June 8th, 2014

Thursday, 5th June 2014 felt like a long time coming following my initial signing with Macmillan publishers in September 2012 but the wait was well worth it because publication day DID arrive and what a wonderful day it was. I finally got to experience the realisation of many years writing and studying at university, finally coming to fruition.

Waterstones, Nottingham did a brilliant job of hosting the event with Fi and Dan working their socks off to ensure everything went smoothly.

I was overwhelmed with the turnout of my launch when almost a hundred people packed into the wonderful Sillitoe Room on the fourth floor. The sun shone and we enjoyed panoramic views of the city as the wine flowed and we enjoyed my stepson Jake’s singing and acoustic guitar-playing as people arrived.

It was so exciting to see my agent Clare Wallace, in-house editor Vicki le Feuvre and rights assistant Mary Darby, all from the Darley Anderson Literary Agency in London. My editor Rachel Kellehar and publicist Catherine Alport from Macmillan Children’s Books arrived early to help with the organisation of the event.

My family were all there, including my daughter, Francesca and my fiance Mac, together with my other stepson, Nathan and of course my parents. Some people had travelled considerable distances to be there and I so appreciated everyone’s efforts.

Following a very touching short speech from my wonderful editor, Rachel, I read a chapter from the book and spoke about the writing journey that started proper in 2007 when I embarked on a full-time English & Creative Writing degree, followed by an MA in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University.

After that came a question and answer session and then a book signing. This went better than I could have imagined with the book selling out and the store taking more orders.

Debut authors organising their own very first book launch party may find the following tips useful:

The reading: It’s always nice for the author to read a passage or chapter from the book. Choose one that’s not too long but that gives a good snapshot of the main character and encompasses several themes of what the book is about.

The author speech/talk: Always good to make notes or pointers in case your mind goes blank but try to avoid reading a speech by rote. Also good to write down the people you want to thank as it’s so easy to forget someone important and spend the rest of your life feeling guilty!

Tiredness: Don’t under-estimate how much energy it takes to meet and greet, ‘perform’ on stage, sign books afterwards and then mingle with your guests. Get plenty of rest beforehand and try not to get too stressed – book launch parties are hard work!

Enjoy it: – sounds obvious but the time flies by. Enjoy the celebration of your achievement!

See me reading a little bit of Smart in the short video clip below!

Book Launch clip


June 5th, 2014


One thing that everyone seems to really love about Smart is its beautifully illustrated cover. It really stands out and serves as an excellent representation of the book’s content.
When I first got my book deal with Macmillan Children’s Books (MCB), my agent told me they were going to give the book an iconic cover. And boy, didn’t they just?
The amazing illustrator, Helen Crawford-White did a fabulous job as did the entire art department at MCB.
But the final version was the result of a rigorous and fairly lengthy process and began as a pooling of ideas between myself the author and my MCB Editor, Rachel Kellehar.

You can read about the detailed process in my post on the excellent Queen of Contemporary’s YA blog here:

Smart is now available in hardback/eReader format from all good bookshops, including Waterstones, Foyles and Amazon.

SMART – A Tale of Publication

February 27th, 2014

I thought other writers might find it useful to read about what happens on the often long road between your initial book deal and the fully-edited manuscript being sent to the printers.

On its journey, Smart had a total of FOUR full edits. That’s counting the first paid-for professional edit that I commissioned when I was sending the book out to agents. The second was done with my agent Clare Wallace and agency editor Vicki le Feuvre at the Darley Anderson Literary Agency and the final two edits with Rachel Kellehar, my editor at Macmillan Children’s Books (MCB).


The two edits prior to the ones I did with MCB focused largely on beginnings, endings and tweaking the main characters. This left the manuscript (ms) quite ‘clean’ as they say in publishing, ready for the intensive publisher edits.

Before we began, Rachel Kellehar gave me a written timeline of the proposed edits, so I would know what to expect. It gave the date she would submit each edit to me and the date she would ideally like it returned by. These dates weren’t set in stone, I was free to adjust them if I needed to.

Rachel edited the ms meticulously, pulling out details, questioning and making suggestions. We worked in a collaborative way, Rachel always emphasised that I didn’t have to change anything if I didn’t feel happy doing so.

My personal take on editing is that if my editor or agent feels strongly about something, then it is in my own interests as a debut author with limited experience, to listen and take their advice on board. There was no occasion when I felt pressured or reluctant to make a change, it really was all for the good of the manuscript.

Changes that Rachel flagged up in the first edit, included clarifying details about a computer game that one of the characters plays in the book. Young readers are astute and will quickly pick up on inconsistencies, so it’s important to get the small things right.
Rachel was also keen to establish the legal perspective of our young protagonist, Kieran, entering a suspect’s property. As Kieran is a huge fan of the TV series CSI and is very knowledgeable when it comes to investigative procedures, we had to ensure that his actions mirrored his beliefs about what is right and wrong.
Rachel also exposed the occasional inconsistency with chronology of timeframe and the odd lapse of tense within the narrative.

A massive help with the editing process came from our use of Track Changes within Word, which Rachel introduced me to. I could clearly see all of Rachel’s comments, observations and any highlighting of the text. Likewise, when I submitted the completed first edit, she was able to follow exactly what I had done.

When I embarked on the first MCB edit, approximately eight months had passed since I first read the full ms. So it was a great chance to read with fresh eyes and I was able to suggest my own small improvements, picking up the odd wrong spelling or weeding out a redundant word here and there.

The second MCB edit was just a small one where we picked out small details to debate and happily, Rachel felt we didn’t need a third edit, as was originally planned.

After the editing stage was complete, Rachel sent the ms to a copy-editor. He read through Smart, on the lookout for things such as a character exiting the room in paragraph one and still sitting in the the room on paragraph five! The copy-editor ensures the chronology, names and language of the ms are consistent throughout. A few issues came up but nothing major.

Rachel then submitted the ms to a proofreader with an eagle eye, who looked for spelling and grammatical errors. Rachel was very happy to report that again, the ms was very ‘clean’ and needed little tinkering.

During this last stage, the publisher’s house style is also taken into account. For instance, in Macmillan books, a ‘z’ is used instead of an ‘s’ in words like ‘realize’.

From day one, Macmillan have been fantastic in involving me as the author in the process. Rachel even sent me the font and layout to be used throughout the text, before a final decision was made.

I submitted my dedication and acknowledgements for the book and finally, a full pdf of the entire manuscript was emailed to me for final comments before submission to the printers.


The cover process has been fascinating and SO exciting because it has culminated in an amazing, iconic wraparound jacket for the Smart hardback edition.

Full SMART wraparound jacket

Rachel and I talked initially around six months ago, about what we envisaged the cover looking like. We both had very similar ideas – maybe a back view of the main character Kieran with his notebook and Lowry-esque characters, because the art of LS Lowry is a big theme in the book.

Rachel passed on our ideas to the McB Design team who in turn scouted for a suitable illustrator. All things taken into consideration, the team came up with an initial draft cover and sent it over for our comments.

I loved the concept from the start. It was eye-catching, colourful and contemporary, like a sketch from Kieran’s notebook. The illustrator, Helen Crawford-White has perfectly captured the essence of the book.

In addition, the final cover has evolved into an amazing wraparound extravaganza of colour and detail. Foil overlays will be applied to the river and a few trees and beautiful endpapers have also been designed, picking out the key features of the book to complement the whole project.

Endpapers for SMART

I’m sure you will understand how totally chuffed I am that my publisher has gone to such great length and effort to produce such a beautiful piece of artwork.

AND NOW . . .

The hardback edition of Smart will be published on 5th June 2014 and it will also be available in Ebook format. The paperback edition will follow next year and MCB may change the cover slightly for that edition. My agent is currently waiting to hear from my German publisher DTV Junior, as to what their final publishing date will be.

Last week I had a really informative meeting with my Macmillan publicist, Catherine Alport. We brainstormed some ideas about PR and marketing for the book, involving local and national media and school visits/author talks.

I am currently editing my second YA novel with my agent and agency editor at Darley Anderson.