I’m 16 and my debut novel Waiting for Callback is being published in January 2016 by Simon & Schuster UK. Just in case that doesn’t make me sound weird enough, I wrote it with my mum.
It’s a funny (hopefully) teen book about Elektra. She lands an acting agent but instead of fame and fortune what follows is months of awkward auditions, failing to get any parts and waiting endlessly for the phone to ring. To add to Elektra’s problems she’s fighting with her best friend, Moss, (mostly) failing to get noticed by her crush, Archie, and struggling with her parents.
There’s a lot about Archie because I, and (awkwardly) my mum are slightly in love with him. The spark was my own limited acting experience – which included highlights such as turning up to an audition to find I was the only one who couldn’t speak both French and German and having my first kiss in rehearsal. We really wanted the drama background to be realistic (no doubt familiar to some IdeasTap members) and not too “sparkly” but it’s definitely not a book about my experiences - we found lots of novel ways to embarrass our characters for your enjoyment.
My experience of writing has been/is unusual because of the collaboration with my mother. For some it seems to conjure up a weird image of us writing together at the kitchen table, reaching perfect harmony through the creative process as the smell of freshly baked apple pie fills the air and bird song floats in through the window. Well no. That is not how it happens.
For starters we live in London and my mum can’t bake. In reality we gossip through the plot together, we choose sections we want to work on and then we go away (as far away as possible) and get something down on paper which we can then swap and edit and criticise. Actually it’s fun. Maybe in part because we have different strengths; I tend to focus more on dialogue and the scenes between teens (I couldn’t face my mum writing the details of Archie and Elektra’s chirpse).
It also helped lessen the intimidation factor for both of us as first time writers of “writing-a-whole-book-with-real-words-and-real-chapters-oh-my-god”. Collaborating on novels still seems unusual (although there’s lots of it in screenwriting) – maybe there should be more. For us it’s working – we’re currently working on the sequel Stuck in Development Hell.
At 16 I was even more intimidated by the professional business of publication than the writing but it’s a lot more open and less elitist than you might expect. All the publishers we saw took me seriously and actually seemed excited that I was young and writing. While you can do it without an agent I think it would have been really tough (because they know who to send your manuscript to and publishers are unlikely to take an un-agented work seriously).
You need to overcome your Great British Reticence (I struggle - which didn’t make the first kiss on stage scenario any easier) and send it to tons of Agents. Just Google them. Don’t just consider the big names, sometimes smaller agencies have more time to devote to you, or have specialist knowledge and look for who your favourite authors are agented by (we’re agented by the amazing Hannah Sheppard at DHH Literary Agency). And don’t be disheartened by rejections; it might just not be what they want at that moment.
In the meantime try to build your profile - blog, vlog, get on Twitter (loads of authors and agents are on there and agents often tweet about what they’re looking for) and go to events. It’ll give you a better understanding of the industry, give you some contacts and show agents and publishers that you’ll be up for doing the publicity.
But apart from all that stuff just write lots and ask/bribe/bully people you know into reading your work. Because ultimately the point of all this is to have people read and enjoy your writing – that’s what we’re hoping for.
Waiting For Callback will be available in January 2016 and is published by Simon and Schuster UK. You can pre-order it here or here...