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‘Frankfurt book of the Fair’ author, C.J. Daugherty, talks to us about NIGHT SCHOOL

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/

You can buy it here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Night-School-C-J-Daugherty/dp/1907411216/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1336736105&sr=8-1

And here: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/c-+j-+daugherty/night+school/8556473/

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Victoria Fox on why an island setting for her new novel was too tempting to resist…

TEMPTATION ISLAND, the brand new novel by Victoria Fox, is out next month.  In the run up to publication, Victoria shares the real reasons for her island setting…

‘An island is its own world. Bound by water, it is fixed, delineated, a perfect whole, set like a jewel on the cushion of the ocean. Standing on its shores, looking out to a blank horizon, it might be that this is the only place on Earth. It is a private kingdom, a secret fortress: a place where anything can happen.

Is this why islands seduce us? Containment is a primal instinct, the urge to occupy a manageable, knowable state. Islands imply safety, but they also imply danger. As children we see islands as things that can be possessed, or bought, or ruled: the coveted castle. For adults this translates to ultimate exclusivity, a getaway empire all our own. Islands equal power.

Power in isolation is a perilous thing. On her own plot, the islander imposes her own systems. Nobody to issue instruction or sentence; nobody comes to judge. Water, blue and deep, as vast and anonymous as the sky, holds her in and holds others out. It keeps at bay, and it keeps from bay . . . Time passes, and soon it is impossible to tell the difference. Autocracy: the definitive island fantasy?

Islands are part of civilisation but also distinct from it. The mainland exists somewhere beyond reach, but like anything that can’t be seen or felt it fast becomes a myth. It would be easy to imagine you were the only thing. What could you get up to; how would you spend your days? What good could come from quarantine, and what evil?

Before it is written, a book is an island. The author arrives with ideas to populate and grow; the imagination colonises, building a stage set according to its rules. Novels, like islands, are an enduring fiction of government and supremacy: a means of control in an otherwise uncontrollable world.

Picture an island, far from anywhere. It is self-regulated, unrestrained and free to do as it pleases. It masquerades as something it’s not, because the truth it is guarding can never be known. Inhabit it with extreme, obscene celebrity; wealth that knows no limits; power and fame beyond even the wildest invention; sex that burns and urges uninhibited. Is it heaven on earth, or a devil’s playground?

Paradise comes at a price. In a culture of excess, where can we go next? When in possession of everything, a blank canvas becomes the only object of desire: it marks a clean slate, a fresh start and a chance to begin again. We return to the island. We write the rules; we devise the philosophy. And then we tempt others to follow us there.’

Follow this link to pre-order a copy of Victoria’s latest book, Temptation Island.

To read more about Victoria Fox and her books, visit her website.

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Publication announcement

Congratulations L.A. Jones on the publication of her utterly arresting début THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY.  This is the first in a series for 8-12 year olds about a boy who is stolen from his dreams and sent to the place where nightmares are made.

Orchards Books / Hachette publish today, on the 3rd May, and the novel will be widely available around the UK.  Lucy kindly tells us below how THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY came to life.

What made you write THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY?

I wanted to be an author from a very early age. I started writing The Nightmare Factory when I was 21, while I was largely house-bound with M.E.

The idea came to me in a dream. It was so vivid; I can still remember it today. A brother and sister were trying to escape from a factory which made nightmares for the rest of the world. I grabbed a pad and pen and scribbled down everything that I’d dreamt. Then I went back to sleep. In the morning, I began writing the first chapter of The Nightmare Factory.

Can you sum the novel up in one line?

Everything changes for Andrew and his sister when they are stolen from their dreams by mysterious creatures woven from shadows, and taken to the place where nightmares are made.

Who will it appeal to?

Fans of Darren Shan and Derek Landy. Although aimed at children 8+ it will also appeal to adults who are young at heart.

Are you excited about publication?

Yes! I have been dreaming of this day my entire life, so now that it’s actually here, it feels quite surreal. The best part was seeing my book in the flesh for the very first time and realising that all the hard work had paid off.

Were you pleased with the cover that Orchard Books chose?

Yes! I absolutely love it! I think it really stands off the shelf.

What’s next in terms of writing?

I have a great idea for a middle grade series which I am really excited about writing. I can’t say too much yet, but it’s a thriller like the Nightmare Factory, with a bit of horror added in for good measure.

Buy your copy here.  If you love this, you only have to wait until the Autumn for the second book in THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY series: RISE OF THE SHADOWMARES!

