An Ode to Soap Operas

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by Stella

Confession: I like soap operas. Honestly. No sarcasm. As a writer, I should despise them. They ignore absolutely every creative principle I stand by: plausibility, continuity, coherence – plain common sense – none of it is there. And the damn things still work. And they can run forever. And, as I said before, I actually enjoy them. Granted, it’s been a while since I followed a soap on a daily basis – years, in fact – and at the time I could never remember how I got hooked into watching to begin with. Maybe because the actors are generally good looking? So are the actors in regular coherent television, so that can’t be the reason.

I used to watch Spanish soaps to improve my Spanish, but that was a failed experiment since they spoke too fast for me to catch what they were saying. To my shame, I can’t remember the names of all the Spanish soaps and which countries they took place in – Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela – it was a nice tour of Latin America. The only name that comes to mind is Ricos y Famosos, which, in case you don’t know Spanish, means Rich and Famous. By the way, lines like “I’ll hold you forever in my heart” and “God’s justice will punish you” sound a lot better in Spanish, but I’ll get back to that in a minute. My list of guilty pleasures is long and international.

I've enjoyed several fine products made in the U.S. of A.: The Bold and the Beautiful (I gave up around when Brooke was about to divorce and remarry Ridge for the fourth or fifth time; I admit I could no longer cope with the emotional turmoil), Santa Barbara (cancelled alas), some All My Children (but I got into it too late so I didn’t have the strength to figure out the teams playing, etc.). Crossing the Atlantic now: I watched some East Enders, but I was very young and as yet uninitiated into British-ness, so the whole thing left me somewhat confused. (I’ve since made up for it by watching Monty Python, A Bit of Fry & Laurie, and lots of other unmistakably British products so I hope Britons won't attribute my lack of British soap knowledge to snobbery.) Sailing down under to Australia: ah, Australia... Paradise Beach, Home and Away, Breakers, Heartbreak High… My guilt here is heavy.

Somehow, I actually managed to read and do schoolwork in between all of these. I don’t know how, but I did. My last guilty pleasure was Desperate Housewives, which I stopped watching because I simply had zero time. Also, I was kind of in a snit over the whole Carlos and Gabby breakup in season three, but I’m over it. I’d be watching season five right now except the utter lack of time is still an issue. Actually I don’t know if the lives of the lovely ladies of the fun and fictional Fairview can be counted as regular soap when they’re on once a week instead of five times a week. Though then I’d have to kick a few Australian and Spanish soaps off my list, and that would just be rude.

Anyway, now that I've made such a thorough confession of my guilt and can discuss the topic honestly – imagine you have to write one TV episode a week. Now multiply that by five, since your show is on from Monday through Friday. Now multiply that by 52, since there are 52 weeks in a year and your show doesn’t have a traditional fall TV season; it keeps going and going the whole year through. Every once in a while some holiday probably gets in the way so you don’t have to do an episode but still – the number of episodes is staggering. Frightening. And yet, I’d be kind of tempted to write a soap. Where else can you have relationships that are so twisted and confusing that they make the Tudors look like a bunch of innocent children? Where else can you get away with evil twins, impossible surgical procedures, kidnapping, serial killers, blackmail, arson, and steamy, gratuitous romance? Okay, possibly on CSI or House – maybe minus the steamy, gratuitous romance – but we’re talking about a show that has absolutely everything.

Did I mention that characters simply cannot be killed – ever? You thought they were gone? Poof! They’re back! They survived the fire/crash/drowning/shooting, only they had amnesia! And here they are again – better than ever – and it’s so nice to see them! They may have been replaced by another actor who looks nothing like them, but the character is back and we’re not complaining. Can you do that on regular coherent shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer? No way. Not only do the characters live forever, but their love is forever – really. Multiple divorces, extramarital affairs, and kidnapping episodes can't extinguish that burning flame. Yesterday I held you prisoner in my basement, today I'm declaring my undying devotion, tomorrow I might be holding you at gunpoint. Soap love is indeed a many splendored thing.

A regular TV show would be cancelled for having dialogue like (and paraphrasing from a couple hundred episodes of The Bold and the Beautiful):
“Ridge, not a day goes where I don’t think of you!”
“You know we can’t do this, Logan! You’re married to my father!”
And hey, what show lets you have characters named Ridge, Thorn, and Storm in the first place? (That is, one whose plot doesn’t involve superheroes – which also accounts for Buffy – though I wouldn’t change Buffy for the whole wide world.) On what regular-coherent-TV shows do adults stay young forever, but their children age 5 times or even 10 times faster than average humans? We're talking breaking the laws of physics here and without the excuse of a sci-fi/fantasy premise.

Actually, I wonder if they could throw in some kind of vampire plot on The Bold and the Beautiful or something. I'd just like to see if they could pull it off. They invented a patent for keeping silk wrinkle-free for godsake, though there was an explosion in the lab and Ridge was temporarily blinded. But that's okay, in the mean time his presumed dead wife Taylor came back from their honeymoon shipwreck in the Aegean (by way of the Prince of Morocco) just in time for him to regain his sight and have a teary reunion. Though I think they're divorced now. Oh well, tomorrow is another day. Now that I've confessed, I can face it with a clear conscience.

Is Anything Real?

Reader Logoby Paul Burman

When asked to state a preference in literature, it’s not uncommon for there to be some initial confusion between the terms ‘fiction’ and ‘non-fiction’. People sometimes say one when they mean the other. It’s because, I believe, ‘non-fiction’ is a counter-intuitive word. The use of ‘non’ as a prefix suggests that non-fiction is about something that isn’t and, therefore, fiction must be about something that is. The defining terms for the body of literature based on events that have actually happened, as distinct from imagined events that haven’t, becomes inverted. Add the neologism ‘faction’ to the mix (fiction which is built upon factual events or people) and... well, I’m not sure whether that makes things better or worse.

However, this isn’t the end of it. As readers, it seems, we can be a little perverse when it comes to what we expect of a work of non-fiction as opposed to a work of fiction. Given that all writing is an artificial construct, whether an author claims to be writing about their interpretation of actual events or about fantastic characters in a fantasy land, authors of memoirs and biographies are sometimes given a hard time if their interpretation of reality isn’t as absolute as others expect it to be. The moment the memoirist selects to write about one event but chooses to omit another event, or uses one string of words to describe an emotive response rather than words which might be less or more neutral, they are reconstructing and repainting reality. And this is how it must be. There are no absolutes here.

