By Charlotte Comley
One of the lovely aspects of this job is announcing debut novels. Today Anna McKerrow has shared her story about gaining publishing success.
I started writing Crow Moon in 2010 - I'd been working for the reading charity Booktrust for a couple of years and I'd got really enthusiastic about teen and YA books. The idea for the book came initially from my husband who was, and is, really into all that wilderness survival stuff, combined with my own interest in modern witchcraft. I was really fed up with the fact that anything witchy I read in books was a world away from the lives of the amazing men and women I knew in the pagan community. Initially I called the book The Young Witch's Survival Guide - I still really love that title. Then, as I sat down and wrote, my main character Danny's voice came out, full of bluster and bravado. Until that point I had only ever really written poetry and it was a real change for me to have that narrative character voice in my head.
I worked on the book pretty steadily until my son was born in 2011, when I stopped writing, and sleeping, for nine months. When I went back to work in 2012 I started writing again in the evenings or at lunchtimes when I was at home and my son was napping. I'd really missed writing and even though I was exhausted, I had to do it. I'd realised just how important being a writer was to me.
Naively, I thought it was finished in mid 2012 until John McLay, a literary scout and a contact at Booktrust, agreed to read the book for me. He was incredibly helpful and gave me loads of notes about what needed to be done to the manuscript to get it to a reasonable standard an agent might be interested in - and not "a decent first draft" - there were a lot of those notes! - and I went away and did a massive rewrite over about a year.
Then I asked John if he could recommend any agents that were looking for new clients that I could approach. One of the five contacts he gave me was my agent, Ben Illis. As soon as we met and started talking about ley lines, I knew he was going to be my agent! After some more work, Ben submitted my manuscript to a number of UK publishers, and Quercus took it. The strangest experience was going into their very shiny glass-chrome office and all the team coming in to meet me, trying to look cool and writerly in my new dress, saying they'd really enjoyed the book. It was (and is) really odd being the writer and not the person behind the scenes making things happen. It was so elating, though, and still is.
The thing that makes me happiest is knowing that it will actually reach young people, and some of them will like it. That's why I'm doing this. I'm passionate about encouraging kids to read and love books. And I remember being a teen so vividly, hating the mundane, wanting to live in a magical, sexy world! I hope that's what I created.
Crow Moon: Danny is a fun-loving 16-year-old looking for a father figure and falling in love with a different girl every day. He certainly doesn't want to follow in his mum's witchy footsteps. Just as his community is being threatened by gangs intent on finding a lucrative power source to sell to the world, Danny discovers he is stunningly powerful. And when he falls for Saba, a gorgeous but capricious girl sorceress, he thinks maybe the witch thing might not be such a bad idea...But what cost will Danny pay as, with his community on the brink of war, he finds that love and sorcery are more dangerous than he ever imagined? Wickedness and passion combine in this coming-of-age adventure.
Quercus Publishing Plc