Today's guest on the Debuts 2017 series is debut author, Penny Joelson. Penny's debut YA thriller is called I HAVE NO SECRETS and will be published by Egmont in May. Here's Penny to tell us all about her hopes and fear for her up and coming debut.
1) Did you ever feel like quitting writing?
Yes! I’ve been lucky to have my husband’s support so that I wasn’t relying on my income but I had moments when I felt that I couldn’t justify sitting at home writing. I teach one day a week at City Lit but thought I should do something else as well. I had just taken on some other teaching work when I got my deal. I’d had a few books published in the past under my maiden name, Penny Kendal, the first in 1999 when the world was very different. I submitted straight to publishers and eventually got an offer. Then I got married and had two children and took a break from writing when they were very young. (I do admire authors who remain prolific even when they have babies!)
Once the children were at school, I found time to write again. When I finished this book, ‘I Have No Secrets’, I decided I’d like to publish under the name I use now, Penny Joelson. I felt I needed to get an agent and I gave myself a year. Agents get so many submissions and take on so few new authors, I knew it might be tough. I was delighted when Anne Clark took me on – when we met I felt she was exactly the right person for me.
2) What was your reaction when you knew it would be published?
I was absolutely thrilled when I got the call. I’d been waiting anxiously for news, knowing that a number of publishers were interested but the wait was longer than I expected and I was beginning to get nervous. I didn’t know my agent was going to Egmont that day so the call came out of the blue. She told me everyone at Egmont loved the book and they were offering me a two-book deal! This wasn’t the only offer I had but it was the best and the enthusiasm of my editors at Egmont has been wonderful.
I felt so strongly about this book and wanted it to be published so much that once I knew it was going to happen I was overwhelmed and felt very odd for a week until I got used to the idea.
3) What are your hopes for 2017?
I am looking forward to the launch in May and hope that I will see it in bookshops, that bloggers will want to blog about it (thanks Viv!) and that people will be talking about it. I’m looking forward to visiting schools to talk about the book and my writing process too.
I am hoping more than anything that people will read ‘I Have No Secrets’ and will enjoy it. I am also hoping it will make people think and raise awareness of people who have disabilities and people who have difficulty communicating.
4) How have you kept yourself occupied in the run up to publication day?
I have done a lot of editing and am also working hard on my second book for Egmont. Having a two book deal means writing the second book feels very different. I now have a contract rather than writing on-spec but I have a deadline which I’ve never had before, apart from for a short educational book. I am having to be very disciplined (which I don’t find easy!).
5) What advice would you give to unagented and unpublished authors?
First, read! Read widely, read what you enjoy but read for the age group you are writing for and read recently published books! I am teaching ‘Reading for Children’s Writers’ at City Lit in London and it is amazing how much you can learn by studying the form and seeing how other people do it.
Secondly, write! However much you may want to do it, other things can easily get in the way. Make time, write and keep writing.
Thirdly, get feedback! Join a critique group, do a course (face to face or online), get an editorial report. Get feedback from adults but also from children the right age. I get a school to find some volunteers and give them a feedback form so they can be honest. Join SCBWI and read ‘wordsandpics.org’.
Fourthly, don’t give up! You have to cope with a lot of setbacks in this business. Those who succeed are persistent – keep persevering and respond to feedback constructively, using it to improve their work. I’ve known students who write well but get a couple of rejections and then put the manuscript in a bottom drawer. You won’t get published that way!
Summary of I HAVE NO SECRETS
Jemma has a terrible secret that's eating her up: there's been a murder and she knows who did it. She knows because he told her. And she can't tell anyone.
Fourteen-year-old Jemma has severe cerebral palsy. Unable to communicate or move, she relies on her family and carer for everything. She has a sharp brain and inquisitive nature, and knows all sorts of things about everybody else. But when she is confronted with this terrible secret, she is powerless to do anything. But that might be about to change...
To find out more about Penny Joelson: