An insight into the publishing world…

Posts tagged ‘writers’

Hull Central Library Book Fair – attracting top quality authors!

This is just a quick post to highlight the quality of events that are happening in Hull now. Hull has been awarded the title of City of Culture for 2017 and has since held a large number of literature and book events, a lot of which I’ve attended. When I heard about this book fair at Hull Central Library, I was very excited. It was a chance to meet a hell of a lot of extremely talented local authors.

Below are just a few people who exhibited at the event, and I outline why they are so important to literature in and around Hull.

Myself talking to authors at the Hull Book Fair

Myself talking to authors at the Hull Book Fair

Exhibiting at the event was Louise Beech, author of the brilliant book How to Be Brave. Her book is set in Hull and follows the story of a mother and daughter whose lives have been turned upside down by diabetes and the struggles that are brought with it. Running parallel to that story is the story of her grandfather, Colin Armitage, who is left stranded on a rescue boat when his trawler sinks in the middle of the North Sea. Louise’s book has become hugely popular since publication and looks to continue to make waves throughout not only our community but the larger publishing industry.

Louise Beech signing

Louise Beech signing a book for a eager customer

Margaret Dickinson, a legend of Hull’s and an phenomenally successful author, was exhibiting at the event and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a chat with her.

The hugely popular Margaret Dickinson

The hugely popular Margaret Dickinson

Published by Pan Macmillan, Margaret is a local Lincolnshire author whose vast numbers of published works have touched hearts and invited readers from far and wide to experience her wonderful writing. I felt a little bit like I was meeting a celebrity when I talked to her. She described to me how her writing process was a lot like how a painter works – sketching in the outlines first, writing a quick first draft of the novel, before going back and adding in more detail, colour and life.

Brian Lavery, fellow Hull Alumni. Photo credit: Martin J Goodman of Barbican Press.

Brian Lavery, fellow Hull Alumni. Photo credit: Martin J Goodman of Barbican Press.

Brian Lavery, author of The Headscarf Revolutionaries, was exhibiting and, as always, brought warmth, humour and a general friendly and happy atmosphere to proceedings. Brian is a great friend of mine as we did our English with Creative Writing BA degrees together a few years ago. Since we graduated, he has written and published the enormously successful The Headscarf Revolutionaries. It’s a creative non-fiction book that takes us through the story of the Triple Trawler tragedy in Hull and the story of Lily Billocca, a widow who campaigned tirelessly to bring in new safety regulations for the trawlermen.

Marion Gamble and her children's books

Marion Gamble and her children’s books

I had a chat with Marion Gamble, local East Yorkshire children’s author. Marion works in education and has enjoyed big success with her books, with Moon Cat a particular favourite. Her beautifully illustrated books are igniting passion for the print book in a new generation of readers, when it is needed more than ever.

Anna Bransgrove, author of Simple Dame Fairfax

Anna Bransgrove, author of Simple Dame Fairfax

Anna Bransgrove particularly impressed me with her new novella Simple Dame Fairfax, a kind of ‘spin-off’ from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre which focuses on the character Mrs Fairfax and tells her own as of yet untold story. For more info on this, visit this link.

Annie Wilkinson

Annie Wilkinson

Last but not least, the final author I spoke to was Annie Wilkinson, a best-selling novelist who currently lives in Hull and whose novels are based there. Her books fetch 4-5* on Amazon and I cannot wait to read her latest, The Land Girls. She was a wonderful author to talk to.

There were many stands and authors that I didn’t get the time to visit – but all the more reason to attend more upcoming events. Hull has so much to offer.

Overall, what struck me was that sense of community and pride in Hull and the North, and I think this needs to continue to be communicated and shared through literature. A big passion of mine is to continue to promote publishing, books and literature in the North and organise and promote book events which show just what the North has to offer. Keep tuned for some upcoming events run by yours truly!

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Introducing Illustrator and Children’s Author Claire Barker

I’m very excited to host this week’s interview with the sweet and multi-talented children’s author and illustrator Claire Barker. We met online through a mutual friend and she amazes me with her numerous talents and abilities while maintaining a down-to-earth attitude and lovely personality. Here she discusses her upcoming children’s book and her work as an illustrator and painter.

Is that Knitbone?! ;)

Is that Knitbone?! 😉

Please introduce yourself to my readers and give us a brief overview of your career.

Hello! I’m the author of Knitbone Pepper –Ghost Dog. I live on a small farm in North Devon with my husband, daughters and an assortment of animals. In the past I’ve lived in cities, on boats and in townhouses, but I always gravitate back to the countryside. I’ve done lots of different jobs including being an illustrator and a teaching assistant. I suspect my most important writing influence has been being a parent, because it has taught me so much about what children like to hear about. The natural extension of this was to pick up a pen and start writing.

Tell us a little bit about Knitbone Pepper and the books you have coming out shortly in this series. How did they come about?

