An insight into the publishing world…

Posts tagged ‘Publishing’

ACCENT PRESS – THE DEEPEST CUT BY NATALIE FLYNN

Time for book review number 6 for my 52 Books by 52 Publishers reading challenge. Today’s publisher is…

 

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Accent Press!

Accent Press is a feisty, independent publishing company.

 Founded by Hazel Cushion in 2003, Accent Press is an award-winning independent publisher which has become a major name for dynamic trade publishing. The company publishes a range of fiction and non-fiction titles across four imprints.  Accent Press was named Specialist Publisher of the Year and was shortlisted for Independent Publisher of the Year at the IPG Awards.  

The company is divided into four imprints:

  • Accent Press – The mainstream publishing imprint provides a wide range of fiction and non-fiction titles.
  • Xcite Books – This erotic imprint was started in 2007, becoming the UK’s largest erotic publisher and winning multiple ETO Awards.
  • Cariad – mainstream romance publishing sexy, contemporary women’s fiction.
  • Accent YA – There’s a new YA publisher in town. This exciting new list aimed at young adults launches in Spring 2016.

Find out more about accent press here.

 

And the book I’m reviewing is…

 

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‘You haven’t said a single word since you’ve been here. Is it on purpose?’ I tried to answer David but I couldn’t … my brain wanted to speak but my throat wouldn’t cooperate…

Adam blames himself for his best friend’s death. After attempting suicide, he is put in the care of a local mental health facility. There, too traumatized to speak, he begins to write notebooks detailing the events leading up to Jake’s murder, trying to understand who is really responsible and cope with how needless it was as a petty argument spiralled out of control and peer pressure took hold.

Sad but unsentimental, this is a moving story of friendship and the aftermath of its destruction.

I’ve been so lucky so far in that I’ve really loved every book I’ve read so far this year for my reading challenge. All but two of them have been independent publishers. What does that tell you? Yep, that indies pack a punch and are producing some of the best literature we have out there today.

The Deepest Cut is a young adult novel. No matter how old you are, I really think it’s enriching to read young adult novels. They really are something special, and with the huge popularity it has enjoyed over the last few years, it’s only getting better.

This book is sad, yes, and it made me bawl my eyes out on more than one occasion. It’s about a boy who lost his best friend to knife crime, after all. But it’s not just about the sadness. It’s about deep, undying male platonic love. It’s about the strength of friendship and about how no human being is infallible. It’s about grief and support and mental illness, specifically Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s about peer pressure and the fragility of teenager friendships. It’s about confusion and not really knowing who you are as a kid. It’s about craving acceptance and yearning for what once was. It’s about the difficulties of dealing with change.

What I especially love is that Natalie Flynn has managed to capture the voice of a teenage boy, a troubled teenage boy, so accurately and convincingly. I was a teenager only ten years ago, and I remember having some of the same worries and thoughts and feelings that the kids do in this book, and so it felt really authentic. Equally, his mental anguish felt very authentic too. It was particularly effective because for much of the narrative the focus is on simple teenager issues, and is then contrasted with very unusual ones, which deals an emotional blow.

The sheer contrast between the Adam before Jake’s murder and the Adam after his murder makes for quite heartbreaking reading. He just suddenly cares about nothing, except Jake. Life doesn’t matter to him anymore. He’s angry and resentful at his father for not caring about him and betraying him. He’s upset and terrified of people finding out how and why he’s complicit in Jake’s murder. He’s angry at people for not understanding him. And he’s angry at everyone who won’t just let him end his own life.

The story of Jake’s murder is told over a series of diary entries which Adam is writing for his psychotherapist to read in the mental hospital. These are interspersed with current-day narratives about Adam’s life in the present, post-murder and post- Adam’s mental breakdown. This kept me absolutely hooked as a reader, desperate to know who murdered Jake and why.

The most effective aspect of Flynn’s writing, for me, was how she brought Adam and Jake’s friendship to life. Their love for each other just radiates off the page. It makes the whole tragedy even more powerful to read about. It’s very good writing.

I think it would be especially important for teenagers to read this book as it highlights, very dramatically and colourfully, how important seemingly unimportant things are, at that age. It demonstrates the danger that can befall absolutely anyone. And it emphasises the seriousness of fighting and knife crime, which is often underestimated by young teens who sometimes feel invincible.

This book is a fantastic read for people of any age. Definitely one for your shelf. Well done Natalie Flynn and Accent press. I’ll be returning for more!

