Life Cycle Of A Writer – Third Round-Up of 2015!

2015 continues at a pace and we’re doing our best to cram as much in this year as possible. We’ve had lots of edits between us recently so it’s been a bit quieter than usual, but the good news is that means we’ll have lots of NEW BOOKS for you to read in the near future. Here’s what we’ve all been up to:

Catherine: Signing my first contract with Carina UK and discovering what it is to be a real author. I’ve had my first set of revisions and lots of plans are afoot for 2016 when my new title and front cover will be revealed. And getting the second book ready so it’ll be available for pre-order by the time book one is out! 

Laura: I’ve had a bit of everything going on – school holidays, a DD with her leg in plaster, and edits for book 3. I have a few events coming up, about which I am excited, but more on those nearer the times.

Lucie: It has been an incredibly busy time for me but unfortunately, not a lot of it is book related. What with the summer holidays (always a time that I struggle to get writing done) and work, I have found it difficult to get on with my edit. I start university today, too, so that will mean I need to start to manage my time a lot better! I have also just started a new vlog series on my blog, so that will hopefully help free up some time. Just need to work out how to fit in everything now…

Celia: Drank lots of wine, wrote like a mad woman all summer and notched up 60,000 brand new words for my WIP – a psychological coming-of-age story. Now back at work and have been The Boss for a while so no writing progress made; the next big push is to finish, edit and submit. Also limbering up for Tirgearr edits on the new one due out in January – Moondancing; a prequel to Little Boxes. Lastly, made the short list for the Exeter Story Prize. Final prize giving on October 17th so off on a jolly to Exeter with everything crossed.

Vanessa: School holidays have meant less writing time, but I’m deep into a new draft of my work-in-progress now, which will hopefully be ready to send to my agent in the next few weeks. I also had a lovely phone call to say I’ve made the Wells Literary Festival short story competition shortlist!

Sue: I’ve been a busy bee finishing my work-in-progress which took a bit longer than I had hoped but is now out and under consideration. I’ve also been working on a novella which I’ll be self-publishing with the Romaniac Press. I’m looking forward to sharing the cover and blurb here very soon.

Debbie:  It’s been four long years and four re-writes but having finally managed to write, ‘THE END,’ I’ve taken to eagerly stalking the postman each day as I wait for my work-in-progress to arrive back from the RNA NWS. In the meantime (and in an attempt to distract myself) I’m working on the first chapter of the next novel. 

Jan: EDITS! EDITS! EDITS! Working through her edits for As Weekends Go, the winner of Choc Lit’s Search For A Star competition, ready for publication. She’s now recovering.

All that in EIGHT WEEKS. I think it calls for another refill of the cake tin at Romaniac HQ.

girl at desk

Life Cycle Of A Writer: Sparkle Round-Up

Here at Romaniac HQ, we believe in positivity. The reason we started the Life Cycle Of A Writer posts was so that we can share the lows and highs of our journeys. It is a mighty tough business for which you need a thick skin, but we go by the philosophy if you work hard and believe in yourself great things will happen. Give yourself the chance to sparkle, and if you don’t mind indulging us for a few minutes, we wanted to share our moments of triumph with you and together raise a glass to all the highs.

December

It all started in the middle of December at the Romaniac Sparkle WeekendEn route to our get together we found we had good reason to celebrate when Vanessa Savage learned she’d won the Flash500 Novel Opening Competition for Missing Grace. The report from the judge, Steph Patterson, provides some very encouraging words for Vanessa:

“The introduction to Missing Grace just pulls you in. Straight away, it raises a number of questions and you quickly read on. A mere sprinkling of back story, told in a way that links the past to the present, introduces us to another important character, and then we’re heading straight into the plot. The tension grows as the mystery unravels. My congratulations to the two finalists! I’m sure both will go far.”

If that wasn’t enough reason to raise a glass, during our sparkle weekend Catherine Miller learned she’d won the Just Write Monthly Masterpiece competition for Miles Between Us. With the judges saying they were gripped from the very start. The first three chapters are now available to read on their website.

January

2015 got off to a great start when Vanessa received news she’d won a Writers Forum competition for her short story No Such Thing As Monsters. The magazine should be out in March!

To add to our early 2015 cheer, Catherine was highly commended runner-up in the Accent Press and Woman magazine writing competition for her work-in-progress Baby Number Two.

February

Laura E. James carried out her first Waterstones book signing at the Dorchester branch, selling and signing copies of Follow Me Follow You

Laura and Sharon Goodwin (Jera's Jamboree) at Dorchester's Waterstones.
Laura and Sharon Goodwin (Jera’s Jamboree) at Dorchester’s Waterstones.

Vanessa received double good news in February – Her current work-in-progress The Murder House made the final four in the Caledonia Novel Award and she came third in the Flash500 flash fiction competition with her story Pretty Maids All In A Row

March

March has been mega for good news, and we’re only part way through the month.

Catherine went up to London to receive the Katie Fforde bursary award. This is for someone on the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme who has great potential. Katie presented Catherine with a trophy at the RNA March meeting.

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Laura carried out her first talk with a fellow Dorset writer, Kathy Sharp. The Preston Friendship Club were fantastic audience, and Laura hopes to do similar events in the future.

In a celebration of Mother’s Day, Celia J Anderson’s letter to her mother was included in The Guardian. It’s the first letter and has a lovely picture of Celia in a bonnet.

As if all these bits of excitement weren’t enough, Romaniac HQ celebrations went into overdrive when we learned our wonderful Jan Brigden won the Choc Lit and Whole Audiobooks Search for a Star competition. Her novel As Weekends Go will be published later this year.

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

We’re absolutely delighted for Jan and so glad to have our first life cycle transition from aspiring to published writer.

We’ve also finished putting a considerable number of words together with The Murder House by Vanessa Savage, Baby Number Two by Catherine Miller, Fractured Love by Lucie Wheeler, What Doesn’t Kill You by Laura E.James and Living The Dream by Celia J. Anderson reaching completion in one stage or another and the very hard-working Sue Fortin has been getting The Half-Truth into its final version ready for publication in two days time!

The Half truth

 

Time to upgrade Romaniac HQ’s mini-bar. There’s no way we can stock enough champagne in there if the good news keeps coming in at this rate. Now if you’ve all got a filled glass, please raise it to the wonder of sparkle and positivity!

CHEERS!
CHEERS!

 

Write Behind You – Sarah Manning of The Agency Group

I’m delighted to welcome the very lovely Sarah Manning onto the blog today. Sarah is a Literary Agent’s Assistant to Juliet Mushens at The Agency Group and is here to give us insight into her role and some insider info on life in a literary agency. Pull up a chair, Sarah and help yourself to cake!

Sarah pic

Can you tell us a bit about your background prior to working at The Agency Group?

I read History at Durham University. With no real idea what career I wanted to pursue, but aware that I loved books, I luckily landed myself a job at Orion working for their Paperbacks Department. I also interned in script development at Amber Entertainment and worked as a reader for Island Pictures before happily arriving at The Agency Group.

How long have you been working with Juliet at The Agency Group, Sarah, and how did you come to apply for the job?

I joined The Agency Group back in October 2013 and the time has absolutely flown by. I first stumbled across Juliet’s name during our many editorial meetings while working at Orion. I was beginning to realise that there were many exciting careers within the publishing industry that I hadn’t been aware of straight out of university, and so I closely followed Juliet’s career – she was in her twenties, vibrant and her success was snowballing. I found her easy to identify with and I knew I could learn a lot from her. At the time I was on a temporary contract at Orion and so I took the initiative to contact Juliet and ask her advice on how to move my career forward in publishing. Six months down the line Juliet was looking for an assistant and it felt like everything was falling into place. During that time I’d built up my experience and I knew for certain the direction I wanted my career to take.

What’s the best part of the working day for you?

The best part of my working day is reading the full manuscripts that have been called in from the slush pile. I love the creative, editorial side of reading submissions and it is especially exciting when you stumble across something special. But even when a submission still needs more work I enjoy sharing my thoughts with Juliet. I learn a lot from this process and it is always interesting to see how our comments compare.

What are you reading for pleasure at the moment?

I have just finished reading Apple Tree Yard and opened The Little Stranger by Sarah Walters on the train this morning. Apple Tree Yard was suggested to me by Juliet and, unsurprisingly, it didn’t disappoint. With a complex female narrator, and tackling interesting issues about sexual assault, it is an incredibly compelling read. I’ll let you know how I get on with The Little Stranger – here’s to hoping it’s as dark and chilling as I expect.

Could you please tell us about a typical day at The Agency Group and describe your workspace?

