Team Fergus

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Joanna Nadin (far right) with Sir Chris Hoy and Flying Fergus illustrator, Clare Elsom

As a career, being a writer has its advantages: you get to work when you want; you get to wear what you want, whether that’s pyjamas or a ballgown (and I’ve worn both to work in); and best of all you get to spend days on end pretending to be other people, in other places. But writing books is a solitary job, and can be a lonely one. I get to be in charge of everything, so there’s no arguing, but there are also missed opportunities too. Quite simply, there are times when two heads are better than one. Flying Fergus is testament to this.

Book cover reveal

From Chris’s initial idea – “a sort of Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang with a bicycle” – to the finished stories, Flying Fergus is entirely a product of teamwork. We spent hours talking about how books and bikes offer a similar escape from the humdrum of daily life – something we had both experienced. We talked about how Chris had got his first bike from a second-hand junk shop, painted by his dad to look like the BMX he’d dreamed of. We talked about how we both wanted to get across a message about achievement being about hard work and teamwork, rather than being born with rare talent and becoming an overnight success. Chris sent me off to research Graeme Obree, the world record-breaking cyclist who built his own bike out of washing machine parts and I suggested ways to use the information I learned. We thought up names, and borrowed some from Chris’s family and cycling friends. We mapped out the almost-Edinburgh city that Fergus lives in, based on Chris’s childhood home. We dreamed up which Wacky Races-style gadgets you’d have on your bike if reality was no obstacle. Together we came up with two worlds, a complete cast of characters and a whole series of adventures centering on one very ordinary nine-year-old boy: “Flying” Fergus Hamilton.

Fergus himself is partly me – a small child who spends a lot of time on their own, reading and imagining a life where they have fantastic adventures – but mostly Chris – a boy who dreams big but works hard, who knows the smallest success can mean bigger things in the long run, and who understands that without an incredible team, success is almost impossible, and certainly not half as much fun.

Joanna Nadin – co-author of the Flying Fergus series

Click here to read an extract from Flying Fergus: The Best Birthday Bike

Designing the Book Cover: The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place

When we acquire a book the first thing to do is to read the story (or sometimes an outline of a story or snippet of the finished thing). The second is to think about what the finished book will look like and finding an appropriate illustrator or designer who can do the story and characters justice. With The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place we knew we wanted an illustrator to draw the girls for the front cover and we chose the delightful Nicola Kinnear (you can see some more of her work here and she’s on Twitter here). Nicola was even lovely enough to write us a blogpost about how she drew the Scandalous Sisterhood girls:

Bringing the girls to life

My first step in bringing the girls to life was to read the story. I was interested in both the descriptions of how they looked and their personalities, and wanted to convey both in the illustrations.


I find research crucial to the way I work and so I looked in detail at Victorian 1890s fashion and hairstyles to try and be as authentic as possible. I draw constantly throughout this research stage, getting a feel for how it will work with the characters.

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My technique for finding the characters is quite thorough. I draw and keep re-drawing, trying different expressions, features and poses until something works, and then I draw some more!

 It was important to get all the girls looking individual from each other, which was quite a challenge, as there are seven of them! Once the characters started to take shape I looked at the composition that was suggested, doing quick thumbnail sketches.girls 8

For the final cover illustration, I decided to keep a fluid sketched line, which I could then colour using Photoshop. Colouring digitally has its advantages, as it can easily be changed and manipulated. This allowed me to play around with different colours a great deal, trying to get a vibrant and fun colour palette that reflected the playfulness of the book. I always like to keep an essence of traditional media in my illustration, even if I do take it into Photoshop. I try to use Photoshop brushes that mimic gouache or other such paint to capture that traditional look


The final cover!

The girls’ portraits are shown inside the book, decorated with floral frames. I wanted to show more of each girl’s personality through the flowers used in her frame. Smaller delicate flowers for some girls, rustic practical herbs for others, and spikey looking plants for Elinor, the girl interested in more morbid and gothic themes. This was so much fun for me as I have a real interest in looking into different plants and flowers.

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It’s been such a joy to work on the cover illustration for Julie Berry’s novel, with its historical setting and seven wonderful main characters.

Thank you so much to Nicola for taking the time to write such a wonderful piece. If you’d like to buy the book you can do so NOW! It’s on sale wherever scandalous books are sold.

Waterstones –…
Amazon –…
Foyles –…
Hive –…

Suzy P is going on Tour!

Calling all fans of disaster-prone teens, hot chocolate with marshmallows and of course, the coolest band on planet earth, The Drifting. Suzy P and author Karen Saunders are going on a blog tour! Wahoo! All dates and venues (blogs) will be announced soon, watch this space for more information coming your way very soon.

There will be dancing, there will be playlists, Suzy will have advice for you on how to live a disaster-free life… well, almost, completely disaster-free would just be boring! And of course there will be copies of the brand new book and last in the series, Suzy P, Forever Me to win and a very exciting giveaway involving pizza. Yep, you read that right, free pizza!

To whet your appetite here’s a sneaky peak at the final book in the Suzy P trilogy, read a sample here:


If you haven’t had a chance to read the first two books in the series then here’s a sneaky peek at them too! 97818487729609781848773691

And here’s some very useful advice from Suzy herself.


Behind the scenes with The Scandalous Sisterhood

Earlier in the week we showed you the stupendous book trailer for our Scandalous Sisterhood girls. (If you missed it you can check it out here.) And now we have a very exciting video showing how the video was made, from the music to the brilliantly snooty voiceover and how these work with the animations that bring the Sisterhood to life.

THE SCANDALOUS SISTERHOOD OF PRICKWILLOW PLACE by Julie Berry is now available where all scandalous books are sold!


Let us know what you think in the comments or on Twitter @PiccadillyPress

The Scandalous Book Trailer

9781848124370After her debut novel, ALL THE TRUTH THAT’S IN ME was voted the 2014 Carnegie Medal shadowing groups’ favourite Julie Berry returns with an outrageous plot of villainy starring seven brilliant young girls.

At Prickwillow Place, Disgraceful Mary Jane, Smooth Kitty and their fellow students are keeping a deadly secret. When the headmistress of St Etheldreda’s School for Young Ladies drops dead at Sunday dinner, her seven pupils agree on a clever scheme: to bury their teacher in the vegetable garden, dress up Stout Alice in her place, and educate themselves. This is tricky enough in a small Victorian community, but when the girls deduce that their teacher was poisoned – (it was the veal!) – they realise there is also a murderer on the prowl… An outrageous plot of mysterious happenings, farce and friendship.

As charming, clever and surprising as its heroines – Wall Street Journal

Brilliantly done and very entertaining – Fiona Noble, The Bookseller

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry is available wherever scandalous books are sold: