Guest post by Juliet Mushens: Unravelling the Mystery of the London Book Fair

My wonderful agent, the brilliant Juliet Mushens, has very kindly written a blog post all about book fairs: what agents get up to at such things, what they’re useful for, and exactly how many wild parties are involved. Over to Juliet! 

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It’s all about the books!

London Book Fair tends to be shrouded in mystery if you aren’t a literary agent. Some authors know roughly what it is, others only know the received wisdom that you ‘shouldn’t submit to agents then’, and others don’t have a clue (I didn’t until I became an agent). The word ‘fair’ makes you think of candy floss, roller coasters and circus tents but the reality – for agents at least – is a lot less glamorous. In simple terms, at the book fair, I meet publishers from all over the world and pitch them books, hoping they will offer to publish them in their territory.

At every fair, my agency pays to rent two tables in the International Rights Centre, and for the entirety of the fair, those tables are my home. By the end of the week they are covered in business cards, rights guides, and empty sweet wrappers (our sugar consumption levels are high at this time). Every 30 minutes, from 9 until 6, I take a new meeting, which will have been scheduled several months in advance. I will see people from the film industry, scouts (who are paid a retainer by foreign publishers/production companies to ‘scout out’ the hottest books), and a whole host of foreign publishers. This year I will see people from places as diverse as Ukraine, South Korea, Hungary and Taiwan. Big publishers also have stands in a separate part of the fair, where they meet foreign publishers and clients, and nowadays Author HQ runs programming for authors including speakers on traditional and self-publishing. I attended LBF as a student, hoping it would be useful as a networking tool, but whilst it was interesting walking around and seeing the scale of publisher stands, everyone was so busy in meetings that it wasn’t hugely worthwhile. We often have authors arriving at our tables asking to pitch their titles, but I’m always back-to-back in meetings and it’s not a particularly good use of time: better to research online and attend writing workshops and festivals where agents are specifically there in order to be pitched to by authors. I’m at LBF to sell, not to be sold to!

Before the fair, we draw up a rights guide. This contains our front list titles: cover images, blurbs, sales info and a list of countries where rights are sold already. I learn to pitch every title in the guide – some I know extremely well, but others are agented by my colleagues and it’s up to me to learn to pitch them as well as I do my own titles. I have to play up key selling information, and know the plot in depth. Some publishers will ask to know the twist at the end, whilst others just want a punchy overview. Sometimes I’ll have submitted a ‘big’ book just before the fair, to capitalise on the buzz the fair creates. At LBF 2013 I closed the UK and US deals for The Miniaturist the week before the fair, and closed another 20 territories during, or just after LBF. This year, I just closed a big UK deal for a debut author, and have offers pending in several other countries.

The publishers I meet are diverse, and not just in location – some publish romance, others only literary fiction, popular non-fiction, or upmarket memoir. I have a schedule of meetings which tells me editor name, publishing company, country, and any extra information I can find. Sometimes this is just a line telling me they buy ‘commercial fiction’, but sometimes this information is really in depth – some editors already publish other books of mine so I know their taste very well. I start the meetings by asking how business is in their territory, and what is working well for them: you learn a lot about different quirks of the publishing industry in other countries. For example, psychological thrillers often under-perform in Italy, dark fiction does particularly well in Scandinavia and France, and commercial women’s fiction is very buoyant in Germany. Often I am asked about word counts as translations have much longer page extents, so long books can be prohibitively expensive in translation.

Some meetings can be tough: maybe the editor says ‘no’ to everything, or sometimes they will tell you they didn’t like your books as they flick through the rights guide! But some are great, with very profitable discussions and the knowledge that offers are likely to follow. Last year I met an Italian publisher who was on the fence about one of my books – we had a great discussion about it and 5 minutes after the meeting I had an offer in my inbox. My best meeting in Frankfurt resulted in a Brazilian publisher offering for two of my books on the spot, and we closed the deal over email an hour later. I also see publishers who already have translation rights in my books. I can update them on UK book sales, when translatable text will be ready, reviews and marketing information. I can also get an update from them on the book in their territory: at LBF 2015 I learned that The Miniaturist was on the French bestseller lists!

In the evenings there are lots of events as well. This year I have three dinners and four parties to go to once I’ve finished meetings during the day. It’s a chance to catch up with people who I normally only deal with over email, and it can be great fun to spend time together, and forge lasting business and personal relationships. Face to face allows for more nuance, quick answers to questions which would be strung out over email, and in-depth discussions.

At the end of the fair I am exhausted: I normally start to lose my voice on day two. This year I will have 46 meetings with people from 14 countries, which is a personal best. After the fair I then have several days of follow-up: sending people manuscripts they have requested, negotiating new deals, sending covers and blurbs and editorial notes… It is an extremely busy time of year, but we always see a spike in business during or after, which emphasises just how useful it can be.

The book fairs are great for business, and great for renewing my feeling that publishers might speak a lot of different languages, but we are all united in our passion for good books.

Juliet Mushens

Juliet Mushens is a literary agent in the London office of UTA where she handles a bestselling and critically acclaimed list of writers including Jen Williams (THE COPPER PROMISE), million copy bestseller Jessie Burton (THE MINIATURIST) and popular brand Very British Problems (@soverybritish).

An End of the Year Waffle: featuring books, life & Star Wars

I like the idea of an end of the year post very much, but I am always somewhat scuppered by my terrible memory, where I’m never completely sure if what I remember happened this year, or when I was seven, or that night at Uni when I’d been at the Red Bull and vodkas. Anyway, here’s some stuff I’m almost certain happened in 2015:

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The Iron Ghost was published, and I survived releasing my second book into the wild

The sequel to The Copper Promise was a difficult book for me to write (I think I’ve waffled on before about the weird pressures of writing your first book to deadline when you know people will actually want to read it) so it was lovely to launch it with a bunch of friends and family, and generally people seem to be of the opinion that it’s a better book than the first one – even people who really loved the first one. I was worried about The Iron Ghost, but looking back on it, all the blood I sweated was worth it.

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The Silver Tide was written and edited, and I wrote the end of the Copper Cat trilogy

The last book in the trilogy was difficult for a different reason – I had enormous fun writing it, but ultimately I was saying goodbye to characters I love very much. It was the longest book I’ve written (so far) and I put everything I had into it, so suffice to say, what with all the crying and gnashing of teeth and general stress, I’m bleeding knackered. But happy. I have finished the trilogy and I am enormously proud of it. Roll on February, when we’ll be having the biggest Copper Cat party yet (come to the launch, it will be EPIC)

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Please note: Not an accurate depiction of the events of The Ninth Rain

 

I signed a new three book deal with Headline, and The Ninth Rain was born

I’m still getting over this, to be honest. I cannot tell you how much it fills me with glee to know that I get to continue writing books for a living, and that this next series has a home already. I’m writing the first book at the moment, and its too early to say too much about it I think, but I’m having a lot of fun with it – new world, new characters, new crazy stuff to engineer. It’s a challenge, this one, there’s no doubt about it, but I have witches blowing things up so I’m happy. Big love to my amazing agent Juliet Mushens for making amazing things happen.

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Angry Robot are sending The Copper Promise and The Iron Ghost to the USA

ROAD TRIP! I’ve had a lot of people ask me over the last couple of years why they can’t get the Copper Cat books in the States – you might think it’s to do with Wydrin trying to smuggle in copious amounts of rum, but actually its because no one had bought the rights. Thankfully, the most excellent legion of metal overlords have taken up the meady chalice and readers across the pond will finally be able to enjoy my nonsense. There will be new covers for the books, which I am very excited about – they are very different to the UK editions, but huge bags of fun, in my opinion.

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I was nominated for Best Newcomer at the British Fantasy Society awards

This was one of the biggest surprises of the year for me! And a totally lovely one. I didn’t win, but I did have a high old time at the banquet with fellow nominees Den Patrick and Ed Cox. It feels exceptionally cheesy to say it, but I’m honestly touched I was nominated at all, and super chuffed that The Copper Promise made such a favourable impression.

