This week is passing so quickly! We are already on the 5th day of our Debuts of 2016. Today I am please to welcome Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler, authors of Defender of the Realm.
Looking back on your debut year, what would you have like to have done differently?
We’d like to have done it in 2006 rather than 2016 – it’s been fun!
What has been the easiest thing about being a debut author?
Compared to screenwriting, in which the writer is not always listened to as much as they might like, being authors feels like a power trip! We couldn’t believe how few people we had to deal with and how much control we were given. Our editor kept reminding us ‘It’s your book.’ We’ve never had a TV producer tell us ‘It’s your show!’
What has been the hardest thing about being a debut author?
Learning the ropes of a whole new industry in a very short period of time. Realizing the huge number of other books you are competing with for attention. Trying not to annoy our publisher with too many naïve questions and stupid ideas.
What was the highlight of your debut?
Nothing compares to holding your book in your hands for the first time. Sheer elation. For three seconds. Followed by terror that people won’t like it and disbelief that so much thought and work can be contained inside something so small. Quickly followed by the joy of getting that first good review.
How do you feel about publishing your sophomore book?
Excited and a little more confident about what to expect. Impatient to get it out there – when your first book ends on a big cliffhanger people can be very keen to read the next one!
What was the best piece of advice you were given about publishing?
Anthony Horowitz (always very generous with his time and advice) simply told us that it’s a long-term game and to hang in there. Which echoed what we were feeling – when you’re writing what is designed to be a series of books you can’t wait to have the second and third out there too, it’s just an easier proposition for the reader.
What are your hopes for 2017?
Nine months into being authors we feel a lot more confident about how to talk about DEFENDER OF THE REALM as an ongoing fantasy series. With the first book now coming out in other territories (Germany in September 2016, the United States in March 2017) and the second book coming out in the UK in June, and even a couple of awards shortlists under our belts (Stockton Children’s Book Award and Nottingham Brilliant Book Awards) it’s starting to feel a lot more real to us. Scholastic has some very exciting promotional plans for the next year and there are other big announcements on the way too!
Did you have to visit schools and were the visits what you were expecting?
We were very nervous about our first school visits – we hadn’t performed in front of a live audience since taking university comedy shows to the Edinburgh Festival in the early 1990s. But we put a lot of time into our preparation - including a chaotic dress rehearsal to our poor publishers – to get us match fit before publication week. In the end the school visits went really well – they’re exhausting but so much fun. We try very hard to give the kids (and their teachers) some practical tips that we’ve found useful in our story-writing, plus a lot of entertaining silliness and interaction – not just the hard sell about our book! We’ve now visited 20+ schools and have lots more lined up for 2017 – they have become such a large part of our timetable that we’ve had to draft in Nick’s wife as our full time Events Manager!
What kind of reaction have you had from readers?
We’ve had so many nice messages from readers of all ages – people really seem to have embraced what we’re trying to do with the Defender – big scale fantasy adventure with a very British sensibility.
Alfie thought he knew his destiny. He didn't know the half of it. Fourteen year old heir to the throne, Alfie, didn't expect to be King so soon. He DEFINITELY did not expect to be ... DEFENDER OF THE REALM. A legendary superhero, fighting a secret, centuries-long, battle to protect the nation from monsters and super-villains.
To find out more about Mark and Nick: