Category Archives: next book

T. M. Alexander blogs about her next book


So, after thoroughly enjoying writing the Tribe books, I’ve taken a bit of a leap and left behind the juniors to try to engage older readers. HACKED is positively unsuitable for Key Stage 2, being far too full of teenager stuff. It’s set in Bristol, using real geography as opposed to the made-up street map I drew in my mind for the Tribers, and is, I hope, a thriller. As the title suggests, there’s hacking. There’s also extradition, GCSEs, parties, drones, police, courts, love, catheters, journalists, wildlife volunteering and a lawyer that looks like Dara O’Briain. The idea grew, I suppose, from a few unrelated thoughts. That teenagers don’t always consider consequences. That teenagers are better than adults with computers. That no one knows who anyone else really is on the internet.

The book comes out in November and to celebrate I’m running a series of school events – The HACKED Launch Tour of BRISTOL.

I’m going to be chatting about how I planned, drafted and edited the book, and how the narrator dictates the vocabulary, grammar and structure.

If you’re a secondary school teacher and you’d like a visit – get in touch.


I’m currently writing the sequel, which is actually a prequel too.

I hope the end result is less confusing than that sounds.




I quite like a made-up word or two. I especially like the way that when you’ve used the word a number of times it sounds entirely unmadeup.

Unmade could be a good word for my blog as it’s been a while . . . but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy.

I’m now a monthly blogger on the which is fun, but comes round very quickly. I’m writing a new book that I’m meant to deliver by the end of January. I’m cycling twice a week on interesting towpaths and cycle tracks and country roads all over the place and enjoying the bacon sandwiches at the halfway point.

Favourites this autumn have been Slimbridge to Gloucester Docks, Bristol to Nailsea on the Festival Way with lunch in the Waitrose cafe and to Nailsworth, eating at the Hobbs House Bakery Cafe. Longest ride so far has been the NewForest cycletta – see, you say it enough and it sounds like it’s always meant women only bike rides. The pic is me at the finish. I wasn’t smiling a few miles earlier.

The writing/cycling loop has been interrupted several times by school visits to run workshops in Kent, Bristol and Devon. This weekend, unusually, I’m running an event with a brewer who makes alcoholic drinks from whatever he can forage as part of the Bristol Festival of Literature. I don’t know who had the idea of putting a children’s author with a booze manufacturer . . . maybe it was theotherandyhamilton. That could be a word.

the next big thing

My blogs don’t usually have such grand titles. No surprise then that it’s not my invention. I was tagged by the lovely Rebecca Lisle, author of over 20 children’s books, and my task is to answer ten writerly questions about what I’m working on. The only trouble is, I don’t want to reveal anything, so the content is going to be slim. In honesty, I’d rather not do it at all, but like playground tag, I’m it, so here goes . . .

1 What is the working title of your next book? Bird. Ironic as I detest birds because of the flapping. A pigeon’s wing once grazed my cheek at Bristol Zoo Gardens and I shrieked terrifying all around me. I’ve taught the children to herd them away from me.

2 Where did the idea come from for the book? I visited California last year and went to an amazingly grand house that I’ve used as the setting. The revelation in my story is inspired by Mervyn Peake – a favourite writer of mine as a teenager.

3 What genre does your book fall under? Magic realism – I’m not a label fan so I wrote that reluctantly.

4 What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? Elle Fanning would be the heroine. I saw her in ‘Ginger and Rosa’ which I loved.

5 What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? A secret. (It is about a secret, but it’s also a secret.)

6 Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I am lucky to be represented by Alice Williams at David Higham.

7 How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? I’m not there yet . . .

8 What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? ‘Skellig’ but obviously not a tenth as good. All praise David Almond.

9 Who or what inspired you to write this book? My sister, who managed not to diss the idea when I drove to Newbury to make her brainstorm with me.

10 What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? The unusual life of the heroine.

Well, that wasn’t so bad. Just got to work out who to tag and how to do it.

Right, I called the amazing wordsmith Sharon Tanton and have tagged Moira Young and Michelle Robinson  – you’re next.

two days, two schools, three entirely different workshops

It’s been a busy couple of days. I was very pleased yesterday to go and see the wonderful teacher that is Bridget Norman in her new school. I met two Year 6 classes and we had a good time making up characters to star in our story. We had a goth, and a punk with green hair and piercings. It’s a non-uniform school, as you can see, and had a happy vibe. I read from the Tribe book,  Monkey Bars and Rubber Ducks, and then in answer to a question told the true and tragic story of how my Olympic hopes were dashed by a catastrophic knee injury. I left out the gore as once before I went on a bit too much and a child had to leave the room!

After a meeting at my children’s school I finally managed to complete the edit of my next book and sent it off to my agent at David Higham. Always a good feeling.

Today I drove down the M5 in the pouring rain to a very pretty school in Wellington that oozed calm. It was unbelievably quiet. I watched the KS1 children leave assembly in complete silence, smiling, but quiet. Whatever it is they do in that school to make it so tranquil, they should bottle it. I saw Years 3/4 first and was pleased to discover they could make a noise when requested. They were excellent story makers, used all the information about the characters and laughed at my jokes. Result!

