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English, Literature, 2 seasons, 39 episodes, 1 day 6 hours 46 minutes
What does it take to get your brilliant story published? Writer and teacher Sophia Bennett (SJ Bennett) and her guests explore the techniques authors use to get writing and create something that agents and editors can get excited about. 'Writing is rewriting' - but sometimes it is also listening. We hope you enjoy the conversation. You can follow us on Twitter at @prepubpodcast
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#37 Talking about the story that haunts you with Justine Picardie

As well as her journalism, memoirs and a novel inspired by Daphne du Maurier, Justine has written an acclaimed biography of Coco Chanel. She tells me how she has to be 'haunted' by a story before she can write it. Her latest book, Miss Dior, tells the story of Catherine, Christian Dior’s sister and muse. A fighter in the French Resistance, she was a survivor of Ravensbruck concentration camp who received the Croix de Guerre and the Legion d’Honneur. Catherine became a rose farmer in Provence and died a dozen years ago aged 90. Justine's account of her life and her huge influence on Dior is published in September 2021.Notes: Justine on Instagram: Dior by Justine Picardie: The Wasteland by TS Eliot: Clothes in Books: http://clothesinbooks
03/09/202141 minutes 52 seconds
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#36 Talking about writing and illustrating with Thomas Taylor

I was interested to know the part that RSI played in Thomas's shift from illustrating and writing picture books to writing middle grade novels. You might think that his cover art – for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – woud be the key moment in his career, but what is truly fascinating is that it isn’t. That moment came over twenty years later, in 2018. I found it honestly inspiring. Listen out, too, for Thomas’s top tip, which corrects a mistake that many prepublished writers I know have made.   Apologies for the sound quality of this episode. The technology defeated us on the day and we had to record on Zoom. However, Thomas's story and his insights definitely merit listening until the end . NOTES: Thomas’s website:
27/08/202134 minutes 16 seconds
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#35 Talking about writing Christie and page-turnability with Sophie Hannah, Part Two

In my first conversation with Sophie , we discussed her successful career as a poet and thriller writer and the support she gives to other writers through the Dream Author programme. Many listeners have already been inspired by her words about resilience and self belief in the face of repeated rejection, which is something most of us are familiar with. If you haven’t heard that episode yet, I strongly suggest you give it a listen. In part 2, as well as telling me about her writing process and using the blurb as a 'story promise', she intriguingly mentions her exclusive ‘gnocchi’ technique for planning and drafting. As she says, you can apply to her directly for this and she will send it to you for free. Sophie is hugely generous with her advice. You can see why she’s been my guest twice this season.    NOTES: Sophie’s website: The
20/08/202150 minutes 53 seconds
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#34 Talking about comic fiction and sci fi with Jenny Colgan

After a false start in standup and comic strip writing, Jenny's career took off with her first novel, Amanda’s Wedding. She is one of those rare authors who has been successful from the word go.  She talks about the auction for her first book, the limo that arrived to take her to the successful publisher’s, and the importance of good timing, the Great British Bakeoff and her ‘wolverine tenacity’. Among writing about writing that she admires, I thoroughly recommend her suggestion of The Writer's Tale by Russell T Davis and Benjamin Cook, which I'm pleased to have discovered. She also gives me her tips for writing romance. They are good ones, so listen up. Links: Jenny Colgan’s website: The Martian by Andy Weir:
13/08/202129 minutes 38 seconds
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#33 Talking about writing contemporary novels with Amanda Craig

I first encountered Amanda when she was children’s book critic for The Times, and was a judge on the Times/Chicken House competition that won me my first book contract, for Threads. As a journalist and reviewer she has been a huge champion of what she calls the third golden age of children’s literature, spotting Harry Potter, His Dark Materials and The Hunger Games in their early days.  As she is also the author of nine novels, I was keen to find out about her own writing process. We also discuss the hard truths about sustaining yourself as a novelist, the importance – as always – of libraries, and what is it that makes a busy book reviewer sit up and take notice of a new fiction title.  We recorded this episode in May 2021. I hope you enjoy our conversation.   NOTES: Amanda’s website: https://www.amandacraig.comWidowland by SJ Carey: <a href="
30/07/202146 minutes 16 seconds
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#32 Talking about the writing coach with Sophie Hannah

I wanted to talk to Sophie about many things – her career as an international bestselling thriller writer of books such as Little Face, The Carrier and the Monogram Murders­, her work with the Agatha Christie estate, what got her into writing, and how she helps writers with her Dream Author coaching programme. This was more than we could fit into the time available, so we had to save crimewriting, the Christie estate and Sophie’s special tips for planning for part 2, which I’ll be releasing soon.  In part one, we discuss the essential urge to write. Sophie explains having to fight to do a typing course as a teenager, and why stuffing envelopes and cataloguing library cards were the perfect jobs for someone with powerful ambition.  She describes the good bits, such as what happened when she released a collection of rhyming poetry, and got a letter out of the blue from Trinity College Cambridge. And the tough bits, such as the years and years it took to get
23/07/20211 hour 2 minutes 4 seconds
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#31 Talking about crime writing and PhDs with Luke Deckard and Alex Reeve

