The YA Book Prize

mrlIf you follow me on Twitter, and Instagram, you’ll know that to celebrate the forthcoming YA Book Prize, this week is #TeamSalisbury week – during which the YA Book Prize focuses The Sin Eater’s Daughter, one of the ten nominees this year.

Tonight, I’ll be taking part in an hour long Twitter chat, from 8pm, where you can ask me questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them. Please come and chat with me!

For now, I want to talk a bit, about The Sin Eater’s Daughter, and what it means, both to me, and apparently to a lot of young people too. And how unexpected that was.

I expect that to some people, at first glance The Sin Eater’s Daughter being on the list is a little strange. On a list featuring multi-award winning and critically acclaimed authors like Sarah Crossan, Louise O’Neill, Frances Hardinge and Patrick Ness. Against books that fight prejudice, raise awareness, and tackle big societal issues. Books that are both beautifully crafted, innovative pieces of literature and also complex, deep and essential explorations of the world we inhabit. Standing alongside some of the most important children’s fiction to have been produced EVER, is my book.

I thought I was writing a fairytale; a girl in a tower who falls in love at the wrong time. A wicked queen, and a handsome prince and a damsel in distress. It’s a tale as old as time, and one we all know. Sin eater  cover share

And I did write that. All of those things are in the book. What I didn’t realise until the end was that it was also a story about emotional abuse. Control. Manipulation, lies, and threats. Neglect. Growing up in a loveless environment. Being taken advantage of. Being used.

In writing about a girl who is trapped by her heritage, and her abilities, and her gender, I wrote about a girl discovering who she is, and what she wants, in a world that’s never considered she may be anything more than what it decides for her. I thought I was telling a story about a caged bird who longed to be freed. And I was. but it was also more. Darker. Less palatable. Twylla’s story might be fiction, but for a lot of girls it isn’t.

My heart breaks, at least once a week, when I get an email, or anonymous message on Tumblr. Girls (because it’s always girls) who thank me for writing Sin Eater, tell me they loved it. And then tell me their parents won’t let them go out with their friends, or stay over at people’s houses, or date. Girls who tell me they’re 15/16/17 and have to be in bed by nine o’clock at night. Girls who tell me they’re emailing from a computer in their school library because their parents check their messages. Girls whose parents choose their clothes for them. Girls whose parents choose their GCSE subjects, tell them what to eat, who they can and can’t talk to, and when.

Girls for whom natural obedience to their parents, and familial respect, has tipped over into something deeply sinister, and deeply damaging. “If you just do this, I’ll love you…” “If you’d just behave, things would be so much easier…” “It’s for your own good.” It’s always “YOU“, always the girls who are responsible for the way they’re treated. Often they don’t have relatives or friends they can run to, they don’t have money, or street-smarts. A lot of them don’t even have friends, because their lack of ‘normalcy’ makes them weird in the eyes of their peers. Makes them – wait for it – ‘unlikeable’.

We talk a lot, as readers, about wanting to ‘see’ ourselves in books. I wish so much that no one saw themselves in Twylla.

Because I know that without support, a lot of girls in Twylla’s position won’t be able to escape their abusers until well into adulthood. And the sad fact is that for some of them, they’ll escape controlling and abusive home relationships, only to end up in comparable romantic ones. When you are brought up in an oppressive environment, when love and support and basic kindness are lacking, it’s too alluring to believe in the first person who shows you those things, whether they mean them or not. To a person who has been brought up in an environment of emotional security, it’s easy to look at another person making what’s clearly a huge mistake and judge them for it. To think them weak, and stupid. To be smug in the knowledge they’d never make that decision. To walk away and leave them to it, alone, and vulnerable. And so the cycle continues…

We don’t talk about this kind of abuse very often. We don’t talk about the often-irreversible damage it does to be undermined, manipulated and neglected by the very people society tells you are bound to protect and love you. We have mechanisms and support in place for children who are physically abused. But there is so little exposure for children who are emotionally abused, day to day, in their own homes, by the people who are supposed to love them. They are the hidden victims, the forgotten ones.

For some girls, life is, and always has been a little medieval. We forget that having a voice, having agency, is a privilege not afforded to everyone. So I’m proud and honoured that my book has been a comfort to girls like Twylla. If my book has made them feel less alone, and feel less hopeless, then I’ve already won.

 

TV Rights optioned for The Sin Eater’s Daughter

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last last 24 hours, you’ll have no doubt seen a stream of capslocked, delighted posts from me. Because of this:

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Yesterday I was finally able to announce that the television rights for my debut novel, and its sequels, had sold to an independent production company called Little Island. Over the past few months I’ve met with Little Island, and we’ve talked about the books, and television we love, and I’ve given them a sneak peek at the plans for book three. I couldn’t be happier for my story to have found an televisual home with Little Island, their passion for the story and their scope for the world is thrilling. I’m really looking forward to working with them on developing it into something that might one day be on your screens!

And sadly, before you ask, no, I can’t get you a part in it.

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It comes after an array of wonderful things in Sin Eater land; The Sin Eater’s Daughter being nominated for a Mystery Writer’s of America Award, and for the 2016 Branford Boase, along with my editor, Genevieve Herr, the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize Awards Party, and being shortlisted in the YA Book Prize! It’s such a huge honour, I’m shortlisted alongside the biggest and most exciting names in YA fiction right now, and I feel very much like a child at the adults’ table at a wedding. The prize will be announced at Hay Festival, on June 2nd, so if you’re around, you should come!

To that end… I’m feeling generous, so I’ve put together some PRIZES.

PRIZE ONE is:

  • A copy of The Sin Eater’s Daughter, signed and wax sealed
  • A copy of The Sleeping Prince, signed and wax sealed
  • A one-off painting of an anatomical heart in a bottle, by Actual Me
  • A one-off handpainted card, written to you, of an anatomical heart in a bottle, by Actual Me
  • A pair of Sin Eater earrings
  • A blue velvet pouch, wax sealed, containing one of the necklaces I made as gifts for the launch of The Sleeping Prince
  • A set of the Sin Cards I had printed for the launch of The Sin Eater’s Daughter, artwork by YA author, Alice Oseman
  • A vial of gold, on a silk cord
  • Three chocolate hearts to eat 🙂
  • A set of Sin Eater and Sleeping Prince postcards

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PRIZE TWO -THE RUNNER’S UP PRIZE is

  • A US hardback of The Sin Eater’s Daughter, signed and wax sealed
  • A set of the Sin Cards I had printed for the launch of The Sin Eater’s Daughter, artwork by YA author, Alice Oseman
  • A vial of gold, on a silk cord
  • One chocolate heart to eat 🙂
  • A set of Sin Eater and Sleeping Prince postcards

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TO WIN THESE PRIZES YOU HAVE TO:

  • Live in the UK/Ireland
  • Be Following me on Twitter
  • Reply to the Tweet that this blogpost was announced via with WHO YOU’D LIKE TO SEE CAST IN A TV ADAPTATION OF THE SIN EATER’S DAUGHTER

This is JUST FOR FUN. I have no influence over any potential casting, it’s not my job, and nor should it be. This is purely for entertainment. But pictures and logic are welcome!

The competition will close two weeks from now, on Tuesday 10th May at midnight, British Summer Time. The winner of the first prize will be randomly selected. The winner of the runner up prize will be selected by me, at my own whim, based on the casting choice and reason that I liked/loathed/laughed at the most.

The Waterstones Children’s Book Prize: A love-letter to booksellers

Sin eater  cover shareI am so, so delighted, stunned, honoured, and proud that The Sin Eater’s Daughter has been shortlisted in the Teen Books category of the 2016 Waterstones Children’s Book Awards. It seems such an impossible, magical thing to happen. And yet it has. And the best thing about it is I’m in this incredible position because of the lovely booksellers at Waterstones.

