Welcome to Justin’s Debut-Dance Ball, a virtual party to celebrate SCBWI-BI members’ debut publications. This month, Justin welcomes YA author, Simon James Green to his ball, and invites him to take a turn on the dance floor, whilst he asks the questions only a newly-published writer can answer!

Thank you, Simon for accepting my invitation. Since this is a celebration, let’s have a drink. What can I get for you?

Ooh, lovely, I’ll have a gin and tonic, please! *Giggles coquettishly, hides coyly behind fan*

Simon, this is your party and you get to choose the music. Do you have a favourite song to dance to, or a piece of music that gets you in the writing mood?

As it happens, I have a couple of playlists for Noah Can’t Even, which always get me in the mood for writing! Gran loves listening to classic 80s tunes, so I often listen to the tracks that feature in the book, like The Final Countdown (which is such an awesome track, full of excitement and anticipation!) and We Built This City on Rock and Roll (which, I’ll be honest, is just a track I love, so I put it in the book because… I can!) I find music really helps me write, although I can’t listen to it whilst I’m actually writing – it’s more to inspire me before I hit the keyboard!

Many congratulations on your debut novel Noah Can’t Even. How did it feel to hold your first book in your hands?

Surreal, fabulous and terrifying all at once. It’s the culmination of so much work, so much hope and so many dreams… and then here it is, and you can’t quite believe it. It’s terrifying because now all your words are out there, for anyone to read, and they will most likely have opinions and either love it or maybe hate it, so, yeah, it’s a real mix of emotions!

Describe for us the moment you found out about your publishing deal. How did you celebrate?

I was working on a new musical project out in Ibiza. I celebrated on the terrace as the sun went down, which is probably about as perfect as it could be.

As you know, Words & Pictures readers are an inquisitive bunch and they want to know how long it took for you to write your book. When did you start writing it? How many drafts did you go through?

I started it about five years ago, but there was a lot of faffing about, to be honest. I worked with two freelance editors, paying for editorial feedback, and then joined the Golden Egg Academy where I worked with another editor on another draft. When I signed with my agent we did yet another draft, and with Scholastic I’ve been through a couple more. I’ve kind of lost count but I think it’s gone through 8-12 drafts – but all of them worth it!

Ten seconds to tell us about Noah Can’t Even. Go!

Coming-of-age comedy. Noah is at odds with his cool classmates and thinks his best chance of social success is to kiss Sophie… but at a party he kisses his best mate, Harry, instead. Cue utter chaos, both inside his head and out.

Simon, you entered Undiscovered Voices in 2016 and were selected for the anthology. How has this experience helped your writing career?

It did the equivalent of putting a rocket launcher up the backside of my career! Suddenly, everything moved very quickly - within seven months of being included in the anthology I had an agent and a publishing deal.

Tell those of us yet to be published what you’ve learned about the industry since you landed your deal. What’s it like working with an editor, for example? Were you given tight deadlines? Anything you had to change?

I have loved working with my editor Linas Alsensas, and having someone who really ‘gets’ the book is wonderful. Yes, your editor can give you tough notes sometimes, but they have your best interests at heart and with Linas, I couldn’t have wished for a better champion of both the book, and me. Everyone at your publishers is there to help you – they are experts in their fields, so trust them! I worked with Linas on a number of things, probably the biggest being changing the ending of the book, and yes, the deadlines were fairly tight, but mainly because I was in the unusual position of having a publication date just nine months away from when I signed the deal.

You have a background in theatre and screenwriting. Did you always intend to write a novel?

Yes – I’ve always enjoyed the process of writing a novel and it’s something I’ve been trying to do for years. I basically love all forms of writing – screenplays and novels are both enjoyable to write in different ways.

A lot of SCBWI-BI members are trying to get an agent as well as a publishing deal. Can you tell us a bit about your own experience? Do you have an agent? If so, how did you choose them and what kind of advice did they give you?

I was very lucky because being in Undiscovered Voices meant I received around 20 requests for the full ms from both UK and US agents, and I ended up with multiple offers of representation. I couldn’t believe it. I went with Jo Moult from Skylark Literary for these reasons: Strong editorially-based agency; great contacts because both Jo and Amber have worked for major publishing houses; they’re not too big, so lots of personal attention; Jo is lovely and you can just pick up the phone and chat to her whenever you like. Jo and I were also completely on the same page as regards the next draft and where the book needed to go and I really felt like we made a great team. Jo helped me shape the manuscript ready for submission to publishers and has guided me through the whole process of offers and deals expertly. I’ve really felt in safe hands the whole way.

