This month, Tizzie welcomes Nicola Penfold, author of Where the World Turns Wild and the soon to be published Between Sea and Sky, to join her for afternoon tea. After a whirlwind post-debut year, it’s a chance for Nicola to put her feet up, and share her insights over a cuppa and some carefully chosen sweet treats, which reflect the mood of the months following life after debut. 


February 2020 

Where the World Turns Wild was launched! I was so nervous, and so excited too. I remember in the leadup to publication day, I swam most days in the local lido (heated!) so I felt strong and confident. I had the loveliest of launch parties in one of my local bookshops, Pickled Pepper in Crouch End. Lots of amazing friends (including plenty of writing friends!) came out to support me. My family came down from Doncaster. My publishing team (Little Tiger) were amazing and worked really hard making up gin and tonics all night, with added juniper berries, in honour of my main character, Juniper.  

But COVID was creeping up on us all. I remember cutting the hard-hitting prologue that talked about people dying from a disease from the reading my two older girls were giving. I left hand-sanitiser out next to the cupcakes… 

Treats: February’s treats are most definitely my launch party cupcakes, especially the gluten-free chocolate ones (I have Coeliac disease), which had the most delicious British blackberry frosting.

TIP: Delegate launch party things, like making cakes, to other people.You will have enough to think about! 

February Half-TermWhere the World Turns Wild was Book of the Week in The Week Junior AND The Phoenix. It was amazing! I was totally distracted from the second book I was meant to be writing. I walked around London in a daze, finding my book in bookshops – on tables sometimes – and working up the courage to ask if I could sign copies. It was taking off. It was going to fly! 



March 2020 

The schools shut, lockdown happened. We were all told to stay home, and I lost the little desk where I wrote to my husband, who was now working from home full-time. I had to help my smallest two children do schoolwork, and try and keep up the spirits of the older two. And how on earth do you write anyway during a pandemic when the news every day is so bad? 

But deadlines don’t go away, and though mine was extended by my kind and patient editor (who was herself now working from home, with young children around), I did have a book to write. I found the best way to get the words down was to get up early while the house was quiet and there was a computer still free. One of my lovely writing friends, Marie Basting (author of the brilliant and hilarious Princess BMX) had told us in a Twitter group that she made herself write so many words per day. I did that, and with some sunny afternoons writing in the garden too, it got written. With a couple of gaps and much clunkiness, but written nonetheless. I could press send. Phew! 

TIP: Write your way through a first draft. Get up early if you’re a morning person and just write. No distractions. Get the words down. Leave sections you’re stuck on for later. Keep a record of the word count creeping up. It will spur you on. Also, writing friends are really helpful in hard times. 

Treats: My family had a weird compulsion to watch disaster movies in this time and we made popcorn most nights. 

May 2020 

Lockdown had eased a little and we could travel further. I was desperate to get to the sea and one day we drove to the Essex coast, on an overcast day, so it might be quieter. It was amazing. We’d timed it right with the tides so we could swim. We beachcombed for old clay pipes and bits of pottery. Happily, this even counted as research, as my next book, Between Sea and Sky, is set in a fictional bit of southeast England, which is basically a mash-up of the mudflats of Essex and the windmills of Norfolk. 

Before lockdown, I was planning to build up confidence with school visits with some local schools, but these all got cancelled. In May, a friend encouraged me to do a local Q&A for families on Zoom and I did a similar thing for the wonderful creative writing group Inkpots a few weeks later. I really enjoyed both events!  

TIP: Talking to readers is actually very rewarding and lovely. Don’t be scared of your audience! 

Treats: Snacks for May would definitely be chips and ice-cream eaten on a beach. We went to the sea as often as we could! 

August 2020 

Not much actual writing went on, though I’d had edits back by then, and my second book was turning away in the back of my mind. We made it to Cornwall for a week by the sea. We also spent a week in a boat on the Norfolk Broads, and I took photos of big open skies and windmills, and found out what it is actually like to spend days and nights on water, as my new characters do. There was a terrific storm one night when we were moored at Great Yarmouth Yacht station. Our boat tossed and turned and windows kept falling open. We lost our mop and boat pole out to sea. I could count it all as research!! 

Treats: Cornish cream tea – scones (gluten free for me) with lashings of raspberry jam and clotted cream. 

TIP: Take time off – Candy Gourlay did a lovely Instagram reel a while back and said, “The fuel that feeds our imaginations exists in the real world. So it’s important to LIVE. Be happy, be sad… go places!” I love this advice! 

September 2020 

Schools opened again. Hooray! I was back to working hard on my second book, with brilliant edits to follow. My editor changed as my old editor, Katie Jennings, went to work as Senior Commissioning Editor at the children’s and YA imprint Rock the Boat at Oneworld. Luckily, the wonderful Mattie Whitehead at Little Tiger took over editing for me, and it was a pretty seamless transition. I felt very lucky. 

TIP: Editors are brilliant. Listen to their suggestions and trust them to have your back! 

December 2020 

This was a crazy month. I handed in my third draft of Between Sea and Sky. We moved house, to a slightly bigger home with an old wooden summerhouse at the bottom of the garden. I have named this my writing shed! By Christmas itself, Tier 4 rules came in in London. We couldn’t see any family or friends.  

It was around this time that I was cheered by news of shortlistings for Where the World Turns Wild for regional book awards: in Dudley, my own London borough of Haringey, Calderdale, Wolverhampton… These things mean so much! What a boost news like this has been over my debut year! 

Treats would be a cheese board. Gluten-free crackers with plenty of Brie and Stilton.  

Nicola's writing shed

January 2021

The schools closed again. Oh no! At least I had somewhere to work this time. We ordered another computer and a fan heater for the writing shed. Edits came in for my book. I knew the turnover time would be tight to meet the scheduled launch date in July. I was back to getting up early to work, and this is much harder in dark cold February. Luckily, the edits I received from Mattie Whitehead were so clear and helpful – it was a roadmap to making the book as good as I could get it. Writing Between Sea and Sky has felt a bit like mudlarking and you need to wash off the mud to see things sparkle.  

Treats: chocolate for boosting serotonin levels. I needed to up the tea to coffee this month. 

Writer's shed in the snow

February 2021 

I’ve been finishing line edits for Between Sea and Sky. I’ve seen the cover now and it’s absolutely beautiful and there will be proofs soon. I love this stage – that strange mix of terror and excitement that your book is going out into the world. That it will have readers! 

I’ve made a couple of videos for schools for World Book Day, and am going to do a virtual Q&A on the day itself with my daughters’ high school. I’ve also been getting speculative requests for summer events, which is exciting. Also nerve-wracking – I still have to build up my confidence with these things. But how great it is to be in demand! 

Treats – I haven’t been ready to give the chocolate up yet. Looking ahead to March, I think it’s going to need to be a platter of fresh fruit… 

TIP: Celebrate all the good things. There are bound to be disappointments along the way – long- and shortlists your book is absent from, delays, days when everything seems to have gone quiet. Even if just one person contacts you to say your book meant something to them, mark it, remember it, do something nice because of it. Writers all need and deserve these boosts. On the flipside, if you love a book, tell that writer. Review it for them on Amazon and Waterstones. This could make a writer’s day! 


Photo credits: all Nicola's own


Nicola Penfold was born in Billinge and grew up in Doncaster. She studied English at St John’s College, Cambridge. Nicola’s worked in a reference library and for a health charity, but being a writer was always the job she wanted most. 

Nicola writes in the coffee shops and green spaces of North London, where she lives, and escapes when she can to wilder corners of the UK for adventures. She is married, with four children and two cats, and is an avid reader of children’s books. 

Nicola’s first book Where the World Turns Wild was published in February 2020 by Little Tiger Press, with a second book to follow in July 2021 – Between Sea and Sky

Follow Nicola:
Twitter @nicolapenfold

Instagram @nicolapenfoldauthor

Website Nicola Penfold 

Tizzie Frankish is a regular contributor to Words & Pictures.
Website: Tizzie Frankish
Twitter: @tizzief

* Picture credits

Tea logo: Coral Walker

Cover illustration for Where the World Turns Wild: design by Sara Mognal, art by Kate Forrester
Between Sea and Sky: 
design by Pip Johnsonart by Kate Forrester

Book launch, cakes, book sighting in wild: Dominic Penfold
Zoom screenshot: Joanna Woolf

All others: Nicola Penfold

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