Tuesday 3 June 2014

Blog Takeover #2: DARK DAYS Author Kate Ormand's Path to Publication

What's this? Two posts in two days? This blog is in danger of becoming positively active again. Well, there's a good reason that I'm posting today, because today is release day for DARK DAYS by my writing buddy Kate Ormand, a book I've been looking forward to ever since Kate asked me to read an early version after it was accepted for publication.

The future world has been divided into sectors--each the same as the other. Surrounded by thick steel fences, there is no way in and no way out. Yet a cyborg army penetrates each sector, picking off its citizens one by one, until no one is left. Behind the sectors' thick walls, the citizens wait to die. Few will be chosen to survive what's coming; the rest will be left behind to suffer. A new world has been created, and its rulers are incredibly selective on who will become a citizen. They want only those with important roles in society to help create a more perfect future. 

Sixteen-year-old Sia lives in one of the sectors as part of a family that is far too ordinary to be picked to live. According to the digital clock that towers high above her sector, she has only fifteen days to live. Sia has seen the reports and knows a horrific death is in store for her, but she is determined to make the most of her final days. Sia refuses to mourn her short life, instead promising herself that she'll stay strong, despite being suffocated by her depressed mother and her frightened best friend. Just when Sia feels more alone than ever, she meets Mace, a mysterious boy. There is something that draws Sia to him, despite his dangerousness, and together, they join a group of rebels and embark on an epic journey to destroy the new world and its machines, and to put an end to the slaughter of innocent people.

And now, over to Kate…

It’s publication day for DARK DAYS and Emma kindly invited me to share my path to publication. Everyone has such different journeys and I’ve always found it interesting to read about other experiences. So hopefully this will be interesting to someone . . . somewhere!

I wrote two YA novels before writing DARK DAYS. I started querying agents with the second.

I suffered through loads of rejection, which can really knock your confidence. And, like me, I’m sure every writer has considered giving up at some point. Obviously, I didn’t, and to keep myself busy while that novel was out and the rejection was coming in and the disappointment was mounting, I wrote DARK DAYS. It was something I’d been wanting to write for a while, so I got started. And not only was I finally writing the book I’d been looking forward to writing for ages, it took my mind mostly off the novel on submission, and I knew I was moving forward, rather than stuck in limbo waiting for replies.

A few months later, most replies had come in from agents. I had two partial requests along the way that didn’t go further, and a whole load of no! So I considered what to do next—to give that one another go, even though it really wasn’t looking good, or to move on and query DARK DAYS. I moved on.

I sent queries out in batches and kept an organised list to avoid contacting someone twice, and to keep on top of where my book was and how long it’d been there.  I used the Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook this time to research agencies and see if I might fit their list and who would be most suited to my work.

I sent to ten carefully selected agents and the waiting commenced!

After a few days I received my first full manuscript request from Isabel Atherton at Creative Authors Ltd. She was really enthusiastic about DARK DAYS (and still is), and I was delighted when Isabel emailed to tell me she loved the story and was interested in signing. Beyond delighted, actually! I signed in September 2012.

Next came the editing, as Isabel and I discussed the work and prepared it for submission. This took a couple months, then it was time to send out. More rejection followed, as expected, so I started writing another book (THE WANDERERS!).

In February 2013, Julie Matysik at Sky Pony Press made an offer on the title. Now here we are in June 2014, two years after starting DD, and it’s a real published book.  Hooray!

Thank you for having me, Emma!

You're welcome, Kate! 

KATE ORMAND is a YA writer represented by Isabel Atherton at Creative Authors Ltd. She lives in the UK with her family, her partner, and a cocker spaniel called Freddie. She recently graduated from university with a first class BA (Hons) degree in Fine Art Painting. It was during this course that Kate discovered her love of reading YA books, prompting her to try a new creative angle and experiment with writing. Kate is also a member of an online group of published writers and illustrators called Author Allsorts. And she writes children’s picture books under the name Kate Louise. You can see more about Kate and her writing by visiting her website (www.kateormand.wordpress.com) or on Twitter (@kateormand).

Monday 2 June 2014

Blog Takeover #1: Helen Grant's Top Ten Kickass Heroines

I've got a very special guest on the blog today! It's day one of Helen Grant's Demons of Ghent blog tour, and Helen has stopped by to share her top ten kickass heroines

Demons of Ghent is the second book in the Forbidden Spaces Trilogy; I read the first, Silent Saturday, quite recently, and absolutely loved it. It tells the story of Veerle, a 17-year-old girl who stumbles upon a secret society of urban explorers obsessed with breaking into unoccupied buildings, and when she joins them, finds herself in more danger than she could possibly imagine (you can find out more here). Helen combines a spare, elegant writing style with fast-paced action, edgy characters and a compelling setting – in this case, a bleak suburb of Brussels, which, for me, made a fascinating change from the usual US/UK settings of YA novels. 