Knitbone Pepper is a result of pondering the close friendship between my youngest daughter and our old dog. I started to wonder why I hadn’t seen more stories about animal ghosts. If they are mentioned they are either terrifying (Hound of the Baskervilles) or incidental (the steeds of headless horsemen) and this seemed out of step and rather unfair when I find most animals to be delightful. I’d noticed dogs that waited patiently outside shops, or even at bus stops, for their owners. I imagined that a loyal animal spirit would be far too busy pining for their person to worry about being scary. Animals don’t have an ego like humans so their motivation would be rather different to a human ghost, which is when I came up with the idea of a Beloved, a special type of animal ghost. Then Knitbone Pepper arrived in my head: an unusual dog with an unusual name who has to make the best of an unusual situation. Throw in a bunch of crazy animal spirits from different centuries, a 904 year old tumbledown house and a sparky little girl and I had the makings of the Starcross world.

The first book comes out on the 1st August 2015. The next one is due out in the spring of 2016 and is to be called Knitbone Pepper and the Last Circus Tiger. Another will follow in the autumn. I’ve seen the artwork and they are just beautiful! I’m beyond thrilled about the whole thing.

Knitbone Pepper

Knitbone Pepper

What are you most excited about?

I’m really excited about visiting schools and talking to children about the book. The Knitbone series will be coming out as audiobooks and the idea of someone voicing the characters is thrilling. It’s been bought by various countries around the world and the idea of children in China or Spain reading a story that I thought up at my kitchen table in Devon is incredible. It’s beyond my wildest dreams really.

When you decided to start writing, what made you decide to write children’s fiction?

I think it chose me, particularly as I entered this world through the door of illustration. It never really occurred to me to write for adults. I have an English Literature and History degree, so I’ve read some wonderful, rather serious books over the years, but the stories that really stick with me are from my childhood. I had a particularly treasured copy of Illustrated Tales from Shakespeare that I loved. I still have it in fact. Children’s books are powerful signposts that can point the way for the rest of your life. I can remember what it felt like to be a child quite clearly.

How do you become a successful children’s writer?

I’ll let you know when I’ve become one! I think having confidence in your instinctive writer’s voice, a dollop of persistence and a great ladle of luck goes a long way.

What do you need to know or understand in order to write effectively for children?

In my experience children are extraordinarily wise and clear-sighted. They have an excellent sense of humour and their minds are full of possibility. Listening very carefully to children’s views on the world is always time well-spent.

Knitbone Pepper and illustration

Knitbone Pepper and illustration

You now live in Devon. How does living in such a place help you with your writing?

Devon is a landscape humming with its own stories. I’ve lived here for over 20 years and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Whilst the countryside is associated with peace and calm it’s actually quite a busy place. The mornings here are full of loud birdsong and the inky nights are stuffed with stars. Not a day goes by when I don’t see a deer or a hare or buzzard. Once, I was woken up by the terrifying clatter of owls fighting outside the bedroom window. As I can’t help but give them all back-stories it’s quite a daily workout.

Did you have any say about who illustrates your books?

Yes, my publishers always ask for my thoughts. I was initially a bit nervous as the characters are so distinctive in my head, but when Usborne showed me Ross’s sketches I knew straightaway he was the perfect choice.

Why is it important for you to have an illustrator who understands your books?

Knitbone Pepper is a story with a bitter-sweet edge. It takes a special illustrative talent to convey both sadness and wild humour. I think Ross and I have a similarly quirky view of the world and I think we compliment each other’s styles. It feels like he’s been rummaging around in my head which has been a fascinating experience. The wonderful thing about this entire series is that everybody involved, from my agent to my publisher, has ‘got it’ from the outset. I’m overjoyed by the results.

Characters arrive on the doorstep of my head like unannounced visitors.

You are also a very talented painter and illustrator. How do you find the time to paint, and draw, and write, and be a mother?

That’s very kind of you to say so. I do this by being a terrible slacker on the housework front. I will drop all domestic duties with the slightest encouragement to do something more interesting.

On your website you say that in the past you’ve drawn and painted the characters you’re writing. How vividly can you picture your characters as you’re writing them?

Very vividly. They arrive on the doorstep of my head like unannounced visitors. Sometimes they need a bit of tweaking, but only a bit. I always start with a cast of characters and then I need to build them a world in which to live. I’m one of those very visual people with pitiful maths skills.

And finally, do get any time to read? If so, what book recently have you loved?
I love Kate Atkinson’s writing. I thought Life after Life was brilliant and I’m about to read her new one. I was mightily impressed by Mal Peet’s Murdstone Trilogy. There are certain books I read again and again for comfort, like Cider With Rosie. Most of the time though, as soon as my head hits the pillow I’m asleep. Unless I’m woken up by fighting owls of course.

Likes tea...my kind of lady!

Likes tea…my kind of lady!

You can follow Claire Barker on Twitter here.

Her instagram account can be found here.

