Two Minutes with Beth Reekles

Clare Wallace joined teen writing sensation, Beth Reekles, for the next in our new video series with Darley Anderson authors. Clare and Beth discussed wonderful writing plans, most treasured possessions and goals for the future.

Beth August 2014 (Quick Reads) credit Rolf Marriott

As you may know, Beth was snapped up by Random House in a three-book deal aged seventeen and has published three novels: THE KISSING BOOTH, ROLLING DICE and OUT OF TUNE. Beth’s newest novella, CWTCH ME IF YOU CAN, will be published on 16th March as part of the Quickreads scheme with Accent Press.

The Kissing BoothCwtch Me If You Can final for website

Amongst other topics, it seemed particularly relevant to get Beth’s opinion on social media and the internet including the pressing concerns for teenagers online; particularly as she was signed up by a publisher from an online sharing platform and not traditionally through an agent. Beth has talked a lot about her journey to publication and beyond and you can see her speak at the TedxTeen event here.

For everything else you would like to know about Beth, including her favourite crisp flavour and her favourite author, see below…

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3 Pictures and a Video You Don’t Want to Miss of Kim Slater’s Award Celebrations

Clare Wallace joined the lovely (and critically acclaimed) YA author, Kim Slater, for a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory inspired Afternoon Tea to chat books and celebrate all the exciting awards that Kim has been nominated for.

We were absolutely delighted and bursting with pride when we found out that Kim was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal AND the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize! Kim has also been wonderfully shortlisted for:  the St Helen’s Libraries Book Awards (BASH) 2015, the Leeds Book Award 2015 and  the Shropshire Teenage Book Award 2015.

If you’ve ever wanted to see an ecstatic author celebrating awards news, here’s three pictures that show just that.

Kim with her tea

Kim with her tea

Kim with her agent, Clare

Kim with her agent, Clare

Kim with her yummy chocolate milkshake

Kim with her yummy chocolate milkshake

AND, to kick off the Darley Anderson new video series ’77 Questions’, where 77 questions will be posed to agency staff or authors, we asked Kim a quick-fire 20 on what her journey with Smart has meant to her.

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Manuscript Wishlist: Camilla Wray

As it’s the beginning of a shiny, fresh new year we thought we would get our fantastic agents to write up their manuscript wishlists for 2015.

We’re kicking things off with what Camilla Wray hopes to find in her lovely slushpile…

#MSWL If I could wish upon a storytelling star…

As agents we’re always looking for what I secretly think of as business mind wants; stories that fit trends (in publishing and culturally), fill gaps in the market, are natural steps forward from bestsellers, or stories and characters that fall into a publisher’s wish list. These are what our agent minds keep an eye out for and what we then often have to fight tooth and nail to represent.

However, also creeping alongside these wants are our heart’s greatest wishes; characters, settings and stories we’d personally fall head-over-heels in love with and would kill to find as readers, even though they might not be what’s en vogue right now. For me, this is why #MSWL is so exciting – I can already hear the beat of my heart’s wishes thundering away. A way to find your dream book? YES, please!

For #MSWL there are three manuscripts across fiction I’d absolutely adore and crave to find. They are career goal finds in a way but whenever they’re ready to cross my path, I’m ready for them…

One: Soldier, Soldier

You may not remember this TV programme but growing up I was obsessed with Soldier, Soldier. The drama, characters, and idea that life and death can live so close together really fascinated me.

I would absolutely love to find a modern day story or series that touches on how it really feels to be in the armed forces; for a soldier who’s had to watch their best friend be changed forever by war, for the husband or wife who can never really understand, for the child whose parent has lived for stretches of a time where every decision could kill them only to come home and be faced with decisions about dinner, washing and what to watch on TV. It’s the real life grit, tears, hopes, devastation and laughs that I feel deserve the chance to be part of a fiction series.

