Abingdon should be very proud of Julie Hearn. She was born here, and returned after spells in Australia and Spain. And her books are amazing. I'm always pretty fulsome in my praise of writers who have come to the shop, but it's been a complete joy for Nicki and I to discover Julie's books, and we're very lucky that she lives on our doorstep.
No matter that the books are aimed at the teen market - it's the ideas that do it for me. Neal Stephenson is my ur-author, and although the style is obviously different, for me, Julie's books have that same heady mix of deeply engaging characters, resonant historical settings and powerful ideas - whether it's witchcraft, social justice or suffragettes.
One reviewer praised her skills at 'weaving together folklore and history' (in The Merrybegot), and another describes her writing thus: "She takes scraps from history and creates characters so vivacious that they walk right out of history, off the page and into life cursing, kicking, scabby and loving.". Spot on.
In the end I needn't have worried about numbers. We had enough to keep Julie signing for the period, but not so busy that she couldn't spend time talking to everyone who turned up. It was a delightful afternoon, and we're really pleased she was able to come to the shop.
Having spent the last few weeks poring over the somewhat meagre offering for girls this Christmas (and for teenage girls in particular), I'd definitely recommend giving her books: Hazel, Ivy, The Merrybegot and Follow Me Down - a try.