I am delighted to share the news that the brilliant house of Everything With Words will publish my second middle-grade children’s book, The Chestnut Roaster, on 27 October 2022. I am so grateful and excited to begin this journey, and who better than to kick it all off with a cover reveal than the wonderful crew at Halfway Up The Stairs bookshop.
The cover was designed and illustrated by artist extraordinaire, Holly Ovenden. Holly also designed and illustrated my first book, Elsetime, so I was thrilled my publisher, Mikka, chose Holly to work on this book too. See more of Holly’s captivating work here.
“Starting on All Fools’ Day, twelve years ago, I remember everything. EVERYTHING. That was a wet Saturday, and that was the day I was born.”
12-year-old Piaf has the ability to (and burden of) remembering everything that has happened since the day she was born. When she discovers everyone in Paris has forgotten the entire last year, 1887, including the disappearance of several gifted children, Piaf and her twin brother Luc embark on a dangerous journey that brings them to the depths of Paris’s underground twin, the Catacombs, to capture the memory thief and find the lost children—but are the two connected? And who dare they trust?
The Chestnut Roaster – How it began
Like most children’s writers, I am a Wonderlarker – always searching for the magic in a strange pebble or a spell written in a spider’s web. One day, I found a special thing: a leaf skeleton. Not unlike the leaf entwined on Holly’s cover illustration, its intricate veins were so delicate yet so incredibly strong. They shone like golden silk and seemed to swirl and twist in purposeful lines. I wondered (and tweeted!), was I looking at a map to a mysterious world?
I had a new story idea! Soon, my head was spinning with images of endless tunnels and squirming alleyways. The Catacombs of Paris sprung to mind, and I knew this would be where my new story would be set. Oh, to be in Paris!
And then I needed a character. One of my favourite things about Paris is the roasted chestnuts sold on street corners. That smell! I pictured a girl, far smaller than her years, standing on a wooden box, there to grant her some height, as she sold chestnuts to fashionable Parisians and hungry tourists. As I imagined her harvesting chestnuts in the Paris’s Tuileries Gardens, my mind was spinning with memories of my own chestnut hunting, seeking out the largest burrs – an annual tradition in our house. It’s all about the thrill of cracking one open and seeking what treasure lies inside. OK, so it was always a chestnut, but I adored how, hidden inside each spikey shell, was the seed of a giant tree, each unique and sometimes housed with a twin. I thought about my tiny chestnut roaster and realised that, just like a chestnut, what mattered was hidden inside – and inside, my petite 12-year-old chestnut roaster, was as strong as a giant.
I named her Piaf – which means little sparrow. The perfect name for a little girl who flutters and fidgets to fight the lure of her incredible, yet persistent, memory – a condition now known as Hyperthymesia. Her adventure begins when she and her twin brother Luc discover everyone in Paris has forgotten a whole year. Everyone, except her.
I hope you will come along with me on this journey and perhaps, together, we’ll get to share some roasted chestnuts to celebrate its launch in October.
The Chestnut Roaster is available for pre-order now!
Ireland – Halfway Up The Stairs