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Editorial Meet the DA team Submissions Uncategorized

Meet the Team – Rebeka Finch

It’s the start of 20Beka Headshot20, so to ring in the new decade we’re doing a Meet the Team series. The final years of the 2010s brought lots of changes to the Agency and a number of fresh faces have joined the ranks. In this series of posts, you’ll get a little insight into who we are and what we all do here at Darley Anderson.

So, without further ado and to start us off, we speak to Rebeka Finch, assistant to Darley Anderson himself.

First of all, what is your role at the agency?

Newly minted at the Agency, I have just started as Darley Anderson’s Assistant. I read through and engage with the numerous submissions made weekly, as well as with editors, publicists and authors to keep Darley up to date on the latest news. I also work with my colleagues across Children’s Books, Rights and with our other Adult Fiction agents to help ensure the smooth running of the Agency as a whole.

How did you get into Publishing?

I’ve always wanted to get involved with Publishing but I had no idea where to start, especially in such a competitive industry. However, after doing some initial research into the types of areas that I found interesting, I realised that working at an agency means that you are right at the centre of author and publisher relations, as well as working with publicity, contracts and rights. I also love that as an assistant I have the opportunity to engage with submissions, to see the development of new novels, and to chart the progression of new authors at the Agency. Fresh out of university, working at Darley Anderson is a fantastic place to start my career.

Which book changed your life?

Whilst a great many books have stayed with me far beyond the final page, there is only one that holds the place of ‘game-changer’. Prior to my discovery of The Thieves of Ostia (the first in the series), reading was a daily chore that consisted of parental negations back and forth that forced me into opening a book, let alone enjoying it. However, Caroline Lawrence offered a unique take on ancient roman mysteries that 15 years later has still maintained a coveted place amongst my shelves. For a more adult appropriate read, I loved Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches. The storytelling and the historical settings offered a unique take on fantasy and historical fiction, the perfect way to lose yourself for an afternoon.

What do you look for in a book?

I love historical fiction, having studied History at university. I love books that really engage with the historical setting and are thoroughly researched. I find it fascinating to think about the streets of London in the 15th century, or Paris during the Revolution. However, I also look for books that don’t attempt to rewrite history, but to engage with it and accompany the events of the day.

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Advice for Authors DACBaccess Darley Anderson Authors Illustrators Interviews On Writing Submissions

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! 

Categories
Advice for Authors DACBaccess Darley Anderson Authors On Writing

Why Polly Ho-Yen is supporting #DACBaccess

d7ab377c9fb0a45131800085199c77e1Polly Ho-Yen is the award-winning author of Boy in the Tower, Where Monsters Lie and Fly Me Home. She is our partnering author for Middle Grade writers during our #DACBaccess open month. Here’s why Polly is supporting the open month, and her top tips on putting together a submission:

‘There was a winding line of children waiting to have their book signed at the school I visited last week. We’d been doodling ideas for stories. Each student, as they approached me, was gripping on tightly to their piece of paper as though their idea might take flight and disappear if they didn’t. I talk to school groups about the value and the richness of their everyday experience – how no one else in the world is quite like them and so whatever they choose to make will be completely original because they made it. I tell them about my family. I show them a picture of my dad when he’s about four, with a little rounded sticking out pot belly. I tell them about small things that I’ve experienced that become big things when I write them down. We talk about soggy broccoli (possibly too much.)

I love visiting schools because it’s as though you can see a switch has been flicked; I can almost see them thinking, ‘well, if she can do it, then …’ Possibilities swarm the room, with excitement following as its tail.

The next boy stepped in front of me. “I’m like you,” he told me, grinning so widely that his cheeks expanded out. Two inflating balloons. “I’m half Chinese too. Only it’s my mum who’s Chinese. My dad’s English,” he went on. He told me the story of how they met, finishing with, “There’s no one else like me in the school” before launching into his idea for his book, without pausing for breath.

Next month I’ll be reading submissions made to Darley Anderson as part of their open submission month for BAME writers. #DACBaccess is a simple idea – over the month of November BAME authors can submit their work to a dedicated inbox to be read by agents over December and a shortlist will be given detailed feedback from both an agent and an author. I’ll be looking at the middle grade stories. I’m doing this for a very simple reason: we need more diverse writers and we have to do more to find them. Of course, submissions are open to all, all of the time but #DACBaccess has been created to make little more space for BAME writers to send in their submissions.

Like the standard submission, #DACBaccess asks for a covering letter, a synopsis and the first three chapters. It has to be a piece of work that you have finished (and that you feel that you’ve finished – it needs to be as polished and edited as you can possibly make it.) You might be reading this and decide here and now that you’re simply not at this stage in time for this open access month. I would urge you not to give up and wait until you truly feel that you have the whole book finished and that you’re as happy with it as possible, before you submit, open submission month or not. You need to be at the point where when you whisper softly to your book, “Are you the best you can be?” and it solemnly nods its head back at you, before you think about submitting. If you’re at this stage, then approach the covering letter and the synopsis like they are writing exercises. I’ve got to say I hated writing my covering letter because I felt a bit like a fraud and that I definitely was not good enough and I HATE talking about myself and I’m not even sure that my writing is any good in the first place. So if you’re feeling like that’s you, take a deep breath and remember these things when writing your covering letter:

Try to keep it short and succinct. Don’t give the agent a sinking feeling that they have to trawl through reams of writing to try and work out who you are and what your book is – make it nice and easy and clear for them.

– Start with a basic introductory sentence that tells them the title of what you are submitting. (There’s no point reinventing the wheel here.)

– Followed by (roughly) a one or two paragraph summary/introduction to your book which will tell them why it will interest them. This is the tricky bit of the letter – it needs to be direct, clear and communicate the plot, tone and style of what you have written. Think of that one line hook that captures what your book is. For ‘Boy in the Tower’ I wanted to communicate that it was a kind of ‘The Day of the Triffids’ for kids in a modern urban setting that I knew.

In fact, this is exactly what I wrote:

I would like to submit BOY IN THE TOWER for your consideration.

I started writing this book after I couldn’t get a picture out of my head: A lone tower block standing, amidst a lush, jungle-like landscape. I work in a South London Primary School, which is surrounded by tower blocks, estates and a network of busy roads, and so perhaps it was a reaction to the inner city that brought me to BOY IN THE TOWER.

It tells the story of a nine-year-old boy called Ade who is a survivor of the attack and invasion of the Bluchers, a type of plant or fungus which feed upon the buildings of the city, dissolving them down into nothing. Ade finds himself trapped in his tower block as the world around him changes beyond all recognition. I am a fan of post-apocalyptic literature and film and I wanted to create a modern day story for children on this theme, with a nod to Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids.

I can’t say it better than Patrick Ness who in his tips for writing at Booktrust (which are brilliant – maybe don’t read this anymore and check them out: https://www.booktrust.org.uk/books-and-reading/tips-and-advice/writing-tips/writing-tips-from-authors/patrick-nesss-guide-to-writing) to remember that the covering letter “is an advertisement for yourself and for the book, so make it as good as possible. It must serve the same function as your fiction: it must be good enough to make them turn the page.”

I also hate writing synopses and so I’m sorry that we’re asking you to have to write and send that in too but the agent needs to see quickly what happens in your book. They want to get the sense that the plot is strong and will hold up. Be as short and clear as you can, but include all the plot twists and turns – it needs to tell the complete, full story.

Then those first three chapters. That should be the easy part, as you have already written those and read them to yourself a million times and have had anyone you’re living with asking you why you’re talking to yourself because you’ve been reading them aloud when you think no one else is in.

Then press send to access@darleyanderson.com and think about something else for a while. Maybe eat a brownie.

I hope that you will think about submitting and that this is just the start of things for you. I wish you all the luck for the beginning of your book journey and beyond, and hey, I can’t wait to get reading!’

Categories
On Writing Submissions

Why We’re Launching the #DACBaccess

Last week, we announced the launch of our open submissions month for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic writers and illustrators. Running from the 1st – 30th November, our open month is designed to give aspiring writers the chance to get feedback from both agents and our brilliant partnering authors, and we’re excited to get reading.

But why are we running this month? After all, we are always open to submissions from authors from under-represented backgrounds, including BAME authors. Why do we need a separate competition?

Our springboard for this was the CLPE’s Reflecting Realities report, which showed that only 1% of books published in 2017 featured a non-white protagonist. 1%! That’s in contrast to 32% of primary school pupils who come from minority ethnic backgrounds. Clearly, if we want children to read books that reflect their own experiences, we have to do better.

When this study was published, we reached out to see what the barriers were for BAME authors to submit to us. We know that you are out there, writing, illustrating and being incredibly creative, but that wasn’t reflected in our submissions inboxes. And one of the key things that we found is that authors and illustrators from minority ethnic backgrounds didn’t necessarily feel that they were welcome to submit – that this wasn’t a space for them.

We want to change that, and so we hope our open submissions month will give authors the encouragement they need to send their work to us. We’re also partnering up with authors at our agency who have been through this, and understand the challenges involved. We really hope that we’ll find some incredibly exciting new authors from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, and that we’ll be able to sell books that really reflect our classrooms.

In the coming weeks we’ll be introducing our partner authors and giving you some tips on how to submit to us, so follow #DACBaccess to keep up!

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Darley Anderson Authors Uncategorized

Chris Carter Tops the Sunday Times Hardback Bestseller List for the First Time

 

With his new novel The Caller (S & S) Chris Carter has beaten established authors like Joanna Trollope, Katie Fforde, Neal Gaiman and Sophie Kinsella to the No 1 spot on the ST List in its first week of publication.

The Caller is Chris Carter’s eighth serial killer novel featuring Robert Hunter.

Carter’s sales have been increasing book by book since his debut in 2009 with The Crucifix Killer which Darley sold at auction to S&S CEO Ian Chapman

Carter’s previous two novels I Am Death and An Evil Mind both went to No 5 on the ST Hardback Bestseller Lists.

This is also a personal triumph for Darley as Carter is the sixth of his own authors to achieve the No 1 spot on the Sunday Times List.

Some like Martina Cole and Lee Child have been long term No 1 Bestsellers for many years. Chris Carter now looks like joining their ranksthe-caller-final

 

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Darley Anderson Authors Uncategorized

Darley ‘the Deal’ does the Double with Lee and Martina

Lee Child’s Night School is the No.1 Bestselling Hardback Fiction title of 2016. And Martina Cole’s Betrayal is the No.2 Bestselling Hardback Fiction title of 2016.

Nicknamed Darley ‘the Deal’ by Martina many years ago, Darley discovered Lee and Martina when they were unpublished.

Their success is no flash in the pan. They have both delivered a succession of No.1 Bestsellers over a period of many years.

We think this is an awesome achievement!

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Newsletter

Agency Newsletter

Hello!

There’s always a lot going on at the agency, with authors, rights, submissions etc. but we always want to keep you in the loop.

The newsletter is, again, packed with news. August is usually a quiet month in publishing – but not for the DA Agency.

Our debut authors are enjoying immense success around the world, our much-loved established authors continue to grow from strength to strength and we welcome new faces to our DA Children’s Book Agency.

We have a brand new Twitter account for DA Children’s so make sure your following (and on Facebook too).

Enjoy the rest of sunny summer days!

Kristina

 

  • Make sure you download as a PDF for the best quality.

 

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Newsletter Uncategorized

Agency Newsletter

Hello,

This month has been a scorcher and we have got some hot new titles to while away the long summer afternoons.

As well as exciting new titles and chart news, literary legend Martina Cole was at the Harrogate Festival speaking to Peter James about her incredible career and success, Tim Weaver’s hugely popular Missing podcast is up for some prestigious awards, and we welcome a new thriller writer to the agency.

Please sure to download the newsletter and share with other Bookheads. And if you read and loved any of the titles featured today, make sure to share your review on Twitter and tag @DA_Agency because we love reading them.

Happy Friday!

Kristina

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Newsletter Uncategorized

Agency Newsletter

Hello, Readers!

Here’s the roundup from the agency for June, and this really is one for all you Jack Reacher fans out there.

There’s also exciting news about our authors’ successes overseas as well as events and awards on home turf.

Be sure to download the newsletter for the best quality read and to follow all of the links we’ve given you to interesting interviews and Hollywood blockbusters…

DA Agency said nothing.

A very happy weekend to you all.

Kristina

 

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Newsletter

Agency Newsletter

Hello!

It’s time for our monthly newsletter and my word do these seem to come around fast now.

April has been a fantastic month for the agency with new faces, bestsellers and, best of all, the Bologna and London Book Fairs.

The Olympia centre was turned into Book Kingdom for three days and the buzz of excitement was electric…and exhausting!

We’ve got lots of good book news for you to read about this month just in time for the bank holiday weekend. Please do follow our Facebook and Twitter pages if you haven’t already, our authors have some fantastic (many bestselling) novels you need to know about.

Happy Friday!

Kristina

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Darley Anderson Authors

Arise, Knights of the Borrowed Dark!

On Tuesday night we had the pleasure of attending a very special launch for the highly anticipated Knights of the Borrowed Dark by Dave Rudden.

For those of you who have not yet heard about KOTBD, you are in for a real treat. It tells the story of orphan Denizen Hardwick who discovers that he is part of a secret army that protects the world from an evil shadow realm.

It’s a fantastical, thrilling adventure of light versus the darkness. It’s a timeless yet contemporary classic and the world that Dave Rudden has created firmly imprints on all who read it. Trust me, you will never think of the ticking of a clock the same way again…

The wonderful people at Puffin Books and FMcM put on an unbelievable show recreating Seraphim Row, the safe house of the Order of the Borrowed Dark, in an eerie, candlelit Georgian house. Guests were free to explore the rooms and meet the characters, training with weapons expert Corinne D’Aubigny and even coming face-to-face with a Tenebrous, a monster from the shadows.

Puffin will publish in the UK on 7th April so you have plenty of time to get your pre-orders in, and if you’re lucky enough to live in Ireland, you can go out and get your copy today!

The response so far has been incredible and can all be attributed to the phenomenally talented author. Eoin Colfer, Irish Children’s Laureate, says ‘Dave Rudden is more than a rising star – he is a shooting star.’

Be sure to check out the other outstanding early reviews here and follow Dave and all the KOTBD news @d_ruddenwrites

Here’s Dave with an extremely proud agent, Clare, and some pictures of a real night to remember.

