I’m delighted to host a guest post from debut author Finbar Hawkins about his publishing journey for Witch. This is a powerful tale of revenge, grief and sisterhood and is perfect for Halloween week. Later in the week I’ll share my full review but for now I’ll hand over to Finbar.
My Publishing Journey
I’ve always written, but even with seeing ‘Witch’ out on the shelves, I still have difficulty describing myself as a writer. It’s not so much self-doubt, I think it more springs from each new thing you write feels like starting again, finding out how to write again. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over the feeling, and to be honest I feel it’s a good spur, a jab of the heels to keep me coming back to the blank page.
My route to publishing started with the Arvon Foundation. I had never experienced a writing workshop before, working on exercises to approach character, setting and emotion. The writing samples I brought with me were little short film ideas, so I wasn’t even writing prose at that time. But it was through a number of exercises in class, under our tutor Lucy Christopher’s guidance, that the beginnings of a story emerged, and I kept going through that amazing week and into the months beyond. Lucy is a lecturer at Bath Spa (now the Course Director!) and she had encouraged me (along with a number of my Arvon compadres) to apply. Through early morning starts before children were awake and work, the story that I started had now grown into approximately 30k. But I craved feedback, more of what I had experienced at Arvon – critical feedback from other writers.
I was delighted to get a place on Bath Spa, because over those two years part-time I started to write properly around critical workshops. And the thing is about workshops is that you have to raise your game – you’re delivering to a little audience, and you’re going to be hearing other people’s work, giving your own thoughts on it. I also learnt that giving a critique is just as important for writing, because you’re looking at the craft all the time, your training that writing muscle.
I decided to park the ms I had been working on since Arvon because in that first term, Witch came bowling along and demanded to be told. The workshop was integral again, because I had a very good set of notes from a group of other writers – who wanted to know what happened next. I was immensely interested also in the challenge of writing from a young woman’s perspective.
The core of the MA is about working on and delivering your ms, and from there we all then work on putting together an Anthology to showcase our work for a launch event in London. Agents and editors are invited along to this terrifying and exhilarating evening. There I met Catherine Pellegrino of Marjacq Scripts who had read and liked my anthology extract.
I knew Catherine was the agent for me, because she pushed me to make the ms as good as it possibly could be. So we set to work, and over several drafts pushed and pulled Witch into submission shape. I would stress that there is no real time frame for this, and you shouldn’t feel rushed. Let the ms ‘bake’ in between drafts, write other bits and pieces and then go through it taking notes. It will all be much the better for it.
Finally we both felt that Witch was ready to fly. And at the end of an excruciating week waiting to hear back from editors, it was Fiona Kennedy at Zephyr who from the outset pretty much demanded my book should be published by her. There were other others in the frame, but because of Fiona’s incredible passion for Witch, I knew I had found the right home.
My publishing journey has all been about some fundamental things – you need to take that first jump and put your writing in front of a critical audience (it’s hard, but you’ll get used to it); you need to trust your instincts when meeting agents and editors; you need to take your time; and you need to remember to enjoy it!
WITCH by Finbar Hawkins is out now in hardback (£12.99, Zephyr, an imprint of Head of Zeus)
Follow Finbar Hawkins @finbar_hawkins and find out more finbarhawkins.com
I’m not going to lie I’ve been eyeing up both the Arvon Foundation courses and the Bath Spa MA for years and like Evey’s jealously of sister Dill I must try and keep my green eyed monster in check. Maybe one day!
Huge Congratulations to Finbar on a wonderful debut. Come back on Wednesday for my full review and do check out the rest of the posts on the tour running this week.
Today is the launch day for debut YA novel Legends Awake by Alex Stiles and I have a guest post by one of the book’s characters for you, letting you know more about one of the creatures that inhabits this new world.
First up let me tell you a little more about the book and it’s author.
About the Book
Alone in an unfamiliar world, fourteen-year-old Peran is suffering from amnesia. With society still consumed by decades-old war and the ancient sorcery of the Stoneborn warriors, he finds refuge in an academy of combat and survival. But Peran struggles to fit in, and when he defeats opponents beyond his skill, fellow students suspect his extraordinary abilities, leaving even his friends to wonder who — or what — he really is.
When out testing their skills, his dorm-mate falls victim to a coffin-mouth viper and only the Elin Shard can save him. Peran sets out to find the magical artifact, but to succeed against the legendary predators he encounters, he must first confront his true identity.
About the Author
“I was born in Bromley, England, in 1979. As a child I was a daydreamer, always away in my own world. It used to drive my teachers crazy and my parents too, especially on parents’ evenings.I always read books I could get lost in – fantasy, sci-fi, adventure – anything that would transport me to another world, time or place. I loved the escape, not that I needed to escape anymore than the next child, but being transported to another place, another world, that was magical.
As an adult, I still love books that deliver that escapism and decided to write my own. Squeezing writing in amongst a full-time job and a busy home life has been a challenge, but I am delighted to have completed my first novel “Legends Awake”. I have escaped into another world writing it and I hope that you escape reading it as well.
Holidays for me are all about escape too, and there’s nothing like climbing a mountain to achieve that. The Lake District, England, is my destination of choice. It’s an amazing place and I’ve no doubt inspires and influences my writing. Having recently moved, I now live in Somerset with my partner and am enjoying writing the second book, often accompanied by our three feline companions.”
Sniffits are one of many natural wonders of our world. A remarkable little creature, they are the clear favourite of the Striplings at Amicas Academy.