Way back in the mists of time, when I was too scared to simply sit down and write, I did a PhD in Italian Literature. The focus was reading other people’s work, not creating my own. So I was fascinated to know how a creative writing PhD works. Why do it? Does it help you get published? What about right brain/left brain? Does studying a subject academically for three years help or hinder the creative process?  Luke is an aspiring crime writer who has published in various literary magazines and journals; Alex already has three published historical crime novels to his name. They describe how the creative writing PhD process is its a combination of the writing itself and studying an associated topic that you’ve chosen – such as the appearance and disappearance of trans characters in historical crime fiction, as in Alex's case, or the presentation of socio-political issues in hard-boiled fiction, as in Luke's. In fact, having the opportunity to investigate an area that fasc
16/07/202149 minutes 38 seconds
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#30 Talking about the habit of writing with Joanna Nadin

Jo is the author of the Penny Dreadful series and the Rachel Riley books, and we discuss the importance of funny books for children, and her tips on how to write them. I think her partnership with Chris Hoy and the illustrator Clare Elsom in the Flying Fergus series is the model for celebrity publishing, so listen out. It can be done well!  We discuss the habit of writing, the accountability of Zoom writing sessions in lockdown – highly recommended, even now – and getting your book made into a BAFTA-winning TV show. Does it change your life? Am I talking to Jo as she lounges by her pool in the South of France? What are the average hourly earnings for writers, by the way?  When we spoke, Jo’s latest adult novel, The Talk of Pram Town, was about to be launched. I absolutely loved this book. It’s set between the 1980s of the royal wedding, and the late 1960s, telling the story of Jean, her runaway daugther Connie and her d
09/07/202140 minutes 14 seconds
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#29 Talking about a sense of place with Michelle Lovric

Michelle's titles include Carnevale, The Water’s Daughter, and The Book of Human Skin. She also helped Gemma Dowler write about her late sister Milly. Michelle's novels are usually set in Venice, which she knows intimately, and are always imbued with history, vivid imagination and an element of fantasy. She has taught Guardian Masterclasses in How to Write for Children and is a consultant editor for The Writers Workshop and The Faber Academy, as well as hosting writing boot camps of her own. Her environmentalism and work with her community were sides of Michelle’s work I didn’t know so well. She describes her campaigning against the cruise ships in Venice and the threat of a partyboat as big as a three-storey football pitch on the Thames in London, and what happened after the London Bridge terror attacks, in which she became deeply involved, bringing her writing and listening skills to bear.  Links: Mich
02/07/202147 minutes 43 seconds
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#28 Talking about foreign rights with Natasha Farrant

Natasha has been a children’s writer for a long time, and awards such as the Costa weren’t always on the cards. You might be interested in her answer to my question about when she felt ‘safe’ as a writer – I wasn’t surprised at all.  We met through her job as a book scout for my first publisher, Chicken House. Listen to my lockdown brain failing to grapple with what exactly scouts do, despite the fact that I have first-hand experience of it.  Back to the writing, she describes taking an editor’s advice about what to write next after a difficult moment in her career, and what happened when the pressure was off to write a better a book. I love her suggestions of the books she goes to when she needs inspiration. A couple are already on my list.Links: Natasha's website: Costa book awards: Faber: The Science of
25/06/202145 minutes 16 seconds
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#27 Talking about the Carnegie medal with Anthony McGowan

Anthony McGowan is the author of various children’s books but the one that won the Carnegie Medal was Lark, which he wrote for one of my favourite publishers, Barrington Stoke. As well as Anthony's contemporary books featuring young, male protagonists, I was curious to hear about the Carnegie Medal process and I think Anthony explains very well why the shortlist is exciting, for readers as well as for writers. The Carnegie tends to favour a certain kind of book, but he reminded me about the range of other prizes out there too, and the absolute importance of libraries.  It just takes one book to resonate with someone and turn them into a reader. Anthony talks about the book that did it for him when he was nine, and how he read it over and over, and it taught him what a novel was. You want to know what it is now, don’t you?  We recorded this episode in April 2021, before the latest winner of the CILIP Carnegie medal was announced. He is the US
18/06/202151 minutes
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#26 Talking about writing and marketing with Phil Earle

Phil was born in Hull, where he grew up wanting to play football for Hull City. His first job was as a care worker in a children’s home. Nowadays, when he’s not writing, he works as head of sales and marketing for the independent book publisher, David Fickling Books, who publish Philip Pullman.  We talk about getting into reading through comics and graphic novels, agree on a book that’s a masterclass in structure and characterisation – a checklist of excellence, Phil calls it – and the joy of the rollercoaster of writing a story for the first time. When it comes to marketing, Phil believes in the power of the voice and is reassuringly passionate about supporting a writer through their career, and not just the debut, when they are the shiny new thing. But writers must put the work in too. Links: Phil Earle website: When The Sky Falls: David Fickling B
11/06/202142 minutes 20 seconds
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#25 Talking about acting and a sense of place with Carol Drinkwater

How many of us dream of meeting a glamorous Frenchman, finding a tumbledown house by the sea and restoring it together, whiling away our afternoons in the sparkling pool between writing sessions and heavy manual labour on crumbling walls? Well, anyway, I do. The first of Carol's Olive Farm book makes it clear that money was very tight, and while I was reading it I wanted to know how she felt when she took the risk of writing it. After all, she couldn’t be sure it would earn the money she so desperately needed.  I had thought that perhaps Carol’s acting life and writing life would be two separate things, but she is enlightening about the ways in which she brings her training as an actress into the way she writes.Links:An Act of Love: The Olive Farm: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King:
04/06/202139 minutes 38 seconds
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#24 Talking about writing and teaching with Julia Green

As we’ll hear, Julia's writing and teaching careers developed side by side. I wanted to talk to her because over 60 students on her courses at Bath Spa have gone on to be published writers, some, like Elen Caldecott and Sally Nicholls, with stellar careers.We talk about Julia’s path to teaching, and how it feeds her writing, the importance of staying grounded and keeping the day job, getting a PhD after a career and bringing up children, and the effect of lockdown on writing. We also discuss the process and the benefits of something like an MA in creative writing. They’re not for everyone, but with the focus on workshops, on experimentation, and on reading as a writer, they have a lot to offer. These are ideas you can take for your writing too, however you do it.Julia talks about the importance of keeping writing alive, rather than getting too serious about black and white lines on a screen. I like that.
28/05/202149 minutes 4 seconds
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Season 3 intro

After two dozen episodes of Prepublished, who's next? Sophia introduces some of her guests in the upcoming weeks and the topics they talk about, including creative writing courses. Are they worth it? What can they teach?
28/05/20213 minutes 33 seconds
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#23 Talking about The Windsor Knot with Caroline Green and Sophia Bennett

This episode is about changing direction as a writer, and writing a high concept novel.  Writing as Cass Green, Caroline Green is the author of bestselling crime novels such as In a Cottage in a Wood, The Woman Next Door and The Killer Inside. Like me, she was a YA writer first. She teaches a crime writing course at City Uni and she was the first person I interviewed for Season One of this podcast, where she talked about the art of plotting. She was also the first person I spoke to, outside the family, when I got the US deal for Her Majesty The Queen Investigates, of which The Windsor Knot is book 1. As you’ll hear, that was quite a day.  I was so grateful to Caroline for agreeing to interview me this time. It felt odd to talk about my own experience, but I thought it might be an interesting insight into the publishing world for new writers, and a reassuring one for those who’ve been around the block a bit. There is hope! There is always hope! There was a
28/01/202151 minutes 55 seconds
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#22 Talking about under-represented voices with Abiola Bello and Attiya Khan

This is an episode I’ve wanted to record for a long time. Publishers are making changes, which have speeded up since the Black Lives Matter campaign, but I still don’t see the rich variety of experiences of race, gender and class that emerge every year from my writing groups reflected on the shelves of bookshops and libraries. As Attiya Khan says in our conversation, she didn’t want to write another terrorist Muslim woman. The reading public are missing out on so many stories. I want to know what it takes to speed things up.  Attiya was on the podcast last season, as one of the Masterminds critique group. Her debut YA novel, Ten Steps to Us is being published this year by a new imprint called Hashtag BLAK. That imprint was co-founded by Abiola Bello, who is walking the walk of diversity in publishing. Abiola is an award-winning YA author herself. And as a publisher, she won the Trailblazer Awards in 2018 and is on the advisory group for World Book Day. We discuss what'
23/01/202152 minutes 14 seconds
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#21 Talking about understanding the market with Holly Tonks

Holly wants both aspiring editors and new writers to understand the process as clearly as possible. I love it when she says ‘writing is not something you can either do or not do’. It doesn’t come instantly to most people, but it’s something you can work at, like any other career. And as she adds, ‘you will find your place.’  We talk about writing with an awareness of the market, the picture book process, and what exactly it is an editor does, beyond commissioning books and working on track changes. It’s more than you might imagine. Holly and I worked together on one of my favourite books, which was the illustrated guide to women artists for young teens, that I did with her at Tate Publishing in 2018. It was a hugely complicated project to pull off and Holly needed all of her talent, experience and diplomatic skills to make it happen.   NOTES https://www.bath
14/01/202154 minutes 7 seconds
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#20 Talking about rethinking your story with Sheena Wilkinson

Sheena is a teacher as well as a writer of feminist, historical YA fiction. She and I did a training course together with the Royal Literary Fund, to teach academic writing skills – and I saw in practice what a talented and encouraging teacher she is. A tutor at the Arvon Foundation, she’s someone whose calm confidence and experience can make any nervous new writer start to feel as if they can indeed conquer the mountain, whether it’s a book, a short story or an academic essay. She’s obviously disciplined in the way she researches, plans and writes, but she also talks about the importance of capturing the ‘careless rapture’ of when it’s going well. Perhaps it’s this combination that means she has been nominated for, and won, many awards.   NOTES<a href="
07/01/20211 hour 3 minutes 23 seconds
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#19 Talking about poetry in lockdown with Fraser Grace

It’s a difficult time for anyone in the performing arts, as we all know. But talking to Fraser, I found it inspiring to hear how the spirit of creation survives somehow, whatever life throws at it. And also, how thinking about performance can inform our writing, whatever kind of writing that is. Fraser has some really good tips for keeping your writing going, I think. And I love his understanding of how writing is a part of who we are and that we need to express that and find the time to do it.https://wordcageonline.wordpress.com 
31/12/202056 minutes 4 seconds
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#18 Talking about writing for radio with Sarah Wooley

What I’ve always admired about Sarah is her professionalism. She writes to commission, and always has several projects on the go. I love getting to listen to the results on the radio, and I’m really looking forward to her next play, Rodgers and Hart and Hammerstein, set on Broadway, which will be broadcast on Radio 3 on the 27th of December. Do catch it if you can. There is a link to it in the show notes.  I’m fascinated by the whole writing process, from which plawrights inspire her and why, to how she gets a commission and why star parts matter when constructing a radio play. I also wanted to know what aspiring writers for radio and TV can do to get their foot in the door. Broadcasters want talent. How do you make sure you’re the talent they’re looking for?  https://www.sarahwooley.com - Rodgers and Hart and Hammerstein <a href="
24/12/202051 minutes 4 seconds
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#17 Talking about writing crime with Ruth Ware

Ruth has been called a modern Agatha Christie for her ingenious plotting. She is also one of the friendliest writers I know and is the first person I turn to if I have a question about how something works in the world of publishing. I was delighted when she agreed to be on Prepublished this season, and talk about her influences and her writing process. We discuss developing new plot ideas, creating authentic characters, why being a reader is so important, fitting writing in around daily life, and different types of writer's block. It’s an honest, fascinating and revealing peek into the intricate world of crime. https://ruthware.com
17/12/202047 minutes 49 seconds
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#16 Talking about writing for different age groups with Adele Geras

Despite being a prolific novelist across almost all the age ranges, Adele didn’t want to be a writer when she was growing up – she wanted to be a star. She performed in the West End in the 1960s, and I can’t think of anything cooler. Writing runs in the family. Her daughter, Sophie Hannah, writes thrillers and runs her own life coaching service for writers. What an excellent idea. https://adelegerasbooks.com
10/12/202037 minutes 42 seconds
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#15 Talking about self editing with Emma Darwin

Emma was an associate lecturer at the Open University and has a PhD in creative writing. She runs popular courses and workshops, including ‘Self-editing your novel’, with Debi Alper. I had an orderly list of questions to ask her, but as soon as we started talking about writing, we ended up going wherever the subject took us, from free writing to beta readers, psychic distance, showing and telling, and why rewriting is what it’s all about.   https://www.emmadarwin.com
03/12/20201 hour 9 minutes 39 seconds
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#14 Talking about getting the first deal with James Nicol

In season one of Prepublished, I talked mostly to writers, agents and editors in the world of children’s fiction, as that’s where I spent the first ten years of my published life. Season two will spread its wings a bit and include conversations with writers across all age groups, including poets and playwrights, debut authors and bestsellers. As before, we’ll also take a look behind the scenes at the world of publishing. But I start where I left off, with children’s writing. James Nicol is the author of a fantasy children’s series, published by Barry Cunningham of Chicken House. Barry is the man who discovered JK Rowling, Lucy Christopher, MG Leonard, Kiran Millwood Hargrave (sorry I misspoke your surname in the spoken intro, Kiran), Maz Evans and, in amongst them, me. James is the first person I spoke to for this series, during the first lockdown, and once we’d mastered the technology, it was a balm to the soul. Like me, he had a long route to becoming a published wri
26/11/20201 hour 4 minutes 54 seconds