What is it we expect from a piece of writing? Would those critics who were outraged at discovering that James Frey’s ‘memoir’, A Million Little Pieces, was heavily padded/supported/reinforced with sections of fiction, have been similarly outraged if he’d promoted it as a work of fiction in the first place, only to later reveal that it was largely drawn from personal experience? Either way, did it make it a weaker or stronger piece of writing? It’s probably disingenuous to wonder whether publishers and readers make allowances or have expectations of a work of non-fiction that they wouldn’t have for a work of fiction – of course they do – but it’s certainly healthy to consider what we expect from each and why.

I’ve found myself thinking about the nature of fiction a good deal of late. So many people have responded to The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore by asking where I get my ideas from, how closely I’ve 'borrowed' characters, places and events from experience, and how absolutely is something ‘made up’, that I’ve inevitably begun reconsidering my understanding of fiction and the role of the story-teller.

Fiction may be more of an artificial construct than non-fiction, but in creating an imagined world and a set of experiences for a number of created characters, every writer draws on what they’ve learnt to understand even when they can’t draw on what they know. Directly or indirectly, explicitly or implicitly, a fiction writer’s various views of the real world colours and shapes the creation of their imagined worlds. Maybe there’s something analogous about the work of an actor, who draws on experience, observations, and an ability to speculate and empathise and imagine, in order to convincingly portray a character whose story is not the same as his or her own personal story. But the actor never really is the character; the actor remains an actor. So it is with the writer of fiction.

We can tie ourselves in knots too easily at times, trying to distinguish what’s real from what isn’t. Inevitably, the purpose of the story-teller is to tell a convincing yarn and to entertain, and perhaps to say something about the world in which we find ourselves. Maybe it’s all real, or maybe nothing is.

How to get a Publishing Deal #5

Reader Logoby The Lone Ranger

Okay here we go with number 5:

Commission the Air Force to Airdrop your manuscript over a large city

To do this you will need to box up your script, making sure the pages are numbered, and deliver them to your nearest Air Force Base. You will require national clearance so if you have a patchy past then skip to next week's tip.

Choose a nice sunny day and get them to fly over the city of your choice. The massive publicity that this will cause will have the publishers knocking at your door.

Simple really.

O and get them to shout Hi Ho Away as they drop them - just for fun.

Next week I'll show you the perfect introductory letter to send off with your submissions.

Until then.

Gavin MacDougall Interview - Part Two

The View From Here Interview - Part Two:

Gavin MacDougall

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by Jen

Gavin MacDougall is the Director of Luath Press, based in Edinburgh, Scotland. I talked to him at The Frankfurt Book Fair. You can read about Luath Press, Distribution, E-books and Digitisation in Part One of the Interview here. In Part Two we talked about being a publisher, the submissions and selection process, and advice for new writers.

There is still time to enter The Luath books competition, open until November 30th.


What does your desk look like?

There’s always lots and lots of paper in a publisher’s office, even if things are becoming more paperless. But, yes, some parts of my desk are visible.

Do you prefer to get elect
ronic queries or manuscripts over paper ones?
Paper. We generally leave it up to the individual and are less prescriptive. Some will choose to send in messily hand written pages, nothing about themselves and no return address. However, that said, every publisher receives three categories of work. Yes, No and Maybe. Writers submit to us, we then submit to retailers, key head office people, so the process is constantly filtering. The retailer has to say yes, no, maybe, that’s what happening at every point down the line. So if what we get makes it easy to submit to others down the line, then that’s great. Some publishers do have very restrictive submission guidelines; three chapters, double spaced. However, I can think of a number of writers we’ve published that have not entered work that way, whether by another route or recommendation.

How many submissions do you think you get a year?

Hundreds and hundreds. Last time we actually counted was couple of years ago and it was something like five hundred, but that’s probably tiny compared with what a lot of publishers receive and why they need to be more restrictive.

Do you have a slush pile?

We don’t have anything we refer to as a slush pile. We have manuscripts awaiting consideration, at any given time we have book proposals across the spectrum that we requested and not.

How many people do you have reading submissions?

One person coordinates submissions. Our energies, as at most houses, are focused primarily on the books that we are publishing rather than on those we might consider.

What’s the process of reading submissions and making offers or rejections?

Well when you say read, we might only read a few hundred words, we assess the material rather than read it.

I almost never read a synopsis because it destroys any possible pleasure you might have reading the actual book. One tends to read incrementally – starting at the beginning, you see if you get to the end of the first page, do you feel like turning over to the second page, do you feel going on and so on – an awful lot won’t get beyond page 1, page 5 or page 10 or whatever it might be. So when I said that the work experience person had read Ann Kelley’s work, she had actually read the entire book and was motivated to do that – she may have looked at fifty, but that may have been the only one she read to the end.

We never enter into any discussions as to the merit or otherwise of submissions, although I’m aware that some publishers do.

When you have found something you like, what happens next?

We’ll arrange to meet with the author, and if we agree to proceed, we start the process of any editorial input that is appropriate, arranging covers, getting information of their biography, starting the selling process, organising launches, press releases and so on. It can be incredibly quick and it can take years. The trade likes to have information three to six months in advance of publication so you need to work back from that. If there’s a good reason to fast track books it can be done. If it can be tied in to something specific or seasonal then we’ll tie it in there.

Is language or writing in dialect a barrier to getting published or getting a larger readership? I’ve seen Alan Kelly’s book ‘The Tar Factory’ and another is very local vernacular about a Celtic and a Rangers fan. Can you sell that sort of book outside of Scotland?

Fiction potentially travels whether set in Scotland, written in dialect or not. It might be more difficult for a French of German publishers to pick it up and read and assess it, to decide whether they want to publish it or not, but Irvine Welsh has been translated into lots of languages. James Kelman is maybe more idiosyncratic in his style of writing. Roddy Doyle has been translated widely. I don’t know whether they translate it straight or whether they put it into his style.

If someone first self-publishes his or her work, would you still consider publishing it?

There have been rare cases of self-published books going on to be successful with a major publisher; ‘A Year in the Merde’ was one. It can happen, but I think generally, if an author has success with a self-published book, great and potentially we’d be interested in his or her next book. But I think to try and republish the same book; no, most publishers wouldn’t be too enthused about that.

Do you have any advice for new writers?

Read our books. Check out your local bookshops and Amazon. Pick a publisher who is appropriate for your work. Consider how the books you are writing will fit with a publisher’s list. It may be that if the publisher is currently working with seventeen crime writers they’re not looking for an eighteenth. Or it may be they’re looking for seventeen more.


Luath Press is based in Scotland
Luath Press Ltd,
543/2 Castlehill, The Royal Mile,
Edinburgh EH1 2ND,

I would like to extend my thanks to Gavin for his time and effort in this interview. Both at Frankfurt, which is probably one of the loudest, more stressful events of the publishing year, and afterwards in his working with me to fine tune the text, and his infinite patience with my (mis)use of commas. Thanks to his generosity we have six wonderful books to win in The View From Here competition, open until November 30th. The Prize includes a signed copy of The Burying Beetle, and copies of Inchworm, Cowboys for Christ, Bad Catholics, My Epileptic Lurcher and Right to Die all from Luath Press, plus a $30 voucher from The View From Here.