I used to be terrified of Waterstones booksellers, when I was a teen. They seemed a different species to me; they moved with a little extra grace, their smiles were a bit more knowing. I couldn’t really look them in the eye.

During my younger teens I went to Waterstones every Saturday, and just hung around. I didn’t have the money to buy anything, but I liked to be near the books. I’d go into town, meet my friend and we’d go to Woolworths. I’d keep an eye out while she nicked bath pearls. Then she’d meet her boyfriend, and I’d go to Waterstones. I’d spend an hour in there, lusting after the books, and then go to the library and get some books out (thanks libraries, I love you, too). Then I’d nip back to Waterstones for a final visit, before sneaking to my Nana’s for lunch, and to read. I was a rebellious child.

the perfumeI remember the first ever, brand new book I personally chose and bought from Waterstones. It was The Perfume, by Caroline. B. Cooney, and it cost me £3.50 from the old Waterstones in Cathedral Lanes, Coventry. For a wannabe bibliophile who had almost zero access to brand new books of her own, this trip was to be GAME CHANGING. Prior to this most auspicious of days, I’d been taking Point Horror books out of the library for a whole year, wondering if I’d ever be sexy enough for a ghost to try and date me, or for a vampire to come and attack me (nope, and nope. To this day). It was time to buy my own.

Looking back now, I can see some similarities to the cover of The Sin Eater’s Daughter and the cover of The Perfume; a scary, creepy bottle; beautiful, vibrant colours; alluring title.

It’s cool when things come full circle.

It’s even cooler when you never even imagined it was possible.

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Artists impression of a Waterstones Bookseller in the mind of Melinda Salisbury, aged 14

I’ve digressed, I meant to talk about why booksellers intimidated me. It’s nothing they did, more just that they just were. They were everything I wanted to be and everything I had no idea how to be. In my head they spent all day in Waterstones with the books, being all smooth and knowledgeable, and at night they went to house parties where everyone wore black, and drank red wine, and talked about sexy exciting things. Like books.

Back then I was a scrawny, be-fringed, goblin child. I was not sexy. The only knowledge I had was the Latin names of every mammal native to the UK, and how to identify them from their stools. And it would have been very illegal to give me red wine.

So I couldn’t imagine that the booksellers would even deign to acknowledge my existence.

I was wrong.

After giving me a good hour to lurk in the stacks like a creepy creeper, a young man finally, delicately approached me to see if I needed any help. Lord, did I.

He was generous with his knowledge, and his time, and he made me feel like buying a single Point Horror book was as weighty a decision as buying a Booker winner. There was no rush. It was as important to him I went home with the right book as it was to me, or at least that’s how it felt. When I’d finally made my choice, the book was carried reverently to the till, where I paid for it. He gave me a shiny, pristine black carrier bag with a big gold ‘W’ on the front and a quote on the back to carry it home in. He even gave me change from my fiver (which, in fairness, he had to. That’s the law. I could try and romanticise it, but that would be weird. Weirder.).

I’ve always been so incredibly envious of authors who talk happily about their lifelong relationship with books, who grew up surrounded by them, had easy access to them, who begged for ‘just one more chapter’ every night. These lucky, lucky people who knew from when they were little that they wanted to be writers, and – more importantly – who believed that they could be.

I didn’t grow up in a family of readers, you see. My whole life it’s been the booksellers of the world, the librarians, and, recently, the bloggers, and the tweeters, and the Instagrammers, who have helped guide and shape my reading experience. Who have led me to the books I didn’t know I needed until they handed them to me.

So thank you, Waterstones booksellers, for that. These days, I realise that not all booksellers are magical beings from another realm who wear black, and drink red wine (obvs most are, I’ve met some of them). I can’t believe how lucky I am to be saying that I’ve been shortlisted for this prize. Thanks for being.

And congratulations to my fellow Older Fiction nominees, the incredible Lisa Williamson, Lisa Heathfield, and Jandy Nelson, my agency sister Moira Fowley-Doyle, and of course, my arch-enemy Leo Hunt. I’ve read all of our books and I’m lucky to be considered your equal.

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Second blogpost in as many days… Miracles do exist.

 

Second time around…

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Me, and my friends Fran and Katja, who came over from Germany to celebrate with me.

This time last week I was downstairs in Waterstones Piccadilly. It was the night of the launch of my second novel THE SLEEPING PRINCE.

Half of my face was painted gold and I was wearing a crown I’d made at home two nights before. At that point in time, I still had my shoes on. If I remember rightly, my publicist Rachel had just shown me my cake, and I was trying not to cry because there was a cake, and the cake had a map on it of the world I’d created, and my publishers did that for me.

They had set up a table with alchemical potions and knick-knacks on; they’d made badges showing the countries in my world so people could choose where they were ‘from’. They’d supplied wine and pop and crackers and blue cheese. And they’d got me a cake – did I mention the cake?

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CAKE

It was my cake. For my second book.

There’s a lot of nervous talk around second books – second anything, in fact. We’ve all heard of Second Album Syndrome, and the Sophomore Slump. Second books are notoriously harder to write; first books are often laboured over and nourished for years before eventual publication, whereas second books are usually written to a deadline. There’s more expectation to write a ‘better’ book second time around. There’s the fear that all of the fire and innovation was used up writing the first book and the second will come from a more mechanical place. There’s the worry that being able to write a first book was a fluke, and it can’t possibly be repeated.

I’m lucky, because when you write a series, you already know largely what the second book will be about. You don’t truly have to start from scratch, as all of the groundwork – the world, the history, the characters – is already in place.

Unless you do something stupid, like set it in a different place, and have a different character telling the story. But what kind of idiot would… Ah. Yeah.

From the very earliest days of The Sin Eater’s Daughter, I knew I wanted it to be a series. And I knew the narrator of the second part would be Errin. I knew the whole story was the tale of two very different girls; one raised up to be something special, and one ordinary; one full of darkness and fear, one light and hopeful. But it felt like an unusual approach, and I was scared it would go wrong, that it would fail. To be honest, I was scared of everything when I was writing The Sleeping Prince.

I’ve never admitted this before, but this time last year, I was not having any fun. I was terrified of what people would think of my first book. I was convinced it would be a flop, and that I was going to let down everyone who’d worked so hard on it, my cover designer, the sales team, marketing, editorial. Everyone. I couldn’t connect with the experience, I couldn’t really talk about it. I felt like a fake and a fraud and I was so, so frightened that this one thing – this impossible dream – was going to be taken away from me. I kept waiting for the axe to fall. For a year, I couldn’t look up in case I saw it.

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Lovely Katie Webber, me, and my agent Claire.

The thing that got me through last year was my agent and my publishing team – the very people I was convinced I was failing. Claire Wilson, Genevieve Herr, Emily Lamm, Rachel Phillips, Mallory Kass. They kept my mind focused on The Sleeping Prince, but still reminded me how much they loved TSED. They replied to my emails with speed, and kindness, and understanding. They gave me the room to be creative on my own terms, and always, always with their support.

So that’s why having a cake was A BIG DEAL. Having a cake was the solid proof that they were proud of me – proud of us, and what we’d made – and that they wanted to celebrate. It seems such a stupid thing, of all the things they’ve done for me, to wax lyrical about a cake but to me it was everything. So this year I won’t shut up about The Sleeping Prince. Because my team deserve to know how over the top, over the moon thrilled I am with it and all of the work we’ve all put into it.

And to reassure Claire that there will be a lot less, “Claire, I think you’ve made a huge mistake representing me” emails this year.

mel 4To make up for not letting myself be happy in 2015 I am making an extra effort to enjoy myself in 2016. And there’s a lot to celebrate. The Sin Eater’s Daughter was the bestselling UK YA Debut of 2015. It’s been nominated for the Carnegie Greenaway Medal, for the Branford Boase award (along with my UK editor, Gen Herr). It is shortlisted in the North East Teen Book Awards and has even been nominated for an Edgar by the Mystery Writers of America (!!!).

In fact, I’m so determined to be proud of myself that I launched The Sleeping Prince twice! The beautiful Chelley Toy of Tales of Yesterday wrote an ace write-up of the second one, and I think I’ve been mawkish enough for one post, so I’ll leave you with her version. But at the time of going to press, I predict I’ve probably started a trend for multiple launches, because it’s the most fun. I fully expect many authors to hold multiple, country-wide launch events this year. And so they should. This is a great job to have. We should celebrate more.

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The Sleeping Prince

This morning a parcel was delivered for me AND IN THE PARCEL WERE COPIES OF THE SLEEPING PRINCE. Twelve months and 93,500 words later, it’s a real book. I know, because I licked it and it tasted like a book.

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For the uninitiated, The Sleeping Prince is my second novel, the sequel to The Sin Eater’s Daughter, and it’s released in the UK on Feb 4th, 2016.

Here’s what it’s about:

Ever since her brother Lief disappeared, Errin’s life has gone from bad to worse. Not only must she care for her sick mother, she has to scrape together rent money by selling illegal herbal cures. But none of that compares to the threat of the vengeful Sleeping Prince whom the Queen just awoke from his enchanted sleep.

When her village is evacuated as part of the war against the Sleeping Prince, Errin is left desperate and homeless. The only person she can turn to is the mysterious Silas, a young man who buys deadly poisons from Errin, but won’t reveal why he needs them. Silas promises to help Errin, but when he vanishes, Errin must journey across a kingdom on the brink of war to seek another way to save her mother and herself. But what she finds splits the world as she knows it apart,  and with the Sleeping Prince drawing nearer, Errin must make a heartbreaking choice that could affect the whole kingdom.

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And now it’s a real book, I have it in my hands. And in just over 6 weeks, you can have it in your hands too. But for now, let’s just look at it.
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It’s right pretty.

You can preorder it from Waterstones by following this link.

Or from Amazon UK

And at any independant you can think of! A good place to find your local indie is here at Hive.

One more for the road:
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Beautiful.

The Sin Eater’s Daughter Book 2 – The Sleeping Prince

It is my absolute pleasure and delight to finally be able to share with you the title and covers for my second book, THE SLEEPING PRINCE.

Ever since her brother Lief disappeared, Errin’s life has gone from bad to worse. Not only must she care for her sick mother, she has to scrape together rent money by selling illegal herbal cures. But none of that compares to the threat of the vengeful Sleeping Prince whom the Queen just awoke from his enchanted sleep.

When her village is evacuated as part of the war against the Sleeping Prince, Errin is left desperate and homeless. The only person she can turn to is the mysterious Silas, a young man who buys deadly poisons from Errin, but won’t reveal why he needs them. Silas promises to help Errin, but when he vanishes, Errin must journey across a kingdom on the brink of war to seek another way to save her mother and herself. But what she finds splits the world as she knows it apart,  and with the Sleeping Prince drawing nearer, Errin must make a heartbreaking choice that could affect the whole kingdom.

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On the left is the UK cover, and the right, the US.

Once again the cover art was designed by the legendary Jamie Gregory at Scholastic. Thank you, Jamie, for once again making me cry with joy, and for capturing my vision of the story in a single picture. And massive thanks to Lucy Powrie for hosting the cover reveal on UKYA Chat.

And finally, you can still vote for The Sin Eater’s Daughter to win the Edinburgh Festival First Book Prize. Here is the link to vote for it, and you’d be making a tiny, angry goth uncharacteristically happy if you did.

An Eventful Year

6tag_060315-090456I’ve been very lucky, in my debut year as an author, that I’ve been invited to appear at some seriously spectacular events. From Hay Literary Festival, to YALC at LFCC, right up to Edinburgh Book Festival, I’ve had an amazing year – with many more events to come; YA Shot at Hillingdon, author panels at Waterstones, and more to be announced soon.

So I thought, given my experience in this, that I’d offer some of my top tips of how to behave at festivals and events.

Here, for your reading pleasure, is Melinda Salisbury’s Top Five Things NOT To Do At Events.

Don’t threaten to set fire to all men.

At Nine Worlds a few weeks back I was lucky enough to sit on a panel talking about the roles of female characters in YA, and what needed to happen to ensure that female characters were given the depth and range of characteristics that male characters were allowed to have. My answer: Burn all the men currently running the world and making it difficult for real-world women to be treated as well-rounded humans, and the growth of fictional women will follow. It was fine in the context of the panel, very impassioned. In the bar afterwards when I hissed it in author Den Patrick’s face, it took on a less empowered, and more sociopathic vibe. I don’t think we’re going to be friends.

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“How is she getting good words to come out of her mouth?!”

Don’t tell everyone you got your agent because you summoned Satan.

This was at YALC, at LFCC, when an audience member asked how we all got started in publishing. I don’t know what happened here. I don’t know how those words came out of my mouth. It’s not even like I was the last person to answer so I had to come up with something good. They just fell out of my mouth.

… Like Satan had put them there…

Don’t proudly announce to a full house “What’s worse than incest? THIS BOOK!” whilst holding a copy of your debut novel.

See above. Also at YALC. I can’t explain this either. But I implore you not to do it. Please.

Don’t misspell someone’s name in a signing, then insist they take your chair and sit down, mortified, while you send your editor to buy them a new copy of the book.

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Sorry everyone

YALC again. Despite the gems that came out of my mouth during the panel, I somehow wound up with a pretty long signing queue. And by and large it was going really well until I accidentally misspelled a reader’s name. She was fine with it, but no, that wasn’t enough for me.

First I tried to leave the signing to go and buy her a new copy, only to be talked down by my editor, who insisted she go instead (so I could, you know, sign stuff).

Realising the girl and her sister would have to wait until Emily returned with a new copy, I stood up, grabbed some chairs from behind the tables and brought them to the front of the queue, forcing the poor girl and her sister to sit down and wait while I got on with signing, interspersed with sporadic grovelling. So they had to sit there, in full view of everyone, until lovely Emily brought me a new book over, so they could go through the rigmarole of actually getting it signed.

I later realised the girl had marked the page she was up to in the copy I mutilated. Which I didn’t even offer to give back to her.

Don’t wander the aisles with the chocolates left for you and your fellow panellists at events.

At Hay Festival, we had to sit onstage and wait for people to arrive and I got really nervous watching the room fill up. When we’d first arrived, the sound engineer had miked us up and told us to help ourselves to the chocolates on the table. So, whilst waiting for the audience to finish coming in, I had the brainwave of taking the chocolates around the audience and thanking them for coming, leaving Cat Doyle and Katherine Woodfine staring helplessly after me. I got halfway around the room before the sound engineer stopped me, confiscating the chocolates and scowling “We get to eat those if you don’t.”

At the end, when he was taking the mic off of me, he muttered “I knew you’d be trouble.”

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Horns

I can only assume this was because I also spent the entire panel wearing a pair of ram horns and at no point explained why. For the record, it was a dare. A reader named Nicole who was attending dared me to wear them in return for some Welsh Cakes. Guess who had Welsh Cakes for supper that night? This ram.

I could offer some other advice, like don’t shame your brother when he’s the only person in the audience who hasn’t read your book. Don’t announce at your launch that you’re ‘a bit peasanty’. Don’t share with the audience at an event that you violently threw up before you came onstage because you were so nervous. Or offer to do an interpretive dance of your book, rather than reading from it. But I think you get the gist. Don’t be me.

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Roll on YA Shot!