Tag Archives: MG novels

T-Minus One Month!

Dears…

It’s the twenty-second of July today, which means – well, nothing special, you might think. (Unless it’s your birthday, in which case – whoop! Happy day!) It’s a Saturday; here in my little patch of Ireland the weather is a battle between sun and cloud, and the sky outside my window right now is a bit like the opening montage of the Simpsons, only without the chaos.

It’s a nice day. It’s an ordinary day. And this day next month – the twenty-second of August – my first book will be published in the United States and Canada by Knopf Books for Young Readers.

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Cover image for THE EYE OF THE NORTH (Knopf BFYR, 2017), artist Jeff Nentrup.

If you’ll excuse me for a moment – I’ll just be over here, breathing into a paper bag.

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Right. Back to it!

My US/Canadian publishers are the same people, incidentally, who publish Philip Pullman in the US, and the same people who publish Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. Sometimes I remember that and I feel a bit sick. Not, of course, that I’m comparing myself to these stellar writers for one hot second – but it is such a dream to have even that tiny thing in common with two people I admire so much. It’s quite a feeling, akin to base-jumping, I’d imagine, only not nearly so dangerous.

Can I admit to something, though? Just between us. At times, much as I hate to admit it, I have to deal with something rather nasty, and that thing is: comparing myself unfavourably to others. My path to publication (which I’m still on, I hurry to point out) has been long and bumpy and winding and filled with false starts and dead ends and switchbacks and disappointments, like most people’s, but there are always those rare few whose debut book deal is announced in a huge fanfare, attracting masses of attention and a six-figure advance, and whose journey seems somehow to be smoother and less fraught than yours. There are authors who seem to be living in a perpetual bubble of sunshine, travelling the world and giving interviews in which they reveal themselves to be not only brilliant writers but also genuinely lovely people, whose books sound like infinitely better versions of yours, and whose reviews are – by and large – glowing.

I am not one of those authors.

I didn’t earn a gigantic book deal. My debut was announced to no fanfare, besides that created within my family. My book is one of thousands, just as likely to sink as it is to swim. I haven’t done any travelling. I have attracted some wonderful reviews, but also many which are negative – and I’m grateful for each and every one. I spend most days trying to carve out a few moments to work while also trying my best to be an attentive, loving parent. It’s not easy, and I don’t always succeed. My real life isn’t like the polished version of success that some authors seem to project – but it’s the words ‘seem to’ that are important here.

Every author has started the same way. We all had an idea, and wrote it down. We all left it alone for a while, puzzling over it, until going back over it with a critical eye. We all mustered up the courage to send it to industry professionals for an evisceration consideration, and we all had the fortitude to wait. (Writing is about waiting almost as much as it’s about putting words down on a page, after all.) We all dealt with rejection in some form and we all rode the rollercoaster of waiting for our debut to be published.

Or, as the marvellous Victoria Schwab put it:

And there you have it. It doesn’t hurt to remember that every writer faces the same track, and that nobody knows what another person is dealing with behind the scenes. None of us have a ‘secret’, and everyone’s journey is largely the same. Some seem to have it easier, but most of that is airbrushing. It does nobody any good to look sideways and compare; it helps only to focus on the ground beneath your own feet, and to stretch out your hands to help those walking beside you when you can.

So, I didn’t earn a million dollars for my first book, and some people do. It’s not a problem. My novel will sit on a shelf beside theirs, all the same.

So, I haven’t written a book which has met with universal acclaim, and some people have. It’s not a problem. I’ve still written a book – and somebody wanted to publish it.

So, I’m not Victoria Schwab, or Neil Gaiman, or Tomi Adeyemi, or Angie Thomas, or China Miéville, or whoever. I may never be a ‘success’, on the same level as writers like these. But I’m a person who had a dream, just as they did; I’m a person who put in the work, just like them. And this day next month my work will sit beside theirs, and my journey to that point is just as valid as anyone else’s.

If you’re just beginning the journey, take heart. It might be hard road, or it might not, but either way I look forward to seeing you at the other end. I have spent twenty-five years trying to get here, and now that there’s only a month left, I wish I’d savoured my trip a bit more instead of wishing I was following someone else’s path.

Four more weeks, people. Thank you all for being here with me. Let’s bring ‘er home.

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Maz Evans, author of WHO LET THE GODS OUT

Because I love you all so very much, today’s blog post is epic – in all senses of the word. Yes, dear ones. It’s time for an Author Interview!

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Photo Credit: Lulu Höller Flickr via Compfight cc

All right, all right, calm down. So, you see, one of the many perks of being a children’s-book-writing type these days is the immense joy of meeting other children’s-book-writing types, even if it’s only online. This is how I met the fascinating and lovely subject of today’s interview, Ms Maz (Mary Alice) Evans, a woman who not only writes books, but teaches others how to do it too in a variety of fun and exciting ways using her wonderful-sounding Story Stew, and is a total hoot to boot. The first book in her new series, entitled WHO LET THE GODS OUT, is forthcoming from Chicken House in February 2017, and so I was honoured that she took the time to talk to me about the book, her writing life, and what powers she would like if she could wake up tomorrow morning as a goddess.

On with the show!

Hi, Maz, and welcome to Clockwatching… Towers! Firstly, let’s hear about your book. What’s the scoop on WHO LET THE GODS OUT?

Well now… Gods is the first a four-part comedy adventure series for middle grade. Our hero is Elliot Hooper, a 12-year-old young carer whose troubled life is thrown into further disarray when he collides with the chaotic modern-day immortal community. Accompanied by the haughty teenage Constellation, Virgo, Elliot accidentally releases Thanatos, Daemon of Death and must enlist the Olympians if he is to avert mankind’s doom…

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Cover image for Maz Evans’ WHO LET THE GODS OUT (Chicken House, 2017); image courtesy Maz Evans

That sounds amazing! Where did your interest in gods and mythology come from?

When I was eight, I won an award at school – the prize was a book on Greek Mythology. I was hooked. I’m not a woman of religious faith, but I could buy into polytheism – I love that there’s a go-to God for any situation. That said, eight-year-old Maz was pretty peeved that the runner-up got a massive tube of Smarties. On balance, it probably worked out better this way.

Tell us a bit about your journey to becoming an author. Did you always want to write?

For me, writing self-selected because I suck at every other field of human endeavour. I am supremely untalented, but I’ve always written. My career has been rooted in journalism, taking detours through copywriting, scriptwriting and academia, before establishing my own creative writing business, Story Stew. Writing and I are like Liz Taylor and Richard Burton – we’ve always got back together eventually.

WHO LET THE GODS OUT has had a fascinating route to publication. Can you talk a bit about that?

I say in the Gods acknowledgements that it’s had more lives than a recycled cat – it’s a bit of a long story, so settle in…

I wrote the uninspiring prototype, Elliot and The Immortals, back in 2009. I’d just had my second child in 15 months and could feel my brain turning into an Annabel Karmel puree. So in the 3.7 minutes per day when both kids slept, I wrote. I sent it to the literary department of David Higham Associates (I was repped there as a scriptwriter) and waited for my enormous advance. Instead, I got a very encouraging rejection. I responded maturely – with a massive strop and writing very little for five years.

By 2014 life – and publishing – had moved on. Most of my kids were at school, I was running creative writing workshops for schools and festivals and self-publishing was now affordable. So I rewrote Gods and published 500 copies, thinking I had the rest of my life to sell them. After launching it at the Hay Festival in May, all were gone by September. So I printed 2000 more. They went by Easter 2015.

Around then, my scriptwriting agent Nicky Lund enquired if I was still alive. I told her what I’d been up to and she passed Gods to a literary colleague. The gorgeous Veronique Baxter snapped it up, sent it out… and the moment I met Barry Cunningham and Rachel Leyshon from Chicken House, I knew Gods had found its true home.

A funny little twist to the tale that I hope might give heart: Veronique – my brilliant agent… She was the same person who’d turned it down in 2009!

When writing, do you come up with characters, plot or setting first, or do they come as a package?

Who knows! I wish I had a process… For my tuppence, your plot should always evolve from your characters and they pop into my head all the time. Comedy set pieces often spring to mind – I find dialogue and comedy come quite naturally – plot structure, much less so. I find novels infinitely harder than scripts – you have to fill in all the white spaces…

You’re a mum of four (ye gods!) Do you find it tough to manage your career and your family, and do you have any tips for writing while parenting?

Absolutely not. I breeze through as a flawless parent and author – doesn’t everyone…?

HA!!!!!!!!!!

People talk about spinning plates – my life is like a Greek wedding. Every day is a mad, chaotic, shouting scramble of a disaster waiting to happen – and frequently is. I don’t find it tough – I find it nigh on impossible to find a balance. But my family and my writing are my two great loves. I have an incredibly supportive husband, I run my own business and I always have prosecco in the fridge – between those, somehow it happens. [Prosecco in the fridge is a genius move… I’m incorporating that one into my life, stat! SJOH]

What, for you, have been the best and worst parts of the publication journey? How do you stay balanced amid it all?

Firstly, I haven’t stayed balanced at all – and that has been the worst part. I was prepared for the graft – and wow, do you have to be – but the emotions… they have totally caught me out. The crippling self-doubt, the anxiety, the waiting – oh GOD, the waiting! – the uncertainty – none of this plays well with my personality.

But the best part? Everything else. I’ve always wanted to be a writer and now I am. How many people get to say that? I still can’t quite believe it myself.

If you could be a goddess, what powers would you like?

Flushing the toilet from afar. My children leave our bathroom like a Turner Prize entry. [Well, if it works for Tracey Emin… SJOH]

What’s next on your agenda, writing-wise?

I’m just finishing Book 2 – Book 3 is due later this year and Book 4 next, so that should keep me quiet. I have two adult novels I am desperate to write and a series of kids’ picture books, as well as lots of scripts that are waiting for Mummy to come back. And my tax return. Better get onto that.

Ah, yes, taxes – the eternal leveller! Thank you so much, Maz, for these great answers to some intensely nosy questions. I can’t wait to get my hands on WHO LET THE GODS OUT; it publishes on February 2nd, 2017, and it is the first in a series of four novels about Elliot and his godly chums. You can find out more about Maz and her books on her website, or her publisher’s website, and you can (and should) follow her on Twitter, too.

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Mary Alice (Maz) Evans, author of WHO LET THE GODS OUT.