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Come for the kittens, stay for the questions!

Right, after a moderately successful attempt at this a long while ago, we’re opening the floor to questions from readers/writers to our editor Amanda. Leave your question in the comments and you’ll receive a reply!

Amanda

Comments

Rachel

When you’re reading YA, what sort of things make you happy and what sort of things make you throw the book across the room?

Amanda

I think the same applies to any book I read! Things that make me happy include: smart and snappy dialogue (and I confess a weakness to a good pun as well…); lush descriptions; an incredibly tight plot, where everything seems to slot together perfectly; a mystery to be solved. Obviously not all in the same book! But any one of these things will delight me and make me happy to have chosen this book to read.

What makes me want to throw a book? Anything that feels too obvious; any plot directions that feel shoehorned in, rather than developing organically; settings that feel weak and under-developed; characters that don’t act in a consistent manner.

Like I say, these certainly aren’t unique to YA!

Victoria Boulton

A writer, but commenting as a reader. I got The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke and Katya’s World by Jonathan L Howard on your BOGOF deal this Christmas, and adored them both. Katya’s World was exciting, the story totally drew me in, which is saying something because I’m picky with sci-fi of any description. Assassin’s Curse may be my favourite YA fantasy — I was completely hooked and am LONGING for the sequel.

These books are both awesomely written and have great characters, but they are worlds apart in style, story and setting. Is there a particular kind of story you enjoy, or can I expect this kind of variety in all Strange Chem releases?

(p.s. really excited about Pantomime)

Amanda

Thank you for the fantastic words about those two books :-) And it’s wonderful you took advantage of our offer – we were hoping to attract new readers through this.

Taking a look at the releases for 2013 and the books on the table for 2014, I’d say that there will definitely be a lot of variety to come! I’ve deliberately tried to commission a range of novels that will appeal to all manner of readers, but what brings them together is most certainly an intelligence of writing and an understanding of the readership involved.

Pantomime, I think, will appeal to many readers and it’ll be so exciting to see it go out into the world!

Angela

Will you publish my novel? (no…no… I’m only kidding, sorry!)

I haven’t read any Strange Chemistry novels yet, but I love fantasy and SF. I’ve recently enjoyed The Hunger Games and Trudi Canavan’s Black Magician trilogy. What Strange Chemistry book would you recommend I start on?

Amanda

*grins*

Based on the Black Magician trilogy, you might like to pick up The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke – it’s a swashbuckling adventure fantasy with shades of the Arabian Nights.

We don’t have any dystopian on our list like The Hunger Games, but Shift by Kim Curran might be a good match for you there. It’s a near future science fiction thriller (light on SF terms, and heavy on the action).

Holly

Can I ask three? :D
YA is such a big age group. Louise Lawerence’s Children of The Dust being a fav, even if an old Dystopian novel It was my mum’s! Robin Jarvis is another favourite. I have The Assassin’s Curse to read as a christmas present and it’s not my normal area to read I don’t think. Do you think that the magic – like fairies will ever show up in YA… or is it a case of no room for the niave?

2 . How far along did you manage to stir up a YA convention? I’d love to see that! Mum said she’d take me.

3. Will SC ever look at interactive novels?

Paisley

I’m a huge fan of Strange Chemistry’s books and would love to submit. Will you guys be having an open submission window again this year for writers without agents?

Amanda

We LOVE doing the Open Door, but so far we haven’t yet discussed if it’s something we want to do again. We’re still working through the last of the full manuscripts from last year’s process and that is a long time to keep people waiting (especially if we then say no) :-/

Mieneke

As SC publishes on both sides of the Atlantic I was wondering: are the texts the same in each territory or do you adjust the texts by taking out the u’s etc.?

Amanda

We do it in this fashion – if an SC author is American, the text will be US English on both sides of the pond. Same principle for English, Canadian and Australian authors. We like to assume that people will understand it regardless and it remains sympathetic to the locale of the author in question.

Mieneke

Cool! I was wondering about it as I thought it would a massive amount of work to do that for all your books.

Amanda

Hey Holly,

I’m not 100% sure what you mean with your first question! Do you mean are there YA books about fairies and magic? If so, then absolutely yes! Holly Black has written some, as has Aprilynne Pike.

2. There are secret plans afoot – I’m not at liberty to disclose any more right now.

3. I think interactive novels could be a very interesting way of using ebook technology in the future. We aren’t actively working at it yet, but, as soon as we come up with a killer idea, I’m sure it’d be something we’d consider!

Jade @ Ink Scratchers

I’m asking this question as a blogger :) As a YA blogger myself I can see how the ‘genre’ is expanding, with names like ‘new adult’ and adult books being repacked and marketed at teens. With this growing genre more YA review blogs are popping up, some start their blog to reach out and meet people like them but some just to get free books.

Anyway, longwinded question there, but are you selective in choosing the bloggers that you add to your mailing list or do you add basically anyone, and what type of bloggers do you prefer?

I’m asking this not for myself (I’m already one of your reviewers and a massive SC fan!) but for my own followers :)

Amanda

Thanks for the question, Jade, it’s a good one :-) As a blogger before taking on this job, I know how very hard it is when you see blogs open up that seem to be just to take advantage. However, publishers do watch for that sort of thing. Personally, I always look for a blog that publishes relatively regular well-written reviews that give reasons as to why or why not a book didn’t work. I would never decline a blogger just because they’ve written a negative review, as long as that negative review was well-considered. And I like to try and support the smaller blogs as far as is possible – you never know when that small blog is going to become a big blog, and remember you fondly as supporting them from the beginning (the same as we, as a smaller publisher, remember those who have supported us from the outset!)

Becca @ Lost in Thought

I would like to say how much I love Strange Chemistry’s books! I have a collection of its books growing on my bookshelf. Pantomime was amazing! one of my favourite reads of 2012. Is Strange Chemistry proud of discussing such complex matters in their books and is it a little scary not knowing how they’ll be received?

Amanda

Thanks so much, Becca – I am delighted to hear that! :-) Pantomime is a very special book. We LOVE the fact that Laura picked us to publish Pantomime – we think it’s essential that books make readers think (even about matters they might find comfortable). Books are an escape, a learning tool, a way to present new ideas to open-minded readers – as such, Pantomime simply had to be put out there for people to tackle. However, it has been and will remain to be nerve-wracking to see how our books are received – and that goes for all of them! The best thing is, though: readers are all different, and what didn’t work for one of them will work for the next and vice versa :-)

Samina

First of all I’d like to say how much I love your books. As a reader/blogger I’d admit I had my reservations about reading books from SC.But I’m so glad I did as I have been loving them. I’ve read The Mad Scientist’s Daughter (loved it), Pantomime and I’m currently reading Broken.
All of these books have something in common – they all are very unique. In the ever expanding world of YA and new adult books these book are so different and a breath of fresh air. Is it something that SC is targeting? Standing out and giving a chance to new break-through authors?

Another question which may seem a bit silly, but as an editor, do you have to read every manuscript that’s sent to you?

Amanda

Hey Samina,

We do LOVE LOVE LOVE bringing new authors to the attention of the world, and a large number of the authors on our list are debuts. We are also determined to stand out and offer books that feel a little different to the rest on the shelf. After all, there are so many books published that we want to get to the point that people trust the Strange Chemistry brand and look to see what we are bringing out.

I do read a sample of absolutely everything sent in. With some manuscripts I can feel quite early on that it won’t be a match for my list or something that I’m able to work on – this can be writing style, or plot, or any one of a number of things that means I decide fairly early that I don’t have to read further.

Any manuscripts that pique my interest will be read fully. Some of these still don’t make the cut to acquisitions – again, for a number of reasons – but I do read them in their entirety.

Sarah

I wanted to ask, how would one market a genre-bending book? I would say I’m doing something closer to survival horror, but that’s sort of a niche genre even in video games. (Like Silent Hill or Resident Evil.)

Sarah

I’ll ask the question, since the question did not seem to come up. Would it be better to query it as survival horror if that’s what your book is the closest too?

Sarah

Never mind, it did eventually come on the comments section. Maybe it just doesn’t appear right away.<_<

Amanda

Hey Sarah,

Hmm, querying to editors and querying to agents might be different animals. I can’t comment on how to query to agents – if you’re on Twitter, follow the hashtag #askagent because agents will often do little Q&A sessions. When agents query to me, they are fairly upfront about the genre because I will have to be aware of the balance of my list. If I have all SF and no fantasy, then I don’t have proper balance and so won’t be looking for much SF – so I have to know what genre a story fits into (having said that, I tend to look at everything still – just in case it is that one book that just blows my socks off).

Steph

Hi Amanda,

I was your honorable mention in the Slush Pile Challenge through SCBWI and Strange Chemistry. I have have read the answer above that says you may not have another Open Door day. I wasn’t ready last year. My novel needed so much work that I was afraid to send it in as it was.

What I would like to know is:

Is it too late for unagented writers to submit to Strange Chemistry?
(and)
Would you consider running any contests in the future (best one line pitch, best synopsis, best first 250 words, etc) that might be a bit less cumbersome, to read through, yet still give an opportunity for new writers to prove themselves? *Mind-meld commencing- say yes, say yes…

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