Category Archives: Interviews

Why Dave Rudden is supporting #DACBaccess

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Dave Rudden is the author of The Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy, and is our partnering author for YA books in our #DACBaccess month. Here is why Dave is supporting the open month:

When I’m not writing, I run a live roleplay show in school for 10-year kids. It’s glorious and chaotic – the kids all play characters, I and the other performer tell them a story, and they provide suggestions at crucial moments. That’s all stories are really – a selection of crucial moments, and what people decide to do in them. We’ve had kids defeat the story’s villain by proposing to them, unlock magical cages by singing, and teachers are always so impressed that the kids not only accept the crucial moments we throw them, but are well fit to come up with a host of solutions that have sometimes surprised even us. We could just tell the kids a story, but we learn a lot more when we listen and they tell us theirs.

The thing is, kids are immersed in nick-of-time rescues and famous last stands from the moment they’re old enough to be read to. By the age of ten, kids are fluent in adventure. Proficient in peril. They soak up every rule and detail of the stories they hear because it’s at that age that you believe you may need them.

The only time I’ve ever seen a kid nonplussed is when we unveil the artwork for our characters. The leader of our party of heroes is Lady Jayna Falchion, who has armour, a sword that talks, and dark skin. When we clicked through to the slide with Jayna’s picture (drawn by the very talented Dearbháil Clarke) a little black girl at the back of the room exclaimed;

‘She looks like me!’

She didn’t say this with joy, or pride, or interest, but with a blank sort of shock. She simply had no frame of reference for seeing herself as a main character, let alone a leader of a band of heroes. When I hear white, straight people (usually men) complain that the world is being taken over by diversity, that every character now must be a person of colour, or LGBTQ or other than themselves, I don’t think about the numbers –

(though the numbers are damning. Bigotry is as irrational as it is systemic, but research shows that, no matter how loud certain protests are, no such takeover is taking place)

– I think about just how much children learn from story. Stories tell kids what is possible, and what is impossible, and all the odds in between. We are soaked in the visual language of narrative, and when you present heroes as all white and straight and able-bodied, you are lying to your audience.

You are letting them know where they stand, telling them that crucial moments and the options bound into them only belong to others, and not to them. It’s our responsibility as authors and creators – especially those who have directly or indirectly benefited from being on the inside looking out – to not right this wrong, but to make room for the voices that have not yet had a chance to speak, because you can only learn so much from telling your own story again and again and again. There are better stories out to hear.

Rashmi Sirdeshpande’s Tips for Picture Books

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Rashmi Sirdeshpande is a picture book author, writing both fiction and non-fiction texts, and is our partnering author for picture books for the #DACBaccess month. Here are her thoughts on why the open month is important, and her very best tips for picture book writers and illustrators.

 

A note about the open submissions month 

 

The agency is ALWAYS open to writers and illustrators of ALL backgrounds and they actively seek them out too (I can vouch for that bit!). But this is a shout-from-the-rooftops kind of initiative to make the whole process feel more accessible to underrepresented groups. Sort of a “yes, I mean YOU”. Before I was selected for Penguin Random House’s WriteNow programme, I didn’t think children’s publishing was really open to writers like me. WriteNow was my “yes, I mean YOU” moment. I hope this can be yours! 

 

Rashmi’s top tips for new picture book writers and illustrators 

 

1. READ! Oh my goodness, if you do nothing else, READ, READ, and READ! Pull apart picture books you love to really understand what works. Get a feel for the language, the page turns, how the words and pictures work together. If you’re a writer, you need to leave space for the illustrator to work their magic. Leave out anything that can be expressed visually. By reading lots, you’ll get a sense for how this is done. There are also some brilliant blogs out there with lots of guidance like SCBWI’s Words and Pictures, Notes from the Slushpile, and the Picture Book Den!  

 

2. WRITE/ILLUSTRATE LOTS and if you do, call yourself a WRITER or ILLUSTRATOR (drop the “aspiring”!). It sounds like a tiny thing but it’ll make a big difference to how you see yourself and your work. We all have other commitments so don’t beat yourself up if you have a slow patch but you know what works for you – get that practice in. Writing/illustrating is a learned craft. Don’t let anyone scare you with the idea that you either got it or you ain’t. If you ain’t got it, you can go and get it. The more you do, the better you get. 

 

3. DON’T WORRY ABOUT TRENDS or if someone is doing something similar. If you’re a writer, write the story YOU want to write. If you’re an illustrator, work in the style or styles that speak to you. Publishing takes AGES and by the time your book is on submission or even on the shelves, everything will have changed. Be yourself. Tangent: if you’re looking for an agent, find someone who really gets you, someone who can back your entire career. I’m lucky to have found that here at The Darley Anderson Children’s Book Agency. 

 

4. SEEK OUT HELP. Surround yourself with writers and illustrators you look up to and with people who love and believe in you and your writing. When Imposter’s Syndrome strikes (and it will!), go back to those people. Find mentors who can bring out the best in you. Find other writers on similar journeys – look for them in groups like the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Join a critique group (online versions work too!) – it’s a great way of getting fresh eyes on your work but ALSO, reviewing and commenting on someone else’s work will fine-tune your own skills. Win, win. Just make sure you work with people on the same page as you. Fit is everything. 

 

5. BE PATIENT. Publishing takes time. Pictures books can take two years to publish even after they’re acquired by a publisher. A lot depends on book fairs and illustrator availability but also what else is on the publisher’s list. So many factors out of your control. The one thing you can control is this: keep working on your craft. It’s not a race and it’s not a competition. Well, OK, it’s business but there really is enough pie for everyone. Keep writing and illustrating, and keep believing in yourself. Somewhere, somehow, when the time is right and the stars are aligned, it WILL happen for you. And when it does, be prepared to keep LOTS of secrets. Publishing is full of them! 

 

Can’t wait to see what you come up with! Good luck! 

Interview with G X Todd

20180415_222900When her debut came out last year, G X Todd was hailed a talented and original new voice. Defender, a post-apocalyptic thriller ‘already worthy to take its place alongside The Stand in the canon’ (John Connolly), has had readers eagerly awaiting the next installment in the four-part the Voices series.

Hunted, the second book of the series, is out today in hardback. To celebrate her first day as non-debut author, we’ve asked Gemma to look back on life as a new author…

What made you first want to become a writer?

It really comes from being such a massive reader through my formative years. I found the school library when I was eleven and books pretty much became my life. I spent a lot of time in imaginary worlds, daydreaming and making up little stories of my own. Yeah, I was one of those kids. I grew up to be just fine, though… *shifty eyes*

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One of those little stories is now a four-part series! Where exactly did the idea for the Voices come from? 

Initially, I wanted to write something that explored a person’s ability to cope with loneliness. Would it send them mad to not have anyone to talk to? That’s really where the idea of “the voices” sparked from. Survival instincts have always interested me, too. How far would we go to protect ourselves or those we love? Would we run or fight? Maim or kill? I find humans fascinating when placed in such extreme circumstances.

Now for the stories that didn’t get published… Did you write anything before Defender?

I did! It’s what I like to affectionately call “crap”. Defender was the third full novel I wrote. The first was called The Wilds and it was packed with every single idea I’d ever had and, as such, it was 150,000 words of chaotic, messy word-diarrhoea. The second book was a YA crossover called Innocence Falls and, you know, I still really like that book. I might have to revisit it.

What else can we expect from you in future?

I want to write everything. Is that allowed? Science Fiction, Horror, Fantasy, Thriller, Teen, YA, Romance. Okay, maybe not Romance, but definitely the others. I’d love to have one of those ‘Also by’ pages at the front of a book that lists fifty of my previously published books. That’s The Dream™.

Every writer has their own routine – so how do you actually get it done? 

No writing in the mornings. Seriously, I’m no good before 10am. So I generally start around 11-12pm. If I’m writing a first draft, I write until I have at least 2000 words down, whether it takes me three hours or eight. During the editing or redrafting stage, it’s not often I can work for more than five hours a day. My brain dies if I attempt to do more. I generally try to write six days a week (Saturday is my day off), but I can be flexible if I need to be.

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Do you sit down with a plan, or let the story write itself?

Well, I don’t really plan. I have scenes that I want to get to at some point, and a destination where the characters need to go or people they need to meet (and I often have an ending in mind). But other than those basic bones, I tend to just sit down and let the characters lead me where they want. I find it’s always the characters that speak to me most loudly, rather than, say, plot or story arcs. So I can have a first draft in around four months. Then subsequent drafts are used to backwards plot – where I develop themes, insert better formed ideas, and flesh out characters, etc.

Did your writing change in the process of writing Defender? 

I think I learned a lot about voice (no pun intended), and how to really get into the heads of characters. I didn’t hold back with exploring the darkness inside people, either. I really let my imagination run free with Defender and the Voices series, more so than with anything else I’ve written. It’s been quite the journey so far.

What have you found most difficult as a new, published author?

Having to be extra social. Ha. I’m actually fairly decent at being sociable, but the sheer volume of social events I have to navigate now is x1000 to what I’ve been used to up to this point. Oh, and the edits. For me, the edits are rarely any fun at all.

Finally, what would be your one piece of advice for a new author?

People will tell you that you’re a literary wunderkind and that you’re shooting rainbows out your butt. And you’ll read reviews that say your writing is awful and that your book should never have been published in the first place. Positive or negative, it’s important to keep your feet on the ground and a realistic head on your shoulders.

 

An Interview with G.X. Todd

G.X. Todd, agented by our Camilla Wray, is the newest author to join the Darley Anderson Literary, TV and Film Agency! Gemma’s debut series was snapped up in a knockout six-figure pre-empt by Headline’s Publishing Director, Mari Evans. Translation rights have also already sold to Brazil. (Full summary of the series below!)

Emma Winter was able to catch five minutes with Gemma between writing and her day job (*coolest job ever alert*  mobile librarian) to discuss Pilgrim, heroes and everything in between. 

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Emma Winter: Firstly, congratulations! How does it feel to know that there are going to be lots of people reading your book?

G.X. Todd: Well, I was ecstatic when I got three people to read it, so the thought of more is…what’s a better word than ‘ecstatic’? That.

EW: How did you develop the idea for DEFENDER? Did you always know it was going to be a series?

GT: I like writing about isolation. I like putting people into harsh situations. And, most of all, I like writing about things that interest me: in this case, the human psyche, loneliness, and the psychology of violence.

I wrote the first book as a standalone, but as soon as I typed The End, I thought ‘You know what, I love these characters. There’s so much we can do with them, do with the world. Let’s run with it.’ So I ran, and I’m still trying to catch up.

EW: Could you give us a little summary of the series – how do you see it panning out across all four books?

GT: 21st Century life no longer exists. Mankind has disintegrated. A locked part of the human psyche has been awakened, and the Voices have emerged. In a desolate world, paranoia and survival are the new laws of the land, and when dangerous factions of Voice-hearers begin to gather their numbers, bent on eradicating anyone who can’t hear a Voice of their own, it comes down to a chosen few to stand up and fight.

In essence, I’m seeing it pan out in epic terms, but on a very individual, human level. The core characters (Lacey, Pilgrim, Alex, Addison, etc.) are the real heart of series, and it’ll be in their struggle, their fight, that the story truly lies.

EW: All of the characters are very compelling, did they arrive fully formed in your head or did some take some work to become fleshed out?

GT: Pilgrim came fully-formed as if he’d been waiting for me to find him. He’s fun to write, too, because he’s pretty cantankerous. Lacey is what I think my eldest niece might be like in another 8 years (and if we suffered a catastrophic event), so her head took some work getting inside. Alex was maybe the hardest of them all because she’s the most unlike me. And finally Voice is a smart-ass. Strangely enough, writing Smart-Ass comes naturally to me.

EW: How did it feel to be told your book was going to be published?

GT: *add ALL the superlatives here* Exhilarating and terrifying in equal measures. And when the big emotions settled, I felt sad because my dad isn’t here to share it with me. He’d have been really proud.

EW: How long did it take to write DEFENDER?

GT: The first draft took maybe six months. It was a pleasure to write; it came out all in one go. It’s the redrafting that can be a slog. It began life at around 90,000 words, and is now hitting 120,000.

EW: By day, you’re a mobile librarian tell us a little bit about your amazing job; what are the best bits, what are the worst bits?

GT: Best bits: the books (obviously); the people I work with; having enthusiastic conversations with customers; the pride that comes from squeezing the library van through a tiny gap without demolishing any car side-mirrors.

Worst bits: Seeing how isolated and lonely some of our elderly borrowers are. Government cuts. Bad drivers (they’re everywhere).

EW: Where do you get your inspiration for writing from?

GT: The belief that it’s possibly the only thing I’m decent at. So I’d best make the most of it.

EW: Which authors do you most admire?

GT: This list could be endless. Richard Matheson, Stephen King, Karen Joy Fowler, Miriam Toews, Jim Thompson, John Wyndham. (Honourable mention: Richard Laymon.)

EW: If you were going to have a literary dinner party, who would you invite?

GT: I have this answer already prepared! Margaret Atwood, JK Rowling, Stephen King, and Ray Bradbury (if he were still here).

EW: Do you have any tips for writers?

GT: If you’re writing a series: PLAN EVERYTHING IN ADVANCE. It’ll make your life so much easier.

Generally, though, just keep the faith. If you believe you’re writing something that deserves to be read, don’t give up.

EW: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

GT: Peel your bananas from the bottom. It’s how monkeys do it. They know what they’re doing.

EW: What do you think are the key things for debut authors to keep in mind?

GT: Don’t be afraid to ask for help or clarification. You’re not alone anymore – you have a team of people who want you to succeed.

Keep writing stuff you enjoy, and stories that excite you. Because believe me, you have to love it – you’ll be reading the damn thing a 100 times over before you’re done.

EW: What are you most looking forward to on your publication journey?

GT: Definitely meeting the readers. It’s such a lonely job. To have someone outside of your own head read it, experience it, and then want to talk to you about it. That’s pure magic.

EW: Who inspires you most?

GT: My mom. Cheesy, I know, but she’s the strongest person I know. Brain surgery at age 42, living daily with disability, and losing my dad three years ago to cancer, and she’s still getting on with it. Rock solid.

Two Minutes with Phaedra Patrick

Mary Darby joined newest Darley Anderson author, Phaedra Patrick, for the next in our fabulous new video series.

Phaedra’s début novel, THE CURIOUS CHARMS OF ARTHUR PEPPER, was snapped up both in the UK and US by Mira Books (Harlequin). The reaction abroad has been brilliant and the following FIVE territories have also been charmed by Arthur: Brazil, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Sweden. You can read more about this here.

THE CURIOUS CHARMS OF ARTHUR PEPPER follows Arthur after he discovers a mysterious charm bracelet previously owned by his wife and sets off on a wonderful, and surprising, journey of self-discovery.

For everything else you’d like to know, including what’s next for Arthur and Phaedra’s inspiration behind writing, please see below…

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.

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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…

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.