I recently had the amazing luck to start watching Grey’s Anatomy after our brilliant Rights Executive, Emma, told me to give it a try, and in a sense this is what I’d love to find based around the armed forces. Perhaps set in a barracks following a group of people – soldiers, friends, husbands, girlfriends, lovers, sons etc – and the reader really learning what it’s like to be them. In a sense, also like how Jilly Cooper took a village and we obsessively followed her characters; warts and all. As readers you believe these people are real and live everything as they do, you become addicted to finding out everything about these people and the life they live which is so different from yours.

Two: Animal drama for all ages

When I was little I adored listening to my Dad read Colin Dann’s The Animals of Farthing Wood, and Robin Jarvis’ The Deptford Mice. Although an animal obsessive (at eight, I covered all four walls of my room in ripped out National Geographical Magazine pages) they equally intrigue and, if I’m honest, scare me. Do we really know what they’re thinking, or what they’re actually doing when we’re watching (or not watching)?

It’s so easy to view animals from a human point-of-view and so instinctively we push our homosapien assumptions and emotions onto them; but what is it really like to be the little mouse with a stump of a tail that lives on the Turnpike Lane underground tracks? (sadly I ask this question too many times).  Or the little scrawny pigeon with a melted right foot that is always the last to get any food? (Did you know people actually put acid on buildings that erodes away pigeon’s feet? Or that pigeons mate for life and always live where they’re born?)

I really think we’re really ready for a new big scale animal drama adventure series and would absolutely love to find this. Something that either creates a whole new world around everyday animals or creatures; or takes something like wild animals in cities and shows us things we’ve never thought of before, a social hierarchy whilst telling a brilliant tale readers of all ages can become obsessed with.

Three: Sliding Doors…

Ever since the film Sliding Doors the idea of ‘what if’ has been an obsession. We make little decisions every day without thought, but what would have happened if we’d gone left instead of right? Would we have met someone – the one – and left everything else behind? Or would we have been faced with a huge catastrophe that would change our lives forever? It’s a really simple idea that has so much power behind it and I’d love to find a story that follows this idea. Perhaps two storylines running parallel following the same character(s) if they’d gone left that day, or right, or back, or forward, or just stopped…

It doesn’t just have to sit in women’s fiction; a thriller with this angle could also be mind-blowing. We’d have the same crime, but would it be the same outcome? It’s this manipulation of fate and time that really excites me and, as we’ve seen with books like One Day, I think there is a huge appetite for stories that take something simple like one day a year, or one decision, and shows the reader what could have been.

NB: To quickly touch on ‘business mind’ wants, we could rattle away about this for hours and it really deserves its own blog slot down the line. But, as a whole, I think the key is to look around, push yourselves to think as a reader living and breathing today, and then push harder and slightly outside the box. What’s on the charts today? Is it a surprise sell, or does it fit into a trend? How long has this trend been in our lives? What would you love to read and are finding it hard to put your hungry mitts on? These are all a great place to start.

Check out Camilla’s twitter feed for more @CamillaWray

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11 Ways Not To Start Your Novel – No. 11

At the Wrong Time

At the Darley Anderson Agency we ask that any writers who wish to submit their work to us should provide the first three chapters of their novel as a sample of their writing. This is, as I understand it, standard practice in the industry.

However, at least once a week I hear from someone who takes issue with this.

Here are a few examples of the submission queries that we who work in literary agencies hear all the time:

  • “The first three chapters don’t really give an impression of what the whole novel is about. Could I send more?”
  • “My plot doesn’t really get going until about Chapter 14. I’ll send you Chapter 14 instead.”
  • “Those first chapters aren’t my best. I’m including Chapters Eight, 26 and 31 in their place. Those are the chapters I’m really proud of.”

Putting aside the fact that I really wouldn’t recommend quibbling about the harmless submission guidelines of your chosen literary agency unless there’s absolutely zero ways around it, this is worrying in an even bigger way. Saying something like this is akin to holding up a large neon sign above your head which reads:

“I’M NOT THINKING ABOUT MY READER!”

Because, really, as a reader if you get to the end of Chapter Three and the plot still hasn’t got going yet are you likely to want to keep reading? If the first chapters of a new book aren’t that strong isn’t it just a huge struggle to carry on with it? And, let’s be honest, no one ever picked up a book and started reading from Chapter 14 onwards.

Readers start reading from page one. Publishers are the same. Literary Agents are the same. That’s how stories work. You start at the very beginning (a very good place to start).

My response to those three queries would be thus:

  • Well, they should
  • Well, it should
  • Well, you should be fiercely proud of your opening chapters too

If you don’t feel confident that your opening chapters are your best work then rewrite them. If your first chapters aren’t really capturing the essence of your overall novel then change them so that they do. If your plot doesn’t really get going until Chapter 14 cut out chapters 1 through 13. Open with whatever active, plot-developing scene it is that makes Chapter 14 so great.

You could always move that genius 31st chapter to the beginning of the manuscript as a flash-forward glimpse of what is to come, if you like. You can create a completely new character or obliterate an established one. You can move the events forwards in time or change the timeline to suit your whim.

You are the god of that page, time bows to your will. Take advantage of it. Own it. Be god.

The writers who make these queries have definitely done one excellent thing – they have recognised a problem in their manuscript. The real issue is that they’re complacent about it. Like it’s someone else’s problem. Specifically, it’s their reader’s problem.

When editing, I occasionally find myself suggesting some pretty drastic changes to some authors’ plots and their sequence of events. And, when I do this, I find that a lot of writers have a very understandable inclination to stick to the original plan. The phrase, “but that’s not how it happens,” is often uttered.

This is because good writers believe in what they’re writing. They can see each scene unfold like memories. Their characters are real people to them. And with real people you can’t just go back into their memories and say, “actually, you didn’t move house when you were 12, you moved when you were 15. And you only have one aunt, not two. And your hair’s blue now.” But with made-up characters you can, and sometimes you must.

This is why I think good writers often really struggle when making big plot changes. It’s all real to them. They’ve forgotten that they’re god.

In this respect, the space between being a good writer and a great writer is being able to step back and remember your godlike powers, remember that you are in charge. You can start your story whenever you want.

Choose the most opportune moment.

Wibbly wobbly timey wimey.

By Vicki Le Feuvre

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8 Pictures of Kerry Fisher’s Début THE SCHOOL GATE SURVIVAL GUIDE Going from Paper Roll to Publication

To celebrate the publication of Kerry Fisher’s brilliant new novel THE SCHOOL GATE SURVIVAL GUIDE Clare Wallace took a trip with editor, Helen Bolton, the author’s father and the author herself to Clay’s Ltd in Suffolk to see the paperbacks coming to life.

Ever wanted to see how a book is actually made? Here are 8 pictures that show just that.

1. These fat rolls of paper will soon turn into Kerry’s début novel
1. Once upon a time...

2. First, the words are printed onto the reams of paper
2. The very first printed pages

3. Here the freshly printed covers wait on the pallet to receive their pages
3. Covers waiting on their pallet for pages

4. The books are printed out in pairs, still attached end to end…
4. Cleverly printed in pairs

5. … and chopped down the middle to make two separate books
5. Here they come...

6. Here come the freshly baked books straight out of the press
6. Freshly baked books straight out of the oven

7. One very proud dad hugs his newly published daughter as the books journey on behind
7. One very proud father as the books journey on behind

8. And the whole happy team hold up the finished copies
8. The whole happy team

So now you know how it’s done.

After the eye-opening trip Kerry Fisher said, “Watching 
THE SCHOOL GATE SURVIVAL GUIDE coming off the presses was very special indeed. Everywhere I looked there were little red books zooming round the factory in various stages of completion.

“It really was that ‘WOW’ moment, when getting published suddenly felt so real. I was also very privileged that I was able to take my dad with me – he loved it and so did I.”

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THE SCHOOL GATE SURVIVAL GUIDE, a hilarious, straight-talking read for fans of Fiona Neill and Gill Hornby’s The Hive, is out today!

Visit Kerry Fisher’s website and follow her on twitter for further updates.

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An Interview with Beth Reekles

Beth Reekles is the teen sensation behind THE KISSING BOOTH, officially one of the world’s most influential teenagers and the newest author to join the Darley Anderson Children’s Book Agency, agented by Clare Wallace.

Beth Reekles - teen sensation

Beth Reekles – teen sensation

At fifteen, Beth began uploading her debut novel THE KISSING BOOTH to story-sharing platform Wattpad, where it quickly accumulated over 19 million reads. She was picked up by Random House UK at the age of seventeen while she was still doing her A Levels.

Now studying Physics at Exeter University, Beth has already had THE KISSING BOOTH, ROLLING DICE, and OUT OF TUNE all published with Random House along with being shortlisted for multiple awards, receiving the Scout Birthday Honours Writing Badge and having been named one of Time magazine’s 16 Most Influential Teenagers in 2013 she has just been listed at No.6 on The Times’ Top 20 Under 25 list.

The Times August 2014 close up USE

Here’s a picture of the article irl, just in case you’re not subscribed…

In celebration of Beth joining the agency, Emma Winter was able to grab a moment with Beth to discuss the realities of being a published author, where she gets her inspiration and what she’s reading this summer!

Emma Winter: When did you tell your parents that you were contributing to WattPad? Were they surprised by your success?

Beth Reekles: I told them about three months into posting my first story on Wattpad that I was posting a book I was writing online and it had maybe twenty thousand reads at that point. They didn’t really know what to say – and had nothing to compare the number of reads to, so didn’t think much of it.

When The Kissing Booth started getting 400,000, then 900,000, then two million, then five million, reads, they started to take more notice. They were certainly surprised when I revealed I’d been writing avidly since they gave me a laptop when I was twelve, and I hadn’t told them all that time!

EW: Has being a published author been anything like you expected?

BR: It’s been a complete whirlwind, and it’s all happened very quickly! I don’t really know what I was expecting from being a published author, but it’s certainly been very exciting – meeting other authors, being on TV to talk about my books… and I still go looking for my book every time I go into a Waterstones!

EW: Where did you, or where do you, get your inspiration from?

BR: I’ve always written the kind of books I like to read. When I was younger, I wrote more fantasy, but the last few years I’ve preferred teen romance. I look to teen movies, YA books, and movie and TV soundtracks when I need inspiration. And, I’ve always admired JK Rowling, and find her a huge source of inspiration.

JK Rowling - inspiring generations

JK Rowling – inspiring generations

EW: Do you ever find inspiration hard to come by? If so, what do you do when this happens?

BR: Sometimes if I get stuck on a book, I try watching movies or reading books in the same genre as I’m writing, but if that doesn’t work, I’ll put on some soundtracks to something like Game of Thrones, Doctor Who, or Pirates of the Caribbean – usually they’re exciting and motivational enough in themselves to get me writing, but they also make for great background music.

EW: What were your favourite bits to write in your novels?

BR: I love writing dramatic scenes – when everything seems to be going wrong for the protagonist, it’s always the most fun to write.

EW: What was the hardest bit?

BR: The hardest bit is almost always the start. I’ll come up with the ideas for the novel, and have an idea of where I want it to go, but I always find it hard to figure out the best way to start the book. I must’ve had a dozen different first chapters for The Kissing Booth before I found one I could work with.

EW: Where’s your writing space and what’s your writing process like?

BR: I usually write in my bedroom. When I was in school, I couldn’t write in the daytime, so I used to write later on in the evening and at night. And as for my writing process, I’ve never been able to plot stories – I always end up with a two totally different stories! I tend to come up with a blurb for the story and my characters first, and work from there.

EW: What would your top three YA romance films be?

BR: John Tucker Must Die, 10 Things I Hate About You, and Easy A.

Author-approved films by Beth Reekles

Author-approved films by Beth Reekles

EW: How did you feel when you were listed on Time’s ‘Most Influential Teen’ list of 2013?

BR: It was incredible! I had no idea about it beforehand, so when I saw it online I ran around my flat at uni waking people up to tell them. It was brilliant to be on the same list as people like Malia Obama, Malala, and Lorde.

EW: What are you reading this summer?

BR: I’ve read 23 books this summer already, and I’ve still got a huge pile left I’d like to get through! At the top of my to-be-read pile is Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder, Solitaire by Alice Oseman, and A Dance With Dragons by George RR Martin.

Wow, that's a lot of books. Better write faster, George.

Wow, that’s a lot of books. Better write faster, George.

EW: Tell us one thing most people don’t know about you

BR: I do a lot of knitting in my spare time. My grandmother taught me when I was little and I took it up again about two years ago. It’s really relaxing, and I’m working on a massive cable-stitch blanket.

EW: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

BR: Write, write, write! They say practice makes perfect, and if you want to write, just write. Even if you never show it to anyone, it’ll be such a great feeling when you finish your first book. I’d also recommend posting some of your work up to a site like Wattpad. It’s really encouraging to see people reading and enjoying your work, and the communities are really supportive.

EW: And one last bonus question – Can you pitch each of your novels in a tweet?

BR: What would you do if you fell for your best friend’s brother? That’s what happens to Elle – but can her friendship with bestie Lee survive? (The Kissing Booth)

The Kissing Booth

Starting a new school is the perfect time to reinvent yourself. But does Madison stay with the cool kids at school or stand by the nerd? (Rolling Dice)

Rolling Dice

Ashley’s life is perfect on paper, but new boy-next-door Todd is going to make her realise that none of her life is as it seems… (Out of Tune)

9781448172849-large

THE KISSING BOOTH, ROLLING DICE and OUT OF TUNE are available to buy now. Get your copies today and follow Beth on twitter for all the latest updates.

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16 Photos You Mustn’t Miss from the Launch of Polly Ho-Yen’s Debut Novel BOY IN THE TOWER

1. This photo of two very familiar looking towers which we spied from the train on our way to the launch

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2. This picture of the horticulturally appropriate display in the window of the Peckham Review

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3. And this one of all the sparkling new copies of Boy in the Tower

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4. This photo of the author herself, Polly Ho-Yen, next to some very suspicious, Blucher blue flowers…

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5. This one of Polly chatting with fans and supporters

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6. And this one of the book signing getting on the way

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7. Here Darley’s Angels Emma Winter, Clare Wallace and Mary Darby pose in front of the display

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8. And the display starts to rapidly diminish…

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9. …as the line for signed books grows

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10. You mustn’t miss this picture of a plastic pigeon sitting on a cake

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11. Or this one of our own Vicki Le Feuvre pretending to feed a plastic pigeon sitting on a cake.

11 If you want to understand the prevalence of pigeons at the launch you best read Polly’s fantastic novel.

12. This photo of everyone gathering inside the Peckham Review to hear Polly read an extract from Boy in the Tower.

13 Notice that the crowds have demolished the display of books even faster than a Blucher could take down a building.

13. This one of Polly Ho-Yen reading an extract from Boy in the Tower

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14. And this one of Polly reading a particularly funny extract from Boy in the Tower

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15. You can’t go without seeing Clare and Mary laughing with Polly Ho-Yen as she signs Mary’s copy of Boy in the Tower either

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16. And finally, you need a proper close-up look at the amazing hardback edition of Polly Ho-Yen’s Boy in the Tower with cover art by her own husband, Dan

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BOY IN THE TOWER is on sale now at all good bookshops. Get your copy today and get reading to find our what all the plant, pigeon and Blucher references were about in this post.

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