 

five stars

 

 

HEADLINE PUBLISHING – Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon

Time for book review number 5 for my 52 Books by 52 Publishers reading challenge. Today’s publisher is not an indie, but a biggie. It’s…

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About Headline Publishing Group:

PASSION, VISION, AMBITION

We have the virtues of an independent with the clout of a publishing giant: physically, digitally, globally.

Relationships are our business: we are passionate in our drive to deliver bestseller success and the whole team believes they can make a difference to an author’s career.

Our unique focus allows us to see the maverick potential that delivers the bestseller success others miss.

Headline’s non-fiction team has a highly commercial focus across a range of genres, including: biography, and autobiography, cookery, lifestyle, diet and fitness, popular science, sport, history and military, gift and humour, media tie-in and business. Our 2015 bestsellers include THE WRONG KNICKERS by Bryony Gordon, THE ROAD BENEATH MY FEET by Frank Turner, THE END OF AN EARRING by Pam St Clement, THE GLAM GUIDE by Fleur De Force and KEW ON A PLATE WITH RAYMOND BLANC by Kew Gardens.

Learn more about Headline here.

 

The book I’m reviewing today, from Headline, is…

 

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Bryony Gordon has OCD.

It’s the snake in her brain that has told her ever since she was a teenager that her world is about to come crashing down: that her family might die if she doesn’t repeat a phrase 5 times, or that she might have murdered someone and forgotten about it. It’s caused alopecia, bulimia, and drug dependency. And Bryony is sick of it. Keeping silent about her illness has given it a cachet it simply does not deserve, so here she shares her story with trademark wit and dazzling honesty.

A hugely successful columnist for the Telegraph, a bestselling author, and a happily married mother of an adorable daughter, Bryony has managed to laugh and live well while simultaneously grappling with her illness. Now it’s time for her to speak out. Writing with her characteristic warmth and dark humour, Bryony explores her relationship with her OCD and depression as only she can.

Mad Girl is a shocking, funny, unpredictable, heart-wrenching, raw and jaw-droppingly truthful celebration of life with mental illness.

I actually picked up and read this book back in January while on holiday in Tenerife. I knew that when I came back to England I was going to start a brand new job as a copy editor for a mental health non-fiction publishing company, aiming to publish easy-to-read self-help books and inspirational stories from mental illness survivors. So, it was a no-brainer! (No pun intended.)

I can’t emphasise how much books like these are needed in today’s society. In this book Bryony is brutally honest about her OCD. She opens up about her fear of being a danger to young children, her drug dependency, and the other mental illnesses that her OCD has caused over the years. She debunks myths along the way and points a bright shining spotlight on the stigma still surrounding the subject today. She gives quite harrowing and stark accounts of some of the most grim times in her life, including fighting with bulimia and going through horrific mental breakdowns.

Most importantly, this book shows you the real, true reality of OCD. Not the theories, and general conceptions or misconceptions of OCD, but the real-life impact of it. So many people today think they know what OCD is, and what it involves. Bryony shows you that there is so much more to it than what we know.

What’s refreshing is that she manages to do all this while still being hilariously funny. Even the most distressing times are depicted in a way that both captures her distress perfectly and provides comic relief at the same time. She is warm and compassionate to the reader. She knows she’s talking about a sensitive subject. She knows she’s going to come up against people who don’t understand, and is helping to educate them anyway. She’s offering support to those readers who feel lost by telling them they’re not alone, and they don’t have to suffer in silence.

Bryony was incredibly brave in telling this story. In her first book, The Wrong Knickers, she admits to taking cocaine, being a party girl, and all manner of other things. But she didn’t mention her OCD at all. In this book, she decides to bare all to show the world that being mentally ill is nothing to be afraid of. Just by writing this book, she has made a huge step forward but also made a huge statement to society: do not be ashamed.

Most importantly, this book gives the reader inspiration and motivation. If Bryony Gordon can go through all of this horrific stuff, why can’t you? You can, and will, get through it.

This book is so illuminating, so funny, so enjoyable and so eye-opening. As a mental health advocate, I implore you to give it a read. You won’t regret it.

This is a definite 5 out of 5 for me.

five stars

Introducing Crime Author Michael Knaggs

As explained in this book review, I met Michael Knaggs at Waterstones in Hull, where he impressed me with his willingness to engage with the general reading public without ‘hard-selling’ his book. I have since got to know him more and he is an enthusiastic and charming author. His third book in the Hotel St Kilda trilogy is about to be published and I seriously enjoyed Catalyst, the first book in the series. Find out more about this Hull-born author in the interview below, in which he demonstrates that there is more than just one way to become a successful author…

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Please introduce yourself and give us a bit of background to your life and career.