So, as you can imagine, I'm very excited that the second novel in the sequence, Demons of Ghent, is being published in a few days' time. I'll share the blurb at the end of this post, but in the meantime… over to Helen!

I always find it really hard to compile Top Tens because I haven’t read all the books in the world (…yet), so there are bound to be some brilliant candidates that I’ve totally missed! These are my personal favourite kickass heroines.

Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)
Katniss belongs on this list so much that I thought I should just put her there at the top and get it over with. I love her because not only is she strong and capable, but she’s also protective. She’s not a mindless killing machine. She has a conscience. The whole plot kicks off because she tries to protect her little sister – and she does it without thinking, not as some kind of macho display.  

Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre)
It’s harder for a Victorian heroine to get onto the list, because back then things like fainting dead away in the face of danger were considered acceptable behaviour. In spite of this, Jane manages to be totally kickass, especially in the scene where she spends the entire night sponging blood off the badly-bitten victim of some unseen horror, while Rochester rides off to get the doctor.

Jess Tennant (How To Fall)
The heroine of Jane Casey’s two YA crime novels, Jess took my breath away at the end of the first one, How to Fall, because of her frankly outrageous strategy to lure out her cousin’s killer. I’m saying no more in case of spoilers, but…wow.

Mrs Proudie (Barchester Towers)
“She’s not the heroine!” I hear you cry. Well, no. The domineering wife of the Bishop of Barchester in Trollope’s Barchester novels is a character you love to hate, rather than actually love. Unable to be a bishop herself (something still impossible at the beginning of 2014), she nevertheless manages to do the job in all but name. At the end of the Barset books she dies, perhaps literally, with her boots on: she is found dead and rigid, on her feet, clasping the bedpost, and with her eyes wide open.

Cass Hollencroft (The Fearless)
Cass, like Katniss, is motivated by protectiveness, in this case the desire to rescue her little brother Jori from a fate worse than death. Impressively, Cass did not grow up in the dismal world of The Fearless, where you can either spend your time locked up in a fortress or risk being picked off by pharmacologically-created ghouls. She began life as an ordinary girl with a loving family and a pet cat. In spite of this soft beginning she still turns out to be kickass. Respect.

Lisbeth Salander (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Do I need to explain why she’s on the list? Thought not. Probably the most kickass heroine ever.
Circe (The Odyssey)
Circe lives by herself on an island in a palace guarded by wolves and lions. When Eurylochus and his men turn up, she is busy weaving and singing and upon seeing them she invites them in for dinner. So far so cutely domestic. Then she drugs them and turns them into pigs (there’s no such thing as a free lunch, guys). Odysseus, who turns up later, escapes the same fate thanks to some sneaky help from the Gods, but she still keeps him on her island for a year, and when he finally leaves, she tells him to go to Hell – with detailed instructions.

Jo March (Little Women, Good Wives)
Jo would probably be on quite a few people’s lists of kickass heroines, because of her fiery spirit, her disregard for boring social mores and the time she cuts off all her hair and sells it. Personally, I love the fact that she swerves the young, rich, handsome suitor who is prepared to lay it all at her feet, in favour of the chunky foreign dude with the beard and a shedload of integrity. And then they set up a boys’ school.

Ayesha (She)
It’s pretty kickass to be known locally as She-who-must-be-obeyed. As well as ruling an uncharted region of Africa from her stronghold under a volcano, Ayesha is able to kill a love rival by pointing at her and giving her a hard stare. Furthermore (spoiler alert) as the sequel proves, her kung fu is so strong that if she snogs a mere mortal man, he drops dead of it.

Veerle De Keyser (Silent Saturday, Demons of Ghent)
Is it bad to have one of my own heroines? Well, it’s my party I guess. All my books so far have female leads, and out of all of them, Veerle is the one I’d like to be. She’s got far more nerve than I have, and a much better head for heights: Demons of Ghent is full of rooftop shenanigans, and I am terrified if I am more than a couple of metres off the ground. Also, she’s so kickass that at the end of Silent Saturday she goes back into the crime scene to confront the killer.

I love this list – and thank you for mentioning Cass, Helen! Here's the blurb for Demons of Ghent, which I recommend you go and buy as soon as it hits the shelves (I know I will):

People are falling from the rooftops of Ghent. But did they throw themselves off - or did somebody push them?

Veerle has seen enough death to last a lifetime. 

But death isn't finished with Veerle just yet. 

When people start to die in her new home town, some put it down to a spate of suicides. Some blame the legendary Demons of Ghent. Only Veerle suspects that something - somebody - has followed her to wreak his vengeance. 

But she watched the Hunter die, didn't she?

Buy Demons of Ghent on Amazon, Waterstones or The Book Depository
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