Read more about Claire Barker the author on this site.

Learn more about Claire as an illustrator and check out her work here!

Have a question for Claire? Post it below and I will get it answered for you!

And of course you can find her on Facebook here.

Introducing Author and TV Writer Catherine Johnson

I am absolutely thrilled and very lucky to be able to host an interview with the wonderful Catherine Johnson, writer of many, many books and TV projects (her CV includes writing for Holby City). Her most recent book, The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo, has just published (and is immensely enjoyable – review to follow) and in this interview she discusses her excitement about the book and her experience working with children, prisoners, and publishers. Enjoy!

The gorgeous Catherine Johnson

The gorgeous Catherine Johnson

Please can you tell me a little bit about yourself and an overview of your career so far?

Gosh that’s hard. It’s been a long and not quite illustrious career although I have managed to be a full time writer since about 2007. I’ve worked around writing, as well as written, for most of the last twenty years. I’ve published 17 books, written one feature film (that got made- Bullet Boy – I have one in development), worked as a writer in residence in a prison and several schools, worked in local bookshops and in literature development, written for radio and TV and feel that I am amazingly lucky still to be published.

Tell me a little bit about the first time you got published and how it came about.

Oh this is a long story. I didn’t start writing until after I had two children. I trained at film school and thought that was what I was going to do. So when I had two little children I started writing a film script which went into development. That stalled but I sent an outline for a kids’ drama show to a TV company. I had a massive stroke of luck, someone in the TV office knew someone starting up a small publisher who was looking for books set in Wales for teens. They sent it on – I would never have thought I could write a book (all those words) – and the small publisher sent me on lots of courses at Ty Newydd (which is like the Welsh Arvon) and on a master class with Bernice Rueben (Booker prize winning novelist, now dead) and I learnt and learnt. Then when I had done one I enjoyed it so much I wrote another….and another.

“It’s the character. Get the character and you have the voice.”

What attracts you to writing historical fiction? How do you go about researching for your historical works?

I’m really not a historian – in fact I wasn’t allowed to take History GCSE (They were O levels when I was 15) as I had the worst mark in my whole year. But I loved historical dramas on TV – there was lots of Leon Garfield and I love the clothes. I always wanted to wear the frocks. And there was never anyone like me on TV when I was growing up wearing fantastic frocks. My first ever historical novel was set in regency London just because I liked the dresses!

It’s also important to me to write stories that remind readers that London has been a world city forever. I love Liza Picard’s books about London, and Peter Fryer’s Staying Power. I also use maps. Lots and lots of maps. That’s another brilliant thing about London, a lot of the street patterns are just the same as they were hundreds of years ago.

How do you go about finding the right voice and tone for your Young Adult novels?

It’s the character. Get the character and you have the voice.

You write novels, short stories, film and TV scripts. Which would you say is the most rewarding, and why? Which is the most difficult?

Financially rewarding? TV! I do love writing books but I can’t make a living at it. You can just do what you want in a book because it’s all down to you, which is lovely but I also enjoy the collaborative way of writing for TV. I like both! I am very lucky to do both.

What project/book/published pieces of yours are you currently most excited about?

I am so scared and excited about Caraboo. [Her new book The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo – review to follow shortly.] It’s horrible just before a book comes out because you try and try to keep a lid on your expectations but you always hope it will do well. But it’s also scary because people might actually not like it.

Catherine's book has just recently published.

Catherine’s book has just recently published.

You do school visits and run writing workshops. Which have particularly stuck in your memory and why?

Ooh, that’s interesting. I enjoy seeing lots of different schools. I’ve been very lucky I’ve been writer in residence in Holloway prison which was really fascinating. And I got invited back to my old school which was terrifying. I love seeing the stories school students come up with.

Why is it important to run workshops and talks for young people? Do you find there is a strong interest in writing among young people?

I think when you’re at school it’s often the case that students think if they’re no good at writing essays then they’re no good at writing stories. I see it as a bit of a mission to prove otherwise!

What awards or achievements are you most proud of?

I’m proud of my children (I know) and all of my books (except maybe the first) and last year after years of being nominated for prizes but never winning, Sawbones won the Young Quills award for best historical fiction for 12+

What are you working on at the moment, and what are you reading?

I read loads. Just loved Poppy in the Field by Mary Hooper, Liberty’s Fire by Lydia Syson, Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge and Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre. I’m working on a contemporary YA set in my new hometown, Hastings, I’ve got a film project in development and (so excited) a TV series optioned…

This is my website: www.catherinejohnson.co.uk
But I also blog once a month on the 14th at http://the-history-girls.blogspot.co.uk/ and on the 28th at http://girlsheartbooks.com/

You can also follow me on Twitter at @catwrote

An interview with FutureBook founder Sam Missingham

Anyone who knows anything about the publishing world know that an interview with Sam Missingham is a Big Deal. Having worked for publishing giants such as the Bookseller, FutureBook and HarperCollins, she has forged an immensely successful and influential career in publishing and marketing within the books industry.

I’ve been an admirer and follower of Sam’s for a while now and I was very excited when she agreed to undertake this interview for my blog.

The lovely Sam Missingham

The lovely Sam Missingham

Can you give my readers a brief overview of your career so far?

 Sure.

I’ve spent the vast amount of my career working in magazine publishing. I started at a very small company that published financial technology titles. I learned a huge amount working in a small business with a very entrepreneurial boss. He taught me a few simple but important things – everyone in the company should be able to answer the phone & give a decent answer to any question about the business, also, pretty much every call coming into a business is a sales opportunity – if you understand everything that you sell.

I then worked at Centaur on many of their B2B magazines, including Marketing Week, Creative Review and New Media Age. I launched their community site MAD.co.uk (for marketing, advertising & design professionals). This is where I learned about building audiences/communities and the various ways you can get people to pay for content. And yes I was MAD Marketing Manager for a while 😉

 I took a career break to have my daughter, move town & divorce (why not do all of it at the same time, right?). I then worked for several years as a freelancer/consultant, always working on circulation & subscription strategy work. I worked on consumer magazines at Future Publishing on titles about weddings, cars, photography & design.

Seven years ago I was offered temporary freelance work on The Bookseller, where I stayed for 5 years. This was the most fulfilling 5 years of my career, mostly due to falling in love with the book business and being part of the industry while it transformed so dramatically. I launched the FutureBook community, blog, conference and awards while I was there which I am still very proud of.

One of the most exciting moments of my professional life, was when Charlie Redmayne, HarperCollins’ CEO offered me a job running events. Until that point I had NO experience in books, so I appreciate the leap of faith he made employing me. I have now been at HarperCollins for 18 months and I genuinely believe I have the best job in publishing. My remit is to come up with engaging events and campaigns across our entire list to put more books into more hands. Doesn’t get any better than that, does it?

 You originally studied maths and Russian at university. What lead you down the publishing and marketing career path?

Oh I forgot to mention above that I was also a spy for the KGB for a while. Kidding aside, I enjoyed studying Maths & Russian and although I haven’t used either of them directly, logic and arithmetic are useful skills to have in marketing. I didn’t exactly choose my career in magazines – I graduated in a horrible recession and it was the only job I could get. No regrets.

I genuinely believe I have the best job in publishing

Over the years and in your many marketing roles in the industry, what are some of the biggest changes youve experienced?

 I suppose the most significant and seismic shift would obviously be the Internet. I worked on a magazine charting the very start of the Internet around 1996, a time when businesses were launching websites for the first time. So, everything that has followed; email, ecommerce, social, apps etc. Hard to imagine now.

Youve won and been nominated for a number of big industry awards. Can you possibly pick one or two that you are most proud of and/or most touched by and explain why?

 Well, I’m proud of all of them. But being runner-up for the Pandora award for outstanding contribution to publishing takes some beating. Also, I was a runner-up to Dame Marjorie Scardino. How cool is that?

In your view, what role has social media and digital played in attracting more people to reading and the industry? Why has it been so effective?

 Wow, not sure I can do that question justice as the impact is so huge and varied. In very simple terms, social media has removed the barriers/gate keepers between readers and authors. It has also facilitated an open and engaged conversation amongst all book-lovers. Authors can now talk directly to librarians, bookshops to agents, book marketers to readers. There is certainly still a way to go for publishers to fully maximise the opportunity social offers, but that’s the fun and challenge of continual change.

 In terms of digital, it would be impossible for me to understate the impact Amazon has had on the book business. Not least creating an ebook ecosystem that actually worked. They are a phenomenally impressive business, a week hardly goes by where they haven’t launched a new program, service or tech innovation.

Digital has had impact across all areas of our business in areas too many to mention; in no particular order, significant shifts in the last 7 years: the Ipad, apps, Wattpad, KDP, mobile, YouTube – the list goes on

For those unfamiliar with virtual events  how do they work and what are the benefits? What have been particularly successful and challenging about the ones you’ve launched?

Yes, these have been great fun. The virtual festivals replicate literary festivals, but are delivered on social media. I have organised virtual festivals in romance, crime and SciFi, delivering engaging programs for readers/fans. I suppose the thing that is significant about these festivals is that they are publisher-agnostic, open and inclusive and global – everyone is welcome. As far as know, no other publisher has run events/campaigns where they have included other publisher, organisations and indie authors. My view is we all have the same aim – more books into more hands and working together genuinely puts the reader at the heart of what we’re doing. How many readers buy books from just one publisher, for example?

There have been a few highlights during these festivals, one being Margaret Atwood’s Twitter Q&A – she is a goddess. We also had Agatha Christie’s publisher answering questions about what it’s like to publish the Queen of Crime. Fab.

You have worked as Head of Events & Marketing for two of the biggest publishing organisations in the UK today The Bookseller and FutureBook. What has been the most rewarding part of these experiences?

Launching FutureBook and building an engaged community as the book industry transformed. During this time I made many friends across the industry, many of whom were gracious and supportive when quite frankly I knew nothing.

 Most rewarding part of publishing? The people, by a mile.

In very simple terms, social media has removed the barriers/gate keepers between readers and authors.

How important is collaboration in this industry?

 Extremely, as mentioned in my previous question. A rising tide lifts everyone, yes?

How does it feel to be a huge influencer in the publishing industry and what qualities do you feel are essential for a person to become successful in this area?

 Huge influencer is overstating things. The qualities I try to bring are enthusiasm, a genuine passion for books and the business, a broader interest in news and trends with a little irreverence, perhaps. One thing I am particularly passionate about is supporting students and people at the early stage of their careers. I see that has my responsibility and also very rewarding. Nothing better than seeing someone fly.

What would your advice be to someone interested in the industry in terms of attending literary and publishing events?

 Id recommend you attend London Book Fair  lots of free events and also talk to people in the coffee queue. Making contacts is the NUMBER ONE thing that will help you at every stage of your career. Also, Byte The Book, Book Machine and SYP all run excellent events throughout the year.

Youve worked on both newsletters, magazines and now books. How important do you feel working on a variety of publication types to be when building a publishing career?

 Not sure the publication types is the important bit. What is more valuable is working in different types of businesses. As I have said many times, retail experience is extremely useful, particular bookshops. But honestly, the skills you learn dealing with customers directly cant be underestimated. I grew up in a flower shop and also spent many years working in shoe shops and waitressing.

Working in other entertainment and digital businesses would also be useful. My philosophy is that no skills are ever wasted, so gain as much experience as possible.

Who are some of your favourite and more approachable authors and publishers that you have worked with and why?

I had the privilege of running an event with George RR Martin & Robin Hobb last summer. One of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. Spending an evening with George RR was how I imagine hanging out with Mick Jagger would be. A total rock star. He invited all of the Game of Thrones cosplayers back to his room after the event – you’d could see the real connection with his fans. Robin was an absolute delight too.

 On Twitter, there are a number of authors I think rock; Ian Rankin, Joanne Harris, Jill Mansell, Lindsey Kelk to name a few.

You can follow Sam on Twitter: @samatlounge

Check out The Bookseller and Futurebook sites.

The Human Script by Johnny Rich

human-script-final

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Red Button Publishing for sending me a Kindle review copy of the book, it is much appreciated!

London in the spring of 2000: Chris Putnam, a young scientist working on the Human Genome Project, is grieving for the end of his first relationship and the loss of his deeply religious and estranged father. Then Chris falls in love and his twin brother goes missing. Events take Chris on a journey from the hallowed halls of scientific research via decadent art-scene parties and London’s Theatreland to the cold loneliness of a psychiatric hospital and ultimately to a desperate decision. What Chris discovers about himself and his world forces him to address his own nature, his own beliefs and his own reality.

In The Human Script science, philosophy, literary theory and religion intertwine in a poignant and tragic love story that asks the question: what is it to be human?

This book was deeply philosophical and also scientific in nature, and I became especially engrossed in it when I realised that it was about twins and the nature/nurture debate, and the differences in genetically identical siblings (as a triplet myself, I am always fascinated by this.) Do our genes dictate how we turn out? Or is it our environment that shapes who we are as people? And who or what has created us? Who controls our reality?

In terms of literary achievement, this book ticks many boxes: a good plot, an engaging romance story, mystery and narrative experimentation. The protagonist, Chris Putnam, is a scientist, a lab assistant whose initial view of the world is one built on logic and evidence. I say initial, because as the novel goes on, his perceptions and thoughts begin to change as certain events unfold. What’s quite interesting is that the text is set in a scientific thesis form – i.e it actually includes footnotes. These don’t interrupt the flow of the book, in fact they give it an added depth, especially when you notice a sneaky footnote that changes the whole dynamic of the narrative – and no, I won’t tell you which it is. Read and use it properly. It’s very entertaining and far more satisfying than cheating!

In fact, the narrator even compares the human body to a scientific paper, which for me was a fascinating outlook:

The human genome is a life written in a book where every word has been written before. A story endlessly rehearsed. Quotations cited and recited because once they were apt, the fittest to survive.

The Human Script explores reality, morality, and religion. It is fascinating, especially in the context of Chris and Dan’s relationship as twin brothers. Dan Putnam is highly artistic, reckless, and confident. Chris is science and logic-driven and often extremely insecure. Their differences outweigh their similarities in many ways.

