Posts by Cindy Van Wilder

Auteur SFFF belge (francophone)

Writing Updates 2 – Untamed Voices

Week 2

Wordcount at the moment: 7500w

Chapters done: 3

State of mind:

Mood of the week

 

In fact, I’ve written WAY more than this. It just doesn’t appear because I’ve been busy rewriting my second chapter and the first one where my second MC – there’s two of them – appears. Getting the first draft of this chapter done wasn’t really a hardship, but rereading it (because I never start another writing session without reading first what I’ve done previously, it’s just a habit), I could tell something didn’t really work out. And when I get this niggling little voice in my head – happens quite often when I’m drafting, to be honest – I can’t go on.

So I went back to see what was the problem. I made a few changes to this chapter, but I still wasn’t satisfied. The answer finally appeared after a good swimming session – when in doubt, put your work aside and do something else, always a good recipe!

The problem was that I unconsciously saw this MC as a bit older than intended and it simply showed on the page. It can a right problem when writing a YA novel!

That’s just not on, the Doctor says

On the plus side, I was browsing the wish-lists of 2018 Pitch Wars Mentors – of course, I can’t take part in it for several reasons, but it doesn’t stop me from getting curious – and it really got me thinking about the universe I’ve created and the people in it. How they have their own culture, their own traditions and how interesting it can be to mix them all together, without of course writing a thesis about it (not the point of any fantasy novel!).

That’s all for this week… and the next two weeks, as I’m (finally!) on holiday. See you in September, folks!

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Writing Updates – Untamed Voices

So, after much reading, researching and outlining (ok, that one is half a lie, I’m rubbish at plotting in advance!), the great writing journey has started a week ago.

I’ve started a thread on Twitter, as you may have seen it but I think it’ll be nice to put down my notes in this regard here as well.

First of all, what’s Untamed Voices? A project which was on the back burner for some time, slowly evolving from hazy, vague ideas into something I can really work with. Of course, it just didn’t happen with a snap of my fingers. I did some research beforehand, starting with these books.

 

It’s a YA fantasy as well as a one-shot. Think Fangirl meets V for Vendetta and you’ll have a basic idea of what this novel is going to be about!

I’m not going to lie, the starting point was quite difficult since *obviously* it has been some time since I’ve written fiction in English. Besides, I’m working on another project (in French, this time) at the same time. It explains why I’m not going to write at a very quick pace!

That being said, I’m quite proud to have written a bit more than 4,000 words in a week and to have finished one chapter! At this stage, the excitement of starting a novel and finally meeting the characters you’ve dreamed about for so long hasn’t yet waned. Of course, I’m already in love with my two MCs (which doesn’t imply I’m going to spare them… on the contrary!)

As a bonus, I give you the #ThursdayAesthetic board of this week (devoted to the MC’s home) with a little excerpt!

 “Stuart loved his castle with all his heart, and it was in moments like these that its beauty shone the most. High, thick walls whose pale bricks glowed red and orange with the sunset lights; Sturdy wooden doors firmly closed and bolted…”

Writing in English

Okay, folks, let’s pop the big question! No, I’m not going to propose to some poor soul, rest assured. I’m talking about something which has literally haunted me for years, a possibility which has slowly but surely wormed its way into my mind until it was completely impossible for me not to think about it. (Yes, I’m aware that written like that, it looks a bit painful and invasive but as Muse can be quite a pain in my head, you get it).

 

As this post’s title says, I’m talking about writing in English.

 

The first question which most often came up when I had the opportunity to discuss it with relatives and friends was “Why?”.

As in “Why would you write in another language than your mother tongue while you’re already published in French?” “Wouldn’t it be easier to wait for a foreign deal for one of your existing books? “

In short – “Why would you do such a thing??”

 

The persons asking me this haven’t got it wrong. And it was quite logical of them to come up with such questions. In fact, I was waiting for them.

So, let’s talk about why I decided to write in English.

 

The foreign deal

In theory, if you can land a foreign deal for one of your books, it’s the perfect solution. Not only this deal will cost you nothing, but on the contrary – you will even receive money from the foreign publisher who wants to acquire foreign rights of your book. Of course, you’ll have to share with your original publisher and your agent (if you have one) but all in all, it’s quite a nice solution.

 

So, what’s the catch (because of course there’s one)?

 

Unfortunately, it’s quite hard to land a foreign deal in my situation, that is to say when you’re writing YA and you’re publishing in another language than English. It can still be possible, of course. Two of my friends got several foreign deals for one of their novels and I know that some markets are quite favourable to YA lit’.