I have heard an author say that big publishers are, 'soulless, big corporations'. Luath is certainly not that. It seemed to me that Gavin MacDougall is wholeheartedly behind his publishing house, from its solid foundation by his predecessor in a few travel guides, it has been
built up through sweat and tears into a house with a sizeable collection of good books across a range of genres. He believes in getting good books published. And as a writer it is gratifying to know, that in an ever changing, three-for-two market, that is still what counts to a quality publisher.

A Fraction of the Whole

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by Mike & Fossfor

A Fraction of the Whole

A Fraction of the Whole
by Steve Toltz
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton

"I'm 1/4 of who I should be! Maybe even 1/8. "

A Fraction of the Whole is by Australian debut writer, Steve Toltz, and was shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize this year. Four years in the making the book is 711 pages long and follows the lives of the Dean family. A book that long by a new author normally makes me nervous: has it been edited properly? Will it be full of dead wood that should have been cut? Fortunately it is has been through 5 drafts and is stuffed full of gems. Some of those gems are the musings of Jasper Dean's father Martin Dean (pictured above by Fossfor) and are fascinating, make you think, but make you want to strangle Martin at the same time.

You see Martin isn't like us. He thinks outside of the box and then can't get back in. He traps himself with his musing and ideas and projects. He surrounds his house in a labyrinth and thinks himself into a corner with his thoughts on death which ruin his life, believing that death is the base cause of all human belief systems.

In childhood Martin's mother, afraid of losing her son, poisons him so that he is to weak too leave home and Martin in return in adulthood poisons his own son with his ramblings and thoughts. Martin ends up in a mental institute before faking normality to escape and is constantly tormented by the past actions of his famous brother Terry, a legendary outlaw in Australia whose life overshadows his.

"The past is truly an inoperable tumour that spreads to the present."

And Martin's ideas never stop. They are the blood in his veins. When he's elected into public office the ideas spew into society.

"Cash rebates would be offered to those who could demonstrate self-awareness."

Frequently his ideas backfire and destroy those around him until he himself succumbs to them and becomes the most hated man in Australia.

The story that reveals all this is a roller coaster and is great fun. There is Caroline who both Terry and Martin love:

"Her mask was a weave of tattered shreds torn from all the beautiful parts of herself."

And Martin's friend Eddie who keeps taking photos of him and Jasper.

"Watching your lives was like watching an accident in slow motion. It was compelling."

And Jasper's mysterious European Mother.

It's all a bit mad really. But a wonderful madness that is compelling, entertaining and certainly for me one of the best reads this year.

Half way through I decided that this was a book of ideas. I loved it, but I didn't care for the characters.
And then towards the end the surprise.
As Steve takes you towards Martin's death you realise that you have been played all along and care for the fate of this fascinating but annoying man. Jasper realises it to and it is a poignant moment in the book.

Steve Toltz was born in Sydney, Australia, and has lived in Montreal, Vancouver, Barcelona and Paris, working primarily as a screenwriter, but also doing stints as a private investigator and an English teacher.

Artwork of Martin Dean an original painting by Fossfor for TVFH

Gavin MacDougall Interview - Part One

The View From Here Interview:
Gavin MacDougall

Reader Logoby Jen

in MacDougall is the Director of Luath Press, based in Edinburgh, Scotland. I talked to him at The Frankfurt Book Fair, about Luath Press, Distribution, E-books and Digitisation. In Part Two you can read about being a Publisher, the submissions and selection process, and advice for new writers.

About Luath Press
Luath Press was established by Tom and Rene Atkinson in Barr, Ayrshire in 1981. Luath Press takes its name from Robert Burns, whose little collie Luath (Gael., swift or nimble) tripped up Jean Armour at a wedding and gave him the chance to speak to the woman who was to be his wife and the abiding love of his life. Burns called one of The Twa Dogs Luath after Cuchullin's hunting dog in Ossian's Fingal. Luath Press was established in 1981 in the heart of Burns country, and is now based a few steps up the road from Burns' first lodgings on Edinburgh's Royal Mile. According to their website, Luath offers you ‘distinctive writing with a hint of unexpected pleasures’. Tom decided to retire from Luath in 1997, at which time Gavin and Audrey MacDougall took over the running of the company and moved it from Barr (near Girvan in Ayrshire) to Edinburgh. Since 1997, Luath has built on the sound core of well established books first published by Tom and Rene, and created various new series (On The Trail of, The Quest for, Wild Lives, Let's Explore, Luath Storyteller, Viewpoints) and launched various new writers (including John MacKay, Lin Anderson, Ann Kelley) and poets (including Alistair Findlay, Kokumo Rocks).

How did Luath come about? I read that Tom Atkinson effectively self-published his own travel guides?

I’m not sure whether he attempted to get interest from other publishers but I think probably not. He’d had a pretty interesting background himself. (The Guardian called him the Alastair Campbell of Indonesia). He died in 2007 and we published a couple of his books in the ten years subsequent to his retirement. At 16 or 17 he went off to fight the Spanish Civil War, got there and found he was too young and ended up in Indonesia at the end of WW11 and got involved in helping Indonesia gain Independence. And he became a right-hand man to the newly incoming President, Sukarno. Shortly before the dictator Suharto came to power in the mid-sixties, Tom left and came back to the UK. He lived self-sufficiently in Wales, then ended up in Scotland. Finding there were no good descriptive guides to the popular parts of Scotland, he set about writing and publishing the Luath Guides Series. Other books by other writers followed including a number of popular titles that have remained in print for many years.

What does Luath publish today?

We publish fiction and non-fiction. In recent years we’ve grown the fiction side, poetry, short stories. Our policy is that we are committed to publishing well written books worth reading. We publish fiction; history; guide books; walking; poetry; art; humour; biography; natural history; current issues and more.

Do you publish only Scottish authors or books with a Scottish connection?

We are in Scotland and several of our writers are in Scotland. We’re better known in Scotland. Books by Scottish or Scotland-based authors or with a Scottish connection are a significant part of what we publish. There are a certain number that have a UK wide readership, some will be of interest in the US, Canada, the rest of the English speaking world. There will be some which will be suitable for translation into other languages. Fiction potentially travels whether set in Scotland or not.

Do your authors stay with you because you are a Scottish publisher?

