Monday, 14 March 2011

She wrote a book on her Blackberry...and got published

 One of the fun things about book promotion is getting the chance to listen to other authors  at joint events. Over the last year I've heard some brilliant presentations -  from the likes of Alex Scarrow, Paul Doweswell, Andy Lane, Jon Mayhew, Nicola Morgan, Gillian Cross and MG Harris. I know, lucky me.
But it's not often that another writer's talk makes you gasp out loud, as I did twice when Sue Ransom and I visited  Highgate Wood School. Sue's cracking London-based paranormal romance Small Blue Thing was written on her Blackberry. And she didn't just get a contract directly from a publisher...her book persuaded the publisher to set up a company in order to publish it.
I had to ask Sue for her story. Here it is....

My day job is in London. I’m a headhunter and I work full time, commuting on the train into Waterloo every morning. For years I used the time to read, and I worked my way through my bookshelf several times. As my daughter, Ellie got older, some of the books she was reading caught my attention, and I borrowed a few to see what she was enjoying. What struck me immediately was how American most of them were, and how little she would understand the cultural references. I wondered if I could write a story for her that reflected her world. I decided to see if I could produce something as a birthday present for her.
Sue at Highgate Wood School

In February 2009 I started making notes, and used the time on my commute to write instead of read. I pulled together a plot, then using my BlackBerry I started to write. Every day on the commute I would read what I had written on the previous journey, then carry on, and at the end of each trip I emailed the file to myself. I managed about 300 words per journey, or roughly a page, plus a bit extra at the weekends. My only target was getting it done before my September deadline of Ellie's birthday, so I wasn't worried if it was 80K words or 90K.
My thumbs were fine - I have a touchscreen Blackberry with slightly bigger keys, so that made the whole thing easier. And I wasn't bothered by the environment. I find it really easy to blank things out on the train. Mostly the commuter trains are very quiet anyway. No-one wants to speak at that time of the morning! It's harder to write at home when people keep appearing to ask me things.
 At the weekends I pieced the jigsaw together and edited. By July, most of the story was complete and I let my husband read it. He was very brave, telling me where he thought I had got things wrong! I got two copies of the final draft of Small Blue Thing bound up and gave them to my daughter for her birthday in early September. She loved it, and started lending it to her friends. They loved it too, so I was persuaded to send it to an agent who turned me down flat. I still don't have an agent.
 A colleague at work then suggested that I get an opinion from someone he knew in the publishing industry, so he approached Kate Wilson, who had just left Headline, to see if she would mind reading the first few chapters and give me a few hints as to who to send it to first. I was hoping for an opinion as to whether it was publishable, and at best, a recommendation to an agent which might get it nearer the top of the slush pile.
 What I got, much to my surprise, was a three book contract! Kate liked the book so much that it brought forward her plans to set up her own publishing company, and Small Blue Thing was the launch publication for Nosy Crow in January this year.
 The second book, Perfectly Reflected, is due out in June 2011, and the final instalment will be on the shelves in January 2012. My life has been changed by using the time on my commute to do something different, and I’m really enjoying sharing my story with so many other girls.

Thanks Sue -  to which, I would add, if you liked Twilight you'll love Small Blue Thing. Mysterious ghostlike creatures called Dirges who hang out at St Paul's Cathedral and steal happy memories, a girl battling with everyday traumas of schools, friends and boys -  and then she finds a mysterious bracelet and meets the gorgeous Callum, who she can only see in her mirror... Brilliantly set up for the sequel too.

 Update: Sue's offering a signed copy of Small Blue Thing, plus a chance to name a character in book 3 on the Authors for Japan auction until Friday March 18 . Bid here  


  1. I HATE this women! In the nicest possible way :-)

  2. OMG where's my Blackberry?! Oh yes, I haven't got one. I knew there was a reason I'm not published. Well done to Sue Ransom though - I'm inspired.

  3. What an amazing story, very inspirational! I love the sound of Small Blue Thing, I'll definitely be getting hold of a copy and reading!

  4. I shudder at the thought of writing a book on a smartphone! But then again, I'm the guy on the train with a huge laptop getting bashed by everyone else's bags as they walk down the aisle! Maybe I need to start training my thumbs up...

  5. What a fantastic story - and well done to her! I spent a lot of years trying out various small devices that would allow me to write while doing the school run - it finally exists in the shape of the netbook ... but I no longer have a school run.

  6. I've just got a birthday present yesterday. Can't wait to use it, I think it's going to change my life.

  7. Errr..but Candy how can you write on the school run? Aren't you driving?

  8. What a brilliant story! I was going to get this, but thought it looked a bit scary so I didn't! I'm such a wimp :) And yes, Candy, weren't you driving?!

  9. The title got me intrigued straight away, what an inspirational story! Thanks for posting this, the book sounds brilliant.

  10. Crikey, what an inspiration - clearly I need to keep off FB and Twitter and use my Blackberry for more productive purposes! I'm over to bid on this book now as part of the *authorsforjapan* auction.Fab post, thanks!