As part of the GhostCloud blog tour and in part of my new debut author feature, I was thrilled to send some questions across to Michael Mann, author of GhostCloud. His answers are fantastic, as is his book! Publishing on the 7th- it is one to watch!
How long have you been hoping to become a published author?
For me, the most important thing was to stop hoping! For many years, worrying it was publishable stopped me writing altogether. Then about 5 years ago, someone at CityLit told me “Write for yourself, not to get published” and ironically that was the start of it. It liberated me from the pressure. A few months later, I had written the first draft of Ghostcloud. A terrible draft, mind you, but that was the start.
What have been the greatest challenges in getting published?
I think the waiting is tough. You get to a point on the book when you’re sick of it, and you just want to send it off, even though you know you should wait.
The wonderful Piers Torday was a huge help for me it this – he told me (in a café, with my baby on my lap) that it wasn’t just about getting agent, but getting the right agent. Not just about getting a book deal, but getting the best you deal you can. About knowing in your heart that it was the best book it could be, because once it was in print, you couldn’t change it. He asked if, hand on heart, I felt I was there yet? I knew it wasn’t. So I waited, edited, then edited some more, and I’m so glad I did.
What is the most surprising thing you have learned about publishing?
That so many people in it are so lovely. From the outside, it seems so corporate and there are, of course, many well publicised cases of publishers’ failings. But my experience with Hachette, right from their lockdown Zoom pitch with ‘cloudscape’ background, has been all about working with warm and fantastically passionate individuals.
It’s not just Hachette – from agents to publishers to booksellers to bloggers – the industry’s felt very welcoming. Though it can be opaque and it is stil learning, most people’s hearts seem very much in the right place.
With hindsight, is there anything you wish you had known?
How many lovely other writers I’d meet on the way. From my writing course mates to other debut authors and even very successful authors – they are just the loveliest bunch. Where I expected competition there is only kindness and wisdom. Vashti Hardy, Ross Montgomery, Struan Murray and many others have given me wonderful advice even though at the time I’d only met them via Twitter. Writing can be an isolating hobby at times – so that writerly support network is vital.
Do you have other stories waiting to be written or published?
Yes! A sequel to Ghostcloud is out October 2022 and I’ve a story in an anthology with Faber for younger readers out in 2022 too!
What do you think makes a good story?
I’m a primary teacher, and for me the saddest thing is when a kid gives up on a book – so for me a good story is ultimately one that keeps you turning the page. But also (and I’m paraphrasing Neil Gaiman here) the ending needs to deliver, and for all this to work, you of course, absolutely, need to care about the characters.
What is your most interesting writing quirk?
I love playing back the story using Microsoft Word’s robotic ‘text-to-speech’ function. It’s the most unflattering reading, so you really can tell if it’s not working (and it’s very helpful for spotting typos!)
Can you describe your writing space?
I have a desk, in the attic, and little skylight right above my head… where, you guessed, I can see the clouds float by! Sometimes I open it and stick my head out and look over the rooftops.
I also have a fair few pictures of friends/family looking silly, to remind myself to not take myself too seriously. And a cactus or two, because they survive, however erratically I water them…
How long do you spend writing on a daily basis?
The last year I was part-time, so I got two days ‘for writing’ (where I’d aim for 6 hours, but minimum 3…) and three days for teaching (where I did no writing whatsoever as it was so intense!). At weekends I tried for 2 hours daily, I divide and conquer on childcare with my (amazing) partner to make that happen. I also like to write late with a bit of wine, once a week – just to remind myself that writing is a treat and something I enjoy!
What tips would you give to other aspiring authors?
Best advice I’ve had was ‘celebrate early and often’ – from Sara Grant, Candy Gourlay and SCBWI Undiscovered Voices gang. That means every draft. Every chapter. Every competition you enter (don’t wait for the win). They’re all little triumphs. If you keep waiting for that final ‘moment’, it never comes.
So, remember, you’re doing great. Now go give yourself a pat on the back (you’ve just finished a blog!) and go off and celebrate with a tea, some wine or chocolate!
My Mini Review:
GhostCloud by Michael Mann, Ilustrations by Chaaya Prabhat, Published by Hachette
GhostCloud is thrilling, adventurous and full of amazing characters, both good and evil! Luke, Ravi and Jess are shovellers at Battersea Power Station and have been since they were kidnapped from their families. Battersea is not as we know it but darker and being powered by children, all under the control of Tabatha Margate. She is the ultimate villain, cruel, cold and calculating. She treats everyone appallingly and is a dangerous person to cross! Luke is an admirable character, sticking up for Jess against Tabatha, and gaining a punishment in return. This punishment will provide Luke with a discovery about himself that will lead him on an epic adventure to save his friends, thousands of children and their families. There is a great plot running throughout this story and Luke learns the details as he travels through the vents, floats above in the clouds and makes dangerous decisions. Alma is a character central to Luke’s story and one who is as brave as Luke. I loved this story, and the characters leap off the pages and into your heart…except for the evil Tabatha, who has certainly earned her place in the villain hall of fame!