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Welcome Kat Ross, into the Strange Chemistry fold!

Happy Halloween, folks, and what a treat (did you see what I did there? Clever, huh?) we have for you this All Hallows’ Eve: introducing Kat Ross, the latest addition to the Strange Chemistry family!

Our Amanda acquired Kat’s debut, Some Fine Day (July 2014), plus the as-yet-untitled sequel (July 2015), with World English Rights from Jeff Ourvan of the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency. Read on to find out why this fantastic book, set in future Earth, where superstorms have sent survivors to live beneath the ground, and author grabbed our collective attention!

SOME FINE DAY

Sixteen-year-old Jansin Nordqvist is on the verge of graduating from the black ops factory known as the Academy. She’s smart and deadly and knows three things with absolute certainty:

  1. She knows that when the world flooded and civilization retreated deep underground, there was no one left on the surface.
  2. She knows that the only species to thrive there are the toads, a primate/amphibian hybrid with a serious mean streak.
  3. Most of all, she knows there’s no place on Earth where you can hide from the hypercanes, continent-sized storms that have raged for decades.

Jansin has been lied to.

On all counts.

Faced with the truth in the form of a charismatic young survivor named Will, Jansin vows that her former masters will regret making her what she is…

KAT ROSS

Kat Ross grew up in New York City and worked as a bike messenger, legal secretary, coat check girl and iguana-brander before settling on a career as a reporter and editor. She did not write one word of fiction between the Reagan and Obama administrations, although she secretly wanted to and finally got around to it when her daughter turned four, which just goes to show that it’s never too late to follow your third-grade dream. She does believe that journalism taught her to wage war on adverbs and fluff, so her master’s degree and associated student loan debt is not entirely pointless. The main thing is that she loves to read, and good books are the best writing teachers.

KAT ROSS On Joining STRANGE CHEMISTRY

“I’m beyond thrilled to have found a home at Strange Chemistry. Their catalogue is amazing, and I’m already a fan of many things English: my boyfriend’s a Brit, my daughter is obsessed with Fawlty Towers, and my new ringtone is Eric Idle beating a triangle with a wooden spoon and shouting Bring out your dead! Huge thanks to my agent, Jeff Ourvan, and of course, Amanda Rutter and her fab team. It’s a warm and wonderful feeling to know my book is in such good hands.”

Amanda Rutter:

Some Fine Day is an absolutely stunning novel, and I am so proud that Kat has decided to publish her debut book with Strange Chemistry. I feel sure that Kat will take the world by storm”

Jeff Ourvan:

“We’re very excited about the prospects for Some Fine Day, and we’re thrilled about our partnership with Strange Chemistry.  Both Angry Robot and Strange Chemistry have excellent reputations in the United States, as well as the UK, of course, and we’re confident that this work is in very fine hands.”

Say hello to Kat, and give her a huge Strange Chemistry welcome through her twitter or check out her blog!

 

 

NetGalley Info

***20/05/2013 UPDATE***

Hi again!

First off, thanks to everyone who has commented, tweeted, shared and participated in this conversation; it’s been very encouraging to see how much we all want to make NetGalley even better! I just saw this NG Tumbler post and think it’s worthwhile sharing as well: http://netgalley.tumblr.com/wellness. They’re running a Wellness Pledge programme to help users improve their profiles and usability of the site, with the aim being to get a badge posted to your profile showing publishers that you’re committed to being “NetGalley Healthy”! Here’s the page for the pledge: https://www.smartsheet.com/b/publish?EQBCT=4ca06851f92c4ded943c5816b387caa4

I hope that further helps!

Caroline

***17/05/2013 POST***

So first off, I want to say how much I utterly love NetGalley; it’s an amazing tool for everyone involved and strikes up conversations about books prior to publication in a, largely, hassle-free manner.