We have writers who are first published in Scotland and then get taken on by a London publisher, and so on. But you can also have writers who are based in Scotland, even if they are not Scottish, and have got to the stage that for whatever reason their London publishers have lost interest, and moved on to other things. So, the books by those authors may still have a reasonable enough readership and the writers write other books, that can and does happen. We’re in Scotland, and if the writer is in Scotland, the books can do as well as if not better than London based houses.

Your UK Trade distribution is through HarperCollins. How does that work?

Publishers have the option of doing their own distribution, using a distributor or working solely through a wholesaler. In the book trade we have a ridiculous supply chain situation where we have writer, reader and in between a myriad of routes. Most books available in the UK and US are via distributors. Distributors will handle just a few publishers, wholesalers will handle everything (Gardners and Betrams are the two main UK wholesalers). HarperCollins is probably the biggest in the UK, and their UK distribution centre is in Scotland. They distribute their own (HarperCollins’) books, and those of about fifteen other publishers. They store our books in their warehouse and handle the order processing, invoicing and dispatch. But it’s up to us to make the sales, to find shops and readers who’ll buy the books. Their sales people sell their own (HarperCollins) books, but it’s up to us to sell ours.

But you could do your own distribution?

If we had our own warehouse and were self-distributing, we could choose just to approach one or more of the wholesalers, and make books available through them. That does happen for some smaller publishers. If you’re doing just a few books a year, that can work.

What difference does the choice of process make to writers?

From a writer’s point of view, we’ll sometimes get writers who were first published elsewhere, and they’ll say of their past experience, their former publisher’s distribution was not very good, but what they mean is, “they didn’t sell enough of my books.”

The actual physical logistics of storing books and sticking them in envelopes – one would hope that most distributors are pretty good at that. It’s the making of the sale and building word of mouth and all the things that go in to selling ten thousand books, rather than ten, that’s the very difficult part. To some extent, you can engineer it, but …writer, publisher, retailer, reader, and in the middle the wholesaler and distributor. You’ll do your best doing all the things you need to do to get them into people’s hands, but if people are not actually going into the bookshop and picking it up or asking about it, having read about it in a newspaper, or a website heard about it on the radio or whatever, then the books can end up going back to the wholesaler and/or the distributor, and ultimately being pulped. The whole supply chain is definitely mad and there are industry wide groups looking at how to deal with a lot of these things and seeing what can be done for the future.

Do you think that model is changing, due to the likes of Amazon, and online distribution?

Certainly, Amazon and their business model, which has taken however many years to get established, are now absolutely there. We now have a strange asymmetric model, with differential pricing between online and high street retailers.

What about E-books and digitisation?

The e-book is now here in various electronic formats. From a writer and publishers point of view, whether it is on a hand-held device or traditional physical format doesn’t really matter, although I and most readers still prefer the printed book.

We’re very much in a transitional stage at the moment. Everyone’s trying to get their heads round the different options right now. The Sony Reader was just launched through Waterstones in the UK, the e-ink, non-backlit, big screen it’s great, but already version two is coming out and the Amazon Kindle is due out soon in Europe.

There’s the question of control still open. Digitisation, copyright, piracy and distribution they’re all considerations for e-books. It does affect us, of course. We’ve been signed up for Amazon’s Search Inside and Google Books for two or three years but haven’t uploaded many books yet. If it helps sell a few more books then that’s fine.

Google books suggested that their Search function, might be good for smaller presses, who don’t have a large marketing capacity, or for those books, which are quickly out of print or backlisted. Do you think that is true?

It may well be so. They say that more books are sold that are in their scheme. If it helps sell a few more books then great.

Do you think perhaps it is printing that is changing, more than publishing?

Business models are changing. What are record companies for any more? What are publishing companies for? Is it the economies of scale, quality control? Websites such as The View From Here may become the filtering process. The physical technology of books is all changing. On screen books, e-books whatever you want to call them, it’s changing. Changing very rapidly. Within the industry, people have been doing scenario planning and in the current economic climate people wonder what will that mean for retail, reading habits and book sales. Who knows?

If a prospective author said to you that they wanted to keep their digital rights, because the publisher wasn’t yet 100% sure what he/she would make use of them, would it put you off?

I don’t think we would publish a book in those circumstances. It’s hard enough to publish books successfully, there’s a huge risk and low return often. If authors want to self-publish there’s Lulu, there’s all the other ways of doing that. I think that’s better in those circumstances; we’d leave them to it. If an author wants to be published, they need to consider that option carefully. There’s more and more books published every year, the pressures on high street retailers, on book placement and so on are higher and higher. In a future world, will there be traditional bookshops on Britain’s high streets? Maybe not in the same form as they are now. Record shops are disappearing from the high street and booksellers are obviously seeing what’s happening on the music side of things, so who knows what the future holds?

In Part Two you can read about being a Publisher, the submissions and selection process, and advice for new writers.

And don't forget to enter The Luath books competition, open until November 30th. Prize includes a signed copy of The Burying Beetle, and copies of Inchworm, Cowboys for Christ, Bad Catholics, My Epileptic Lurcher and Right to Die all from Luath Press, plus a $30 voucher from The View From Here.

Click here for part two.

Don’t Bother Roger

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by Kathleen

Aunt Clara and Uncle Richard’s son Roger had lived at home like a saint for three months. In January, he could return to college, providing he agreed to daily counseling. Providing he never set foot in a fraternity, let alone a sorority. The entire college would know about Roger’s status and the need for extreme vigilance.

Roger had spent two years in a minimum-security facility. “Over and done,” Roger told his parents, his lawyer, and his ex-girlfriend’s lawyer. “Past tense.”

His mother agreed. Nobody should blame Roger anymore. So why not throw the annual summer party?

Her dearest sister Jane, however, invented countless excuses. Because, honestly, her daughters were only six- and four-years old.

“Nonsense,” Clara said. Best if the family not over-react.

“Just bring the girls.” Their own father said this, and he had never especially liked Jane’s extended family.

Whenever she remembered the party, Jane warned her girls, “Don’t bother Roger.” And, when the day came, she dressed them in fancy frocks with stiff satin sashes and hems to their ankles. During the car ride, she outright pleaded, “Don’t bother Roger.”

The backyard party was crowded but boring. While her parents drank martinis and her sister sat on her father’s lap, six-year old Sadie sneaked inside and upstairs. All the doors were closed except for the last one. Peering into the room farthest from the stairs, Sadie stared at a man lying down, his laptop open.

“Are you Roger?”

“Yes I am.” Bright-eyed and smiling, he sat up, planting bare feet on the rug.

Sadie squirmed backwards, fooling with her dress’s tied sash. “Are you the same Roger my parents warned me against bothering?”

“Undoubtedly, yes. But you’re not bothering me. Come here and I’ll show you something.”

Sadie frowned but stepped inside.

“Come and sit down.” He patted the bed. “Come on.”

