I have always been pretty jealous of debut writers' groups who get together and sing each other's praises and find solidarity in a communal marketing plan for their first books - and then continue to support each other as their careers build. I made my publishing debut in 1993, not quite before the internet (remember Genie, anyone?) - but, yeah. Not the same.
But now! The internet is my friend. And at the moment there's a great meme going around among authors' blogs called 'The Next Big Thing,' where everybody promotes everybody else. You Reveal All (or a bit, anyway!) about your next book, and then you tag five other authors (whose work you like, and whom you think might be The Next Big Thing) to Reveal All about their own WIP the following week.
Teresa Flavin tagged me. We met at a reception given by Teen Titles
during the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August. I was delighted to meet her because she'd designed the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators British Isles (SCBWI BI) logo:
We originally requested it for our masthead for Words & Pictures
, the SCBWI BI newsletter which was my baby and brainchild in 1996
. Teresa, like me, is an American ex-pat living in Scotland. She's the illustrator of a number of picture books, but now has headed into YA territory - her second novel, The Crimson Shard
, is just out from Candlewick Press in the US. Here's her website
; and here’s her 'Next Big Thing' post.
And now, my own 'Next Big Thing' question time!• 1) What is the working title of your next book?
It didn't have a title for a long time and everybody just called it 'Rose's book.' But the real title will probably be Rose Under Fire
.• 2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
The book is about a young American Air Transport Auxiliary pilot, Rose Justice, who is delivering planes and taxiing pilots for the RAF in the UK just after D-Day (summer 1944). For one reason and another she ends up 'uncertain of position' over enemy lines and is forced to land at a German airfield - she's then sent to the women's concentration camp at Ravensbrück.
I give this background before answering the question because the answer is, a book about Ravensbrück has been simmering in me for most of my life. Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place
was my first introduction to World War II, when I was about eight. I had a Ravensbrück plot line going when I was 12. When I read Mary Ann Shaffer's The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,
the memory of what I knew about Ravensbrück rose to the surface and grabbed me by the throat.
Nabokov talks about how a short story can grow 'the wings and fangs of a novel.' I think it is fair to say that my early story (what might be called 'juvenilia') has 'grown wings.'• 3) What genre does your book fall under?
'Historical Fiction.' Ptbbbb ptbbb ptbbbb :P• 4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Ohhhh…. Who could play Rose?
Katharine Hepburn, maybe? Rose is supposed to look a little like Katharine Hepburn, a cross between Hepburn and Amelia Earhart, tall and freckled and wholesome, well-heeled but from a small town in Pennsylvania.• 5) What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
See question 2, above? 'Young American ATA pilot Rose Justice ends up in a concentration camp in Germany.' Hmm, I might have to work on that - it sounds dire. And Rose is very resilient and determined.• 6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
My awesome agent, Ginger Clark, has placed this book under contract with the same editors who published Code Name Verity
, namely Stella Paskins at Egmont UK (with the Electric Monkey imprint), Catherine Onder at Disney Hyperion in the US, and Janice Weaver (filling in for Amy Black on maternity leave) at Doubleday in Canada.• 7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Two years. One thing I haven't mentioned is that Rose is a budding poet - so the manuscript includes several of her poems. These actually stalled me quite a bit and were the hardest part of the book to write.
They were also wonderful
to write, because
they were such hard work. Rose is not as accomplished a poet as me, not as experienced a reader as me, and has a different writing style to mine anyway. So I had to make Rose's poems sound like Rose's
poems, not E. Wein's, and this was a real challenge.
I actually wrote several of her Ravensbrück poems on site at Ravensbrück. I would go back in a minute just to be able to be that productive again.• 8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Dudes. I am unique.
Haha. I am only half kidding. I don't know any other books about girl pilots in concentration camps. I don't know any other books, other than non-fiction, about a women's
concentration camp. I confess that most of my concentration camp reading has been non-fiction, so I can't really compare Rose's book to other books within my 'genre.' It's probably more like Micheline Maurel's An Ordinary Camp
than anything else ('An Ordinary Camp' is a title I really, really like - it means, 'not a death camp'), right down to the poetry she includes. I am pretty sure Rose's book is not
like The Boy in Striped Pajamas
by John Boyne or Briar Rose
by Jane Yolen, but I have not read those, so I may be wrong. It is nothing like Jane Yolen's The Devil's Arithmetic
, which I have read.
