A statistical analysis of the science of writing

I finished drafting my seventh novel this week! It’s crazy to me that I’ve written so many books. In a lot of ways, I still feel like I’m only just finding my feet as a writer. The process of writing a book is really mysterious to me, so I wanted to talk about the process of getting a first draft on paper.

I’ve been using a website called mywriteclub for a few years now, long enough to have gathered data on how I wrote three complete novel drafts. The first was a book about ghosts in 2016, which took a full year:

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As you can see, this was a very complicated and drawn out process, as I edited it halfway through drafting (HUGE MISTAKE), taking out 20,000 words and really slowing me down.

The second book I kept a record of was The Quiet at the End of the World in 2017, which took 6 months:

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This one was a lot more simple, with no editing happening during the writing process (phew!). The third was my current Untitled Project, which took 7 months:

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Again, quite straightforward, but with a very long break in the middle while I did other projects (and also accidentally wrote another novel, which I didn’t use mywriteclub to track – I wrote it too fast, with about 45k written in a fortnight. I know, ridiculous, and definitely an outlier for my writing process).

From these graphs, I can see that I write novels of a pretty consistently length of 70,000 words. I always take at least one break somewhere in the middle (to do edits on a different book), usually for around a month. After I’ve taken a break, I always write a bit faster than before I paused, because my brain has had a chance to decide what comes next. I average around 2500 words a day during sprint times. I usually sprint for a week at that speed before slowing down again. I write a lot in spring, and much less during the summer.

While these graphs are all really different, the books actually always take a similar amount of writing days to complete. My seventh book took around 30 full writing days, as a very rough estimate. Ghost book took 33 days, and The Quiet took 31 days. Those are the days I was increasing my word count, not including the ones where I was plotting the book (or staring at the screen and not making any progress, which happens a lot).

If I’m working ten hours a day, that means each book takes at least 330 hours. According to Microsoft Word, my total editing time on book 7 was 21,000 minutes (350 hours), though I’m not sure how accurate this is, as I’m sure I changed documents a few times, and wrote scenes in other places before pasting them in.

editing time

So, it takes me at least 400 hours to draft a novel. Which is a scary figure to know. Because this book is under contract (i.e. it sold before I started writing it), technically, I could work out my hourly rate. This book will probably take another month to edit, if not longer – say another 400 hours. Then I’ll be promoting and publicising it, online and in person. All of which is unpaid, so the time taken has to be taken account in the earnings from the sale of the book. So – do I make minimum wage from writing a novel, based on the guaranteed income I currently know about? (Assuming it doesn’t ever sell out its advance and make any royalties –  AKA, the worst case scenario.) I think I do. Just.

The fact that I am unsure on that is a very worrying thing, as a full time author. This job is a risk, in a lot of ways. But the fact that even when I’m under contract, I’m still not sure if I’m doing work that will earn me a living wage, shows that some things need to change for authors to have sustainable incomes. An author still puts the same amount of work in, regardless of whether the book is a success or not.

Every writer writes at a different rate. Someone else might write the same novel as me in twice as long, or half the time. Does that change how much they should receive as an advance? Should this vary as they gain more experience and become faster writers? How could such a thing be calculated?

I don’t have any answers to this, I’m just trying to analyse the data I’ve been collecting about my writing over the last few years. Here’s what I know: I work as fast as I can. I have deadlines, and I am very efficient with my time, and at this point in my career, it takes me at least 1000 hours to develop a novel ready for publication, as a very low estimate.

As it supposedly takes 10,000 hours to get good at something, that means that after 7 books I still have a long way to go. I’m very interested to see where these figures change when I reach that point.

Also: I’m sure there are more accurate ways to track the time it takes to write a novel (I think Scrivener can do this?) but, honestly? I think it would stress me out to know a more exact figure that this. Part of the creative process is not knowing how things are going to work out. If I was comparing my drafting to a timeline of the last book I wrote, I think I’d go a little mad!

In other news: I have some upcoming events –

November 3rd-4th: Clexacon, Novotel London West – Tickets here

November 10th: SFX Con 2 at Foyles Charing Cross, London – ‘Tech Wars’ panel with Peter F Hamilton, Richard Morgan, Pat Cadigan and James Smythe. Tickets here

The Quiet at the End of the World comes out in five months, in March! Here’s one of my favourite scenes, of Lowrie having breakfast with her parents and their dogs, Victoria and Albert. It makes me smile even though I’ve read it a hundred times:

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There are now enamel pins and art prints in my etsy shop.

I’ve started a fortnightly books & baking newsletter.

Teachers! I still have a few slots open for events in World Book Day week – which in 2019 falls on the release week for The Quiet at the End of the World! If you’d like your class to help me celebrate, email me.

I’ve given a lot of interviews over the last few years on different blogs, so here is a complete collection of all my answers.

 

 

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How to solve ~~writers block~~

Today I am going to talk about some things you can try if you feel like you can’t write.

1) Put your draft on your kindle/print it out, and read it all the way though as a book. Ignore grammar and spelling and just LIVE in your world. Make notes of ideas as you go along.

2) Find some books & films with a similar style to your book, and watch them as a fan. Make notes of the things you LOVE about them & analyse why – why did you choose to write this story? Go back to the roots of your reading self and add more of those things you love to your book

3) Do a deep dive in your characters & write some fanfiction about them. Ignore your plot, ignore your world. Take your characters & just write a scene where they’re hanging out together. Make them fight. Make them kiss. Make them banter. Just get to know them & have fun with it. You might not use the scenes, but keep them at the end of your manuscript anyway. There might be a time in the future where you find a scene they’ll be perfect in. And if not, it will be great for making you ENJOY writing again, if you’re lost.

4) Expand your world. Choose a question from this long list that is somehow tangentially related to your story (e.g. if you’re writing a dystopian where they need to overthrow the government, decide how a political election would work in your world).

5) Make a moodboard or playlist or drawing. Pick out the features you think a future reader will like the most. Add more of them. Try and see your writing from the perspective of your biggest fan.

6) Skip ahead. If you’re stuck, there’s no reason to force yourself to finish a scene before you move on. Write the ones you’ve had in your head that you’re excited to write. Any word count is progress, even if by the time you fill in the gaps it needs rewriting completely

7) Brainstorm new scenes. Don’t try and write them! Just make a list of snippets of dialogue, creepy/funny/tense moments that could bring a scene to life, endearing character traits for side characters, good names.

8) Write something in a different format. If you can’t make progress with prose, write a diary entry, letter, script, social media, text conversation, TV show, fic. It will flex your brain and add something refreshing to the manuscript – it might even give you ideas for new plots

This list has mainly been for MYSELF, because I have to finish this book and I am having the worst time getting my brain in gear. When it’s your job, you have to write even when you don’t want to. These things all help me just DO IT.

Weird internet conspiracy theories: a primer

I’ve recently become sucked into a wormhole of internet conspiracy theories that’s taken over my life. I’ve written a post before about my massive obsession with books set online:

For me personally, books about internet culture are something I want so much and am never satisfied by. I am 23, and I can’t remember a time without the internet. I’m sure there probably was a time I didn’t use the internet (probably around the time Harry Potter first came into my life), but I don’t remember it.

Despite that, books rarely, if ever, talk about life online. There might be occasional references to Facebook, but they don’t actually talk about the internet. At least not as a vital, relationship defining form of communication, the way I use it. My friendships wouldn’t be the same without the internet. The way I speak to people, and the language and topics we cover, are completely different online to the way we talk in real life. The internet has a language all of its own.

Give me the historical novels set online. Give me the thrillers set on Tor. Give me the YA coming of age novels where a teen is trying to reconcile who they are in real life with who they are on 4chan or on tumblr (or both). I want these stories, and they aren’t being told.

Three years after I wrote that, I finally sat down and wrote a novel set on the internet. And in the process of writing it, I discussed online conspiracy theories with a lot of people. It turns out, most of my favourite, life-changingly bizarre internet events are generally unknown. This is unacceptable, because some of these stories will change your life. Especially if, like me, you crave fiction about the internet.

So I thought I’d share a list of my favourite write-ups of weird events that have happened on the internet. The fan essay is an unappreciated form of artwork that deserves to be more widely shared. Consider this a primer in the narrative potential of the internet, for anyone who hasn’t spent their whole childhood in internet black holes (cannot relate).