I was born in Hull in 1944 and lived there until just after my 22nd birthday. During that time I attended Hull Grammar School where I wrote a short story for a school magazine which, 55 years later, turned up again as the opening scene in my first book!

After attaining a Higher National Diploma in Chemistry at Hull Technical College, I moved to Thurso, Caithness, in 1967 to work as an Experimental Officer at Dounreay Atomic Power Station, and relocated to Salford to complete a degree in Chemistry two years later. There at the University, in addition to getting my degree, I got a wife as well – Carol, who worked in the laboratory there.

From there up to my retirement in 2005, I worked for Kellogg Company – the global breakfast cereal manufacturers – latterly as HR Director with responsibility for Pay and Benefit policy across the Company’s European area operation.

I live in Prestwich, Manchester, with Carol, my bride of 45 years! Our great passion is hill-walking and we do at least one long distance walk each year. This year we are undertaking the West Highland Way for the second time and later in the year will be tackling the Wolds Way in East Yorkshire – close to my home. We have two children and two grand-children, all of whom live close to us.

How long have you been writing, and why did you decide to publish a novel?

I began writing after I retired at the end of 2005. But long before then I had the story very clearly formed in my mind and the first thing I did before starting on the manuscript was to set it out in full in abbreviated form. And although I had never written a book before I must have produced the equivalent in length of about ten or fifteen over the years in the form of reports, employee policy documents and communications, presentations, talks, speeches, training courses, etc. So at least the process of stringing words together was a natural one for me.

It was never my intension to write a trilogy. I simply had a story I wanted to tell which was too long for a single book, so I ended up with an accidental trilogy!

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My copy of Catalyst – as illustrated by Michael Knagg’s wife Carol

Tell us a little bit about Catalyst- ‘sell’ your book to our readers!

Catalyst is a crime/political thriller dealing with street crime and, more specifically, how to tackle it in the context of the wider issue of law and justice.

When three brothers, leaders of a brutal street gang, are lured to an isolated cul-de-sac and shot dead by a mysterious stranger, the subsequent euphoria on the estate where they lived is picked up by the national press. Tom Brown, a Member of Parliament for the Opposition Party, whose constituency includes the estate, seizes the opportunity to exploit the story by leading a crusade to implement a New Justice Regime which would include uncompromising methods for tackling street gangs.

The book follows Tom’s efforts to win support – assisted by a local campaigner, George Holland, and a freelance reporter, Tony Dobson – along with the parallel story of the hunt for the killer. When the killer is eventually caught and sentenced, the two storylines come together in dramatic fashion. At the same time the gang sets out for revenge, targeting George and descending in large numbers on the quiet village where he lives, armed and ready to kill.

Meanwhile, Tom’s Party leader, Andrew Donald, is pursuing his own agenda….

I believe the book will appeal to a wide variety of readers of all ages. It features heroic characters of all types and vintages who I hope people will readily identify with.

What research did you undertake for the book? How did you manage the capture the voice and tone of the various environments within the story – the gang culture, the political and policing environments, the court room?

Researching the book was one of the most fulfilling parts of the whole experience – and in some ways, it was very easy. Through Wikipedia and Google you can find out every bit of information that has ever been discovered, recorded, collected, hypothesised or anything. This created a temptation for me to include a mass of technical, factual data which added nothing to the story, but made me sound very smart and knowledgeable. I’ve learned my lesson, though, and only the essential bits go in to the stories now!

I also met with a number of people – political representatives, lawyers and members of the police – who helped me a great deal and to whom I shall be ever grateful for their time and interest, as well as the great incites into their areas of work – and without the attendant extraneous information I’d got from other sources.

I see that your wife is also the book’s illustrator – it captures the book perfectly. What was your experience working together creatively? Was there much trial and error?

Carol is a water-colour artist whose preferred subject matter is pastoral landscapes and pet portraits, so the cover images were well outside her normal comfort zone. Working together on the cover designs was really great and all credit to Carol for producing exactly what I had envisaged for both books. It must be difficult enough for an artist getting onto paper or canvas what is in their own mind. It’s a step beyond that producing what is in someone else’s mind. Yes, there was a lot of trial and error – though perhaps ‘error’ isn’t the right word. And with the second book – Heaven’s Door – after we had seemingly wrapped up the artwork, I realised the image was the wrong way round to how I had described it in the book – so Carol re-drafted it, with – I have to admit – amazing patience and calm!

