This is the WASTED BLOG. For my main author website, click this link.

Awards: WASTED won the Read it or Else category in the Coventry Award and was runner-up in the North East Book Award. It is longlisted for the Carnegie Medal and shortlisted for the Manchester, Grampian, Angus, and RED Awards.

Friday, 30 April 2010


Nervous? Have you any idea, you readers? Do you think writers just sit glowing with pride at having published a book? Ohhhh no. We're sensitive souls, fragile creatures, and we care so very much about our books. We KNOW not everyone will like them but we also foolishly hope they will. Or at least that when people don't like our books they will find a nice way to say so or else say nothing.

And I am very nervous because it's horribly close to publication day for Wasted. Not that the exact day makes much difference because it's all too late to stop it now. I may WANT to change half the words in it but I can't. I may WANT to hide in a cupboard but I can't. (For a start, I have this blog and all of you are kindly and patiently sitting there waiting for Wasted to come out - or at least making a very good show of pretending to.)

Once a book is published, there's so much luck involved. So much can go wrong and there are myriad reasons why some books fail to be noticed. More reasons to be nervous. And some books mean more to the author than others. Wasted means more to me than any of my others - only The Passionflower Massacre came close, and that faded into obscurity despite having great reviews from the start.

I'm also doing an after-dinner speech this evening at the Scottish Arts Club, where they are having a black tie dinner to celebrate Walpurgis Night. They obviously thought that since Walpurgis Night is all about evil spirits and witches and other nasty things, I was a suitable choice of speaker...

Doing these things - writing books and giving talks is risky and nerve-inducing. But there's a lesson here, to do with luck. And luck is something that Wasted is very much about.

You see, I know there are lots of things that happen which we can't control. Really bad things happen to good people and good things happen to horrible people. But apart from that, I DO believe that if we are bold and confident and get out there and try things, we have more chance of luck coming our way. In other words, we have to take risks in order to succeed. (I'll be blogging about this another day.)

Writing a book is a very big risk. People might hate it; I might feel stupid; it might be a total waste of time if it does badly. It's very exposing. So I'm nervous.

But I'm glad I took the risk. I love so much about being a writer. And the pleasures of seeing people love a book outweigh the times when someone hates it. Yes, when someone criticises it, it's horrible, truly horrible, but I have to accept it as one of the risks. Like falling off a horse - it hurts. But you get back up and you gallop with the wind in your hair and everything is worth it.

Doesn't stop me being nervous about Monday, though!

(On the other hand, when you read the post on Monday, you'll see that I'm not going to have much time to be nervous...)

Thank you all so much for joining and reading this blog. I promise you lots of interesting stuff over the next few weeks. Several chances to win copies of Wasted or my other books, and lots of opportunities to be involved. And, as with everything in life, you just never know where it might lead. My motto in life is simple: do. If you do nothing, nothing will happen to you. And how boring and frustrating that would be.

Today I am a guest on writer Nik Perring's blog, where I'll be talking about all the emotions that writers go through on their long journey to publication. Including being nervous, of course.

Tomorrow I'll be visiting the Book Maven, Mary Hoffman's, blog. I hop you'll join me at Nik and Mary's and check out the excellent blogs of those two successful writers.

Don't forget that tomorrow is also the next prize draw for a copy of Wasted - all you have to do is be a follower of this blog. Good luck! Oh, and do encourage people to enter the Flash Fiction competition - I've had a fantastic standard of entries but very few stories from school age writers. Go write!

Thursday, 29 April 2010


A pigeon smashes through a window at one point in WASTED. This actually happened to me while I was writing the book. If it hadn’t, the whole story would have been different. While you're reading the book - if you do! - see if you can predict when it will happen…

I thought you might like to see the picture of my window afterwards. Rather bizarrely, this has happened to me twice, same window, and both times I was in the room.

The time which affected WASTED was interesting: I was sitting in my study, near the window, with my laptop on my lap, trying to think of something that could happen to one of the characters which would make a few minutes' difference to the time when he reached a particular spot. It had to be a completely unconnected, random event. Anyway, as I was trying to think of this, CRASH! A pigeon smashed through the window.

Once I'd finished screaming (and running out of the room), I realised that this was exactly what I needed in my plot, because it would delay him by a couple of minutes, which was all I needed. As you'll see when you get to that point, whether he is there when the pigeon smashes through the window or not makes a life or death difference.

You see, sometimes writers don't need an imagination: sometimes real life is all we need.

Warning: both my editor and agent said that the pigeon incident is one of the shocking moments of the book.

WASTED BLOG TOUR - begins tomorrow, with a visit to Nik Perring's blog. Thanks, Nik! His blog today has lovely pictures of his new book of short stories, Not So Perfect. In view of the fact that my post today has been about pigeons, it's quite interesting that his has a picture of a cat on the cover. Cat among the pigeons, eh? Or something.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010


I've had lovely comments about the characters in Wasted, so it's my pleasure to tell you a bit about them here.

Jess - gorgeous, half-Italian / half-Norwegian, fabulous singer and musician. I would love to have been like her. Trouble is, her mother, Sylvia, is becoming an alcoholic. Jess has no brothers or sisters, and her father left home years ago, so Jess feels responsible. She knows her mother doesn't want her to leave home, but Jess finishes school in two weeks' time and she really wants to go away, to music college, after some travelling. Jess is very together, very cool and lovely, but she's worried about her mum, and doesn't know what to do. Not just worried, but embarrassed and somewhat exasperated. There's a crack opening between them and it shouldn't be Jess who has to deal with this but Jess is more mature than Sylvia and is left with a lot she shouldn't have to deal with.

Jack - also gorgeous! Mad hair, very arty, fabulous musician, has a band called Schrodinger's Cats. Studies philosophy and music for A-level, very intense - sometimes in a good way, sometimes not. He's very together as well, and it takes a lot to rock him: he has equilibrium. But inside, Jack is dealing with an obsession about luck and chance. He's obsessed about stories of people dying through chance events. He's got good reason to be obsessed about that - he has twice lost his mother. His first mother died while giving birth to him. His second mother died on his first day at school, and it was his "fault", or at least caused by him. I won't tell you how it happened but I have to warn you: it's not nice. It's really, really not nice. But Jack is 18 now and he's recovered. Hasn't he? Well, yes, but now this obsession with luck is threatening to destroy him.

Jack and Jess meet, by chance, and fall in love. WOW, how they fall in love! I never quite meant it to happen like this but I love how their relationship takes over - it takes them over and it took me over. They almost can't touch each other because the electricity between them is so strong. It takes their breath away.

Sylvia - Jess's mother, flighty, dippy, fragile, blousy, artistic, scatty, uncontrolled, damaged, yet lovely too. And drinks too much. Much too much. She's falling to pieces.

Kelly, Samantha and Charlie - the Kelly Gang, enemies to Jack (because Jack once knocked Kelly back when she tried to come on to him) and Jess (because she's friends with Jack and accidentally insulted Kelly); they are tarty but stunning, tanned, mini-skirted, long-legged, wild. And they cause a whole lot of trouble. One of them will pay a heavy price. 

Lorenzo - Jess's dad, who lives in Chicago and sees her about once a year. Italian, clever, successful, but a lousy father. Buys Jess's love, doesn't know how to care properly about her. Quite unemotional, clinical. He has a lot to learn.

Sam - Jack's dad. Lovely man! We don't see much of him but he seems very together despite having been widowed twice. Does a great job with Jack. Relaxed, confident, cool, sensible. Worries about Jack but not too much.

Spike - Jess's cat. Spike is delicious, soft, warm, and important. Like all cats, he senses trouble, reads emotions. Spike has a chapter to himself and I've put it here.

I don't think it's necessary for a reader to like the characters in a book but I like liking them, and I certainly do like the main characters in Wasted. I really hope you do, too. I'd love to know what you think. I know some of you have read it already - do put your comments here.


Some fab reviews on Amazon already. And lovely comments by email, too. Thank you! I don't know if any of you understand how important this book is to me - much more so than anything I've done. I know some people won't like it but I really want it to reach its intended readers.That's all I can hope for, but so many good books don't succeed and I'm pretty nervous about Wasted still.

Meanwhile, the blog tour starts soon - I'll be visiting Nik Perring's blog on Sunday. Thanks, Nik!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010


The first thing you need to know is that I am no scientist. Utterly useless, I am. You think I’m exaggerating? Well, my last science report at school said, “Nicola has absolutely no aptitude for science subjects.” So, I gave up. Well, I was probably planning to give up anyway, but then I certainly did, much to the relief of all concerned.

So, it’s not very easy for me to try to explain anything sciencey to you, especially something so weird and extraordinary that it actually doesn't make sense, even to scientists: quantum physics. (There's a video coming at the end of this post which I think explains it really well, but bear with me while I try... Oh, and apologies if I seem to be speaking very simply: this is for my brain's benefit, not because I think you won't understand!)

Here are some things that I do understand about quantum physics:
  • It’s the science of VERY small things, smaller than atoms, smaller than I can imagine.
  • These particles are called quanta (the plural of quantum).
  • Even a quantum is not the smallest thing – each quantum is made of gluons, quarks, protons and electrons.
  • Quanta do not behave like other particles – they follow very different rules.
  • Scientists don’t fully know what those rules are.
  • But they have some theories.
One theory (which I believe they have proved - and the video you'll see later seems to show how) about quanta is that they change / move when they are observed – SO, we cannot predict where one will be at any time because the act of finding it will change where it is or how fast it moves.

That is "Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle": that you cannot simultaneously know the position and speed of a quantum particle, because it moves by being observed: in other words, the act of trying to measure its position changes it.

This theory was HUGELY important because before that we had assumed that every particle’s position was a) measurable and b) governed by physical laws and all we had to do was know the position and movement of every particle and then we could know what it would do. For example, if we knew everything that would affect the way a coin was spun, we could know which way it would land.

The Uncertainty Principle tells us that we cannot know, not even logically, not in theory or practice or even if we had infinite power. Because everything changes. And it's very important in Wasted, even though (thankfully) I never mention it.

The video below explains why scientists believe this and some of what it means.

One confusing and famous consequence of quantum theory is the Schrodinger's Cat paradox, but that will have to wait till Saturday because I'm now exhausted by all this science and need to go and lie down in a darkened room. On Saturday I will attempt to explain it, so please don't go and mess things up by telling me anything about it in your comments, otherwise I may have to do something nasty to the cat.

While I go and lie down, take a look at this video. I don’t know about you, but it really helps me a) understand b) see just how weird this all is c) see why scientists are fascinated by it.

Oh, and c) it makes me very glad I’m not a scientist. But then, after all, I have no aptitude for science.

Except that I did write two books about the brain! Hooray for teachers saying I am useless...

Monday, 26 April 2010


This for all the writers amongst you - young or not young, published and unpublished. A flash fiction competition. Flash fiction is a very very very short story.  I wrote about this on my other blog here.

Stories can be told in a tiny number of words. Ernest Hemingway once wrote a story in six words which he considered to be his best ever:
"For sale: baby shoes, never used."
I wrote one once, in four words:
"Certainly," said the inn-keeper.
These stories are obviously not very satisfying for readers. But they open your mind to ideas and possibilities. How would history have changed if there'd been room at the inn? What is the story behind Hemingway's unworn baby shoes?

My challenge to you is to write a story in not more than 50 words, inspired by any one of these three words:
Luck, Chance or Fate.

Two age categories:
A - school pupil (at today's date: April 26th 2010)
B - left school (however long ago!)
  1. Closing date 15th June 2010 - winners announced before end of UK school term.
  2. Prizes sent to UK address only - if you're overseas, do enter but nominate a UK resident to receive the prize. You'll still get the glory!!
  3. Category A entrants - please indicate the name of your school on your entry and ask permission from school or parent. Also please indicate your AGE.
  4. Email your entry to
  5. Put the words FLASH COMPETITION in the subject line.
  6. Give an email contact but not your postal address - I will ask you for that if you're a winner.
  7. 50 words max. Hyphenated words count as one. I will not disqualify a writer for writing 51 words accidentally. But I might for 52 or 53...
  8. I will use independent judges and their decision will be final.
  9. One prize in each category: the winner's choice of any of my in print books, signed. Runners-up will get honourable mentions on blogs.
  10. By entering, you give permission for me to publish your entry or part on my blogs.
Off you go! I will publish some of the best on this blog and on my other blog -  -  and I'll use Twitter to publicise them so loads of people could read your work. Take time to polish, polish and polish. In flash fiction, every word counts so make every one work really hard.