Note: these are all looooong. I personally put these on my Kindle and read them as weird bedtime stories, so the second link is to a PDF which you can download if you’d like to do the same.

Second note: You will probably be confused by some of the terminology and events discussed in these essays. That’s because internet culture is fast moving, and sadly, is not very well documented, unlike other periods of history (except by the University of Iowa, who I adore). Treat these documents like primary sources from Ancient Greece, and read them with the expectation you’ll have to pick up certain things as you go along. The fact that internet culture has changed so much in the three decades it has existed is absolutely fascinating to me, and makes these essays all the more interesting.

Okay, notes are done. Let’s begin.

9) The cassandra clare one (PDF) 2006 -This one is about the YA author from her Harry Potter fandom days, circa 2002 on LiveJournal. A masterclass in detective work.

8) That Lorde powerpoint (PDF) 2018 – everyone has seen this one recently, I think, about Lorde’s affair with her producer. A fresh take on the typical fan essay, that’s very visual.

7) The Scott/Tessa secret baby one (PDF) 2013 – A view into the mind of a fan who is convinced the ice skaters are not only in a relationship, but have a child.

6)  Kaylor timeline (PDF) 2015 – a collection of meticulously compiled tumblr posts documenting every interaciton that Taylor Swift and Karlie Kloss have ever had. A+ work, here.

5) The real life cult (PDF) 2002 – WHY

4) The terrifying Korean stalkers (PDF) 2012– this gives me chills, still.

3) The Dan/Phil one (PDF) 2011 – i really hope the person who researched this now works for the FBI because the level of detail is immense. This is the only youtuber one on this list, but I’m sure there’s a lot more of these kind of essays out there.

2) The inevitable One Direction one (PDF) 2014 – I LOVE THIS. (Also worthy of note: 1D’s rainbow bears)

1) The msscribe story (PDF) 2006 – The original. The best. If you read the above Cassandra Claire saga, a lot of the cast involved in that will be familar to you here. This involves a fan who desperately tried to become friends with Cassandra Clare, and ended up causing a huge rift in the community instead. This literally rewrote my brain and made me the human being I am today. (I am old enough to recognise a lot of the usernames in this story. I wasn’t there in 2001, but i was definitely in the HP fandom a few years after that.)

Happy reading, pals! And if any of the Google drive links go down, please let me know so I can fix them, however far in the future you’re reading this. Gotta keep that fan history preserved, right?

If you’d like to read more internet analysis, please take a jaunt to my fandom tag on tumblr, which is full of interesting essays and content. If you like my work, you can support me on ko-fi.

Oh and the book I’m writing, set on the internet? I will keep you up to date on its progress into the world of publishing over the next few months.

Cover reveal – The Quiet at the End of the World

Drumroll please! I am very pleased to share the cover of The Quiet at the End of the World!

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Out March 2019, this is about the last boy and girl born after humanity stop being able to conceive. With GOLD FOIL 💃

This was designed by Lisa Horton: http://lisa-horton.squarespace.com

How far would you go to save those you love? 

Lowrie and Shen are the youngest people on the planet after a virus caused global infertility. Closeted in a pocket of London and doted upon by a small, ageing community, the pair spend their days mud-larking for artefacts from history and looking for treasure in their once-opulent mansion. Their idyllic life is torn apart when a secret is uncovered that threatens not only their family but humanity’s entire existence. Lowrie and Shen face an impossible choice: in the quiet at the end of the world, they must decide who to save and who to sacrifice…

Some of my favourite things about this cover:

+ The mix of biological (the gold nervous system), mechanical (the cogs) and electronic (the fluorescent vertical code) elements

+ Lowrie & Shen holding hands and staring off into the distance like they’re contemplating the future

+ that quote!

+ the font which is now officially My Brand’s Font

+ The deep dark beautiful glowing blue

The Quiet at the End of the World will be published in the UK and Australia with Walker Books in March 2019.

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Tumblr tag

commission

Illustrator @stoffberg has just started accepting commissions, and I couldn’t resist getting this lovely artwork done of Lowrie, Shen and their robot pal Mitch from The Quiet at the End of the World. I love Miles’ style, and he’s captured the mudlarking gang and the crumbling ruins of London so well. I’m thrilled.

IN OTHER NEWS:

I’ve started a fortnightly books & baking newsletter.

