Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Next Big Thing

I’ve been lucky a hundred times over this last year. Here’s an example. My good friend Veronique David-Martin – a great writer and tweeter who can be followed here, y’all – tagged me to take part in a pass-it-on blog meme called ‘The Next Big Thing’. Now I’d settle for being a thing of pretty much any size, I have to admit, but given the choice I would indeed pick ‘big’. Here’s hoping my luck holds, eh?

1- What is the title of your next book?

It’s called ‘The Poison Boy’. It was called ‘Sleepwell and Fly’ – the names of the two main protagonists. Maybe I’ll have to change the name of my blog as well now. *sigh*

2- Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was in a garden in Alnwick, in the north east. It’s an amazing garden – all the plants in it are poisonous; every single one. It’s walled with a black iron gate with skulls on it – very gothic. As I wandered around looking at all these poisonous plants and reading about all the terrible ways in which they could kill you, I knew I had the beginnings of a really good idea; orphaned food-tasters who’d become experts in poison-detection. As soon as I was back home, I started writing.

3- What genre does your book fall under?

Well – it’s YA Fantasy, aimed at readers of 10+ years of age. Maybe a little older; parts of it are pretty gruesome. I’ve been taking out some of the lurid gore from the opening scenes and trying to keep all that visceral nastiness in check a bit. I think it’s better for it. Hopefully it will appeal, to use a phrase borrowed from Carlos Ruiz Zafon, to “young and youthful readers.”

4- What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Now there’s a question. As a younger writer, part of the fun of putting a story together was imagining which parts I could play myself. Seriously; if I’d answered this question fifteen years ago, I’d be saying – me, for all of them! maybe it’s time to admit that’s never going to happen. Anyway, I’ve got what they call a face for radio.

Because all the central characters – a gang of children on the run in a smuggler’s town full of flooded cellars, secret passageways and moonlit galleries – are all between the ages of fourteen and eighteen, it might be hard choosing established actors. So I’ll settle for a whole bunch of eager first-timers fresh out of stage school. Plus a heavily made-up Kenneth Branagh as the bad guy.

5- What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Jeez. One sentence? OK. But I’ll have to make it a long one.

When Dalton Fly – food-taster to the idle rich – wakes from a poison-induced trance, drenched in the blood of a dead companion, he knows he’s stumbled upon something he shouldn’t have; and as his life unravels, he realises he will need to use all his remarkable talents to the full and call on the help of a motley crew of dubious allies if he is to stay alive and take on the forces that threaten to destroy him.


6- Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Back to the ‘luck’ thing. I won The Times/Chicken House children’s book competition for 2012. So I’ll be published by the lovely people at Chicken House in April 2013. What a smashin’ crowd they are, by the way. They’ve been so helpful and supportive as I’ve drafted and re-drafted.

7- How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Still going. Two years and counting! I’ll be done by December… *crosses fingers*

8- What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Well, it was inspired by a number of books with similar features. I’m not saying I’m anywhere near as good, but Chris Wooding’s The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray and Philip Reeve’s Fever Crumb are close cousins. And there’s a dash of J Meade Faulkner’s classic children’s book Moonfleet, which I love.

9- Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve been playing with these characters for years. There’s one-and-a-half abandoned novels gathering dust somewhere, both trying to do something similar. I guess it just clicked this time. The main character was named after a beer, believe it or not.

10- What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s all about poison! Imagine a little bottle of liquid that could blow your mind – or kill you. There’s no denying it’s an interesting notion – at least, that’s what I’m hoping readers will think!

Being a first-time writer, I’m not all that well connected. So passing this thing on is a tough gig. But if you haven’t yet visited the blogs of these three wonderful writers – all of whom have taken part – then you must!

Emma Pass


Thursday, 1 November 2012

50 Shades of 'Go Away'

Part One in an occasional series.

Before I was born my mum and dad bought their first house, a fifties semi in Rochdale, from a writer. His name was Trevor Hoyle. My dad once told me about Hoyle's workspace, which they saw as they first visited the place. It had walls lined with - pretty much wallpapered with - rejection letters. There's something brave and brilliant about that; failure being an essential part of success and so on. So I thought it would be fun - a bit ghoulish, but there you go - to share some rejection letters. There's so many varied and interesting ways of being told 'no', and I've built up quite a collection - not enough to plaster the wall of a room with yet, but it's early days.

'No' #1: The Cold Shoulder

Man, this one is tough to take. The equivalent of being utterly ignored. Imagine someone staring with chilly disdain at your outstretched hand as you introduce yourself at a party. Yeah, that. But worse. The Cold Shoulder gives you no indication anywhere that your work has been read - implying instead that it left such a feeble impression on whichever intern happened to be working the slushpile that half-term, that they couldn't think of anything to say about it either way. At least - that's what you've got to tell yourself, or you'll stop submitting.

Some of the friendlier ones look like this:

Sometimes, just being addressed as 'author' is enough to make your day. Though I've got to say, a bit of mail-merge wouldn't have gone amiss.

But take heart. You get one of these, at least you know it can't get any worse. There are much better types of rejection - seriously - and although they don't hurt any less, they're a damn sight more helpful. The more of these you get, the quicker you'll progress.

Something Trevor Hoyle could tell us all a lot about.