Welcome to Debut Diaries- One Year On, where SCBWI-BI members share their highs (hopefully lots of these) and lows (hopefully less of these) of the post- publication year. 
This month, Tizzie welcomes James Nicol, author of the Middle Grade novel The Apprentice Witch to join her for Afternoon Tea. After a whirlwind post debut year, it’s a chance for James to put his feet up, and share his insights over a cuppa and some carefully chosen sweet treats, which reflect the mood of the months following life after debut. 

I’m aware that this is all going to sound as though nothing has been a low point and although there have been a few bumps along the road I must say that the last year has been such a massive adventure for me that the good has more than outweighed the bad! 

The very low point was before publication when my dear nana passed away after a short illness. She was the beating vibrant heart of our family and we miss her more than words can say. The book was dedicated to her as she was a massive influence on me growing up. She did get to see the finished book and I know she would have loved the adventures The Apprentice Witch has taken me on in the last year. So no low points for me, only excitement and adventure. 

July 2016 High Point! Rooibos Tea and a lemon curd tart (or maybe even two) 

All the waiting was over and finally, at long last The Apprentice Witch was out in the world. It’s both an exhilarating and terrifying feeling, which, even though people had told me that, was somehow both more exhilarating and terrifying than I imagined it! 

In actual truth July was something of a mad blur. I spent most of the month doing school and bookshop and library visits the length and breadth of the country. Which I absolutely loved to pieces. There is nothing better than meeting readers and talking to them about books. I always ask for a recommendation of what to read or who their favourite authors are. I learnt quite quickly that children’s names are no longer spelt the way I think they should be. So, I practice any tricky ones in a notebook and even jot down a few for potential character names in the future! But the best feeling is when a child hands you a well-thumbed copy of your book and says they read it TWICE already. That feels like leaping over the moon! 

Emma Carroll and James

I was also thrilled to help Emma Carroll out at her event in Salisbury. We did a Q&A – with me in charge of the Qs! Emma is a total star, one of my very favourite writers and HUGE fun! 

Barry Cunningham of Chicken House Books helps James launch Apprentice Witch at
Heffer's Bookshop, Cambridge

I celebrated release day with a launch party at Heffer’s in Cambridge, surrounded by friends and family. I made a speech, had a cry and did lots of signing and hugging. I drank exactly half a glass of prosecco and most of someone else’s orange juice!! It was the lipstick on the glass that gave it away! 

December 2016: High Point! Mince pie and some gorgeous white hot chocolate, please

After a few months, you expect everything to calm down and towards November it did get very beautifully calm. 

I had handed in my draft of book two, A Witch Alone, and all my school visits and events were mostly done for the year. I had about six whole weeks off (well, except for the day job, of course – but it did feel rather like a holiday) Then of course the ‘Books of the Year’ lists start to be published, and you don’t expect to see your book, so it was wonderful when The Apprentice Witch was a Telegraph and Irish Times Book of the Year!! As well as being picked by a few lovely bloggers too. It even got recommended by the lovely Robin Stevens on her vlog. It was like getting lots of fab early Christmas pressies! 

March 2017: High Point!  Earl Grey Tea and Victoria sandwich 

There was a small low point as February slipped into March, when the delightful Storm Doris decided to prevent me from getting a) across London and then b) out of London and home again to another evening event. But I did get to gate-crash a book launch. Grey clouds and silver linings etc. 

March was jam-packed with World Book Day visits, I could have booked myself out for the whole month I think. And it was so lovely to spend more time with children getting so enthusiastic about books, stories, reading and writing. It was also rather wonderful to see all the teachers dressed up. The best point was seeing Apprentice Witch costumes and coming face-to-face with Cruella DeVil! 

April 2017: High Point! Coffee now and a nice cinnamon swirl! 

April was something else altogether. I still look back and think it was all some sort of dream. I was lucky enough to be invited by Scholastic, the American publishers of The Apprentice Witch, to visit the U.S.A. and take part in the American Booksellers Association Children’s Institute, in beautiful Portland, Oregon. It was for pre-publication publicity, as the book comes out there on July 25th.

I stopped over in New York on the way for two days. I got to do some sightseeing and I was invited to the Scholastic offices on Broadway to meet the team who had been working on the U.S. edition of The Apprentice Witch, including my editor, Nick (we’d only been pen-pals up until that point!).

I met lots of wonderful booksellers, and made lots of new friends. It’s amazing to think that I went to America all because of something I made up in my head. It just goes to show the power of dreams and the imagination. 

It truly has been the most amazing year, and I’m thankful for everyone who has made it happen. 

My advice for any debut authors about to embark on this glorious madness is relax, go with the flow and enjoy it. Take every opportunity you can, and be kind to yourself when things go amiss. At some point you will leave something vital behind at a school, you will do an event where nobody comes or better still an event where you run out of books and have to send a team of booksellers off to find your car and your emergency stash! But you’ll survive!

I don’t think I would have changed a single thing!

James Nicol lives in Cambridgeshire, on the edge of the fens, in a house with far too many books and far too many musical instruments, most of which he can't play.

When he’s not busy writing or working he likes to read (of course!), listen to music or watch films, and he really loves going to the cinema in the middle of the day! 

He was going to be an art teacher but he decided to run away and become a bookseller instead and ended up doing that for twelve years. He now works in libraries... Yep! He really likes books that much!

Twitter: @JamesENichol
Instagram: @jamesenicol

By day, Tizzie Frankish is a mum to two boisterous boys and a part-time university tutor; by night, an agented writer who is plagued by her characters. She writes better in her dreams than she does in the cold light of day (thank goodness for edits!) and she’s currently working on a number of Young Fiction stories. Her works are often humorous and more often than not include animals; even if she starts out thinking they won’t. 

Twitter: @tizzief

Photo credits Rooibos tea: MaxPixel // Emma Carroll & James; book launch at Heffer's: James Nicol // Mince pies: darianstibbe at Pixabay // Victoria cake: Matt Biddulph at Flickr// Cinnamon swirl: Denise PS at Flickr


We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.