My days are pretty varied but there are some things which need to be done regularly. Every day we will have contracts coming in and out of the office, and it’s my job to keep a track of them all. Juliet does her own foreign rights and so we have contracts issued from all over the world, and with no separate contracts department this is quite a big job! I also complete the tax forms for our authors and am the one chasing all the money. Unlike in other jobs I have previously had, I don’t see these tasks as tiresome administration because they are so closely tied to direct contact with our clients, and I’m learning so much about the ins and outs of the industry. Hopefully this will just make me an efficient agent sometime in the future! And then, after all the general office jobs, I will help Juliet with the slush pile.

Our office is lovely, especially now we are slowly filling the white walls with framed book covers. And of course there is an enormous tube poster for James Oswald’s Mclean series.

office

Do you find you have a typical day or is each day different?

Each day is different working for Juliet and this is something I really appreciate about being her assistant. I am very lucky that I am welcome to sit in on all of Juliet’s meetings and so I find myself part of meetings with potential clients; existing authors; scouts and the list goes on!

Has anything surprised you about the job?

I was pleasantly surprised by just how fast-paced the working environment is here. There is always something going on and new deals being struck. It makes it very exciting to be a part of.

What was your dream job as a child?

I’m not entirely sure it would count as a job, but for most of my childhood I wanted to compete in the Olympics in synchronised swimming. Unfortunately, you can’t read books while upside down in the pool.

What’s your dream job in the future? Do you hope to become a full-time agent and build your own list?

When Juliet asked me where I’d like to be in five years’ time I replied, “your desk”. Well, perhaps not her actual desk, but one next door as a full-time agent would be lovely. My dream is to build a client list of my own with authors as varied and as exciting as those I get to work with now. My favourite aspect of the job is following authors from their slush pile submission through to their first deal, and championing debut authors is something I hope to take forward when establishing my own list.

Do you read the submissions that come in to Juliet’s slush pile – is this a job you share or do you both read promising submissions?

Juliet will read everything that comes into her slush pile and will decide which submissions to call in the full for. I will then read these full manuscripts alongside Juliet and we share our editorial comments. I absolutely love this process and, although the pile is often very large and somewhat daunting, it is always exciting when you begin reading a manuscript and realise you can’t put it down.

If you do read submissions, what would you love to find in the slush pile?

I have a weak spot for flawed, independent female characters that aren’t defined by the men around them. I would love to find an ‘Amy from Gone Girl’ type character placed in a historical setting: something that turns the male discourse of history on its head in a very modern way.

Who’s your favourite author / favourite book of all time?

Favourite author is a tricky one as, even if there is an author who I generally like the style of, it is always the story itself that I am most passionate about. A Thousand Splendid Suns is my go-to book and got me through my finals at university. There is something so magical about the strength of the characters despite the sadness that surrounds them, that no matter where I am it always manages to transport me. Plus, I’m a bit of a sucker for something that makes me cry!

Thank you so much, Sarah!

 

 

Oops! Typo Alert …

At HQ, we often cringe or have a giggle at various typos we’ve either seen or made. In some cases they’ve even been for the best. After all, our very own blog name derived from one and it’s hard to imagine us being called anything else.

Here are a few of our finest …

Jan : 

“Sweat ‘n’ Sour Chicken.” (Eeeew! Thanks but no thanks!)

“Brianstorming Session.” (Poor Brian!)

“Thanks for the fiend request.” (Ooh, you little devil, you!)

Celia :

“Blinty” is my all-time favourite Romaniac-page blooper. I meant to say “blimey” at the time but much prefer blinty these days. Also like the times when one of us gets a word wrong in a thread and then everyone continues to use the typo for weeks afterwards. As they say, you don’t have to be insane to be a Romaniac, but it certainly helps …

Laura:

Pooked. I have no idea what I was meant to be typing, but it ended up as pooked. I pook, he pooks, we pook, they pooked. Answers on a postcard please … One of my main typos is if, when I want it to read of. ‘Oh, what’s become if …?’.  When I was a wee, young thing, I’d often muddle things up. We read the paper news and put the vase on the sill window. Finally, slightly deviating, we had to correct our son, who mistakenly believed the attack on Pearl Harbor happened in Poole Harbour. STOP PRESS. Yesterday, as we passed the beach and noticed the traditional seaside puppet show, my son asked, ‘Who is Punching Judy?’

Clearly, it’s in the genes.