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I changed my day job!

I’m a copywriter at a creative agency now, which as well as sounding dead swish, also means I am a professional writer in both aspects of my life. When asked what I do, I can (almost) confidently say ‘I’m sort of well I’m a writer actually technically I suppose’ without looking too awkward. It’s fun, and it’s great to be using my actual skills between 9am and 5pm.

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I read lots of excellent books!

This is where it gets tricky, because I am awful at remembering what I read when, but off the top of my head here are a bunch of books that I enjoyed this year (If you want excellent reads, look them up): Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb, The Devil of Nanking by Mo Hayder, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell, Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neil, The Vagrant by Pete Newman, The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.

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So many amazing films

2015 gave us Age of Ultron (which I liked very much) and Mad Max: Fury Road which was fucking incredible. I’m currently obsessed with Star Wars: The Force Awakens (going to see it again soon) and feeling over the moon, tbh, that one of my favourite franchises has returned not just with a fantastic film, but with a fantastically diverse film. John Boyega is so enormously charismatic as Finn (how cool to finally get a Stormtrooper’s POV?), Rey is all I could have possibly wanted (I shan’t dally in spoiler territory, but thanks to her Star Wars has truly won my heart again) and like most of tumblr I now have a terrible crush on Poe Dameron (stormpilot trashlords unite).

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And we watched all of Thundercats. It was amazing. 

On that ridiculous fangirl note, I will stop waffling on, save to wish you all an excellent winter holiday and to hope that your 2016 will rock your socks off. I am looking forward to it.

My 2014: A Year in Pictures, Books, and Cider

It feels odd to say it, because I’ve never really been the sort of person to look back over a year and judge it on its merits or disasters (mainly because I have a terrible memory) but I think 2014 has been an incredible year for me.

The year before last I was pootling away writing novels that I confidently expected no one would ever read. I was happy doing that, because I’d worked out that writing was what I was supposed to be doing, but the next stage – the getting an agent and selling a book stage – seemed cheerfully impossible, the sort of thing that happened to other people.

And so, 2014, which thanks to the wonderful Juliet Mushens and Headline, saw my book sitting on the shelves of actual bookshops. I’m still, in my heart, a tiny bit stunned.

Here are a bunch of pictures from this year, with some of the people and moments that have made it a special one for me (I did that My Year thing on facebook but it generated a whole bunch of incredibly unflattering photos and none of my book launch, so bum off, facebook)

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Forbidden Planet London, February

We launched THE COPPER PROMISE in Forbidden Planet on my birthday. I was sweaty and terrified, but there was cake and lots of friendly faces. And they sung me happy birthday.

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SRFC, Royal Festival Hall, February

Shortly after that, I attended my first ever Super Relaxed Fantasy Club, having missed the first one thanks to a chest infection. As with everything, I imbued it with my sense of class and dignity. Den Patrick reads from his book, and does a better job than me as usual.

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Blackwells, Charing Cross Road, March

In March, Den and I did a joint event at Blackwells where we were interviewed by the fabulous Jared from Pornokitsch. Many copies of The Copper Promise and The Boy With the Porcelain Blade were signed.

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A Bookshop

The book is now in bookshops! I have no idea where this photo comes chronologically, but it has The Copper Promise in a Scott Lynch, George R R Martin, James Oswald sandwich so I’ve gone with this one. I have LOTS of pictures of my book in bookshops. It is amazing.

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Pyra, Tyrant and Tummy Lord

There have been a lot book photos, so here is a random photo of the cat on the day we let her out in the garden. She looks very pretty here, but promptly came inside and puked. Thanks Pyra.

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Lambeth Country Show, in a time and place known only as cider

Marty and I attended the Lambeth Country Show in the summer and drank vast amounts of Chucklehead cider, as is now traditional. I think the fact that this picture is on its side is appropriate.

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10 years in the iso cubes is a bit much for “loitering near the bar”

August was the Month of Conventions! At Nineworlds I ran into a Judge.