Chris grew up stubborn and unrelenting about his scientific beliefs, especially his conviction that it is not God who dictates a person’s nature and lifestyle, and that it is in fact DNA and genes that determine them. This leads Chris to constantly question whether it is because of this that his relationship with his father was unable to be mended before his father died. Should he have been so steadfast and unmoving just because his religious father could not understand his life choices? Should he have put these differences aside for the sake of more important things? With the loss of his father as a trigger point, Chris begins to doubt the world around him and, more specifically, the nature of his reality. Is his belief system actually right? Or has he been closed-minded over the years?

How do I prove my father is not at his desk behind the door and if I open it I… Experiments and observations demonstrate what is, not what is not. How do I prove my father’s dead or that there are no such things as ghosts or souls or God? Just because something isn’t real, does that mean it doesn’t exist? Even a projection of the mind is a kind of existence. Thoughts have physics – the electro-chemical floods and pulses that wash around the brain. Ghosts are real in their own way, but not independent of those who see them.

One slight concern I had about three quarters of the way through the book was that the philosophical questions and passages were beginning to feel a bit heavy. I do feel like the book would have done just as well if it contained fewer of these type of passages, especially at the times when I felt that the narrative began to repeat its musings over and over again just in different wording. However, this didn’t last long and once I powered through that I realised that these musings and philosophical explorations were woven into the story well and served a good purpose. I could tell what value they added to the story as a whole, but it wouldn’t have suffered to perhaps tone it down a little.

The fact that the narrator immerses the characters in the book among these philosophical musings – in fact, the author kind of uses them as ‘case studies’ within the text to test different hypotheses – makes the characters much more interesting and well-rounded as a result. I loved reading the relationship with Chris and his brother, and Chris and his boyfriend, and Chris and his room mate, and how these relationships are affected by the nature of their perceptions of the world. For instance, his room mate Elsi, who studies philosophy, has a tendency to advise and console Chris based on whichever philosophical theory she happens to agree with. His boyfriend Leo falls in love with him partially because he feels an innate need to look after and care for someone. Dan – for the most part carefree – worries less about consequences and more about enjoying living and advises his brother to do the same.

Chris’ feelings and emotions towards the characters in his life are, initially if not consistently, based on his own tendencies to perceive the world as purely scientific, without a deity or higher force. Chris recognises that as identical twins, he and his brother are much like molecules in the river Thames – “Just molecules of water, two hydrogen atoms, once oxygen, and they’re all identical. Clones, differentiated only by their different places in the flow.” Essentially, Chris and Dan are genetically the same, but somehow somewhere in the ‘flow’ of life, they became so very different, and this novel shows his struggle to understand exactly why. Anyone interested in twins and multiple births will be so fascinated by this book.

At first, I was worried that the narrative style would be distracting – at times Chris’ words come out in an unrelenting rush, and this is how the novel starts:

Because there’s freedom in the air, ‘Good morning’ I beam to Peter the old security guard who sits in his hut at the Gower Street gate and who once told me he still likes to fish at weekends and who looks up to see which person is bothering to talk to him.

This alarmed me a little at first because I worried that the entire novel would be written in this vein and that I would get impatient very quickly. However, after the first chapter I soon got used to this unique narrative style and I found that this ebbs and flows as the text moves along. It calms down and introduces more pauses and more mainstream punctuation and I realised that the narrative style changes as Chris’ mood changes, a very clever and effective device  in the novel’s storytelling. When he is feeling a particularly strong emotions, his grasp on order and rules lessens, and this is when the above narrative technique kicks in. At this point, as the novel opens, Chris is very happy, and it also comes back into play at times when he is also feeling very agitated or upset. I thought it worked incredibly well.

Here I can understand why the novel was discovered and produced by Red Button Publishing, where it may not have been recognised for the great achievement that it is in a ‘Big 5’ mainstream publishing house. The book is incredibly clever and smart, and really made me think, while keeping me entertained to the end. The characters were engaging, and the plot was gripping. If you want to try something truly different and unique, I would highly recommend this book. I really enjoyed it.

Click here to buy a digital copy of the book.

Introducing Sports Writer Martin Whiteley

My good friend and sports writer Martin Whiteley is the star of today’s post. Martin has always been and continues to be supportive, enthusiastic, and encouraging of my career. I try my hardest to do the same for him. We first connected online when I was Programme Editor for the Hull Wasps Basketball team and when I was in charge of their Twitter updates.  Martin used to retweet, share, comment and generally help spread the message about the basketball team. He’s proof that good lasting connections can be made over the internet. Here he discusses the practicalities of getting articles published, motivations behind the craft, and specifically about advantages of writing for The News Hub.

Martin Whiteley

Martin Whiteley

Hi, Martin. Please give us an introduction to yourself and your previous work.

I have always been a lover of writing, ever since I was in school, and have always been passionate about sports. I first started writing to make some extra money while working as an assistant to the golf professional at Springhead Park golf course in Hull. Since then, I’ve contributed to golf magazines and have written for Beyond the Benches, Exclusive Sports Media, IRL Media, and others. My latest project has been writing sports articles for The News Hub.

There is a rapidly increasing number of online platforms for news writing and reporting, and this is especially true of sports writing. How do you combat this to make yourself and your writing stand out?

With the number of websites covering every topic imaginable growing daily it is becoming increasing easy to find one that covers the subject that interests you. The same can also be said if you wish to write about your passion.

The problem is, the chances of the site paying for your submissions are also very high and not in a positive way.
The most popular subjects are inundated with thousands of websites all promising you the chance to ‘get your work noticed with a large following, that will ‘build your portfolio.’ The only problem is when you ask them, ‘What do you do to advertise your site? What marketing are you doing so that the articles can be found?’ you usually never hear from them again! As most people can write it is seems a quick way to earn money with the impression of not having to do much work!

This is my issue with some writers. For them, it’s more about the financial reward and they think little about the impact of the writing itself. That’s why I started writing for The News Hub.

Tell us a little bit about The News Hub.

The News Hub pays $50 or £30 per article and with a bonus of $150 or £100 for the top six contributors each month, TNH lets you covers anything you want to write about. Before all the ‘Jane or Jonny-come-latelies’ go rushing off to sign up, they have one important rule. You must be in the top 10% of the category of the subject you have covered!

Every writer worth his or her salt will have a box full of rejection slips and only persevere because they love writing

What is it that makes The News Hub unique?

With a lot of sites, even if you contribute regularly, the likelihood of your work being spotted is very slim. Over time when people fail to see positive change or impact, the amount of content subsides, or the person running it gets fed up and decides they would rather go down to the pub with their mates that upload the article that you have spent time preparing.

I was drawn to The News Hub because they do a lot to promote your work as well as give you lots of ideas of how your articles can be seen by the masses. What is unrivalled is the commitment they have to not only having a website that has outstanding work on it and not just any rubbish that people class as acceptable, but written by people who share the same passion as they do.

The onus though is totally on the contributor to find the best way of maximising this for their own work. No writer can expect all of the work to be done for them. Half of a writer’s job in today’s publishing climate is marketing yourself, where once it was the publisher’s job to do it for you. It’s about that balance.

writing, books and publishing are labours of love and not to be used as a way to earn quick money.

What do you think sports and news writers need to do to have a good chance of becoming successful in the industry?

In two words – determination and perseverance! Every writer worth his or her salt will have a box full of rejection slips and only persevere because they love writing and are not just looking to make a ‘quick buck.’
Article writing is hard work and until you build up your own networks of communications there may not be a great deal to show money-wise for a while.

What misconceptions about writing and publishing does the News Hub wish to stamp out?

As the lady who runs this blog knows herself, writing, books and publishing are labours of love and not to be used as a way to earn quick money. The News Hub website feels the same and should be treated as such. Even more so today these types of website are a very rare breed, but certainly most welcome for the true writer. I look forward to futher building and strengthening my career this way.

News-hub1

You can follow Martin on Twitter @673martin

To find out more about The News Hub, visit https://www.the-newshub.com/

Their twitter handle is:
@TheNewsHub

Do you have any further questions for Martin? Input them into the comments box below and I will get your questions answered!

Introducing Red Button Publishing

I am extremely excited to share with you all my interview with Caroline of independent publishing house Red Button Publishing. She has kindly taken time from her busy schedule to share with us insights into the independent publishing world, information about their upcoming titles and a wealth of knowledge and experience gained over her years working in the publishing industry…

Caroline Goldsmith, one of the lovely ladies behind Red Button Publishing

A shelfie from Caroline Goldsmith, one of the lovely ladies behind Red Button Publishing

Please introduce our readers to yourself and to Karen Ings. What are your backgrounds and career journeys?

I met Karen nearly fifteen years ago when I started in my first job in publishing at Aurum Press where she was Commissioning Editor. We’ve been close friends ever since. We both moved through various roles over the years. Karen curated her list at Aurum Press for ten years before moving into a freelance role and working for companies like Penguin, Macmillan and Quercus. I worked my way through various departments including sales, rights, marketing and publicity for companies like Tate Publishing and finally DK where I worked in International Sales.

Tell us about Red Button Publishing. How and when did the company begin?

One of our regular conversations, usually over a glass of wine, over the years has been about how we would run our own publishing house. In 2012, Karen was freelancing and I was in the process of leaving my job in International Sales and moving from London to the countryside. We had both taken a keen interest in how digital technology was changing our industry and we saw opportunity. We had little funding but we had nearly three decades worth of experience between us and a lot of energy. We drafted a plan for Red Button over lunch one hot August day and decided on a name the following day. Red Button Publishing was born.

The big guys still rule the roost, but this is really the age of the independents.

What kind of literature do you focus on? How successful have you been so far?

Our aim has always been to give a voice to really outstanding fiction that might be overlooked by the mainstream. This idea was encapsulated in our first publication, The Human Script by Johnny Rich, a poignant story of a doomed love affair and also a mind expanding journey through philosophy, science, art and religion. Johnny had written the novel over a decade ago whilst on the acclaimed Creative Writing MA course at the University of East Anglia. It had been heaped with praise by writers like Ian McEwan and Tom McCarthy and was signed up by one of the top London agents. The book continued to meet with praise from commissioning editors at the major publishers but never quite made it past the commercially minded sales departments. As a sales person, I knew that a lot of good writing was deemed too risky and never saw the light of day. This was what had happened to The Human Script. We read it, we loved it and we published it in April 2013 as an ebook. It’s again been met with almost universal praise from people who’ve read it and we hope that when we publish it as a paperback later this year it will be discovered by even more readers.

Since then we’ve published three more titles and they’re all very different. The Anchoress by Paul Blaney is an exquisite novella about Maggie, a woman who locks herself in her wardrobe. As the story progresses you find out why Maggie has really decided to escape the world. It’s a very moving story about memory, childhood, grief and acceptance.

We followed this with Home by Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone, a powerful and dark novel about a caretaker at an old people’s home who discovers something horribly disturbing about his workplace. It’s a compelling and chilling novel that asks questions about how we treat our elderly and what it means to be forgotten.

And then we published Mockstars by Christopher Russell which is a comic, coming-of-age novel best summed up by author Alex Marsh as “The Inbetweeners meets Spinal Tap’. It’s a brilliantly funny story about a group of friends trying to make it as a band, based in part on Christopher’s own tour diaries with his rock band.

Red Button Publishing's upcoming paperbacks.

Red Button Publishing’s upcoming paperbacks.

Your website states that you publish ‘fantastic fiction.’ What, for you, constitutes fantastic fiction?

We’ve often said that we’re looking for fiction that really jumps off the page, stories that are just crying out to be published. When we read a submission we’re looking for something that we would recommend to others. We both have to be completely on board to make it work. We have similar tastes in many ways but we also differ. I am a sucker for a horror story and Karen has still never quite understood my distaste for Jane Austen. We challenge each other and that’s a good thing for the list. I think it means that the books we publish are really special.

What has been the most rewarding part of the Red Button Publishing journey? Just how difficult (or indeed easy!) has it been carving a way for yourself as an independent publishing company when the competition in publishing is so large and dominating?

It’s always going to be hard for smaller companies to make their voices heard. We don’t have the marketing budgets that we were used to working with in our previous publishing lives. I think there’s an appetite for something a bit different though. People seem to like what we’re trying to do and we’ve been really overwhelmed by the support we’ve received from readers and publishing colleagues. The big guys still rule the roost, but this is really the age of the independents. We really take inspiration from other independents like Galley Beggar Press, Salt and And Other Stories who are out there doing great things for fiction.

Writers are very much front and centre of the publishing industry today, in a way that they haven’t been before.

What upcoming titles (that you’re allowed to mention!) are you really excited about?

Currently we’re working on bringing all four Red Button titles out as paperbacks. The Anchoress and Home will be published in paper on April 9th. The Human Script and Mockstars will follow over the summer. We’re big advocates of digital reading but the paperback remains a strong format for fiction and we want our books to reach as many readers as possible. We’ve also got another book from Paul Blaney lined up later in the year. It’s another challenging piece of writing that will raise questions about parenthood and biology.

Do you find that you receive a lot of submissions? If so, why do you think more and more people are looking to get published?

We read every submission that comes into our inbox so yes, it sometimes feels that we do receive a lot. I don’t think that there are more people looking to get published than before though. I just think that there are more options open to writers than there ever have been. They are very much front and centre of the publishing industry today, in a way that they haven’t been before.

You also offer consultancy services. How successful has this been?

Writers have a lot more choice in how they publish their work these days. Essentially you don’t need a publisher to get your work out there. We’re grateful that some writers still prefer to work with a publishing team but we’re also aware that many writers prefer to publish independently. But good publishing still requires work, it’s not, as some commentators have suggested ‘simply pressing a button’. And that’s where we can come in. We offer a range of services including editorial, typesetting, ebook formatting, book cover design as well as guidance through the publishing platforms. We’ve worked with some lovely writers and it’s always a good feeling to know you’re helping someone achieve their dream.

The online book community is huge and if you’re not engaged with it you’re missing out.

What do you feel are the most important skills needed for independent publishers who do all of the work for their companies themselves?

Adaptability. Things never stay the same in any industry but the pace of change in publishing has really accelerated in recent years. I have learned more in the past five years than at any other time in my career. You have to keep taking on new ideas, learning new skills, challenging your preconceptions and trying new things.

And lastly, how important is having an online presence for publishers today and why?

Hugely important. It’s not just about book discoverability either, it’s about being part of the publishing dialogue. 

Red Button floating logo

Discover Red Button Publishing online:
Twitter @RedButtonPubs
Caroline and Karen are also on Twitter (@goldcaro and @ladykarenza respectively)

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