The Agent

I guess we write for different reasons.

Me? I was desperate. I needed to escape from my bed, from my pain and immobility.  My daughters said write a book, about an assassin and an orphan.  A man who could dip in and out of right and wrong.  A girl plagued by bullies with hair extensions and lip fillers.

There was no plan, no character analysis, no plot, only a focus to get up every day, shower, sit at the laptop and type.  The word organic is so overused but that’s what it was. This natural ramble, through lives of people I would like to know, and others I hoped never to cross. There was nothing high brow or complex about my words.  They were distractions from pain and a loneliness I never wanted to share with my family.

henry front coverHow did I come up with my protagonists names? When I turned my laptop on Phoenix would flash in the bottom, left corner and Whittle was the first pop-up in my brain.

Phoenix Whittle; it felt perfect. Henry, a name ones associated with a solid citizen not a special forces hitman.

Writing felt comfortable; pain easing. I’d spend three/four hours a day with Phoenix and Henry.  They became as real to me as my family.  I love them.

I had bad days. When my fingers wouldn’t work. When brain fog blocked all creativity. I remember as my third spine operation loomed I felt panicked that if something went wrong my novel would be lost.  I finished it about two am before leaving at 5am for the hospital.

It was a month later that my daughters said send it off.  Like it was the easiest thing to do.  I’m not a researcher, I never will be. I leap, I don’t look. I’m inpatient.  I spent about half an hour googling how to get published before getting overwhelmed.  If I was to do this I had to make it easy on myself. I wrote a naff query letter.  I’m not great at selling myself or pretending to be something I’m not.  I have very limited energy. I have spinal cord damage and making a cup of tea is a challenge. Getting an agent seemed an insurmountable challenge.  No one was more surprised than me when agents began requesting the full manuscript.  I still got a lot of no’s…until one asked could she ring me to discuss representation.  We chatted; hearing someone as excited as me about Henry and Phoenix had me ecstatic.

We met at a patisserie in Notting Hill Gate.  I’ll never forget it.  I had no clothes…really.  I lived in pjs and lounge wear.  I had to get a whole outfit, coat, shoes, the lot from NEXT. I hadn’t traveled unassisted in 5 years.  My daughter came on the train with me and helped me up the station stairs.  I told the literary agent I’d be in a pink coat and she said she’d have red lipstick. I was nearly combusting with excitement. I won’t lie; I saw Waterstones and nearly keeled over imagining my novel on display.  I was so naive.

We ordered drinks; I desperately wanted a pastry, a sugar rush, but was too nervous to eat in public.  She was lovely, not intimidating, but confident and cultured.  Her enthusiasm matched my own and when she offered representation, I knew this was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity.  I’ll always remember the fun I had saying ‘my agent’; it was mad.

What comes next I hold myself totally responsible for.  We spent about seven months editing.  There were times when my gut told me no, this isn’t what Henry and Phoenix are about. My silence led to a dilution of my characters. They lost that rawness. The completed novel was in many ways improved but sadly tame.

Editors at Penguin, Bloomsbury, all the biggies, were queried and read the manuscript with interest.  The no’s came quick.  The feedback was positive, but they felt Phoenix’s voice wasn’t strong enough or it wasn’t dark enough.  I wasn’t too put out. I don’t think I ever expected the route to publication to be that easy. I thought we’d go forward and rebuild but a distance emerged.  It might have been my imagination but I felt I’d been passed over for the next bright spark. We’d had a meeting and my agent spent more time talking about her latest discovery than Henry & Phoenix.

IIMG_0314 decided to take a break. Which lasted about a week. I had the bug so I continued with a second project I’d begun in between editing Henry Whittle.

Random Attachment had me seriously questionning representation.  It was quickly obvious my second novel was going down the dark route…borderline Young Adult/New Adult – not suitable for under 14’s. A route I new my agent wasn’t comfortable with.  So I emailed her and called it off. What upset me was, not saying adios to getting published, but cutting myself off from the first person who believed in me as a writer. It was like I was ungrateful, but if all I have is my writing, then I can’t compromise.  It has to be my words, my way.

I miss our emails, our patisserie meetings but I feel like I’m running through a field of barley, the sun on my back.  My legs don’t drag when I write.  My head doesn’t hurt from nerve damage when I’m with Mia, Flynn, Phoenix and Henry…my Henry.

Then there’s you: WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, the Writing Community.  Just tonight I found another writer in my genre just starting her journey and I feel excited for her.  I want her to write a brilliant query letter, to find a champion for her work. Yes get edited if it’s within your budget but don’t rely totally on others to make your dream reality. If you gut speaks…listen…talk up. Don’t make my mistake and put the responsibility of success on your agent’s shoulders.

And if you can’t afford editing before submitting your work don’t let that stop you. If your premise is original and your characters solid you have as good a chance as anyone else. Be daring. Share your writing with as many as you can.  Feedback is like gold dust. Self publishing is rewarding and confidence building.

My main advice is this: enjoy writing; don’t chase the money or prestige. x

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Jafaris myelopathy & me

It’s midweek and I’ve been yo-yoing between conquering social media and hiding under the quilt. Editing one book and trying to sell another. Wobbling about the coffee shop to whaling on the sofa. Oh and going to the loo like every fifteen minutes. Kids, Music, Marriage, Writing, Two Barking Dogs and Books are my life.  Here’s my latest vlog, that I’ve edited badly but life is one long lesson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXuDkpZeg84&t=91s

 

MY RANDOM VLOG

Us myelopathers live in a higgeldy piggeldy world. Nothing is straight forward, nothing is set in stone when it comes to our condition. It’s eight years ago this month that I had my first operation. When I think of the physical and mental battle I’ve had since then it’s amazing I’m still here never mind have written a book. I don’t say this lightly; my battle with myelopathy has been as exhausting mentally as it has physically.  I can’t tell you how often I’ve been on the edge of madness.  Connecting with others sufferers through http://www.myelopathy.org/support.html has helped me understand my condition as well as supported my mental health.  Any long term illness with chronic pain can lead to depression, acting out of character, gambling, drinking, debt – blogging is a way of letting off steam whilst connecting with the myelopathy community.

My husband and children have been total rocks. They understand the condition well because they live it with me. They’ve seen me on my hands and knees trying to get from the sofa to the kitchen to put the kettle on because I want to do it for myself.  They’ve seen me bent over double, breathing like I’m in labour because the pain is so acute it takes my breath away.  I’ve spent the last seven years stumbling, swaying, knocking into, tripping over, falling onto a world that seems to be erratically spinning around me.

I’ve always been a glass half full person. When I couldn’t work, walk, sleep I wrote.  I poured all my pain, frustration and despair into blogging and writing Young Adult romantic thrillers.

Two weeks ago I self published Random Attachment. For me this is a huge thing.  A massive achievement.  Also it’s my ray of hope.  I won’t bore you with what I’ve lost, with what my condition has stripped me of because I don’t feel sorry for myself. But writing has enabled me to reinvent myself, to be Gertrude T Kitty, author. It’s taken the spotlight off my condition and has given me back some self esteem.

I don’t imagine my book will make multi million sales or I’ll have royalties into the thousands but whatever I have once Amazon take their cut I hope will support my writing and help YMCA West London, Centrepoint and http://www.myelopathy.org/  Up to now I have written for myself, now I am writing for others.  I’ve worked this last fortnight on Twittering, Facebooking, vlogging, anything to get my book promoted. My husband has been photocopying and cutting up little adverts for Random Attachment. I’ve been very unwell and immobile during this time so have only left the house once but I did put it up in a newsagent and coffee shop in Pinner.  I am up and feeling well today so have my photocopies and pins in my bag ready to pin it up whereever I legally can.  I’m asking you, if you could print out the advert and pin it up on a board where you work, or where your children have clubs.

My lovely bookclubbers have bought my book. Thank you for supporting me. I’m dreading feedback because I know how high our expectations are when we critique some of the greats in literature…remember I’m a minnow.

So here I am before Christmas, with a book that is all the more precious to me because my daughters were so instrumental in supporting me during writing and getting it out there.

