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Represented by: Catherine Pellegrino

Publishers: Egmont
Strange Chemistry

Undiscovered Voices Winner's Badge

The road to publication

Or all you wanted to know about me ... and much more

Bryony Victoria McCarthy, born November 1976

Age unknown: Discover that those wonderful things called books are written by people called writers. Life course decided.

(NB: For a look at the books that have influenced me and my writing, please click here).
Me as a baby
Class photo 1993: Samuel Whitbread Upper School and Community College, Shefford

Allow words of temporary A-level English teacher to go to my head. Believe dream of becoming a writer is actually possible.
1995:Do better in A-levels than I expect and get into Corpus Christi College, Cambridge

1995-1998:Discover great loves: Chaucer, Yeats, Shakespeare, Ezra Pound, TS Eliot, Aeschylus, Euripides, Byron, Gawain Poet, Thomas Mallory, Edmund Spencer!

Also my future husband, Andy Pearce.

Lose hope of becoming a writer. Lack the ability of Chaucer, Yeats etc. Also author biographies suggest that tragedy, illness or serious mental problems are a prerequisite for literary greatness. Have recurring pain in left leg, but that probably does not qualify.

Decide to give up idea of being a writer and focus on reading and analysing literary greats instead.

Andy and I together for our first May Ball in Corpus Christi new court

1998:Off into the big wide world with my spanking new English Literature degree. Certainly if I canít become a writer I can become an editor and work with the books I love.

A lot of interviews later:
Interviewer at IPC Magazines: So, what have you done since leaving Cambridge (with sneer and, as these are the first words out of the interviewerís mouth, an obvious prejudice against my old alma mater)
Me (a bit crushed): Itís only been a couple of months.
Interviewer: So, what have you done? Travelled? Worked with children?
Me: (unable to prevent self from raising eyebrows in slightly condescending manner) Um, Iíve been looking for a job.

Give dreams of entering publishing world as an Editor one last chance and write to publishing houses offering to work for free. Hear nothing from publishers. Have to come up with new life plan. Not as easy as it sounds.

Our flat in London

Move to London while Iím thinking and start temping (hope someone will hire me as a temp, see how great I am and offer me a fantastic job). However, soon realise temps are not treated as real people.

New low.

New boss: Everyone, this is the new temp, whatshername.
Me (Perky as possible): Hi there, Iím Bryony.
Everyone else, not looking up from emails: Whatever.

Finally hear back from a publisher! Hamlyn, impressed by my offer to work for free, decide to offer me a real job: as PA for the Sales and Marketing Director. Not the Editorial department, but as it is in a publishing house maybe I could move sideways at some pointÖ

Andrea suggests I would have been more useful to her if I had done a secretarial course instead of going to Cambridge.

Newer low.

Lies, damned lies and ...

1999:Come to conclusion that Iím not going to be a writer and Iím not going to be able to work in publishing either. Realise Iím qualified for absolutely nothing. Think frantically about my skills. Decide that I could say that I did research during my dissertation and apply for jobs in market research.

Although I donít really know what Market Research is I bluff my way through the interview and get a job where I discover that I really do enjoy the work. Writing questionnaires, interviewing people, analysing data, writing reports, problem solving, presentations: itís surprisingly creative and I am (shockingly) using A level Maths (if you ever see this Miss Minker, all those lunchtimes with black and white balls in a bag were useful after all)!

2001:Got married and became Mrs Bryony Pearce. Change of signature caused some problems!

Changed company and started work as a Research Manager.

However, my pen finger was desperately itchy. I had to start writing again. I failed to come up with anything I actually wanted to write so I decided to do a creative writing course judging that if Iím forced to write then at least Iíll be writing.

Sign up to a long distance short story writing course at the London School of Journalism. Course should take about nine months.

Work deadlines become insane.

Wedding photo

2002:Wonderful two week holiday to Bali where I read about local belief in Reincarnation. Idea lodges in my head.

2003:Finally finish creative writing course!

Hatred of London underground (100 degree heat, two hour commutes that should take 45 minutes!) plus a week of utterly thankless 19 hour days at work lead us to leave London.

Suggest to boss that I might telecommute from attractive village near Manchester for 50% pay cut. Boss rubs hands.

2004:Move to Cheshire.

Suggest to boss that I might do three day week so that I can write two days a week. Boss immediately increases work hours.

Choose one of my short stories from the writing course to rewrite into a novel called Windrunnerís Daughter about a girl born in the future to a family of aerial messengers called Windrunners who, despite society frowning on it, wants to learn to fly like her father and brothers.

December 2004:Decide to have a baby. Expect to spend the next twelve months trying to get pregnant.

January 2005:Get pregnant. Try to work and write through morning sickness. Might have affected book.

Finish first draft of Windrunnerís Daughter September 2005.

View of White Nancy from the bottom of our road
Baby Maisie

22 October 2005:Birth of Maisie Rose Guinevere Pearce.

2006:The pain in my left hip develops into movement limiting agony. The doctor recommends physiotherapy. The physiotherapist recommends an x-ray. The x-ray reveals arthritis caused by a previously undiscovered birth defect Ė acetabular dysplasia. Devastation at the possibility of spending the rest of my life in horrible pain and on crutches, isnít really mitigated by the fact that I now technically qualify for writing greatness on illness front.

Work through Writers and Artists Yearbook picking out agents who look as if they might accept Windrunnerís Daughter. Call all agents asking how they would like a submission. Consult with another local writer (Nik Perring: I met a Roman last night, what did you do) Write covering letter and synopsis. Send Windrunnerís Daughter to ten carefully selected agents with high hopes.

Receive eight flat out rejections, one note suggesting that I contact Cornerstones Literary Consultancy and one request to see the whole manuscript.

Tears of joy. Send whole manuscript off.

Receive tenth and final rejection.

Sad face

2007:Gradually hip worsens until I can no longer walk. On very strong painkillers and literally crying myself to sleep every night. Book myself in for total hip replacement in March 2007 (thank you, BUPA). Told that I will be on two crutches for six weeks and one crutch for six weeks. Plan to be running up and down hills in the Peak District by the end of summer.

Wake up from operation. Never been in so much pain. Turns out Iím resistant to morphine. Not the best time to find out! After literally the week from hell manage to get home to my husband and 18 month old daughter, who canít understand why mummy wonít pick her up. Have to inject myself every day with heparin (am extremely phobic of needles) and wear thick white surgical stockings through six weeks of an unseasonable heatwave.

Then told that actually Iíll be on two crutches for twelve weeks and one crutch probably for the rest of my life.

Not a good time.

Contact Cornerstones Literary Consultancy for report on Windrunnerís Daughter. Work long enough to afford report.

Report massively encouraging and makes me do a major rewrite.

Send book off to more agents. More rejections

After another set of rewrites, Cornerstones recommends that I enter the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices competition. Decide it might be worth a try - at least Iíll get a yearís membership of the SCBWI out of it.

Happy face

2008:Phone call from SCBWI. I am a winner of Undiscovered Voices! I've never won anything in my life! Reeling with disbelief for several days.

Following on from that phone call was one from Puffin asking to read the whole manuscript and one from an agent asking to meet with me.

A week later I was being represented by Sam Copeland from RCW

Sam Copeland

It turns out Sam had made me the offer having only read half of Windrunnerís Daughter. Having read the second half he realised that the book needed a lot of work.

I had to delete the whole second half of the book and start it again.

... and again ... and again.

Then Undiscovered Voices was finally published and my work was in print for the first time. I attended the launch party in London with a raft of publishers and agents, most of whom I was too scared to talk to! There I met other Undiscovered Voices winners: all lovely, talented people. I was very happy and completely overwhelmed to be considered on a par with them.

Other winners (already or soon to be published) included:

Sarwat Chadda: The Devils Kiss
Harriet Goodwin: The Boy who Fell Down Exit 43
Steve Hartley: Danny Baker, Record Breaker
Sara Grant: Dark Parties
Candy Gourlay: Tall Story
For a full list click here

Meanwhile Sam was manfully sending Windrunnerís Daughter out to as many publishers as he dared and was receiving rejection after rejection!

Undiscovered Voices front cover

While I was waiting for yet another round of rejections for Windrunnerís Daughter, I started work on another novel that Iíd been thinking about: Incarnation. Incarnation was to be about a reincarnated teenager who has to fight a fallen angel to save the world and her soul.

Just as I started work on Incarnation, I became pregnant again. So I was writing the first draft of another novel while pregnant.

Incarnation literally fell out of my head onto the computer screen and I felt very positive about it. I was able to send it to Sam just as the last rejections for Windrunnerís Daughtecame in and he was much more enthusiastic about it (and grateful to have a live horse to start flogging).

Pregnant with Riley

In November two publishers asked to meet with me. Eight months pregnant, on two crutches (thanks to the hip replacement not being completely compatible with the pregnancy) and on my 32nd birthday I travelled down to London for a day of meetings.

The first meeting was with Egmont, where they had provided a birthday cake, a present and enthused about my work. Having been expecting to sell myself madly and done loads of revision accordingly, I was completely amazed by how lovely they all were.

Then horribly depressed by their rejection!

However, the editor at Egmont suggested that if I did some rewrites they would look at the book again. However, they didnít want to put any contractual deadlines on me, with the pregnancy and all. Damn it.

I arranged a telephone call with the editor, Philippa Donovan at 2pm on the 22nd December, three weeks before the baby was due.

I went into labour at 8am that day. But no way was I missing that phone call. I sat on the phone, having contractions every few minutes, hiding my heavy breathing by Ďtaking notesí (I did take some notes) and ended the call knowing where the rewrite needed to go, but wondering how the hell I was going to fit it in before the baby arrived!

Baby Riley

Riley Gabriel Bryson Pearce was born at 0657 on 23rd December 2008. One thing the hip replacement was good for Ė labour hardly seemed to hurt at all.

2009:Before Riley was three months old Iíd finished the rewrite and sent it to Philippa. I have no idea how I did it and canít really remember that time, so donít ask me about it!

May 2009: Travelled down to London for Sarwat Chaddaís book launch still having heard no news about Incarnation. Discovered that the baby hated driving. Received phone call from Sam while crawling through heavy traffic with the baby screaming at the top of his lungs. I had an offer from Egmont: they wanted Incarnation for publication in January 2011.

December 2009:When people ask what I do, I can now call myself a writer. Just like I always dreamed.

December 2010: Incarnation has received a new title: Angel's Fury, and a new publication date: July 4th 2011.

July 2011: Publication of Angel's Fury to astonishingly good reviews. I cried at my first review and held a big party at which I got riotously drunk.

Then I started writing again.

May 2012: I received the best accolade possible when I won the Leeds Book Award (14-16 category). My shock and joy was obvious to the whole auditorium (as I almost fell off the stage because I was shaking so much). For me it is the culmination of publication; my book has come of age, come into its own and done me proud!

August 2013: Strange Chemistry, the new teen imprint of Angry Robot Books published The Weight of Souls.

February 2014: Stripes will be publishing Phoenix Rising, book one in a series, in 2015.

Now Riley's at school I'm taking advantage of having some steady writing time and keeping almost normal working hours, although you can generally find me writing at any time of the day or night!

June 2015: Stripes publishes Phoenix Rising, which is now shortlisted for the Cheshire Schools Book Award and the Wirral Paperback of the Year

January 2016: My first foreign rights deal has been made. Skyhorse will be publishing Phoenix Rising in the US

February 2016: Xist publishes Windrunner's Daughter - which goes to show you can never give up!

March 2016: Stripes publishes Phoenix Burning, the sequel to Phoenix Rising

April 2016: Telos publishes Wavefunction, my second science fiction novel.

January 2017:Sky Horse publishes Phoenix Rising in the US.

October 2017:Stripes publishes Savage Island, my first horror novel.

Youíd have to cut my fingers off to stop me writing Ö and even then Iíd dictate!

Oh ... and I'm off the crutch.