Emerging from its chrysalis at last

hungover-cat-high-res

 

Today is publication day.  ‘The Very Hungover Caterpillar’ hits the shops and Emlyn and I had a cheeky breakfast to celebrate.  This morning, we were hungover free, I’m pleased to report, but it’s that time of year when the calendar starts to get full of events, parties and dinners.  I always think I won’t drink too much, but I invariably do.  So after years of experience, here’s my top ten tips to surviving the party season.

 

1.  Accept in advance that you’re in it from early December for the entire duration.   There’s no point in fighting it. You’ll finally get to collapse on Boxing Day. Be strong!
2.  A five pm powernap does wonders to restore a flagging spirit.  Insist on forty-five minutes of shut eye and you’ll be fresh as a daisy and ready to party on.
3.  To avoid illness, never party three nights in a row. Lock in rest days and evenings in your schedule.  You may find yourself filling them up (and they may well turn out to be the best party nights of all), but at least try to book in some sofa down-time.
4. Be a social butterfly, then you can flit between parties, or even slope off home.  In order not to get caught out, make it a rule never send emails or engage in social media after dark.
5. Girls:  Invest in those padded party insoles for your high heels and a pair of folding ballet pumps for when the night ends.  It’s amazing that you can dance all night in heels, but the second you have to stagger to the night bus or the last train, you can’t actually walk.
6. Become an account holder at a reputable cab firm now in November, or even better, stash your company’s account details in your phone so you can always get a cab home.
7.  Do all your Christmas shopping online early and get it delivered to somewhere where someone will be in to take the packages.  Keep a list in a safe place, reminding yourself of who gets what.  Share this list with your partner to avoid doubling up.  Don’t leave present buying until the last minute, when you’re frazzled and stressed out and always buy multiple ‘joke’ presents just in case, as you’ll always need them for the relative and friend you forgot, or the office secret santa.
8.  Make sure you you’re stocked up on bread, cheese and supernoodles for  the 2 a.m munchies.  Then, just before you go to bed drink as much water as you can possibly keep down.
9.  Perfect your own tailored hangover cure.  In this house, we favour Berocca, plus a massive fry up.  For those who know Brighton, only a Billie’s Cafe plate of hash will do.
10.  When all else fails, a hair of the dog does work wonders.  Try a Pickleback – one shot of Irish whiskey with one shot of pickle juice as a chaser.  It’s revoltingly harsh, but remember: you’ll be on the wagon in January.
Cheers!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Very Hungover Caterpillar – cover reveal

Last Christmas, Emlyn and I had a load of fun when Constable & Robinson published We’re Going on a Bar Hunt, a parody of Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury’s much loved children’s classic. On Christmas Day, we had loads of messages from people who’d opened up their copy and were enjoying a chuckle.

Newspapers like The Guardian and Telegraph and sites like Huffington Post were kind enough to say things like “hilarious”, “naughty”, “fabulous” and “very funny”.

We loved working with the very talented Gillian Johnson, the brilliant illustrator and decided to do one more. The Very Hungover Caterpillar is a parody of the wonderful kids’ classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Here’s the cover… What do you think?

hungover-cat-high-res

The Very Hungover Caterpillar follows the quest of one man as he attempts to shake off his hangover, through eating whatever he can get his hands on, and annoying his family in the process. The research process for this book was long and arduous!

We hope it’s as much fun as the first one and will get a knowing wink from anyone who fondly remembers the original, but has now grown up and knows all too well just how painful hungover days can be . . .

Out on 6th November!

We hope that once again, it’ll make a perfect humorous Christmas present. You can pre-order on Amazon here.

Or share your own book parody titles on Twitter using #bookparodies

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A good old-fashioned achy hand

images

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When was the last time you had an achy writing hand?  The kind of wrist-flipper that catapults you back to when you last feverishly wrote in your exams?  I have to say, it’s rare for me –  being the speed typist I am –  but it’s good to be reminded occasionally of the sheer joy of handwriting.

Last night at my creative writing event at the Jubilee Library here in Brighton, I was lucky enough to meet a whole room full of enthusiastic writers.

I started off with a timed writing exercise, following a set of rules.  I first stumbled on these writing rules when I read Natalie Goldberg’s ‘Writing Down the Bones.’  She’s also written a fabulous book, ‘Wild Mind:  Living The Writer’s Life’.  Her idea is a simple one: that is the more you practice writing, the better you get at accessing your creative mind.  The idea is to write FAST, in a timed session, with no censorship.

There are SIX rules for writing practice.

  1. Keep your hand moving.  No matter what.  Even if you write banana, banana, banana, the idea is that you will outsmart the editor in you which is telling you that this is ridiculous and you’ll get to the good stuff.  You must not stop writing for the time allocated.  SPEED is everything.
  1. Don’t cross out.  That’s editing as you’re writing.  Even if you’ve written something you didn’t mean to.  Leave it.  Nobody is going to judge you.
  1. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar.  Don’t even care about writing straight on the page.  Just keep going.
  1. Be Specific.  Use your senses.  Use colour, textures, sounds.  Use different nouns and verbs to bring your sentences zinging to life.  If you write a generic sentence, don’t worry, just make the next one better.
  1. Lose Control and Don’t think. Stick with your first thoughts, not your thoughts on your first thoughts.  Stay with the words you’ve chosen.  Follow your instinct. Let it rip.  Go where the writing takes you.
  1. Go for the jugular.  If something comes up in your writing that it scary or naked, dive right in.  It probably has lots of energy.

The group wrote for ten minutes and I gave them the words ‘The First Time’ as a jump point.  All sorts of wonderful tales came out.  I particularly liked one woman’s description of her first cigarette and the hellish relationship she’s had with cigarettes ever since.

At the end of ten minutes, everyone had achy hands, but everyone agreed that they felt better for the exercise.

Try it.  You might enjoy it.

My next creative writing session is on September 13th here in Brighton.  The course runs from 10.30-3pm and is £99 including a gourmet lunch.  Please contact me to book your place.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Gorgeous Gossip

 

IMG_2118

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things have rather Dark & Stormy around here with Emlyn, Julia and Ray’s new Crime Festival, which was a storming success.  There were sell out events all-round with a brilliant turn from Brighton’s own Peter James as well as a ‘Spies Fact or Fiction’ event in the Dome with Dame Stella Rimmington and Liam Fox amongst the other distinguished guests, not to mention the rocking launch party. I was lucky enough to make my radio presenting debut recording for the brilliant Radio Gorgeous and spoke to Julia Crouch and Candida Lacey about why Brighton and crime go together like Fish and Chips.  Here I am on Gorgeous Gossip.

http://radiogorgeous.com/podcasts/author-joanna-rees-reports-from-dark-stormy-crime-festival-on-gorgeous-gossip/

Leave a comment

Filed under Emlyn Rees, Jo Rees

The Addiction of Books

Image

 

 

I love books.  I love that feeling of being completely swept up in a story, of lying in the bath, or my bed and being utterly transported to a different world.  That addictive escapist feeling is ultimately why I always wanted to become a writer myself.

 

Annoyingly, though, now that I am a writer one of the down sides is that I find it very difficult to indulge myself in my love of commercial fiction when I’m writing.  I still read, of course, but I’m picky, choosy and impatient.  Consequently, our house is full of towering piles of half-read paperbacks.

 

It doesn’t help that Emlyn often reads over my shoulder in bed and makes comments about the book I’ve chosen.  Or, he’ll predict the end.  God, it’s annoying when he’s right!

 

There are, however, a few authors who stop me in my tracks and make me guard their book preciously.  I start reading whilst cooking the kids tea, slope off for a bath for a few more chapters, go to bed early and devour the pages late into the night, or – the ultimate accolade – choose an extra big handbag so that I can take it to London on the train. 

 

One of these authors is JoJo Moyes, whose new book, ‘The One Plus One’ had me gripped from cover to cover.  At two o’clock this morning, I did that weepy sigh thing when I finished the last page and then fell into a deep, satisfied sleep.

 

JoJo is an accomplished writer who sets her stall out in such a way that you feel like you’re in a very safe pair of hands from page one – not an easy thing to do, believe me.  She creates a convincing and totally plausible world for her characters, all of whom have, at their heart, a wonderful conflict to be resolved.  She creates fabulous dramatic tension and has that knack of tugging on your heartstrings when it comes to romance.

 

Having tackled big themes in her books before – like voluntary suicide in ‘Me Before You’, ‘The One Plus One’ is about family, money and ultimately, the quest for a sense of home.  Her characters are quirky, but utterly believable and it’s a satisfying love story of redemption and second chances.

 

It’s a tough act to follow.  I’m really not sure what I’ll be reading next, but in the meantime, I must get some work of my own done…

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Key To It All – it’s here

51EFjZ8ociL._

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drum roll please.  My new book ‘The Key To It All’ is out tomorrow, so I’d better tell you what it’s about.