But after working with it for the last month, I thought I’d put together a few, hopefully, handy tips and some advice. The aim is that this will help reviewers, bloggers, librarians, booksellers and everyone else who uses NG, understand what we, as publishers, would love to see in requests. If this helps us approve more requests, and gives you an insight into what we’re looking for, then I’ll be very happy! Thusly:

Profiles

When I was first applying for my publishing internship way back when I was still in college, my cover letter was all about how much I loved books, and thus this naturally meant I was made for the world of publishing. That is, until it was pointed out to me by my lovely publishing mentor that it’s a given to all involved with books that we’re voracious readers who absolutely love everything bookish. It doesn’t mean it’s not important that you love reading, but to us, what’s more important is what you’re going to do after you read our books. Ideally I’d love to see the following in your profile:

  • Links to your blog/website/online forums where you talk books
  • Your bio as a reviewer/bookseller/librarian (from here on, NG user as I don’t want to leave anyone out!) is really important:
  1. how long have you been active whether reviewing, book club recommending, or as a bookseller, librarian etc;
  2. where have you reviewed in the past
  3. where do you think you’ll be sending this review
  4. who will you be talking to about the book ie fellow students/bloggers/librarians/booksellers/customers
  • If possible, include direct links to some sample reviews or blogs/school library sites
  • If you’re a librarian, and registered with the American Library Association, please try and register your membership number with the NG site so you have the official ALA logo beside your name. That makes a big difference! I’m not sure how you do this, and am happy to be guided, and can include a how-to here if needed.
  • For bloggers/reviewers, we absolute love to see your stats: the most useful and helpful basic site statistics are:
  1. dated eg as of 17 May 2013 I have xyz followers…
  2. if you have a newsletter subscription, tell us how many subscribers you have
  3. Page views per day (average)
  4. Unique visitors per month
  • But don’t just tell us about your site, especially if you don’t have one! If you use Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads etc and will be talking about the requested book on these sites, you can still tell us how many followers, friends, interactions you have.

Requesting

  • Whenever we put a title on NG, we send out the respective group email: to the Robot Army, the Chemistry Set or the Witness Protection Programme. We always urge NG users to get requests in early, and I can’t stress that enough: there are often hundreds of requests and we cannot match that amount for each book so do get your request in as soon as possible
  • With that, please make sure you do have time to read the books you’re requesting, and that more importantly you download them as soon as possible: our books are generally only available for 4 weeks on NetGalley so if you’ve been approved, please do download the title

Posting Reviews

When you’re sending in your review, there are a few things that would really make my job easier…and also make me love you even more!

  • Please include the date the review was published especially if it’s a forthcoming review
  • If you run your own blog, or contribute to one, send us the link which the review will appear on, but also don’t forget to include the link for your Goodreads account, your Amazon reviews, twitter or basically anywhere else the review will appear. This not only makes it easier for me to remember how amazing you are, but also to help promote you and your work: if we’re not already connected on Twitter, I’ll tweet your review and link to you. We want you to get as much out of your work as we can.

Possible Reasons for Declining

First off, none of us like declining people…it makes us sad, really. We love our books, and so look forward to people reading them and sending back informed reviews, whatever way they may go. It’s the nature of the game that not all books are going to satisfy all readers, and we’re never going to decline you because you didn’t like our last book or anything silly. But it is a business, and we do need to make sure we don’t potentially undermine any book’s worth by sending out copies to everyone without seeing a value in it. So, to avoid you and I both feeling terrible, please bear in mind:

  • If your profile has no link to a blog, or any discernible outlet, but you maintain you’re a reviewer, it definitely lowers your approval chances
  • A profile with little info at all will also lower approval rates
  • If you provide a link to a website but there haven’t been any recent posts, or it doesn’t have any book reviews, that will look odd. If there’s a reason for this (you’ve been caught up in something else and are looking to get back to bloggging, for example, let us know that – add it to your bio)
  • No bio at all: unless you’re an extremely high-profile person or known to us personally, this is always worrying

I think that covers everything; if you think of anything you’d like clarification on or want to run past me/us, please comment below. I’d really love to hear from NG users as well, especially on what we could be doing to help you: this is a site that we’ll all get as much out of as we put in, so let’s start talking about how we could all do better and help each other out!

Happy Friday, everyone!

Caroline

Strange Chemistry Has Launched!

Last Thursday – 23rd August 2012 – is a very special day for us going forwards. It’ll be our birthday. Y’see, we launched Strange Chemistry properly on that day. At the British Library, surrounded by many friends, we gave this imprint the best start we could!

