Monday, 24 October 2011

Take Your Opportunities Where You Can.

Recently, I attended the British Fantasy Society convention in Brighton, UK. I had never been to one before and I have to say that these things are not normally my cup of tea. I’m quite shy among lots of people I don’t know and I’m not good at starting up random conversations with strangers. Even when those strangers share a common interest, i.e fantasy novels. However, because King’s Envoy had so recently been launched, and because I’d had the excitement and acclaim of having a short story accepted for the Society’s 40th Anniversary Anthology, ‘Full Fathom Forty’, it was too good an opportunity to miss. So, along with my husband, I went.

The convention was held over three days, Friday through to Sunday. Due to work and other commitments, we couldn’t go until the Saturday morning. This meant I missed being in the signing line up for Full Fathom Forty on the Friday afternoon, which was a shame. It would have given me the chance to meet my co-anthology-authors, and also the opportunity to speak to buyers of the anthology about King’s Envoy. Still, it couldn’t be helped.

Once we registered on the Saturday and collected our goodie bags full of free books and other yummy stuff, we planned our day. Christopher Paolini, author of the Inheritance Cycle, was being interviewed that morning and I thought it would be interesting to hear what sort of questions he was asked and how he handled them (just in case someone ever wanted to interview me like that!). The interview lasted around 45 minutes and it was quite interesting. I was slightly surprised to see how few people turned up to listen though – he was one of the major convention guests yet only about a third of the available seats were taken. The best bit for me was when he was asked a question concerning what he thought about the fantasy genre in general. His answer was that in his opinion, there was a lack of strong, credible female main characters in fantasy novels. My husband nudged me at this point and whispered that if Christopher Paolini wanted to see a really credible and strong female fantasy character, he ought to read MY books. I smiled and nodded – like THAT was ever going to happen. Imagine my surprise when, after audience questions and the interview broke up, my husband went up to Christopher and gave him a copy of King’s Envoy! To the guy’s credit, he actually looked interested and said he’d read the book when he could. I would never have had the guts to do that, but my husband is very used to conventions in his own business life and he’s very good at connecting with people.

That was the first good thing to happen at the convention. The second occurred when I was waiting to try and catch the eye of an agent who I knew would be attending the convention. This agent is known for representing fantasy authors and years ago, when I first began submitting King’s Envoy, she was very helpful to me. She was the first real publishing industry professional to give me any feedback on my work. She was very encouraging, and looked at my work on three separate occasions. Although she didn’t take me on, she did give me much helpful advice. As she was going to be at the convention, I thought it might be nice to introduce myself and thank her for all her help.

While I was waiting for her to come out of another meeting, I was approached by a guy who said, “I saw you in Christopher Paolini’s interview. Would you mind giving me your thoughts on how it went?” It turned out that he was working for Random House, Christopher’s publishers, and he was doing video interviews with people. I agreed to be interviewed and managed to get in a few good plugs for my book, including the one about strong female characters. That was a bonus I didn’t expect!

I then managed to catch the agent as she came out of her meeting and found that she was as nice as she had seemed from her emails. I think she was genuinely pleased that I’d taken the time to connect with her and thank her, and then she asked for a copy of my book! I hadn’t tried to plug it at all and I hadn’t shown it to her, so there was no pressure on her to ask for one. Her favorable reaction to the cover picture really pleased me and she seemed genuinely interested in reading the book. Who knows what could come of this? I’m not even sure I’m looking for an agent, but when opportunities present themselves like this, I believe in taking them. I also believe in thanking people who go out of their way to help me.

These three things all came about quite unexpectedly, and stemmed from me pushing myself to do something out of my comfort zone. The lesson here is that you should never think something isn’t worth doing, and you should take these opportunities where you can. Who knows where they might lead?