Friday, 31 May 2013

Say hello to Hot Key :-)

From L-R: Emily, Jet, Naomi, Jan, Georgia, Sarah O, Me, Cait, Sarah B, Livs
and Front L-R: Amy and Meg
I've been feeling guilty recently - about this blog. I started *Notebook to Novel* as an aspiring, unpublished author and used it as a place to pour out my dreams and disappointments and any tips I picked up along the way.

Now life has changed to the point where I barely recognise it. In the last year I've not only become a mum (now there's a voyage into the unknown!) - I've also become a real, live, professional author. I say professional because for the next couple of years I'll be taking a break from my day job and concentrating on family life - and writing life!

There'll be lots more about that. But for now let me tell you that one of the most strange and lovely things about getting a book deal is seeing the other side of publishing - the inside if you like. And the nicest thing of all is realising just what a team effort publishing a book is.

Writing is largely a solitary endeavour. It relies on you being able to go into your own head and disappear; hang out with characters who feel real but aren't real (that's important by the way. They aren't real, hence the return to normal life is possible!) I've written before about how important it is to find other writers and dreamers and people who understand but even with this much of the graft of writing is a solo effort.

But when a book gets accepted by a publisher a whole new world is revealed. You work with editors who help you find the real heart of your story and put it on display. It's like walking in to see your hairdresser, peering out from beneath a fringe that's too long - and an hour later you walk out with your face finally framed and visible and on show to the world.

You work as part of an incredibly passionate, talented team of people who share one aim - to help get your little book out into the world and read by as many people as possible. There are people who design beautiful book covers; there are people who help you arrange events and market the book (and generally treat you like royalty on the entertainment front. In two weeks of Hot Key events I probably put on half a stone...)

And beyond Hot Key are all the other amazing people who are working to get Death & Co out there and read by as many people as possible: book buyers, book sellers, librarians and all the other unsung heroes of the book world. These people have lots of guts and get very little of the glory. They love books, their knowledge is encyclopaedic and they aren't afraid to sit down with a bottle of wine and tell you exactly why a particular book is brilliant or awful.

So this post is to say thank you. Thank you to all the people who left comments on the blog over the last couple of years. Thank you to Gillie my agent and to my family and friends who kept the faith. Thank you to Hot Key for loving Adam and his family and his world as much as I do.

And if you're reading this blog, longing for your own book deal - longing to see YOUR book in your hands - be inspired. Go back to the start of this blog when I was just daydreaming about it. No matter what you hear about how tough the market is - it is still possible for a debut author to get a book deal with a brilliant publisher. Keep writing and keep believing. You're next!

If you'd like to read Death & Co for yourself you can buy it from Amazon, Waterstones, Easons and all good independent booksellers.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

BLOG HOP: The Next Big Thing!

Right, my first ever blog hop! I had no idea such a thing existed until I was tagged by the lovely Bernie McGill who I’ve mentioned before. Basically it’s a chance for writers to share a little bit about their work with other writers and the rest of the world. So, here’s everything you wanted to know...

What are you working on at the moment?

The sequel to Death & Co. I have a working title but I’m always madly secretive about my titles in a superstitious sort of way! So for now it is simply known as Book 2!

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Obviously as a sequel the idea came with the first book. It actually came about when I was typing an email to my friend and writing mentor Bernie McGill (who tagged me to do this blog!). I was supposed to be meeting her for coffee and emailed to warn her that I had a stinking cold. Given to hyperbole I started writing, ‘I don’t just feel like death; I feel like Death’s ailing granny...’ and felt that sudden PING! that every writer will recognise – that feeling that there’s an idea there that just might lead to something. I started writing Death & Co. that night and never looked back.

What genre does your book fall under?
Near world Teen / Crossover fantasy. It’s our world with a twist!
Which actors would you choose to play in a film rendition of your book?
Ha! Every writer’s fantasy question! Unfortunately it would require a time machine as I have a few ideas for actors but they would all need to be about ten years younger than their current age. So for example Nathanial would be perfectly played by a slightly younger Colin Firth. He has the right combination of compassion and slight careworn-ness – not to mention being so very English! Kristin Scott Thomas would make a lovely Elise – and no one could do Auntie Jo more justice than Jo Brand.
What is the one sentence synopsis for your book?
Gah! Every writer’s most hated question! I guess it would be: Fifteen year old Adam is a reluctant Luman, guiding souls into the afterlife – when all he really wants is to be normal. Most of the tension and humour in the book revolves around this.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I have a lovely agent called Gillie Russell at Aitken Alexander Associates. She negotiated my deal with Hot Key Books, a fantastic new publisher specialising in teen fiction. They only launched last year but they’ve already had amazing success – one of their first books Maggot Moon won the Costa Children’s Book Prize. So basically my book has found a good home!
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I wrote it in bits and pieces – so worked hard for a couple of months, then took a four month break, then finally found the motivation to finish it over another couple of months.
What other books would you compare this to within this genre?
This is a really tricky question because I can’t think of any other books quite like it. In my mind it’s the book lovechild of The Inbetweeners and The Adams Family!
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I’ve already described the lightbulb moment up above – but I guess I have always been interested in the supernatural and general existential questions about why we’re here, what our lives mean – and of course if there’s anything out there after we die. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t wrestled with these questions at some stage in their lives – and the variety of answers is amazing. Plus I've worked with teenagers for most of my career and they are great craic - so it seems natural to me to make them the heroes of everything I write!
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
The book is quite dark in places – but it’s also very funny – a bit like life itself. The general consensus from the people who have read it is that ultimately it’s a joyful, life-affirming book in spite of the tough subject matter.  I’ll let you be the judge!
FINITO! That was quick! Now, time to pass the candle onwards and upwards. Having mangled as many metaphors as possible I now present Deirdre Sullivan and KJ Foster. They’ll both be posting on the 6th February. Enjoy!
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