Those Book Deal Feels (plus super-exciting Summer Reading Challenge bonus!)

Don’t give me that look. I know what you’re thinking: it’s been a long time. A long, long time. Around 28 months since my last blog post. 28 months! Hardly prolific, is it.

But bear with me. My silence is justified. I haven’t been thumb-twiddling all this time. I’ve been busy. And not just with the everyday stuff – you know, populating spreadsheets, making coffee, paying bills, dropping off the kids. Since my last post, I’ve also been busy bagging a book deal.

That’s right. You heard. BOOK. DEAL. Jazz hands and everything.

It’s old news, if I’m totally honest with you. The deal happened at the start of 2018. But even with all the time that’s passed – with the year’s worth of loving graft that’s gone into editing and preparing the book for publication – I’m still trying to get my head around what’s happened. I keep checking the rug beneath my feet. It’s bound to be pulled away, any moment now.

And yet, the rug remains.

So basically, during the final months of 2017, a magical intersection between

(i) my latest manuscript
(ii) the tenacity of my literary agent
(iii) the enthusiasm of a brilliant editor

landed me a book deal with Usborne. Fast-forward to today, and we’re less than two months away from the publication of my debut for younger readers, Scavengers. You can find details on it here. (And yes, Scavengers does involve the goat called Kafka I mentioned in my last blog post, all those eons ago.)

Scavengers - final and cropped front

So how does it feel, to finally pull this off? That’s a funny one. I’d been fantasizing about getting a deal for around a decade while churning out stories and manuscripts. When I imagined getting a deal – something I did frequently, usually when I should have been doing something more important – I envisioned angels and shooting stars. I heard fanfares and fireworks. I saw myself loin-clothed and six-packed astride a unicorn, galloping up a rainbow into a sun-splashed sky.

The reality? Giddiness. Disbelief. Excitement. Insomnia. In no particular order, often all at once. But most of all…relief. Such sweet, sweet relief. Because, you know, when you’ve spent over a decade chasing an absurd dream but not quite getting there, you being to wonder whether you could have used your energy more productively. Perhaps all that time spent at the writing desk could have been put to better use. I could have been painting the kitchen or earning a little more money from the day job. I could have been collecting litter from motorway lay-bys, or adopting orphans and tucking them into warm beds.

But no: I’d been selfishly perching myself at the desk, writing and submitting and writing and submitting in the delirious hope-against-hope that I might one day get a book deal. And after ten years of not quite getting there (even with some literary achievements I’m super-proud of), I started to panic. I began to feel a little desperate – to wonder about putting down my pen and trying something else (even though, in my heart of hearts, I knew the pen would never stay down).

So yes: relief. That’s what I felt more than anything else. But you know what? That relief was sweeter than a ride on any unicorn.

Hot on relief’s tail came gratitude. So many good people have helped to make this happen. A cliché, I know, but I honestly couldn’t have done it without them. Here’s a list of some folk I’d like to thank.

[Disclaimer: I’ve copied and pasted this list from the acknowledgements page of the novel. Not that that makes it any less heartfelt.]

  • Wanda, my ever-patient wife and sounding board, for her endless love and faith, and for being beside me for all the dips and bumps.
  • Oskar and Charlie for the laughs and wonder.
  • Mum and Dad for the books, motorway heroics and everything else.
  • My kick-ass agent, Laura Susijn, for toasties and tenacity.
  • My super-savvy editors, Stephanie King and Sarah Stewart, and all at Usborne HQ for adopting Landfill and giving him such a wonderful home.
  • Tom Clohosy Cole for the awesome art, and for bearing with me.
  • Kirsty Fox and James Alexander for critiques and cake.
  • Tilda Johnson for her eagle eye.
  • Dan Layton, Phil Formby and Bees Make Honey for the Red Stripe, blood, sweat and tears.
  • Chris Baldwin for frites and positivity.
  • Christophe Dejous, Richard Dytch, Matt Eris, Jason Holt, Neil Johnson, Graham Langley, Neil Marsden, Gavin McFarlane, Kieran O’Riordan and Mark Spivey for the music.
  • Diana Pasek-Atkinson for all the reading on the move.
    Matt Turpin and all at Nottingham City of Literature for their enthusiasm and great work.
  • Christina Lee and the University of Nottingham’s English Department for teaching me to read between and beyond the lines.
  • Neil Fulwood, Sophie-Louise Hyde, Chris Killen, Mhairi McFarlane, John McGregor, George Saunders, David Sillitoe, Kim Slater, Jonathan Taylor and Alex Wheatle for their time, kindness and advice.
  • Samuel J. Halpin, A.M. Howell and Serena Patel for their camaraderie (go Class of ’18!).
  • The Five Leaves Bookshop for shelf after shelf of goodness.
  • And all of my family and friends for the big little things. [Buy the novel for more info on big little things.]

That’s to name just a few. It’s taken a cast of thousands. Many of them have helped without even realizing.

Oh, and I also need to thank the wonderful people at The Reading Agency, who have included Scavengers among the books selected for this year’s national Summer Reading Challenge. Amazing. It’s a genuine privilege to be part of a scheme that encourages so many kids to read their hearts out. So much so that I almost got a little weepy after I first heard the news. I was doing the dishes, so was able to insist that I’d got a bit of Fairy Liquid in my eye…

That’s it for now. My first post in over two years! Jabber jabber jabber. I bet you wish I’d stayed away.

Check in every now and then for more news. And you’re welcome to follow me on Twitter if you’d like more frequent guff.

Much love,
Darren