Dear Unpublished Me - Dawn Kurtagich

This weeks Dear Unpublished Me is the last letter of the feature and comes from the Queen of YA horror Dawn Kurtagich

Dawn is a writer of creepy, spooky and psychologically sinister YA fiction, where girls may descend into madness, boys may see monsters in men, and grown-ups may have something to hide. Her debut YA novel, THE DEAD HOUSE, was called "... a haunting new thriller..." by Entertainment Weekly.   

WARNING - this letter made me cry (no shame) so fair warning, have your tissues at the ready! 

Dear Dawn of 2012,

Everything is going to be okay. I know that you’ve lost a lot. I know that you’re suffering, but trust me when I tell you there is always a silver lining, and yes, the night is always darkest before the dawn.

Right now, you’re lying in bed, wondering what it has all been for. The years of writing, learning, crafting, trying, failing, almost succeeding and failing again. The tears, the sleepless nights, the endless notebooks and inky fingers. That stack of rejection letters so high you never quite give anyone an honest answer about just how many you got. You cry every time a published author tells their story about how they got over a hundred rejection letters because the number seems so… small.

You had an agent—a junior agent with no experience—but still! You had one. Nabbed what everyone said might be impossible. You even had an R&R from an editor at Random House—wasn’t that the best day? You worked hard on that R&R, and on the next one… and you were brave enough to know that it wasn’t a good fit and stepped back. Right now, that seems like the biggest mistake you ever made. Your only chance, gone. Your agent has left the industry. Your books are trunked. Your mother is sick. You are sick. Your husband is grieving and you’re still here.

You’ve been broken in every way a person can be broken.

You’re going to die. You know it. Everyone around you is smiling, loving you, telling you that you’re going to be okay, but you’re in an oddly peaceful mindset when it comes to your own demise. Maybe it’ll be okay. Maybe your dream just… wasn’t meant to be.

You’re wrong.

You have something to say.

There will be hard days. Days that make you question everything—your morality, your faith (this one will be tough), your loved-ones. Your sanity. You’ll have days when staying alive is the real challenge. Because dying is easy. Other days, staying sane will be the only thing to cling to. Because sanity isn’t permanent.

You’ll hurt.

You’ll cry.

Then… you’ll feel nothing. And you’ll know it’s close.

You’ll spend your fourth wedding anniversary walking through a beautiful garden on the arm of the man you love most dearly, thinking it may be the last. And you’ll think: this is okay. This is my story. It’s enough.

You’ll get the call that will save your life the very next day.

And… you’ll return. You will heal. You will live. You will write. Your stubborn I-will-be-published-if-I-have-to-write-100-books-to-get-there mindset will return. You’ll remember your burning fire. You’ll feel the stories rushing back in because, after all, you were sick and now you’re not. You’ll hesitate for only a moment… but then you’ll write the story that needs to be told. Your magnum opus… your horror. You’ll write it, hone it, take your time.

And you’ll send it out into the world. You’ll get 10 offers of representation from agents who love your book and want to make it real.

You’ll go on submission and have a pre-empt after only 25 hours.

Your book will be the Buzz Book of the Bologna Book Fair. Twice.

You’ll see it published across the Atlantic. A book. A real book. Telling the story you were brave enough to tell.

And there will be more. 

So may more.

Hang in there. You’re a warrior.
Unlike previous features this week we're not doing a highlight of one of Dawns past books. No, this week I have something very special to share instead! I don't know about you but I'm a HUGE fan of Dawns books, The Dead House is one of my all time favourites (even if it did make me sleep with the light on for weeks) and I know, like myself, a lot of you lovely lot have been waiting patiently for her next book. 

Which I can now reveal is hitting shelves next year and the official title of Dawn Kurtagich's next book is...

Coming 2018! 

Keep up to date with all the info by following Dawn on social media

P.S. How freaking awesome is that title? Doesn't it just screams "I'm going to give you nightmares"?? 

 If you haven't read any of Dawns books yet here are some links on where to get your hands on them. 



Click on the UK or US cover to take you to Amazon and the title for Book Depository if you're not in those region. 

Dear Unpublished Me - Virginia Macgregor

This weeks Dear Unpublished Me post comes to you from the author of Wishbones, Virginia Macgregor! Here is a little bit about the woman behind the dust jacket,  

"I was brought up in Germany, France and England by a mother who never stopped telling stories.  From the moment I was old enough to hold a pen, I set about writing my own, often late into the night – or behind my Maths textbook at school.  My maiden name is Virginia Woods: I was named after two great women, Virginia Wade and Virginia Woolf, in the hope I would be a writer and a tennis star. My early years were those of a scribbling, rain-loving child who prayed for lightning to strike my tennis coach."

Concord, New Hampshire, September 2017

Dear Virginia,

As you start out on this journey, promise me that you’ll do this: celebrate the small steps along the way, not just the big, successful moments or the final destination. Because looking back, I’ve learnt this: it’s in the process of getting to where you want to be that the real magic happens.

You don’t know it yet, but each step is an amazing achievement – and an amazing experience. It’s what’s making you into the writer you’re meant to be.

So, first of all, I want you to celebrate making a bold commitment to becoming a published writer. I know that you’re feeling pretty nervous about the whole thing and that you’re asking yourself lots of questions like: What will it be like not having a proper, respectable, well paid job for a year? Will you have enough money to live on? What if you find out that you’re not that good at writing after all? What happens if you don’t get an agent or a publishing deal and have to go back to your day job with your tail between your legs with everyone knowing that you haven’t made it? How will you be able to face the people who doubted your decision? Throwing yourself off the edge without knowing what lies beneath is an act of great courage and creativity. So, take a deep breath and say: well done, you’ve done something amazing just by carving out this time to do what you love most in the world – writing.

Next, I want you to celebrate the fact that you’re writing every day, even when you don’t feel like it, even when you don’t feel inspired, even if you’re not sure where your story is going or whether anyone’s ever going to read it. The fact that you’re putting in the hours, that you’re sitting on that chair and writing those words, come rain or shine, shows that you mean business, that writing matters to you and that you are committed to developing your craft. That’s what it takes to be a good writer and it’s especially impressive when no one is watching and you don’t have a deadline or a publishing deal or readers waiting for your next book.

Here’s something else I’ve learnt: although you might think that not having a publishing deal or a deadline or readers waiting for your next book sucks, it’s actually the most awesome kind of freedom: you’ve got a blank canvas, you can write what you want and how you want and that probably means you’ll write more naturally and less self-consciously and with less restraint than at any other point in your career.

Next, I want you to celebrate putting your work out there for an agent to look at. Well done for going to the agent’s party even though you didn’t much feel like it and well done for going up to lots of agents and pitching the YA novel you’ve written even though you feel like you’re the worst salesperson in the world. Agents are scary: they’re the gatekeepers to the publishing world and so to your dreams of being a published writer. Putting yourself out there, knowing that you might be rejected – or, more likely, ignored – is hard and shows courage. Doing it again and again shows resilience and it shows how much you care about sharing your stories with the world. If some agents don’t respond well, don’t give up. If you’ve worked and reworked and reworked your story and if you believe that it’s a story that others will enjoy and if you believe you’ve given it your best, then have faith that someone will see that too. And remember that agents are human beings with different tastes and perspectives and that what leaves one agent cold will keep another reading all night. Keep going until you find that agent that stays up all night reading and that emails you at midnight to say how much they love your story.

Next, I want you to celebrate choosing an agent who you know will accompany you through your writing life – and for being humble enough to take on their feedback. You have to be pretty strong to hear someone picking apart what you love and telling you how to make it better, but knowing that that person wants what you want – to bring your story to the world and to make it the best that it can be – should help you realise that the constructive criticism is a gift, one that will help you grow and become a better storyteller. And make sure you celebrate having finished the edits and having the manuscript ready to go out to publishers.

And now, I want you to celebrate the fact that you found the strength not to lose hope as you waited to hear from publishers. No one tells you that this is the hardest bit: that after you’ve written the novel and after you’ve got an agent and after you’ve revised it into an inch of its life, you’ll have weeks and maybe months waiting for publishers to get back to your agent. And that waiting time is hard because you’ll be asking yourself a million questions:

Who’s reading my story? Is it even making it to the top of the pile and being read? Is an editor out there enjoying my story are they tossing it aside? If an editor has taken a shine to your story, are they sharing it with the rest of the team in the publishing house and how are those people responding? Do they get what’s special about your novel or is the editor who likes it on their own? All of this, is hard to sit with, day after day, night after night, never knowing whether any of it will come to anything. You’ll look at your phone and inbox and snail mail post-box a million items each day, waiting for news and it will be agony. But remember to celebrate this time too: how magical to think that your story is landing on editors’ desks – and that out there, there’s someone who might just fall in love with it.

And then celebrate when the waiting stops – when you get that amazing phone call. An editor likes your story. An editor wants to invite you in to talk to you about the vision for your novel. Enjoy that feeling. Enjoy going into the publishing house. Enjoy feeling, for a second, like a real writer. Enjoy dreaming big and getting a vision of your book propped up in the front window of every bookshop in the world – because we all need to do that sometimes, to hope and dream and you’re allowed to do that, it’s okay. And when that editor shows interest, it’s normal to have your hopes rocketing to the sky.

But celebrate this too: that you don’t give up when that dream comes crashing to the ground. When you get a phone call from your agent to say that the editor wasn’t able to get your novel through sales and marketing meeting. That your novel fell at the last hurdle. That someone decided it might not make enough money and so pulled the plug.

You could have given up then. You could have gone back to the day job. You could have seen it as a sign that no matter how much you give and how far you get, it’s not good enough and so not worth the time and the energy and the heartache.

But you didn’t do that, did you?

You put the YA manuscript aside and you started writing another story. A story that you really wanted to tell. A very different story. Because, regardless of what happens, you know this: you’re a writer. You’re made to put words on paper and to tell stories and no one can ever stop you doing that. Celebrate this with all your heart and never lose sight of it. That you can always keep writing. That you must always keep writing. Because it’s who you are and so it’s what you do.

Because that story, the one you write in the aftermath of rejection and disappointment, is the one that another publisher will fall in love with. An adult publisher who will take your writing in a different direction from the one that you thought it would go in, but that direction turns out to be a wonderful one, one in which you find your voice and your confidence and your joy as a writer.

And celebrate the fact that even though you’ve now got a two-book publishing deal with a publisher of adult fiction, you never lose sight of that dream you first had of writing books for young adults. That you keep writing down story ideas and filling notebooks until, when there’s a lull between books, you decide to write it, a new YA book, a better one than you wrote a first – one that reflects the more mature writer that you are now, one who’s gone through the rollercoaster of writing and editing and rejection and publication. Because as it turns out, maybe you needed to wait a bit to write the YA story you were meant to write; maybe you were meant to write a few other books first. And as it turns out, several publishing houses wanted your ne YA novel and you got to choose who go with – and now you have even more than you could ever have dreamt of: you write for adults and young adults. And you’d never had had that if you hadn’t experienced that first rejection.

So, to my younger, unpublished self, I would say this: remember to celebrate every step of the way, every small achievement. Bake a cake. Raise a glass. Do a little jig around your writing room. Pat yourself on the back. Celebrate every small achievement and remember that the greatest achievement of all is this: that you’re a writer, that you’ll always keep looking for new ideas and characters and stories – that you’ll always, always, keep writing – and that doing this, regardless of what happens afterwards, is the most magical way to live.

Lots of love,

Your older, published self – who, by the way, is still riddled with self-doubt and filled with dreams and hopes and who has to keep reminding herself that it’s the process that matters, it’s the writing every day that matters – that the magic lies in the journey.

Virginia x

Pages: 384 paperback
Publisher: HQ
Publication Date: May 23rd 2017


by Virginia Macgregor

Feather Tucker has two wishes:
1)To get her mum healthy again
2) To win the Junior UK swimming championships
When Feather comes home on New Year’s Eve to find her mother – one of Britain’s most obese women- in a diabetic coma, she realises something has to be done to save her mum’s life. But when her Mum refuses to co-operate Feather realises that the problem run deeper than just her mum’s unhealthy appetite.
Over time, Feather’s mission to help her Mum becomes an investigation. With the help of friends old and new, and the hindrance of runaway pet goat Houdini, Feather’s starting to uncover when her mum’s life began to spiral out of control and why. But can Feather fix it in time for her mum to watch her swim to victory? And can she save her family for good?

Dear Unpublished Me - Anna Day

This weeks Dear Unpublished Me post comes to you from the author of one of the most anticipated books of 2018 Anna Day! Anna grew up and still lives in the North East of England. She studied Psychology at university, and worked for several years as an Assistant Psychologist. She has always loved creative writing; even as a little girl she would staple pieces of paper together and write stories for her parents to read. However, she only started writing seriously a few years ago, and was noticed by the Chicken House team when she was shortlisted for the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition in 2015. Her greatest love is her children -- a little girl and a little boy, who provide her with constant entertainment and inspiration.

Dear Anna,
It’s autumn 2014. You’re on maternity leave with your second baby and, a few months ago, you lost your agent. You’ve printed off your novel The Gallows Dance and you want to post it to Chicken House in order to enter the Times/ Chicken House competition for unpublished authors. The deadline is tomorrow. You’ve just driven to your local post office and it’s closed. You’ve got a toddler and a baby in the car and you’re in the clutches of babydom: sleep-deprived, sore-breasted, sleep-deprived, banana down your top, and did I mention sleep-deprived? You have two options: drive to the post office in the next village, get the kids out the car, drag them into town, manage your toddler’s war-cries for chocolate, risk the baby waking up and screaming the place down and finally post your manuscript, or you can just go home.
I understand why you’re tempted by the latter option, the just going home option.
Your writing journey to this point, whilst relatively short, has not been smooth. You wrote a book whilst on maternity leave with your first baby (two books in fact, but the first one was TERRIBLE!) and managed to get an agent. She was awesome, full of life and ideas, and she really believed in you. But, not surprisingly, someone else thought she was awesome and offered her a job as an editor. Which she took. Hence, you became agentless.
She tried to help you get another agent, but The Gallows Dance was dystopia, and the blanket response, though positive about your writing, was ‘sorry, the dystopia market is saturated.’ You could not get your head around this. You LOVED dystopia, and had read every dystopian book you could get your hands on during both of your maternity leaves. It seemed people could get enough of a good thing. And now you’re left wondering if the post office’s annoyingly early closing time is a sign telling you to take the hint and give up on the dream of publication.
Another factor nagging at you while you sit in your car, massive envelope clutched in your hands, is the very realistic possibility of more rejection. Like I said, I know how tired you are, raising kids is amazing, but Christ, it’s hard work, and I remember too well those moments of fragility when reading yet another book-related email containing bad news. Could you really stomach another rejection?
I know you’re seriously considering driving home. But if you do, that may well be the end of your writing dream. You now have two children, not one. You’re back at work in a few months. Will you really find the motivation to write a whole new novel without an agent encouraging you and absolutely no guarantee of publication?
I understand why you’re tempted by the latter option, the just going home option. But here’s why you mustn’t:
The need to make sense of internal and external worlds with words, the need to connect with others through story-telling, the need to walk in someone else’s shoes entirely and share their journey, is in your blood. It’s why you became a Psychologist, and it’s why you must not give up on writing.
And when your marriage ends, you will need writing more than ever. It will give you a focus, a distraction, a way of rebuilding your self-esteem. It will model to your children that a single Mum can achieve her dreams. By doing what you love, achieving all you can be, you will show your children how to find happiness from within themselves.
It’s why you absolutely should not just drive home. It’s why you should haul the kids out of the car, drag them through town, deal with the chocolate-fuelled tantrums and the howling baby and post that manuscript if it bloody well kills you.
I promise it will be worth it.
Lots of love, 2017 Anna xxx
P.s. – You will totally crack and buy your toddler chocolate

Publisher: Chicken House
Publication Date: 4th January 2018


by Anna Day

Cosplay ready, Violet and her friends are at Comic-Con. 
They can’t wait to meet the fandom of mega movie, The Gallows Dance. What they’re not expecting is to be catapulted by freak accident into their favourite world – for real. Fuelled by love, guilt and fear, can the friends put the plot back on track and get out? The fate of the story is in their hands ...
A fast-paced, genre-flipping YA fantasy adventure from a brand new author, writing in homage to the best YA fiction.