If you enjoyed Magrit, then Sue Whiting is the person to thank. Sue is, to put it simply, the best editor I’ve ever worked with: I learned more from working with her on this one manuscript than I’ve learned from the rest of my career combined. Her ability to pull threads together, to identify logic gaps and tighten sentences I thought screwed to their maximum torque, was astonishing. She did such an amazing job that she’s indirectly responsible for the difficulties I’ve had with my next work– now that she’s left Walker Books and gone back to her first love, writing, I’m no longer certain how much of my greatest success is mine and how much is hers, and for a long time I was paralysed by the fear that it was all down to her.
An accomplished author in her own right, here she lets us into both the beginnings and underpinnings of her literary career.
This is harder to answer than one might think. At first my mind went to my musty and age-spotted edition of Famous Five Go Down to the Sea by Enid Blyton. It was printed in 1953, but found its way to me as a hand-me-down from an older cousin probably in about 1968. I credit it as the book that turned me into a reader, which eventually led me to being a writer.
But there is actually another tome that I hold most dear. And that is A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. I have three copies: two hardbacks (one signed by Patrick) and a paperback, plus the audiobook narrated by Jason Isaacs. When I left Walker Books my gift from the company was a signed print of the cover art. I couldn’t have asked for a better or more apt parting gift. (I am yet to see the movie – but I will!)
This book is incredibly sad and deeply affecting. But it is one of the most beautifully written and crafted books I have ever read. It was “required” reading for my editors when I was Publishing Manager at Walker and I always recommend it when mentoring emerging authors. There are so many lessons about what constitutes good writing within its pages. Quite simply, I adore it.
In fact, I think it is high time I read it again.