I think we had a room full of writers because lots of the questions were geared to how we all broke through and got published – we answered with our usual honesty so I hope people gained knowledge and inspiration. They certainly gained Prosecco and mince pies thanks to Olivia’s wonderful family!
And of course- we picked our #LostandFound giveaway winner! You didn’t think I’d forgotten did you?
I have tried to write a sensible “week before launch day” post. Honestly I have tried . The thing is,
I AM TOO EXCITED TO EVEN SIT STILL
On Monday very many of my friends and family will be joining myself and Usborne to celebrate the launch of More of Me in London. That is genuinely enough excitement for anyone. Then I’m doing it all again in Chichester on Thursday. I am as giddy as a school girl who’s eaten too many fruit pastilles and just been introduced to Beyonce.
That is my current base line level of excitement.
Add to that a continuous trickle of breath takingly good reviews, ( THANK YOU SO MUCH), winning a silver medal at last weekend’s fencing competition, being sent gorgeous flowers by my Aussie Aunt and Uncle and jewellery from my baby sister, signing contracts with my German publisher and other behind the scenes publishy stuff and well, you can see why I am actually bouncing off the walls.
So I’ve given up. Nothing sensible is coming out of this head for at least a week. Thank you, all of you, your support means the world. I shall try and be slightly less annoying when it’s all over.
PS: What’s it like? IT’S AWESOME, keep writing – it is SO WORTH IT.
This is just a brief post through a blur of happy tears, and it’s aimed at you, those people reading my blog who have been climbing the same mountain of drafts and redrafts and rejections and workshops and how-to books and support groups and critique sessions and are thinking I’ll never make it. I know how you feel. I was there for a long long time, more than fifteen years. And all i want to say is, don’t give up, it is SO worth the tears and the trials and the long, long wait.
Most of you will have seen my beautiful book cover by now. Here it is, in all it’s glory, back cover included:
It was revealed by SCBWI’s own Vivienne De Costa on her book review blog Serendipity Reviews. Viv worked so hard to get an excited build up before the reveal and she tells me she had an amazing 200 hits in the first minute of the blog going live. Alongside this, Usborne YA Shelfies ran a really interesting piece on how Hannah Cobley, the cover designer, arrived at the final look.
Facebook and Twitter all went a bit crazy – I did absolutely no work ALL DAY. The book doesn’t come out until February 1st next year but people are already buying it on pre-order. I was skipping about and grinning like an idiot. True, this was all about the cover, but there was also a lot of excitement about the concept of the book.
I don’t know what will happen when it finally comes out. The early reviewers have been really kind about it – did you read the quote from Teri Terry on the back cover? That’s, Carnegie nominated, multi award winning Teri Terry who said my book was:
” Weird, wonderful and utterly fabulous”
Who knows what everyone else will make of it?! It is weird, I know people might hate it but you know what, I love it. I probably shouldn’t say that, but it’s the truth. My editor, Sarah Stewart, has helped make More of Me a book I will always be proud of. And nothing, nothing can take away the joy of Friday. The ground swell of warmth and excitement across social media was extraordinary. I lost count of the number of tweets and shares and I know a lot of that will have come from my SCBWI friends.
Thank you, all of you. If this is your dream too, please, please, don’t give up. If I can get this far, so can you.
PS. If you’re after more, erm, brutal motivation, look out for my Writercise Boot Camp post on Notes From the Slushpile on 9th November – hosted in the grounds of Philip Ardagh’s Manor, Steve Cole will be putting you through your paces. there’ll be advice from guru Tanya Landman and gentle coaxing from Agony Aunt Cathy Cassidy. It might all get a bit shouty – what can I say, Nanowrimo is coming up!
Thank you so much for sneaking me a copy of Angel’s Fury. I absolutely loved it . Having seen an earlier incarnation ( see what I did there? Readers you’ll get this by the end of the interview and be amazed by my wit – honestly) it was fascinating to read the finished book. Actually, I was amazed you managed to improve it so much – did you enjoy the editing process – how was it working with an editor?
Working with an editor is amazing and definitely my favourite part of the process. Philippa (Donovan) and I were very much on the same wavelength and I have enormous respect for her ability to see right through something I’d tried to do, to find the exact point where it had gone wrong, or could be improved. I had so many ‘eureka’ moments working with her and she gave me fantastic advice.
Of course there were things we didn’t quite see eye-to-eye on, but the advantage of working electronically was that I could make her suggested changes, look at them critically and decide whether or not I agreed. Nine times out of ten, she turned out to be right!
It’s fantastic to feel so inspired by your own work and to see it improve beyond your wildest dreams – and that is definitely something I got with Philippa.
The book is simmering with passion and violence – did you give yourself nightmares when you were writing it?
Funny you should ask that question, because it was, in fact, the other way around. I’ve always suffered from nightmares – my earliest memories are of nightmares – and I don’t think I’ve ever had a night of undisturbed sleep (I hope you’re getting out the violins!), so Angel’s Fury (and particularly Cassie), comes from a place very personal to me. Writing the book was actually very cathartic.
The only nightmares I’ve had specific to the book are ones where everyone hates it, I have to do signings naked, or my publisher hounds me through the streets for bankrupting them.
So when are you doing the naked signings?
I’m sure they’ll be featuring nightly as publication date draws nearer! Not something anyone wants to see in real life though …
Could cause a stir though? Oh alright, maybe not! Back to the questions: The legend in the book has a very authentic feel – how much of it is genuine?
Actually quite a lot. The basis for the legend comes from the (Jewish) Torah. There are several versions of the tale of Shemhazai and Azael (with different numbers of angels, sons and so on) but the basic story is the same. Azael and Shemhazai come down from heaven, fall in love with mortal women and descend into sin. Their half-angel sons are the Nephilim. I reworded to make it more accessible, but I took the greatest liberties at the end – in my version God binds the spirits of the Nephilim into human hosts in order to teach them a lesson.
Was there a lot of research involved?
Absolutely loads. It seemed that every couple of pages I had to look something up, so I had a huge amount of fun with the research and often found wonderful facts that turned the book in another direction (for example with my discovery of David Curtiss Stevenson). I wanted the novel to have a really authentic feel, so aside from the paranormal aspects and fictional locations (Hopfingen and the Manor), everything else can be fact-checked. There really was a rare extended performance of Lohengrin in Bayreuth in 1936, the K98 was the rifle Kurt would have used (I downloaded the user manual for that one), Stevenson did exist and so on.
Bryony – you are an insanely busy woman, with 2 young children – one of whom would keep a lion tamer on his toes – when and where do you write?
Maisie was a pretty good sleeper. From eleven months of age she would reliably sleep from 7pm to 8am so I used to set my alarm and get a couple of hours of writing done every morning before she woke up. Riley, as you know, is a whole different ball game. He just started sleeping through (at 28 months). Before that he was often up for hours every night, so getting up at 530am wasn’t something I could consider.
Now I tend to get an hour of writing in when he takes his nap, or do a couple of hours in the evening when he’s gone to bed. Having such a short space of time in which to write means I really have to get down to it, no dithering. Twitter and Facebook will be my downfall!
And don’t ask me about housework!
I won’t – consider it banned. Do you have writing habits though, to get yourself in the zone?
Writing habits really would be a luxury. If I know I only have 30 minutes to get a couple of paragraphs down before the school run, I just have to get on with it. I do write in silence if that can be called a habit (because I like to really get into the world I’m writing – as if I’m one of the characters, smelling and seeing what’s going on) and if I have to time to make one I often have a full cup of tea cooling next to the laptop (I rarely end up drinking it).
Can you tell us about your writing journey – were you ever Queen of Rejections?
Queen and Prime-minister of rejections. I think even my agent started screening my calls at one point.
I won Undiscovered Voices2008 with Windrunner’s Daughter (which was AMAZING) and I felt as if that had cracked open a door for me, but I just couldn’t seem to kick it all the way open. However, I’m determined and while I was getting rejection after rejection for Windrunner, I was busy writing Angel’s Fury (working title Incarnation) and although it felt as times as if that crack was all I was going to see of publishing, I was really lucky because Angel’s Fury sold relatively quickly.
Tell us about the moment you heard the book was going to be published. Did your agent ring you?
I’d heard from Sam (my agent) that Egmont were taking Angel’s Fury to acquisitions and that I would have an answer in this particular week. By Friday afternoon I’d heard nothing.
We were travelling down to London for the launch party of Sarwat Chadda’s The Devil’s Kiss that day and every minute that passed I was feeling more despondent. Imagine having to go to someone else’s launch party on the day of your most horrible rejection!
We were driving from Macclesfield to London (about four hours in the car) and Riley was nearly five months old. He hated car journeys and had been screaming for almost two solid hours when Sam finally rang me – at 4pm.
We were stuck in traffic with Riley screaming at the top of his lungs and Andy red in the face and shouting so loudly at the children and some other driver that I could barely hear the offer. It seemed redundant to add my own screaming to the mix but that’s what I did. Riley and Maisie were very alarmed and thought I’d been injured, so I had to tone it down.
Later I discovered that acquisition meetings are always on a Thursday – you’d think someone would have told me that and saved me several days of misery, but no!
Do you have a secret dream for this book – a prize you’d love to be nominated for?
That would be a secret dream!
Oh alright then.
Having a good review was my first dream and the sense of accomplishment when my first couple of reviews came out was wonderful. I read them over and over again and might have shed a tear or two, I was so relieved. Over two years (which is how long it’s taken to get from contract to publication) It’s easy to lose faith and start to imagine that your editor is humouring you. When I read through my ARC I even started thinking ‘it’s rubbish, what have I done!’ so when the reviewers said such great things it gave me back my belief in the book and in myself.
Oh I know that feeling! And prizes?
A prize nomination would be beyond my expectations – amazing. I have a little daydream about sitting at a ceremony and being very noble and brave when they call out the winner (I don’t even dare dream about actually winning).
I have a feeling you aren’t going to need to be noble and brave at all! Can you tell us about your next project?
I’ve finished a book called The Society which is about a girl (Taylor Oh) who has to avenge the death of any murdered soul that touches her. She ends up having to solve the murder of a classmate she cannot stand and gets tangled up in a plot by Anubis to escape his prison and regain his place in the pantheon of Gods.
I’ve almost finished a total rewrite of Windrunner’s Daughter. Working with Philippa has improved my writing a hundred-fold and given me a real insight into what was wrong with it first time round, so hopefully this time will be the charm.
And I’ve plotted out a book about the end of the world as we know it, called Aviators.
Hopefully you haven’t seen the last of me!
I hope so too – and somehow, I really don’t think we have.