The week I went to Norway and got Goodreads Official

Welcome to May, everyone! I am currently in Norway, where it is Labour Day. I drank peach Fanta in the sun. I went from Oslo to Stavanger by train. I went on a boat. This has been an exciting week for me, partly because of said Norwegian adventures, but also because this is the week Beautiful Broken Things was added to Goodreads. Hooray!

As a big reader and all round lover of digital/social media, I’m a bit of a Goodreads addict. I love adding books to my lists and reading what other people think of books I love (and hate, let’s be honest). And now, mine is among them! Mine is an add-able book, with a blurb, and an ISBN, and a RELEASE DATE.

No mistake, these are exciting times for me. Hopeful writers share many dreams, I’m sure, but we all have our little, personal dreams alongside them. For me, Goodreads is right up there, because I associate it so much with everything I love about books nowadays, which goes beyond the physical reading experience. Now we can share the experience, build a community, receive and make recommendations. There’s never been a better time to be a reader.

I should add here that I’ve heard stories about how being a Goodreads Author is very different to being a Goodreads reader, and not in a good way. But I guess I’ll just let my future self worry about that.

So! Along with the title, I can now tell you a little more about what Beautiful Broken Things is about. It’s YA, set in contemporary Brighton and is, in essence, about girls, friendship and recovery from trauma.

Here’s the proper blurby blurb:

I was brave
She was reckless
We were trouble

Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns sixteen Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie – confident, funny and interesting. Then Suzanne comes into their lives: beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realises, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.

I plan to write a blog at some point in the near future that will go into a little more detail about BBT, how and why I wrote it and the long process from first draft to book deal. If there is anything specific you’d like to know, just let me know in the comments.

If you missed my previous flailing about getting said book deal, you can catch it here.

For now, tusen takk for reading!

Ha en fin dag 🙂

Books on a shelf, words on a page: the books of my life

At the beginning of the year some writer friends and I set up a mini book club where we committed to reading each other’s top three “books of our lives”. These are not just books we love or mean a lot to us, but the kinds of books that feel like they get right into the marrow of who we are. Some books do that, though most don’t, and of course it’s a deeply personal thing, dependent on a number of factors independent of the book itself. Sometimes books come into our lives at just the right time, elevating the book above “favourite” to something more like sacred.

I’m excited to have the chance to share these books with my friends and also to read the books that they feel have had a similar effect on their own lives. The only downside was narrowing my own personal list down to three.

As I have more space here, I’d like to expand my list a little more. They are the books that made me feel grateful to be a reader, desperate to be a writer and more aware of what it means to be a person. They’re the books that shaped me. Aka, the books I force on people when they ask for recommendations.

1) Slaughterhouse 5 – Kurt Vonnegut Jr 

“Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why.”

slaughterhouse-5  War. Time travel. Aliens. Dresden. Truth. Satire. Hilarity. Sadness.

2) Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes

“Thank God for books and music and things I can think about.”

flowers-for-algernon-by-daniel-keyes Intelligence. Lack of. Wisdom. A mouse. A man. ALL. THE. TEARS.

3) The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver 

“Listen. Slide the weight from your shoulders and move forward. You are afraid you might forget, but you never will. You will forgive and remember.”

poisonwood-bible Religion. Africa. Racism. Colonialism. Post-colonialism. Wisdom.

4) Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein

“It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.”

51PR5E6NCDL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Women. Wartime. Friendship. Loyalty. Bravery. Fly the plane, Maddie.

5) My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece – Annabel Pitcher 

“My sister Rose lives on the mantelpiece. Well, some of her does.”

41xR2ghaHzL Cry. Cry some more.Then recommend it to everyone you know.

6) Gilead – Marilynne Robinson 

“We fly forgotten as a dream.”

gilead1 Wisdom. Grace. Truth. Religion. America. Racism.

7) Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer  

“I said, I want to tell you something.
She said, you can tell me tomorrow.
I had never told her how much I loved her.
She was my sister.
We slept in the same bed.
There was never a right time to say it.
It was always unnecessary.
The books in my father’s shed were sighing.
The sheets were rising and falling around me with Anna’s breathing.
I thought about waking her.
But it was unnecessary.
There would be other nights.
And how can you say I love you to someone you love?
I rolled onto my side and fell asleep next to her.
Here is the point of everything I have been trying to tell you … It’s always necessary.”

1ed03f39421c60a52c0101de2d18fcab Quotable. Hilarious. Devastating. Strange. Sad.

8) Maus – Art Spiegelman

images

Maus Essential. Life-changing. World-view-shifting.

9) The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner

“Wonder. Go on and wonder.”

51jXpcgG33L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Strange. Confusing. Brilliant. Caddy.

10) On the Jellicoe Road – Melina Marchetta

“What do you want from me?” he asks.
What I want from every person in my life, I want to tell him.
More.”

1162022 Everything YA can and should be.

Aaand a shout out to STATION ELEVEN, which I read a couple of months ago and adored. I would have added it to this list, but feel I should allow a grace period of a few years before calling something a “book of my life”. But Station Eleven is utterly wonderful and you must read it.

Have you read any of these? What would be the books of your life?

A little writer’s little wishlist

A couple of months ago I wrote a blog post that was very special to me, about a topic that makes me fizz with joy: my book. The response to that blog post (which I’ll just drop a link to heeere) was overwhelming, in the best possible way. It was so overwhelming, in fact, that it rendered me utterly unable to follow it up.

So now I am going to ease myself back into my blog with something easy. My dreams as a writer.

I’ve always considered myself a writer in the most straightforward definition of the word. That is, I was a person who wrote on a daily basis. My overriding dream as a writer was to move into capital letter territory: to be A Writer.

Now that is on its way to happening (EEEE!!! etc), I can indulge myself a little more and talk about the other dreams I had, before now, hardly dared let myself dream. These are the dreams that I think most, if not all, young writers hold close.

So here it is, to share with you all. A little writer’s little wishlist of dreams:

– My name on a spine in Waterstones

– A nice comment from someone who is not related to me, nor someone paid to champion my writing (though these are wonderful too)

– A five star review

– A one star review (perversely)

– My book translated into another language

– An audiobook (I *love* audiobooks)

– Fanart (I think I would actually cry)

– Questions from readers

– Emails from readers

– Tweets from readers

– Readers

The right words, the right time.

Fourteen years ago, I wrote a story about a girl.

I was thirteen at the time, and writing stories was what I did. And not just about girls. Planets that spoke to each other, mice who lived in the Underground, magic meerkats and friendly boats. Writing was my thing; it was beyond a hobby and more than just something I enjoyed. It was how I understood the world. Words had all the magic and possibility anyone could ever need. Put them in the right order, and you could create a world of your own. And maybe, if you got them just right, that world would be a place that would mean something to other people.

I’d written countless stories by the time I was thirteen – the first at age 6, in which the acknowledgements page listed all our family pets by name, including the guinea pigs – of varying length and quality. Each abandoned and finished project was a step closer to Being A Writer; my ultimate goal. My dream. A book on a shelf with my name on it. A book that someone could hold. A book that had a sentence in it that made someone’s eyes go wide with “yes. this.”

There was something different about that story about a girl, not least because it was the first full-length novel I’d ever written. There was something about the story, something about the characters, that worked. I was thirteen, but I knew that. But I also knew something else – it wasn’t right. They weren’t the right words, and it wasn’t the right time.

I tried revisiting the story and the girl several times over the next few years, but it never came together. I got better at writing. I read yet more books. I went to university, where writing came with grades and books were to be approached critically. I learned the difference between writing for someone else and writing for yourself.

By the time I graduated, I had stopped writing stories. I went to work. I learned how to write professionally. How to fall asleep on a train in the morning and still get off at the right stop. The best time of the day to schedule tea breaks. The number of people who actually care about where to put apostrophes (depressingly few). How to write presentations. How to interview people.

And all the time, I thought about that story of a girl. The story I’d never quite been able to tell. I thought about what she would be doing three, five, ten years in her own future. How many other people there were in her story. How they all had stories too. Her world grew. New characters appeared, one with a voice that felt right.

A new protagonist. A new story of a girl. A feeling I’d never quite had before, of certainty.

I wrote in the work canteen at lunchtimes and on the train home. I wrote in the ten minutes before the light turned off, then carried on write-dreaming until I fell asleep. I nestled into Starbucks sofas on the weekends. Conversations became scenes. Scenes became chapters. Soon it was 50,000 words. And then 80,000. And then it was finished.

I’m going to skim over what happened next, because the getting-an-agent process and everything after is too much to fit into a single blog. I’ll save it for another time, but suffice it to say it involves a lot of waiting. A lot of refreshing my inbox. A lot of nail-biting. And then all that agony forgotten in that one, perfect sentence: “Are you around next week to come in to my office and have a chat about representation?” (YES. YES I AM.)

What follows: editing. Revising. A crash course in the world of publishing. More editing. A few tears. A few drafts. Submission. More agony.

And then: “I would like to make an offer…”

It’s a funny thing, getting something you’ve always wanted. Realising a dream. It’s joyous and exhilarating, but it’s also scary. Like happiness vertigo. These characters who existed only in my head for over a decade now come up in conversation with people who have job titles like Senior Commissioning Editor. People I’ve never met know them better than they know me. They now have lives in the imaginations of other people. It’s wonderful. It’s terrifying.

When I was thirteen, I wrote a story about a girl. And now that story is a book. A book that will have pages and a spine. A Goodreads page. Readers. Reviews. It took a long time to find the right words and the right time for them to come together, but now it has I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

And so, the words I once only dreamed of being able to say: My debut novel, Beautiful Broken Things, will be published by Macmillan in Spring, 2016. And I am ecstatic.

The Little Mistakes That Aren’t So Little – Advice For Jobseeking Graduates

I’ll start by saying I’ve been on both sides of this fence. I’ve worn the shoe on both feet, if you will. In 2010, I was a fresh graduate, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, throwing myself into job applications, just waiting for my first chance. I wrote about it, and everything: evidence.

Almost a year after graduating, I was given that first chance, albeit after several crushing months doing temporary and contract work. I started working as a Junior Content Writer at an international online healthcare company in London. Fast forward three years and a bit and I am now Content Manager for the company. In the interim years I’ve done my fair share of recruiting. Being that we’re a relatively small company, I take care of the entire process from start to finish. This means I write the ad, I read all the applications, I select and then interview the candidates and I, ultimately, make the final decision.

I’m sympathetic to fresh graduates, because I remember what it was like. How frustrating it can be when you don’t have the experience the employer thinks they want, but know you have the potential, the skills and the enthusiasm to be just who they need. How exactly to put that across, how to strike the right balance between hopeful and desperate, enthusiastic and frightening, is damn hard. I know that.

So I like to think I read incoming CVs from such grads with good faith and a fair amount of generosity. I forgive the occasional ill-judged exclamation mark or oh-so-quirky turn of phrase. I get it. You’re trying to make yourself stand out. I even forgive teh occasional typo (see what I did there? LOLZ, etc), because hey, everyone makes mistakes.

But the harsh fact of the matter is I am just one person. A human person, with 200+ applications for a role I need to fill (yes, really. 200+). Sometimes I’ll be in a bad mood. Sometimes I’ll be in a GREAT mood. But whatever mood I’m in, the fact is I’m trying to get through your application as fast as possible.

Here is the truth: I read your covering letter and CV looking for the thing that will make me say NO. And then discard your application. (Or, in my case, move the email into what is essentially my rejects folder. Sorry.)

Harsh? Yes. But honest. It’s a total myth that employers look through CVs waiting for the EURKEA! moment. We’re not. I usually make it to three typos (in the entire application) before I reach my NO! point, for example. Alternatively, a brilliant cover letter which details the candidate’s suitability for an entirely different role will also get a resounding NO. Fact is, superstar, no one cares if you’re brilliant. Not really. They only care that you’ll be brilliant TO THEM. IN THEIR COMPANY. DOING THEIR JOB.

If I get through your application without a NO!, you’ll go into the Pile of Potentials, which I then revisit after a couple of days to choose my interviewees.

Job-hunting can be a stressful, thankless task. There’s nothing quite as crushing as applying for 75 jobs and hearing nothing back. It’s all too easy to become a little sloppy. To stop caring about tailoring your CVs and reading the job description thoroughly before crafting your cover letter. Mistakes crop in and go unnoticed. Just little mistakes, right? Well, not always.

Here are some examples of the kind of things that get a NO!

1)  I’m a brilliant editor. Just brilliant. I am proving it to you with this poorly edited covering letter that I clearly have not read over more than once. Please hire me. 

Yeah. Sorry, chaps. It’s one thing to not be great at editing – this is entirely forgivable, even in writing/creative roles. It’s a skill like any other, and one I’m more than willing to work on with new hires. But in this case, the mistake you’ve made is telling me you think you’re good at it while simultaneously proving that you’re not. A little self-awareness goes a long way. A lack of it is costly.

2) I’m quirky. Oh, so quirky. I’ll come and quirk up your office with my quirky ways. Maybe I’ll even play my mandolin for you in the sun. Please hire me, sensei.  

Quirky candidates are like nice guys. If you need to say you are one, you’re not. Trust that your personality will come through in your writing – that is what covering letters are for. Do not, for the love of God, put things like your favourite song on your CV. You’ll think, this will make me stand out because no one else will do it! And you’re right. But there is a REASON no one else does it.

3) I really want to work for your company. I’ve heard such great things about your company. Please read these 5 detailed paragraphs about why I’ll be such an asset to your company. Please hire me, hiring person.

Look. It doesn’t matter how long you spent perfecting the perfect cover letter if you are too lazy to even copy-paste the ACTUAL NAME of the company you are applying to into the letter. Always – ALWAYS – put the name of the company you’re applying to somewhere in the letter. The best thing is to say SPECIFICALLY WHY you want to work for that company. You will be AMAZED how many people don’t do this. THIS is the kind of thing that will make you stand out in a good way.

4) My experiance:

NO. Some mistakes are forgivable. Some are not.

5) I write mellifluous prose.

NO. (Really, no. Also, cool it with the adverbs. No one in the world is voraciously hungry for a career in marketing.)

I’m almost at 1,000 words so I’ll leave it at 5 for now. I’ll do a follow-up if anyone wants more. (Because, unfortunately, I have many more.)

If you’re a jobseeking grad and anything in this post made you nervous, feel free to hit me up for advice/tips/reassurance. And finally? GOOD LUCK. This will be your year.

The Best YA You Haven’t Read (Yet) – Rose Under Fire

RoseUnderFire_PBK_CVR

This is the second post in a series: The Best YA You Haven’t Read (Yet)

Rose Under Fire is the accompanying novel to the phenomenal Code Name Verity, and it is this connection that has caused RUF to fall somewhere under the radar. Code Name Verity is so brilliant – and so beloved – that the conversation tends to begin and end with said brilliance. When you use up so many superlatives for a book, there are few left for the one that comes next.

But make no mistake: Rose Under Fire is brilliant too. Maybe (gasp!) even more so.

Part of what makes Code Name Verity so good is the core friendship between Queenie and Maddie. The exploration of female friendship is done so beautifully, and with such truth, that its heart seems to beat right out of the pages.

Rose Under Fire takes this core theme and doubles, triples and quadruples it. The book is about female friendship, love and strength forged in the fire of unimaginable pain and trauma. So many war novels focus on male bonding in the horrors of war. This (finally!) is the female version and it is so, so good.

The eponymous Rose is an 18 year old American pilot who has come to Britain to help the war effort, ferrying planes across UK skies. One mistake lands her on German soil, and she is taken to Ravensbruck, a women’s concentration camp in northern Germany. It is 1944.

I didn’t know much about Ravensbruck before I read RUF, and so its weight as a historical novel is one of its most important aspects for me. I knew so little about the women of Ravensbruck, what brought them there, how they survived. I didn’t know about the Polish rabbits or taran pilots or the underground resistance. We know so much about the experience of the fighting men during wartime – especially WW2 – but where are the women? Thank you, Elizabeth Wein, for bringing them to life so beautifully.

She barked an order at the guards. They’d sent extras, expecting a fight. She took hold of a dog’s leash and started prowling among the first rows of silent, stubborn language professors and music teachers and widowed mothers and orphaned daughters, and projectionists and spies and bartenders and cleaning ladies and Resistance agents and Red Army soldiers and Girl Scout saboteurs. And taran pilots.

Did I convince you? You can find Rose Under Fire here

NB: You don’t have to have read Code Name Verity in order to read Rose Under Fire. Chronologically, it does come after, but it works perfectly as a standalone.

The Best YA You Haven’t Read (Yet) – Vivian Versus the Apocalypse

Look at that beautiful cover.

This is the first post in a series: The Best YA You Haven’t Read (Yet)

I found out about Vivian Versus the Apocalypse (Katie Coyle’s debut) via a chance post on tumblr that found its way onto my dashboard, and I’m very, very glad I did. I assumed when I first heard about the book – and even more so after I read it – that it was destined to become one of Those YA Books. You know the ones. The ones that crop up in every YA conversation and take one of the top spots on Best Of lists.

It’s strange to me that this hasn’t happened, because Vivian is a brilliant book. In a market as busy and varied as YA, it’s hard to find books that have a truly original premise. Vivian, which features the eponymous teenage heroine facing a world seemingly in the grips of a religious apocalypse, is startlingly original. Yes, end of the world scenarios have been done to death, but I tell you what. They haven’t been done like this.

Vivian features all the expected components of an apocalypse story: there’s the left behind lot bandied together and struggling to survive; sudden and jarring acts of violence and murder; strange weather occurrences; the yes-the-world-is-ending-but-I-still-want-to-kiss-you subplot (emphasis on subplot, thank the storytelling gods); and the cross-country journey for against-the-odds answers.

But here’s what else Vivian has: brilliant secondary characters (Harp!), amazing Rapture/capitalist/Bible puns (“Lot’s jeans. Go ahead, turn around” made me laugh out loud in an airport), Doctor Who references, thoughtful but not invasive questions about religion and capitalism, a sledgehammer-wielding protagonist and the kind of opening chapter that makes you want to grab the person nearest to you and shout “ZOMG!” in their face.

I suspect that the reason Vivian is still relatively under the radar is because it hasn’t yet been released in the US. When that happens – January 2015, I believe, with the new title Vivian Apple at the End of the World – I’m sure it will indeed become one of Those YA Books. How can it not?

If I’ve convinced you (and if I haven’t, what else do you want?!), you can find your own copy by clicking right here on this link.