You have a very professional website for yourself and your book. Noah even has his own blog and twitter account! How important do you think social media is for today’s writers? And how do you find time to maintain it all?

I find it a great way to engage with readers, especially in the YA market, and I do enjoy it, but it is an investment of time. I try to make sure Noah only tweets ‘after school’ and try to allocate set times for my own accounts too, otherwise it just takes over. I personally believe you need to see yourself as a small business, and engage potential readers accordingly – but try to avoid a ‘hard sell’ approach, which just turns people off.

You’ve just had the launch party for Noah Can’t Even. Where did it happen? Who was there? How did you feel the next morning?

We held it in the event space at the Union Club in Soho. I wanted a large space where we could serve nibbles and drinks, and stay until late because you’re only a debut author once and I wanted a PARTY! I had three cast members from the West End production of Jersey Boys singing 80’s numbers and loads of inflatable bananas – great fun! The guest list included everyone from friends and family, to publishing folk, the Scholastic team, and various actors I’ve worked with from shows like Hollyoaks, Waterloo Road and EastEnders. I actually stayed quote sober – I was just VERY tired the next morning!

The music’s loud enough, so let’s talk dirty. I mean, of course, the ‘R’ word. But first of all, perhaps you’d like to add your own stats to Justin’s Rejection-O-Meter: How many times were you rejected before you found an agent or publisher?

a) 1-5
b) 6-10
c) 11-20
d) 21-50
e) Lost count.
f) Rather not say.
g) I’ve never experienced the crushing pain, sorrow and heartbreak of rejection.

Assuming you haven’t answered ‘g’, do you have any tips to share on dealing with rejection?

Before Noah, I wrote two adult novels, both of which were rejected by nearly every agent out there – and looking back, with good reason. But you have to see it as a learning curve and understand that no-one owes you anything. Stay positive, improve your craft, keep plugging away. And make peace with the fact there are some things you can’t change – like an agent or publisher having a similar project on their slate, so not wanting yours. Do your thing. I firmly believe that someone, somewhere will want it.

And now, as the music fades, there’s just time to for you to tell us what’s up next for Simon James Green, the author?

I’m writing a sequel – which will be out next year! More awkward times for Noah Grimes!

Thank you, Simon for joining me at the Debut-Dance Ball. Sorry if I trod on your toes – my Waltz is better than my Tango, honest!

It’s been a pleasure Justin – thank you! (And don’t worry, I can’t dance either!)

Simon James Green grew up in a small town in Lincolnshire that definitely wasn’t the inspiration for Little Fobbing. He enjoyed a classic British education of assorted humiliations and barbaric PE lessons before reading Law at Queens’ College, Cambridge. When it turned out that being a lawyer was nothing like how it looks in Suits or The Good Wife, and buoyed by the success of his late-night comedy show that involved an inflatable sheep, he travelled to London to pursue a glamorous career in show business. He eventually ended up working on a range of West End shows and UK tours, co-wrote a feature-length rom-com for the BBC and directed Hollyoaks for C4 / Lime Pictures.
After trying really, really hard, he also managed to write Noah Can’t Even, out now published by Scholastic.

Follow Simon:
Twitter: @simonjamesgreen
Instagram simonjamesgreen

Website: www.simonjamesgreen.com
You can also follow my main character Noah Grimes: @noahgrimes12

Justin Nevil Davies leads two distinct lives. In one, he flies around the world as cabin crew. In the other, he writes middle grade novels with the aim to make kids laugh. Sometimes, his lives converge. Justin is part of SCBWI South East Scotland.

You can follow Justin here: 
Twitter: @flyingscribbler 
Instagram: @flyingscribbler 
Blog: flyingscribbler.wordpress.com

Louisa Glancy is a features editor for Words & Pictures.
Contact: writers@britishscbwi.org
Twitter: @Louisa Glancy
'Justin's debut-dance ball' illustration credit: Louisa Glancy

1 comment:

  1. I've just finished reading it. Brilliant! Just when you think things can't get worse for Noah - they do! Absolutely loved the twists and the piling on of the agony. And Noah is fabulous x


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