And as Wasted shows, you never know where any action might lead you. Your decision to enter this competition could have unpredictable effects and one thing is certain: you'll never know unless you try.

Tomorrow I am going to attempt the impossible: to explain quantum physics. For someone who was as useless at science as me (according to my teachers - thanks for the support anyway), that is a very difficult task.

I need coffee. And probably chocolate.

Sunday, 25 April 2010


Yesterday I told you about Tommy Allsup. But there's another man alive today who has been so lucky that it's hard to believe. There's a part of me thinks this simply can't be true, but it seems to be, so I'm going to tell you.

He's called John Woods.

(Actually, after the post yesterday, several of you came up with some others stories of amazingly lucky people. Check out Franko Selek and Maryanne Bruce. No one guessed the correct answer so I get to keep the prize - hehe! On the other hand, lucky blog-follower Vanessa O'Loughlin won yesterday's free draw, so she will receive a signed copy very soon. Well done, Vanessa! Everyone else - next draw Sat May 1st.)

Back to John Woods. In 1988, he was booked on the Pan-Am flight which exploded over Lockerbie, killing everyone on board. But he cancelled at the last minute because someone had persuaded him to go to a party in his office.

In 1993, he was on the 39th floor of the World Trade Centre when it was bombed, but he survived, uninjured.

On September 11th, 2001, he left his office in one of the Twin Towers. Seconds later, one of the two planes involved hit the building in the appalling tragedy which shook America and changed the world. John Woods was safe again.

I wonder how many days go by when he doesn't say to himself, "What if?" But you could go crazy thinking like that - so I hope he locks it away in a small place in his mind and focuses on the fact that he simply is a very, very lucky man.

What has this to do with Wasted? Well, one of the two main characters, Jack, is obsessed by stories like this. Jack has lost two mothers. The first one died giving birth to him - a blood clot, terribly bad luck, quite unpredicted and very rare. The second time was rather horrible, and Jack was there too, aged five - he'd just come home from his first day at school and an incredibly unlucky accident in the kitchen, "caused" by Jack, killed her. I'd rather not tell you about it here - it really is rather shocking...

Anyway, although he moves forward and grows up strong and seemingly undamaged, he does have this obsession about luck, good and bad. He covers his wall with stories of people who have horribly bad luck because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like Aeschylus, who is supposed to have died when a tortoise fell on his head! Jack believes that if he throws himself at the mercy of luck, by letting a coin rule his actions, luck will look out for him.

John Woods made a decision which saved him from being on the Pan-Am flight and another that saved him from dying in the Twin Towers. He didn't know he was making an important decision, but it was a decision all the same.

Jack thinks if he makes the right decisions, he will be lucky. But how will he know what the right decisions are? He thinks he knows. He thinks that the only important decision is to spin the coin and follow the answer. But he's going to discover that he's wrong...

I'll be asking for YOUR stories of lucky escapes or chance events on May 4th. So, get thinking. I'm going to collect them all and I might tell them when I do school events and other talks. I want examples of how a tiny chance event affected your life - lucky escapes or unlucky actions, being in the wrong or right place at the right time, how your parents met etc, anything where you believe important results came from a tiny chance happening or decision. Don't tell me now - wait till I post the piece on May 4th. (For soome examples, see the page at the top of this blog, titled Your Chance Events.

Thing is, sometimes we have lucky escapes and don't even know - like Lorenzo in Wasted. Whether he dies in a car crash or not depends on whether he's driving a red car or not, which affects whether a pigeon crashes through a window when he's drinking coffee ... Sounds unlikely? Well, the pigeon scene actually happened to me. I'll tell you about it on Thursday. 

See you tomorrow, when I will have a writing competition for you - a chance for adult writers and school-age writers. If you're at school, tell your English teacher today - this is going to be a great chance for you to demonstrate your creativity and have a chance to be published here.

