First Chapter Comp leads to publishing deal

I’m very happy indeed to be posting this blog interview today sharing the story of how Louise Walters came to discover her first author, Laura Laakso, for her new indie press, which you can read all about here, by reading entries for the Retreat West First Chapter Competition.

Louise Walters

Thanks for coming, Louise and Laura.

Louise, I’m delighted to have you back on the blog with news of your first acquisition for your new indie press and doubly delighted that Laura came to your attention through your reading of competition entries for Retreat West. Can you tell us what got you excited about Laura’s entry when you read her first chapter for the competition?

It was the opening paragraph which drew me in, but I have to confess to not being 100% sure about it at first. I remember asking myself, and you Amanda – is this brilliant writing or is it… not brilliant?! I remember you said you thought it was great and we should put it through to the long list. I’m so glad we did!

Laura, how did you feel when Louise approached you to read your full MS after being a runner-up in the 2017 First Chapter competition?

I heard about Louise’s new imprint and the fact she was seeing submissions on a Retreat West newsletter. I sent her my first novel because it was the only one that fitted her submission guidelines. When I got an email back saying she’d like to see Fallible Justice instead, I had to read it about four times to make sure it said what I thought it said. Even after I sent off the full manuscript, I kept telling myself that she wouldn’t be interested once she realised just how much of a crime and fantasy novel I had written. But she loved Fallible Justice and here we are! I’m incredibly honour

Laura Laakso

ed that she not only remembered my name from the competition but thought highly enough of my entry to want to read the rest of the novel.

Louise, you’ve described Laura’s writing as literary paranormal detective fiction. What made you choose such a niche genre for your first title?

I went with my gut, to be honest. Laura approached me with a submission for my imprint with another of her novels. I turned that one down, but remembered her from the competition, and I asked to see the whole MS for Fallible Justice. I read it through quickly. But it’s so outside of my usual genres of choice (I hardly ever read fantasy) and I wasn’t sure if it was right for me, both as a reader and a publisher. I knew I was fascinated by the writing and the story and the characters. So I read it again. After the second reading I knew it was for me. Laura’s writing is lyrical and genuinely stunning, and that is what made me decide to offer to publish it. It kind of goes against my submission guidelines on my website (I more or less rule out fantasy!), and that’s ironic. But I do make it clear in my guidelines that I’m looking for character-led fiction, and that’s what Laura has written. And when a story grabs you, it grabs you, and genre doesn’t come into it.

Laura, this is the first in a series so can you give us an insight into what readers can expect when your debut comes out next autumn? And how many books in the series have you written so far?

The Wilde Investigations series will bring magic and wildness to modern day London. In Fallible Justice, Yannia and Karrion are faced with an impossible case and they must go against the prejudice of their entire community to uncover the truth. Against the backdrop of a magical crime, the book explores themes of hope, courage and the honest consequences of one’s choices. In writing the book, one thing that was important for me was making the characters believable. They may be able to cast spells, speak to animals or borrow aspects of nature, but they are all very human.

Louise, any tips for other authors considering submitting to you?

Write the story you want to read. Don’t worry about genre. Write from the heart and write well. Fully realise your characters, know them inside out. And edit thoroughly.

Laura, any words of encouragement for other writers still trying to get a publisher?

The best advice I’ve had is to get your work out there. Take part in competitions, send stories to anthologies, write widely and send your writing out to everywhere you can. You’ll get plenty of rejections along the way but the successes will also begin to accumulate. If I was still storing all my novels in my digital desk drawer, I wouldn’t be here telling you about my exiting book deal! Reading widely is crucial, both in terms of fiction and good writing guides. The latter worked less well with me because my puppy didn’t think much to my dream of becoming an author and shredded the writing guide I’d bought. At least she waited until after I’d read it.

Congratulations Louise and Laura on your exciting new literary adventure together. I look forward to reading the full story soon.

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