Several people have emailed me to ask me what is on the cover of The Hidden Hand. And is there actually a hand hidden in there somewhere? Why not take a look and see what you can see? I can reveal that there are at least 6 images in there…can you find them all?! Good luck! Essi 🙂
Many moons have waxed and waned since I last ventured into the world of social media. I hope to correct that in the very near future. Initially, however, here is an interview I gave recently for my publishers, explaining why The Hidden Hand has been so delayed and what has been happening in the world of Essi Tolling. The good news is that there is now a newly-revised edition of Watchers available, the paperback version of The Hidden Hand is out on amazon and the kindle version will be online from August 8th 2017 and is available for pre-order now. So, lift-off at long last!
More from me very soon, but for now, here is the recent interview.
KP: Essi, many readers have been asking about you and wondering where you were and when they could expect the second book.
Essi: Firstly, my apologies for the extremely long silence. Secondly, more apologies for the delay in publication of the second book in the Tilly Greenway series. I’m happy to say that both issues are at last remedied with immediate effect!
It has been a challenging time since I last posted an entry on my blog or sallied forth into the world of social media. As readers will know, back in the spring of 2013 my publishers asked me to make some changes to the storyline of both book 2 and 3 in the trilogy. This was largely because things that were destined to happen in the books were actually playing out in the real world in a way which they were not comfortable with.
KP: Can you expand on that a bit?
Essi: To give you an example: in my last blog post I forecast further wars and predicted that Syria would be the next place of major conflict. That, like many other parts of the old subplot of the books, has sadly proved to be true. With an underlying element of criticism of governments (and the powers that run them) deliberately stirring up wars for their own benefit, it was deemed that the storyline was in fact a little too “hot to handle”.
As it turned out, making a few “small changes” to a long-planned, complex plot – with plenty of subplots for good measure! – was not as simple as it first appeared. Imagine trying to change a menu for dinner when the ingredients are already in the kitchen, the starter has been eaten and main course is ready for serving…and you get an idea of what I mean!
Then in 2013 a series of events meant things had to be put on hold. These included health issues for the main editor at Katy Press and the terminal illness of my father, who passed away early last year. I returned to the UK to be closer to my parents and family and my focus moved away from the books.
KP: We are very sorry to hear about your father. It must have been a difficult time for you.
Essi: Yes, losing a parent creates many challenges – both foreseen and not so – and moving country, along with setting up new work was certainly an upheaval. During this period I also suffered a debilitating episode during which I went temporarily blind followed by a period of several months not having full coordination either physically or mentally and then two years of frequent, severe migraine attacks. Am all fine now, but it was only midway through 2016 when I finally felt ready to return my attention to the Tilly Greenway stories.
I should probably have let readers know before now, but somehow the timing has not been right. I wanted to be able to be fully engaged again, to reply to messages and emails – and of course to be able to make school visits, do book-signings etc. All in all, things simply took the time they did.
KP: Your decision to revise Watchers I know you made along with the publisher’s suggestion to revise the covers and book size. What led to your decision?
Essi: Well…there was the whole ISIS issue (another example of strange synchronicity between fiction and reality that did not help!) which just had to be dealt with.
For those of you who read the original version of Watchers, you will know in the story there is a secret society that runs the world from behind the scenes. I called that society ISIS. This was a deliberate choice. The name is an acronym for the Inner Sanctum of the Inner Sanctum, but I chose it more specifically because of the resonance with the Egyptian goddess, the first well-known mother-with-child archetype.
This fitted in with my idea that those involved in “dark” magic hide behind the cloak of seeming-lightness (both in the books and in reality!). In this case, they were using the name deliberately to corrupt it. It also fitted well because back in the late 18th century, Robespierre and his Illuminati cohorts chose to use a sheaf of corn/wheat as their symbol during the French Revolution– an image long associated with goddesses like Isis, Ceres and so on. So there was some historical basis for using it in the stories.
However, events in the world overtook me. On my return to the UK I realised that the only resonance the name has for people now is its association with the terrorist activities that have become an increasing part of our world. This itself was another irony, given that in the books the Director of Terror – a woman responsible for increasing terror rather than helping to diffuse it – was a part of the secret shadow-government who carried that name!
Obviously, with all the horrific things that have been happening in the world, this had to be changed and I apologise to anyone who has read the original version in recent times. No offence was intended by the use of the name. Indeed, when I drew up plans for the books back in 2008, the only meaning of the word ISIS was the goddess herself and there was no way of knowing how that particular name was to become so high-profile and why.
This year, therefore, before releasing The Hidden Hand, the old copies of Watchers had to be pulped and a new version produced. This has now been completed. ISIS has been replaced by HORUS (more on what this means another time) – a name I hope will not be picked up on in quite the same way!
KP: Are you happy with the new look Watchers?
Essi: Absolutely! I love the new cover. It is more in keeping with how book-covers in general have evolved over the six years since Watchers was first published and suits the story perfectly. I love the single eye (reminiscent of the Eye of Horus!) and the pathway through the trees, with Tilly and Zack in what looks to me like a dreamscape. Perfect! The cover of Book2 is also wonderful – as are the new in-text illustrations by fabulous artist Meraylah Allwood!
On top of that, I was happy to be able to make some revisions to the text. There was no change to the story. It was more a case of tightening the language in some places and reverting to the opening sequence that had been in the very first draft of the book which in hindsight I preferred. There was also some clarification of the relationship between HORUS, The Others and the Dark Brotherhood. Without wishing to give any plot-spoilers, I’ll leave it at that, but I think readers of the original book will enjoy what I see as improvements in this revised edition!
For those of you who would like to read the revised edition of Watchers, here are the links:
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1999757009
Amazon USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/199957009
NB Make sure you get the 2017 edition. Several copies of the old edition are available through re-sellers, but for now the only way to get the new edition is direct from amazon. The new edition is also available in kindle for only 99p in the UK, 99c in the US!
KP: What can we expect from The Hidden Hand?
Essi: Again, I don’t wish to say too much about it as it would be a pity to spoil any surprises for the reader (of which there are plenty). Suffice it to say that The Hidden Hand has all the magical elements of Watchers, including a host of fantastical creatures (sea monsters, dragons, bogwights and giant swans to give just a few) mixed with a slightly darker edge than in Book1. A new baddie joins the throng of people hunting Tilly and Zack and the Dark Brotherhood come to the fore as the hidden history of the world is slowly revealed.
I can reveal that much of the story takes place on the south-west coast of Ireland, including a visit to Skellig Michael, a place featured in the latest Star Wars films…yet another example of one of the strange synchronicities that have accompanied the tale as Skellig had been set as the location for book two back in 2009!
I’ve deliberately kept the chapters really short (something I know a lot of people enjoyed) to keep the story rattling along, whilst still having time to explore the magic. I’m sure it’s always a bit nerve-wracking when writers launch a new creation on the world and I have to admit to being a tad nervous as we finally approach publication, especially after the success of Watchers. All I can do is keep my fingers crossed that The Hidden Hand lives up to expectations and say that I’ve written a book that I love and enjoy. Here’s hoping plenty of others feel the same way!
KP: Thank you Essi for chatting today and we look forward to the release of The Hidden Hand!
Essi: You’re very welcome. Again, I apologise to all the readers who have waited long and patiently (and to those who waited long and impatiently!) for the second instalment. I should perhaps have explained things earlier, but one thing led to another and I’m afraid that when I focus on writing I’m inclined to withdraw from the world outside.
Thanks to all my readers for your encouragement. I look forward to reconnecting with those of you who have already been in touch and to making new acquaintances with those who are discovering Tilly, Zack and the mysteries of the Ancient Keys for the very first time!
One thing is for sure – you definitely won’t have to wait so long for Book 3!
This autumn I am doing tour of Waterstones bookstores, signing copies of Watchers. It’s been a busy programme, with signings every weekend since the middle of August! I love doing these events: such a great way to meet readers, chat about their favourite books – and, of course, to have a browse around the shelves myself too!
Bookshops are just such fantastic places. I know the market for kindle and e-book sales is rocketing and more and more people are buying online, but nothing can replace the excitement of heading into a real store. It’s a whole different experience to shopping on the Internet. Something unexpected often catches the eye in a way that simply can’t happen unless you’re surrounded by the books themselves. If you’re seeking inspiration you can ask for help from the staff, who often suggest titles you’ve never even heard of. And then there is the simple pleasure of reaching out, opening a book, feeling the paper as you thumb the pages, smelling its unique smell, as you let the words take you off to another place…
That first page is always the one that does it for me!
Don’t get me wrong: I welcome the surge in e-book sales. More people reading more books has to be good news, and I have a hunch that many people who read the electronic versions will go on to buy physical books too. But there will always be a special place in my heart for bookstores, much as I prefer reading from the page rather than the screen.
Maybe it is because it’s a social thing? Although we hunt for titles in our own little “bubble”, when we are in bookstores we share the space with others who love reading – whereas shopping online is a solo experience.
If you enjoy visiting bookstores as much as I do – and if you’d like to meet me sometime soon – you can find me in the following Waterstones stores over the coming weeks:
Saturday November 3rd: Waterstones Trowbridge
Saturday November 10th: Waterstones Bristol Galleries
Saturday November 17th: Waterstones Hereford
Sunday November 25th: Waterstones Southampton West Quay
Saturday December 15th: Waterstones Swindon
All signings are between approximately noon and 3pm. Do come along and say hello. I’d love the chance to meet you!
One of my favourite sites in south-west Ireland is the Kealkil Stone complex. It’s not big, but it IS spectacular.
Looking out across the Ouvane Valley to the north and Bantry Bay to the south, the site is the largest of a line of stone circles and standing stones that runs along the spine of a mountain-ridge from East to West until it meets the bay. Most of the hilltops in this area are dotted with such sites.
The first thing that catches your eye when you approach the Kealkil Stones is the two stones in the centre of the complex. One is tall and thin, the other short and broad. They remind me very much of The Cove stones at Avebury. Here are pictures of both so you can see what I mean:
Apparently the tallest stone at Kealkil was once six feet higher than it is now, but it broke and had to be shortened when it was re-positioned.
As well as the two large stones, there are two circles at Kealkil – one of five stones about chest-high and an even older stone circle that is largely hidden in bushes and is made up of stones that are no more than a foot high.
Even though some 50% of sites like this have been destroyed since the second world war, the south-west of Ireland still has plenty (more than anywhere else in Europe). I love to visit them, to sit quietly, to listen, feel, breathe. Each has its own unique qualities, it’s own tales to tell. But I have a soft spot for the Kealkil Stones.
There is something about the site that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. On one visit the mist came tumbling down from the tops and we were suddenly enveloped in a silent white shroud. Time stopped and if someone from 5,000 years ago had emerged, I wouldn’t have been surprised!
Tonight sees that rare occurrence, a second Full Moon within one month – a Blue Moon! Being August, it should also be a HUGE moon when it rises above the horizon…
The last Blue Moon that I saw was December 31st 2009. As one year shifted to another, that Blue Moon weaved its way across cold winter skies.
I was in Ireland at the time. I watched it before going to bed. Then I watched it when I woke up. It was still in the sky at 9.00am, heading for the range of hills that I can see from my kitchen.
I watched it dip lower..
Until eventually it disappeared…
But the Magic wasn’t over.
A few hours later the sun broke through, revealing a dusting of snow on the distant mountains (snow in Southern Ireland is as rare as a Blue Moon – some people might say sunshine is too!)
It was New Year’s Day 2010 and a Blue Moon had given way to Sunshine and Snowfall. Pure Magic. The year that followed proved to be just as special. It was the year I finished writing Tilly’s first adventure!
Best wishes – Essi
This autumn I’m doing a tour of Waterstones Bookstores, signing copies of Watchers. I started off as soon as I got back from Ireland with a visit to Wells Waterstones on Saturday 18th August.
It was the hottest day of the year, which normally means fewer folks are out buying books, but we had a really excellent day with a steady stream of people coming to the desk. Thanks to Sarah and all her staff for helping to organise everything. I really enjoyed my visit with you.
Wells is a beautiful city, full of higgledy-piggledy side streets and wonderful medieaval nooks and crannies. The Cathedral is one of the most spectacular in the country (amazing to have such a vast building in such a small place) and is definitely worth a visit if you haven’t been already (or perhaps another visit, if you have!).
One of the pleasures of being back in England is the variety of architecture, spanning so many centuries. Just look at this fabulous arch-work inside Wells Cathedral!
It was market-day in Wells and the streets were packed with people hunting for goodies. It was so hot it felt more like being in southern France than England. Reminded me of when I was 17. A friend and I spent the best part of a year in Provence, picking whatever fruits were in season and doing any jobs we could find. Sometimes we would get up at the crack of dawn to take cherries to the local business-market and afterwards we’d wander back through the village, sampling the wonderful olives, cheeses and fruit. Mmmhmm!
There was no market in Camberley yesterday, where I was signing books at the Camberley Waterstones, but as it was a wet day lots of people were out and about (rain is good for book-selling I’m told) and we had a record-equalling day of sales, which was great!
One of the things I enjoy about doing book-signings is the chance to meet and chat with people of all ages and from all walks of life. Each meeting is quite brief, but it’s amazing what comes up within those few, short minutes. It seems book-buyers love to tell their own stories as well as buying those written by others! And of course, as I writer, I’m not averse to telling my own…!
My thanks to Tracy, Louise and rest of the Camberley Waterstones staff for all your help.
Next Saturday, I’ll be in the Haywards Heath Waterstones from noon until 2pm. Do come along for a chinwag if you are in the area. I’d love to swap stories with you!
For now, I’d better get back to writing the last chapters of The Hidden Hand – my deadline is approaching fast!
A month without blogging: what’s going on? The answer is that I’ve been in Ireland for the last couple of months, beavering away at Book 2 of the Tilly Greenway series, The Hidden Hand, which is going really well.
Ireland is such a beautiful place. I especially love the south-west (Cork and Kerry) with its misty mornings, its craggy shores and the magical mountains rising above the sea. Not that I’m a big fan of the weather. In eight weeks we must have had seven of almost solid rain – but that’s an Irish summer for you!
There are plenty of compensations. Take yourself up onto almost any hilltop and you’re almost certain to find a stone circle, standing stone, burial mound or fairy fort. There are more stone circles in this part of Ireland than anywhere in the world.
I’ve found that the Irish remember their myths and legends – and pay heed to them too – in a way that is increasingly unusual (in the west) these days. No one, for instance, would EVER build a house on the site of a fairy fort. They have too much respect. I like that. I like the sound of laughter too, which I seem to hear far more frequently there.
Then of course there are the innumerable rainbows, the green green fields, the windy headlands and the curlews calling like sirens from the shore.
Ireland is like that for me. Too much of it and I get itchy feet (the grey clouds can get to you after a while!). Yet, as soon you are gone, its lilting song drifts back over the seas, calling out: “Come back! Come back! Come back!”
Which, being (at least half) a Celt, I’m sure I will!
Best wishes, Essi.