Other people have already been reporting on the event itself (which comprised a short speech from editor Amanda Rutter about the imprint, and then three readings from SC authors present – Kim Curran, Jonathan L Howard and Laura Lam) – you can find a few posts HERE, HERE and HERE.

We’re mostly going to show you a few photos and then draw the winner of our fantastic launch giveaway – and then ask for homes to be offered for some terribly cute little unicorns. Read on for more!

Read more

How Many YA Series?

We all know just how many YA series there are kicking around, just how many worlds we are able to immerse ourselves into! So have you have totalled up the amount of series you’re currently working through? We have – and we’re astonished by the number that we’re invested in (and the number that we still need to get to!)

Here is our list:

1) Chronicles of Nick – Sherrilyn Kenyon (read 1)
2) Theodore Boone – John Grisham (read 1)
3) The Vampire Diaries – L J Smith (read 5)
4) Wintercraft – Jenna Burtenshaw (read 1)
5) Tales of the Ketty Jay – Chris Wooding (read 1)
6) Ghostgirl – Tonya Hurley (read 2)
7) Blue Bloods – Melissa de la Cruz (read 1)
8) Beka Cooper – Tamora Pierce (read 1)
9) Skulduggery Pleasant – Derek Landy (read 1)
10) Ravenwood Mystery – Mia James (read 1)
11) Misadventures of Tallulah Casey – Louise Rennison (read 1)
12) Vampirates – Justin Somper (read 1)
13) 13 Treasures – Michelle Harrison (read 1)
14) Stonewylde – Kit Berry (read 1)
15) Eddie Savage – Peter Cocks (read 1)
16) Department 19 – Will Hill (read 1)
17) The Poison Diaries – Maryrose Wood (read 1)
18) The Nowhere Chronicles – Sarah Silverwood (read 1)
19) Miss Peregrine – Ransom Riggs (read 1)
20) Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor (read 1)
21) Mickey Bolitar – Harlan Coben (read 1)
22) Numbers – Rachel Ward (read 1)
23) Night School – C J Daugherty (read 1)
24) Under the Never Sky – Veronica Rossi (read 1)
25) Mara Dyer – Michelle Hodkin (read 1)
26) The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins (read 1)
27) Bumped – Megan McCafferty (read 1)
28) Fever – Dee Shulman (read 1)
29) The Skyscraper Throne – Tom Pollock (read 1)
30) Caster Chronicles – Kami Garcia (read 3)
31) Revenants – Amy Plum (read 2)
32) House of Night – PC & Kristin Cast (read 2)
33) Graceling – Kristin Cashore (read 2)
34) Wolves of Mercy Falls – Mercy Stiefvater (read 2)
35) Divergent – Veronica Roth (read 1)
36) The Immortal Instruments – Cassandra Clare (read 1)

36 YA series! And that doesn’t include our adult series that we’re reading, which would add about the same number of series again!

What we want to know from you are:

– Which series are you reading? How many?
– Which of the above series should we make finishing a priority?
– Do you prefer series, trilogies, standalones?
– Which series should we be starting? (Morganville Vampires, Vampire Academy, etc)

Gorgeous Bookish Gifts

Having a love of books doesn’t just mean picking up books for us – it means finding all those gorgeous items that are bookishly themed! Here we’ve gathered together some of the items that have caught our eye recently.

Sherlock Holmes and Watson earrings

These can be found here.

Kitty Cat Bookends

These can be found here.

Neverending Story Kindle cover

This can be found here.

I Love Big Books… bag

This can be found here.

Twilight necklace

This can be found here.

Books to Check Out Journal

This can be found here.

Fantastic Mr Fox badges

These can be found here.

Book Stack Table

This can be found here.

US Literary Map poster

This can be found here.

Hunger Games bookmark

This can be found here.

What do you think of these gorgeous gifts? Any of them catch your eye?

Book Trailers – Love or Loathe?

So, book trailers are becoming a bigger and bigger part of marketing a book. Some trailers are now so slick that they look as though they are showcasing a movie rather than a book! But do you guys actually like them or not? We decided to ask a selection of book bloggers to tell us their favourites – how about leaving a comment to say whether any of these would make you want to pick up a book?