You clearly love crime writing – so, why this genre?

Up to when I retired I didn’t read much at all, but what I did enjoy mostly was crime fiction. But the main reason is the nature of the story itself which had been growing in my mind for a couple of decades, stemming from the short story I wrote at grammar school and expanding into this substantial saga. That story was about street crime so that’s the genre where it fitted. I didn’t choose to become a crime writer, as such; it just happened that’s where the story fitted.

I met you at a book signing in Waterstones – why do you think it’s important to engage with readers face-to-face, and what do you enjoy about marketing your work? Is there anything you feel that authors need to do more of?

Because of my virtual anonymity in a genre which is saturated with books, authors, and manuscripts waiting to become books, I have to get to people as best I can to persuade them to try my work. Meeting them in book shops is the best opportunity to do that. In fact, I sell the majority of my books at the sort of event where we met in Hull. If I had an agent and full PR behind me out in the market place, then I would not need to reach out to potential readers in this way. And whereas it would be nice to have someone out there promoting my work – I’d certainly relish that situation – I would miss out on one of the things I like most. That is the opportunity to share with people the journey that has brought me face to face with them in Waterstones or WH Smiths, or wherever. (Incidentally, I am exceptionally grateful to the store managers at all the branches of those stores where I have been given the opportunity to raise the profile of my books)

In so far as what authors should do more of, I’m not sure I can answer that for the whole spectrum of practitioners, but I would certainly encourage new authors to try what I do. It’s amazing how interested the reading public are in hearing about the process that turns an idea for a tale in someone’s head into a finished book or e-document. And also how prepared they are to try someone new.

Anything you feel that you’d like to learn more about?

 I guess the simple answer is anything that will help me reach a wider readership. And I’m finding out more about that all the time through meeting people like you who are kind enough to take an interest and help me move forward.

Why did you choose to self-publish your work, and why did you choose to go through a self-publishing imprint of a traditional publisher? How did you come across them, and what have been the benefits of taking this route? How have they supported you?

In this genre and increasingly in others, publishers will not accept manuscripts directly from authors, only from literary agents. So to get ‘traditionally’ published an author needs to persuade an agent to represent them, and the agent must be engaged enough to feel they can persuade a publisher to take it forward.

The decision is based on risk – ‘will the book sell?’ – and not on quality, although obviously there is a quality threshold. I was advised from the beginning that I would have very little chance of getting an agent – who is someone looking for a career writer with whom to establish a long-term relationship which would need a lot of work at the start to raise the author’s profile. An old guy writing recreationally in retirement is not a good bet.

So self publishing was the only way forward if I wanted to fulfil my ambition. I chose Matador because they are the self-publishing arm of Troubador who are mainstream publishers, and also because they are recommended regularly by independent sources on self-publishing, e.g. the Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book. I have never regretted the decision and they have provided excellent support and advice throughout the production of the three books.

Why did you decide to tackle a controversial political subject in your book?

I’m afraid there’s a lot of me in the New Justice Regime and its provisions for dealing with people who set out to make other people’s lives a misery for no other reason than the fact that they are easy targets. I guess I’m into my Grumpy Old Man stage, but it goes further than that. I firmly believe that more should be more done to protect the victims and potential victims of street crime and less to understand and embrace the motives of the perpetrators. (This is where I could go on for several pages) Suffice to say, it could have been me making the speeches at the Old Bailey and the 3AF meeting.

Which characters do you particularly love in your books, and why?

That’s easy – my favourite characters are the two police colleagues, DCI David Gerrard and DS Jo Cottrell. They are close colleagues oozing respect for each other but also share a deep mutual affection. They are great vehicles for me to include all the light quips and comments that true friends will share and they serve to provide a lighter side to the darkness of the overall plot. I enjoy writing dialogue – which my editor thinks is my main strength – and have always thoroughly enjoyed putting together their exchanges.

What’s next for you and your books?

I promised both myself and Carol that I would retire again after completing the third book, which takes my original story to its conclusion. However, during the course of my writing I have had an idea for a fourth book – a sequel to the trilogy – which includes what I believe is a great twist and would provide a very satisfying conclusion to the whole saga. Whether I do this or not will depend on the reaction to my third book – which I, and my editor, believe is, by some margin, the best of all – and how I settle back to life without writing.

In so far as the three completed books are concerned, then I expect much of the same – introducing and promoting my work through book signings and through the numerous talks I have been invited to give to reading groups, creative writing groups and other organisations. Something else I enjoy very much.

We’ll see. But whatever happens, I have enjoyed the whole experience immensely and am quite proud of what I have achieved at a time in my life when I could have been excused for taking things easy!

Find out more about Michael Knaggs here.

Catalyst by Michael Knaggs

 

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Today’s book review focuses on Catalyst by Michael Knaggs, a book which I was compelled to buy after Michael, very proactively, approached me in the Waterstones branch in Hull. I liked that it didn’t feel as though I was on the receiving end of a ‘hard sell’, he just really wanted to discuss his book with customers, regardless of whether or not they would be likely to buy it. For this reason, I decided to go with something different to what I would normally read. And it paid off.

When three brothers, the leaders of a brutal gang, are lured to an isolated street and shot dead by a mysterious stranger, the subsequent euphoria on the estate where they lived is picked up by the national press.

 Tom Brown, an MP for the Opposition Party, whose constituency includes the estate, seizes the opportunity to exploit the story. Having built a reputation as a champion of law and order, he leads the crusade to implement a New Justice Regime with several supporters in tow, including local campaigner George Holland who embarks on a tour of the country to rally support for radical change.

When the killer is eventually caught and sentenced to life imprisonment, the gang sets out for revenge, targeting George for his outspoken condemnation of their activities and uncompromising proposals for their demise. They descend in large numbers on the quiet village where he lives, armed and ready to kill.

Meanwhile, Party Leader Andrew Donald is pursuing his own agenda…

 This intriguing novel, the first of the Hotel St Kilda books, contains themes of politics, crime and the military with family drama at its heart, creating a wide appeal for readers both young and old.

What’s great about Catalyst is that it strikes you from the very first paragraph. Kicking off immediately with tense and fast-paced action, the first scene sets the tone for the rest of the book. There certainly are no slow parts in the novel.

The second chapter, in which an incredibly shocking and controversial incident occurs, really is the catalyst for all that follows throughout the rest of the book. The whole narrative is a response to that first scene, and the action, intrigue and controversy never lets up. What particularly struck me about the book is how authentic it felt, even with quite an extreme and controversial subject matter.

As stated in the blurb, the book starts off with the ruthless gunning down of three notorious gang members who have been terrorising the village and local town for years. When you read this passage, a moral debate rages within your head: am I shocked and appalled at this seemingly cold-blooded murder, or on some level do I feel slightly satisfied that they got what was coming to them?

That is what the whole book really centres around: the question of taking justice into your own hands when the policing system seems powerless to intervene. And off the back of that, the Opposition party runs its own election campaign – to deal with gang members and violent offenders far, far more harshly and strictly than ever before…

Each character within this book felt really real. So much so, that I felt genuinely sad for the residents of Cullen Field. It’s a horrible thought that the kind of trauma and fear and intimidation that the residents of this book go through actually happens in real life. The subject matter of this book is incredibly topical.

Tom Brown, an MP within the Opposition Party, is smart, intelligent, good-looking and a radical thinker. That is one side of him that we are exposed to. The other side is an exposure of his insecurities, his marital problems, and his familial worries and joys. He often struggles to balance his work and his private life and they bleed into one another: something that I bet a lot of people can relate to. Tom Brown is likeable, but depending on your personal viewpoint, he is also lost in his own idealism and wishful thinking. It’s really interesting to try to make up your mind about him as reader, as you go through the book. His wife has many opposing views to his, and that heightens the tension and intrigue surrounding their family life.

Another fascinating character within the book is George Holland, a resident of Cullen Field, who helps support Tom’s vision and campaigns for radical change. I couldn’t help but love this character: he is slightly naive, a little out of his depth, but so convinced by the movement which promises to fight back against gang youths that he takes on the task of convincing the general public with growing enthusiasm. Even if you disagree fundamentally with the process that he is fighting for, you can’t help but love and sympathise with George.

The most intriguing, though, is Jad, the gunman who shoots the three gang members at the beginning of the book. As you go through the novel, his history and back story are revealed, and it’s so gripping. Equally as thought-provoking are his reasons behind his actions (why did he gun the gang down, when he hasn’t lived in Cullen Field in years? Why did he give a false name and identity even after being charged with murder?) and his relationship with Tom Brown and his family. There’s more than meets the eye there.

The writing style, for some reason, reminded me a little bit of John Grisham’s; not so much in style, although there are similarities, but more the effect of the narrative. Though fairly straight forward and devoid of unnecessary adjectives or poetic devices, it just sucks you in and compels you to keep on reading. It doesn’t beat about the bush: the author knows what his going on in his world and he tells you in no uncertain terms. But the style is engaging, and keeps the reader hooked throughout. I always found myself wanting to know more; wanting to know what was going to happen next.

A quite surprising outcome of reading this book was that it allowed me to understand the workings and mindsets of local politicians and their job roles. OK, so perhaps some aspects within the book might have been exaggerated or changed with artistic license, but being taken through the story from both private and political angles really helped me understand how events can shape political manifestos and campaigns. It also shows how gang violence affects every aspect of modern society. And the reaction to it in this book really is extreme. (But that’s what makes it all the more exciting to read.)

This book will most definitely appeal to all crime novels and thriller fans, which I think goes without saying. But I would urge people who would not normally read these genres (like myself) to give it a try, because it really is a great read.

I will be posting an interview with the author in a few days, but in the meantime, find out more about him here.

You can buy the book here on Amazon and on the Matador Books website.

*Blog Tour Stop* End as an Assassin Author Interview

I’m very pleased to be hosting an interview today with the author of the book I’m currently enjoying, End as an Assassin. I must admit, I don’t often read thrillers (although I do occasionally) so I’m grateful to the publisher for offering me the copy of this book. It’s good to read outside of my comfort zone, and this is also a great opportunity to get to know the author behind the novel, Lex Lander.

So, here goes! Enjoy!

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Hi Lex! 

Hello, thank you for having me!

Your new book – what’s it all about?

END AS AN ASSASSIN is about André Warner, a hit man who, at the start of the story, goes into retirement. He then finds he is at a loose end and his life has lost purpose and meaning. He becomes something of a lotus eater – drink, drugs, loose women, etc. Then his violent past returns to bite him and he finds himself under surveillance by persons unknown. Around that time he meets a woman, divorced, defensive, suspicious of men, and they fall in love. She gets dragged into whatever is going on with him, and ultimately they both come face to face with death. Warner solves the problem the only way he knows how – at the point of a gun.

Why do you choose to write thrillers?

Quite simply, they’re my preferred reading – and therefore my preferred writing!

Why did you choose to start a book series rather than writing standalone novels?

I didn’t.  END AS AN ASSASSIN was meant to be a standalone book. But when I finished it I decided that the character of Warner had ‘legs’ and that I had so much more of his story to tell. This led to a follow up, and now to Volumes III (completed, being edited) and IV (75% complete).

Sell your main character to me – why does he or she deserve the spotlight? What’s unique about them?

Warner is a hit man with a heart! He used to work for the British Secret Service, and killed a couple of bad guys, though only in shootouts, not assassinations. When he left the Service under a cloud, with his much loved wife murdered, he was ripe for any interesting line of work that came up. He kills for a living, but wants out, wants normality, a wife, kids, and a home, but he can’t get off the treadmill.

What difficulties do you face as a thriller writer?

A lack of time, which of course is not specific to writing thrillers. Writing thrillers does not pose many challenges for me, apart from the obvious one of sticking at a story until it’s finished. Research is enjoyable, and I only locate my stories in places I have lived in or visited.

Kaybec publishing – who are they? What’s been the best thing about your publishing experience so far? 

Kaybec is a small company based in Montreal and run by Stuart Kay, who also had a publishing business in the UK in the 1990s. They do not intend to acquire a large stable of authors. They have 2 right now, and will probably never have more than 6, giving the company more time to nurture each one. The best thing about my publishing experience so far is having someone believe in me and my work.

Have you ever been published before? If so, when, and have things changed much since then? If not, how has it been different to how you imagined it might be, and how is it similar?

I have written a few books that were never offered for publication.  My first published title was ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER JACKAL, published by Kaybec in 2014. I had no imaginings about what publishing would be like, because I thought that getting published would be a longshot. I only landed with Kaybec because a member of my family knew Stuart, and that he had been a publisher (and a writer) previously. I felt lucky that he might was prepared to read it and offer constructive criticism. I never thought he would return to publishing just on account of my book!

Do you have any motivation/resilience tips for when things get difficult, either with writer’s block, difficulties getting published, etc.?

I’ve never suffered with writer’s block. Words are easy, I just keep setting them down on paper, without worrying too much how they flow until I get to the editing stage. As it happens, they usually do flow. The first edit is equally as important as the last. Stuart does the second, and sometimes third, edit, and is very ruthless. Regarding the resilience needed to get published, I am not the one to ask, as it more or less dropped into my lap through the family/friend connection. I am one of the lucky few. I do believe that it’s hellishly difficult to get someone in the trade to even read your work, but if you have the determination, you will get there eventually.

You have to believe in yourself!

 

You can buy the book here on Amazon.

Introducing Evan Jones, Publisher at Together Tales

I’m so pleased that my first interview back after an incredibly hectic few months away from blogging is with Evan Jones of Stitch Media, discussing the new and exciting product Together Tales. This is a really interesting new project and Evan explains how it came about it in this fascinating interview. Welcome, Evan!

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Please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background and career.

My name is Evan Jones and I’ve spent my life interested how new technology changes the way we tell stories to each other.

Early in my career I became obsessed with Alternate Reality Games. ARGs are a style of narrative that really couldn’t exist before the internet, because they rely on the audience as investigators who connect different types of media together to make a complete story.  They’re also intensely interactive and the best ones consider the audience as collaborators – their theories and solutions inspire the creative team working behind the scenes.

I’ve had the good fortune to collaborate with incredibly talented people on projects across every genre. We’ve worked in comedy, drama, documentary, horror, science fiction, children’s, lifestyle – but always with an interactive point of view. Stitch Media is the company that you call when you want to push the boundaries. I’m always working hard to stay ahead of the curve on new technology but more importantly the media trends that are shifting around us.

Together Tales – what’s the premise?

Together Tales are Adventure Kits that combine physical books and artifacts with interactive challenges. Parents bring these stories to life as an insider working with the author to plant clues and create coincidences.

For kids aged 8-10 reading the adventures, it’s like the whole story surrounds you. You are a character in the books and your actions end up saving the day. We’ve had a lot of feedback that this product is perfect for ‘reluctant readers’ because it’s broken into short chapters that connect with activities both offline and online.

For parents, it’s like having a creative sidekick for those moments where you want to want to play along with your kids but don’t always have the time or energy to make it up. Adventure Kits give you all the tools you need and simple instructions via email to prompt you at the perfect moment. You’re playing alongside your kids with a cheat sheet from the author.

 

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What made you, as a media and TV professional, look at the idea of interactive books? How did the idea and the concept of Together Tales come about?

We didn’t set out to make an interactive book. Our company never starts with the technology first. It’s that old adage “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Instead we started with a question: “How can recreate some of our fondest memories of childhood?” 

We loved reading books of course – books are imagination fireworks where you can do anything at all. We also loved simple games like scavenger hunts and puzzles. But the secret ingredient is the name of our product – it was those moments we spent together.

Together Tales is a platform to combine all of these things.  We rely upon an ‘insider’ who truly knows the reader. We use the shorthand of parents but it could easily be grandparents or that cool uncle or an amazing teacher. The point is that our adventures come to life in through others – they are the ones who personalize a letter online, print it out and tuck it under the child’s pillow because they received an automated email yesterday explaining that the Magician will be answering their dream questions tomorrow. It’s a system to make more of those memorable moments by connecting them together with a story.

What kind of success have you enjoyed so far?

Our first success was convincing a jury to give us the CMF Experimental Fund – it allowed us to build the technology and test the concept until we got it right. The one thing we needed after that was the money to pay for our first print run. We created four Adventure Kits in our first year and launched the concept on Kickstarter – that was really when Together Tales took off. We’ve shipped hundreds of kits out to families now and the response has been incredible. The five-star reviews on Amazon have really inspired us – parents talk about how excited their kids get about reading the stories and their adventures.

It’s also been a huge boost for us to be recognized by our industry. We were nominated for the BookTech prize in the UK this year and for the Canadian Screen Award for Best Original Interactive Project. These endorsements help a great deal in promoting sales.

Anything that has been particularly challenging?

Our biggest challenge is everyone’s biggest challenge – discoverability. Our target demographic is parents with 8-10 year old kids and I’m one of them. It’s a very busy and distracted group of customers and we don’t have a marketing budget to spend yet. We know that families love the product but we haven’t yet mastered the way we reach that audience.

Why do you think there’s a market for this kind of publishing?

Publishing is not going away. Yes it’s changing but all of the media industries shift when a new paradigm appears. We know this is a crowded market but we feel that Together Tales is something truly new and will strike a chord with the right type of customer.

Together Tales is also built to empower authors to write their own Adventure Kits. Our platform expands with every new book as we build a library of games and technology which are reused in subsequent stories. They’re also not tied to a particular platform. We’re not thinking about the issues of paper vs tablets because we use them all in the way they were intended. Media consumption habits for us aren’t an either/or proposition, they’re all potential for us.

Have you found that you have been able to reach out easily to children who may not be particularly enthusiastic about reading?

Together Tales is very accessible because the story is portioned out. The child never sees a huge book because the story is divided into chapters and interactive moments. The first chapter looks like a comic book, but once you’ve read it you’re hooked. The characters need your help and a game begins. It’s not hard to convince kids to play games but when the game is over you want to see how it affected the story. That’s when the second chapter magically appears (thanks parents!) and the cycle continues.

I would point you to this customer review specifically on this topic:

http://www.amazon.com/review/R6AXQ8UB23B37/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0994861907&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=283155&store=books

What has been your best feedback so far?

It’s when we bump into a kindred spirit. Some of our feedback from parents was “I’m too busy to spend 15 minutes setting this up.” That’s when we realized that it’s all about perspective. Fifteen minutes is a lot when you’re comparing it to passing an iPad into the back seat. But for some parents, they are already spending 2 hours sewing a tail on an old pair of shorts, or researching crafts for their kids on a rainy weekend. For those parents, we get the opposite reaction – fifteen minutes to look like a hero. They’re in.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

The agenda has been set by our commitment to bring a Year of Adventures to our customers. We’re publishing three more Adventure Kits this year and I’m taking them to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair to find some international exposure. We’re going to be selling them at the Toronto Word on the Street Festival and looking for many more ways to reach families.

 

You can find out more about Stitch Media and Together Tales by clicking the hyperlinks in the introduction to this interview.

Follow Stitch Media on Twitter @stitchmedia

Follow Together Tales on Twitter @togethertales and on Facebook 

 

 

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

Wow, after the most hectic start to a year ever, in which I got myself a brand new job in trade children’s publishing, and moving yet again to a whole new town, I’ve finally found the time to write out a book review. It’s good to be back.me before you

Today I’m reviewing Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You.

There’s a reason there’s a lot of hype around this book. The characters are so distinct and interesting, the story incredibly compelling and emotional. I haven’t had a book pull me in so completely like this for a long time. So often people will say “this book had me laughing out loud and crying at the same time”, so much so that it becomes a reviewing cliché. In all honesty I rarely cry and don’t tend to laugh out loud when reading, but I found myself having to read this book alone in another room for fear of someone seeing my reactions. Turns out, JoJo Moyes is a storytelling genuis. She had me in the palm of her hand.

Lou Clark knows lots of things.

 She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

 What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

 Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now, and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

 What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

The big mistake would be to stumble across this book and automatically think it’s another simple love story, or a chick lit tale that you might have heard over and over again. It is unlike anything else I’ve read before, and tackles a topical and very challenging subject. Will is a paraplegic, paralysed after a horrific car accident. Lou is a colourful twenty-something girl who is hired to be carer. Will used to live life to its fullest, going on wild holidays and adventures, sleeping with beautiful women, being ruthless in business and earning a lot of money. Suddenly, he finds life unbearable when it’s all torn away from him and just can’t understand why Lou doesn’t make the most of her life while she’s young. Lou sees nothing wrong with how she spends her time – until Will opens her eyes to the possibilities of life.

Each and every character within the novel is so distinct and you will probably see at least some of your own philosophies or family dynamics reflected within the story. The sibling rivalry between Lou and her very intelligent sister is all too relatable, her feeling of being trapped in a loveless relationship will probably chime with a few readers as well. I loved her parents, although felt it a bit unfortunate for Lou that their financial stability rested on her.

Me Before You is so fascinating because it’s an exploration of how differently people live their lives and how differently people see the world. It’s also a brilliant demonstration of how events in life can change a person completely – both physically but also mentally. Most importantly, it is gripping because it makes you fall in love with the characters and the way they influence each other is incredibly moving. It is both life-affirming and utterly heart-breaking.

This is an absolutely beautiful novel. I couldn’t recommend it enough.

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