Tag Archives: commercial fiction

14 days ’til Christmas: The Literary Agency Advent Calendar


In the run up to Christmas, the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency will be posting an entry from one of our authors each day, offering anything from writing tips and their inspiration, to Christmas memories and their wishes for the year to come.


JEMMA FORTE

Jemma Forte

A Mum’s Christmas Carol

On the first day of Christmas my daughter gave to me – not enough notice to knock up a costume for the school Nativity (she’s a Nazarene…?!)

On the second day of Christmas my mother gave to me – a long phone call about who was going to cook what, give what, buy what. She also became the eighty fifth person to ask me what the kids wanted so I scraped the barrel. Some……pens..?

On the third day of Christmas the postman gave to me – red and white cards which indicated I needed to go to the post office to collect my ‘home deliveries’. Again.

On the fourth day of Christmas the school gave to me – an extended shift at the fair on the tombola

On the fifth day of Christmas the school fair gave to me – not five gold rings but a nice virus that’s been going round and apparently is more contagious than the plague.

On the sixth day of Christmas my back gave to me – a slipped disc bought on by trying to simultaneously push two supermarket trolleys, both of which were filled with enough food to feed eight hundred giants for three weeks. Have we got enough crackers/dates? ‘No one likes dates.’ ‘It doesn’t matter. Grab three packs. Just make sure we’ve got all the random stuff we’ll be too full to eat. Have we got enough? HAVE WE?’

On the seventh day of Christmas my diary gave to me – three nights out in a row which I faced with steely, grim determination.

On the eighth day of Christmas I gave to myself – such a big hangover it nearly caused me to pass out in the aisles of Sainsbury’s where I’d popped back for ‘a few bits I’d missed.’

On the ninth day of Christmas my son gave to me – a weepy moment after I’d put him to bed and heard him singing Little Donkey to himself in the dark. It’s the unexpected moments that get you.

On the tenth day of Christmas my credit card gave to me – a minor heart attack when I realised that yet again I’d gone over budget by several hundred quid.

On the tenth day of Christmas my home gave to me – the problem of where to actually hide all the crap I’d bought for the children. Should I sew it into my duvet? Bury it in the garden? I have no more space. Perhaps I’ll hide it in the kitchen cupboards and sellotape said cupboards shut.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my greed gave to me – cellulite and a complexion resembling suet.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my partner gave to me – an argument about what it was exactly he was doing to help with project Christmas apart from buy his Dad some socks.

And then it was here and my family gave to me – a day to remember. And suddenly, it all seemed worth it. Merry Christmas everyone!

Jemma Forte‘s latest book, IF YOU’RE NOT THE ONE, explores the possible lives of Jennifer Wright, who falls into a coma after an accident and there experiences the turns her life could have taken had she stayed with three of her old boyfriends. Published by Mira Books in February 2014.

IF YOU'RE NOT THE ONE by Jemma Forte

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Agent Buston interviews Victoria Fox

Known as the sexiest writer in the business, Victoria Fox is the author of the fabulous HOLLYWOOD SINNERS, following the lives of four celebrity couples around Hollywood, Vegas and London.  Since MIRA published in  April 2011, Victoria has become a bit of a celebrity herself, from appearing on  The Vanessa Show in May,  building a huge online presence,  to her photo shoot on the red carpet

What does it feel like being a published author?  Vertigo. A nice sort of vertigo. Knowing the book is ‘out there’ for anyone to pick up is exciting but it’s also strange; it’s gone now, you’ve let it go, but still it’s a massive part of your life and a family of characters and storylines you’ve worked long and hard over. So, a bit dizzying. But every bit as wonderful as I’d hoped it would be.

 Why did you decide to write in such a commercial genre?  First, because I love those early bonkbusters, so full of style and swagger, and wanted to try my hand at one of my own; second, because I used to work in commercial publishing and felt I knew the market; and third, because the dream is to become a bestseller and I’d like to appeal to as many readers as possible.

 Who is the author you would most compare your work to and who are your favourite authors?  My writing style for Hollywood Sinners definitely draws on my biggest inspiration in the genre: Jackie Collins. Books like Lovers and Gamblers and Chances are packed with outrageous characters and wicked storylines – and they also have this great comedy element which is crucial to a truly entertaining bonkbuster. As well as Jackie, my favourite authors in the genre are Tilly Bagshawe and J J Salem. Favourites elsewhere are Rose Tremain, John Fowles and David Nicholls.

 How long did it take you to write your debut?  Hollywood Sinners took four months to write and two to edit.

 Can you pitch your book in one line?  A sexy, scandalous, full-throttle ride through the hidden lives of the rich and famous.

 How long did it take you to find an agent?  While working in publishing I put together a partial manuscript and sent it anonymously to the Darley Anderson Agency – they were always the big dream. I made sure my pitch was tailored to their list and tried to couch my project in commercial terms, explaining where I saw it in the market, which authors I hoped to sit alongside and so on. I was lucky: very kindly, they didn’t make me wait too long!

 Were you pleased with your book jacket?  Extremely pleased. Jubilant. I knew my publishers ‘got’ the book, the kind of retro vibe I was going for but also the up-to-date celebrity glamour, so I was confident they’d nail it. Even so, when the jpeg landed in my inbox it was even better than I’d hoped. It’s one of the most stylish covers I’ve seen in a long time.

 Do you do a lot of self-promotion?  It’s important to promote as much as possible. The market is very competitive and things like radio, TV and magazine interviews are crucial so I try to do as many of these as I can. Everything’s going online now and it’s good to be as ‘reachable’ as possible: your own website, Facebook and Twitter are great ways to make contact with readers. Hearing from readers is the best thing.

 Have you always wanted to write?  Yes. After university I wanted to work as an editor and immerse myself in other people’s books for a while, but the bug soon caught up with me. If you have it in you, it’ll always be there.

 What tips would you give to new writers out there?  Persevere. Everyone says it but that’s because it’s true. Persevere with your book, see it through to the end (no matter what state you imagine it’s in) then persevere getting it read. There are people who say they’re going to write a book and people who actually write one – decide which you are.

To buy a copy of HOLLYWOOD SINNERS, click on the cover below.  Thank you Victoria!

A juicy tale of glamour, corruption and ambition. -Jo Rees – author of Platinum

A glorious, sexy story of high-octane Hollywood intrigue – I loved it. -Lulu Taylor

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THREE QUICK TIPS

These tips are surprisingly obvious, but time and time again I read submissions that are weak in one, if not all, of these areas:

KEEP YOUR CHAPTERS SHORT: each chapter should be between 10 and 15 pages long to keep the reader’s attention.  Create a mini drama in every chapter and have a hook at the end of each one so that the reader finds it impossible to put down.  Long chapters can slow down the pace.  With the rise of the eReader, and shorter attention spans, short chapters are even more important.

CHARACTER: it is all about your main character – you have to create a real authentic character that readers can automatically empathise and identify with.  Readers want to warm to your central character.

PLOT : nowadays, a highly original concept works wonders – something you can pitch in one single line that will make people instantly intrigued and desperate to read your story.  Publishers like to instantly see how they can pitch the book to supermarkets and booksellers.

And finally, when I studied creative writing at St Andrew’s University my tutor, the poet and writer John Burnside, gave the class essential advice in three simple words: REWRITE, REWRITE, REWRITE.  Make sure that every word is absolutely needed.  Any excess words will slow down the pace.  Fantastic dialogue and fairly short descriptive passages work wonders.

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WISH LIST

Most agents have a wish list or books that they have loved, so here are mine:

ONE DAY by David Nicholls

All work by Maggie O’Farrell

MIDDLEMARCH by George Elliot

All work by John Fowles

THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING by Milan Kundera

All work by Sophie Kinsella

FUGITIVE PIECES by Anne Michaels

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