For my stop of the YA Shot blog tour, Sue Ransom (aka S.C.Ransom) has been kind enough to answer some of my questions about books, being 18 and getting published. Sue is an author from Surrey, England. She writes YA and teenage books including her latest book The Beneath.
What did you want to do at 18 and why?
By the time I’d got to eighteen I’d already had a massive change of direction. Originally I had wanted to train to be an architect (my dad was one), so I had my university applications all organised for that, but then I went on a week long residential course in practical chemistry and loved it, so I changed all my options. I don’t think my dad ever really forgave me. I studied Chemistry at the University of Leeds, then worked in Computational Chemistry and IT, and then the Pharmaceutical sector - where I still work.
When did you decide to be an author?
I didn’t! The whole thing happened just by chance. I’d given up studying English at the age of 16, which was just as well as my spelling was atrocious, and by the time I’d got to my mid forties I’d not written another word of fiction. However, I did (and do) have a love of reading, which I managed to pass on to my daughter. At the age of eleven she was beginning to move on to some more challenging books, and she’d asked for the Twilight series as a Christmas present. She just loved them, and I felt I should know what they were about so I took the first one to read. It was a definite page turner, but was – unsurprisingly – utterly and completely American. My little girl was from west London and had no idea about American High School life. I thought it was disappointing that she couldn’t read something which was more relevant to her life.
The Twilight book didn’t look terribly difficult, so I decided that I’d have a go. It was six months until my daughter’s birthday, so I thought I’d write her a book as a present. I wrote just for her, thinking always about how she would react to it, and luckily she loved it! It got picked up as part of a three book deal and then I was commissioned to write another one.
What would you tell your 18-year-old self?
So many things. My main advice would be to tell her not to be worried about choosing to do what she enjoys, to keep working hard and follow her heart. My career has been an odd mix of roles, all of which made sense to me at the time. More than once I’ve made bold decisions to step away from what I know to do something entirely different, and I don’t regret any one of them. Now I just need to find the courage to give up the day job to write full-time! I’d also tell her that one day, she’ll be standing up in front of the school, at the same lectern where the headmistress stands every day, giving the prize-giving address to the sixth-formers. That will surprise her.
The other thing I would tell her is to not to stress so much about her spelling – in the future, her spelling will get corrected as she types (and yes, she’ll have to learn how to do that too!).
What would you advise an 18-year-old who wanted to get into writing? (Would you recommend an agent? How hard is it to get published?)
My advice would be to keep reading (always!) and to keep writing, even if no-one else gets to read it. You only get better when you practice, and I know that the book I’m writing now is far better than the books I wrote at first.
I was told by the publisher who picked up my first book (Small Blue Thing) that the thing she found most compelling was the voice. I’d written it just for one, specific reader – my daughter – and that made the voice strong and consistent. So I would advise anyone writing with a view to getting published to keep that in mind. Don’t try to write for the entire YA community from 12 to 25, and don’t try and tackle too many issues, just try and write something that your best friend or your sister or brother would want to read. That will allow the quality of your storytelling to come out.
I’ve never had an agent – I got offered a deal directly with a brand-new publisher, Nosy Crow - but I know that they can be really useful. They are always looking for the next exciting thing too, and love having new submissions to open (will it be the next Hunger Games?). Follow some on Twitter, read their blog posts and look at who people rate. There are lots of Twitter chats with agents (check out #AskAgent) where you can get advice. Never pitch on Twitter though. Use it to find out about the agent and then check out their websites for submission guidelines, then follow those guidelines.
Some people get published really quickly, some people struggle. There are no hard and fast rules, but great writing will usually find an audience. Practice your writing, join critique groups, build a network of writer contacts and friends, and keep going. Publish on Wattpad to test things out, and you never know, an agent might pick you up from there – it happens more than you might think!
Thank you Sue for an insightful Q & A, I look forward to reading The Beneath in the near future.
Now, onto the giveaway.
Nosy Crow have kindly agreed to giveaway 5 copies of Sue's book The Beneath. This giveaway is UK and ends at 12am on the 3rd November 2016. Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below.
This post is part of the YA Shot blog tour. If you didn't know YA Shot is an author-run, author-led Young Adult and Middle Grade festival that helps support libraries and young people across the country. To find out more visit https://yashot.wordpress.com/
Hi, I'm Megan. I'm a 17 year old from England. This year I have decided to do something different so have set myself challenges of 18 things to do before I turn 18.
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