Struck by Jennifer Bosworth

“It’s fantastic. I reminds me of a movie trailer and really makes me want to read the book. It’s very captivating and exciting!” – Siobhán @ Totally Bookalicious

Entwined by Heather Dixon

“Entwined makes good use of imagery without ever feeling cheap. It sets the atmosphere well with the music and images and gives me a good idea of what the story will be about. Plus, I think the style is pretty.” – Deni @ Small Review

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

“Ooh, I just saw this trailer yesterday for City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare. I don’t usually like books trailers but I absolutely LOVE this one!” – Maria @ Fantasy’s Ink

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

“I like that this trailer doesn’t require actual models, but the animation is attractive and very smooth. I actually prefer book trailers that don’t use models because the acting has to be excellent for it to work well; I strongly prefer something like this that still gives you the feel of a fantasy novel and gives you just enough information to make the viewer curious to learn more!” – Brenna @ Esther’s Ever After

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

“My personal favorite is the one for The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. It captured the mood of the book perfectly, and I loved the art and the music. I think it was the first time I could honestly say a book trailer sold me on a book–I bought The Scorpio Races the week it released!” – Maggie @ Maggie’s Bookshelf

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

“I want to see this movie so badly!! Wait, what? It’s a book trailer? Holy crap, get me this book.” – Britta @ I Like These Books

Matched by Ally Condie

“This one sets up the premise of the novel beautifully, and leaves the viewer hanging, wanting to know just what is going on!” – Danya @ A Tapestry of Words

Well, what do you think? Any of these appeal? Have they changed your mind on what can be achieved with a book trailer?

Atmosphere – A E Rought

I love a book with atmosphere. Y’know…where the world building is so real, you can feel it. The weight of the author’s place presses on nerves you didn’t know you had, your chest tightens, your breath catches… Heck, you check the shadows in your room before going to sleep because the book’s world has somehow bled into yours.

Something I’ve learned… there are as many correct paths to a great book with badass atmosphere as there are writers to write them.

Some writers like quiet, a cozy corner in a coffee shop and their laptop. Some writers remind me of cats, curled in a sunny spot on a deck or porch, contentedly tip-tap-tapping away. Other writers create an atmosphere they like to write in. Many use inspiration pictures, some create boards on Pinterest.com or use music. I’m definitely—maybe a bit compulsively—one of the latter. I have a cluttered desk as the picture shows, but everything in the world falls away when I’m in my perfect writing space.

And for me, music makes it.

I hunt for just the right songs, constantly adding and taking away until the playlist creates just the right tonal ambiance where I can bury my head. Some tracks are just about the sound, some are about the lyrics, a few are for what they make me feel. One book was a crazy hodge-podge of dancehouse, old Billy Joel and groups like Godsmack. My current WIP is a total split personality, one part wistful film score, one part Chevelle, Shinedown, and Creed.

BROKEN’s playlist took a while to get right, and ended up with a couple of songs my writer friends turned me on to taking precedence.

Curious? Here’s BROKEN’s playlist:

Good to You, by Marianas Trench (J.A. Souders turned me on to MTrench)

Monster You Made, by Pop Evil
Eclipsed, by Evans Blue
Broken, by Seether, featuring Amy Lee

Somebody Like You, by Pop Evil
Sick, by Adelita’s Way

So Much, by The Spill Canvas
All Around Me, by Fly Leaf
Breaking Inside, by Shinedow
Perfect, by Burn Season (Kate Avelynn turned me on to Burn Season)
Crashed, by Chris Daughtry
Savin’ Me, by Nickelback
Dig, by Incubus
Always, by Saliva
Closer, by Burn Season
A Thousand Years, by Christina Perri
It’s Been a While, Staind
Staplegunned, by The Spill Canvas
Decode, by Paramore
You’re Not Alone, by Saosin
Fix Me, Ten Years

For overall atmosphere, I played a lot of Burn Season, The Spill Canvas, Pop Evil, Broken, by Seether, and Always, by Saliva. It made a perfect blend of moody romance for me.