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Vanessa:

My most recent typos have been in emails rather than the work-in-progress – I sent an email to Dear Lousie instead of Louise. Funnily enough, I never got a reply…  I also wrote headlice instead of headline in another mail (luckily I caught that one before it went out). Hmmm… my typos seemed strangely related *scratches head*

Debbie:

I reckon I can trump Jan’s use of ‘sweat.’ My mum once wrote to me, ‘sweat dreams.’

And on this topic, there’s a quote that makes me smile:-

“There are two typos of people in this world: those who can edit and those who can’t.” ― Jarod Kintz

 Sue:

Whilst I can’t think of anything specific, and there has no doubt been many, I do have one I regularly make. Since a child I have always had a tendency to get the letters ‘m’ and ‘p’ muddled, or should that be puddled up? Usually, I spot it straight away, but there has been the odd occasion when it’s got through. This doesn’t make for great reading when I’m trying to say something like, ‘She was missed.’ or ‘I miss you.’ or ‘He had been missing for a week.’  

I have to say, out of all the typos, ‘Romaniacs’ and ‘Blinty’ are my favourites.

 

 

What are the funniest, most toe-curling typos you’ve ever seen or made?

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Go on … you know you want to tell us!

 

 

 

 

Interview with literary agent Juliet Mushens of PFD

I’m pleased to welcome onto the blog today my agent, the lovely Juliet Mushens of PFD. It was around this time last year that I travelled to London to meet Juliet for the first time, walking into PFD’s Covent Garden offices, hands shaking and knees definitely knocking. But I needn’t have been nervous – Juliet greeted me with cupcakes and enthusiasm and amazing editorial advice.

Before becoming a literary agent at Peters Fraser & Dunlop, Juliet worked in fiction marketing and editorial at HarperCollins. I managed to catch her with a (very rare) spare moment and she very kindly agreed to answer some questions from the Romaniacs.

What are you looking for at the moment?
I am looking for lots of things: fiction with a historical setting, a YA love story, a women’s fiction book that properly makes me laugh and a blood-spattered serial killer thriller.

How important is the covering letter and what should it include?
SO important! Treat it like the cover letter for a job – make it 1 page, give me a brief pitch of your book, why you’ve sent it to me, and a couple of lines about yourself. Proof-read it then proof-read it again. Make it punchy, intriguing and exciting. Think of what you see on book blurbs and apply that to your book.

Do you find most of your clients from the ‘slush pile’ or through other means?
My authors are a real mix but the vast majority of my fiction clients came from the slush. It can be a real goldmine.

It’s very tempting as a writer to send agents sparkly cupcakes. What’s the strangest ‘extra’ you’ve had with a manuscript?
Someone sent me a picture they’d drawn of me before. It was creepy. And wildly inaccurate.

If a writer had been rejected, is it acceptable to send their next MS to you for consideration?
Absolutely! Especially if I wrote you a personal note with the previous one. But even if not, it shows you’re tenacious – and maybe this book will be the one.

How do you recognise a well written piece from a short extract? How much of a writer’s three chapters do you read before deciding if you want to see more?
I reckon I can tell within 10 pages if I want to read the rest.

Do you read the synopsis before or after the three chapters?
Confession time here: I never read it. I will just read the cover letter and sample chapters.

From start to finish, of what does your working day consist?
Emailing; phone-calls; meetings; ideas; editing; more meetings; more ideas; contracts; negotiations; collaboration agreements; publicity plans; marketing strategies; submitting; chasing up submissions; more editing; dealing with cover woes, editorial problems, structural edits, legal reads, serialization, film rights, foreign rights queries…
Which is why submissions can sometimes take a while to be answered.

What’s the worst thing a new writer can do that will instantly upset a prospective agent?
Please don’t call me. I’m very busy and it will be an uncomfortable experience for both of us. I will read your manuscript and get back to you, but if you’re already being high-maintenance and I don’t even represent you, warning bells will ring.

What’s the best thing a new writer can do to get the agent onside?
1) be a great writer and 2) be a nice person.

How important is it that the writer and the agent get on?
Everyone has different opinions on this but for me it’s crucial that we have a good personal relationship. We need to like each other and feel that we’re working as a team.

What are the highs and lows of being an agent?
Sometimes being the middle-man is difficult, and it’s heartbreaking when you can’t sell a book. But nothing beats the moment when you call an author and say ‘I’ve had an offer for your novel…’. Absolutely nothing.