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‘The Boy Who Could See Demons’ by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

I am delighted to post an exclusive extract from Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s new novel THE BOY WHO COULD SEE DEMONS, which will be published by Piatkus in the UK on 10th May 2012. Carolyn’s debut, THE GUARDIAN ANGEL’S JOURNAL,  has now been sold in 20 different languages.  On its release in Italy, it went straight to No.6 on the Italian bestseller list for foreign fiction, selling over 40,000 copies. The Dutch edition reached the No.2 spot in the Bruna bookshop. Further to being hailed as ‘The new Audrey Niffenegger’, Carolyn also spent three consecutive weeks on the Heatseeker’s Chart in the UK last May.

Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s latest novel is utterly gripping, about a boy who claims to have a demon and his psychiatrist who tries to cure him.

Alex:

People look at me funny when I tell them I have a demon. ‘Don’t you mean, you have demons?’ they ask. ‘Like a drug problem or an urge to stab your dad?’ I tell them no. My demon is called Ruen, he’…s about five foot three, and his favourite things are Mozart, table tennis, and bread and butter pudding.

I met Ruen and his friends five years, five months and six days ago. It was the morning that Mum said Dad had gone, and I was at school. A bunch of very strange creatures appeared in the corner of the room beside the canvas we’d made of the Titanic. Some of them looked like people, though I knew they weren’t teachers or anyone’s parents because some of them looked like wolves, but with human arms and legs. One of the females had arms, legs and ears that were all different, as if they had belonged to different people and were pieced together like Frankenstein’s monster. One of her arms was hairy and muscly, the other was thin like a girl’s. They frightened me, and I started to cry because I was only five.

Miss Holland came over to my desk and asked what was wrong. I told her about the monsters in the corner. She took off her glasses very slowly and pushed them into her hair, then asked if I was feeling all right.

I looked back at the monsters. I couldn’t stop looking at the one who had no face but just a huge red horn, like a rhino’s horn, only red, in his forehead. He had a man’s body but it was covered in fur and his black trousers were held up with braces that were made out of barbed wire and dripping with blood. He was holding a long pole with a round metal ball on top with spikes sticking out of it like a hedgehog. He drew a finger to where his lips would be, if he had any, and then a voice appeared in my head. It sounded very soft and yet gruff, just like my dad’s:

‘I’m your friend, Alex.’

And then all the fear left me because what I wanted more than anything in the whole world was a friend.

I found out later that Ruen has different ways of appearing and this was the one I call the Horn Head, which is very scary, especially when you see it for the first time. Luckily he doesn’t appear like that very often.

Miss Holland asked what I was staring at, because I was still looking at the monsters and wondering if they were ghosts, because some of them were like shadows. The thought of it made me start to open my mouth and I felt a noise start to come out, but before it grew too big I heard my dad’s voice, again, in my head:

‘Be calm, Alex. We’re not monsters. We’re your friends. Don’t you want us to be your friends?’

I looked at Miss Holland and said I was fine, and she smiled and said OK and walked back to her desk, but she kept glancing back at me with her face all worried.

A second later, without crossing the room, the monster who had spoken to me appeared beside me and told me his name was Ruen. He said I’d better sit down otherwise Miss Holland would send me to talk to someone called A Psychiatrist. And that, Ruen told me, would not involve anything fun, like acting or telling jokes or drawing pictures of skeletons.

Ruen knew my favourite hobbies so I knew there was something strange going on here. Miss Holland kept looking at me like she was very worried as she continued her lesson on how to stick a needle through a frozen balloon and why this was an important scientific experiment. I sat down and said nothing about the monsters.

Ruen has explained many things to me about who he is and what he does, but never about why I can see him when no one else can. I think we’re friends. Only, what Ruen has asked me to do makes me think he’s not my friend at all. He wants me to do something very bad.

He wants me to kill someone.

Pre-order your copy here

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Part 3: What does a literary agent do?

For my final entry on ‘What does a literary agent do?’ I will address deal making.

Every single day I am negotiating top deals in the UK, US and foreign markets, including film and TV rights.  This aspect of the being an agent gives my writers a platform to be successful.  A writer’s career will grow if they have an agent who is constantly trying to sell rights to their books, for instance selling translation rights to different countries.  I continue to sell rights to my authors’ backlist all the time. I attend all the major international book fairs each year, including the Bologna Book Fair, the London Book Fair and the Frankfurt Book Fair. I also make regular trips to the US to liaise with publishers.  At the book fairs I will pitch my authors work to hundreds of different editors from publishing companies all over the world.  I have 30 minutes with each one, starting from 9am through to 6pm with no breaks.  The adrenalin keeps me going.

A lot of work is done between the book fairs .  Sometimes, I like to have sold the UK & Commonwealth rights to a book and then get everyone else interested at the fair; other times I introduce books at the fair; or I will have done a US deal beforehand.  There are lots of tactics involved in creating excitement, and this is how the big advances come into play.  Every deal is important to me, every translation deal, because they can make my authors international bestsellers.

Deal making is very exhilarating but negotiating also takes tons of energy.  Sometimes negotiations go on for weeks.  Auctions are very exciting but it is always important, no matter what the advance, that the agent chooses the most passionate editor for the book and indeed the author’s career as a whole.  It is this passion and commitment from both the editor and the agent that gives the author the best chance of being successful.

The Madeleine Milburn Agency has a long-term vision and an international plan for each author, negotiating significant deals in the UK, the US and foreign markets, liaising with publishers around the world. The Agency works in partnership with film agents, and directly, to option Film & TV rights to leading production companies and film studios in the UK and US.

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Part 2: What does a literary agent do?

Author care has everything to do with being a literary agent.

Writing each day can be a lonely business, and authors need attention to ensure that they stay on track, write top quality manuscripts and deliver according to their contracts.  I like to handle all the business side of things so my authors can concentrate on writing.  They need an agent to bounce ideas off, to edit their work before it goes to their publisher and to offer valuable feedback at all stages in their career.

I like my authors to be as ambitious as I am.  I need them to see writing as a long-term career.  A lot of success only happens after three or four books are published, once the writer has really grown their readership.  There can be times that are more challenging than others, for instance when a writer is out of contract or has just delivered the first draft of a new book.  They have to trust their agent to get the best deals for them and to match them up with the best editors for them around the world.  It is also key that the agent can be frank with their clients’ editors and voice any concerns during the publication process, whilst the author can maintain a very smooth relationship with their editor.

There is a huge amount of work involved when submitting each manuscript my authors produce to all the major editors in every single country.  I have to create a huge amount of hype and convince people that they simply have to publish their books.  I create a lot of this hype at the international book fairs when I see all the editors in person.  This week alone, at the London Book Fair 2012, I had over ninety meetings with editors, pitching my authors’ new titles and backlist.  It is important to get as many foreign rights deals for my authors as possible.  I want them to be international bestsellers.  Also, keeping track of payments, making sure the contracts are fair and getting top advances and royalty rates for each deal negotiated are key factors to being a good agent.

Part 3 of What does a literary agent do? will address Deal Making.

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Part 1: What does a literary agent do?

A lot of people ask me what a literary agent does.  There is a huge amount involved in the day-to-day running of a literary agency, and indeed being an agent, but I believe the three main aspects of an agent’s job are talent spotting, author care and deal making.  I will explain each of these over the upcoming week.

Talent spotting – an agent has to find new talent to sell.  This is their bread and butter and will keep an Agency growing and expanding.  I do everything I can each day to grow my slush pile (which I call my ‘potential’ pot).  To ensure that the quality remains high, I attend writing events and give talks to writing groups around the UK and Ireland.  I’m also involved in panel discussions organised for writers wanting to get published.  I go to creative writing courses at universities and I keep this blog to promote my authors and ensure that writers know what my personal taste is and what I am looking for.  I want writers to ‘know’ me before they submit their work.  I think it is extremely important that writers know how to present their work to agents and that they look for an agent who is interested in reading their manuscript.  A writer wants to have a sort of affinity with their agent.  A lot of writers feel very despondent when they get rejected, but most of the time it is because they haven’t targeted the right agent for their book.

Day in day out, my passion is finding outstanding voices in both adult and children’s fiction and non-fiction, and negotiating top deals.  I have a very strong women’s fiction list and I am now looking to expand into crime, thrillers and mystery.  I am always on the lookout for fantastic Young Adult novels too and the kind of books people like to discuss in bookclubs, the so called ‘Richard & Judy’ reads – these are novels that are accessible yet have really interesting themes.  My main criteria is this though: no matter what genre, if I simply cannot book your book down, I will want to be your agent.

In my next posts I will address author care and deal making, particularly appropriate given that the London Book Fair runs next week from 16th – 18th April.

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