I’m so neurotic about my music I will play one song over and over while writing certain scenes. While writing a scene where Alex {edited for spoilers} Josh after he {edited for spoilers} Emma, I had Sick, by Adelita’s Way on repeat. It was more about the sound, and that moment when the music kicked up a notch from the lead-in guitars—the energy and drive in the song were was just perfect.

And during the {edited for spoilers} scene, when Alex took Emma’s hand, pressed it to his chest and said {edited for spoilers}, I had Good to You, by Marianas Trench and A Thousand Years, by Christina Perri playing.

Finally, no talk about music and writing BROKEN would be complete, my beta reader insisted, without a mention of a chapter in the higher Twenties and the song Perfect, by Burn Season. Enough said.

So… Yep, I’m nuts. I play songs on repeat. (Don’t tell anyone but when the writing and the music are cosmically synced, I occasionally rock side to side like Stevie Wonder at the keyboard.) Music makes the atmosphere for me.

How about you? Do you write in silence? Do you read, or write to music?

What Are We Looking For in a Manuscript?

Okay, with reservations, we’re going to delve into the mystery surrounding what we’re actually looking for in a manuscript. We say “with reservations” because this is the most nebulous area of book publishing. We can tell you all these rules that we would usually swear by, but if That Book comes in – the one that you just HAVE to publish – a lot of the rules will go out of the window!

If you just bear in mind that you should take heed of these rules, except on a Wednesday when Venus is in the ascendancy i.e. these are the best we can give you and other publishers will have different ideas, then you’ll be doing okay.

*sighs* It’s already not going too well, is it?

Right, the basics first (and always bearing in mind that we want agented manuscripts, right up until that Open Door period in April!):

1. Do NOT send us a first draft, or even a second draft, of your novel. Send us the polished version. The version that you wrote, then edited, then re-edited, then sent out to beta readers for them to help edit. Although an editor will likely want to change parts of a manuscript that come into them, they are not there to do ALL the work. The quickest thing to turn us off of a book is to see flagrant spelling mistakes, sentences that don’t quite make sense and a novel that isn’t even close to being ready for publication.

2. Do NOT send us a novel that is an “homage” to another book, as in, you have pretty much used Find and Replace on character names. We have seen this sort of thing! We want to hear YOUR voice, YOUR story. Apart from being a very nasty habit and borderline illegal, plagiarism is not going to get you published.

3. Do pay attention to what we are looking for, as in, age range. At Strange Chemistry we do not publish adult novels. We do not publish middle grade or children’s books. We can’t do anything with picture books. We are exclusively publishing Young Adult novels. If you need a definition of such, then, believe me, you haven’t written a YA novel!

Now to the subjectivities…As in, the rules that can be broken on occasion, the rules that might not be rules for other publishers, the rules that are really more like suggestions!

4. We are principally looking for Voice. We don’t just mean the way you write your dialogue! Voice, for us, is where you become fully immersed in the prose of the novel and it feels completely fresh and unique – even if the subject matter is something that has been done before. Some of the recent YA novels we have read that had this Voice are Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor and Hollow Pike by James Dawson. In both cases, the books were so utterly readable.

5. We want journeys! Not travelogues, we don’t mean that… Rather, we mean character journeys or transformations. We want to meet a character in chapter one and see them change and develop as a response to what is happening in the story. For us, Katya’s World by Jonathan L Howard (coming from us in November of this year) achieved this in spades – when we first meet Katya, she is a rather shy and unassuming girl. By the end of the novel, she is completely changed and has attitude in spades! This organic development is crucial to the telling of a story. If your characters remain flat and unchanged by events, then you haven’t achieved what you could have.

6. Protagonists need to be worth reading about. The most memorable protagonists (and antagonists!) are those that leap off the page; those you identify with; those you want to spend time with. Katniss from The Hunger Games is this sort of protagonist, as is Todd from the Chaos Walking trilogy. Make sure your characters are fully fleshed and not two-dimensional. On a personal front, at Strange Chemistry we prefer our female characters to have backbone, if you please. We’re looking for Tamora Pierce-esque heroines, rather than the Bella variety.

