Tag Archives: commerical women’s fiction

4 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.


Holly Martin

Do you believe?

I love the idea of Santa Claus.  As a child, the excitement of going to bed on Christmas Eve was often too much to bear, knowing that this great jolly fellow was travelling across the world giving presents to every little girl and boy.  Soon he would be in my house, leaving presents under my tree. It was the stuff of fairy tales; magic, flying reindeer and a sleigh big enough for millions of presents and as children we lapped it up.

I love the lengths parents will go to purely to keep this magic alive for their children. We didn’t have an open chimney when I was younger.  We had some electric fire but that was OK because Santa had a magic key.  We didn’t write letters to Santa, we simply told Mum and Dad what we wanted and they phoned Santa up and placed the order, a little like Argos I imagine.

My Goddaughter writes her letter to Santa every year and throws it up the chimney.  The first year that Megan was old enough to do this, the letter went up the chimney and came back down a few seconds later only to catch fire on the roaring flames.  Megan stared at her letter in dismay as it crumpled in the heat, but her Mum quickly hugged her and told her that the smoke would take the words to Santa.  Of course she accepted it because as a child you trust your parents completely.

But should the belief in magic fade just because we are now older and supposedly wiser?  No absolutely not.  That’s why I love books, because amongst their pages is the ability to transport people to magical worlds with fantastical creatures, to introduce people to rugged heroes and brave heroines, where the impossible is possible and the ordinary is lifted to the extraordinary.  We go on journeys to exotic locations, we make friends and we fall in love with characters more real and tangible than a mythical fat man in a red suit.

THE SENTINEL by Holly MartinHolly Martin‘s YA fantasy novel THE SENTINEL is out now. Her adult romance THE GUESTBOOK will be published on Valentine’s Day next year.


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6 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.


Carrie Duffy

Christmas in Paris

It was Christmas Day 1998, and I spent it away from home, away from my family, in a foreign country. I worked from 8am until 6pm (and my lunatic boss made me clean all the shop windows, inside and out), then trudged back to my tiny studio flat where, not being the world’s greatest cook, I made myself a plate of pasta for Christmas dinner. Sounds miserable, right?

Well it was, sort of, until you consider that I was 18 years old and lucky enough to be living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world – Paris. On the Champs Elysees, fairy lights twinkled in the trees along the entire length of the avenue; the Christmas tree in Galeries Lafayette (my all-time favourite store) was bigger than any I’d ever seen; and a few weeks earlier, I’d done my Christmas shopping in the famous food shop Fauchon, buying handmade chocolates and brightly coloured macaroons for friends and family. So it wasn’t all bad.

Having needed to come back to England at the start of December for a university interview, I’d effectively forfeited my Christmas holiday at the Bureau de Change where I was working during my gap year (for a mad man who didn’t see the need to close on Christmas Day…) And that was how I came to be spending the festive season on my own and far from home.

Whilst it didn’t feel like much fun at the time, they say that, for a writer, no experience is wasted, and my time in Paris heavily inspired my second novel, DIVA. The early scenes in the book (before the women turn into fully fledged glamazons with high-flying careers), are very much based upon my own experiences of doing unfulfilling jobs by day, partying by night, and fervently wishing that the future would bring everything I was hoping for.

New Year’s Eve of that year was so much better than my Christmas had been, with a friend coming out from home to join me and my new Parisian friends. We spent the night (as you should) stumbling in and out of bars before ending up in a nightclub next door to Crazy Horse on the Avenue George V. Happy days.

Despite my less-than-magical Christmas, I headed into the New Year full of optimism for the future, and feeling that there were so many opportunities ahead of me. I was full of hopes and dreams, and some – like my ambition to become a published author – eventually came true. Every Christmas, I still get swept up in that same sense of optimism, and this year I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings.

Carrie Duffy‘s latest book DIVA, about two girls who move to Paris to break into the world of fashion, is out now.

DIVA by Carrie Duffy

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20 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.


Karen Ross

So this time last year, my chance of getting a book deal seemed only a little less likely than the prospect of waking up on Christmas Day to discover Ryan Gosling gift-wrapped at the end of my bed.

December 25th came and went. The closest I got to Mr Gosling was a DVD of Crazy, Stupid, Love.  And as for that book deal . . .

. . . But I DID have a book:  written, revised and parked on the hard drive of my computer.  I thought it was quite good, although the publishing industry seemed mysteriously to disagree.  I heard many sob stories about ‘publishing in turmoil’.  I was warned, ‘All the really good literary agents get three hundred queries a week – and take on about four clients a year.’  I was advised,  ‘Self-publish and hope to make a splash’.

But then I discovered there’s another way for a writer to get noticed. 

Actually, the whole thing was an accident.  I was playing around on Twitter instead of, er, working, and I happened to see a Tweet about a writing competition.  What appealed to me about this particular contest was that the deadline was the following day – and there was a prize of £1,000.

Before anyone could say, ‘You’re supposed to be writing a thousand words today’,  (if only my dog could talk, perhaps I would become the prolific writer I aspire to become) I observed myself responding to the deadline.

First three chapters:  PRINT

Synopsis:  PRINT

Application Form:  PRINT


And that was how I came to enter the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2013.

You’ll be thinking I won the Competition, right?


I made it as far as the shortlist – a lot further than I had ever hoped for – and after the prize-giving dinner, I discovered someone had gone home wearing my coat. . . which contained my house keys. . . which led to a Night To Remember. . . which is a whole different story. . .

. . . And that was the end of that.

Except it turned out to be just the beginning.  Within the space of six weeks, I had acquired an agent and a book deal.  Put simply, the Competition increased my visibility within the publishing industry and jump-started the writing career I’d been chasing for longer than I’d spent believing in Father Christmas.

Your turn next?

 There are dozens of competitions for writers.  I just had a quick Google and discovered there’s currently a £50,000 publishing deal on offer, open to anyone who has never been published or self-published.

Of course, I thoroughly recommend the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2014.  Or if you’re up for a spot of razzle-dazzle, take a look at Bookstar 2014 – ‘the world’s first talent show for writers’ – where finalists will get to stand on stage, and read the opening of their book to a panel of judges.

Talking of which, here’s my top writing tip:  Always read your work out loud.  I find that every time I stumble, or fluff a line, it’s because I’ve written a clumsy sentence.

How will next year turn out?  If you’d like to find out what happens to me and my book,  I hope you’ll follow me on Twitter @ComedyKaren.  I’d love to hear from you – especially if I’ve inspired you to get competitive in 2014.

Karen Ross was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2013. Her debut novel MOTHER OF THE YEAR will be published by Ebury Press in February 2014. 

Mother of the Year by Karen Ross

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Happy Publication Day: Agent Buston interviews Carrie Duffy

Congratulations to Carrie Duffy on the official publication of her debut novel IDOLHarperCollins publish on the 18th August and have secured fantastic promotional slots, including W H Smith retail, W H Smith travel, Asda and Amazon.  

Carrie read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Trinity College, Oxford, before training as an actress.  IDOL is her sizzling first novel set around the pop sensation Jenna Jonnson and the talented dancer Sadie Laine yearning to get her big break.  Carrie has kindly let me interview her about her route to publication.

Are you excited about your debut novel coming out? Yes, very! I’m also quite nervous too – having lived with it for so long, it’s now going to be out there for people to read and not everyone is going to like it! But I’ve had some early blogger reviews which have been really positive, and each one boosts my confidence a little more. So much has happened over the last year, and publication is the culmination of that – I can’t wait to see what happens next!

How long did it take you to write? I started the initial draft of IDOL about ten years ago! It’s been through many changes since, and during that time I would put it to one side, ignore it for a while, then pick up and re-draft all over again – I couldn’t quite let it go! So it’s very difficult to say how long, but the final version probably came together in a few months.

 Why did you decide to write in this genre?  I love this genre! I read Career Girls by Louise Bagshawe when I was sixteen, and have been hooked ever since. I like to think I have fairly broad reading tastes, but I love the glamour and escapism of bonkbusters – they’re so much fun!

Have you always written? Yes, ever since I was tiny. I can remember being about six and writing little stories on my Dad’s BBC Acorn computer! I flirted with the idea of journalism for a while, but eventually decided not to pursue it. I think I was always more interested in writing books than articles.

How did you choose your agent?  How long did it take?  I’d been trying to find an agent for years, and would go through a cycle of sending material out, getting rejections, writing something new… What I liked about Darley Anderson was that they were so open to commercial work – there was no snobbery about only taking literary material. I also liked the fact that they made a distinction between chick-lit, bonkbusters, sagas etc., rather than lumping it all in under women’s fiction.

How much self-promotion are you having to do? I’m dipping my toes into the water, and getting quite into Twitter (@cazduffy if anyone wants to follow me!) My website is almost finished, and I’ll have a blog on there which I’m strangely excited about.

I think self-promotion can make a huge difference these days, as there are so many bloggers and review sites out there, and the potential to connect with people is incredible. That said, it doesn’t always come naturally to me – there are times when I’d rather stay in my own little world and just concentrate on the writing – but I’m learning.

What are your favourite authors?  My favourite ever author is George Orwell – I’ve read pretty much everything by him and re-read regularly. I also enjoy writers such as Philippa Gregory, Kate Atkinson, Sebastian Faulks and Paullina Simons. In this genre, I love Louise Bagshawe, Tilly Bagshawe, Lesley Lokko and Tasmina Perry.

Do you ever get writer’s block?  Not really – I have days where it doesn’t flow as easily as other days, but I rarely sit staring at the screen with no clue of what to write. I always have lots of ideas.

What follows IDOL?  I’ve just finished my second novel, DIVA, which should be out next summer. It’s set in Paris, in the world of fashion, and follows the story of three women – Dionne, an aspiring model; CeCe, who’s determined to make it as a designer; and Alyson, who has little interest in the industry but ends up being sucked in! I think it has a slightly more mature and expansive feel than IDOL, but hopefully it’s just as fast-paced, glamorous and sexy!

Do you have any advice for new writers out there? It’s been said so many times, but perseverance. It’s taken me around ten years to get to this stage, so that certainly applies to me! I think if all I’d received was outright rejections then I might have given up, but because I did get some interest (positive feedback, invitations to send more of the manuscript) I knew I wasn’t writing complete rubbish. It just took a while for that perfect combination of right manuscript and right agent – but it was definitely worth the wait!

To read a copy of this sensational, escapist read click here.

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I am so proud of my very first author, Cally Taylor, for winning the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy for her  1,000 word novel opening on the theme of ‘keeping a secret’.  There is an extremely touching account of the ceremony on her blog, and the story itself.   Be prepared for an utterly chilling and compelling read!

The first book deal I did for Cally was with the Publishing Director Kate Mills at Orion for her first two books HEAVEN CAN WAIT and HOME FOR CHRISTMAS.  The latter is out this November.  I can’t wait.

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