Today we celebrate the last of the featured debuts of 2015 before we herald the New Year in by welcoming the debuts of 2016. I am so pleased with the response to the posts so far. The authors have been so generous in sharing the experiences about their debuts. I will do a summary post at the end of the series with links to all the posts and to all the authors who have taken part.
So let's not waste another moment of the last day of the year and welcome our final debut of 2015 - Katherine Woodfine.
Katherine debuted in June of this year, with her MG novel, The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, published by Egmont.
The second novel in the series, The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth, will be published in February 2016 by Egmont.
Katherine also features in The Crime Club: Mayhem - Twelve Deliciously Intriguing Mysteries, alongside many other fabulous Middle Grade authors. This book will be published in May 2016.
What was the reaction to your book cover when it was revealed?
I have been so lucky to have such a gorgeous cover for The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow. It was designed by Egmont’s Art Director Benjamin Hughes, and beautifully illustrated by Julia Sarda, who also does all the the interior illustrations for the book. (You can see more of Julia’s amazing work on her website here.)
I love beautiful book design, and the visual aesthetic of the book was always going to be very important to me. When I first saw the artwork, I was really delighted - the concept for the cover is great, and Julia’s execution of it is just perfect. I absolutely love the rich blue-and-gold colour scheme, the shiny foil details, and the silhouette figures. It has a classic feel, and looks rather magical, just as a children’s book should.
There was a really positive reaction when we unveiled the book cover and people still tell me all the time how much they like it, which I always love to hear. Pictures really do mean business, and I know having such a beautiful cover design is part of what helped The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow to become a bestseller. And every time I see it on a bookshop table, I still feel incredibly proud and excited!
We’ve actually just revealed the cover for the sequel to Clockwork Sparrow, The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth, which I think is equally as lovely as the first book:
What was the highlight of your debut?
It’s really hard to pick just one! There were so many highlights: the arrival of my very first proof copies (such an amazing moment), great events at the likes of Hay, Edinburgh and Cheltenham, the first time I spotted my book ‘in the wild’ in a real bookshop, my first proper ‘author interview’ with Anna James from The Bookseller, or the wonderful afternoon tea Egmont organised to celebrate the book at Harrods.
But ultimately I think I’d probably have to pick the launch party we organised at Daunt’s in Marylebone. Part of what made it so special was that it was a real joint effort - everyone pitched in to make the afternoon tea-themed refreshments (including cucumber sandwiches made by my colleagues; a tea-loaf baked by my husband; and the most amazing cupcakes from my editor), my agent Louise made up little bags of sweets; and my mum outdid herself creating a selection of Sinclair’s-style hats for a dressing-up box that everyone thoroughly enjoyed trying on over the course of the evening.
It was such a fun and memorable celebration, and I felt very lucky to have so many people there to support me and Clockwork Sparrow.
What was the low point of your debut?
I honestly don’t think there was one. That sounds like a real cop-out, but it is genuinely the truth. It’s not that it’s all been plain-sailing: writing isn’t easy, and there will always be ups and downs along the way. Publishing your first book is nerve-wracking, and I can’t say that I’ve never been bothered by a negative review on Goodreads or Amazon. Yet as a whole, the publishing process has been brilliant - there really hasn’t been a low point. I know that not everyone has that experience, but I think that what has made it so enjoyable for me is having such a great team behind the book at Egmont; a hugely supportive agent; and friends and family (including lots of fellow writers and industry folk) who have been incredibly encouraging and supportive throughout.
How do you feel about publishing your sophomore book?
I am really excited about publishing The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth in March 2016. I know that a lot of people think a second book is much harder work than the first (the ‘difficult second album’ syndrome), and it’s definitely true that writing the sequel was rather painful at points, but at the same time, I felt I really hit my stride with this second book.
I loved having the chance to spend more time exploring the world of the series, zooming out from Sinclair’s Department Store to see more of Edwardian London. It was great to have the opportunity to introduce some new characters, as well as to get to know Sophie, Lil and the rest of the gang better. I feel that I’ve definitely evolved as a writer since Clockwork Sparrow, which is absolutely how it should be - I want every book to be a step on from the one before.
How has your life changed since publication?
My life has changed a lot since publication! Back then I was working full time for reading charity Booktrust, where I’d been for the past six years, managing a range of children’s book projects including the Children’s Laureate.
Since then, I’ve gone freelance, and am now combining writing with working on other projects. Even without the obvious advantages (working in your pyjamas, lunch breaks watching Gilmore Girls etc!) I’m hugely enjoying having more time to dedicate to writing, as well as being able to work on a really interesting range of book-related projects.
I’ve also been doing lots of author events at festivals and for schools, which has been a real learning curve. Although, having worked in the industry, I’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of amazing author events, I’ve found it’s quite different being in front of an audience yourself! I’ve really enjoyed the chance to team up with other authors like Robin Stevens, Emma Carroll and Gabrielle Kent for joint events, and am becoming more confident all the time about speaking to children about books and writing.
What was the best quote about your book that you received?
I was lucky enough to have some really lovely quotes about the book. I was especially thrilled to get a ‘blurb’ from Katherine Rundell, whose writing I love. She described Clockwork Sparrow as ‘a wonderful book with a glorious heroine and a true spirit of adventure’. It was also brilliant to get positive write-ups for the book from the likes of Julia Eccleshare, Nicolette Jones and Imogen Russell Williams - all expert children’s book critics, whose opinions I hugely respect.
I’ve also had some great reviews online - one that perhaps sticks in my head the most came from an Amazon reviewer who described Sophie and Lil as having ‘the style and verve of Peggy Carter’. I hadn’t actually made the connection before, but when I read that, I felt like the reviewer had understood exactly what I wanted to achieve with this story.
Some of my very favourite quotes about the book came from children - I loved the responses to the book on LoveReading4Kids and the Guardian Children’s website. One little girl in an Isle of Man school made my day when she told me very seriously that Clockwork Sparrow was her ‘second favourite ever book’ (her first was Tintin, in case you’re wondering).
Thank you Katherine for telling us all about your debut.
And thank you to all my 2015 debuts for your inspirational words. I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year as we look forward to the second books from these authors alongside the debuts of 2016.