Meanwhile, comment below! And may you have a very lucky life.

Saturday, 24 April 2010


Tommy Allsup is alive and well, but he should have died on Feb 3rd 1959. And he would have done if another man hadn't challenged him to toss a coin.

Tommy was a guitarist with Buddy Holly's band. (Their music should play automatically when you open that link!)

On Feb 3rd 1959, band members were due to fly on an eight-seater plane from Clear Lake, Iowa, to Fargo, New Delaware. All the seats were booked and Tommy had one of the bookings, but Ritchie Valens wanted to join them.

"I'll toss you for it," said Ritchie. And Tommy agreed. Tommy lost the toss and gave up his seat to Ritchie. The plane crashed, killing all on board. The Buddy Holly band had been incredibly successful and this night became known as "the night the music died".

How many times must Tommy Allsup have thought to himself, "What if?" What if Ritchie hadn't wanted to go on the flight? What if Tommy had refused to toss him for it? What if...the hand that flipped the coin had spun it just slightly ... fractionally ... teensily a different way? After all, the way a coin lands depends on so many things. What if a breeze or air current had caught it differently, or if the coin had been the other way up when he picked it up... Arghhhhh! Those unknowable things! You could drive yourself mad thinking like that.

In some ways, that's what Jack does - playing what I call Jack's Game. (I'll tell you more about it another day.) This is what Wasted is based on - those events that seem like "chance" and which rule our lives. But it's not chance, is it? It's about the physical properties of that coin, the way it was spun, the strength of the fingers, the way the wind blew. We can't control it but it's not chance - it just seems like it. It is luck, though. Or it certainly was for Tommy Allsup.

You think Tommy was lucky? Not as lucky as the person I'm going to tell you about tomorrow... Any ideas who it is? Could be the luckiest person alive today.

COMPETITION: guess the name of the person I'm going to blog about tomorrow. I will use a coin to pick a winner if there's more than one correct entry and the winner gets a copy of Wasted. Or, if you already have Wasted, you can choose one of my other books. Hurry - you'll have to post your comment before tomorrow's blog post goes out! So, deadline 09.00 UK time. The post goes out at 09.01 - you get a lie-in for a Sunday!

Friday, 23 April 2010


Let the blogging begin!

I am so pleased to welcome you to the first day of the Wasted launch. Whatever your age - and there'll be teenagers and adults of all ages here - I hope you find things to fascinate, challenge and argue about.

I will bring you something new every day: snippets, behind the scenes facts, things to make you think, prizes to win, chances to test your own writing skills. Some of it will be light-hearted, some will be incredible science which I only half understand. I hope you will get to know me, be interested in Wasted, want to talk about it. There are so many ideas behind it, ideas I've been thinking about ever since I was a teenager and that I've never fully found answers to. In Wasted, my characters showed me something which comes as close to answers as I think I can manage. My answers, anyway. Maybe you'll have some better ones.

I hope I will get to know you, too. Please leave comments and questions. I will answer them all - though I'm away doing events on some days, so sometimes I may be slower. 

You can write reviews and have them published here. You can add them beneath the post over here. Or email them to me.

If you want to contact me off the blog instead of commenting, email - my assistant will pick up emails if I'm away and she'll pass them to me. 

Would you like a poster for your school or library? Email  Also, a link for a free downloadable poster is coming here soon.

Press enquiries should go to ruth.maurice@walker
In the last few weeks, some people have read Wasted - librarians, teenagers, teachers, general readers, booksellers - and I've had an amazing response. I've never had a buzz like this about any of my books and I'm very excited. But nervous, too. Wasted is more me than anything I've written - it has my heart and soul etched deep. If you like it, please say so - here, or by reviewing it on Amazon, or telling my publishers. Or all three! I will be grateful for ever. (Actually, I mean that.) And, as Wasted shows, you never know what effect your small actions may have. Small actions can change everything. I really, really need your help.

I'm visiting loads of great blogs on a tour in the next few weeks and there'll be links to all of them here. Thanks to all the bloggers who welcomed me. If you want to see where I'm going, there's a list in the righthand menu bar.

If you click on the pages near the top, you'll find stuff to give you an idea about the book

NOTE: those of you who have already voted in the polls on the right will need to do it again because I had a tech problem and had to delete all but one. Sorry! 

I think what I should do now is let you read the first chapter. So, here it is.  Are you sitting comfortably?

(Reproduced by kind permission of Walker Books Ltd.)


Jess is spinning a coin. Not actually playing Jack’s Game yet, because if you’re going to play you have to be very sure. Heads or tails, win or lose, life or death: playing the game changes things and you can’t escape its rules.

She thinks – because she has thought about this quite a lot in the last day and a bit – that if there’s a God, He must play Jack’s Game. There’s not really any other explanation she can think of.

Jess is sitting in a horrible waiting room the colour of old white socks. Waiting. The waiting is awful. It numbs her. Though perhaps waiting for ever would be better than knowing. She wants her guitar, but it wouldn’t exactly be appropriate. You can’t sing in a place like this.

On the floor is a grubby doll with no clothes and one leg. It lies there with blue eyes open. It looks shocked, or dead. There is pen scribbled on its stomach and someone has tried to cut its hair. Jess remembers doing that to a doll once, convinced that it would grow again.

Jess is seventeen years old. Her dad’s a genetic scientist, apparently. Her mum’s an alcoholic. If you tossed a coin, chances are she could take after either or both of them. Trouble is, her dad lives 4,000 miles away and her mum lives next door to her bedroom. This probably alters her chances.

A flash of anger crosses Jess’s mind. She thinks that if she saw the Kelly Gang now she’d want to… But no, best not to think like that. Jess is not prone to violent  thoughts. But she is in a state of shock, and strange feelings are stirring. She tries to think about anything else.

The bracelet she’s wearing. A birthday present from her best friend, Chloe. That was a good day: her mum remembered to rustle up a cake – all the way from Mrs Beaton’s Tea Shoppe – and they ate it on the beach, digging their bare heels into the shingle and breathing the seashell air. Her dad phoned and sent the usual money.

But Jess is scared and it’s hard to keep her mind on such things as cake, though she must try. So: it was a fantastic cake; she and her mum used their fingers to scrape the chocolate icing off the wrapping; they have the best cakes in Mrs Beaton’s Tea Shoppe.

If she saw the Kelly Gang now she’d want to kill them. To be honest. Not very nice, but then why should Jess feel nice?

Keep spinning the coin, Jess. It will help. Focus on that coin. Don’t drop it. That’s better.

Jess is trying to make a decision. Does she dare play the game? The sensible part of her knows she shouldn’t. After all, she managed to stop Jack taking it so seriously. But Jack’s Game is serious, and perhaps it’s all she can do now. Maybe all the spirits and gods and everything else that has a say in the world watch when you play Jack’s Game. Maybe that’s what gives it its power. It’s like ancient magic, but with science. According to Jack. Now she is confused and alone and needing him to take the decision away, but when she thinks back to the newspaper stories on his bedroom wall, she knows what he would do. She just can’t decide whether he’s right.

Jess is more than confused and alone. She is barely holding herself together. If she breathes too hard she may shatter into a million pieces.

She glances at the clock. Still spinning the coin. With remarkable skill, considering that she’s only been practising for two weeks. It almost ripples across her fingers, weaving in and out, a life of its own. Left hand as good as the right. That’ll be the piano-playing, and guitar. Someone comes through the door. A woman. Her eyes are puffy. She grips the hand of a bewildered child with chocolate on its face. Jess doesn’t want to look at her, but she’s drawn by her grief. The woman picks up the dead doll and gives it to the child, who grins and grabs it by its remaining leg. Jess thinks that if she was the child’s mother she’d make her daughter clean and dress it and learn how to love it in more ways than just holding on. The door clunks shut and the air settles again.

Jess rummages in her bag and gets out her iPod, plugs her ear-things in and retreats into her music. Their music. The colours wash over her and her senses merge. She closes her eyes, keeps the outside out: the Kelly Gang, the smell, the being really scared. Yesterday. Saturday. Everything. Her mum should be here. Her dad. Someone. A girl shouldn’t be in such a place on her own. But then Jess didn’t tell anyone she was coming so early, so you can hardly blame them.

She opens her eyes suddenly, rips out the ear-things. Breathe slowly, Jess. Almost lost it there. Maybe music is not such a good idea right now, or at least not this particular song. Maybe you should read a magazine. Something shallow, something that won’t slice its way deeper than skin.

Actually, apart from the old sock colour, the room’s not that bad. Soft chairs. Tea and coffee. Free. Plants. A fish tank. They’ve made an effort, just to stop you thinking. Box of tissues. Cushions. You can’t hear sounds from outside, except when the door opens, though there’s a buzzing of air-con. It’s designed to help you forget where you are. So there’s a magazine on sailing and one on houses. And some children’s books and toys. She picks up a board book for babies or toddlers or whatever and looks at pictures of diggers and cranes and just does not allow herself to think of what’s past that door and what will happen when she is told to walk through it.

Probably she will spin the coin soon and play Jack’s Game. After all, a fifty-fifty chance is not that bad. The truth could be a whole lot worse.


Would you like to know something about that scene? When I first wrote it, I had no idea what Jess was waiting for. Clearly, she's in some kind of hospital or clinic. But I had no idea why. That's what I love about being a writer - I never know what's going to happen.

I don't believe in God but if I did I'd imagine him being like a writer: supposedly in control and arguably in control, but actually at the mercy of the characters and what they do and what happens to them. In a nutshell, that's the whole idea behind Wasted: prediction and control are limited to the present. The future is another world and nothing is until it is.

Tomorrow, I bring you a true story that influenced Wasted hugely.  

And finally (don't worry, posts won't usually be this long!) my editor has just emailed this lovely contribution. Chris and I have worked together for a long time and before I ever met her she told me she was "an old bat". What that actually means is that she's very honest, sometimes painfully so. So, when she says nice things, I know she means them.

"The moment I read the first draft chapters for Wasted I knew that this was something special, even by the standards of a writer as accomplished as Nicola. I have had the pleasure of editing a good handful of Nicola’s novels, but none of them has given me quite the same ‘hairs-tingling-on-the-neck’ feeling as this one. I think it has to do with the originality of the tone and voice, as well as the deft treatment of the subject matter. Chance and choice may seem unlikely driving forces beneath a book for teenagers which is essentially a passionate and potentially tragic story of first love; but the author handles these themes cleverly, so that the reader is completely drawn into alternative scenarios and what-ifs, and is invited to consider the roles that luck and free will may play in their life.

"A wonderful, unforgettable read."

Thanks, Chris!

By the way everyone, you don't need to buy Wasted  - order it from your public library. It's free. (But your very own copy would, of course, be much lovelier...)

See you tomorrow and THANK YOU for joining me.


Blog launching later today but first some news:

NEWS: Due to popular demand, Amazon have released Wasted early. However, there's only one left so hurry... (More are on order.) Meanwhile, please ask for it in your local bookshop, or branch of Waterstone's. There are already a couple of 5 star reviews on Amazon - HUGE thanks to the people who took the trouble to do that. I really DO appreciate it.

There's a real buzz going on amongst booksellers and readers but before I launch I'd love to get to the 100 followers mark - the next prize draw is tomorrow and you have to be in it to win it! Spread the word.

Later today, the first real post will go up to start the ball rolling - and it includes the whole first chapter of Wasted, just to give you a flavour and introduce you to Jess and the horrible situation she is in. Or is she? Because, of course, "nothing is until it is. Until then anything possible is possible."

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


I'd love to hear your views on Wasted. Just comment below. (But be kind to me: I'm very nervous about my book and it's only little and fragile. And so am I. Well, not very little, but...)

Some of you have already read the book and given feedback. I've pasted extracts below - THANK YOU!

If you can't comment below, do email me and my assistant at and we will post it here.

Link to Amazon reviews Here 

Link to The Scribbling SeaSerpent review here

Vanessa Robertson, bookseller - on Twitter @edinbookshop
 "Wasted is an outstanding book. If it doesn't sell hugely and win awards ... there's no justice."

Clare Donaldson – parent and reader
WOW! I was riveted, from the brilliant first chapter right through to the end.... I HAD to know how it (potentially!) ended. Sinister, chilling, contemporary, pacy, thought-provoking and highly original in presentation - if you don't have huge success with this there is something VERY wrong with the market.
My daughter, at 13, also raced through it and I was fascinated to see how excited she was by it - it's a while since I've seen that particular response from her.

Nikki Heath – school librarian
Oh, my gawd, Nicola! Your book arrived at work today and I brought it home to read. It was supposed to last the weekend but I just could not bring myself to put it down and only reluctantly did so to cook tea. I adore it. Love the apparent randomness that isn't, the sadness of the 2 mums and the alcoholic mum theme. 2 kids who could have been incredibly messed up but aren't. As for the coin, spookily I was chatting to a child about 'what if ... had happened' yesterday.

Would happily give it to both girls and lads. Want to go read it again NOW. Loved the way you chose the ending, too, as well as the partial repetitiveness of both choices. Makes it so much sadder and more poignant - much more hard hitting. Wow wow wow wow wow!!! Can see in my head a whole tribe of kids I want to give it to who I know will love it too!!!

It'll fly off the shelves! it's such a different format to others out there in a way and I LOVE it!!

Linzi Heads – school librarian
Wow! (More to follow!)

One magazine reviewer is writing a review – meanwhile she said “Wasted is the best thing you’ve done.”

Diana Esland – Head of English, The Mary Erskine School
.... The tensility of the narrative is gripping and there is a mixture of a kind of shadenfreude mixed with doubt that kept the plot on a tightrope between believability and the hope that there may be a happy ending.

From Lucy Coats - author
Just finished Wasted (and yes, I did play Jack’s Game and it came out heads). I can only say that I was hooked and entranced right from the first page and now I think even more than before about choices and whether or not they will make a difference—I was always horribly superstitious anyway. What a brilliant idea—I love it. And I love seeing all those different angles and aspects of the plot. In both real life and in my writing head I am constantly asking the question ‘what if?’ What would my life be/have been if….What would my characters do if…. Wasted is so absolutely my kind of book, and I know it’s going to get a lot of well-deserved praise and attention.

Iffath at lovereadingx blog – you are a genius! Wasted is awesome! (From Twitter)

Catherine Hughes – reader with teenagers (Also my assistant - but she reviewed it because she wanted to!)
I've read several of Nicola's books and this is the very best of them. I absolutely adored this book. … she writes about how it feels to be able to sing with such authenticity and feeling that it brought tears to my eyes. ... the appeal of the book for me lies mainly with its beautifully-drawn characters. I sang in a band as a teenager and I remember it well; 'Wasted' evokes those memories perfectly.

'Wasted' brings up classical myth (the story of Oedipus and his mother Jocasta) and blends it with quantum physics (Schrodinger's cat) and philosophy. There is, within this one book, huge food for thought and so much for me to to discuss with my children. ....

Jo Treggiari – author and reader, works with teenagers
I just finished Wasted. It kept me up for two nights .... I found it intriguing, exciting, and touching. .... I was so caught up in Jack and Jess's lives that at the end, when the reader is asked to flip a coin to determine what happens next, I was really nervous. Fantastic, thought-provoking read. Great writing.

Isla – teenage reader
I think “Wasted” is a really good book and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I have never read anything like it before. I especially liked the parts of the book where there are two possible paths for the book to follow, with the slightest variations leading to huge differences in the story. … “Wasted” is definitely a book for deep thinkers. It makes you think of all the possibilities and consequences that could arise from your actions, even just by varying them in the tiniest way. It makes your mind boggle!

As I was reading “Wasted”, I found it hard to put it down! It was gripping and also slightly eerie, what with Kelly and her gang and the knives and the fortune-teller, Farantella. That brings me to the coin and Jack’s Game. What a unique idea!

I really enjoyed reading “Wasted” and would recommend it to other readers of my age or older. I think perhaps you should send a copy to my English teacher, to show her what kind of great books teenagers of this day and age should be reading!

Thank you, everyone - I'm overwhelmed and delighted. (So far...)