What happens after The End?

sophiabennett:

Today I have been mostly blogging on Girls Heart Books …

Originally posted on Girls Heart Books:

Over a year it’s taken. Ages and ages and ages.

It became known as The Book That Wouldn’t Write Itself. And then, at the very last minute, it did – taking me rather by surprise. Scene after scene suddenly took shape. A bit with broken wood and snow, and a scattered records and a broken heart made me cry a little. My editor liked my ideas for how to finish it. Woooooo! And then …. this:

Girls Heart Books - 1See those last words? ‘THE END’.

Oh yeah. Crazy *this book finally wrote itself dance*

I sent it off to the (very patient) publisher. The publisher loved it. Woooooooooooo!

So – what next? What happens after THE END?

Well, obviously the next book. I’m slowly plotting it. And I’ve got some overflow characters who may well have to go in the one after. And I got a job! Woooooooo! As of next term, I’ll…

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UKYA Easter Egg Hunt

Egg hunt

Welcome to the UKYA Easter Egg Hunt! One very lucky winner will win a huge grand prize of signed books by over thirty YA authors who write and live in the UK.

All you have to do is read this blog, count up how many UKYA branded Easter eggs you see here (not including the unbranded ones in the banner at the top), and follow the link at the end to the next blog. Keep going until you get back to the blog where you started, and add up how many eggs you’ve seen along the way.

Ta dah! Easy, huh?

Email your answer to: UKYA2015egghunt@gmail.com. A winner will be chosen at random from all correct entries, and contacted by email.

This closes at noon (UK time) on Sunday, 5th April, and is open internationally.

A little bit about me

I write YA about girls who love, or hate, fashion, music and fame, and who somehow have to deal with the consequences. There’s also quite a bit about saving the world in there too.

My best-known series is Threads, which is about a secret genius teenage fashion designer and the friends who help her get discovered. I’ve also written The Look, You Don’t Know Me and The Castle.

I possibly spend too much time wondering what it’s like to be a designer, or a model, or a reality TV reject, or to accidentally stow away on a superyacht, end up on a billionaire’s private island and try to save a whole country from an evil dictator. Luckily, that’s my job.

So get finding those eggs! And some awesome UKYA authors and books along the way.

The next blog from here is Gillian Philip at www.verybadwolf.com.

Good luck! Get counting!

 

Leipzig, Manga and more

Today, I’m in London packing my bags and making sure I’ve got travel insurance. (Thank you for reminding me, Post Office man.)

Tomorrow, I will be … well mostly on airplanes and trains, but on Friday I’ll be here …

manga2At the Leipzig Book Fair. Which, as you can see, isn’t just any book fair. As well as celebrating traditional books, this is the biggest Manga Comic Con in Europe. And as practically every teen I know who reads LOVES Manga, it’s definitely the place to be.

There will be drawing. There will be girls in blue wigs, and face paint, and wings, and space outfits, and boys in the same. There will be lots and lots of books. There will be my lovely publishers, Chicken House Germany, who kindly invited me, and me, reading from You Don’t Know Me, and thinking how much my characters would have loved to be there.

There will be fun. Wish me luck. Now I really must work out what to wear …

Manga

Top 10 books set in the Med …

Brrrrr, it’s cold.

I haven’t blogged here for a while, because I’ve been busy working out how to write the new book, and then putting the book aside and enjoying a family Christmas and New Year, and then picking the book up again and – with my wonderful editor’s help – fixing some problems with my first draft and getting on with it again.

In fact, 2014 wasn’t a big blogging year for me on You Read It Here, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t blogging. Because I was. Oh yeah. And as we hit 2015 with all our new year’s resolutions fresh in our hearts, I thought I’d share some of those pieces with you. Because I worked on them a lot. And because one of my resolutions is to share more of my writing life again – as well as just doing it.

Given how cold it is, I thought I’d start with one of my favourites – I piece I wrote for the Guardian in the summer, about my top 10 books set in the Mediterranean. Here are the top 8. If you want those final 2, including the all-important adventure story that helped inspire me while I was writing The Castle, check out the original article on the Guardian website.

The Castle by Sophia Bennett

Here’s the rest …

“Italy, on a good day, is a lot sunnier than England on a bad one. As it was tipping down with rain when I started writing The Castle, I fancied spending some time in the sun – if only in my imagination. The Amalfi coast, where a lot of the book is set, is so impossibly beautiful that if you weren’t feeling slightly car sick, whipping round all those hairpin bends on the coast road, you’d hardly believe it was real.

The Med seems to bring out the adventurous spirit in writers and it provides a thrilling backdrop for tales of mystery, love and death. Here are some of the best …

1. Meet Matisse by Jean-Vincent Senac

Matisse was a master at capturing the dramatic light and colour of the south of France, and there’s a stunning exhibition of his cut-outs at the Tate Modern in London. Through this activity book you can copy his techniques and create your own cut-out works of art. If you can, visit the exhibition too. It’s a delight.

