, etc.
Today I’m delighted to be bringing you an interview with award-winning writer Felicity Pulman, who has embarked on a wonderful new project: republishing her popular young adult historical fantasy trilogy, Shalott, with new titles, new material and in new formats. The first book, Shalott: Into the Unknown, has just been released, and the other two Shalott: Dangerous Magic, and Shalott: End Play, will be published in September and November respectively.
Congratulations, Felicity! Why did you decide to republish the Shalott trilogy?
I wrote the first novel not realising there was more to come – and it was only when I got to the third novel that I understood what Callie’s quest was really all about. Rewriting and republishing the trilogy was my chance to ‘get it right’; to blend in a wonderful mix of magic and technology, and to seed in the ‘clues’ that there was much more to the teenagers’ quest than they first realised. It was also my chance to bring the books up to date for a new generation of readers, while introducing them to the timeless legend of King Arthur and his knights, and the mysterious and beautiful poem, The Lady of Shalott by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
The original series came out in the early 2000s. You’ve changed the titles, but was there anything you decided to change within the stories themselves? And did you add any new material?
Basically the story remains the same, although I’ve strengthened the magical aspect, particularly from the points of view of Nimue and Morgan le Fay. Nimue’s magic helps to bring the teenagers to Camelot in order to thwart Morgan’s plans to divide the court through the love affair between Guinevere and Lancelot. But Morgan will stop at nothing to eliminate anything that gets in the way of her ambition for Mordred – and the teenagers are caught in the crossfire. I was also able to update the books to reflect society as we know it today in terms of hot button topics for teenagers, new technology, and even the deadly virus! A LOT has changed over the past twenty years.
Tell us about the process you went through in order to get the books back into print – what were the challenges? And discoveries?
I worked on an already formatted version while rewriting the novels, which caused all sorts of problems during editing and proof-reading. With hindsight I’d probably have been better off retyping all three novels! As a technotwit I knew I’d be better off asking for help rather than trying to navigate the self-publishing process on my own. Joel Naoum from Critical Mass Services has been a great help to me, finding editors, designers and printers, acting as a sounding board, and generally shepherding me through the whole publishing process. What I discovered was just how many decisions one has to make along the journey!
As a self-publisher this time, how are you promoting and publicising the books?
This is still a WIP. I’ve updated my website; I’m posting on facebook and other platforms, and also spreading the word via the various societies and writing organisations to which I belong. I need to make much more use of social media than I do, and I’m working on that, plus I’m also considering paying for some advertising. Friends like you have been really helpful with giving me ‘air time’ on your own platforms as well – much appreciated! Of course I always talk about my books at my workshops and author talks, with the age of the audience determining which books I mention. I’ll be canvassing local bookshops with copies of the trilogy, and also sending out press releases to local and any other media that I hope might be interested. Meantime I’m open to suggestions from everyone!
What advice would you have for other authors thinking of republishing their out-of- print titles?
It’s hard work but certainly worthwhile if you want to breathe new life into your books, especially if you’re technosavvy. But buyer beware: go with a reputable print company and make sure your books are readily available for purchase (as mine are through amazon and various other outlets.) If you’re outsourcing the publishing process, as I have, it can be expensive, and unless the book suddenly takes off for some reason you should realise that you’re unlikely to make any sort of profit, or even recoup your expenses.
Another of your novels is going to get a new lease of life, I believe, with your very first novel, Ghost Boy, optioned by a film production company. Can you tell us about that?
Ghost Boy is my most successful book to date, particularly as it now forms the basis of the very popular Ghost Boy tour up at the Quarantine Station in Manly, where part of the novel is set. The QS itself is a fabulous site – very cinematic, very historic, and very creepy, and students studying my novel find that the book really comes alive when they can walk in the footsteps of my characters. The film option was taken out several years ago, but I’ve now signed an option for the sale of my book, which means we’ve come one step closer to seeing my novel (and maybe its unpublished sequel: The Curse of the Quarantine Station) turned into a movie. Exciting – but I must admit I’m finding it very hard to let go!
Where you can buy Shalott: Into the Unknown, first volume of Felicity’s republished Shalott trilogy:
I’m delighted to announce that I’ve signed an audio production contract for A Hundred Words for Butterfly, with the fabulous independent publisher, Spineless Wonders Audio.
Spineless Wonders Audio, which was launched in late 2020, is an enterprise of the innovative, award-winning digital publisher Spineless Wonders who, with founder Bronwyn Mehan at the helm, for the last ten years have not only consistently supported and promoted great short fiction, poetry, memoir and creative non-fiction, but found new and interesting ways to publish and showcase them. And Spineless Wonders Audio grew naturally out of that experience.
I am absolutely delighted to be working with Bronwyn and her fantastic team, and in the next few weeks will be telling you more about the novel’s journey to becoming an audio book. In the meantime, I’d better finish that last chapter 🙂
I’m excited to be taking part in a fabulous event, Word.Play Presents the Jigsaw Cinema, which is a multi-arts production for children, with words, music and visuals. It’s based around children’s books, and one of my books, Join the Armidale Parade, illustrated by Kathy Creamer (Little Pink Dog Books), will be featured. The event will be held as part of Bellingen Shire Arts Week in both Dorrigo and Bellingen on January 11, 2021, and if you’re in the area, why not come along?
Here’s a description of the event:
Word.Play presents “The Jigsaw Cinema” – a storybook adventure! Live narration & music (composed & improvised) set to films of quirky peephole illustrations from our featured children’s books. Come & hear sound worlds collide, sonic textures, live projections, “jigsaw puzzle” films of our featured book’s illustrations – bringing an almost cinematic concert experience to life for audiences, young & old.Curiosity is awakened. What picture will be revealed next? Who is creeping in the moonlight? The instruments sound, another piece of the puzzle is revealed…
Author Sophie Masson brings your adventure to life as your live narrator. Sophie is joined on stage by director Maryanne Piper (clarinets, percussion, saxophone, whistles, electroacoustic sounds), Alana Blackburn (recorders, electroacoustic Sounds) & Damian Wright (Guitar – aka Bandaluzia Flamenco).
Thrilled to reveal the atmospheric cover of my upcoming YA novel, The Ghost Squad, to be released by the wonderful publisher, MidnightSun Publishing, in February 2021. Isn’t it gorgeous!
Here’s the blurb:
Imagine a world where all seems normal yet nothing is -a world very much like our own yet jarringly unlike. A world where two clandestine organisations, the Ghost Squad and the Base, are engaged in a secret battle for control of information so dangerous it could literally change life as humans
have always known it…
A bold, exciting novel with thrilling twists and turns, The Ghost Squad is a novel that will keep readers guessing – and keep them awake at night!
And here’s a little video I made for the publisher, introducing The Ghost Squad: