Tag Archives: literary agent

On Writing: Characters in Children’s Fiction with Kim Slater

Writing with a voice that feels authentic and distinctive is one is one of the key elements of a great book. It’s something that all writers strive to hone and need to nail in order to hook the reader.

It’s a long process and that process becomes more complicated when you are writing for a younger reader and, perhaps, even harder when your protagonist is also a younger character.

On the publication day of her new novel The Boy Who Lied, multi-award-winning YA author Kim Slater gives advice On Writing younger characters for a younger audience. Kim has been nominated for the prestigious CILIP Carnegie Medal three times and has won and been nominated for numerous other awards for her outstanding novels Smart, A Seven-Letter Word and 928 Miles From Home . As someone who clearly knows what she’s talking about, we asked her how she manages to create such authentic and convincing young characters and voices.

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How do you write a teenager that feels authentic?

I use the same method as I do to get inside any character’s head; I imagine I am that person. I think about challenges they may face and how it might feel. And after all, most authors are at an advantage when it comes to writing for children and young adults . . . we have all been there! So, for me, it is taking some time to think back, to put myself in that younger mindset once more and think how certain issues or events might feel.

So in my latest book, ‘928 Miles From Home,’ there is a character called Sergei who comes to live in the UK from Poland with his mum. I invested some thinking time and put myself in Sergei’s shoes; he didn’t care about making a better life in another country . . . a detail that was important to his mum. Sergei was more concerned and upset about leaving his best friend, his pets, his grandfather.

I think these things would be uppermost in any young person’s mind and I think the reader would agree that these considerations would be authentic to young people leaving their home.

 

Are there any touchstones you use to make your characters come alive first for you and then your reader?

I’d say thinking time is my first rule of writing a new story. I always begin by setting aside some space to become the character and I begin by thinking in first-person, even if ultimately I know I’ll be writing them in third-person POV. I begin by free-thinking and then graduate to free-writing where I just write about anything at all but from my main character’s POV.

That really finds their voice for me and once I have the voice, everything else – like back story – soon follows. I like to get to know my characters well and, even if I don’t use all the information I ‘know’ about them, I feel it gives a depth and authenticity to the writing which the reader can somehow sense.

 

Do your characters appear three dimensional with a story in your head immediately, or do you have the character then work on their story, or vice versa?

The character voice always comes first for me and the main character is usually strong from the outset, although I wouldn’t claim they are immediately three-dimensional. That takes extra thinking time, ‘simmering’ as I call it, prior to starting to write. Once I feel I have a handle on the character, the next stage, for me, is to think about some of the things that might happen to them.

In my second book, ‘A Seven-Letter Word,’ Finlay, the main character, has a debilitating stutter. When I felt I had a good sense of his character, I began to think about some situations he might find himself in.

The only way you can hide a very bad stammer is to not speak, so I asked myself, what would be the worst place you might have to go? And the answer came; school. Because it’s a very difficult not to speak at all. So I have lots of scenes in school with challenges that Finlay is forced to face on a daily basis; stuff that most young readers can identify with.

 

Your protagonists are all around 14 years old – what is significant about this time of life?

I think it’s quite a profound time in a young person’s life. It’s an age when they begin to form their own opinions and maybe question others’ opinions too. Maybe they start to think about what they’d like to do in the future for the first time when choosing subjects to study at school.

Without doubt, around this age can also be a frustrating time; difficult relationships at home and school and feeling more grown up but still getting treated like a little kid. For an author . . . very interesting material!

There is also the consideration that younger readers tend to like to ‘read up’ a couple of years. I’d say my books are probably most popular with 11-12 year olds, so having a 14 year old protagonist fits just about right.

 

Is it important for the reader to like the main character in a children’s book?

For YA, I think that ultimately, the answer is yes. I tend to naturally write flawed characters who often have facets of their personality that are not so likeable – on the plus side, I feel this makes them rounded and more realistic.

I want the reader to understand the protagonist, empathise with them; even if they don’t necessarily condone or agree with some of their behaviour.

But one should remember that young readers tend to place themselves in the shoes of the main character. So, for this genre, there must be a lot to like in the protagonist, I think.

 

The Boy Who Lied is published by Macmillan Children’s Books today. Follow Kim on Twitter: @Kimslater01

Agency Newsletter: June

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Martina Cole – in conversation

As part of Queen of Crime Martina Cole’s anniversary year,Headline put on a very special rooftop book club event in partnership with Woman & Home.

Martina was in conversation with Fanny Blake in the rooftop garden of Headline’s stunning offices. They discussed Martina’s most recent release, Betrayal, and her glittering 25 year career. Guests were treated to funny anecdotes and had the chance to ask Martina their own brilliant questions.

From the evening, we learnt that Martina has more number one original bestsellers than any other authors, each novel outsells the last and her books are the most borrowed in prisons and most stolen in bookshops.

Arthur Pepper triumphs in France

We are delighted that The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick has scooped the prestigious Prix des Lectrices Milady 2017!

The Prix des Lectrices Milady is a readers’ choice award, launched by Éditions Milady in 2014, previous winners include Jojo Moyes but Phaedra Patrick was the clear favourite in 2017!

Congratulations Phaedra!

KL Slater’s LIAR

Hot on the heels of the publication of KL Slater’s third chilling psychological suspense, LIAR, it has shot straight in at No.5 on the UK Kindle charts. It is also a No.2 Kobo bestseller.

Her previous psychological thrillers, SAFE WITH ME and BLINK have also been Kindle and Kobo bestsellers which firmly positions Kim as a rising star in this genre.

Congratulations, Kim!

Lee Child dominates worldwide

The unstoppable Lee Child has continued his success on the UK and US bestseller charts with his short story collection, No Middle Name and the 21st Jack Reacher, Night School.

Four weeks after publication in the UK, No Middle Name is No.2 on the Sunday Times Hardback Fiction list. Night School, an incredible 10 weeks after publication, is now No.5 on the Sunday Times paperback list. Sales for Night School are up by 19% on the last Reacher.

Blatt & Rios in Argentina acquired 2 of Lee Child’s short stories meaning he will be published in South America for the first time!

Jack Ford takes on the boys

The Killing Grounds is the first book in the exciting international thriller series by Jack Ford featuring ex-US Navy-turned-investigator and high asset recovery operator, Thomas J Cooper.

For fans of Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series, Clive Cussler and Bernard Cornwell, it has already received some rave reviews Jack Ford studied global political Islam and American politics and went on to take a Master of Science degree in Counter-Terrorism. She has previously published six gritty crime novels under her real name but wanted to turn her hand to writing a thriller that brought her love of Africa and politics together. A huge fan of Lee Child and John Grisham, she also wanted to challenge herself in the male-dominated arena and does a fantastic job!

Congratulations, Jack!

Cathy Cassidy launches

Beloved author Cathy Cassidy’s latest novel, Love from Lexie, was published on 15th June and Cathy has been excitedly meeting all of her young fans up and down the country to discuss her new novel, including a mini-launch with delicious cakes in Balham.

Love from Lexie is the first in a timely and pitch-perfect new series about friendship and loyalty, following six teenagers each with a unique story to tell.

 

 

Year of Martina Cole: Nielsen|Specsavers Bestseller Award

‘Martina Cole’s success must be a source of envy for many’ –  Independent, 2016

Not many people would argue with that. This year marks 25 years since Martina’s debut novel Dangerous Lady was published. 25 years, 22 novels, 22 bestsellers and of those at least 15 No.1 Sunday Times Bestsellers. How could this consistent and ever-growing success not make others envious?

At the start of this anniversary year, the Queen of Crime was awarded an Honorary Platinum Sales Award at the Nielsen|Specsavers Bestseller Awards.

The awards are unique in their recognition of success through sales, sadly something often overlooked in other literary prizes.

Martina received the Platinum award for over 9 million copies sold of all her titles since Nielsen began records 20 years ago. She also received 4 Gold awards for Revenge, Faces, The Business and Faceless which sold over 500,000 copies in the UK in 2016.

With her unique, powerful storytelling, acclaimed for its hard-hitting, true-to-life style – there is no one else who writes like Martina Cole.

Unmatched in talent and unstoppable in success.

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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.

 

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)

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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.

What’s the Best Love Story of All Time, Camilla?

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! (Otherwise known as the day we finally settled the immortal question of just what is the best love story ever told.)

All this week we’ve been giving Darley’s angels a chance to vote for the love story that they think should win the title of Best Love Story of All Time.

Emma, Andrea, Sheila, Vicki and Clare have all nominated their favourites and now agent Camilla Wray has the final word:

Camilla, what is the best love story of all time?

The question of which is my favourite love story is something that has been tucked into my pocket and carried around all week. There are definitely the greatest love stories of all; Love Story, Romeo & Juliet, The Time Traveller’s Wife to name only a few. Tales where One Great Love smashes through a life leaving everyone dizzy and breathless. But with these stories there is also the greatest sadness.

Tragedy is One Great Love’s best friend and as a loveaholic the danger of our addiction is the gut-wrenching catastrophic effect death has on love.

So with my Valentine’s heart on my sleeve I’m unable to cope with considering the thought of such sadness. This is why my answer is turning to what I call the Quiet Love Stories. A love not without history, drama or disaster, but it is grown from hope, kindness and a calmness that allows you just to be, together, forever.

For me a book that has this in every way is Jilly Cooper’s The Man Who Made Husband’s Jealous.

It doesn’t have the intensity, plotting or perhaps epic proportions of the great love stories, but it is the Queen and King partnership of Quiet Love and it really touched my heart.

Lysander Hawkley is a beautiful, lost and misjudged man. He’s a son that craves attention from his father and a human that just wants to belong. When he meets Kitty, the plump, average wife of tyrant Rannaldini, they start an unlikely courtship; one full of the laughter,
support and gentleness neither have ever been allowed before. And it is through these moments of being that a Quiet Love is born.

Alongside this wonderful love story is also that of the infamous Rupert Campbell-Black and Taggie O’Hara. All Jilly Cooper fans will have an opinion on ravishing Rupert and in the series he’s a dark character with his demons and danger a plenty. As the series progresses though we have flashes of an unexpected man and our defences are broken down. He is a man of honour and loyalty, yet he’s also a child at heart and someone craving a love that will quietly hold him up until he can believe in himself.

Taggie O’Hara is his Quiet Love. A coltish beauty who sufferers from terrible shyness and dyslexia she represents to him everything he isn’t, and it is Rupert recognising this in Taggie that makes him a better man.

Quiet love

Quiet love

What do you think? Is The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous the best love story ever told? Did you side with any of the other angels instead? Or perhaps you think we’re all crackers and completely failed to mention the obvious winner?

Cast your vote in the comments below.

What’s the Best Love Story of All Time, Clare?

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! (Otherwise known as the day where people seem to be carrying around a lot more flowers than is usual.)

It’s time for us to decide once and for all what the best love story of all time is.

All this week we’ve been posting a new answer each day from one of Darley’s angels. But because today is the big day of love itself we’re giving you two answers for the price of one from two of our top agents nonetheless.

Let’s get the day off to a LOVEly start with our Head of Rights and Associate Agent, Clare Wallace:

Clare, what is the best love story of all time?

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Read it before the film comes out later this year

Read it before the film comes out later this year

Okay, so this probably isn’t the ‘best’ love story of all time. But when Vicki asked us to write a Valentine’s article for the blog this was the first title I thought of.

For those of you who haven’t already read The Fault in Our Stars (and if you haven’t go and start reading it, like, now) it’s about a teenage girl, Hazel, who has terminal lung cancer and is encouraged by her parents to attend a cancer support group. Here she meets the charming, witty, gorgeous, and in remission, Augustus Waters.

This book is about a lot of things besides cancer, and love is one of them. The two main characters are beautifully drawn; they are bright, funny, courageous, and warm. They are exceptional people in exceptional circumstances. They are also two angsty teenagers falling in love.

At times I found this book difficult to read. The reality of a serious illness doesn’t make for light escapism. But I couldn’t put it down. I smiled and winced and laughed and cried (on the tube) and was absorbed in every word of Hazel’s story, right to its breathtaking, heartbreaking, star-crossed conclusion.

*breaks down sobbing*

*breaks down sobbing*

What do you think? Is The Fault in Our Stars the best love story of all time? Let us know in the comments.