7. Concentrate on your setting – and the whys of it. World building can add so much depth to a story. We don’t want expositional info dumps about the social and economic climate in your world, but we do want details that help us to understand why there is a story. For us, a great example is Bumped by Megan McCafferty. It received very mixed reviews, but the added slang, the advertising slogans about becoming fertile, the way in which their society dealt with teenage mothers – this all helped to bring out more of a story.

8. Never, ever, ever write what is popular now (see point 9 for where this rule can bend a little)! You’ve probably heard this one before, but it bears repeating. Publishing moves slowly. The books purchased today are most likely going to be published in eighteen months or so. Who knows whether a dystopian setting is still going to be the Big Thing at that point? We might all be reading about motorcycle gangs on Mars by then! (or, y’know, something less constrictive…) What is a phenomenon right now is going to fade away, we promise. Right now we’re seeing ghost stories and horror novels starting to creep into publishing. We’re seeing people starting to play around with other elements of SF than just dystopian. What this means is that you have to write the story that YOU are passionate about, and not worry *too* much about what the market is doing. Be aware of what is popular. More crucially, be aware of what everyone is getting tired of. But, essentially, if you’re passionate about your story and its setting, then that will shine through over someone who writes more to cash in on a current trend.

9. Perhaps try an entertaining twist on something that has been done before? Yes, we might be a little tired of vampires, or the fae, or mermaids, or dystopian settings – but if you can achieve something different with your story that gets us excited about it, then you are going to shine from the rest. If we describe a twist to booksellers, bookbuyers, bloggers etc that makes their eyes pop at the thought of the novel, we’re onto a winner.

10. However crass it sounds, we are looking for novels that are going to sell. We want marketability. We want books that we know other people will be interested in reading. If your novel is too off-the-wall or strange, it doesn’t matter how good the writing is, we are unlikely to be able to do much with it. The marketability extends to the author of the manuscript. When we find a book we’re thinking of taking to acquisitions and possibly buying, we will inevitably have a look at the author’s online presence – do they have a website? Do they talk on Twitter? Do they seem as though they’ll be decent at self promotion? Do they stand out in any way? So, alongside your novel, you’ll be selling us…well…you!

We hope that helps, and that you’re not all weeping into your cornflakes right now! Publishing is a tough industry to crack and you need to ensure that the novel you submit is the BEST it can possibly be when it hits an editor’s desk.

Over to you: Anything specific you would like to ask?

The Reading of Manuscripts

We asked on Twitter whether you wanted to hear about how we go about reading manuscripts and what we’re looking for, and heard a hearty yay from at least five people, so we’re going to go ahead and write a few posts about it.

So, the manuscripts that come into Strange Chemistry for reading are of the agented variety (although do remember our Open Door period in April when unagented authors can submit their novels!) Our preferred method is that an agent will approach us and introduce the novel before sending it through. This way we gain an idea about what the novel is about and who the author is. Some editors like to see a full synopsis of the novel – we actually don’t like this much. We prefer a teaser blurb, and then to go into the novel fresh. The reason for this is that we then experience exactly what the future reader of this novel will when they pick the book off the shelf in a bookstore. That reader won’t be given a handy dandy two page synopsis of all major events in the book – they will have to rely on the blurb and possibly the first few pages.

We do turn down some novels sent through by agents. They might not fit the remit of the imprint; they might be a middle grade tale rather than YA; they might be too similar to something we’ve already taken on or are considering. We will probably be much more discerning once the Strange Chemistry list is fuller, but at the moment we take a look at a variety of genres, styles and titles.

When we ask to see something, we are never concerned about the current title of the novel. When something comes in called POLTERGEEKS we are obviously going to be massively intrigued, so a good title will help! However, we have changed titles already. Blackwood came to us as Strange Alchemy and Katya’s World was Blood and Water – these were both decent titles, but the former was too similar to the imprint name (unfortunately!) and the latter didn’t convey as much about the SF element as we would have liked. We suggest that an author thinks hard about the best title that suits their book, but also be prepared to accept ideas for changes if need be.