Sadie bounced on the bed, eyeing the laptop.

“It’s not there,” Roger said. “And it’s kinda scary.”

Sadie tapped her Sunday shoes.

Roger lifted the leg of his baggy jeans. “It’s an electronic anklet that sets off an alarm if I leave the house. Sometimes movie stars have to wear them. And, Martha Stewart had one, too, for insider trading.”

“Who’s Martha Stewart?”

“Someone rich and famous for decorating wreaths and flowers and stuff.”

“And the movie stars?”

“Not positive who. Paris Hilton, maybe? Lindsey Lohan—that type.”

Sadie hadn’t heard of them either. “Does it come off?”

“Not yet. But soon. I’ll be free.”

“That’s good, Roger. Uhm, good-bye.”

“Hey, wait. This might sound weird. But don’t tell anyone you saw me, okay?”

“I won’t. My mom would scream her head off.”

How to get a Publishing Deal #4

Reader Logoby The Lone Ranger

This week's tip:

Hide in the desk of a Publisher

To do this you will have to gain access - perhaps get a cleaning job at the company. You will also have to become very flexible ( heh no-one said this was going to be easy.)
I suggest you hide (with your manuscript of course) for a while, so take some water and perhaps a Muffin or something - you don't want your tummy grumbling and giving you away. Then after the publisher has sat there for an hour or so, JUMP OUT brandishing your novel. Providing you don't give him a heart attack he will be so startled that he will agree to read it. Of course he may call security, in which case I never knew you okay.

Good luck!

Photo Credit: Phillie Casablanca

Ann Kelley Interview - Part Two

The View From Here Interview:
Ann Kelley

Reader Logoby Jen

I met Ann Kelley in September, at a
poetry workshop as part of the Wonderful Words Festival, at St. Ives Library. For Part One of the interview, click here.

What’s your writing day like? Do you write full time?

I love working at home and I am very disciplined. You have to be, working for yourself. I write seven to eight hours a day. Typically we have breakfast, my husband gets off to work around 7am, then I do a few domestic things, and then I sit down at the computer.

So you use the computer rather than longhand?

Yes I find the computer is better for writing than on paper, because it’s a serious problem for me, that I have appalling handwriting. Computers saved my life really, I started with a little Amstrad.
I have hundreds of notebooks, but with all the notes on the computer it’s much easier.

But I get ideas all the
time, could be in the bath, or on the train….

You wrote and published poetry before your novels and you’ve traveled all over the world and given workshops in different places. One of your poems begins, “I’ve a thing about men in waders”?

It’s a very popular poem that! They were in uproar in Australia with laughter about that one. I’ve a poem called Big Men, which is not yet published, it’s about fireman and labourers and so on. It starts “ A trucker with biceps that I can’t get my two hands around…”.

How did you go about publication and choosing an agent?

I was in Edinburgh collecting a (poetry) prize, and a friend called me and suggested that whilst I was there, I try Luath. I was first published without an agent. I’d tried several agents, and had the feedback that no one would place it easily. But I went to Luath, and the girl that took the manuscript was there on work experience. She read it and passed it on. They went on to accept The Burying Beetle.

ennie Renton is my wonderful, wonderful editor.

Then two years ago I was reading from the Bower Bird at the Edinburgh Festival, and found out that the agent whom I thought might be a potential to represent me in future, turned out to be the person introducing me at the event! Rather than first meet her on the day, I rang her up and asked if we could meet the night before. She agreed that evening to become my agent. It’s Lindsey Fraser of Fraser Ross Associates. They had sold eighteen tickets, in fact only two people turned up, a mother and daughter and we had a lovely session. It turned out some of the others were from a care project and been naughty and banned from attending!

What about writer’s block or your tips for writers?

If I am stuck, I don’t allow myself to get stuck, it’s like a fatal illness being stuck. Something can keep you going - the bee on the window-sill,
anything, something comes into your head eventually. Any time you are writing, put it all in, use all your senses. Make notes. It’s those silly little things that make up life, and for a writer, they are vital.

I make notes, although I can’t read my own handwriting. Making notes is so important. And when writing, especially when starting out, so many people try to be clever and try to impress. But it’s about the truth, often told in very simple ways.

You were at school at St.Bernard's in Essex. So were you a contemporary of Dame Helen Mirren?

Yes. My claim to fame is that I attended the s
ame school as Helen Mirren. But she was in the year below. If she ever reads this, my name then was Ann Cousins. I would love her to play Gussie’s Mum in the movie!

What’s your idea of a perfect weekend?

Someone else doing the cooking would be nice. A good single malt, then my favourite meal ever, grilled lobster in garlic butter and a green salad, grown by me of course, and a bottle of fine champagne, lying in the sun in the garden with my lover, who is of course my husband.


Gavin MacDougall is the Director of Luath Press, Ann’s publisher of the Gussie books. I asked him at the Frankfurt Book Fair, how Ann had come to them and about working together.

Most of our books have a Scottish connection, because we’re in Scotland, but by no means all of them. The Burying Beetle has no Scottish link directly, although Ann spent a year or so of her childhood up near John O’Groats, the very, very north of Scotland, so that was her only Scottish connection.

A friend recommended she contact Luath, Robin Hardy, the Director of The Wicker Man. We published his novel covering a similar sort of area, Cowboys for Christ. She had sent her book to us and I was aware of it, but hadn’t yet read it. We had a work experience student with us, who was at Edinburgh University, and part of what she did, was to go through submitted manuscripts and when she left us, of all the books she’d looked at she said, “you must publish this book, it’s fantastic. Do something with it.” It was her enthusiasm for it that brought it more to our attention.

You went on to publish the next two books as crossover books, although the Burying Beetle was written originally for adults?

Yes, but in the process of writing it, Ann had, unusually, approached and road-tested it with kids and schools, and got their feedback as she was writing, which was very helpful for her, but also helpful for us, in working out who the potential readership were. Then WH Smith selected the book for a major fresh talent initiative across all their branches in the UK. They picked six books at a time, and in each batch, they had one crossover novel, and they picked The Burying Beetle, which was great for a first time novelist.

You’ve published a further two books by Ann?

Yes, when she started I’m not sure even she envisaged there would be more. We didn’t know her own personal story when we selected it. The Burying Beetle went on to be shortlisted for the Branford Boase Prize in 2006, which was great. And
The Bower Bird went on to win the Children’s Costa Prize 2007, although we hadn’t pitched it especially for children. Gussie the central character is thirteen years old, and that’s why it was picked up as a Young Adult book. We are not children’s publishers especially, as the market and readership is different. Although The Burying Beetle was not the sort of book that I would normally read - I couldn’t get into Harry Potter myself - I could see why others would be so keen on them and why it was shortlisted and won prizes. Number three, Inchworm, is the one that engages me personally much more. Last time I spoke to Ann, she’s now on number four and she has plans for a Gussie scrapbook project.


