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The Song That Sings Us - Nicola Davies

This is an absolute epic of a book, and one of my favourites of the year so far. With a love of nature at it's the characters, the message it sends, and the descriptions and world it's set in, it had me gripped from start to finish, and will stay with me for a long time....maybe forever : it really is 'one of those books'!

It has action, adventure, danger and drama, with great characters and an environmental message at its heart as we travel along with Harlon and Ash on their mission to find their lost sibling, battling against the sinister Automators and vying to fulfil a mysterious promise....

It's brilliant in plot, scale, scope and message, and I just can't recommend it enough!

I'm thrilled and honoured to have been asked to be a part of the blogtour for this, and to be able to share a guest post from Nicola with accompanying pictures as part of the tour in the book's first week out in the world:


Children often ask me what it’s LIKE being a writer. I’m never sure what to say. Mostly I say ‘well, its pretty lonely, because it’s just me and my computer’. And that’s true. My working life is spent standing in front of a desk. It certainly looks pretty solitary, but even though it looks as though there isn’t a lot going on, there’s a great deal happening inside my head.

Writing is a whole series of decisions, a constant stream of answers to the who, what, where and why of plot and characters. For me also there is a great deal of detailed questioning about how; how exactly do I write about each moment of my story, how much do I need to tell my readers, and how does that sound when it’s read aloud. That last question, about how it sounds, is incredibly important to me. I road test everything by reading it aloud. That’s partly because you really notice mistakes when you read aloud. But it’s also because I really, really want my story to be ‘ good in the mouth’ to be lovely to read aloud, to have the flow and pace of a poem.

I do a crazy amount of fiddling about with word order, changing things around until each sentence works as well as I can make it work. But this habit I think stood me in good stead when I came to write the Song that Sings Us, which is the longest book I’ve ever written - at 105 thousand words longer than my three adult novels (which were all, weirdly, 93 thousand words). I think readers are more likely to stick with a long book when it slips along nicely!

Thinking carefully about the placement of every word is helpful too when it comes to writing action sequences. I adore writing chases, fights - any scene of high tension when the details of bodies moving in physical space really matter. With these scenes, I have to slow down the mental movie that plays in my head, revealing my story as I watch it, so I see it all in slow mo.

I apply the same careful attention I pay to word order, to the placement of feet, arms, paws, noses, the play of facial expressions and the ebb and flow of thoughts and emotions that drive movement and decision. It’s like choreography, and I play action sequences over and over like related dance steps, util they feel right and real. I try not to overload these scenes with words; they need to be slow enough for readers to see every important micro moment, but not so slow that their urgency and peril is lost.

Of course Ive never been in a fight or had to run away from an assailant so I have to do research. I read things, I watch videos but nothing beats getting as close as I can to first hand experience. The snow board chase down a dangerous and unstable slope that forms a circle part of the first chapter of the Song That Sings Us should really carry a credit to my husband. He was a very talented snow boarder back in the day and he was very patient when I asked him to relive snowboarding descents down rocky and avalanche prone slopes, over and over and over again.

So if you pass my studio on a rainy winter afternoon and see me standing in the blue glow of my screen, I’m not really there, I’m on the deck of a sinking ship, or balanced on a wall with someone shooting at me. I may even be somewhere I’ve really been, on a river bank in Borneo, on the tundra in Spitzbergen, on in a canoe in Colombia, but wherever it is I’ll be watching in the slowest of slow motion, and reporting back into my story

Photo captions

1. My untidy desk

2. Whale bones in Spitzbergen

3. A page of action

4. Canoe on a tributary of the Amazon.

Check out the rest of the stops this week at the stops below:

My thanks to Nicola for the guest piece, and Firefly Press for a copy of the book to read and review.

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