When a red-headed inventor named Demelza popped into my head nearly four years ago, I never in my wildest dreams thought that she’d end up being the protagonist at the heart of a trilogy published by Chicken House. Neither did I imagine that she’d have her own blog tour, and that I’d be sat here today writing about my journey to publication…
I guess I’ve always been a storyteller in various guises. As a child I’d happily spend hours sitting at my little desk, drawing, writing and reading. As a grown-up I’ve worked as an actor, film-maker, journalist, and drama facilitator, but Demelza and the Spectre Detectors was the first book I set out to write. It was definitely a hobby at first, but very quickly I realised how much I was looking forward to sitting down at my desk every day and disappearing into my fictional world. I was hooked!
I voraciously started to read other children’s books, eager to soak up what was being written, and to find out what was out there (something I still do to this day). I remember highlighting bits of M. G. Leonard’s Beetle Boy and Katherine Rundell’s The Wolf Wilder, hugely inspired by the characters they’d created and the adventures they’d taken me on. I wanted to write a book that had that effect on people too!
Realising that I wanted to take my hobby further and hoping to improve my craft, I applied for a place on The Golden Egg Academy’s Foundation Programme. The next year was spent undertaking their amazing workshops, online tutorials and feedback sessions, which gave me an incredible insight into both the industry and the writing process. Having never met any other children’s writers before, it was amazing to finally connect with other people who had the same ambitions as me, and were as passionate about their fictional worlds and characters. My classmates are now some of my best friends, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for their fantastical manuscripts.
During the Golden Egg programme I was also paired with an amazing editor/mentor named Charlotte Maslen who championed Demelza from the very beginning. Together, we began to get to the real heart of my story, and with every draft I worked on I got more excited about Demelza’s story. I started dreaming of publication.
What happened next, really was the stuff of dreams…
Having pitched my manuscript online during a WriteMentor twitter pitch, I received some really enthusiastic feedback from an agent, and I decided to begin the nerve-wracking process of querying agents. Knowing how competitive the industry is, I told myself not to get my hopes up, and prepared myself for disappointment and rejections. But, the response I got was overwhelmingly positive, and within a couple of months I had offers from 5 wonderful agents. The notion that I actually got to choose someone to represent me as a proper author was both humbling and difficult, but in the end I went with the brilliant Kate Shaw at The Shaw Agency. Kate’s warm, business savvy, hands-on and so much fun — everything I’d hoped for in an agent.
The same week Imogen Cooper from The Golden Egg Academy sent my manuscript to Barry Cunningham at Chicken House, who then requested a meeting. Having read and swooned over so many of Chicken House’s wonderful titles, I was completely overjoyed. Barry and I met in The Saville Club in London (me in my Dr Marten’s and turban, him in his tweed suit and trademark hat!) and I immediately felt at ease. We chatted about our visions for the book and for my career, and I left with a pre-empt offer for three books, which of course, I more than happily accepted.
Now that the book is finally out, I’m more excited than ever for the journey ahead. This week I’ll do my first event, where I’ll be introducing Demelza to hundreds of school children at The Chicken House roadshow. Then I’ll be heading into the studio and recording the audiobook with Bolinda — I can’t wait to give voices to the characters I’ve spent so long writing! After that, I’ll be knuckling down and getting to work on the the second book in the Demelza trilogy.
I feel ever so lucky to call myself a children’s author, and I hope that one day, just maybe, a fledgling writer might be sitting down to read, and highlighting sections from one of my books.
Thanks so much for popping by Holly! We loved Demelza (review here), and are very excited to know there are TWO MORE books to come. Hooray!