“We’d like to sign you to Strident Publishing.”
Well, I nearly spilled my tea on the floor and performed impressions of The Little Mermaid across the lino. My weird, wacky, scary little book Conjuring The Infinite had finally caught the attention it deserved. Despite having no likeable protagonists or even a proper main character – the closest I get is a dead teenage warlock who hisses balefully from the shadows – someone wanted to sign me up. One publisher had told me that when I write a book for teens, the main character had to be relatable…”like Bella from Twilight.” WELL, if you find a girl who can’t choose between a glittery cadaver and a man-sized Border Collie to be a relatable protagonist then who am I to say otherwise? But I felt I had something different to offer the Teen Reads Scene. Instead of waiting for it to happen, I decided to make it happen. I stalked publishers and made sure they noticed me. I vowed whoever got in contact with me first would be the beneficiary of my genius. Strident Publishing pressed against the window first, smudging the glass.
Of course they did. They’re based a few miles from where I live!
“At last,” said I, spinning around in the kitchen, screaming that untold riches would be mine, that finally my books would be in shops and libraries…and the hearts of all freaks/geeks/punks/skaters and their parents. “I’ll be wined and dined in the swankiest restaurants. It’ll be like the Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares except I’ll be Gordon without the potty mouth – and the nightmares.
Everything I’d learned up to that point during my stint as (believe it or not) a psychic consultant, a lowly library lurker, my work in alternative theatre (fringe theatre, though I didn’t have a fringe), and my encyclopaedic knowledge of YA fiction…the books I love so much…could finally be put to use. Oh I’ve planned this for years.
I met with Keith Charters and signed my first deal. When Conjuring The Infinite won the Catalyst Book Award he told me to do whatever I wanted for my second novel. Ah, I thought at the time, he could come to regret this rash decision. Because I wrote Endless Empress, which is probably the weirdest YA novel ever and I’m not exaggerating: a high school massacre novel with killer unicorns, magic dust, a deadly Elvis impersonator, a teenage trans Jesus lookalike who happens to love Star Trek, and the demented Portia Penelope Pinkerton whose lunchbox contains sandwiches and a bomb. How could it NOT be nominated for the Scottish Children’s Book Award? Funnily enough it got really good reviews so perhaps it isn’t as odd as I initially thought…
Anyway, let me go off at a tangent for a moment (it wouldn’t be the first time) and tell a nice little anecdote about the Catalyst Book Award. I succeeded Elizabeth Wein and proudly told her so when I met her at the Edinburgh Book Festival. “I’m the reigning champion of the Catalyst Book Award,” I said with a smile, though the reason I’m the current winner is because I’m the last winner. Budget cuts meant North Lanarkshire Council couldn’t continue the contest.
OKAY. I’m back.
Three years ago I signed my first publishing deal with Strident Publishing. North of Porter is out in November, my third book, and it’s still very exciting. Today is my ‘work day anniversary’ and I thought it would be nice to write a little bit about it. At some point I’ll have to turn eighteen and leave for the big bad world, but I think being published by Strident has been a glorious thing for me. I feel like this is a prelude to something potentially even more wonderful. But here and now I have freedom to do what I want and a sympathetic editor who puts up with my loony ideas. “I’m going to dress up as a test card!” “Do you think Jesus would carry a handbag?” And I do think I offer something a bit weird and wonderful to the Teen Reads Scene.
How different things would be if I hadn’t signed my deal with Strident in a Glasgow branch of Costa three years ago today.