 

But, in comparison with all the YA/kidlit production on the French-speaking market, opportunities to land a foreign deal are few and far between.

 

You can even say it’s quite a miracle when you get this kind of deal – and even more so when your book doesn’t turn out to be a best-seller! (which is also a kind of miracle in itself, especially in the current highly competitive YA market).

 

It’s even more difficult to land a foreign deal in English, let me tell you. You can count on one hand French-speaking YA authors who have been in this case (and I’m really happy to know some of them since it shows me that this doesn’t equal to Mission:Impossible!)

 

At this point you may say “Okay, I get it, it’s quite difficult for you… but choosing to write a complete novel in English is quite a different thing altogether!” and you’ll be right.

So, why did I choose this?

 

First, because I love the English language. It wasn’t love at first sight, especially during my translator curriculum. As any other language, English can reveal itself to be deceptive, full of faux amis and traps for the unaware student that I was. But I’m quite stubborn when I want to be and I persisted. I started getting accustomed with this language, the prose of writers, the particular turns of phrase, the quirky or frankly weird idioms… Soon I was reading whole novels without any dictionary’s help, Googling from time to time when I wasn’t able to guess what the author has meant by a sentence or a word.

 

Besides, when you start discovering a language, you automatically discover the culture underlying it. And since English has spread all over the globe, I’ll say the cultures. That journey most of all fascinated me and still does. Whether it’s American slang, British expressions, Canadian descriptions or Nigerian writing to only name a few, I’m still amazed at the diversity you can encounter when opening a single book. Something you don’t always feel when you read the translation (and no, it doesn’t automatically imply the translator hasn’t done a good job, far from it!).

 

Of course, you can enjoy reading in another language without wanting to write in it.

But I’m a writer.

I love challenges.

And I’m not afraid to state that I’d like the opportunity to see my next book(s) available to readers for whom it would be unlikely they ever get the possibility to discover my prose otherwise.

My last objection – “But what if I’m just not good enough?” – definitely fell when my brilliant agent sent me a link to this article.

This passage in particular was intriguing:

During one of my Skype tutorials on the course, my tutor Chris Wakling told me, “Your writing somehow reads like a translation.” I said to him, “Oh, is it that bad?” But he said, “No, no. I didn’t mean it in a negative way. It’s actually refreshing and suits the kind of story you’re telling.” Until then, I had always seen my non-native status as a major weakness. But his words made me realise that perhaps it’s one of my strengths. My simple and sparse writing style lends a unique colour to my narrative.

It got me thinking – What if I considered my prose in English to be a potential source of originality, a voice to be developed instead of an automatic weakness or impediment? Definitely something worth thinking about!

In conclusion, that’s why I’m going to embark on a new adventure! No doubt it’s going to be hard and very messy at first, but I’m not going to become discouraged so easily. And for those who wonder if I’ll still write in French – of course, I’ll do it! Would be stupid of me to do otherwise.

I’ll try to post regular updates as regards the progress of Untamed Voices, the project I got in mind for this. In the meantime, stay tuned! 😉

Why Pride Matters

Last week I was in London. It has been my plan well over six months to come back to this great city I’ve fallen in love with and I really enjoyed this 8-day break. But my choosing to leave on July 7th was also motivated by the fact that Pride was taking place on this day in the streets of London. I’ve only attended the Pride in Paris two years ago and I was really curious as well as excited to see how this event will turn out in London.

 

Well, let’s just say it was a tremendously wonderful event and I was very glad to wear my sunglasses as I could wipe off a few tears as discreetly as possible. To see all these people, their absolute dedication and their contagious enthusiasm makes me very proud to be part of the LGBTQIA+ community. It’s something so deeply moving to see people just like you, people who know what it’s like to be queer in your daily life, who experience every day the struggles and the complexity of this kind invading the streets and starting up this joyous, wonderfully colourful celebration.

 

Besides, Pride this year had a special meaning for me since it has been (not quite) a year since I’ve made my (most recent) coming out to my family. Since then I’ve finally felt such a freedom as I’ve never experienced before, no longer having to ask myself “Can I say/do this and still assume the consequences afterwards?”. I’m well aware I’m privileged in many ways that other LGBT people don’t get to enjoy but still I can’t stop myself from feeling liberated from a weight I wasn’t always aware I had on my soul.

This being said and to come back to Pride in London, this experience turned out to be quite beyond my expectations. However, as I was leaving the Parade to wander through Soho (quite THE place to be on this day!) (or at least trying to do so, since there were many many many people!), I went past a group of French tourists and heard one of them saying: “If someone sees us now with this bunch of people (meaning the people taking part in the Parade), he would expect us to end up like them, with a feather up our ass!” As French is my first language, I couldn’t avoid hearing this. I’m not sure this guy heard my reply to this crass and homophobic remark, since I was stuck in the crowd at this moment, but obviously that incident left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.

It also left me to think how people who are not LGBT might consider the Pride and judge the people taking part in this. Those same people generally don’t know or care about what lies behind Pride or its history. I’m not going to give a lecture about it, I’m not really qualified for this, but allow me to state some facts.

The first Pride was a riot. A revolt against the oppression imposed by authorities on LGBT people, especially those who were as “out” as they could be at that time. An oppression characterized by police brutality and raids against LGBT-friendly places. You only have to read the story of Stonewall’s riots to become aware of this.

But Stonewall wasn’t the first riot nor will it be the last. It still pains me on a fundamental level to think that people are still not allowed to express freely who they are in some parts of the world. In several countries, you can still be jailed or even sentenced to death for daring to be who you are and not hiding it anymore. Even now, in some of our “democratic” countries, where marriage of same-sex couples and marriage of opposite-sex couples are recognized as equal by the law (it happened more than ten years ago in Belgium), where adoption rights for same-sex couples are being discussed and adopted, you can still be a victim of homophobic attacks.

 

You can still be insulted. Spat upon. Beaten. Fired. Discriminated against.

That’s a sad and harsh reality but one nevertheless. You have to deal with it when you’re queer. You think it’s a piece of cake to be out? It’s not.

But it’s what we are. For those of us who are able to be out, who refuse to be in the closet anymore, who assume their identity in their soul and flesh, it’s unthinkable to go back into hiding.

Therefore, for many people, Pride day is one of the few occasions (if not the only one) during which they won’t be asking themselves if it’s safe to hold the hand of their partner. To kiss them in public. To wear a specific outfit. To show their kids that they are families like anyone else’s. To be simply who they are and with whom they love.

Pride is a celebration for being who we are. Pride is also a reminder – we’ve come a long way and we’ve still a long way to go. To gain and protect our rights, to fight back against any form of oppression and hostility, which can still be rampant these days, when they’re not actively encouraged by so-called politicians.

Pride might be the opportunity to wear glitter and dance to loud music, and it’s perfectly okay. It’s also perfectly okay if you want to take part in a quieter way.

What is definitely not okay is to not respect Pride and its participants.

What is not okay is to judge blindly and stupidly, as I’ve had the misfortune of hearing it (and not only by this French tourist, mind you). Instead of letting hate, ignorance or prejudices colouring your judgement, try walking in somebody else’s shoes. Somebody who is directly concerned, somebody for whom Pride is one-in-a-year opportunity to be as loud and joyful as they want.

That’s why Pride must take place.

That’s why it matters.

That’s why it was a pleasure and an honour for me to take part in it this year.

#ThursdayAesthetic #2

More information on this here!

This week’s theme was your WIP and it comes at the right moment since I’m currently busy writing the second book in my Land of Mist series (see the tab “Upcoming Releases“)! First book is out on 9/11 at Rageot Editeur. The cover and the summary are not yet available. Therefore, enjoy the small peek I’m giving you with this board!

Meet Héra, Water Priestess, and Intissar, Sister of Fire, fighting for their lives and future in a world nearly entirely flooded with a toxic mist. They will have to stand together and unite their magic if they hope to survive the new deadly threat arising from the mist…

A (Not So) Small Introduction IV – My Journey to Publication III

How I got my Agent

As I’ve already explained in my previous articles, it’s really unusual for a French-speaking author (at least in Europe, I don’t really know the situation about writers from other parts of the world) to get a literary agent.

You can even say it’s a rarity even if things in this regard are slowly stirring up, thanks to some authors (who are not necessarily best-selling ones) getting agents. But I want to lay stress on the fact it’s really not the norm.

That being said, how did I find myself being represented?

As many things in my writer’s life, it was a combination of circumstances.

First of all, I’ve always been intrigued by the (mostly) English-speaking publishing process and especially the fact that writers got represented by literary agents before being even published. My curiosity about it was such that I took part in two writing festivals (York and Winchester) in order to (among other things) better know that system.

It was an enlightening experience, and I started asking myself – why don’t we have the same system in French-speaking countries? Why is getting an agent such a rarity?

 

Historically and culturally speaking, there’s a ton of reasons why the agent system never got really developed in France and other French-speaking countries to the same extent than let’s say the UK or the US. I won’t give you a lecture about this, especially when other persons do know a lot more about this subject than me, but let’s just say that most French publishers do prefer a direct relationship with their authors without going through an agent first (even if things are now slowly changing in this regard)

As I said before, that situation has pros and cons for the author as well as for the publisher. That fact that there’s no intermediary between them means a direct communication, but also the lack of any filter when things can get difficult or rough. And trust me, there’s plenty of opportunities in the publishing process for things to get difficult!

But it certainly wasn’t the main reason for me to become interested in the agent system. Another (sad) fact about books being published in French-speaking countries is that it’s very difficult to get foreign or book-to-film deals. It’s even more true when you write YA novels. I don’t really have to tell you that the YA market has grown fiercer over the recent years, especially with the success of book adaptations such as The Hunger Games or the Maze Runner.

For the French-speaking authors, it often means having to fight for finding a place on the bookstores’ shelves. I don’t resent that situation – I read and enjoyed many English-speaking YA novels. But I would lie if I didn’t admit that I was frustrated not having the same opportunities that many English-speaking authors did enjoy. Of course, French-speaking publishers do their best to promote the novels they’re publishing, but they speak for their whole book list and not just one author. Not really the case when you got an agent, right?

Meeting Roxane Edouard (that’s my agent, if you haven’t grasped it yet!)

I first heard of her through CoCyclics, the writing forum I’ve mentioned before. She was recommended to one of my writing pals as not only being in charge of foreign rights on behalf of Curtis Brown, but also and especially for starting her lit agent’s activity.

It was only logical it caught my attention. I first emailed her in August 2015 – I knew she has already read my series The Trespassers and with the agreement of the publisher, I took the opportunity to get in touch with her asking if she would be interested in promoting them as rights manager.

Of course, it helped rather a lot that Roxane was born and raised in France AND knew a lot about the English-speaking market due to her job. She quickly replied to my mail – another great surprise! – and from that point on, we talked a lot about our aspirations and how we did see the French-publishing market. I won’t lie though – when she offered to represent me, I hesitated.

It was a HUGE step to take and I knew that if I accepted it, it was going to have an important influence on my career and my relationships with my publishers.

But on the other hand, I knew it was a unique opportunity and I wanted to experience it.

So, after long discussions on the phone with Roxane – kudos for her never-ending patience! – I decided to accept it.

And now?

I’m represented by Roxane for more than two years. As I said earlier, I realised from the start it was going to influence in a very important way my writing career and it’s true. But I really didn’t know to which extent! I’ve discovered many aspects of the writer/agent relationship – the negotiation with publishers, the submissions to foreign publishers/scouts as well as the emotional support that an agent provides. I know that if I have a question, I can always ask and that Roxane has my back on any occasion. Honestly, it’s a relief and I have much more head space to focus on my writing and other necessary things in my publishing process.

As for the foreign or book-to-film deals, we haven’t concluded any yet, but I’ve come to understand it’s quite a long process in the making and I know that Roxane is working on it with the same energy and enthusiasm she demonstrates when she concludes publishing deals (and in this regard, I’ve come to see the difference!)

So, am I happy to have an agent? Yes. Especially since it’s only the start of new and exciting adventures!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Journey to Publication series! Rest assured, I’m far from being finished with this blog…

#ThursdayAesthetic

A small break in my ongoing series, but I think it’ll be a shame to let those beautiful (at least in my eyes) and painstakingly (and painfully!) created boards go to waste!

For those who don’t know yet what #ThursdayAesthetic is, it is a weekly feast on Twitter. The principle is quite simple – every week, you get to pick up pics/visual creations/other and collect them in a lovely board to better illustrate your WIP – according to the week’s theme, of course!

More information here

This week, the theme was Yesterday – devoted to old WIPs, manuscripts you’ve left in your drawers or on your hard drive.

I admit I cheated a little bit as I decided to illustrate my novels previously published. See below for the results!

The Trespassers

Memorex

The Moon is Ours

 

What do you think?

Even if you’re not a fan of Pinterest and similar websites, I do encourage you though to discover the beautiful boards (and the intriguing pitches which go with them) of #ThursdayAesthetic. You’re in for a treat 🙂