Welcome to Debut Diaries – One Year On, where SCBWI-BI members share their highs (hopefully lots of these) and lows (hopefully fewer of these) of the post-publication year.

This month, Tizzie welcomes Liz MacWhirter, author of Black Snow Falling, to join her for Afternoon Tea. 

After a whirlwind post-debut year, it’s a chance for Liz to put her feet up, and share her insights over a cuppa and some carefully chosen sweet treats, which reflect the mood of the months following life after debut. 

Summer 2018: Happiness

L.J. MacWhirter: Looking back on my debut year, I know I’ll always be so grateful for 2018. That’s not just because Black Snow Falling was finally published in August. Two months earlier, I married my soul mate. It was a really incredible time of fulfilment. So, first up, my cake of choice is our luscious wedding cake… mmm shall it be the Earl Grey sponge or lemon verbena?

Poster of Liz at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

August 2018: Book Launch at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

My first-ever book event was on the opening day of EIBF! I was lucky enough to be on stage with Alice Broadway and loved every moment of Feisty Fantasy. I felt prepared and had vocal warm-ups beforehand with a friend, Elspeth, a performance poet, which I’d recommend if you’re not used to speaking in public. Our event had sold out and it was great to see friendly SCBWIs in the audience! 

Top Tip 

1: Ask for some questions in advance from your Chair.

I also spoke at Coping with Change with Steven Camden and Melvin Burgess, and read poems by Irina Ratushinskaya for Imprisoned Writers. It was amazing to meet so many authors I’ve long admired and to be nominated for the EIBF First Book Award. Another special moment was my novel being mentioned in the same sentence as the Carnegie Medal by a Carnegie judge – I was astonished! It was a melt-in-the-mouth, homemade-meringue-with-cream moment.

September 2018: Official Book Launch

The official hardback launch took place after the festival at Golden Hare Books, at which my husband (an actor and writer) joined me in a dramatised reading of one scene – demanding but fun! A whirlwind of school events followed, the start of an Interesting Times bookshop tour with fellow SCBWI YA debuts, Rowena House (The Goose Road) and Tracey Mathias (Night of the Party)… and a nomination for the 2019 Carnegie Medal.

It was wonderful. Matched by a slice of lemon drizzle cake with that really satisfying crunch on top.

This brings me to my Top Tip No 2: Do as much prep work in advance as you can before publication. Your debut year really is insanely busy, especially if you still need your day job. I run a copywriting business and juggle this with book events, book promotion and new writing.

At the SCBWI annual conference, listening to ‘keeping the light on in the darkness’, I realised my WIP eco-thriller was actually depressing me and started researching another historical idea. Back to the drawing board, but it was right, as this new novel feels full of life.

February 2019 – Paperback launch

Cake again, and this time it was a fruity beauty of a book cake with hand-painted icing to celebrate the paperback launch of Black Snow Falling at the Edinburgh Bookshop. The whole evening was just delicious!

May 2019 – Bramall Hall Black Snow Falling day

My old comprehensive school hired the local Tudor hall in Cheshire which had inspired the setting for the novel. After decades away, it was amazing to be back. I led a group of Y7-10s in creative writing sessions and one-to-one tuition. Other events included Soutar Festival of Words, Wee Write for Aye Write!, YayYA! and Cymera. School bookings are continuing. This period of time felt better paced and I felt more in my stride with events. My need for sugar is diminished… happy to go with a healthy pressed fruit Nākd bar, chocolate and orange.   

My final Top Tip 3: Don’t be afraid to go with a smaller publisher. YA is a tougher market than ever and, following near-misses from two of the big six, it was a small traditional publisher who took the financial risk on this genre-crossing novel which is doing something new.

On our honeymoon in Venice, I ‘saw’ the printed book for the first time via social media – and that feeling defies description.

On a personal note, when I started this story about holding on to your hopes and dreams, I had no idea that life would imitate art…  really tough times as a single mum embodied the story’s theme so much that, at times, I felt in the Shadowlands and was deeply ‘tested’ over its premise. Ultimately, I believe the novel is stronger for it, and I appreciate this debut time all the more. On our honeymoon in Venice, I ‘saw’ the printed book for the first time via social media—and that feeling defies description. He and it were worth the wait.

Time for a warm, crumbling cheese scone, my favourite.


L.J. MacWhirter grew up in Manchester, raised her daughter in Edinburgh and now lives in the Scottish Borders with her husband. Black Snow Falling, her debut novel, launched in 2018 to critical acclaim and has been nominated for a number of prizes including the Carnegie Medal.  As well as writing literary fiction for adults and teens, Liz runs an award-winning copywriting studio which takes her all over the world.  

Liz's website 
Follow her on Twitter: @LizMacwhirter
Facebook author page: LJMacWhirter

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


Picture Credits

Book cover and photo: Tim Byrne
Afternoon tea illustration: Coral Walker
Wedding pastries: Alastair Burn Murdoch
Poster for the Edinburgh International Book Festival: photo of Chris Close’s author poster, taken by Sarah Broadley
Liz on stage at the festival: Rupert Smith
Liz with school children: George Heriots School 
Cake photo: by L.J. MacWhirter
Children in front of Tudor building: Bramhall High School
Liz reading: Yay YA! festival
Full-length photo: Chris Close

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