A big media book launch for a title that booksellers don’t get their hands on until March next year? Not half bad!
What is all the fuss about?
A debut novel from a new English author, Sally Green.
We are told the book was discovered by agent Claire Wilson, in the midst of her agency’s slush pile.
Green, not a bright young thing of Metroland, but a down-to-earth northern woman who had no ambitions to be a writer until comparatively recently, is seizing her success with gusto. Follow her on Twitter @Sa11eGreen
I was told last night’s launch event, the first phase in what promises to be a well-planned campaign to ensure Penguin’s investment pays off (the book was the subject of a highly competitive bidding war last March), was targeted at media, magazines and retail, which would explain why some of those I usually bump into at events of this kind were notably absent.
It was held in the ‘secret garden’ on the sixth floor of Shoreditch House on a bitterly cold November evening. It had been so cold during the afternoon that, instead of prowling the streets with my camera, as I would do normally, I hung out for a couple of hours in the warmth of Google Campus. For the first hour the atmosphere was very university campus-y with everyone studiously beavering away on laptops, apart form a couple of tables that appeared to be holding a round of job interviews. At 5pm it was as if everyone looked at their watches and thought “work done for the day” because it was then that impromptu exchanges started breaking out, and people shared their entrepreneurial ideas, getting advice from one another about blogging and coding.
The party venue was very dark and what light there was was tinted red, making photography awkward. Prominently positioned in the middle of the floorspace was a large barred cage with a young man inside, guarding a pile of proof copies.
Having lost my party invitation and the sample opening that came with it, the allusion had to be explained to me. Half Bad opens with a young man incarcerated in a cage. [He wasn’t too keen on letting me out with mine.]
I have since read the opening. I read the first third of the proof copy on the train home. And I can see what all the excitement is about. Green writes very well indeed. What I like especially about her style is its economy.
Economy of style does not always translate into bestsellerdom. Those talking up this book keep referring to The Hunger Games and the Twilight series, clearly hoping that the book will appeal to the same readership.
Penguin’s commissioning editor, Ben Horslen, has likened the ‘voice’ in the novel to that of the voice in Orwell’s 1984. It is too soon for me to say whether or not I will come to agree. At the moment, I would be more inclined to compare the mood of the book’s opening to that of Lois Lowry’s The Giver. It is certainly gripping me and there is no way I shall put the proof copy aside and wait for the published review copy to arrive.
It was a very good party. Ben told us why he was so keen to acquire the book and then Sally, speaking very naturally and informally, and eventually discarding the microphone because of bursts of feedback, explained how it was only within the last two to three years that she had become obsessed with writing. Her first attempt to write a novel about witches was flawed and she took some creative writing classes to help her rethink the approach.
She only submitted the book to the agency in January of this year. By March it had been bought by Penguin. The foreign rights have since sold to 36 countries. The film rights have been sold to Fox, with producer Karen Rosenfelt (Twilight, The Book Thief, Percy Jackson) lined up to bring the book to the screen.
No wonder Green is smiling!