Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Away with the fairies

Over on Trashionista Anne Rice has declared that angels are set to be the new vampires, and the new trend in literature - good news for anyone currently writing about them.

It got me thinking whether there's anything that hasn't been big in fiction yet.

We've already had werewolves, vampires, ghosts, wizards, witches, zombies, mermaids, and all manner of mythical creatures. Oh, and humans. There can't be anywhere else to go, can there?

I rather like stories where common themes are explored from unusual or fantastical angles, providing they're made believable; the woman who's now a ghost trying to find love, the man who falls to earth and learns how to be human (Starman anyone?) The husband who comes back as a dog like the one in James Herbert's novel Fluke, and if they're funny even better.

Werewolves and zombies don't do it for me I'm afraid, but what about superpowers? I don't think they've been done before - in films yes, but not in women's novels. What about a woman who can make herself invisible, or warp reality, or change form or ... manipulate the weather (don't knock it. I'd love to be able to make it sunny every day!) Hmmm, food for thought ...

Anyway, if Angels are the new Vampires, I'd like to put in a shout for Fairies as the new Werewolves.

You read it here first, Anne.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cally Taylor Guest Post: Writing Highlights

In case you didn't know (;o)) Cally Taylor is the lovely (I've met her!) and talented author of Heaven Can Wait, published by Orion last week, and as part of her virtual blog tour has kindly stopped by to detail her amazing writing highlights of the past year. Over to you Cally ...

When Karen asked me to write a guest post about my writing highlights I didn’t know where to begin. I was temporarily flummoxed until a small voice in my head said, “Duh, the beginning would be a good place!” but let’s start with an introduction. My name is Cally Taylor, I’m the author of a supernatural romantic-comedy called “Heaven Can Wait” and the last year has been the most exciting one of my life.

It all started in September 2008 when I received a phone call from Madeleine Buston at the Darley Anderson Literary Agency. Maddie told me she’d been given my novel to read by Darley and she’d loved it so much she wanted to represent me and be my agent. When the conversation ended I put the phone down and promptly burst into tears. I’d only ever shown the first five chapters to a few other people (some of the Women’s Fiction writers in http://www.writewords.org.uk/) and had no idea if the completed novel was any good. Darley and Maddie were the only people, other than me, that had read my novel all the way through and the fact they wanted to represent me melted away months of worry, self-doubt and fear.

Signing the contract, which arrived a few days later, was such a surreal experience I actually took a photo of myself doing it! A couple of weeks after that Maddie invited me out for lunch and I met her at the Darley Anderson Agency. I’d always wondered what a literary agents offices were like and walking into Estelle House was like entering a forbidden world. I kept expecting a policeman to grab me by the arm and go “Oi! Published authors only. Out!” It was amazing though – I’d never seen so many books and piles of manuscripts in one place. They even used books to prop up their computer monitors. It was book heaven!

I was still floating around in a little bubble of joy that I’d got an agent when Maddie phoned me in October to tell me that four UK publishers had shown an interest in my novel. I was gobsmacked. I knew it was hard to get one editor interested, never mind four, and couldn’t believe we were in a position where we got to choose. Although I’d have been happy to have my book published by any one of the four I did have a favourite and was absolutely delighted when Maddie confirmed, a couple of days later, that Orion (publishers of Ian Rankin, Maeve Binchey and Kate Harrison) had offered me a two book deal.

Visiting Orion’s offices was another surreal experience. The building was huge and I was so nervous as I perched on a chair in reception I’m surprised there wasn’t an earthquake alert. My editor was lovely and quickly put me at ease once we were in her office – only we kept getting interrupted - by people popping their heads in to tell me how much they’d loved my book! Knowing that other people in Orion’s offices had been sitting at their desks giggling at the ‘funny’ bits (I still can’t believe people find my novel funny) was bizarre but wonderful.

I was still getting my breath back from that experience when Maddie rang me again – my book was going to be translated into Portuguese and published by Bertrand Brasil in Brazil. A foreign version of my novel! I just couldn’t believe it. I’d always dreamed about putting a published version of my book on the shelf above my desk but now I’d get to add another version too.

November was as exciting as October had been. Not only was my book listed on Amazon.co.uk but Maddie had more news! I was on the train from London Victoria to Brighton when she rang me to tell me that SIX publishers in Germany had been bidding to publish my book and not only had Goldmann (German publishers of Alexandra Potter, Helen Fielding and Sophie Kinsella) won the auction but it was for a two book deal. Normally I’m a phone mumbler if I’m on the train but I was so excited my voice increased to a pitch only dolphins can hear and it was all I could do not to turn to the man sitting next to me and go “I’m going to be published in Germany!”

Father Christmas brought me a special present in December – the news that the foreign rights to “Heaven Can Wait” had been sold to Eksmo in Russia. I can’t even begin to explain how much my head was spinning by this point. In four short months I’d landed an agent, a two-book deal in the UK, a two-book deal in Germany and foreign editions of “Heaven Can Wait” in Brazil and Russia. At the risk of sounding like an X-Factor contestant I really did feel like I was living in a dream and kept expecting something terrible to happen to make it all crash down around my head.

January 2009 was a quiet month and I thought, that’s cool, all the exciting news is over now, time to crack on with writing the second novel, but February had other ideas. Not only did Maddie sell the rights to “Heaven Can Wait” to Konyvmolykepzo in Hungary but I attended Orion’s author party in the Victoria and Albert museum too. I can honestly say I’ve never been to such a glamorous event in my whole life. The venue was stunning, the champagne was free, I met Sophie Kinsella’s agent and even ended up standing next to Michael Palin at one point (although I was much too chicken-like to actually talk to him!).

In March 2009 Orion took me to Liberty’s for afternoon tea. I was still marvelling at the fact I was...well...having afternoon tea in Liberty’s... when my paperback editor fished into her bag and showed me a print out of the cover for “Heaven Can Wait.” Like most writers I’d held an image in my head of what my perfect book cover would look like and I couldn’t believe how well the artwork I held in my hand matched that. It was like my publisher and the design team had some kind of spooky psychic ability. I couldn’t stop looking at it! March was also the month when I gave my first ever interview – to http://www.trashionista.com/. I’d been reading their website for YEARS, ogling the covers of other authors’ books, pouring over their interviews and dreaming of the day that they’d feature my novel. I couldn’t believe my own eyes when my own interview went up and my photo stared back at me.

April was another quiet month but May brought more excitement. Not only did Maddie sell the foreign rights of “Heaven Can Wait” to Ediciones Versatil in Spain but I received the advanced review copies (ARC) of my novel from Orion. They had a temporary cover but they looked like real books, had my words inside and the spine said I was “bringing sparkle to women’s fiction”. Me! My family, who’d been asking for ages if they could read my novel, clamoured to get their hands on my copies and I dutifully sent them out. Then I felt sick. “Heaven Can Wait” had been read by my agent and my publishers – both of whom had said lovely things about it – but it hadn’t been read by anyone not in the industry. My family are the sort of people who, if you ask “Does my bum look big in this?” will say “Yes. Huge” and I knew they wouldn’t sugar-coat their opinions. I shouldn’t have worried. Everyone – even my dad, sister and brother who never read fiction – loved it and didn’t criticise a single thing.

In June 2009 I received the artwork for the cover of “Heaven Can Wait”. I was expecting a limp computer print-out with all the colours bleeding into one another (my printer’s very good at that) but no, what I received was a very sturdy piece of white card with the design – including the gorgeous, gold squirly title on the front – professionally printed on it. When I finally stopped stroking it I put a copy in a clipframe and hung it above my desk.

The Bookseller magazine printed a copy of my cover and a blurb of “Heaven Can Wait” in July 2009 and in August Maddie informed me that my novel was going to be published in Taiwan and China!

In September 2009, with publication day just around the corner, I got busy with trying to publicise my novel. I was interviewed by a journalist from Woman’s Own magazine on the phone, answered some emailed interview questions from First Edition magazine and started to organise a Virtual Blog Tour.

October brought reviews – and some really lovely ones! Candis magazine put my novel on the same page as Ant and Dec’s biography and said “You’ll find yourself laughing one minute and crying the next” (of my novel, not Ant and Dec’s. I can’t remember what their review said!). Chicklitreviews.com also published a wonderful review that made me grin for an entire day. October also brought me a box full of copies of “Heaven Can Wait” – a moment so special it made me cry.

When you read this post, on Thursday 22nd October my book will have been in the shops for seven days time and there’s a very good chance I’ll still be suffering a hangover from celebrating the most amazing day, and year, of my life!

Cally Taylor – author of supernatural romantic-comedy “Heaven Can Wait” (Orion paperback)


Friday, October 16, 2009

Look what I've got!

She's all over blogland today, and I couldn't resist showing off my own brand new copy of Heaven Can Wait, written by fellow Novel Racer and Saffer and all round talented writer, Cally Taylor. I almost daren't get into it because I know I won't be able to put it down and there are chores to be done. Oh, who am I kidding? Bread and jam for tea anyone?

There'll be a guest post from Cally on this blog on Thursday, 22nd October so look out for that, and in the meantime I'll try not to gnash my teeth and tear my hair out with envy. So not a good look.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Halloween and the Virtue of Patience

Mince pies have been in the supermarkets for weeks, which must mean it's... nearly Halloween. Not my favourite celebration of the year - all those hooded creatures turning up at the front door wearing masks and demanding money (and I don't mean the bailiffs.)

Discussing Halloween at work, I mentioned that when I were a lass, living 'Oop North, we didn't celebrate it at all, but the day before Bonfire Night was fairly similar. The 4th of November was called Mischievous Night - similar to trick or treating, only ... well without the treating really. No dressing up or anything, just people knocking on doors and running away, throwing eggs and flour around, smearing syrup on door handles (we once fashioned a cake from the mess left outside) making rather obvious ghosty noises outside the window, frightening old people, that sort of thing. You'd (quite rightly) be given an Asbo for it today.

The thing is, NO-ONE knew what I was talking about. Is it a Northern Thing? Has anyone else heard of Mischievous Night? Did I dream it all? And if so, what a peculiar child I must have been.

Anyhoo. The editing's more or less done. My early chapters have been shown to some lovely and trusted writer friends who have offered constructive and helpful advice, and the manuscript's currently sitting there looking at me accusingly, saying "Well? Aren't you going to send me out into the world then? I'm all grown up now, you know."

Well yes, except that every day I think of something else I need to add or take away or improve on or explain better, or change, and I've realised again the importance of not submitting your work too early.

Patience, patience. Soon, my beauty, soon ...