#KOTBD

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final edit

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Dave, the team at Puffin Books and Malleus Vivian of the Order of the Borrowed Dark!
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Stationary headed with the Order of the Borrowed Dark emblem
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Mary getting her book signed by man of the night, Dave Rudden
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Darley Anderson Authors

Delving into the DA Authors’ Inspiration – Part Two

Now it’s Friday, and we are officially starting to count down to Christmas (!!), we wanted to continue what we started last week with all of our wonderful Adult authors… it’s time to share how some of our Children’s authors got to writing…

Cathy Cassidy, Puffin’s bestselling author for girls and of the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series:

I was scraping a living as a teen mag agony aunt and freelance mag journalist but had never managed my dream of writing a book-length story – until a new friend’s disbelief that I wanted to be a writer goaded me into finally getting past chapter three. Her tough-love comments pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me to achieve that dream.

Fortune Cookie

Polly Ho-Yen, author of the award-nominated BOY IN THE TOWER (Random House Children’s Books):

It started slowly for me. I have always loved books and working with books but I simply didn’t think that I was good enough to write one, let alone for it to be published. I started writing just for my own pleasure, with no ambition of what might happen, and quickly found that I enjoyed it so much that I couldn’t stop. When ‘Boy in the Tower’ was published, I still had the nagging feeling that I wasn’t good enough to make it as an author.

However, when I was looking for a new job, I realised writing was the thing that I liked doing most in    the world. I was also encouraged by my lovely readers, who told me to keep going and who were endlessly enthusiastic. I suddenly knew that if I didn’t give writing a chance then it never would be my career and, though it was perhaps scarier than other paths, I was more afraid of not giving it a go. Now, I can’t imagine having a day without writing in it and hope that I won’t have to.

FINAL COVER BOY IN THE TOWER

Dave Rudden, author of the upcoming KNIGHTS OF THE BORROWED DARK (Puffin):

 I first started writing when I was seventeen. Fanfiction, actually – grimdark far future military sci-fi with lots of glorious last stands and lantern-jawed heroics. I used to lurk on a website called Imperial Literature. Reading stories graduated to the occasional comment, and the community was so welcoming that eventually I put up my very first piece of fiction. Just five hundred words, just an experiment to see if I could. Looking back, I don’t mind admitting that it was dreadful, but every comment I got was kind and constructive until finally someone commented ‘love this. When’s the next one?’

 The question had never occurred to me before. When’s the next one?

 Helen Grant, author of THE VANISHING OF KATHARINA LINDEN and THE FORBIDDEN SPACES trilogy (Random House Children’s Books):

 I’ve always wanted to write. When I was 10, our school teacher asked us what we wanted to do when we grew up, and I said very firmly that I wanted to write. He looked at me and said , “And you will.”

For a long time other things got in the way: university, first job, travelling, then two babies. Then in 2001 we moved to Germany. The children started at kindergarten and all of a sudden I had my mornings free. On the very first day they were both out of the house, I booted up my PC and started writing, and I’ve carried on ever since. My first book was published in 2009. 

URBAN LEGENDS FRONT COVER

 Caroline Crowe, author of PIRATES IN PYJAMAS (Little Tiger Press):

I’ve written silly rhymes for friends since I was at school and I knew by the time I left University that I wanted to be a writer, but the two things didn’t come together to make a picture book text until a few years ago. After I graduated I was very lucky to get work experience at a national newspaper and ended up never leaving. It wasn’t until 10 years later when I decided to go freelance that I started writing texts for children. I love picture books and we have a huge collection at home. I don’t think there was one defining moment, but as soon as I had the time, writing picture books was exactly what I wanted to do.

Pirates in Pyjamaas cover

Olivia Levez, author of the upcoming THE ISLAND (Oneworld):

 Definitely the morning that I walked into my head’s office and asked for a sabbatical from teaching. I had a wonderful creative year in which I joined SCBWI and went on my first conference,  went to art college to do my foundation, and most importantly, wrote my first book, which I’d been trying to do for years and years.  Although that first book was pretty dreadful, it did get a request for a complete from an agent, and that gave me the confidence to carry on writing.

The Island B.indd

Kim Slater, author of the Carnegie nominated SMART (Macmillan Children’s Books):

For the last three years since securing my first book deal, I’ve stuck doggedly to the same routine; wake up and write 6-8 am each morning, then off to my day job as a full-time self-employed school bursar.  On top of this, I’ve also written in the evenings, at weekends, on holidays (including my recent honeymoon!) and at Christmas-time.

To me, writing isn’t a chore, it isn’t a job – it’s something I love to do and I ache when I can’t do it. The greatest luxury for a writer is having the time to think, to simmer ideas and well, to write.  So, this summer, when the opportunity came to write full-time, my resounding response was, YES PLEASE!

Smart jacket small

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Darley Anderson Authors

Delving into the DA Agency Authors’ Inspiration – Part One

Have you ever wondered how some of the Darley Anderson authors got into writing considering their diverse lives and careers? Want a sneak peek into the secret life of an author? Ever felt like you might have a book in you somewhere and you might just need the inspiration to do something about it?

Cesca Major’s heartbreaking debut novel, The Silent Hours, was published to huge acclaim in June (about to be published in paperback on 5th Nov) and Woman & Home featured the inspiration behind her getting into writing. Inspired by this article we decided to ask our adult brilliant authors about their own journeys into writing…

Woman & Home - 1.10.15

Jane Costello, author of nine bestselling novels including the RoNa nominated THE TIME OF OUR LIVES (Simon & Schuster):

As a teenager I became hooked on that feeling when you’re so engrossed in a book that you just have to keep turning the pages, no matter how late at night it is. It was that feeling that made me want to be an author, yet saying that felt as fanciful as, ‘I want to be the next X-Factor winner’. So I became a journalist, which at least gave me the opportunity to write. I loved my job, but my secret ambition never left me and for years I made repeated clumsy attempts at writing a novel, none of which were ever finished. 

 Then I had my ‘eureka’ moment, while in a pew at a friend’s wedding, watching her walk down the aisle followed by her bridesmaids. I thought, why has nobody ever written a romantic comedy called ‘Bridesmaids’ – one about the dramas, the friendships and the sheer fun of something most women experience at least once in their life? I decided there and then that if nobody had done it, it had to be me. I started writing the next day, never dreaming it could turn into the best-seller that it ultimately became.

THE LOVE SHACK final

 Rosie Blake, author of HOW TO GET A (LOVE) LIFE and the upcoming HOW TO STUFF UP CHRISTMAS (Corvus):

I used to write endless diaries which were all full of angst and TMI about who was looking at me funny or who I wanted to kiss that week. They were for my eyes only but they got me into into the habit of writing regularly. The first feedback about my writing was from friends. Before social media (*stares at you over reading glasses, readjusts dentures) I used to write very long emails to a group of friends when I was travelling. I tried to make them amusing (“I’m being stalked by a parakeet” “I got chased by a monkey – LOL” etc) and really loved writing them. The more absurd the better. Some people asked for more and I started to believe I could write. I moved onto writing short stories and won a couple and started working on a novel. It went from there…

HOW TO stuff UP XMAS final

Phaedra Patrick, author of the upcoming THE CURIOUS CHARMS OF ARTHUR PEPPER (Harlequin Mira):

I’d always, secretly, wanted to be a writer from a very early age, however I told myself that ‘people like me’ didn’t write books. In my mid-twenties I visited a tarot card reader with friends. I’m not a big believer, but when he told me (without prompting) that I would be a writer and sell lots of books, I took this as the sign that I should follow my dream and put pen to paper.

 With a lot of hard work, experimenting, research (and many rejections along the way), I got here in the end. I now write full time and The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper will be published in eleven countries during 2016.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper final cover UK

B.A. Paris, author of the upcoming BEHIND CLOSED DOORS (Harlequin Mira):

 ‘You do it, Mummy!’ Those were the words that spurred me to write. One of my daughters had told me that she had an idea for a book so when I came across a competition for an 80.000 word novel, I was really excited for her. But when she checked the rules, she found she was too young and encouraged me to enter instead. I had always wanted to write but imagined myself as a writer of children’s stories rather than novels, so the thought of writing 80.000 words was daunting. That night I had an idea for a story and the next day, I began writing – and found I couldn’t stop! It became an obsession. Freshly-baked cakes and neatly-made beds became things of the past and I began to resent anything that took me away from writing, even the teaching job that I loved. It took me about a year to calm down and integrate writing into my life rather than letting it take over. But six years on, if I could spend all day, every day writing, I would!  

Behind Closed Doors

Tim Weaver, author of the bestselling David Raker series (Penguin):

I’m not sure if this is a defining moment in terms of choosing to become a writer, because I always wanted to be a writer from as far back as I can remember, but I’d say it was the difference between getting published, and not getting published. I’d spent almost eight years trying to get anyone interested in Chasing the Dead, and the more rejection letters I got, the harder I’d tried to work at it – editing, re-editing, editing, re-editing. But the absolute best thing that ever happened to me was taking a six-month break from the manuscript after my daughter was born. Coming back to it after some extended time away allowed me to see the work-in-progress for the less-than-stellar piece of writing it was, and after spending a year rewriting it – pretty much from the ground up – I found myself an agent (Hello Camilla!) after only three months of trying. So, if you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to get some distance.

What Remains UK

 Lee Weeks, author of the bestselling Johnny Mann and the top 20 Ebony Willis series and the upcoming COLD JUSTICE (Simon & Schuster):

When my twenty-year marriage was coming to an end I began examining my life. It was when I was looking at my own collection of poems, that I came across Morning Market, a poem I had written whilst living in Hong Kong, at a time when I hit rock bottom. The poem sums up the brutality and desperation of my life at that time. I used it as inspiration to write a semi-autobiographical story.

 When the end of my marriage actually came, I had a ‘this is my time’ moment. I decided to give writing a proper go. I worked on my story, bringing out the Hong Kong detective who had tried to help me at the time, and the Johnny Mann series was born.

Cold Justice

 James Carol, author of the acclaimed Jefferson Winter (Faber) series:

 I wrote my first novel back at the turn of the millennium. At the time, I was just curious to see if I could actually do it. I’d always loved reading, but writing one… When I got to the end, I discovered a curious thing. I wanted to write another. And when I finished that book, I wanted to write another. See, that’s the thing no one tells you. Writing’s an addiction. It’s a drug. The days when the words line up exactly how they should are pure joy. That’s the high you’re chasing. I’ve been writing novels for fifteen years now and I love doing it. I can’t imagine doing anything else. The truth is I don’t want to do anything else.

Prey cover

Lesley Pearse, bestselling selling author of 23 women-in-jeopardy novels including the No.1 bestseller WITHOUT A TRACE (Penguin):

 My career in writing began with a humorous letter to Woman’s Own about the contents of my fridge (or lack of edible content really) To my shock they not only printed it as letter of the week but paid the princely sum of £25 for it.  Somehow it altered my whole outlook. realising I wasn’t likely to be able to make a career out of letters, I started on short stories, including doing a home study course on short stories. As soon as I began the first of 16 lessons, I knew it was my thing. Nothing stopped me writing, not three small children, a business and home to take care of. It was to be many years before I got my first book Georgia published,  3 other books banished to the dustbin. But I see that time as my apprenticeship and like any focussed apprentice I never allowed myself to doubt I wouldn’t get there in the end.

Without a Trace PB

 Jo Platt, author of READING UPSIDE DOWN (sold in 6 territories worldwide):

I have always enjoyed writing, and my preference has always been for comedy.  Maybe it was because my focus was on making myself and others smile, that I for so long viewed writing as a guilty pleasure, and far too much fun to be a potential career.  And then, one afternoon, I was having a cup of tea with a friend at her kitchen table when she mentioned a spoof school newsletter, which I had written and circulated to friends, to cheer us all up at a rather bleak time.  She was laughing over something I’d written when she suddenly said, ‘Why don’t you write something longer, Jo? A book.  We all think you should.’

 It was such a simple, perhaps throw-away, comment and yet that was a defining moment, perhaps the defining moment, for me in terms of my writing.  It felt as if I had been given permission, a mandate, to make writing a greater priority and to take it seriously.  As a result, I went home and started drafting Reading Upside Down that same evening.

 Of course, since then, there have been other moments and events which stand out for me and which I will never forget.  The extremely assertive friend, threatening me with menaces until I had promised her that I wouldn’t simply leave the finished manuscript to rot at the back of my knicker drawer, but would instead send it to an agency.  And, not long after that, the moment I received an email from my now agent, Camilla Wray, telling me, with great enthusiasm, how much she loved my book – an enthusiasm and belief in both myself as a writer and in Reading Upside Down as a novel, which she has never lost.

 But, before all that, came those kind and encouraging words over a cup of tea at a kitchen table, without which I would still be scribbling and giggling away in secret, instead of being out and proud as a writer.  And for those kind words – and that cup of tea – I shall remain forever grateful.

Kerry Fisher, author of THE SCHOOL-GATE SURVIVAL GUIDE and THE ISLAND ESCAPE (Avon):

Before I started writing novels, I was a journalist and one of my jobs was reviewing books for Candis, a national women’s magazine. The more I read, the more I thought I’d like to have a go at writing my own novel. I was ridiculously naive about how hard it would be to stay motivated to finish a book, let alone how hard it is to get published. However, one of the things that really helped was taking an online novel-writing course with the University of California, because it provided immediate feedback and deadlines. As soon as I started the course, I felt so excited and passionate about writing again – something I’d lost over the years of working as a journalist. It took me a few years to summon up the courage to give up journalism completely and write novels full-time but I don’t regret it at all – it’s a luxury to inhabit a fictional world where you make everyone do what you want! 

the island escape final

 Emma Kavanagh, author of the critically-acclaimed FALLING and HIDDEN (Arrow):

 I’ve written my entire life. For as long as I can remember I have been constructing stories. I had never, however, written a novel. There’s something about that word, the sheer vastness it implies, that makes it seem impossible. How do you manufacture 90,000 words out of thin air?

 Then, one day, I was standing on a police firearms range, taking part in close protection (bodyguard to you or I) training for firearms officers, and a story came to me. I attempted to shrug it off. I was busy and, frankly, if I didn’t pay attention, there was a chance that I would get shot. But the story remained. So, I decided to try it, to just see if I had it in me to right something that could be considered a novel. As it turned out I did. It wasn’t a very good novel. But it was enough to convince me that 90,000 words could in fact be manufactured if you just give yourself the chance.

 The logical next step was to continue with my business (a consultant in police and military psychology) whilst I attempted to write a book worthy of publication. Unfortunately, logic is rarely my strong suit. Instead, I scaled back my travel, began limiting the jobs I took on, and threw myself into writing. It was the writer’s equivalent of putting everything on black. I am, however, an all or nothing kind of woman. It was a massive gamble, but, thankfully, one that paid off. I remember hearing Lee Child talk about his career. He said it worked, because it had to. And for me the same was true. I had no choice but to be successful.

 I had to answer a question earlier – what is your greatest ambition? And my answer was, this. To keep doing what I’m doing. Not many people are lucky enough to say that!

HIDDEN

 Part two coming next week featuring Darley Anderson Children’s Book Agency authors…

Categories
Interviews

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. 

Gemma Todd May 2015

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.

Categories
Editorial Submissions

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

Categories
Interviews

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.

Categories
Darley Anderson Authors Meet the DA team

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.

Categories
Darley Anderson Authors Meet the DA team

14 Pictures You Need to See from the Launch of Kim Slater’s Debut Novel SMART

1. This picture of all these beautiful copies of Smart at Waterstones in Nottingham:

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2. This picture of our own Mary Darby and Clare Wallace (respectively) marveling at the brilliant turnout:

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3. And this one of the live music performed by Jake:

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4. This fantastic reader recommendation from the staff of Waterstones:

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5. This picture of Kim’s editor Rachel Kellehar of Macmillan Children’s Books introducing her:

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6. Especially this picture of Kim Slater taking the stage:

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7. This one of Kim reading an extract from her debut novel Smart:

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8. And this one of her taking questions from the crowd:

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9. This picture of Clare queuing to get our copies signed by the author herself:

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10. This fan telling Kim he liked the opening line of Smart so much that he’d like her to include it with her autograph:

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11. Kim making good use of the perfect space left for her signature amongst the illustrations on the title page of Smart:

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12. These fans excitedly clutching their signed copies:

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13. This photograph of a debut author and her agent:

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14. And finally this picture of Kim Slater and her Darley’s Angels – Vicki Le Feuvre, Mary Darby and Clare Wallace:

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SMART is on sale now at all good bookshops. To find out more about Kim Slater and her tips for new writers read our interview with her here.

Categories
Meet the DA team

Getting Into Publishing – Keshini Naidoo Crime & Thriller Reader

Kesh BlogGrowing up, I was the classic ‘child-that-loves-books’, continually accompanied by a paperback or two and finding time to read when I was brushing my teeth, eating dinner or walking down the street (ouch, lampposts). I feel really lucky to now work in an industry in which book obsession is a veritable asset, rather than a hindrance! I’m definitely an example of how working in retail can cross over into working in publishing and that it’s not all about ‘knowing someone who knows someone’ (which I think it can sometimes feel like from the outside…).

After finishing my degree at Leeds University, I was a bit clueless as to what I wanted to do – I wanted to work in publishing, but didn’t really have a clue how to start. I wasn’t brave (or knowledgeable) enough to have applied for internships, plus I was still living in Leeds, so the thought of moving down to London to work for no money was terrifying! Then I started working at Waterstones and I can truly say it was my first step on my path to publishing. I came out of university with a degree in English and Classical Literature, able to talk about Cheever, F.R Leavis, Juvenal and Catullus – but with absolutely no knowledge of what books were at the top of the Sunday Times bestseller list! Working on the front line of bookselling (fist-bumps to my fellow booksellers on the grind), putting twenty-five copies a day of Atonement and Harry Potter through the tills and advising customers on the latest Sophie Kinsella title, all helped me to gain a real awareness of current publishing trends, which helped me enormously when it came to applying for jobs.

I’d advise anyone wanting to work in this industry to always be aware of what’s in the bestseller charts – you may only want to work exclusively with niche literary fiction or hard SF, but you still need to know that Fifty Shades of Grey is breaking sales records and inspiring the re-emergence of erotica in the UK market.

One day I answered an ad in the back of The Bookseller (the publishing industry bible, and still one of the best sources of information, job adverts and gossip!), and after an interview in that there London, I landed a job as a buying assistant for crime/thriller fiction at BCA book clubs. I loved the thrill of meeting publishers, getting to see the upcoming fiction from all the major houses (my desk was always awash with proofs) and negotiating deals for our main selections with rights managers (as we bought the rights to produce our own World hardbacks and QPD editions. Yes, those oddly-shaped small editions you always see in charity shops nowadays.).

I eventually left BCA, having worked my way up to buyer for crime/thriller and literary fiction (even more proof copies on my desk), and was lucky enough to have my name passed on to HarperCollins, who were looking for someone for their fledgling Avon division to work across the board in sales and editorial. This was probably the best introduction I could have had to working at a trade publisher – I got to learn from two of the best in the business in retail and editorial and we were setting up a whole division with just three people so it was vital to be able to handle a variety of different tasks; from presenting our books to buyers at Sainsbury’s, representing HarperCollins on industry-wide projects with libraries, trying to secure review coverage with newspapers and magazines, to handling the editorial process from acquisition all the way to production stage. I think this kind of multi-tasking is more and more common in publishing and it’s important to keep abreast of innovations in the field, especially as the digital revolution has changed the landscape so much. Now editors have to be even more marketing-savvy to ensure their books stand out in a crowded market.

By the time I left Avon in 2011 I was a commissioning editor, working across women’s commercial fiction and crime. I now work as a freelance editor/proofreader for a number of major publishing houses, as well as people looking to self-publish. I was fortunate to have my name recommended to Darley Anderson when they were looking for a crime/thriller reader and I was leaving HarperCollins. I have been working here part-time since January 2012 and I love it! I do the initial assessment of the crime/thriller submissions, passing anything suitable on to Darley and offering editorial guidance to some of the authors we represent. I feel very lucky to actually get paid for reading and the thrill of discovering a manuscript with potential never diminishes.

While there’s no denying that editorial jobs at major trade publishers are definitely sought-after, if you’re passionate about books and are prepared to work hard across a variety of tasks, you’ll be rewarded with a fulfilling, dynamic and stimulating job that never really feels like work.

Use all the resources available – for example, The Publishing Training Centre in London runs industry-accredited training courses on editing and proofreading, and if you’re from a BME background, Equality in Publishing (Equip) offers advice, case studies and advertises job vacancies and The Bookseller carries current vacancies. And once you’ve got that foot in the door, network all you can and ask advice from those who are already doing your dream job. Most people will be happy to meet you for coffee and allow you to pick their brains. It’s a small industry and you never know who will have the perfect vacancy for you. And most of all, never lose your passion for books! I still read when I’m brushing my teeth and feel panicky at the thought of a journey without at least one book in my bag …

Categories
Editorial Submissions

11 Ways Not To Start Your Novel – No. 4

With Onomatopoeia

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEOOOW KER-SPLAT!

I’m really sorry to have to tell you but that is the sound of a literary agent’s expectations plummeting at the sight of onomatopoeia in the first few lines of your novel. Especially if it’s written in capitals, as they so often are.

This is not to say you cannot describe a character mumbling or have someone delight at the clip clopping of horses’ hooves if you so please. You can even say that the water came whooshing down the drain or dripping out the tap if the fancy takes you. In fact, please don’t hesitate to capture any particular sounds you want within your opening lines. The use of sound is a great way to conjure up an image or capture a particular sensation for a reader.

No, I’m talking about separating out onomatopoeia and using it instead of describing a particular sound.

Buzzers, bells and door knockers are the most frequent culprits.

For example:

Terry was just about to take a bite out of his lovingly crafted BLT when the telephone suddenly burst into life.

BERING BERING! BERING BERING!

Or even:

BONG. BONG. BOOONG.

“Oh that clock,” moaned Cinderella, “yes, I hear you. ‘Get up,’ you say, ‘time to start another day.’ Even he orders me around.”

It’s not uncommon for a Bang! to interrupt the narrative flow of an opening page either. Sometimes it’ll be something more peculiar like the noise of an exceptionally tired person finally sitting down on their familiarly sagging couch at the end of a long day – flump, sigh. Come to think of it SPLASH and Tick-Tock-Tick-Tock are other uncommonly common ones too and I’ve even read a couple of novels that start in a way reminiscent of Private Baldric’s poem, The German Guns.

It’s a different story if you’re writing a picture book, of course. This use of onomatopoeia is all types of fun in a picture book. But if your novel is aimed at an even slightly older readership I would recommend avoiding any BUZZZZZs , RING RINGs  or KERPOWs in the opening.

Why? Well it’s a bit like taking a shortcut in a marathon and still hoping for kudos. It wouldn’t show off your marathon-running skills at all. Your time would be irrelevant, whether you could give Mo Farah a run for his money or not.

Use your opening lines to show off your ability to capture a moment or communicate a certain sensation. Don’t let your chosen literary agent get the impression that you might not be a skilled enough writer to adequately describe a sound or that you are prone to taking the easy way out.

No shortcuts. Show them you’re in it for the long haul.

NEH-NEH NEHH-NEH, NEH-NEH NNEH-NEH, NEH-NEH NNEH NNEH NNNEH.

Oh sorry that’s my old Nokia 3310 ringing, I’d better take that.

Categories
Editorial Submissions

11 Ways Not To Start Your Novel – No. 3

With a Description of the Moon

Quick! Pick a card, any card.

Now think of a number between 1 and 10.

Next think of a colour.

And a vegetable.

Got them all?

OK?

Carrot, red, 7 and either the Ace of Spades or the Queen of Hearts, failing that something with a 3 or a 7 in it (almost definitely not the Nine of Clubs).

If any or all of your answers match these then you have just fallen prey to cognitive bias. It’s a funny little quirk of human nature that has long been taken advantage of by street magicians. Our brains collectively tend to follow similar pathways and for some reason these are the answers that those pathways most often lead us to. I’m not sure why this is but Derren Brown would probably know.

Not everyone will come up with these answers but if you ask enough people you will start to see a definite trend.

Incidentally, I have noticed a similarly hard to explain and seemingly random trend in how new writers choose to start their novels. I can’t explain this one either (maybe even Derren would fail to) but after some time of reading the opening lines of submissions I found myself thinking, “wow, people really like the moon, don’t they?”

And they do.

Once I had noticed this particular submission phenomenon the moon suddenly seemed to be everywhere I looked in opening paragraphs and spooky prologues. It makes a certain amount of sense, granted. Mentioning the moon in your opening line immediately lets your reader know that it is night-time, which is useful. I suppose it also creates a certain gothic atmosphere or maybe suggests that something clandestine might be happening but overall I can’t quite fathom why it pops up so very often as an opening image.

But it does.

It’s not even as if new writers are emanating a popular narrative technique in this case, not as far as I can tell. I personally couldn’t think of any examples of this one from well-known novels. Can you think of one? There must be at least one published novel that begins by describing the moon.

Because there are definitely a lot of unpublished novels that start that way.

There’s nothing wrong with it at all, just as there is nothing amiss if you immediately visualised 7 red carrots sitting on the Ace of Spades. It’s just not original. Oddly.

So, in the interest of standing out from the crowd avoid describing the moon in your opening line. And maybe next time go with aubergine.

By Vicki Le Feuvre

Categories
Translation Rights

Book Fairs and Book Worms

Jon Holder has dedicated Monster of the Month to London Book Fair and has created these bookish creatures… And Mary Darby, Rights Executive, is talking foreign rights.

Reading Time colour

In the frantic run up to the London Book Fair I thought I’d take some time out from preparing for my 56 meetings and introduce you to the exciting, and somewhat mysterious world of Foreign Rights. I say exciting, because it truly is – we liaise with foreign publishers every day, discuss excellent books and lovely authors, and negotiate exciting deals. And I say mysterious because not many début and aspiring authors know foreign rights even exist…

LBF takes place next week (15th – 17th April) and Earl’s Court is bracing itself for another fantastic Book Fair where it will be filled to the brim with book people talking about… books! Rights people will be pitching next year’s bestsellers and editors will be looking for them.

Bestselling Darley Anderson author Tana French commented, “Before I was published, I knew basically nothing about foreign rights, and I didn’t even think about them.”

So if you’ve never heard of them, you’re not alone. However, Tana French’s books are now sold into 31 languages, so sit up and take note.

Foreign Rights (also known as translation rights) are one sub-right of many that make up a manuscript/book. They are the rights that mean the manuscript can be translated and published in another language. And the best bit? The author doesn’t even have to pick up their pen (or fire up their laptop) to write another word. Foreign editions are translated from the original manuscript.

Tana went on to say “I didn’t really expect them [the foreign rights] to sell; I was just crossing all my fingers and toes that the book would sell in English that even thinking about other languages felt greedy. So foreign rights sales still feel a bit magical and unearned to me, like un-birthday presents being dropped through the letterbox by a fairy godmother.”

Let me translate. What this means is that because we, the Agency, handle the foreign rights and not the publisher (foreign rights can be sold in bulk to the UK publisher – more about this later) the author receives an advance on top of any other advance already earned (UK & Commonwealth; US.). Each foreign rights sale is a separate deal and so is separately accounted. So as you can see, foreign rights can be very valuable and the author has had to do nothing more!

Alternatively, if the agent sells foreign rights to the UK publisher (WORLD RIGHTS) then the publisher’s in-house rights team will handle them. A publisher’s rights team won’t differ all that much from an agency’s rights team; deals are negotiated and rights are sold in much the same way. But, any income generated by foreign rights sales through a publisher’s rights team will go towards recouping the initial advance paid out. Only once the total sum has been recouped by the publisher will the author see any more pennies or pounds for that manuscript. This is what’s known as earning out.
Big difference and a discussion for another day.

As I’ve said before, if you’re an author thinking about submitting to our agency, think about international appeal. Will the manuscript work well abroad? Is it too British? Is it easily translatable and does it deal with universal themes? This isn’t a deal breaker, but it can be a sweetener, and as an aspiring author, it’s something to think about.

And also remember that I, and the editors I will be meeting with next week, will have between 15 and 20 back-to-back appointments each day, so please also bear us in mind before you submit and try the elevator pitch; you have 30 seconds to pitch your entire novel. Use this pitch in your covering letter; this will help the agent who opens your submission, and will help the rights agent pitch it to publishers at the International Book Fairs.

From Monday Earl’s Court will be buzzing with the sound of rights agents pitching their new titles to editors. Because the fair is only three days long, we try to cram in as many meetings as possible to make the most of the publishers being in our city. This makes for a really exhilarating and very busy three days. And we can’t wait!

LBF 2013

By Mary Darby

Categories
Illustrators Interviews

Introducing Pete Williamson’s world of the spooky, gothic and weird…

How would you describe your work?

Quirky is a word that gets used a lot so I might as well go with that. Also scratchy, eerie, funny and (depending on the commission) strange and charming.

Did you like drawing and painting as a child? Do you still have your first drawings or paintings?

I always had an interest in drawing, scribbling and splashing paint around – there might still be old pictures up in my parents’ attic, among the old books and fish tanks.

What does your family think of your illustrations? Do they have a favourite character?

My nieces and nephews love Dinkin Dings and Stitch Head. My mum reads my books to children at the primary school up the road (which I went to) – she likes Stitch Head and The Raven Mysteries.

Stitch Head

How did you become a professional illustrator? And what is your favourite medium to work in?

Years ago I did some underground type comics but I also loved Dr Seuss and I wanted to mix the two. That style led me into animation design rather than  children’s’ books for a long time, but then my work was seen by the art editors for Dinkin Dings and The Raven Mysteries who were looking for an new illustrator. It all led on from there – now it’s  4 1/2 years and 30+ books later. I love working in black and white on watercolour paper with a nib pen – I can get a scratchy line but then add dark washes in watercolour, and then work into the watercolour to get a specific atmosphere.

Dinkin Dings

What’s being an illustrator like? How does the commissioning process work?

Sometimes I think it’s a bit odd that I now make a living from drawing as my career plan was actually more of a day dream than anything sensible or planned. It’s often great, often frustrating (like any creative work), often it’s just a job I have to do – but then I meet people who have jobs they dislike or stumbled into careers that they never really meant to have, and I realise how lucky I am.

Where do you take inspiration from for your characters? Do they have personalities before they appear on paper for the first time?

The books themselves have to have a personality in their own right, and the individual characters’ personalities are part of that. The writers always do a good job of breathing life into the characters in the manuscript – I visualise them to the best of my ability. Inspiration comes from everywhere – films, books, old black and white photos, previous characters I’ve designed that I want to develop further.

Where do you illustrate? 

In a small box room in a quiet cul de sac in a small town in Kent. When I work late into the night on a book I can watch foxes boxing in the road outside.

Can you tell us a little bit about your work in animation? How is this different to illustrating on paper?

I design characters but these are then turned into puppets – either in CGI or as stop motion puppets – they’re always less ‘edgy’ or ‘quirky’ than my illustration work as they need to sell mainstream products. I rarely have to do finished artwork so it usually involves drawing lots and lots of characters and then narrowing it down after feedback from clients.  A few years ago I was looking through some old files at the animation studio and realised I’d done hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of designs over the years, many of which I had no memory of doing.

Do you ever suffer from the equivalent of “writer’s block”? Does that have a name?

I’m lucky in that I’m always working from a manuscript so I can keep referring to that. I’m not really working with a completely blank canvas. Also, as I’m doing 40-50 illustrations a book, if I run out of inspiration on one image I can go to another one in the book and do that, and that might inform how I approach the image I’m having difficulty with. I’ll often have a few images at the end that I’ve put off until the last moment – they very often come out well as I seem to get a burst of inspiration when the end of the book is in sight.

What do you do when you’re not working?

Sleep or look after my daughter.

Who’s your favourite illustrator?

Leigh Hodgkinson – she’s incredibly creative.

What are you reading at the moment?

Up In The Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell, The Age Of Innocence by Edith Wharton, Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood, too many grumpy bloggers.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Endless mugs of coffee while watching Homes Under the Hammer.

What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?

Study at university so you’ve got a network of creative people for later in life, and illustrate as much as humanly possible – the 10,00 hours of practise rule applies to illustration as much as any other other art form. Ideally, tutors and fellow students should help you reach your own vision more quickly than if you were, like me, trying to come up with something while in a more isolated situation. Take inspiration from absolutely everywhere.

Pete Williamson is represented by Clare Wallace. You can find out more about Pete here.

Categories
Editorial Submissions

11 Ways Not To Start Your Novel – No. 1

Oh hi! How have you been? Crikey, what sort of weather have we been having? And the traffic on the way here? Absolute nightmare. Especially with these petrol prices, don’t even get me started. Still, that’s a lovely cardigan you’re wearing. Did you happen to catch the game last night?

There’s nothing wrong with small talk, is there? It fills the silences, it gets us acquainted with what everyone else does for a living and it would be a horrible thing if all our lovely cardigans were to go uncomplimented. But at the same time it’s hard to be really dazzled by small talk, isn’t it?

Because small talk isn’t meant to be exceptional. It’s meant to be safe.

However, the opening to your novel is not like the beginning of a conversation. If you are trying to grab a reader’s attention you don’t want to ease them in with something familiar, especially if this reader is a literary agent who probably spends much of their time reading familiar opening lines.

You want your opening line to stand out, to be exceptional (for the right reasons, of course). You want your opening line to dazzle your reader, to make them sit up and think, ‘this one’s interesting.’ You want to do something really special with it. The first page of your first novel is, after all, probably the most important one you’ll ever write.

The funny thing is there is definitely an equivalent to small talk when it comes to opening lines in novels. As someone who reads an awful lot of unedited opening lines it often surprises me that when given the opportunity to say anything we want so many of us say the same sort of thing.

Maybe it’s something in the zeitgeist, maybe it’s something in the water. I have no tested theories myself.

But I can give you the inside scoop, if you’d like? Just a few little pointers of what to avoid if you really want to impress your chosen agent with your stunning individuality?

Between me and you here are 11 Ways Not To Start Your Novel.

No. 1 – By Talking About the Weather (incidentally)

Rain, drizzle, hail, snow, fog, wind, sunshine, scorching sunshine, general mugginess, grey skies, blues skies, dark stormy skies, a thick cloud covering, a spattering of fluffy white clouds, a strange formation of tufty clouds, not a cloud in the sky; I’m pretty sure I’ve read about every weather condition there is in the first line of a novel by now. It has been a long time since I have gone, ‘oh that’s a new one,’ anyway.

I suppose it makes sense as one of the most famous opening lines in the English language does go right in talking about the weather:

It was a dark and stormy night…

My good friend Wikipedia tells me that we have Edward Bulwer-Lytton to blame for this and old Wiki is really quite nasty about this innocent piece of purple prose. I don’t think it’s all that bad myself but maybe that’s because it makes me think of a little rhyme my Auntie Cathy used to say to me when I was exceptionally small which ended with someone falling in a toilet. The nice memory may be making me biased but I always assumed that whoever had created it had their tongue at least edging into their cheek.

Even so, if I’m entirely honest I have to admit that one of my favourite opening lines ever concerns the weather:

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.

In fairness to Charlotte Bronte, the weather really is firmly in the subtext here and there is a lot more going on about disappointed hopes and creating a general feeling of confinement and things being out of your control. Oh Charlotte, I loved the beginning of Jane Eyre. Why did you have to go and ruin it all by trying to make me like Mr Rochester? He locked his wife in the attic! I mean come on.

If you are doing something exceptionally clever like Charlotte was and you don’t actually mention the weather you might get away with it. But, at this juncture in English literature I would still recommend avoiding any mention of the weather in your opening line, whatever the particular conditions may be. Neither is your opening line the time to have a little fun at the expense of literary conventions so no describing the weather ironically either.

Just like using a discussion of the weather as an icebreaker there’s nothing strictly wrong with choosing to do this. But I can assure you that literary agents will all be so familiar with opening lines that describe the weather that no matter how cleverly or ironically or even beautifully you conjure up the image of a pastoral field fresh from a recent spattering of rain with delicate wisps of a new fog drifting across it and burying the short green blades under its misty embrace your first sentence could well elicit a tired sigh or a barely stifled groan or, if it’s just one of those days, a cry of, ‘why always the bloody weather?’

Have you ever had to spend a lot of time meeting new people soon after a particularly notable spot of weather has happened? Then you understand a literary agent’s pain.
Don’t start by describing the weather. Don’t let your innocent opening line elicit that sigh, groan or angry diatribe. Do something that draws gasps, approving nods or the thing any writer is ultimately aiming for – rapt silence.

Now I better dash, it looks like it’s going to start snowing again and I’m wearing foolishly unsuitable shoes. Call this spring do you? Tsk.

By Vicki Le Feuvre

Categories
Darley Anderson Authors Interviews

Alex Barclay talks about her first children’s title CURSE OF KINGS

Alex Barclay, creator of the spirited and complicated FBI agent Ren Bryce, has turned her hand to the world of children’s fiction. To celebrate the publication of THE TRIALS OF OLAND BORN: CURSE OF KINGS, we had a sneak preview into this fantasy world where hybrid animals are many and normality and routine are banned!

The first instalment of your brand new series has just come out. What can readers expect from CURSE OF KINGS?

Adventure, bravery, mystery, riddles, quests, hybrid beasts, and secrets.

And how did this change come about? The Ren Bryce books are serious, gritty and scary crime thrillers, and Oland Born is for children (although it’s actually very gritty and very scary!). Was this move something you’d been thinking about for a while or did you have a sudden epiphany?

It was a sudden ephiphany five years ago, then I set aside the initial broad strokes, swapping them for the world of the NYPD, then the FBI. Three years ago, between Ren Bryce novels, I decided that the time was right to return to it and finish it. I continued to have ideas for Curse of Kings throughout this time, but I just filed them away and worked on each draft between crime novels.

Without giving too much away about their deepest darkest secrets how would you describe Oland and Delphi? How did you come up with them?

Oland and Delphi appeared in what I can only describe as a magical way. Oland is a fourteen-year-old servant from birth to The Craven Lodge, a band of fallen warriors who overthrew a benevolent king to take over Decresian. Oland is bullied, he is uncertain, he is untrusting, but he is brave and he is kind. Delphi is beautiful, spirited, brave, adventurous and considerably more trusting than Oland. She has lived a cosseted life, but in a different way to Oland. And yes, both have deep dark secrets…

And those monsters, the Drogues…

As the ancient myth of the drogues goes: “One mythic beast was four engulfed: vulture, bull, bear and wolf.”

I was captivated by the combination of their traits, and I loved the idea of creating my own myths within Curse of Kings and creating books within books. Oland has a secret room in the castle where he can retreat from his savage masters. The room is filled with the rescued culture of the castle, including a volume called The Ancient Myths of Envar (the land where the Kingdom of Decresian lies). Drogues are said to roam the black shores of Curfew Peak, an island where criminal children are sent.

How different is the writing process, writing for children? For instance have you kept the same habits or routines that you had when writing the adult crime books?

Most of my habits and routines changed for Curse of Kings, mainly because it was a world created purely from my imagination. The story was linear, unlike my crime novels, where I interweave any number of subplots. I wrote chronologically for Curse of Kings, which I don’t normally do. I also had to create family trees, maps, in-depth backstories, hybrid creatures, everything. It was an incredible, vast undertaking.

Will you continue to write Ren Bryce?

Oh, yes. I love writing Ren. I’m currently working on the fourth instalment, which is bringing Ren together with her best friend, Cold Case detective, Janine Hooks. They haven’t worked together before and I’m loving that dynamic.

When you’re writing, do you prefer a pen or the keyboard?

Always the keyboard. I can barely write a thing long hand. It’s appalling, I know.

Silence or music?

Both.

Day or night?

Both.

What do you find is the worst thing about the writing process?

Deadlines, though I accept that they are a necessary evil. I hear my editor and my agent laughing. Not in a good way…

And what do you enjoy most about the writing process?

Being inspired is an amazing feeling.

Do you have any rituals you must perform when writing? Or when you’re about to deliver a new manuscript?

I always have a scented candle on my desk, two very specific pens I take notes with, an A3 artists’ sketchpad. I have to start the day with coffee and I have to eat my breakfast alone at my desk. As for delivery of a new manuscript, it is THE most anti-climactic moment EVER. You’re invariably at home, alone, and you email it off. Then you wander around the house, discovering that your world has not in anyway been altered. Then you sit on the sofa, and text your family and friends that you’ve sent in the manuscript and they text you congratulations. That is the best part. Then you do the laundry.

What do you like doing when you’re not writing?

Cooking, eating, reading, boxing, playing with my nieces and nephew/my friends’ kids, watching movies. I’m very selective about what I watch on TV, I never channel surf. I record most things, because I can go for quite some time without watching TV, then I can watch lots in a row. Depending on the time of year, I watch Borgen, Spiral, brilliant Irish crime drama, Love/Hate, The Good Wife, Revenge, Modern Family, Hart of Dixie. I have just come to 30 Rock late in the day and I love it. Boxsets are the writer’s friend slash enemy.

Do you have a favourite author or book?

Oh, so many. Daphne du Maurier, Jim Thompson, Alexander McCall Smith, David Sedaris, Declan Hughes, Megan Abbott. My favourite new author is Donal Ryan, who wrote The Spinning Heart. It is a flawless book. Everyone I have bought it for or recommended it to has loved it. It’s racking up awards.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

I really don’t feel guilty about doing anything that is pleasurable. Should I feel guilty about watching hours of American Idol? I don’t think so. I feel lucky, though, that I’m not drawn to any of the more hideous reality shows. I can not do bitchiness, fighting, snideness, snobbery, humiliation, clinical dimness, skin the colour of wood stain. Why do people want to watch meanness? It bewilders me.

What are you reading now?

I’m researching convent life. For professional reasons…

What inspired you to start writing initially?

The ideas that came to me.

What would be your top tip for aspiring writers hoping to get published?

Finish it! I am amazed at the number of people who don’t finish a book and it will be an eternal regret. A book is unperfectable before you submit it; an editor will always want to tweak it, and every reader will have a different opinion of it: nothing you do at pre-submission stage will change this fact. We’ve all been there, where you love a book, tell someone about it and they say “Wow – I just couldn’t get into it”. I’ve got emails from a reader saying “I loved XYZ” about your books. And the same week, another reader will email and say they hated the exact same thing.

The longer you hold on to a manuscript, the worse you will think it is and the more disappointed you will feel. Just go for it – no-one’s going to die.

The Trials of Oland Born: Curse of Kings, published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, is out now!