I woke up this morning after a very busy day at college and went out to grab a coffee – and a copy of The Sunday Times. The only time I've ever been in a paper that I recall was in the local Gazette when I was about six years old. It was for a daffodil-planting initiative, and a group of us were standing by a big cardboard trowel. I remember one of the boys had to dress up as a giant bulb. Needless to say he wasn't happy. But I'm thrilled and very overwhelmed today to be in a national paper. Seeing the names of my characters in print was amazing, and it's incredibly exciting to see so much early interest in The Bone Season.
I'd just like to clarify one or two things: first of all, my advance from Bloomsbury was not seven figures. It's a six-figure sum for three books, starting with The Bone Season, but the team are committed to doing all seven. Very few debut novels receive seven-figure advances!
There has also been some misunderstanding about my mum, Amanda. This has stemmed from my interview with the Sunday Times, in which I said that Mum restricted my writing hours because she was concerned about my health. Several news sites have since said that she tried to crush my dreams, that she was relieved by my rejections, and that if she'd had her way, The Bone Season would never have been written. On the other hand, it's also been suggested that Mum's anti-novel sentiment was a bit of a publicity stunt, and that no mother would ever complain about her daughter writing or studying.
|Me with Mum.|
Another slight misunderstanding – I came across one comment saying that it looked like I must have 'known someone' to get a publishing deal. I want to make it clear that this was absolutely not the case. I know how tough it is to get an agent and how much it must hurt aspiring writers to read something like that, but it's just not true. As I said in my April blog post, I was given my agent's email address by a friend my stepfather had bumped into. He passed it on with the intention that the agent should give me some critique on my first novel, Aurora. But here's the thing: David didn't want the manuscript. He was very kind and encouraged me to keep trying, but Aurora just wasn't a great book. He would never take on a client because someone knew someone else. The only real advantage I had, knowing someone who knew David, was that he read it faster than he would if it had been at the bottom of the slush pile. Agents don't work through nepotism. They have to be fully committed to a book before they will represent it. David represented The Bone Season, my second attempt, because he believed in it. Perhaps some deals have been struck based on friendship, but no good agent is going to represent a book they don't want to represent.
Finally, I'm stunned to see that I've been dubbed "the new J. K. Rowling". I've been seeing articles all day that have been throwing that phrase all over the place. The question "Is she the new J. K. Rowling?" has been popping up on Twitter feed, along with some concerned comments about how much pressure I must be under. To be honest, I'm terrified. Like most people of my age, I'm a huge fan of Ms Rowling – I grew up with Harry Potter and I think she's a wonderful writer. I used to try and read the HP books in one day when they came out (I managed with all but The Order of the Phoenix). It's scary to have been cast in her image when nobody outside the publishing industry has actually read The Bone Season. I know many authors have been called "the next J. K. Rowling" – it seems inevitable nowadays – but it's really nerve-racking to be viewed in such close quarters with her. Just to clarify, [a] this comparison came from The Sunday Times, not from Bloomsbury; and [b] the comparison refers to the similarity between my deal and JK Rowling's (seven books with Bloomsbury), not to the content of the book. Nobody at the Times had seen the book, so there's no way they could have made that kind of claim.
A few people have pointed out that seven books is rather a lot to write, and that I'm at the risk of the narrative of becoming bloated, or too long. I'd like to reassure you that Bloomsbury put me under no pressure to write seven books. The story is partly based at Seven Dials, and there were always seven stories in my head. With time and careful planning, I believe I can make the series work. But no pressure or anything...
Before I head to bed, I'd like to say sincerely, particularly to Harry Potter fans, that I am a different kind of author to Ms Rowling – and The Bone Season is a different kind of book to Harry Potter. I hope very much that you will read and enjoy The Bone Season in its own right when it comes out next year.