2. The Usborne Illustrated Stories from the Greek Myths

There are many versions of the myths for children out there, but I was particularly wowed by the beautiful illustrations in this one. My seven
year-old loved the gore. Every rock and island, it seems, is the site of some mythical triumph or tragedy, often involving monsters being killed in various gruesome ways, or by sailors getting eaten. Perfect bedtime reading for the not-so-squeamish.

3. The Roman Mysteries series by Caroline Lawrence

Caroline’s wonderful detective series for pre-teen readers has all of my favourite ingredients: clever kids, friendship, puzzle solving, and a window into another world – life in the Roman Empire. Also, the stories are set in some of the best Mediterranean locations, from Pompeii to Alexandria. They bring the Roman world to life better than any other books I know.

4. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

This was one of my favourite funny reads growing up and still makes me laugh. By chapter one, young Gerry, his eccentric mother, brothers, sister, dog called Roger and various caterpillars have left the dreary cold and rain of England for the “bright, looking-glass world of Greece”. They settle in a strawberry-pink villa in the Corfu hills, and Gerry’s adventures as a budding naturalist begin. It’s a must for any animal lover, and now you know how Clare Balding’s autobiography (My Animals and Other Family) got its name. See what she did there?

5. A World Between Us by Lydia Syson

“The sea, the sparkling sea: from the mountains they have come right across the sea again. It is beautiful.” Love, idealism and tragedy are thickly mixed in this story of the Internationales, who went off to fight in the Spanish Civil War. Lydia Syson writes gripping historical UK YA, set in the twentieth century. Look out, too, for the beautiful covers of her books, which echo the strong design aesthetic of the time.

6. The Iliad by Homer

The war between the Greeks and Trojans over Helen of Troy is somewhat older. How can a three thousand year-old poem about it possibly still be interesting, or relevant, or a good read for teens? Well, I recommend giving it a go. A bit like The Hunger Games, with chariots, ships and gods. By all means just skip to the battle scenes if you like.

7. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

If that’s all a bit too energetic on a summer’s day, picture Hercule Poirot in cream linen, travelling up the Nile on an old-fashioned cruise ship. Agatha Christie was inspired to write the story while on a steamer that you can still cruise on. There is something about a very hot sun and a very wicked murder plot that just seems to work.

8. The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Talking of wicked murder plots… Tom Ripley is sent to from America to Italy to bring back Dickie Greenleaf, a rich college kid who’s fallen in love with a lifestyle of sun, sea and jazz, and won’t come home. Trouble is, Tom comes to love Dickie’s life there as much as Dickie does…

Patricia Highsmith has a habit of making you root for the bad guy. Tom Ripley is of the most compelling serial murderers you will get to meet in fiction, and this is where it all begins.”

So those are the top 8. The other 2 are waiting for you here. Why not wrap yourself up on the sofa with a story, and send yourself off to the Med for some adventure and some hot summer sun … ?

Happy 2015!

sophia xxx

Cheltenham Lit Fest

I may have mentioned that I have the best job in the world.

It’s a bit of a scary job to have at the moment. A huge shift is happening in the publishing world, with self-publishing and e-books taking off and mail-order books taking over from our lovely, friendly bookshops, and while it’s great for readers that books seem to be getting cheaper, it’s not so great for writers until somebody, somewhere, works out how we’re still supposed to make a living out of making up stories. I hope they do. Maybe that someone will be me. Who knows?

But meanwhile, I still do get to make up stories and that’s a wonderful thing. I also get to talk about those stories and the process of writing them, and I get to do that in fun places, like schools and the Cheltenham Festival of Literature. And that is FUN.

I was there on Saturday with Barry Cunningham, my publisher, who was happy to share his tales of discovering JK Rowling (yes, he did that), and talk about what he’s looking for in children’s books now. The panel also included the agent Zoe King, and Alex O’Connell, the Arts Editor of The Times. It’s not every day you have a selfie taken by the Arts Editor of The Times (I know that means it isn’t technically a selfie, but go with me), but here’s me checking out my head mic, courtesy of Alex. Thank you!

Head micBest of all was hearing that her daughter has read and enjoyed a couple of my books. I haven’t met her, but I love her already.

I hope we were helpful to the crowded tent of aspiring authors who came to listen, and ask questions. It was inspiring to meet some teenagers in the audience who’ve already written their first books. It was so impressive to know that they’ve finished their stories. So many people start, and so few make it through to the end, so that’s an achievement in itself. We warned them that they may not find success quickly. In fact, they probably won’t. They have to really want it, and to persevere to make it happen. But with Zoe’s help – and she was keen to help them – perhaps it might.

But even better than the panel, for me, was simply being there. Festivals are full of fascinating people. If you’re lucky enough to make it backstage, you might literally find yourself bumping into Andrew Lloyd Webber (I almost did).

On the way to the Writers’ Room I managed to fangirl madly to Camila Batmanghelidjh, the inspirational founder of The Kids’ Company and one of my absolute favourite style icons, on top of the fact that she’s one of the most important fighters for the rights of underprivileged and troubled children in the country. It was very special to be able to tell her how much I admire her.