The length of a forearm and golden, sniffits have a light stripe down their backs and legs, with a black line running along each side. Males have a thicker black stripe than the females – they are otherwise indistinguishable.Sniffits have six stumpy legs and a small fluffy tail that provides little balance, which is a shame really as they are primarily tree dwellers. They move through the branches inelegantly but securely, gripping to the bark with sharp claws and feeding upon bugs and insects as well as the odd priggin. Up close, they have a squat black nose and thick white whiskers around a slight, inset mouth. Despite their appearance, sniffits can deliver a vicious bite and have a tendency to hang on until they’ve been talked out of it.
When you first meet a sniffit, what strikes you is just how fluffy they are, with pointy furry ears and two large, black eyes. You would be forgiven for thinking they might make for an enjoyable meal and their furs could keep your head warm in the winter, but sniffits are so much more. In fact, that’s exactly what our predecessors thought, and for hundreds of cycles they hunted sniffits for food and their coats. Until one day an anxious girl, who liked to keep to herself, befriended one. After a less than a moon-turn, people noticed she’d started keeping the company of others and by her side was the sniffit. One sharp-eyed father observed the calming effect the sniffit had on the girl whenever she looked anxious. She seemed to gain so much from the relationship that he encouraged his own children to find themselves sniffits. They soon found their furry companions and were all the happier and more confident for it. Word spread and gradually the sniffits found themselves saved from the stew pot to accompany the young people of New Haven.
Today, the sniffits are so embedded in our culture we have writings on them. So what’s so special about them?
A sniffit needs to be needed. They take pleasure from relieving stress, anguish, anxiety and other emotions prevalent in young people. The bond between a child and sniffit is strong, and a sniffit is very particular about who they bond with. On first meeting, they examine the very depths of the child, it has even be said that they can see souls. Once formed, the bond will last until the child no longer regularly exhibits those emotions – they no longer need the sniffit and the bond will break.The presence of sniffits is not always welcome, they can be mischievous and disruptive. This, though, is far outweighed by their benefits and here in the white-knuckle environment of Amicas Academy, all Striplings get the chance to bond with a sniffit.
Instructor in Flora and Fauna
What do you think? Would you like to bond with a Sniffit?
“For now, while most of our adventures are confined to our living rooms, our imaginations are not.” Jenny Pearson, author of The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates
About the Book
About the Author
As someone with Welsh heritage myself I was interested to know why Jenny had chosen to set the story in Wales. Read her answer below.
A Super Miraculous Setting
by Jenny Pearson
Why did you set The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates in Wales? It’s a question I get asked quite frequently. And the answer is because of the Scottish midges.
Most years, my family and I spend the summer in our Bongo campervan and the summer before I began writing Freddie Yates, we were considering a journey around Scotland. But when I googled what we might need for our proposed trip a full bee-keeper outfit was a suggestion. I began to think that maybe we should go to Scotland out of midge season and instead camp somewhere else. And that somewhere was Wales.
Having only been to Cardiff before, I soon discovered that Wales is an exceptionally beautiful country and one I will definitely visit again. That’s not to say Cardiff is without its charms but the Welsh countryside is truly spectacular, as is the coast. I like to go running and the sights I saw have weaved themselves into the book – the fields of sheep and the small track roads, the rocky shorelines and the wonderful old churches. In fact, Three Saints church in Llampha, where Freddie, Ben and Charlie spend a night is based on a church I stopped at when I needed a run-wee. And Freddie’s journey finishes at the most westernest part of Wales, St David’s, which is actually where my family’s camping trip came to an end after our tent was blown away at three in the morning. Fun times.
Because Freddie loves facts, I thought I might share some facts about Wales which might even make you want to visit yourself.
FACT 1 – You can see deep stuff!
The deepest cave in the whole of Britain can be found near Abercraf. Ogof Ffynnon Dddu is 1,010ft deep.
FACT 2 – You can see old stuff!
The oldest tree in Wales is the Llangernyw Yew in St Digain’schurch yard, Llangernyw, near Conwy. It’s approximately 4,000 years old!
FACT 3- You can see big stuff!
The great glasshouse in the National Botanical Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire, is the largest single-span glasshouse in the world, measuring 312ft in length and 180ft in width.
FACT 4 – You can see small stuff!
Rhos-on-sea has, in St Trillo’s, the smallest chapel in Britain, measuring only 11ft by 8ft and seating just six people.
FACT 5 – You can see uddery stuff!
The Mumbles are two little islands in Swansea bay. They get their name from the French word ‘mamelles’, meaning udders. Who wouldn’t want to go and see two islands that look like udders?
I think you’ll agree that I have provided a very compelling argument as to why you should visit Wales as well as explaining why I set my book there. Maybe one day you’ll enjoy a journey around Wales. If you do, you might want some reading material. Hey! Why don’t you try The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates?
Diolch am ddarllen (thanks for reading)!
Authors note: The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates does not HAVE to be read in Wales. You can read it wherever you like. Eg in bed, on the loo even on a trampoline if you are very talented.
Also, Jenny has created some brilliant videos and challenges that’s she’s keen to get people joining in with so do join her! Her content will be hosted daily on Usborne’s YouTube channel from Monday 27th April – Friday 1st May with accompanying activity sheets – all available to download on Usborne.com/freddieyates. The Illustrator Rob Biddulph will even be doing a special Freddie Yates draw-along on publication day, Thursday 30 April!
Do also check out the other stops on the tour and keep an eye out for my own review coming soon.