The idea came for it after talking to my mate Sara in the pub, who told me about a city bloke she knew who’d received an exclusive corporate gift – a sort of instant upgrade pass, which gave him first class flights and entrance into swanky clubs and restaurants.  The idea stuck, developed and I worked it up into the kind of twisting and turning cliff-hanger laden story I love, throwing in some of my favourite plot devices for good measure.  (I guess my box-set addiction comes in handy after all.)

The result is a story about five random strangers – in far flung corners of the globe – who simultaneously receive a mysterious silver key.  When they plug it into any computer, they get access to a personalized webpage asking them to name their desires.  They soon realize that the key can unlock a door to luxury and privilege beyond their wildest dreams. However, as each of them begins to use the key, they are propelled into a world of hazy moral choices and they start to question the enigmatic gift, who is funding it and why they have been chosen to receive it.  Obviously, only the bravest will use it to find out the truth, but along the way, there’s intrigue, murder and romance.

With each of my five characters, I explored their very different reactions to receiving such a gift, from suspicion to out-and-out avarice.  I’ve been asked in quite a bit of the publicity blogs I’ve done about what I would do if I were to receive such a gift, but whilst is sounds great in theory, in practice, I’m not sure I’d like it.  I’m naturally suspicious of freebies and I wouldn’t want anyone else waiting on me hand and foot.  I tend to make friends with staff.  I can’t help myself.

That said, writing this book was so much fun.  I honestly loved the writing process. Some books are like pulling teeth, but this one was a joy.  There are the friends listed in the acknowledgments who obviously went through the usual tearful ‘I can’t do it/yes you can’ phone calls as I tried to rein in my gigantic plot.  But for the most part, it was fabulous to get the chance to sit at home in my tracksuit bottoms and imagine myself cycling along on a beach in Rio, or what it would be like to flounce around on a mega yacht, or throw an epic party where every Hollywood A-lister came.

However, at the end of the day, for me, I know that true happiness is being on my shabby sofa with Emlyn and our girls.  And it’s free.  The key to it all isn’t money, or having someone else solve all your problems.  It may sound very cheesy, and yes, this is a spoiler for the last line of the book, but I do believe that the key to it all is love.

 

‘The Key To It All’ by Joanna Rees is published by Pan Macmillan priced £7.99 and is available in Tesco, Smith’s Travel and online at Amazon.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Less British Hassle, more American Hustle

Image

Greetings, Lovelies.  So, here we are – third week of January.  The credit card bills have just hit, its cold, windy and raining, yonks till anyone gets paid again and for most of us, the exercise and weight-loss resolutions have all gone right out the window.  They say this is the most depressing bit of the year, but surpringly, for January, I’m in a very chipper mood.

This year, I’ve taken a break from the usual January self-flagellation and have decided instead that this is ‘pamper-me’ month.  On account of the fact that I was such a frazzled old bag before Christmas, running around in a frenzy of chaos, I’m taking it upon myself to be kind to myself.  I’ve had my hair cut, my eyebrows done, my nails done and, on the good advice of my friend Lesley, have taken up sherry as my lady tipple of choice at home.  It’s brilliant.

It helps that all is calm in Rees towers and we’re both writing, which is always the most fun phase to be in.  And last night, Emlyn and I went on our first cinema trip of the year to see ‘American Hustle’.

I’ve been wanting to see this film for ages, mainly because the posters have been everywhere.  All that 70’s hair and fashion.  Disco!   What’s not to love?  And don’t get me wrong, this film didn’t disappoint on the visual front.  It looks stunning.  It also has four tremendous performances from the leads, although for me, it didn’t excel past the opening shot of Christian Bale constructing his elaborate comb-over.

It also featured Amy Adams breasts.  A lot.  She’s got a great pair of knockers and rocks a Dianne von Furstenberg dress like no-one else, but I left very thankful that the low ‘V’ neckline is no longer in fashion.  I am seriously tempted to Google how many metres of tit tape the costume department used during the filming.  Didn’t they wear bras at all in the 70’s?

My overall impression was that whilst the characterization was great, the script could definitely have been better and the plot a bit beefier.  But maybe I’m just picking holes because I’m hot off the back of a box set.  I’ve just watched series one of Wentworth Prison.  It’s the opposite end of the spectrum to American Hustle, being about an Australian women’s prison (so the costume department had a significantly easier job).  However, if you ever watched Prisoner Cell Block H back in the 90’s (usually late at night after a few pints) then this is definitely one for you.  It’s utterly gripping.

So there are a few recommendations for you.  But my biggest recommendation of all is to treat yourself today.  Right now.  It’s January.  Let yourself off the hook.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized