Monday 27 June 2011

That'll be the Debut!

By Candy Gourlay

Featuring David Cousins, Katie Dale and Bryony Pearce

On Notes from the Slushpile, we chronicle the slings and arrows of trying to make a dream come true so we get embarrassingly excited about debut authors. This is the first of our new series That’ll Be The Debut, where we meet debut authors and get the lowdown on what life is like beyond the Slushpile. Our first three featured authors are all winners of the landmark Undiscovered Voices Anthology competition and also blog on The Edge, a blog set up by authors of edgy young fiction.

Bryony Pearce
Bryony Pearce won the UV in 2008 but rode the rejection roller coaster for two years – as well as struggling with dodgy hips, life and birth (of Riley, now two – she was taking down revision notes from her editor while in labour) - before she won a contract with Egmont for Angel’s Fury last year. It’s out on the 4th of July 2011 (yay!).  Photo: Charlotte Palazo

Dave Cousins
I’ve read Dave Cousins’ imminent teen novel 15 Days Without a Head, snapped up by Oxford University Press after he won the UV 2010 and I can tell you this is a title to watch in 2012. It’s heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time with the most loveable and memorable characters, Slumdog Millionaire in an English tower block. It’s out in 2012. Photo: Christian Colussi

Katie Dale
Katie Dale was the only absentee at the reception for UV 2008 winners because she was seeing the world. She was a bit nervous that the time lag might have lost her opportunities but she is now making up for it with a vengeance – check out ‘Katie Dale’ on Amazon and half a dozen books pop up! Someone Else’s Life, published by Simon and Schuster, is out in 14 February 2012. Photo: Faye Thomas

Candy Gourlay So guys, how does it feel to have your dream come true?

Bryony Pearce It is amazing, I keep having to pinch myself and sometimes I can't believe how lucky I am - I've got everything I ever wanted (two amazing kids, a boy and a girl and my book is coming out in a couple of weeks).

I found out very quickly that this is just the beginning. Dave Cousins

Dave Cousins I feel very fortunate to be in the position of having a book coming out, but it took a lot of hard work to get here!

Katie Dale It feels utterly amazing. Like Bryony and Dave, I keep having to pinch myself, especially now it's coming to the stage of seeing the book cover and it's actually materializing - my work is actually going to be a real live book! I can't wait for that moment where I hold it in my hands for the first time! It's a little how I imagine motherhood to be - I can't wait to see my dream come true!

Bryony But like with everything, there's always scope creep. All I ever wanted was to get a publishing contract, but now I've got one I want readers to like my book, I want to see it in book shops, I want it to sell well and of course I'm worrying about whether or not I'll sell the next book. I guess there's always a new version of the dream ...

Cassie has suffered from nightmares her whole life,
after a terrifying school trip to Germany, she discovers that
she has lived before and that all of her past lives are
being manipulated by a fallen angel who is bent
on destroying mankind ...

Dave I'm the same. I have a tendency to worry about what happens next – if anyone will buy the book, if kids will like it. I have to keep reminding myself that this is a dream come true and I should enjoy each moment.

Candy It's funny how one goes from thinking that getting published was an end ... then realizing it's just the beginning!

Dave I found out very quickly that this is just the beginning. I hadn't really thought about all the other things that would come with being published (or even in the lead up to it)

With publication still half a year away, Dave's book
hasn't got a cover yet so here's something he made earlier.

Bryony Glad someone feels the same way I do, Dave, sometimes I feel like a really ungrateful cow when I start worrying about potential reviews, or sales figures. I have to keep reminding myself how badly I just wanted to get published and nothing else.

Katie Yes, with that thrilling excitement come the nightmares, the incredible nerves and fears - what if no-one likes it? What if no-one buys it? What if my agent and publishers realise they've made a huge mistake? And, as I've been lucky enough to get a 2-book deal, with a deadline set in stone, what'll I write for that...? And can I write a whole book by my deadline...?!!

17-year-old Rosie thinks she has a 50 per-cent chance
of inheriting the disease that killed her mum
but then discovers she was swapped at birth. In her
quest to find her real mother, she uncovers
deeply buried family secrets

Candy So let’s hear some war stories. What has your journey to publication been like?

Bryony Suffice it to say there were a lot of rejections on the way and I worked damn hard (setting my alarm for 5am so I could write while the baby was asleep, doing edits while Riley was newborn and so on). But I think there are different definitions of hard - if I didn't love writing, I wouldn't do it. Who would? So I can't say I've really suffered because I've loved writing my books.

Riley and Maisie

Dave Yes, I did the 5am shift for a while too, trying to get a couple of hours in before going to work. I also wrote in my lunch breaks in the local library. I now work the graveyard shift as the dawn thing wasn't working for me. Like Bryony says, 'hard' is a relative term and I do love writing – but at times it does feel like work and it takes all my effort to climb into the loft at 10pm having already done a full days work, to then put in a few more hours on the book, especially when I know the rest of the family are downstairs, hanging out together.

Katie Wow, I really admire your dedication, Dave and Bryony. My brain doesn't even function at 5am, but I've pulled the odd all-nighter when I've been really into it - or had a looming deadline! I'm lucky enough that acting sort of meshes quite nicely with writing - there's a lot of sitting around on jobs, and then there's also a lot of time "resting"!

Dave I've had to give up things to write which is fine, I'm happy to do it. It's been easy to give up TV, even reading or listening to music as much as I'd like. But time with family and friends, even weekends away have all been sacrificed to hit writing deadlines.

All I ever wanted was a publishing contract ... I guess there's always a new version of the dream. Bryony Pearce

Bryony The worst part for me, the part that really did cause suffering (for me and for everyone I come into contact with) was the waiting part - waiting to hear about a manuscript, a deal an edit - and everyone, published and unpublished will I'm sure, identify with that one.

Candy Oh my god, waiting was a killer! I do think though that endless waiting seems to be in the very fiber of this industry. You wait to get noticed as an unpublished writer. Then you wait for your book’s publication. Then you wait until you can get up the inspiration to write the first words of your next book.

Katie My journey to publication has been quite a varied one! You can read the long version here. The short version is that after pursuing both an acting and writing career, and travelling a lot, my quest for publication become a whole lot easier after the fabulous competition launched for Undiscovered Voices. After the first chapter of Someone Else's Life (Then entitled Someone Else's Footprints) was chosen as one of the competition winners, it made a wonderful change to have editors and agents contacting ME! (The only problem was the book was only half-written, and I was on the other side of the world in Vietnam when they wanted to meet me - doh!)

Katie was busy doing THIS when she should have been hawking her novel

Dave I'm my own worst critic and didn't send anything out for years. My wife persuaded me to send an early draft of 15 Days without a Head to Undiscovered Voices. Through that I got my agent and interest from a number of editors and the rest as they say – is history!

Bryony We're all Undiscovered Voices winners, so I think that says a lot about how great that competition is!

Dave Ha! Yes, indeed. Having editors and agents and booksellers as judges in the current UV is a brilliant idea – as these are the people your book is going to have to excite. To be chosen is a huge confidence boost!

Bryony And you get to meet lots of lovely people :)

Katie Suddenly, after piles of rejection letters, I had FOUR offers from agents, and now the book whose first chapter appears in UV is due for publication next Spring!

Dave's attic desk top. He is known for his tidiness

Dave I'm currently writing my next book too Katie and it does feel different knowing that somebody wants it! Which of course is fantastic but it does bring its own pressure. It took me a while to get into the flow. In the end I made a conscious decision to go back to my old writing habits and now I'm really enjoying it and not thinking with every other word that this is going to end up in print!

Katie I agree, Book 2 is a whole new ball game! You have to "sell" a story to your editors before it's even written, through a synopsis alone, which is a whole new challenge, as it's very difficult to convey character, and impossible to express a "voice" in a synopsis, plus, it's made me plan out everything that will happen in the book before I even start writing. It's a wonderful feeling to have a publication date already set (always nice to have a little job security in the Arts!) but it's also incredibly terrifying!

Dave Do you find having the plan has helped or hindered the actual writing, Katie?

Katie I'll have to get back to you on that Dave, as I'm only at the early stages of Book 2. It's a new way of working for me, and I'm hoping that (especially as I've got a deadline) it'll help me write more quickly, but characters often have a mind of their own so I'm not sure how well they'll stick to the guidelines!

When we're worrying about what agents and editors and bookshops will think, we must remember that it's really all about the reader. Katie Dale

Bryony You guys are so lucky that you have second books in the bag, as it were. I'm in the opposite position; I got a one-book deal, but have since written two more novels. My current fear is that I'll be a one-book wonder - I'm facing the pressure of selling my new books rather than writing them!

Dave I can understand how you feel Bryony, but for now try to enjoy being a debut novel wonder! Then you can move on to being a two-book wonder, which will naturally be followed by your third book triumph … Make the most of each stage and don't worry.

Bryony That's what we need to keep reminding ourselves - make the most of each stage. My husband keeps saying ‘all you wanted was to see a copy of your book in a shop’ and that happened on the 20th when early copies were sold in Pritchards, Formby!

Bryony, Nick, Riley and Maisie

The best thing happened recently too - I got a letter from a teen reader who had been given an advance copy of Angel's Fury by a local independent bookshop. She really enjoyed the book and the fact that she'd taken the time to write a real letter is just overwhelming to me. I'm dreading the bad reviews (one of the dangers of putting ourselves so far 'out there' I guess) but getting something like that from someone is just so special. I don't think there are many jobs where you get real letters saying what a great job you've done. Her letter is now on my website

Dave That's fantastic. Getting a response like that from a reader is what it's all about.

Katie Absolutely. When we're worrying about what agents and editors and bookshops will think of our book, we must remember that it's really all about the reader, the teens who pick up our books, and what that experience will mean to them. They're the ones who really count.
Thanks for the chat, guys!

Bryony It's so nice knowing other people are as crazy as I am!

Dave It's the sane ones you have to watch out for!

Candy I’m glad that your experiences have been more mad than sad and yes, I so agree – we must celebrate every high because this business is a rollercoaster. Do it for the money, do it for the fame, but ultimately, don’t forget that you do it for the joy. Thank you to our soon-to-be-published authors – I hope our readers will all rush out and buy your books as soon as they’re in the shops.

Read the rest of our That'll be the Debut series:

    Candy Gourlay's debut novel Tall Story was published in June last year. Her second novel Shine will be published by David Fickling Books in March 2012.


    1. Great post! Love the inspiring stories of getting published! You're right Candy, getting published is just the beginning and soon all of them will have many other goals like books sales, reviews, future books! Let the fun begin!

    2. Fantastic post! I really enjoyed reading this. Good luck to all of you!

    3. A fascinating look at making it: best of luck with the next stage of the roller-coaster (watch out for those upside down loop-de-loops).
      Three cheers for three new books!

    4. You all keep us going - I love Angel's Fury and can't wait to read 15 Days Without a Head and Someone Else's Life...seeing you guys break through has been wonderful x

    5. Can't wait to read Bryony's and Katie's novel but I have read 15 Days Without a Head ... it's superb! Proud of ya, Davie boy!

    6. Fascinating post - thank you! I loved reading it, and I can't wait to read the books!

    7. Great post - always so brilliant to read about other people's writing journeys and sucessess.

    8. Brilliant post! I now have three more books on my - 'summer holiday read' pile. Can't wait!

    9. A fascinating read showing the fragility of being a writer. Well done all of you and thank you Candy for such a brilliant blog. The photo's are great. Your children are so beautiful Bryony.

    10. What a great post! I love 'my experience' stories, and making it a discussion like this, rather than one person's view is a fab idea. I'm sure you get more info that way.

      I've added all three books to my wishlist. Hooray for SCBWI for finding and encouraging new talent!

    11. Hooray for the UV alumni. We're all going to get there eventually...

      Candy, this must have taken you ages to format! But the conversation style is very nice - just don't try documenting a whole panel discussion this way!

    12. re formatting - no - the trick is to know how to create the thumbnails and blogger now allows you to re-insert photos without having to upload them again.

    13. Aw I loved reading this. Congratulations everyone. I can't wait to read the books now!

    14. Hey! What d'you mean "Dave is known for his tidiness"? I cleared up before I took that photo!

      Thanks again for inviting me to be involved with this, Candy, and thanks to everyone for their comments.

      PS. Don't forget, Angel's Fury is out on Monday!

    15. Dave interviews Bryony on his blog on the eve of the publication of Angel's Fury. We aim to help shameless promotions!


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