Yesterday I filmed my first vlog about my book.  It took me five attempts because I was so waffly and repeatedly said ‘you know’, ‘so’, ‘erm’.   But here is the link to it and the link to my Young Adult (unsuitable for under 14’s) romantic, thriller.  I would love if you’d follow me on Twitter @gertrudetkitty. If you buy my book that would be wonderful…if you read it that would be even better and your critique would be the icing on the cake…oh and sharing it. It’s a lot, I know, because it’s hitting your purses, wallets and your time. God I hope the book’s not terrible after all this.

 

Thank you.

We were liars

IMG_0364Titles and straplines are funny things.  “Which are lies? Which is truth? You decide.”  This is a novel of repressed memories, of withheld facts but lies? I’m not even sure why the close-knit group were named ‘the liars’ by their family. I get that whenever tragedy strikes there is gossip and twisting of facts.  That those involved have their own perspective of events.  But if you’d asked me what the title hinted at, it would be children weaving a web of lies.  A novel challenging the reader to differentiate between lies and truth.

Saying that my strapline A Boy, A Girl, A killer is embarrassingly basic.  Regarding titles, I named RANDOM ATTACHMENT in a minute.  I don’t deliberate, if my first idea fits the brief then onward I go – writing is what I love…or my imagination is limited! The strapline was harder than writing the book; I failed the challenge miserably but I think it’s pretty clear what the story is about.

IMG_0357 I enjoyed WE WERE LIARS. I read it over a few days. The story is beautifully and brilliantly told. I didn’t see the twist coming which is a credit to the author’s skill.  I was intrigued by what was being kept from Cady but I didn’t feel desperate to find out.  But that can be a good thing because you were with the characters whist they idled their holidays away.

I need to connect to characters. I liked Cady but I wasn’t gutted for her.  Yes she had headaches that immobilised her, yes pain was severely affecting her life but I knew by the end of the book her issues would be resolved.

Her love for Gat felt more like a crush – it didn’t burn within her.  It was more a response to a close friendship and an awareness of physical changes as they blossomed. I didn’t feel he was the love of her life. Had I, the conclusion would have hit me harder.

The fairytale concept I liked but they were too long and one too many.

I wasn’t totally convinced by Cady as a character.  THE REBIRTH OF HENRY WHITTLE (TRHW) has multiple pov’s.  RANDOM ATTACHMENT is a third person narrator; sometimes the young adult voice is lost within an adult narrator and I felt this true of WE WERE LIARS.  The writing is quality but there was no differentiation between the eleven year old cady and the fifteen year old.  I think that is common of YA books and it’s not always down to the writer.  My former agent loved the premise of TRHW and Phoenix’s voice. Yet throughout the editing process, bit by bit, she toned it down to the point it was lost.

Here’s what HotKeyBooks had to say about TRHW This has a pretty dark premise at its core, I actually really liked the story. It was weird and twisty…but Phoenix’s voice ended up feeling a bit self-conscious.”

And so began the withdrawal of my agent who’d steered the book in the direction of ‘making Phoenix’s voice more palatable’ because it was in part angry and frustrated. It was at this point I decided to self publish.  I couldn’t go through another year of editing to find out it’s not what publishers want.  My years are too precious and I love my writing too much to lose control again.

WE WERE LIARS was hugely successful and I see why.  I’m glad I read it. I enjoyed it. I didn’t love it but I would highly recommend it. I’m not going to hold the publisher HotKeyBooks against e.lockhart.  Instead I’m giving WE WERE LIARS an 8.5 out of 10.  My 10/10 would be a book I miss once it’s finished, a book I wish I hadn’t read so I could read it again, a book like Laura McHugh’s THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD or Sarah Pinborough’s THE DEATH HOUSE and undoubtedly 13 REASONS WHY which I read in a night I was so engrossed and in despair for Hannah. These are books that have huge crossover appeal, anyone over 14 could love them.

Opinions are subjective; I would never severely criticise a writer because what I dislike another reader could love, so I simply don’t review.  I have read many more books both YA and ADULT that didn’t meet my blogging standards. So to all those authors on my pages I salute you for the fantastic books you’ve written. WE WERE LIARS would make a great Christmas pressie for the 11-15 age group. Thank you e.lockhart for a wonderful read.

