C.J. Daugherty, author of the hottest Young Adult début at the Frankfurt book fair 2011, is here to talk about her international success so far. NIGHT SCHOOL, the first in a series, was published in the UK by Atom / Little, Brown in January to great critical acclaim.
Rights have already been bought by 17 different publishers who will each produce their own edition. NIGHT SCHOOL will be published in the US next summer, and foreign editions will be published both this year and next. Having worked for Frommer’s Travel Guides, Christi is now a fulltime fiction writer. She gives us an exclusive insight into her life as a writer and her reaction to the international success of NIGHT SCHOOL so far.
At the Frankfurt Book Fair 2011, NIGHT SCHOOL was the hottest Young Adult book pitched to publishers around the world, and translation rights were bought by 17 different foreign publishers. How does it make you feel to have so many editions of your book?
I’ve always dreamed of this, so to have it actually happen is thrilling! The first translations are being published now – so, aside from the UK and Commonwealth countries, Night School is only out so far in Spain and France, but I’ve seen the advance covers for the editions in The Netherlands and Germany, and they look gorgeous.
Why do you think NIGHT SCHOOL has this international appeal?
I suppose there are two things. First, the timeless attraction of the British boarding school. This is always fascinating, especially to those of us who attended ordinary state schools. It seems extraordinary to go away from home so early and be put into the care of strangers. It’s so far from most people’s experiences that we become fascinated by it. There’s a mixture of romance and terror to it.
Then there’s the idea of trust — which is universal. My main character, Allie, discovers she’s been lied to by her family and friends, and so loses her ability to trust anyone. She begins to wonder if she can tell the difference between a truth and a lie. Anybody who’s ever been betrayed by someone they trusted knows what that feels like. It’s like the ground shifts beneath your feet, and just for a second you wonder if there’s any honesty in the world. I think we can all relate to that.
Who is your favourite foreign publisher?
NO! Don’t make me pick. I love them ALL.
Are your books published simultaneously around the world?
Each publisher has its own publication date based on its own publishing schedule that they think is most likely to ensure that buyers will discover the book. As I’m a debut writer without name recognition, this is very important. So it comes out at different times in different countries. Book 2 in the series will be out in the UK before Book 1 comes out in the US, for example.
NIGHT SCHOOL is published by Atom in the UK and yet the US edition is going to be published by HarperCollins in the US in 2013 – do they have different visions for your book?
I wouldn’t say their visions are very different, but we did do a separate edit for the US market. This was mostly to Americanise it a bit, so that words and phrases that are too ‘English’ don’t confuse readers. For example, Americans don’t use the word ‘skip’ to refer to a garbage container at a building site. And the word ‘jumper’ means ‘child’s dress’ in the US but ‘sweater’ in the UK. Beyond that we made a few minor structural changes — the start of the book is shorter in the US than in the UK. But in all other ways it’s the same book.
Does each foreign publisher organise the translations of the manuscript themselves?
Yes they do, and so far, I’m very happy with them! Agents choose foreign publishers for their clients in part based on their reputation for producing quality translations. So to that extent, we then rely on the publishers to translate the book well. A few translators working on my book have been in touch to make sure they’re getting certain words just right, and I love that attention to detail! There’s no German word for ‘summer house’ for example, so I sent the translator photos of summer houses so she could know which German word to use. Slang and colloquialisms have to be changed to the local equivalent as well. The translators I’ve worked with have been super diligent. And I admire them tremendously! The intricate language knowledge you need to translate an entire book is incredible.
What do you feel about the different foreign covers and interpretations for your book?
I love discovering each publisher’s take on Night School! The Dutch cover is somehow delicate and gives the impression of vulnerability. The German cover is very mysterious and classic. The American cover is still being designed but so far it looks thrilling! And the UK, Spain and French covers — which are the same — highlight Allie’s anger and wounded soul beautifully. I can’t wait to see the rest.
Does each foreign publisher use the same title?
Most of them are using ‘Night School’. But in some cases they can’t. Sometimes the phrase doesn’t have the same meaning when translated into a particular language. Sometimes there’s another book with the same title coming out at the same time. The Dutch publisher translated the title as ‘Society of the Night’. The Polish title will be ‘The Chosen Ones’.
Do you enjoy publicity events and signings?
I do enjoy them — I love meeting readers because I’m one myself! Events can be amazing — I firmly believe that people who like Night School are the loveliest, funniest people you’ll ever meet. So getting a chance to talk with them in person is always brilliant. But I’m careful not to do too many because I think you can end up running from one event to another, and suddenly find you don’t have any time to write. And taking long, luxuriant time to write is the best part of being a writer!
How important is your website and social media in getting new readers?
It’s so important to have a web presence. It’s the modern telephone. Through Twitter, Facebook and my blog I talk every single day with readers and book bloggers. It not only allows them to keep up with me, but it’s a two-way street — it allows me to keep up with THEM, which is just as important. I want to know the latest books out there, and the hot new writers. And at the same time, I want to be able to show off the new covers for the book, let people know where I’ll be signing, and just generally gab about the weather when I’m procrastinating. Procrastination is the mother-in-law of writing, you know.
Which books influenced you when writing this series?
I am always influenced by Cassandra Clare — her Mortal Instruments series combines the thriller and romance genres so skilfully. I also very much liked the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead. And, of course, Twilight. But I was, if anything, more influenced by TV series. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a big influence on me, as was Firefly (so, basically, anything by Joss Whedon) and the Gilmore Girls. The teenagers I know are irreverent and funny, and I want my books to reflect that. Whedon and Amy Sherman-Palladino (who made Gilmore Girls) are writers as well as directors and producers, and they both always get that tone just right.
How many hours a day do you spend writing?
I probably spend five hours of an average day just sitting at the table writing.
How much time do you spend on self-promotion?
About the same amount. About four to five hours. I usually spend the morning answering email, tweeting, updating my blog or Facebook page. And answering questionnaires like this one! I spend afternoons and early evenings writing and revising.
How long do you have to write the second book in the series?
The first draft of the second book is completed and I’m now working on the first revision. Writing it took about four and a half months. Revising it will probably take a couple of months. I expect it to be fully complete by the end of July.
How many more books are you writing in the NIGHT SCHOOL series?
I envision the full series as five books.
Can you give us a hint about what happens next?
First of all *THIS ANSWER CONTAINS SPOILERS* So if you haven’t finished reading Night School stop now and skip to the next question!
Allie has a lot to process at the end of Book 1. She’s found out that her family are not who she thought they were, and she knows her mother lied to her. In Book 2 she will learn who the mysterious Lucinda is. She’ll find out why Nathaniel is after her, and she’ll learn more about what happened to her brother, Christopher. She’ll also see Night School from the inside, and this could change how she feels about it. Most importantly, she will get stronger. And, since knowledge is power, she’ll be better able to take care of her herself. She’s tired of being rescued.
Do you feel that YA fiction will continue to be as popular and have the same crossover appeal as series such as TWILIGHT and THE HUNGER GAMES?
Absolutely. I feel that Twilight opened the Pandora’s box of YA, and now it will not be closed again. People — not just young people, but adults, too — are buying these books in droves, so I cannot imagine publishers ever stopping. I think the attraction of YA goes beyond the obvious books-geared-at-teens thing. I think YA is attractive because it is an area in which publishers allow — even encourage — writers to bust traditional genres. I’m relishing the freedom YA gives me to take chances with my characters. To write thrilling chase scenes and violent fights, and hot-and-heavy love scenes.
Where can I buy my copy of NIGHT SCHOOL?
My website has links to all the online book stores: http://www.cjdaugherty.com/