Years 5/6 came next and we started off a story with a chameleon and a pipe. It’s not easy to know where to go from there. Luckily there were hands up every second of the hour we spent together so they sorted it out themselves. Despite being in the same school the two workshops were very different in flavour. The younger ones wanted to get it right, and the older ones wanted laughs or destruction.

So, three workshops in two days. In the Q&A at the end, children always ask me which of my books is my favourite. Like my workshops, they’re all my favourites.

the Tribe tea party

The new book, Monkey Bars and Rubber Ducks, needed a coming-out party so yesterday we baked 91 cakes and 40 truffles. The decorations were haphazard, but charming. I was particularly proud of my Mandela cakes, flaunting the colours of the African National Congress to mark Nelson Mandela’s 93rd birthday, also this week. For some of the others we used Bee’s recipe with marshmallow flowers on top. See The guests ranged in age from 2 (this coming Sunday) to 80-something. The highlight of the affair was the showing of Henleaze School’s Year 5 trailer made for the new book. The children played the characters, followed the early story line and left cliffhangers. Excellent. We had a questions session afterwards and then people left just as the rain started in earnest. Dinner at the Cambridge.

my 400 metre certificate from Henleaze Swimming club

Today was the Long Swim – the day us swimmers are allowed to venture beyond the buoy and see where the anglers hold court. I went with my friend, Jess, and as usual there was a hesitation before entering the water, headfirst in my case. Although we know it’s all right when you’re in, the idea of the freezing water is always most off-putting. It was two hundred metres to the far end, where lake gives way to lily-covered water through which swimming would be difficult. 172 swimmers got in, I believe, and the oldest was 86 and the youngest 9. Afterwards there was a reward in the shape of hot chocolate, a Kitkat and the certificate.

It’s beef and Yorkshires for tea, but before I scoff I’m off to the study to think about my school visit tomorrow to Henleaze School. They’re making a trailer for my new book, Monkey Bars and Rubber Ducks, so I need to fill them in on the plot. I’m looking forward to it.

Labradoodle on the Loose is part of the Summer Reading Challenge 2011

I was really pleased to hear that Labradoodle on the Loose has been picked to feature in the libraries’ Summer Reading Challenge 2011, called Circus Stars. It’s a great scheme designed to encourage children to read a few books – six I think – over the holidays, with the prospect of a reward at the end.

My reward for being chosen is to go for a nice swim. I missed my usual Thursday slot at the pool because I was in Birmingham meeting a friend from university days that I hadn’t seen for 25 years. We went to Jamie’s Italian and the food was lovely – bread and olives, glass of Prosecco, meatballs with home-made parpadelle. Absolutely no chance of pudding because the servings were huge. The chat was lovely too. So true that you can just pick up where you left off, even after all those years. We’re planning another date for the summer. At least we know who to look out for now. No need for a red carnation and rolled-up newspaper as clues.

the launch party of Labradoodle on the Loose

We were at the lovely View Art Gallery in Bristol from seven o’clock, moving one particularly vulnerable sculpture and putting out all the drinks and Smarties. The first guests arrived fifteen minutes early, and then there was a steady trickle and then a flood. It’s hard to know when to interrupt the flow to start the ‘talk’ but fortunately Nick, gallery owner, shooed the audience into the chosen space and off I went. I hope everyone enjoyed my lively tale of half a dozen memorable authorly moments. I know the kids enjoyed the scream!

A special guest at the launch was Pearl, a reviewer from the Bristol Review of Books magazine. She reviewed the first two Tribe books and just managed to read Labradoodle on the Loose in time to give her verdict at the launch. Luckily it was positive. Pearl especially liked the part in the book where Fifty is accused of kidnapping his sister.

Thank you to all those who bought my new book, and especially those who started reading it while still at the gallery. And thank you also to those faces present at all the launches. Keep coming!

I can’t wait to see Labradoodle on the Loose in its splendid new jacket

My next book should arrive soon, two weeks tomorrow to be precise. I’m excited to see the new cover design in the flesh, as opposed to on my computer screen. Its a major departure for the Tribe books. They started out as illustrations of the five Tribers on a vivid background, with TRIBE in lovely typography. However, the general reaction to the covers was less than enthusiastic and so we have new titles, new covers and hopefully more sales. It’s all very good timing because the books will be ready for World Book Day and over the three days before and after that most important day I’m going in to four schools, so I’ll have four lots of children to try them out on. I hope they don’t all groan, ‘We liked the old ones’.

Another book is another excuse for a launch party so we’re going back to our favourite gallery, ‘view’. A book launch in the midst of an exhibition is a wonderfully combination. I so enjoyed watching my guests exploring the ‘Comfortably Strange’ exhibits while waiting for the event to kick off when we launched Goodbye Copper Pie. An absent friend this year will be my agent, Bruce Hunter, who has retired having started at David Higham as a tea boy. Luckily I have been adopted by one of his colleagues.

So all we need is to get rid of the lingering sore throat virus camping in our house and wait for the knock on the door signalling the delivery of a large box of books, and we’ll be set.