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Here I am, demonstrating that you can’t looked composed for a photo whilst talking on a panel

At Fantasycon I talked about Grimdark on a panel and apparently managed to say some sensible things (“lol Grimdark”, in summary) and managed to turn up late to SRFC.

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Land’s End, in lots of sun

At some point we took a holiday, and there was much relaxing. Cornwall was amazingly sunny and we bought several plastic dinosaurs.

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The Iron Ghost, sequel to The Copper Promise

And towards the end of 2014, my next book baby arrived! The Iron Ghost in all its blue glory. There are times when publishing seems to take forever, and times when everything seems to happen at once. I can’t believe we’re here already.

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My awesome Christmas zombie av, by the amazing Crispin Young

In the end, there were a lot more photos I could have put up here, most of them involving alcohol, but I have to stop somewhere. I would like to say a huge thanks to everyone who has helped make this year such an excellent one, and all those people who read The Copper Promise and said kind things about it – and above all thank you to Marty, who has kept me going this year with a mixture of support, booze, and inappropriate jokes.

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Books, together at last!

Fantasycon 2014: Cloaks, Curry, and Karaoke

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We did not actually go to this pub, but it is my favourite, so here’s a picture.

This last weekend I attended by very first Fantasycon, which just happened to be in York, one of my very favourite places. I was initially quite nervous about the whole thing – my lovely bloke wouldn’t be attending this one, I’d be staying in the B&B on my own, and I had both a panel and the super mega bumper edition of Super Relaxed Fantasy Club to attend. I suspected I would get lost, or not know anyone, or feel terribly homesick, or simply fail to interact with people successfully. My experience of talking on panels in the past has been somewhat mixed, and I have to admit that over the last year I have wondered whether it’s something I should do at all, given it seems to be against my nature in lots of ways – I always enjoy listening to people, and having opinions on things (ye gods, do I ever have opinions on things) but I’m generally better at writing these opinions down, rather than managing to verbalise them in a witty and concise manner in front of a whole bunch of people. That, I’m not so great at.

As it happens, I think this time I managed to get away with it. The panel, which was titled “Beyond Grimdark”, featured me, Adrian Tchaikovsky, James Oswald, and Martin Taylor, with David Moore moderating. There appeared to be lots of people attending (I can only be vaguely certain of this, as once I’m in the chair I’m usually too scared to look at the audience) and the discussion was lively and interesting, AND, get this, I even managed to say a few things that might have made sense, and that were quite important to me.

My attendance of Super Relaxed Fantasy Club was almost scuppered by dinner at a curry house that had a) the cheapest glasses of wine I’ve ever seen b) narn breads so big they hung them from metal trees c) a casual approach to actually bringing the food, wine, or the bill, and c) a window seat that was apparently cat-nip to all of York’s drunkest and most exhibitionist citizens (thanks to Lucy Hounsom and Max Edwards for a dinner I won’t forget in a hurry). Having finally coaxed the waiters into bringing both the cheap wine and the bill, we necked the booze and made a hurried and dignity-free journey back to the hotel (who coincidentally had the most expensive glasses of wine I’ve ever seen) so that I was just in time to stumble apologetically into the room just as Den Patrick was contemplating throttling me, no doubt. Luckily, the event itself went swimmingly, largely thanks to Den, and as well as top readings from Laura Lam, Ed Cox, Emma Newman and Niel Bushnell, we also had a bonus section where James Barclay interviewed Simon Spanton – a lot of great people, talking about great books. It was fab, and I felt a tiny sliver of pride at how this odd little joke on twitter has turned into an event that people actually enjoy. (A note for newcomers to SRFC – the fantasycon edition was somewhat less chatty than usual, partly because we were overexcited and packed our time with readers, but normally there is a greater ratio of sitting around drinking cider)

Other highlights for me included my first ever win in Cards Against Humanity, watching the marvellous Juliet Mushens and Andrew Reid belt out “A Whole New World” at the Karaoke (some things cannot be unseen), almost getting Adrian Tchaikovsky to recite some Dr Seuss for me, the excellent lady who ordered a copy of my book on her tablet while I was standing next to her (hooray 21st Century!), being a nuisance in the sword shop, and listening to Charlaine Harris talk – she has the most wonderfully reassuring voice. I chatted with tons of marvellous people and caught up with lots of friends (I won’t attempt to name them all here because I will forget loads) and now I am absolutely knackered. Really, fantasycon has broken me. Big thanks must go here to the Redcloaks, as ever, who were simply fabulous. Roll on next year!

Writing Advice: The Giant Mega Bumper Post

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Every couple of months or so I get a message from someone asking for advice about writing or publishing – sometimes it’s about how to get published, more often just the general meat and potatoes of writing itself. I’m not sure why anyone thinks I am the right person to ask – given my general avoidance of responsibility and fascination with mead I’m hardly a good role model – but I usually attempt to give what advice I can, normally in a rambling, wordy email that causes the person asking to a) not reply and b) never speak to me again.

At the moment, as I wade through the steaming bogs of editing book 2, I have even less time than usual and replying to such messages has fallen down the back of the priority sofa, so I thought it might be useful to chuck any advice I might give into the one blog post, and then I can just point anyone who asks towards that.

This is that post. The thing to remember here is that writing advice is wildly subjective anyway, so what worked for me may not work for other people, and I certainly wouldn’t present the following nonsense as THE RULEZ because in the end we all have to find our own path. Also claiming I know enough about this process to be able to proclaim a set of RULEZ would be exceptionally silly. I’m still learning here.

Some questions I have had in the past:

How do I start writing?

Just start. Seriously, don’t agonise over it. If you have a story you want to tell, or even a scene you want to sketch out, just start writing and see what happens. The key thing here I think, and it can be surprisingly difficult to grasp, is that no one has to see what you’re writing, and it doesn’t matter if it’s crap. More than likely it will be crap, but it doesn’t matter because at the moment it’s just yours to play with. The important thing is to start, because once you start playing with the words and chucking them together, you are officially a billion percent closer to having written something you really like (look, I do writing advice, not maths).

I never have time to write. How can I finish anything?

I am a calm and tolerant person*. I am full of rainbows and kitten-wishes and love, but every now and then someone will say something to me that makes me twitch a little bit. That thing is normally: “I would love to be a writer but I don’t have the time.”

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It makes me twitch because it sort of assumes that I have loads of free time somehow, that perhaps I roll out of bed in the morning, slip into a dressing gown and spend a couple of hours meditating on the day’s words… which is not the case. I have a day job and a social life like everyone else, and the horrible, sleep-destroying truth is that my books were written around the edges of everyday life. When I was writing The Copper Promise I got up earlier than I needed to and wrote before work, and now that my hours have changed slightly, I come home from work, feed the cat, wash up, and then squeeze in writing before dinner. Part of me would rather come home, feed the cat, ignore the washing up, and sit grinning at Tumblr for hours, but in the end, writing is my first priority. Apart from the cat. The fact is, you don’t get allocated extra-special-magical time because you decide to write. You have to find the time within your schedule, which normally means giving something up. Painful, but true.

How often should I write?

Ooo, this is a thorny one. The mantra we all hear of course is WRITERS WRITE EVERY DAY, and there are all sorts of issues sprouting off from that, concerning what makes you a real writer and how you even start to define that. I’m not going to touch any of that with a barge pole, but I do suspect that the more often you write the easier it is to continue writing. If you write for a couple of days, and then leave it for a couple of months, getting back into that rhythm may well be difficult, whereas if you sit down with your story every day, you won’t have to search too hard to find the door back into that world.

Having said that, not everyone is able to write every day. As much as I talked about making time for it, sometimes life just rudely elbows you aside and you don’t always have a choice; in the end, if you really want to tell a story, it will come out in fits and starts – writing is a bit like eating in that you can get away with not doing it for a little while, but in the end you have to. And once you have deadlines and contracts, it’s fairly likely you will have to find a way to write every day anyway.

Can you read this prologue I’ve just written and tell me if it’s okay?

Nooooooo. This is a very subjective piece of writing advice, so feel free to ignore it entirely, but for me personally I find the privacy of the first draft incredibly important. It’s the place where I can get everything hopelessly wrong, make huge embarrassing mistakes, and fart out great big wads of terrible writing and it doesn’t matter because no one will see it. That freedom is essential, because it gives me the space to try new things and pursue different tangents without the influence of someone else’s eyeballs on the manuscript. No one but me ever sees a first draft of my work, and I revel in that fact.

Similarly, I don’t give people bits and pieces of a book to read, particularly the opening section, until the whole thing is finished. This is because what makes sense as an opening chapter at the beginning of the writing process might have changed completely by the time you type the words “THE END”, and any advice you get on that prologue will be totally useless. Books change enormously in the writing, because they are tricksy weasel bastards.

(Now, some people I understand go to writing groups and they share writing when it’s in its early stages, which is both cool and something that wouldn’t work for me at all. A different path for everyone and all that!)

Being published looks awesome. How do you do that?

It is awesome!

It also tends to be slightly different for everyone. I self-published a novella, which got enough positive attention that I expanded it into a novel and submitted it to an agent who happened to be looking for Epic Fantasy at the time. She also just happened to be the Greatest Agent in the Known ‘Verse, and she loved the book, helped me to make it better, and then sold it to Headline. Pretty bloody lucky all round really, but I wouldn’t have got there at all if I didn’t have a finished book at the heart of it. When you talk to writers you often get odd stories like this, because the path to publishing tends to be a strange and scenic route. In general though, there is a tried and tested method that you can read about in a zillion places, most notably in a copy of The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. The simple version being:

Write a book, edit the shit out of it, query agents. Query agents until you find one you like who likes you. Get out on submission, baby. BAM.

Some bits of advice I would have about this process:

Really edit the shit out of that book. It can be easy to give it the once over and think, “Yeah, I’m okay with that,” because let’s face it, reading the same book over and over again can drive you loopy, but it is incredibly necessary. One of the biggest and most surprising things I’ve learned while working on The Copper Promise for publication was just how much of writing the book is actually re-writing the book. At the end of the first draft, you’re probably about 10% done. If that. Ouch. So edit the thing until your eyes bleed, and then have a read through and ask yourself if it reads like a book you would buy from your local Waterstones. And then just for luck, edit it again.

Get involved in the community, talk to people, and go to conventions. When I first heard this advice at the usual “How to get published” panel, my immediate thought was, “Well, I’m fucked then.” Because I’m shy and not very good at talking to people I haven’t met before, and conventions were full of strangers who all knew each other, and I was a dweeb. I am still a dweeb, but I made myself attend, and the good news is it gets easier with time. Also, as someone who often finds typing easier than talking, it’s definitely worth getting involved in the lively online community, and thanks to twitter I am now glad to be part of a sprawling network of writers, publishers, readers and bloggers. In terms of support, advice and inspiration, this is invaluable.

If things don’t go your way immediately, or even if the process is frustrating and slow, don’t get angry. Anger leads to the Dark Side, and they will make you wear a stupid helmet… Well, actually, getting angry is fine, anger is natural and healthy, but try not to get bitter about it, and try not to take it out on other people. It might be tempting to vent on the editor who rejected your story or to have a strop at the agent who wasn’t interested, but believe me they will remember, and that does you no good at all.

Never give up, never surrender! Writing is basically the best job ever. In a couple of hours time I will be wandering down to a bookshop to sign some copies of my book, and there’s no part of me that isn’t still stunned that this is a reality. All the work and the doubt and the missed Tumblr posts were worth it, because The Copper Promise is out in the world, and people keep sending me messages about which characters they think should have sex. I love it!

*stop laughing at the back.

The Best New Things: The Boy with the Porcelain Blade by Den Patrick

There are a number of lovely things about being a writer – two of my favourites are getting to read new books early (I am nothing if not mercenary when it comes to reading) and meeting and making friends with cool people within the SFF community. Den Patrick was someone I met around about the same time that Juliet Mushens, Super Agent and Queen of the Selfie, was reading through my manuscript. It was a nerve-wracking time, and Den kindly bought me a giant hot chocolate and talked me down from my panic. He’s also one of those writers who has an interesting list of past jobs to put on his author bio – if you ever need advice on painting tiny model orcs or how to put a spreadsheet together, he’s your chap.*

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And now I’m lucky enough to have an early copy of Den’s first novel, The Boy with the Porcelain Blade, a book which pleases me on many levels – for one thing, it demonstrates the unique breadth and variety of the fantasy genre. While my book is all dodgy taverns and dusty tombs, TBWTPB takes you somewhere quite different: it’s a little bit Renaissance Italy, a little bit Gormenghast, with a dollop of the X-Men thrown in for good measure, and the resulting mixture is the sort of unique tale I don’t think you’ll find anywhere else. It concerns Lucien de Fontein, a boy born with a strange disfigurement and fostered into a noble family, while growing up in a world of intrigue and tantalising strangeness. Lucien is an Orfano, one of a group of mysterious foundlings with strange disfigurements and abilities, treated with both fear and awe by the inhabitants of Landfall. Lucien, already trying to make his way in a world filled with unknown dangers and secret agendas, stumbles across something he shouldn’t have, and the repercussions for himself and for the Kingdom of Landfall will be enormous.

There is a game Den is playing with the reader here, where glimpses of this world generate more and more questions, until you are tearing through the book to get to the answers. Lucien too is an appealing character full of self doubt and vulnerability, the next in the great line of fantasy’s outsiders, those characters you come to side with and then care about deeply – the FitzChivalry Farseers and the Tyrion Lannisters. Den’s writing is lean and atmospheric, taking very little time at all to immerse you in the unsettling shadows and miasmas of his world, while his use of flashbacks in alternating chapters give Lucien’s journey an extra layer of meaning. It’s a debut novel that’s going to knock your socks off, and I reckon it will grow to be one of the most original fantasy series out there. So don’t say I didn’t tell you.

On Monday the 10th of March, Den and I are appearing together at Blackwell’s Bookshop on Charing Cross Road, where we will be interviewed by the alarmingly clever Jared from Pornokitsch. There will be book chat, witty pondering on the nature of the fantasy genre (probably) and Den and I will compete to see who can wear more items of black clothing. Do come along!


* I did try with the spreadsheets, honestly Den, but I got distracted by the colour coding.

Cake and Dragons: Launching The Copper Promise

 

launch2So on Wednesday we launched The Copper Promise at Forbidden Planet. There was birthday cake (for me and the book), an impromptu singsong, and a surprisingly large number of people, and I stumbled through the whole thing in a kind of dream state, I think. Only now am I starting to realise that this all really happened…

I got through the reading without any major cock-ups, drew increasingly wobbly dragons in books, and we sold out of all the signing stock. The very last copy was passed to me by the lovely Gillian Redfearn, with the casual comment of “This one’s for Joe Abercrombie.” I was operating on adrenaline fumes by that point, so lord knows what I wrote inside Joe Abercrombie’s copy – I just hope it made sense.

We then decamped to the pub.

launch9The rest of the evening was a pleasing blur, where I experienced the strange sensation of having almost everyone I knew in one room at the same time (without having to get married). I had the best time, you guys. The best time.

I owe a huge thanks to everyone who came along to celebrate The Copper Promise’s release – your support of me and the book means the world, and it’s not every day a debut author sells out at a signing. Thank you to the whole team at Forbidden Planet, who made a slightly terrified writer feel welcome and fed me biscuits in the back room, and thank to Headline’s Caitlin Raynor and her team, who supplied cake and kept me from having a nervous breakdown. Thanks also to my wonderful agent Juliet Mushens, whose unwavering support and invisible balloons (don’t ask) got me through it.

Now. The Copper Promise is out in the world, bringing a bit of old school sword and sorcery to your bookshelves. I hope you’ll join me for the next one.

The Copper Promise lives! Joy and Musings

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The Copper Promise making an appearance at Clapham Books

So my book is out today.

I have no words for how exciting this is, as you might expect. The Copper Promise is making its own way in the world, possibly carrying a stick with a handkerchief tied to the end, probably a red one with white spots. It’s off to go and live in other people’s heads now, and there is no bringing it back. All in all, it’s quite a strange feeling.

A brief sentimental pause…

This is the culmination of a dream for me, of course; a dream that I’ve had since I was a kid, and which I’ve never really believed was possible. Not even the year before last, when I’d written a number of books and was starting to toy with the idea of querying agents – even then I didn’t really believe it would happen, because it was always such a wild and impossible dream. It was like wanting a unicorn of your very own – a tiny one that would fit in your bag and sleep in a shoebox. You would feed her flapjacks, and she would write incomprehensible unicorn poetry into your bars of soap with her horn, and do tiny unicorn poops that smelt of candy. I don’t know. It’s a nice dream, but it’s unlikely to happen. Even as a small child, I knew that I wouldn’t find a mini unicorn under the Christmas tree, or waiting for me in the woods.

Being published was like that. Sure, sounds amazing, but wildly unlikely. Unicorn levels of unlikely, in fact. Except that it turned out that wasn’t the case. I’m still reeling slightly from that realisation. So huge thanks once more to my marvellous agent, the incomparable Juliet Mushens, and to my editor John Wordsworth, who has been a joy to work with. Thank you to everyone at Headline, particularly the design team, who have given me a cover a thousand times more gorgeous than I could have imagined, and thank you to everyone in the wider writing community, who have been ridiculously supportive and brilliant.

So if you fancy some adventurous sword and sorcery with a modern twist, The Copper Promise is out there now, looking for a new head to inhabit. I hope you can give it a home. And feed my unicorn.

No wait, that sounds dirty.

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Adrian Tchaikovsky: “A fast-paced and original new voice in heroic fantasy.”

Claire Nicholls, Sci-Fi Now: “A gripping, fast-paced adventure that’s a must-read…”

Nic Clarke, SFX: “…who doesn’t have a space in their heart for a knockabout swords and sorcery romp…”

The Eloquent Page: “I’d lost myself completely within a handful of pages and was entirely caught up in Wydrin, Seb and Frith’s world.”

Oh, and we’re launching it at Forbidden Planet on Wednesday the 19th of February, do come along!

Halloween Shorts: Constance Withers and the Wall

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Well, it’s that time of year again! This year’s Halloween Shorts have been herded into place by the marvellous Andrew Reid, and it’s a Team Mushens special – Andrew explains all here, where you can also find links to the other writers participating (and as they’re all Team Mushens, they’re all fabulous, witty and tremendously well-dressed, of course)

A quick note about the photo above: my mum showed me this photo for the first time this evening. The little girl with the awesome hat is actually my great-grandmother, and the mildly sinister couple (who were apparently lovely) were her adoptive parents. The tall woman in the back (who looks a little like Benedict Cumberbatch, or is that just me?) was the evil step-sister – no really, she stole my great-granny’s inheritance. It’s like Dickens or something.

ANYWAY. It was such a fabulous photo, I felt I had to share it with you, particularly as it feels very much in the spirit of my Halloween Shorts story. I like to think that in some magical alternate reality, that little girl grew up to be Constance Withers.

Click on the linky for spooky London-based strangeness…

Constance Withers and the Wall – Copy

The Copper Promise rights sold to Dutch Publisher Luitingh

Thanks to my amazing agent Juliet Mushens, I am pleased as punch to announce that The Copper Promise has a foreign rights deal with the marvellous Dutch publisher, Luitingh.

It’s funny, but when I started this process it never occurred to me that my book could end up finding a home outside of the UK. The Copper Promise will be journeying to a place I’ve never been – given the nature of the characters involved, this feels quite adventurous and therefore entirely appropriate. Snoopy dance ahoy!