A full interview with Gavin and about Luath Press will appear shortly at The View From Here.

The Burying Beetle, 2005 ISBN 978-1842820990
The Bower Bird, 2007 ISBN
Inchworm , 2008 978-1906307622

The Poetry Remedy, 1999
Paper Whites (poetry and photography), 2001
Because We Have Reached That Place, 2006

Her collected photographic works are:
Born and Bred, 1988
Sea Front, 2005

Audio Books
Nine Lives: Cat Tales

Ann has made various appearances on BBC radio. Most recently she took part in an interview on Radio 4, with Eddie Mair, talking about her father's First World War story. (starts about twenty minutes into the one hour programme.)


I would like to say a huge thank you to Ann, for giving generously of her time in St.Ives, not only in the interview but to encourage our small workshop of aspiring poets taking part in the Wonderful Words Festival. She was inspirational, whilst being both practical and honest. She was incredibly modest and self-deprecating, yet one could glimpse an enormous personality and a zest for life just behind the dark glasses, with a warm sense of humour thrown in for good measure. It was a pleasure to meet her and work with her on this article.

Visit Ann's website here.
Enter The View From Here Competition to win a signed edition of her book here.

Win a Signed Ann Kelley book & $30 Voucher

Reader Logo
by Mike

Competition Time! To go with our interviews with Ann Kelley and Luath Press this month we have a signed copy of The Burying Beetle by Ann Kelley plus a stack of books from Luath Press. Plus a $30 Amazon Voucher! A bumper package to win!

The question:

Next year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Arthur Conan Doyle, and the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Darwin, both with strong Edinburgh connections. In celebration, Conan Doyle's story The Lost World will be distributed as part of the 2009 reading campaign, with an exclusive cover designed for the free edition of the book by Bristol's Aardman Animations, featuring their most famous creations, Wallace & Gromit.

- So which book would you like to see which two writers collaborate to produce? And who should design / feature on the cover and why?

Answers in the comments - make sure we can trace back to you to inform you if you win.

Closing date: St Andrew's day on November 30th.

Book prizes from Luath Press:
Inchworm, Cowboys for Christ, Bad Catholics, My Epileptic Lurcher and Right to Die.

Good Luck!

image copyright Aardman Animations Ltd, 2008 (

Lena, Lena

Reader Logo
by Kathleen

Amber included Lena in a knitting group that didn’t knit—four friends meeting Saturday mornings.

“Why call it knitting?” Lena wondered.

“Because, the husbands will approve of stitchery. Compared to weekend gossiping.”

Amber and Lindsey dropped out before March. Amber because her mother’s memory was failing. And Lindsey’s daughter was anorexic. For solidarity’s sake, they said, Lena and Marlene should keep meeting.

Between just them, Marlene confessed that her name was also Lena; Amber always got it wrong.

The first Lena said, “That’s so Amber. I’ll be Lena-a, and you—Lena-b. Like Dr. Seuss.”

Lena-b giggled. “Delightful.”

By springtime, Saturday mornings had extended into whenever they had free time.

They rarely gossiped. Lena-b adored Lena-a. Who cut her hair? Where did she buy her clothes?

After acquiring a physical likeness, Lena-b asked about Lena-a’s engaging home; and who decorated it.

Lena-a grew suspicious but answered questions about her children and where she bought such fresh food. Favorite recipes and restaurants; interesting books? What about music, movies, and other entertainment?

Following another summer evening with Lena-b’s family, Lena-a told her husband, Harry: “It’s frightening.”

“Frightening? Darling, she simply wishes she were just like you. What woman wouldn’t?”

“She has researched my toiletries. Uses my same soap, same powder, same lipstick, Harry.”

“That’s creepy. You’re right. But harmless.”

“It’s identity theft.”

“No, Lena. That’s someone tapping your bank accounts. She’s just copying you.”

“Give her a cheat sheet then. I dread seeing her.”

“Lena, that’s silly.”

She didn’t tell Harry about the hang-up phone calls. He wouldn’t understand.

Then the phone rang after midnight and she heard Harry on the extension. “She thinks you’re obsessed.”

The next evening, before dinner, Lena-a received a dozen roses. The note read, “Sorry for glomming on. Stop by tomorrow. Everything’s resolved.”

Long stem roses? Lena didn’t want Harry understanding or not. She buried them in the trash.

And the next morning? She paid Lena-b a visit.

“You know how much my husband travels.” Lena-b said. “No more midnight phone calls, I promise. I got a permit.”

Lena-b asked her eight-year old to find her purse. When he did, she unzipped a compartment. Lena-a expected a hand gun, but Lena-b produced papers. “The condo’s allowing me a dog.”

Panic had already seized Lena-a. Phone calls, roses, dog, a phantom gun—the woman was stalking her.

“Admit the truth or I’m calling the authorities.”

Lena-b covered her face. “Ask Harry; it was his idea. He wanted me to play your role. For fun.”

“Stalking me was Harry’s idea?”

“No, acting like you. It turned him on.”

Lena-a laughed out loud. “You and Harry are having an affair? Infidelity, not murder?”

“He dumped me Friday. It’s over.”

Lena laughed until it hurt. “Last question. Your name.”

“Marlene. Until Harry preferred Lena.”

Ann Kelley Interview - Part One

Reader Logo
by Jen

The View From Here Interview: Ann Kelley

I met with Ann Kelley in September, before a poetry workshop during the Wonderful Words Festival, at St. Ives Library. Not only is she an award-winning novel writer, she is the author of two books of poetry, a handbook on teaching patients to write poetry, two of photography and an audio book of stories about cats. Her third novel, Inchworm was published on October 4th, and is part of a series.

The first two books, The Burying Beetle and The Bower Bird, tell the story of Gussie, a 12 year-old girl who suffers from pulmonary atresia, a rare heart disease. Gussie is marked by her vivacity and thirst for knowledge, living every day to the full. The character is modeled on Ann’s late son, Nathan Kelley, who suffered from the same congenital heart condition. When her son was born doctors said he would not survive the week and later said he would never walk. But Nathan defied predictions and lived to become an accomplished student. He had a passion for marine life and discovered two new fish cancers at the age of 16 (both registered with the Smithsonian in America). Nathan went on to study pathobiology and space sciences at Reading University and University College London. Nathan died at age 24, a week after receiving a heart and lung transplant in December 1985.

Ann began writing poetry two years after Nathan’s death and published The Poetry Remedy in 1999 and then Paper Whites in 2001. Ann’s first novel, The Burying Beetle, was published in 2005 by Luath Press.

Her novels, The Burying Beetle and The Bower Bird have won several major literary awards:
- The Burying Beetle - shortlisted for the Branford Boase Prize 2006
- The Bower Bird - winner of Costa Children’s Award for Fiction 2007; Shortlisted for UKLA award; winner of Holyer an Gof Children’s fiction and winner of Holyer and Gof Prize for Outstanding Literary Publication 2007, Shortlisted for Weread Book for Young Adults 2007.
- Inchworm - launched October 4, 2008.

Ann has also won several prizes for her poetry and has run courses for aspiring poets from her home. She also conducts special study units in poetry writing for medical students and speaks about her work with patients at medical conferences. She is an honorary teaching fellow at Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Exeter and Plymouth.

Ann Kelley has a daughter, Caroline, and two grandchildren. She lives with her second husband in St Ives, Cornwall.


Is there
anything you particularly like about living in St.Ives?

St. Ives has been a safe harbour for me and my children. I love the continuity of life here, how when you go shopping for a loaf of bread five people will stop and speak and it takes 2 hours instead of 2 minutes. I love being able to walk everywhere, I love the sounds of the gulls and the smell of the sea and air.

I read that you nearly played cricket for Cornwall?

I played cricket for St. Ives Second Eleven team - (
the only woman). I had a women's team - St. Ives Gulls and was asked by the Captain of Cornwall Ladies’ to supply three girls to play for Cornwall against Devon. I modestly left myself out, but wish I hadn’t! I would have loved to have that on my CV.

What are you working on now?

The working title for my book due out in 2010 to be published by Oxford University Pres is Ko Tabu, but we’ll probably change it. It’s an adventure story, dark and violent. It’s for young adult readers. It’s about nine girls marooned in the Gulf of Thailand, set against the backdrop of the Vietnamese War.
Awful things happen right from the impetus. I thought what would have happened in Lord of the Flies, if it had been a group of girls and not boys? I think girls would behave differently, they are more caring, there’s no Piggy character.

And there is another Gussie book. The working title is “A Snail’s Broken Shell.”

Inchworm came out on October 4th, the third in the Gussie series. Why did you choose that title?

I originally called it ‘Your One and Precious Life’ but they said it was “too worthy” and they were probably right. Inchworm is taken from the poem Marigolds. It blends the creative and the scientific:

It's just a coincidence that the titles of the first two books (The Burying Beetle and The Bower Bird) are alliterative, but they are both from the natural world, both unusual and not well known - as is Inchworm, and Gussie is fascinated by that.

With the launch of Inchworm I believe you did a UK tour?

I started in Scotland; Glasgow, Edinburgh, and I was invited to the Beverley Literature Festival, but unfortunately
that was cancelled, so I didn't go. I was born and lived near there, until I was two. We lived at the Coastguard station. In my memory I have a picture of a church, and my sister says it was the church at which I was christened, Patrington Church, so I thought I must visit that.

I first went to school in Caithness, and I went back to the place where I once lived. It was a remote headland, and it was exactly as I remembered it, incredibly beautiful, I loved it. But I’m an Essex girl really, I attended St. Bernard’s Convent High School.

Your novels have been pitched as crossover. Do you write aimed at young adults?

Not at all. If anything the nominations for the Branford Boase in 2006 (The Burying Beetle) and the Costa (Children’s Prize for Fiction) 2007 (The Bower Bird) changed, it was that I realised I am looked upon as a Young Adult writer which is fine, except that it may limit the number of readers you may appeal to. The Burying Beetle is also in print with a crossover cover. The other book covers use my own photographs.

What do think about the age banding of books?

I don’t like it. Booksellers do it anyway, they know where to put books. And a ten year old might miss a book that was labelled for a six year old, that would have been wonderful for them. I signed the Pullman petition.

What’s your own favourite book?

Katherine Mansfield is my favourite writer of all time, she just gets children so right. Her short stories are wonderful and I read and re-read them over and over again. And Middlemarch. But one book, it would probably be the House at Pooh Corner. It’s full of philosophy and gentleness and humour. You see something new in it every time you read it. It’s not meant for children at all, but for the adults that read them the stories.

You are an honorary teaching fellow at Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Exeter and Plymouth, and teach poetry to students?

Yes, medical students. Three or four times a year for three days, maximum five at a time. They come here, to our home. They’re anything from 18 to 25, but we get mature students too. It’s part of their Medical Humanities’ course, a special study unit. They can choose between music or art, for example, or poetry.

Children have to choose (subjects) so early these days, they get pushed down the science road and have to lose their instincts, their imagination and creativity. The students can discover that aspect of themselves again, in the workshops.

But I don’t worry about the poetry, as much as I do the cooking. They’re usually a diverse group, the last time it was a mixture of Muslim, Jewish, vegetarian considerations. I ended up doing a wonderful French onion soup. If I can get the food right, I usually think things will go OK. My husband says they only come for the food.

I do mark their work and I correct their spelling, punctuation. Rob, my husband, says I am much too critical, but it’s important.


Part Two will cover Ann's writing and publishing experience, her writing advice, notes from her Publisher Luath Press and her (other) claim to fame! Who did she go to school with, that she would love to play Gussie's Mum in a film version of her books?


The Burying Beetle, 2005 ISBN 978-1842820990
The Bower Bird, 2007 ISBN
Inchworm , 2008 978-1906307622

The Poetry Remedy, 1999
Paper Whites (poetry and photography), 2001
Because We Have Reached That Place, 2006

Her collected photographic works are:
Born and Bred, 1988
Sea Front, 2005

Audio Books
Nine Lives: Cat Tales

For Part 2 click here.

For the printed edition of this interview at TVFH go here.

How to get a Publishing Deal #3

Reader Logo
by The Lone Ranger

As Kathleen pointed out last week's tip on how to get a publishing deal only made it to the lift of the publisher's office. So this week I'm going to make sure you end up right where you need to be: The publisher's window to his office.

Remember just posting off blind loads of letters, a synopsis and your three chapters is just not going to cut any ice - unless you have the luck of a lottery winner - so listen this is what you do:

Research is vital. Not only do you need to find a publisher that is likely to be interested in your type of work, you also need to find out which window cleaning firm they use. Try google if you're not sure.

Then - you still with me? Then get a job with that window cleaning firm and conceal your manuscript inside your overalls and climb to the right window ( don't look down.) As you clean the window you'll find that the water enables your script to stick to the window. Make sure you leave your name and contact details and that you have a get away plan should things turn nasty.

Do let me know how you get on!

Picture credit: Peter Pearson

Issue 5 of TVFH on Sale Now

Reader Logo
by Mike

Issue 5 out!

Interview with author ...

Jenny Downham
Behind the scene report & pictures from The Franfurt Book Fair

Short story from our competition Continue The Story with the ending which is not available on-line.

Industry News
Original Fiction
& much more!

ISSN 1758-2903

To see a full preview and to order click here.

For back issues go to our Subscribe & Print tab above.

Shanta Everington - Interview

The View From Here Interview:
Shanta Everington

Reader Logo
by Jen

Shanta Everington has a First Class Honours degree in Education from Anglia Ruskin University (1995) and an MA in Creative Writing with Distinction from Manchester Me
tropolitan University Writing School (2006). Her debut novel, Marilyn and Me, evolved throughout the course and was published in 2007 through a competition run by Cinnamon Press, a small, independent publisher based in North Wales.

Give Me a Sign, is Shanta Everington’s first novel for young adults, and was published in 2008 (Flame Books). She has also had some poetry, life writing pieces and educational resources published and been involved in numerous charity publications. She is currently an associate lecturer in creative writing with The Open University and deputy editor of a charity journal for disabled parents. She lives in East London with her husband and son and combines writing with motherhood and earning a living. She is represented by Eve White, Literary Agent.

A qualified mathematics teacher is not necessarily someone you automatically associate with creative writing - what led you to combine the two?

I believe I was always meant to be in the arts. My dad is a musician so the creative streak runs in the family. I put my wrong turn down to a pivotal moment at primary school when a teacher ripped apart a story I'd written. We were supposed to be learning how to write in sentences but I'd kind of forgotten about that and focused on the content. She tore it up in front of everyone and I felt so humiliated.

I became known as the one who was good at maths. Maths is safe, you know where you are with it. For me, it was the easy way to succeed. When you do something creative, you open yourself up to scrutiny and judgement and ultimately, ridicule. I trained as a maths teacher but something inside me was deeply dissatisfied.

So, I nearly ended up as a maths teacher. But... I escaped. Instead, I worked in community care and ran a helpline for teenagers before allowing myself to believe I could write something worth reading.

I wrote secretly for a long time. I wrote for myself. I still do but now I also write to share part of myself with others. I write to explore my fascination with human nature. I write about things that bug me and refuse to go away. I write because I can’t not.

It just took me about twenty years to get back on track! Thankfully, I've now developed a much thicker skin. You have to if you want to be a published writer.

In your second book, Give me a Sign, what inspired you to include a deaf character, Doug?

'Give Me a Sign' is a coming of age story. It's about a 16 year old girl, Liz, who loses her self confidence after her dad dies. She's struggling with her relationship with her Mum and Stepdad and the hostility of bullies at school when she meets Doug, who happens to be deaf. Doug transforms the way she looks at herself and restores her faith in happiness.

I already had Liz in my head when I started a new job which involved working with a Deaf-led production company and I was fascinated by the concept of Deaf identity. Doug's struggle for identity and acceptance complements Liz's. They come from very different worlds but they are both searching for the place within themselves where they must root their lives.

How do you write?

The way I write is quite organic; things tend to evolve and are often influenced by things that are going on around me.

How did you get published? I believe Give Me a Sign is your first YA book, but not your first published novel?

My first published novel was adult fiction about a young woman with learning disabilities who models herself on Marilyn Monroe. I did an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and in the third year we wrote up our novels. I was awarded a distinction. I heard about the Cinnamon Press 'first novel' competition through a colleague on the MA Creative Writing and thought I'd have a go. 'Marilyn and Me' was published the year after in 2007.

I found an agent when I was partway through the course, when I was still working on ‘Marilyn and Me’. I submitted to agents in the usual way of initially sending out three sample chapters with synopsis. I sent out a tween novel about emotional/mental health called, 'Going Bananas'. Eve White loved it and offered to represent me but it never found a publisher.

Can you suggest books you think are really strong recommendations for young readers or Young Adults?

The best YA books I've read recently are 'Before I Die' by Jenny Downham and 'Looking for JJ' by Anne Cassidy. Both deal with very difficult topics in a way that is accessible to young adults and also appeals to older adults. 'Before I Die' is narrated by a teenage girl dying of cancer and 'Looking for JJ' is narrated by a child murderer.

From a reader's perspective, I enjoy first person narratives and both these books were real page turners where you get so envolved with the characters, you're compelled to read on. They are books that make you think and I love that.

From a writer's perspective, they are both beautifully written, very well crafted. You can really feel the amount of work that has gone into them. The way Cassidy uses three identities to let the story unfold is very effective and Downham's treatment of the death scenes is stunning. Both are so strong, I just wish I'd written them myself!

I believe you have just recently received your first royalties check for sales of Marilyn and Me?

Yes! It was a pathetically small amount but it was still a momentous occasion, because it meant that people had actually PAID. MONEY. To buy my book. To read what I had written.

I celebrated in style by splashing out on an Indian takeaway for hubby and me. After we'd stuffed ourselves there wasn't much money left but it was the best meal I'd ever tasted.


Of Shanta Everington's first novel, Jan Fortune-Wood at Cinnamon Press said, “Marilyn and Me really stood out. The main character, a young woman with learning disabilities, is so well realised and completely overturns any stereotypes – she is poignant, but has her own strength and growing sense of identity and she is also funny, likeable and authentic. The voice of the novel is superb and it was great working with Shanta on the novel, which has since been serialised in a newspaper. The book raises lots of issues without preaching and deals with some dark and difficult subjects with great subtlety. It’s an engaging story and one that gets fantastic feedback.”

Read more about Shanta

Her blog:

About her Publishers

Cinnamon Press:
Writing competition, upcoming deadline November 30th:

Cinnamon Press aims to select books about which they feel passionate and concentrates on a small list of titles into which they put maximum effort at every stage of development. The aim of the Cinnamon Press Writing Awards is to offer new writers in different genres publication opportunities. They run competitions twice a year with closing dates of June 30th and November 30th. Competitions are open for poets, short story writers and novelists (including those writing novellas) Cinnamon Press often commissions not only the winner, but also selected short listed entrants.

Flame Books:

Author photo credit copyright Kelly Mullan, Disability Now.

For the printed edition of this interview at TVFH go here.

How to get a Publishing Deal #2

Reader Logoby The Lone Ranger

Last week I gave you the first of my tips on getting a publishing deal. Now I'm guessing you tried that and it didn't work. Worry not my friend here is tip number 2.

Blast Your Way into the Publishing House to present Your Manuscript in Person.

For this you will need:

A partner in crime. I have Tonto: A leather clad femme fatale works well here.
Your Manuscript
A long Black Coat
Your Synopsis
1000's of Guns

Here's a "How To" short film. Study it well, the publishing houses are like Fort Knox - expect resistance. Good luck!

Picture Credit: