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Welcome

cropped bookHello and welcome to my website.

Here you canΒ read about my debut YA novel The Twisted Tree, (e-book coming Sept 2018, paperback Jan 2019 via Hot Key Books), find out more about me or contact me.

Thanks for visiting!
RachelΒ  πŸ‚

Pre-order now available from: AmazonΒ  Waterstones I WHSmithΒ I Book Depository

Find The Twisted Tree on Goodreads

(Cover design CC Book Design. Illustration Rohan Daniel Eason, title type Peter Strain.)

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The Twisted Tree

faceSet in the remote snows of contemporary Norway, The Twisted Tree is a creepy ghost story inspired by Norse legend.

Martha can tell things about a person just by touching their clothes, as if their emotions and memories have been absorbed into the material. It started the day she fell from the tree at her grandma’s cabin and became blind in one eye.

Determined to find out about her strange ability, Martha uncovers a disturbing family secret…

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Lunch with Amber and Jo of Skylark Literary Agency

amber jo

At the end of October 2017, I was lucky enough to be accepted by Amber Caraveo of Skylark Literary Agency. Amber kindly took me to lunch with her partner, Joanna Moult, and I took the opportunity to ask them lots of questions about how they work and what they are currently looking for . . .

How quickly do you know if something is of interest to you?

Amber: I can usually tell from the opening page. Firstly, I am looking for fantastic writing. You also want a great concept of course, but I have taken on someone because I adored their writing, even though the story wasn’t quite right. We worked together on something new, and now they have a book published.

Jo: Sometimes the concept is amazing, and then you find that the writing isn’t there, which is such a shame. That’s the key thing: finding a great idea that’s brilliantly executed.

What percentage of submissions are an easy ‘no’?

Jo: I would say around 75-80% of submissions. The rest are not quite there for one reason or another, and they take a little longer for us to consider. In fact, if you haven’t heard back from us for a while, that can be a good sign, as it means we’re still mulling it over.

How closely do you work together?

Amber: We work together most days. We also keep in touch by phone and email. If there’s something one of us particularly loves, we will send it to the other.

Is it sometimes that one of you loves a writer’s work and the other doesn’t?

Jo: There have been times when Amber has fallen in love with a manuscript, but I haven’t and vice versa. Even then, we can tell what the other sees in it. I can’t think of a time when one us has loved a submission and the other hasn’t seen potential there.

What’s the best thing about working together?

Jo: It’s great having a partner because we can bounce ideas around. And Amber is a fantastic agent because she’s so tenacious and thorough. She’s the kind of person who always reads the terms and conditions. Nothing gets past her!

Amber: Working with Jo helps with all kinds of things. If I have a particularly tricky email to send, Jo will read it over and check I have got the tone just right. It’s great having a second opinion from someone you really trust.

Does having an editorial background help with agenting?

Amber: Yes, we only take on books that we think we can sell. Some agents ‘take a punt’ on a writer with the attitude that they’ve lost nothing if they can’t sell the book. For us, we have to feel that we can find a home for a manuscript. Because we’ve both worked as editorial directors, we have a good eye for what will get picked up.

Jo and I have worked at a number of different publishing houses, so we’re largely selling to our old friends and colleagues.Β  When we are considering an author, we are already thinking about which editors might like their work.

Jo: We love doing author events and one-to-ones (especially those organised by SCBWI!) but we also spend time with other agents and editors too. Publishing is a very small industry, and it’s part of our job to know what editors are looking for. That’s part of the reason we decided to specialise in children’s and YA – with a smaller sector, you can really build relationships and get a feel for what’s happening.

What’s the worst thing about the job?

Jo: Sending things out to publishers and then having to wait. It’s so hard when you’ve fallen in love with something and really believe in it. Waiting is tough on us as well as our authors – but, of course, editors are busy people, and it can take time for them to read and get back to us.

Amber: Having to say no to an author who has potential, but their work isn’t there yet. We’re a small company and simply can’t take on everyone.

Jo: I’ve met so many lovely authors, and sometimes I want to take them on because they are a wonderful person, but I can’t. I hate having to say no to anyone.

What’s the best thing about the job?

Amber: Working with talented authors and editors who are passionate about creating wonderful books. Editors aren’t in it for the money – they do it because they love what they do.

Have you ever thought about writing a book?

Jo: No, I just don’t have the time. Plus, I’d be so critical of every line I wrote, I don’t think I’d get very far!

Amber: Hmm. I love the idea. Maybe, who knows… one day.

What are you currently looking for?

Amber & Jo: Great writing! But some funny, heart-warming MG would be especially welcome.

 

 

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Lucky to be mentored by Lee Weatherly

lee-weatherlyAt the end of 2015, I was accepted onto the WoMentoring project by the hugely talented and lovely Lee Weatherly, bestselling author of Broken Sky and the Angel trilogy.

Lee is an impressive author (with more than 50 books for children to her name) and has literally written the book on writing: Write a BlockbusterAnd Get it Published, co-authored with Helen Corner.

So I was thrilled when Lee agreed to take me on and said lots of positive things about my manuscript. But – and there was a big BUT – she felt I had the potential to do better.

After much soul searching, I abandoned my first story and began a new project. Lee expertly steered me through the process of outlining the plot of The Twisted Tree and read through an early draft, pointing out where I could improve the story.

When Lee invited me to her seaside writer’s cottage for dinner I was hugely excited but also nervous. I needn’t have worried – she was lovely and we chatted about all kinds of things, including our mutual love of ghost stories.

As we were talking, I noticed what looked like a creepy face in the glass door of the wood burner – and it gave me an idea for my story. Talking about it made us both shiver, and we quickly decided to change the subject – Lee was sleeping there alone that night!

When my taxi arrived several hours late (it’s a long story, the first one got stuck in mud), Lee kindly walked me up to the main road. The night sky was alive with stars – and as we hugged goodbye, I thanked every one of them for bringing us together.

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Getting in the mood to write

Some authors prefer the sound of silence with only the clack of the keyboard. Personally, I like to write to music. Or if there’s a really great storm outside, the howl of the wind.

There were a few pieces of music I listened to on a loop while writing The Twisted Tree. If I’m working on a particularly scary scene, I like to work by candle light. Not only did it help set the mood, but the candles, incense, and horror music warned everyone in the house to stay away – which meant I could write in peace.

The only problem was when my boyfriend nudged open the door to pass me a cup of tea and I nearly leapt out of my skin with fright.

These were some of my favourite soundtracks while writing:

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Visual inspiration

winter-colour-sky

I have come to learn that I am a very visual writer. Until I can picture a scene in my head, I don’t attempt to write it.

Whilst working on my current manuscript, I printed out dozens of images which I kept by my computer, as well as using Pinterest.

stigWhether I need to describe a remote cabin or the way a character looks, I will search for images online that capture the idea I have in mind.

I then simply write what I see in the photo. It works for me every time. Not only that, but many of the images I found gave me plot ideas I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

Feel free to take a peek at my Pinterest boards.

… I couldn’t resist sharing a photo of Stig.