Thursday, September 01, 2011

Firsts: No Use Crying by Zannah Kearns

Today I'm a bit excited to announce the first in a series of posts where new authors get a chance to spread the news about their debut novel. First up on Firsts is Zannah Kearns. Her debut novel NO USE CRYING is out today in the UK. So if you would like to find out why you should buy the book, what it's like to go from an unpublished novelist to debut author and how important it is to tweet, read on.

Zannah, your debut novel NO USE CRYING is out TODAY, Why should we add it to our to be read lists?

What a question! Because if you all buy it then my publishers will be more inclined to keep me on?! Because I do actually believe it's a book 'with heart'. The characters are like dear friends, and I hope you might fall in love with them, too. It's funny, heart-warming, and raises some interesting areas of discussion: when does a secret become a lie, how is our identity formed, how do we forgive - ourselves as much as others - how do our relationships evolve as we change/grow?

Wow! There are some big themes there; very intriguing themes might I add.  Can you tell us a little bit about your story now. How did you go from unpublished writer to debut author?
I've loved books all my life, but only started taking the idea of writing seriously at University when I took some creative writing modules. I think until then it had felt like a bit of a guilty secret, just too unrealistic. I was fortunate that my parents funded me through an MA after university, so I did Creative Writing then, and whilst I went on to do 'normal jobs' for a while, I kept on writing and I think that's what proved to me it was what I really wanted to do as I kept going. 
I had one of those fortuitous moments that will make aspiring authors want to kick me in the shins (we're way too nice to do that Zannah)- my friend asked to read my manuscript and then a month or so later she texted to ask if I'd mind if her sister read it 'as she's a literary agent' (can she be my friend too?). My friend had already shown it to her sister who liked it and wanted to follow up, but that was the first time I heard about it. I do reassure myself that there is more to it than luck though, as my agent wouldn't have said yes if she didn't think she could actually sell it, and the publishers have no connections to me! But I think it probably got me an initial 'real reading' from someone who gets hundreds of manuscripts landing in her mailbox every single day, so I was certainly fortunate.
OK, so apart from being lucky (although you did have a finished MS there), what are the three things that have helped you the most in your writing journey?
Learning to take criticism. That particularly came about through my MA - having work critiqued so frequently. I'm not precious about my writing - if someone says a bit needs changing, I listen, and I know if I feel particularly attached to a phrase or scene, it's probably self-indulgent and needs to go!
Learning that I have to make the time... I had a year when I was 'between' jobs a little while back, and I probably wrote less that year than any other. I think life informs art, and maybe especially writing. Nothing is wasted in that way, so being a full-time mum of two small children doesn't have to hinder my work.
Amazing people. My agent and editors (and all at Frances Lincoln) are passionate about their work, and highly skilled. I have huge confidence in their expertise, and they have made the whole process of getting No Use Crying ready for publication a thoroughly enjoyable one. They have definitely made my writing better.
What advice would you give to unpublished writers?
First, enjoy stories. I think there are times when I've become more obsessed with the idea of being published, or being 'a writer' than simply taking delight in my imagination and the creative process. If I now never get published again, I'd still write because I love it. 

Next, it's all about the re-writing. It is liberating to let your first draft be however rubbish it's going to be, but to just get the words down on the page, and then there's something to work with. Re-write, re-write, re-write. You'd be surprised by how much something can improve with multiple drafting!

Don't send out your work too soon! The amount of info online - from getting submissions to their top-notch standard, to how to write query letters, to every other tiny little detail you might need to know is all there to be able to send out your work to its best possible advantage. But doing all that research can distract from getting the story where it needs to be - it's all about the story!
I do agree that it's all about the story. And the Frog too, he's always telling me to get on and write, but there is some good stuff online. Well, for a start we met on Twitter, in fact, we've only ever met on Twitter. How important is it to Tweet?
Clearly writers still make it these days who aren't on Twitter. But it's undoubtedly fun and useful. I love the buzz of other writers and bloggers sharing their projects (even just to say how much they have done that day, or how the whole day has been sabotaged by little Tommy's mumps). And there are some amazing authors on there who are so ready to share their advice and encouragement. I think if you follow the right people, then it's a thoroughly positive booster for the lonely writer's journey. 

The place to start is with Nicola Morgan's e-book TweetRight. I saw it as a series of posts on her blog Help! I need a publisher! which is full of fantastic advice for aspiring authors (I second that, Nicola's posts helped me take my first tentative steps on Twitter and now I'm interviewing debut authors). That's what got me started on navigating Twitter, and then you receive this amazingly friendly welcome from lovely people like you! (Why thank you) I think it has been useful for networking and promotion, but there is so much more to it than that.
Lastly, for a bit of fun three random facts about Zannah Kearns. 
1) My favourite smell is my children! They are only 2.5yrs and 4.5 months - and they smell like malted biscuits, all sweet and milky, and I love how they smell with suncream on, and when they're soapy-clean after their baths... Sometimes obviously they smell of other, less delightful things, but we won't worry about that... (No let's not, I've just been through a very traumatic potty training summer).
2) I am slightly addicted to two tv series - Gilmour Girls and West Wing. They are very warm and funny, and you can feel slightly intelligent watching West Wing (except if someone asks me what's actually happening as it quickly becomes clear I haven't a clue!) The dialogue in these series is superb,so really when I watch them it counts as research, you know...

3) I spent a year after school living in Chantilly, just south of Paris (to give a French connection!) It's a beautiful racing town, with a chateau that was used in a James Bond movie - Goldfinger, I think. The duke who built the chateau thought he was going to be reincarnated as a horse (so the story goes) so he built stables even larger than the chateau! When we visited the stables, we whispered to each horse in turn, 'Are you the duke?' None confessed.
(You did say random, right?!)
I did say random and I'm rather embarrassed to say that I have never been to Chantilly. So with that confession I shall begin to wrap up this First First. If you have been convinced to buy NO USE CRYING you can do so through the Frances Lincoln website or the Amazon link below. 
If you want to find out more about Zannah Kearns there is a NO USE CRYING page on facebook and there's even more info over at Zannah's website:

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