 

 

 

 

The Wolf

CHAPTER 2   THE WOLF

He rubbed the ointment generously into his knee before strapping it up and pulling a knee support over it.  His forehead was badly bruised.  His shoulder was fucked.
Reclining on the sofa he swallowed a cocktail of painkillers and muscle relaxants along with a glass of wine.
He considered the situation.  She could not identify him.  She had no idea where she’d been held.  He could walk right up to her, look her straight in the eye and she’d not know he was The Wolf.
He smiled.  She was a surprise; feistier than expected, a real risk taker. He’d underestimated her.
He looked at the photos beside him on the couch.  Her face turned away from the camera.  Her bare body, stiff with cold and fear. His smile widened.  He wanted her back.

Interested? Free on @kindleunlimited and available to purchase @amazon

When I write I listen to music that helps me connect with a specific emotion.  Like editing this I listened to LIVE OR DIE by Noah Cyrus, JyellowL Me N Me 2 and an old favourite Prodigy Breathe and a whole bunch of hiphop and creepy songs like Lo Fang’s Boris

Love it if you’d follow me. If you have any thoughts on YA/NA literature or on anything love to hear you https://twitter.com/gertrudetkitty

 

 

The girl at the party no one remembers

I feel 13 again; my emotions scattered leaves, lifted by the slightest breeze only to drift and fall, waiting for the next force of nature.  My second novel, written in 2015, dormant in a flowery folder, its only contact a yellow duster, has been self published…on Amazon and my dream of reinventing myself has been realised.

Sales don’t matter; but they do matter.  I’m hungry for reviews yet anxious.  I want to actively promote my novel but I don’t want to bore people by harping on about it.

I have a dream that my books will be free to all.  I’ve been the teen with no money, homeless, faceless at school, forgotten the day I walked out the school gates, at 16. My reality is I’m the adult with no money; paper, printer cartridges, photocopying need currency, so for now my books are sold.

What I want to know, like yesterday, is are my NA/YA books worth reading.  Some of you will say yes, some no. I understand the definition of ‘subjective’ well so I don’t take criticism badly – Bitch!

I remain the outsider. Booky people mix with other bookies. Though #Random Attachment is fiction right now I’m Mia ‘always on the outskirts of friendship‘.  I imagine that’s how homeless young adults may feel. Like the girl I saw from afar, sat outside one of Paddington Station’s exits, her bum on the cold, wet pavement, the rain soaking through her jeans and knickers, begging. No one stopped. No one cared.  It’s like Chris Brown’s Beautiful People. Most of us only notice the shiny people.  Ali Land who is startling talented, the author of the brilliant #GoodmeBadme, tweeted a few words of thanks about Crimemass, that was totally lovely and the polite thing to do but it cast a shadow over me.  A 1980’s portal sucked me in, to when I was in love with John Taylor from Duran Duran and I was sleeping in a B&B while listening to the turbulent soundtrack of my parents’ marriage disintegrating.  It made me realise that publishing is a  tight knit group, you can’t bounce in among them singing ‘Here I am. Here’s my novel‘.  I get it.  You have to be invited to the table. You have to write a totally amazing novel. I may never achieve that. I see myself more the Nora Roberts of New/Young Adult.  Perhaps even that is biggin myself up.  I’m definitely one up on Mills & Boon but maybe not quite Courtney Summers.  So you see I need reviews.  I need to work out where my table is because right now, I’m in the queue for free school dinners, and I’m done with lumpy mash potato…although I am partial to chocolate sponge with chocolate custard.

So what do I want?  To make enough money to buy stationery to keep me writing. I want to promote myelopathy.  I want to support my family financially, not frivolously because my main purpose is to invite that homeless girl to my table.

Random Attachment is free on @kindleunlimited I would love if you downloaded it.  If it takes your interest but you can’t afford it message me direct, tell me a little about yourself; only what you want to.  Write a sentence or write a page and if you live in the UK I shall try to get it to you; mention if you hang at any of the YA charities like Centrepoint.  You are under no obligation to review, simply to pass on to the next person who likes reading New Adult romantic thrillers…and is financially challenged. You could always write a comment on the inside cover or a doodle, maybe a pencil heart, I might not see it but your opinion matters. You matter.16 year old me

So this is my action plan. Keep writing. Keep blogging. Keep listening. Keep promoting.