Remember I said the sort-of working title was 'Rose's book'? Not 'the Ravensbrück book,' but 'Rose's book.' Like everything I write, it is character driven. How this character, how Rose
deals with the setting is what I'm interested in. • 9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
It was partly because while I was researching Code Name Verity
I discovered that about 20 per cent of the female Special Operations Executive agents sent into occupied France ended up in Ravensbrück. It was partly that the Shaffer book reawakened my interest in Ravensbrück. But if I had to name one person, I think it would have to be Wanda Półtawska. Her book, And I Am Afraid of My Dreams,
chronicles her own imprisonment in Ravensbrück. She was subjected to horrific experimentation and eventually, she, along with her fellow experimental 'Rabbits,' staged a quiet revolt against the camp administration which I've attempted to recreate in fictional form.Wanda Półtawska's Wikipedia page, translated from Polish)Wanda Półtawska speaking in a report about Pope John Paul II• 10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
EXPLOSIONS. Because, seriously, what thriller doesn't have explosions?
There are a couple of themes that weave throughout the text of Rose's book, and one of these is the flying bomb - otherwise known as buzz bomb, doodlebug, pilotless plane, or V-1 retaliation weapon. These were essentially the first 'guided missiles' and were launched at London throughout the summer of 1944. They figure significantly in the plot - first because they are a threat to Rose on the ground in England, later as a threat to her in the air over France, and finally because as a prisoner she finds herself put to work making flying bomb fuses.
So, the book has a lot of flying in it, too (and seriously, the miracle of flight ought to rock your world a little).
And now, in alphabetical order, here are five other writers you should check out, who are going to answer the same questions NEXT week. Check back and see what they have to say about The Next Big Thing.Erin Bow (blog here)
is the lyrical author of the young adult novel Plain Kate
, which won the Canadian Children's Literature Award in 2011. Her eagerly awaited second YA novel, Sorrow's Knot
, is due out any moment now, and she's got a truly tantalizing list of works-in-progress
. Erin has also published collections of poetry for adults.Jeanette Cheney
(who is exactly 17 days younger than me) has an impressive list of short fiction to her name in various science fiction and fantasy publications - her persistence is about to pay off, with novels Of Blood and Brandy
and The Seat of Magic
to be published by Penguin Books in Autumn 2013 and Spring 2014. We met at Worldcon in Glasgow in 2005 and clicked
on a writerly and emotional level. She has Airedales.Tanita Davis
and I met through Finding Wonderland: The Writing YA Blog
, which Tanita writes in conjuction with two other bloggers, aquafortis
and citysmartgirl. I'm pretty sure sdn
(Viking and Firebirds editor Sharyn November) introduced us. When Tanita and I discovered we were both ex-pats living in Scotland (do you sense a theme?), we became friends, and remain a Mutual Admiration Society in terms of books. My favorite of Tanita's is still her Coretta Scott King Award Honor Book Mare's War
, about the only black women's regiment to be stationed in Europe during World War II. Her most recent young adult book is Happy Families
and I met online because I commented on an achingly lovely Rebecca
fanfic she'd written. It turned out that we both started school in Wilmslow, Cheshire, within a couple of years of each other, and were both lifetime Alan Garner fans. Sarah is a virtuoso flash fiction and short story writer, hugely versatile and prolific, with a singing prose style which is quirky and gritty and brilliant all at the same time. She won the Sense Creative Award in 2010 and was the Most Read Author at Every Day Fiction
during their inaugural year. I am pretty well convinced she has a runaway hit crime novel waiting in the wings.Rosanne Rivers
is a fellow SCBWI BI member and the author of the Young Adult romance/thriller After the Fear
, which debuts in December 2012. She's also got a blog focused on topics of interest to writers and readers. We met via the SCBWI BI online discussion group where 'The Next Big Thing' has been doing the rounds like a game of tag!
If you want to click around and read what other writers' 'Next Big Thing' entries are NOW, check back to Teresa's blog - or do a google search and see what turns up! The nice thing about this meme is that you don't need to be tagged to start your own chain, so get to work, kids!
And finally, I thot I'd stick these in for color. Um, pun intended. Taken yesterday about 3.30 pm. Can't possibly do this rainbow justice, as I couldn't fit the whole thing in the picture - two complete arches. Also, I am not good at adjusting the light on my camera. It was all MUCH MORE INTENSE in reality.
The first two pics were taken at the back of our house, and the last two in the front garden.