I’m delighted to be on the His Frozen Fingertips blog tour today with a guest post by author Charlotte Bowyer on getting her book published at the age of seventeen. I don’t generally feature YA books on Bloomin’ Brilliant Books as it’s not a genre I read, however I was intrigued and impressed by the fact that Charlotte has published her first novel at such a young age, so agreed to help out.
Firstly, let’s find out what the book is about.
When he is diagnosed with a life-threatening heart condition at the age of seventeen, Asa is certain that his adventures have come to an end. He is alone, having been abandoned by parents who never wanted him and a village that couldn’t raise him. However, as the bells start to ring, those are the least of his problems. The evil sorcerer Erebus has the land of Eodem under his control. Thrust into a world of distrust and aggression, Asa can rely on just one person: his friend Averett. The wall that divides Eodem seems to be an unobtainable goal, and danger is always one step ahead.
I will now hand you over to Charlotte…
How I got my book published at the age of seventeen
I was fifteen years old when I finished the first draft of my novel ‘His Frozen Fingertips’. It was 15th September 2015, and this seemed to be the greatest thing that I would ever achieve in my entire life. For a teenager to sit down and stick to a writing schedule for over six months was a herculean task, especially since I wrote it during Year 10 when I should have been working on my GCSE’s. My novel was at that moment the best piece of work that I had ever done, the exhilaration and pride that I felt on completing it has not been paralleled before or since. At that moment I thought that I had written the next ‘Harry Potter’, which was my favourite book series I had ever read at that time.
My novel was awful. It took me a few weeks to comprehend how convoluted the plot and characterisation was but when I did I was crushed. My expectations of my talent had far exceeded the skills that I had at the time; I had managed to write ninety-eight thousand words of rubbish without realising this. I put the matter out of my mind for a month in favour of doing homework, sports, and social activities but it bothered me that my magnum opus was languishing in some remote file of my computer. I still had a soft spot for the work that had shattered my pride, and I decided that I wanted to edit it until it was good enough to post on Wattpad and show to my friends. After all, they had pretended to read the vampire novella that I wrote when I was thirteen, it did not seem like it would be too much work to push this up to a suitable standard.
How wrong I was. Editing, in this case, was more of a total rewrite than tinkering with grammar and syntax. I went through my novel chapter by chapter, deleting situations and characters that obstructed the story’s flow. In a moment of bittersweet success, I had to all but get rid of my favourite character, a sword-maiden whose plot arc was intense but wholly unrelated to the message that I wanted to get across. It improved the plot but my relationship with the book deteriorated, it became less of a pastime and more of an obsession. I wrote religiously every night with a discipline that I would later only apply to my a-levels. My teachers were expressing concern for the lack of school work I was doing; I did terribly in my GCSE mock exams and stopped putting effort into my homework. School seemed to be a chore, something that was stopping me from having time to spend on writing.
Why was this so important to me? As an avid reader of Young Adult fiction, I was aware that LGBT+ representation was improving in the genre but it seemed as if the B in the acronym was silent, there were few positive bisexual characters who did not fall back into the stereotype of bisexuality being for white, middle-class girls. It was important to me to write a character who broke out this mould so I created Avery Hardy, who is by far my favourite literary invention of all time. He is a bisexual miner from the North who also happens to be the undisputed hero of the novel. The recognition and excellence that I wanted to be associated with a bisexual protagonist was of utmost importance to me whilst writing as many books either erased the identities of those with that sexuality or made them into one-dimensional caricatures. This is what inspired me to refine and recraft my book with such precision and care.
Eventually, I got over this frenzy of writing. No one can sustain that sort of habit as well as schoolwork. It was now April 2016, I had more important things to worry about, such as the imminent exams that loomed over the breadth of the summer. However, I decided that my finished product was good enough to consider for publication. I was sixteen now, after all, the height of maturity. In a fit of misguided enthusiasm, I typed ‘publishers’ into Google and sent a few of them copies of my manuscript and a cover letter.
Needless to say, they did not even dignify me with a response. Confused, I sent a few more out, receiving mixed reactions that ranged from mild interest to vehement disgust. It was at this moment I knew that my book was more controversial than I had previously thought. The combination of my age and the subject matter made me interesting, but it soon became apparent that this also made me a risk. I was unknown, I had not thought to get an agent, and was utterly lost in the difficult world of publishing. Moreover, a couple of publishing companies were impolite in ways that I had never imagined, one of them telling me that I had ‘a lot more growing up to do before [I] could write something worth reading’. I made further edits to my novel and decided that I would try one last time, having researched an American publisher that I had seen on the cover of a book I had been reading. They said that they would accept unsolicited submissions, so I submitted my manuscript to them and promptly forgot all about it. They were publisher number fifteen.
Having received fourteen rejections, to say I was not confident that my novel be accepted would be an understatement. A few weeks passed and I returned to my studies. My GCSE’s started and I decided that I had to work harder, bearing in mind that my writing career was obviously not the massive success that I had assumed it would be. I then received an email saying that Koehler Books wanted to have a Skype call with me to discuss my work. I had a Skype call with them and a few days later I was offered a traditional contract. It was the day of my Physics GCSE.
So, how did I get my book published when I was seventeen? That is a complex question. A lot of it has been down to luck. I was incredibly lucky to find the right people who wanted my book, to have had the right people working with me on publicity and other aspects of the process. Another important factor is work. I gave up any chance of a regular social life when I decided that I wanted to be an author, and now I am doing my a-levels my life has become even more orientated around my schoolwork and writing. It does not really matter to me, because this is what I want to do and I am an introvert but I can imagine that some people would find this difficult. When I felt sad or lacking in inspiration during the process I would look at the works of my favourite authors: William Nicholson, Madeline Miller, and J.K. Rowling. To know that every other author has been through something similar is a relief and will always help to keep me writing.
‘His Frozen Fingertips’ came out on June 26th 2017 and I am still as proud of it as I was when I completed the first draft all the way back in 2015. Over these past few years, I have come to terms with the fact that it is not perfect, though I still have to remind myself of this when I feel myself growing too critical. It is a complete coincidence, but it seems fitting that it was published on the 20th anniversary of the publication of ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’. ‘Harry Potter’ has been a major part of my life ever since I read it in early childhood and to hear that it has reached twenty years old now is almost unbelievable. Now that I have achieved my first step in becoming a proper author, it feels like I have grown up, too.
Wow! What an amazing story! A huge thank you Charlotte for the great guest post and thank you to Bookollective for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.