I wrote an article on LGBT+ fiction for the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2019, which published this week.

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The Loneliest Girl in the Universe is currently £3.89, if you’ve been waiting to snap it up.

From September I’m going to be running the Rugby Sparks Young Writers group for Writing West Midlands, so if you know anyone in years 5-9 in the area who loves to write, let them know.

I have designed some enamel pins which are up for preorder now.

The Loneliest Girl continues to orbit around America. Here are some nice new quotes:

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And here’s a snazzy Epic Reads title generator for it…

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I made this to celebrate the first ever LGBT STEM day, for my favourite grumpy gay computer programmer, Clove Sutcliffe:

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And that’s all, folks! Hope you’re having a good heatwave where you are . . . x

Kindle Highlights for authors

As you may or may not be aware, Amazon Kindle has a feature where popular sentences of eBooks are underlined, showing parts that multiple readers have highlighted.

This is basically the best gift ever for a writer: if you’re ever feeling down, go and flick through your eBook and see what people like. It’s great.

I thought I’d share the quotes that were highlighted in one of my books – The Next Together, since it’s been out the longest.

To be honest, if I stopped joking around I’m pretty sure I’ll go to bed and never get up again. I’m only barely holding onto my sanity right now through a series of poorly thought-out puns.

All throughout history they had been doing this, finding and loving each other and being ripped apart before they even had a chance to live.

I don’t think there are any true heroes. Just people who ignore their survival instincts long enough to do something incredibly foolhardy.

It doesn’t do any good to mourn for someone who is gone. They don’t care. Their story has finished.

Will you marry me, Katherine? I want us to spend this life and the next together.

“Did you have nightmares about it?’ He nodded hopefully and then said, completely seriously, “It was traumatising.”

“A pencil. A PENCIL,” he said, with growing horror, staring into empty space as if at the horrific vision she had laid before him. He shook his head. “Some people just want society to collapse.”

Isn’t that cool?! From that I’ve learnt that readers like the romance, the humour and the intellectual thoughts about life. I can provide more of that.

Authors, I’d love to see yours if you do this (and make sure to add the quotes to the book’s Goodreads page, as it’s a great way to draw in new readers).

Behind the book – Audiobook narrator Lauren Ezzo

Previously in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter UK Editor Library Assistant  | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager |Blogger |Scout |Translators Book charity Copyeditor | Journalist | US Editor  | Scholastic Book Fair Product Manager | MG/YA Author

Last week I interviewed Catherine Doyle, and this week I have another special guest on the blog – the narrator of the audiobook for The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, Lauren Ezzo. This is my first English-language audiobook (I do have one in German), so I am incredibly excited to listen to my book spoken out loud. I’m anticipating that it’ll be a strange but wonderful experience.

I was given the choice of a few different narrators by HarperCollins, and I chose Lauren because her sample sounded like Romy in my head – she perfectly captured the mix of confidence and naivety that Romy has. If you’d like to listen to Lauren’s version of Romy (and, of course, buy it!), there’s a sample on the Audible page and another on soundcloud here.

audible

With that, onto the interview!

How did you become an audiobook narrator? Did you do any work experience
or internships?

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In college, I majored in Theatre/English — which was, in retrospect, a pretty great setup! I  was hired for my first title by Brilliance Publishing — a friend of mine from school was working there and happened to know they were hiring new narrators. I went in with copies of ‘Love Wins’, by Rob Bell, ‘Fragile Things’ by Neil Gaiman, and ‘Twilight’ (maybe you’ve heard of that one). The rest is history!

What books have you worked on in the past?

Several!! At this writing, I’ve narrated over a hundred, hooray!! Some favorites or notables include “The Last to See Me”, by M. Dressler, “Rules for Werewolves”, by Kirk Lynn, “The Butterfly Garden”, by Dot Hutchison, “Kill All Happies”, by Rachel Cohn, “The Hundredth Queen” by Emily R. King, and, sincerely, “The Loneliest Girl in the Universe”. [All of the books narrated by Lauren on Audible are here]41kblU0-EyL._SL500_.jpg

Ahh, thank you so much! How long does it take to record a book? 

It depends on the title — the general formula I use is about two minutes per page — so for a 300 page book, I’d budget 10ish hours. “Loneliest Girl” was a bit different since many of the ‘chapters’ are so short — less than a page sometimes, so she took about 6 hours!

Do you do it in one sitting?

I do and don’t record all in one sitting — usually I like to work in sort of standard business days — 9ish to 5ish, with breaks and lunch — to keep easy track of my progress and keep things expedient. If I were able to record all in one go, though, I think I would….to stay in storyteller brain for that long would be great for me and the book.

Do you work from home? What kind of equipment do you need?

I do! I have a custom built isolation sound building courtesy of my loving father, and when I do record at home — a la “Loneliest Girl” — that’s where I’ll be! Pared down as simply as possible, all you need to record is a good space, a microphone, an interface (a machine which converts soundwaves captured by the mic into binary for the computer to read), and a computer, and I have all of these — but of course things get a bit more complicated and technical than that.

I also have a lot of filthy tea mugs and cookie crumbs in there, but you don’t really NEED those….

How do you choose voices for characters? Do you take notes in advance of a recording session? 

Ooof, good question. Not enough people ask this one! First I look at my ability. When the text says something to the effect of. ‘ the deepest, rumbliest voice EVER’, I look to see what my version of that can be that will fit the tone of the story — sincere? comic? scary

Secondly, I look to see what my author wants or needs — so, with “Loneliest Girl”, I knew Romy should sound a little like the main protagonist from ‘Hundredth Queen’, since that’s what you (Lauren) listened to!51bpDKF1wKL._SL500_

Then I go to my text — what descriptors am I given? Pitch, accents, even body characteristics– does this character have jowls, or big teeth? Are they painfully shy? And I let all those things sort of percolate in my brain, along with the theme and feel I get from the book.

For Romy, I knew what my base voice was, but I thought it was also important that she’s a little immature — not her personality, but the fact that her adolescence has taken place in isolation. She has no peers to mimic or bounce her thoughts off of, and no adults on which to model her behavior, other than what she sees through her messages and downloaded media.

So I tried to err on the side of youth, enthusiasm, when we first meet her, and then adjusted accordingly as the plot proceeded. There’s also a lot of ‘me’ voice in Romy, since she’s so relateable — a lot of her reactions and syncopations are mine.

J, Loch, and Ness I had fun with — these are all characters whose voices we hear through Romy. Her brain and emotions ‘distort’ them. I wanted Loch and Ness to be a little overdone, overdramatic — Romy’s ideals. And J…without giving too much away, I wanted to sound a bit like the ‘best friend’ — the guy everyone falls in love with.

What is the most difficult part of recording books? (mispronouncing things would
worry me!)

DEFINITELY worrying about pronunciation!! And listeners will nail you every time on that! But there are resources to take care of those things, and they’re usally not a huge issue in the end.

I think for me the most challenging aspects are the same for any collaborative artist — I want the work to be good and intriguing, and for my performance to suit it — not just for me, but for its author, its engineer, its publisher, its listener. Audiobooks are NOT an isolated experience. I’m the voice of a given title, but many, many people get to it before and after I do, and the pressure to deliver, for me at least, can be scary.

What’s your favourite part of your job, and what are you proudest of in your
career? 

Another really good one!!!! My favorite part of my job is that I get PAID MONEY to ACT and READ. Those are my favorite things in the world. If I can ever get paid to nap and eat, we’ll reevaluate, but that’s the best part. These are the things that make me happiest.

What would be your #4dreamprojects

Only 4!?!?! Okay.

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1. Anything Neil Gaiman. Preferably a title he’s written as a gift  to me personally, but really anything of his would do.

2. The “Loneliest Girl” sequel, set after Romy reaches Earth II, chronicling her rise as its first matriarch.

3. A book from my childhood; see below

4. A previously male-narrated classic, a la Dracula, Phantom of the Opera, Remains of the Day, Hero’s Journey…the guys get a lot of good ones.

A Loneliest Girl sequel, huh? Well, we’ll see….. 😉

Has being involved in publishing changed how you read books for pleasure? 

Big yes. In the first place, I have less time to do this. In the second, I’ve learned IMMENSE amounts about writing, and what makes effective writing, from all the reading. If you are an author, please, make reading at least some of your work aloud part of your editing process!

I read out loud and it is SO HELPFUL. Especially in later edits, it’s so easy to skim over sentences and reading aloud really catches you up on the clunky things.

What are some of your favourite recent reads from your childhood? 

444357Eeee I love this!! My ‘first’ book was the picture book “Put Me in the Zoo” by Robert Lopshire — the adults in my family had to hide it from me, they got so sick of it.

Other first loves include “Go Dog Go”, The Time-Warp Trio, “His Dark Materials”, Shel Silverstein, “The Hobbit”, “Harry Potter”, numerous Eyewitness books, “The Cricket in Times Square”, “Ender’s Game”, “Walk Two Moons”, “Because of Winn Dixie”, “Belle Prater’s Boy”, “A Wrinkle in Time”, “Pure Dead Magic”, Tamora Pierce, Suzanne Fisher Staples, “The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales”, Avi, Magic Treehouse, and really anything if it held still long enough.

Do you have any advice for aspiring narrators? 

Acting classes are esential – I’d say at least a year’s worth, of reputable training, but really
that should be continuing as your career progresses. Invest in a quality microphone
within your budget; no USBs should be visible anywhere. Be courteous and kind to
everyone in the industry you come across — you don’t know who they are or who
they’ve worked with, and they deserve a pleasant interaction at the very least. Listen
to other narrators and industry professionals, and decide what is good for you —
there’s a lot of advice. You don’t have to take it all, and it’s not possible anyway. If
it fits you, that’s the best advice. Also brushing your teeth and McDonald’s hashbrowns get rid of mouth noises in situ.

Thank you for the wonderful interview, Lauren! I learnt a lot from this – and now I kind of want to become a narrator too. 


Lauren Ezzo is a Chicago based audiobook narrator and commercial voice
talent. A Michigan native and Hope College alumna, at this writing she has
narrated over 100 titles for authors including Catherine Ryan Hyde, Adam
Rapp, M. Dressler, Christopher Rice, Kirk Lynn, Lauren James, & Dot
Hutchison.

She has won multiple awards for her narration, including several
“Best of the Year” lists, and several Earphones Awards. In 2016, her
performance of “The Light Fantastic”, by Sarah Combs, co-narrated with
Todd Haberkorn, was named one of AudioFile’s best books of the year. She
was accorded the same honor in 2017 from School Library Journal for her
narration of “To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the
Donner Party”.

In 2018, she was Audie-nominated as part of a full cast of
narrators for Best Original Work, “Nevertheless We Persisted”, performing
two pieces – one of which she authored. She is a proud member of the Audio
Publishers Association, and a lifelong bookworm. Follow her exploits on
Facebook at @laurenezzoaudiobooks, on Twitter at @SingleWithFries, and
on the web at laurenezzo.com!

Behind the book: Middle Grade and Young Adult writer Catherine Doyle

Previously in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter UK Editor Library Assistant  | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager |Blogger |Scout |Translators Book charity Copyeditor | Journalist | US Editor  | Scholastic Book Fair Product Manager

I am resurrecting an old blog series where I interview different people involved in the publishing industry, behind the scenes of the books. One of my oldest writing friends,

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Cat and me in 2014. We were babies!

Catherine Doyle, has a new book out. Cat and I met because we have the same agent, and got our book deals around the same time – me for The Next Together, and Cat for Vendetta, the first book in her Mafia-based YA romance trilogy.

We were both newbies in the publishing industry, and it was so incredibly reassuring having someone in the same position to me to talk to. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be the author I am today without Cat. She’s one of my first and most trusted beta readers.

Cat’s next book The Storm Keeper’s Island is the first in a Middle Grade series, and I am absolutely fascinated by the difference in crossing over to a new audience in a different genre – so I’m bring back this series just so I can be really nosy and ask her lots of questions.


To start, can you tell us a little bit about your books, both YA and MG?

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The YA Blood for Blood trilogy (Vendetta, Inferno and Mafiosa) is about a seventeen-year-old girl from the Chicago suburbs called Sophie Gracewell, who ends up at the centre of a blood war deep in the Sicilian underworld. When she falls for a mysterious boy in her neighbourhood, she tumbles head first into a dangerous society that holds the untold secrets of both her family’s past and her true identity. It’s a mix of romance, danger and intrigue, with a strong female friendship at its core.

36634765 (1)The Storm Keeper’s Island is the story of eleven-year-old Fionn Boyle, who is sent to stay on the remote island of Arranmore with a grandfather he’s never met, when his mother falls ill one summer. When Fionn sets foot on the island, an ancient magic begins to stir, and he soon finds himself at the heart of a race to become the island’s next champion – a Storm Keeper who can wield the elements of earth, wind, water and fire. But the island isn’t the only one who has been waiting for Fionn. Deep beneath the jagged cliffs or Arranmore, an ancient enemy has been waiting too. It is up to him to ensure she doesn’t rise again and wreak havoc on the world. It’s a story about adventure and family, memory and magic, and a wild, untameable sea.

Was writing a middle grade novel different from writing a Young Adult novel? Which was easier? Which do you prefer?

I didn’t find the process of writing these stories all that different – I was still focusing on character development and plot progression and trying to keep the chapters as pacey as possible. I think I prefer writing Fionn’s story because it is replete with possibility. As an author, there is just something undeniably fun about creating your own system of wild magic, and letting your imagination run riot with it.

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A YA Shot 2015 panel with Cat and Lucy Saxon on Tragic Romance in YA

Do you think there are any topics that are ‘off limits’ for MG? Is there anything that younger readers can’t handle?

Children are intelligent and curious and empathetic. They live in the same world that we do, and see and hear much more than we might think. I would say very few topics are ‘off limits’ provided they are handled with care and sensitivity, and an awareness of the age of the reader.

Do you think there is a trend for magical MG at the moment? What is so special about this type of book? What do you hope to see happen in Children’s publishing in the future?

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Magical middle grade novels have always been popular, and I can certainly see why. There’s something very freeing and exciting about stories that leap into the unknown, that stretch your imagination to its limits and look at the world through a slightly sparklier lens. They’ve always been my favourite kinds of stories.

I would love to see even more stories that have been inspired by different cultures, and in particular, magical stories that play on the myths and legends of the countries in which they’re set. Rick Riordan’s new publishing imprint seems to be focusing on this – and I can’t wait to read the books he’s championing this year. My next read is Aru Sha and The End Of Time.

Where do you see your writing going in the future? Do you want to carry on writing MG?

For now, my heart is definitely in Middle Grade Fiction. In fact, it’s still on Fionn’s island – and it will be there for another three books at least!

What are some of your favourite children’s books now and from your childhood?34219873

As a child, I loved the Chronicles of Narnia, Artemis Fowl and Harry Potter – anything with a sweeping adventure and a whole lot of magic!

My favourite recent children’s books include Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell, the Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend, and the Knights of the Borrowed Dark series by Dave Rudden. I’ve also just read and loved both The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson and Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly.33832945

What are you proudest of in your career?

Selling the book of my heart to Bloomsbury and watching it set sail into the world.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to get into publishing?

Be brave, be resilient and remember – the true magic is in the editing, not the first draft!

As someone who has written YA books set in the US, your MG shifts to an island off the coast of Ireland. Was this intentional?

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I had been wanting to write a book closer to home for some time, but it took a while for the right story to materialise. The Storm Keeper’s Island is set on Arranmore, the island where my grandparents were born, grew up and fell in love. It’s inspired by Irish myths and legends as well as the real-life daring sea rescues of my great grandfather, so it is grounded in an authentic personal and cultural background, which makes it feel particularly special to me.

 

 

 

tumblr_nglmz6PdiF1tjvbzjo1_1280.pngCat and me as members of One Direction with Alice Oseman, Melinda Salisbury and Sara Barnard, as drawn by Alice.


Catherine Doyle grew up in the West of Ireland. She holds a first-class BA in Psychology and a first-class MA in Publishing. She is the author of the Young Adult Blood for Blood trilogy (Vendetta, Inferno and Mafiosa), which is often described as Romeo and Juliet meets the Godfather. It was inspired by her love of modern cinema. Her debut Middle Grade novel, The Storm Keeper’s Island (Bloomsbury, 2018), is an adventure story about family, bravery and self-discovery. It is set on the magical island of Arranmore, where her grandparents grew up, and is inspired by her ancestors’ real life daring sea rescues.

Aside from more conventional interests in movies, running and travelling, Catherine also enjoys writing about herself in the third-person

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