A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Today, I’m excited to interview Sharon Jones, whose debut YA novel, DEAD JEALOUS, hits shelves this week. We chatted thrillers, writing tips, and giant white poodles.
How does it feel to know DEAD JEALOUS is now in bookshops?
Weird! It’s felt like a tremendously long process even though it’s only a year and a bit since my lovely agent Jenny Savill sold the manuscript to Orchard. The worst of the nerves are over now that there are reviews floating about, but you still worry about how your work will be perceived. But writers are meant to be neurotic, right?
Can you tell us a little about the book?
Dead Jealous is the story of Poppy, a sixteen-year-old atheist who is attending her mum and step-dad’s handfasting ceremony at a big Pagan festival. To be honest, she’s only there to avoid the eighteenth birthday party of her best friend’s girlfriend. I mean, who wants to watch the guy you’re in love with snogging the prettiest girl in the sixth-form?! At the festival she meets Beth. The two of them bond over the heartache of unrequited love. Then, when Poppy finds a body in the lake, she becomes convinced that what the police are calling an accident is actually murder. Not one to leave well enough alone, she begins an investigation of her own… and no good comes of it!
I understand religion, specifically Paganism, features in the story. What inspired you to write about it?
Spirituality is a big part of my own life both now and was when I was a teenager… and I think that’s true for lots of young people who are searching for meaning and contemplating some pretty big questions. Yet there are very few contemporary YA novels that deal with issues of belief and the struggles that teens can face when their own views differ from that of their parents. I guess I wanted to redress that balance just a little. Plus, a Pagan festival seemed like such a great setting for a murder mystery…
Why write thrillers? What do you love about the genre?
It’s my absolute favourite genre! I love the thrill of an unfolding mystery, the quickening of the pulse as the main character hurtles into danger… I don’t understand why anyone would want to write any other genre!!!
Who are your favourite authors/books?
Gah! That’s so hard!!! So I’m going to mention my biggest literary crush. I love Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s writing. He makes me want to move to Barcelona to search for the library of forgotten books. I got to meet him a couple of years ago and I told him that his Angel’s Game almost made me give up trying to write. Being an amazing guy he wrote this in the book he signed…
What was your route to publication like?
Two words: UNDISCOVERED VOICES.
I could pinpoint several really important events that led to publication, but seriously, without SCBWI and the Undiscovered Voices competition I’d still be dithering about submitting to agents. If you’re an unpublished children’s writer I highly recommend joining SCBWI. You’ll find friends as batty as you are about writing, you’ll find advice, people to critique with and contacts in the publishing world. You’ll also be able to submit to Undiscovered Voices. Have you seen the list of UK authors who’ve had their start in that anthology???
How would you describe your average writing day?
For the last two years I was trying to fit writing in around a job that required the kind of hours that would make a junior doctor weep! My typical writing day was either stealing time very early in the morning, a snatch in the afternoon, or at night when I was half asleep. Now I’m writing full time, I’m pretty much at the computer twelve hours a day. Eleven of them on Twitter…
Can you tell us a little about DEAD SILENT, the second Poppy Sinclair mystery?
When Poppy Sinclair and her boyfriend visit snowy Cambridge, she doesn’t expect to discover the body of a student – arms outstretched in the act of smearing bloody angel wings on the chapel’s floor.
Suddenly, Poppy is faced with the possibility that the one closest to her heart might be the one committing the most malicious of crimes.
Dodging porters and police, dreading what she might find, Poppy follows the clues left by a murderer bent on revenge…
Long-hidden secrets are chillingly revealed, an avenging angel seeks forgiveness and red-hot vengeance must be quelled in the amazing new Poppy Sinclair thriller.
Do you have any snippets of advice for readers of this blog who want to get published?
Keep at it. Overnight successes are created by hard work (either that or aim first for a career as a TV presenter, or pop star, or model… or you could try marrying into the royal family…)
Get a whiteboard – the bigger the better. You’ll thank me.
Critique other people’s manuscripts, you’ll learn loads.
Listen to critique.
Keep a ready supply of good friends/chocolate/the alcohol of your choice. Publishing is a tough business. LOTS of people want it just as badly as you… oh, and yeah, they deserve it just as much as you do too.
Don’t think everything will be OK the minute you sign with your dream agent and grasp that long-wished for contract. Life is about to get more stressful.
If you’re writing just because you fancy seeing your name on a book cover or because you wrote a story for a relative, take it to one of the more reputable self-publishing houses, do not put yourself through the heartache of querying agents and publishers. Enjoy your writing for what it is. Your words are precious; they’re a part of you. They don’t need external validation. Writing for writing’s sake is valuable too! You have to be pathological to want to be published…!
And finally, what’s it like living with a giant white poodle?
He’s very demanding! They say standard poodles have the intelligence of a human toddler. I say they have the temperament of a toddler – especially when he’s whining and dancing next to my desk wanting attention. He does make a rather nice Christmas tree though…
Thanks so much, Sharon. Happy publication week!
Check out the DEAD JEALOUS book trailer: