I thought it would be nice to write a bit about how THE FANDOM came to be, considering it had a fairly unusual conception!
In October 2014, I was feeling a bit blue. I'd written a book whilst on maternity leave with my little girl in 2012. It was a YA dystopian called THE GALLOWS DANCE. I'd got an agent fairly easily (this is a whole other post), done a few rewrites for her, and then lost said agent just as easily when she changed jobs and became an editor. This was before she'd taken the book out to publishers. And finding another agent proved a lot more difficult in spite of my lovely ex-agent's help. It seemed dystopia had taken a sharp nose-dive in the popularity stakes.
Anyway, back to October 2014, I'd just had my little boy, and I'd decided to give up on THE GALLOWS DANCE and write something else. But then I remembered the Times/ Chicken House Children's fiction competition - if I rushed, I could just make the deadline. So I decided on a whim to give THE GALLOWS DANCE one last chance to spread her wings. I battled with the printer, legged it to the post-office, and sent it off the day before the deadline.
I couldn't believe it when I was longlisted. Jazz (Jasmine Bartlett, my fab, now, publicist) left a message on my answerphone, and in my eagerness to ring back, I got her name wrong and made a complete eejit out of myself. But she was lovely about it. And I would have been happy with that, filled with confidence to continue on my writing journey, even if that meant leaving THE GALLOWS DANCE behind.
Being shortlisted really was the icing. Barry rang me himself. Barry Cunningham! Trying to explain how exciting this was to my non-bookish friends was difficult, and normally ended with a comment like, "Imagine that (insert friend's idol, e.g. Gary Barlow) rang you up to tell you he liked your (insert thing you're friend is hugely proud of, e.g. singing.)" And as if my life hadn't already been made, I got to go to London and meet the Chicken House Team and other amazing book people.
It was such an amazing day. They even made a video, which was slightly terrifying. I tried to sound intelligent and engaging; no mean feat when you're worried you've got food in your teeth or your make-up's run or you've forgotten how to form sentences, blah blah, insecurities be gone!
I didn't win, Laurel Remington did. Her book THE SECRET COOKING CLUB FOR GIRLS is brilliant, and it was well deserved. And Laurel is so lovely, I just felt really happy for her. But the next day, when the adrenalin had worn off, I felt a bit sad; maybe now was the time to lay THE GALLOWS DANCE to rest.
But then I got a phonecall from Barry, I can't remember exactly when, a few weeks after my London trip I guess. He told me about The Big Idea Competition, and Angela McCann's Big Idea about a group of fans getting lost inside their favourite world. And what did I think about using the world of THE GALLOWS DANCE to bring Angela's idea to life?
I think I sounded vaguely considered and sensible. But in my head I was screaming, OMG, OMG! Barry wants me to write a book! There's something about your childhood dreams being realized which turns you into a gibbering wreck, I've decided. Anyway, they gave me a few months to submit a synopsis and the first three chapters. And then I waited....
Then, one rainy afternoon in August 2015, I got the email from Kesia (the lovely Kesia Lupo - my, now, editor) saying that Chicken House and The Big Idea wanted to offer me a contract to write THE FANDOM. I can't describe that feeling, it's one of complete elation, beaten only by the birth of my children, and that may have been more to do with the drugs haha! And so my book baby came to be. Like I said, it was an unusual conception, but only in book terms. After all, unless you're the Virgin Mary, most conceptions start with two people... I brought the egg and Angela brought the, er, sperm (sorry Angela!)