I was eating a quick supper in the Writers’ Room (they do food; it’s delicious), when I looked up and saw Richard Curtis. I think there’s a sort of unwritten rule that one doesn’t fangirl in the room itself, unless you at least vaguely know the person, so I just admired him from afar. Lots of admiring. I wish I could have heard his talk, which was about what drives screenwriting and song writing, but without a ticket or time to stay on, I had to make do with thinking happy thoughts about Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Blackadder and Comic Relief.

I love a good rom-com, and stories that make me laugh. At the opposite end of the spectrum, I love being made to think, and given in-depth information and analysis about complex situations. Anthony Loyd is probably, right now, the journalist I most admire. He’s a war reporter who has bravely gone to Syria many times to report on the atrocities happening there, and now he’s telling the story about what happened when he was betrayed by one of his hosts, held hostage, beaten up and shot, and only just (by minutes) managed to escape being sold on to ISIS, where he might be facing beheading right now.

Anthony was there too, to give a talk related to the tale of his capture and escape in the Times Magazine. Again, I didn’t want to disturb him to say hello, so I just fangirled from afar. What he has seen, and what he has to say about it, is so important.

I absolutely love the fact that festivals like the Cheltenham one give audiences the chance to hear from people like Anthony, and Camila, and Richard, and even Barry and me.

And the chocolate tart in the Writers’ Room was excellent.

Did I mention? I have the best job in the world.

How do I get my book published?

Today I received a very polite email from a visitor to my website called Jack, asking how he might get his book published. I could write an essay on the subject (and in fact I’ll be talking about exactly this at the Cheltenham Festival on Saturday, but in more detail and with special regard to children’s books, along with my publisher Barry Cunningham and a panel of publishing folk). I’d love to have replied to Jack in greater detail, but only had time to write briefly. However, I thought this might be worth sharing for the many people out there writing their own books.

I didn’t mention self-publishing, I realise. That’s another essay. And one of increasing relevance in today’s publishing market.

Nor did I mention getting editorial input from somewhere like the Golden Egg Academy, who work with authors whose books aren’t ready yet, to turn them into something an agent and publisher can get excited about. That’s another essay.

Here, though, are the basics. This is what I said.

Hi Jack

Thanks for your message. I have various suggestions for you, and I think most authors would agree.

First – congratulations! You finished your first draft. That’s such an achievement in itself. Second, if you haven’t done this already, put the book in a metaphorical drawer and don’t look at it for a few weeks. Then get it out again and revise it as much as you need to in order to polish it to the highest possible standard. It may take a few drafts, or many, to get it right. (It took me over 30 drafts until I was happy with my first published book.)

While you’re doing that, I strongly recommend you buy or borrow the latest edition of the Writers and Artists Yearbook, which is the bible for new writers. It lists all the publishers and agents, and what they’re looking for. Each agency has different requirements and is very specific. Please follow their guidelines, down to the line spacing. Once you’ve found a few that are looking for the kind of book you’ve written, you can send off to them. If they only want a few chapters, send them what they’ve asked for, not more. Do let them know that you’re applying to more than one at a time. They will understand, but they like to be informed. Craft your covering letter as carefully as your book, and make sure that without being overconfident, you sell yourself as a writer as much as you sell your story.

And then wait! If you get any feedback, think of it as a very positive thing and use it as much as you can. And start writing your next book. Because it might be your second, or third, or fourth that’s the one that makes it.

Good luck!

sophia

Edinburgh Book Fest, Part 2

So, after my event with Holly Smale was over (and before I did a reading on behalf of Amnesty International, which was an amazing, moving event – if you ever get the chance, I urge you to go to one), it was exploring time.

Which, being me, involved a quick trip down George Street to the Edinburgh Harvey Nicks, where my son – it was him, not me, promise! – discovered … the Chocolate Lounge. They have a Chocolate Lounge at Harvey Nicks. For drinking chocolate. And eating it. How you are the supposed to get into the clothes they sell downstairs I have no idea, but frankly my dear, we didn’t give a damn.

It looked like this:

Edinburgh 2014 - 06Edinburgh 2014 - 07

 

With a conveyor belt, like a Yo Sushi! crossed with The Generation Game, but for champagne bottles and chocolate glitter teddybears. We shared this chocolate fondue:

Edinburgh 2014 - 08

 

Yes, it was as good as it looks. Sorry.

But we didn’t just do chocolate. We also did comedy. The best of it was free. Standing in the Royal Mile, we encountered this amazing ladder climbing, kilt-wearing, knife juggling (he juggled knives up there – big ones), stripping (yup) comedian, who attracted a crowd so huge we kept blocking the road. He was fantastic.

 

 

 

Edinburgh 2014 - 09Edinburgh 2014 - 10We went to the Pleasance Courtyard, the home of Fringe comedy, to see two comedians in a basement (quite funny) and a visiting American comedian, Alex Edelman, in an attic (pretty funny). Alex later won the prize for best newcomer, and can say that We Were There.

Edinburgh 2014 - 11Then we were lucky enough to stay the night with a couple of author friends, surrounded by books and cats. The perfect way to round off two days in the city.

Edinburgh, you’re brilliant. We’ll be back.