Now…timings. We know that, as the author of a novel that has been accepted by a publisher for reading, you will be actively waiting for a reply. We know that it can be a desperate time waiting for the decision to come through. However… to the publisher your manuscript will inevitably join a list of novels to be considered. At the moment Strange Chemistry has over fifty manuscripts in the inbox – these are manuscripts that have been submitted through agents and accepted for reading. We try so very hard to make a quick turnaround with these submissions, but our work also encompasses editing the novels that we’ve signed, preparing those same novels for publication (copy editing, proof reading, art briefs, typesetting and other funky things), marketing our authors and novels… And we haven’t even mentioned the hours per day spent looking round the Internet and talking on Twitter (which is actually a valid part of our jobs here!) So perhaps it becomes a little easier to understand that, while you as the author are having sleepless nights through the excitement of being read by a publisher, we’re getting stressed at the fact that we haven’t read the manuscript and it’s been sat there for over two months…

Now and then we will set aside a day for some reading. We’ll pick two or three manuscripts (and this is done on a date stamp basis) and settle down to make a decision one way or the other.

When you read a manuscript sometimes you know straight away that you want the book and will read on purely through interest to see what the author has done and how they have taken the rest of the story. This happened to us with SHIFT – the prologue and the first page was enough to make that decision. It’s hard to describe exactly how this feels – a sense of excitement, perhaps, or slight goosebumps; definitely a sense that you want to show this novel to other people. The principle part of picking a novel is knowing that you absolutely have to share a book.

Sometimes it will take a couple of pages, and then you find that you are gripped and cannot put the novel down – we had this with BLACKWOOD. We were intrigued by the premise and felt an immediate empathy with Miranda, the female protagonist, and couldn’t resist turning the pages to find out what would happen.

POLTERGEEKS was all about the voice. Julie, the sassy apprentice witch, was a person we absolutely had to spend more time with, while KATYA’S WORLD left us curious about the setting, so much so that we found ourselves swept into this tale about underwater danger and unseen evils.

In all four cases we knew that they were novels that had to be read by a wider audience. We loved them and we know that others will love them.

There are other types of submissions, though. The one that you read twice over because you’re just not sure how to take it – it will be a complete Marmite read, in most cases, that you know will be loved and hated in equal measure, and you just can’t gauge how much love there will be. The one that you read fifty pages of because you love the prose but don’t know where the plot is. The submission that has a premise to die for, but the writing doesn’t back it up. These have all been ultimately rejected by Strange Chemistry – but we are pretty sure another publisher will have enough faith in them to do them justice.

Because here’s the thing: we have to pick the novels that we are prepared to champion to the hilt. We can’t waver in our belief of them. These are novels that we will be closely working with for the foreseeable future – we will have to read them a number of times, to a great depth of detail, and we will have to shout about them to the whole world. We can’t take on a novel that we have any uncertainty about, because we can’t then do the best job for the author and their book. But another publisher might – what you’re uncertain about, another editor will have read and gone into raptures over. It’s all subjective.

What isn’t subjective is the fact that an editor will often know within the first few pages whether a novel is for them – so, above everything else, make those first pages sing. I mean, sure, the rest of the novel needs to be pretty damn special, but those first pages are going to be what grabs people into your story.

From the picking of the manuscript we then have to take the novel into acquisitions – which we will cover in our next article, since we’ve rambled on quite enough!

So, over to you – ask us your questions about the reading process; this is your chance to quiz us!

Strongest Female Protagonist in YA?

One of the complaints made about Twilight is that Bella, the central female protagonist, is not the strongest person. She is clumsy and gawky; she needs to be rescued – a lot; and she stands in the shadow of both Edward and Jacob. We at Strange Chemistry are frustrated that this is one of the few examples of a YA female protagonist that people know, because there are some *fantastic* examples of truly great and strong female characters.

We asked our trusty bloggers to tell us who they deemed to be the strongest female protagonists in YA and they came through for us again!

Deeba from Un Lun Dun by China Mieville

In my opinion, the strongest YA heroine I’ve read so far is Deeba from China Miéville’s Un Lun Dun. No, she doesn’t have awesome kickass fighting skills or supernatural talents, but she’s got spunk and a sense of duty and a sensible streak a mile wide. And most of what she accomplishes is done by being smart and deciding to step up and do the right thing. When told she needs to retrieve a magical object to to beat the Smog and that this is a quest which will lead her on various expeditions via clues to get the next piece in the puzzle, she just decides ‘Sod that!’ and skips right to the end and still manages to get what she needs anyway. She’s feisty, funny and smart and, at the end of the day, manages to save her friends and herself. In my book that makes for a very strong heroine!

Mieneke from A Fantastical Librarian

Riley from The Demon Trappers series by Jana Oliver

There are a lot of strange females in YA but one of my favourites of recent years has been Riley from The Demon Trappers series by Jana Oliver. She kicks butt and has to deal with being a girl in a job that is mainly done by men who aren’t all very accepting of her and she has to deal with being alone and regular stuff like money and school. An all action female that is just plain cool.

Laura from Sister Spooky: Book Fangirl

Tris from Divergent by Veronica Roth

The strongest female protaganist in YA fiction is Tris from the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. To me, strong doesn’t automatically mean angry and acting without thinking. Tris has a lot to overcome, and a whole lot to prove- to Dauntless and to herself. Tris has proven time and time again that she is courageous, caring, dependable, and won’t give up- not matter what the odds are. She gains strength- not by some super human power, but by hard work (and some blood and tears too). She makes choices that are difficult and works hard to protect the ones that she loves. Tris goes through a major change in the pages of Divergent- from meek and quiet to bold and strong. Tris is a heroine that I want to believe in.

Coranne from Short & Sweet Reviews

Hermione from the Harry Potter series by J K Rowling

While I might have been tempted to say Kat from HUNGER GAMES or Kate from the GIDEON TRILOGY, I feel I mist give credit where credit is due. Hermione Granger from the HARRY POTTER books. She’s just so strongly written from the get-go. Here is a girl who came from the lower end of the wizard totem pole, but applied herself and used her smarts to get ahead. More gifted than even full-blooded wizards, she cruises through classes with ease by the simple act of concentration and application. She can be both utterly loveable and cantankerously snarky in equal measure, showing me a balance of the opposite ends of the teen spectrum of angst. What really begins to show about her is that when life around her gets her down, when life’s tables turn on her (whether because of boys, school, or even bullies) she stands in front of the onslaught and simply takes it. Not only that, she even finds the courage to rise above it. She uses it to fuel her skills, becoming more and more accomplished. As the series goes on she shows us time and again that she can face adversity and triumph over it. She actually makes her parents forget her existence to keep them safe from Voldemort. To me that is selfless. She joins in the leadership role to help her friends, no better yet her entire society, to face an unimaginable and powerful evil. She does this not because she has to, or because she wants to, or even because it is asked of her. She does this because she is aware that she is strong enough to do so. Probably one of the most self-aware female protagonists in fiction, not just YA fiction, Hermione Granger get’s my vote for being unequivocally brave and astonishingly strong.

Scott from Iceberg Ink

Lyra from His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

As far as firecrackers go, I am an enormous fan of Pullman’s Lyra and any character ever found in a Robin McKinley novel, but most especially Rae from “Sunshine” and Harry from “The Blue Sword”. I’d have to argue that the strongest, at least in emotional terms, would have to be Lyra as she understands what she has to give up to save her world (and Will’s) and does so, with the depth of sadness and strength of character that make her so remarkable. Of course, Rae can kill vampires with her bare hands (and, occasionally, a penknife) so there is certainly some competition!

Jennie from Book Geeks

Katsa from Graceling by Kristin Cashore

The strongest female protagonist that I’ve encountered in some time is Katsa from GRACELING. I know that many of you find her extremely hard to relate to, but that’s not the case for me. I love that she can never put her intense emotions aside. I love that she’s not poised or proper. I even love that she punches people in the face without thinking of the consequences. Basically, I love Katsa because she never censors herself. She never pretends to be someone she’s not, she never filters what’s on her mind before speaking, she never goes along with an idea if she disagrees with it. Katsa is just this really passionate person who never, ever holds back– and that’s what makes her so strong.

Ana from What YA Reading?

Karou from Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

It took me a while to come up with this answer, because the strongest female YA protagonists are not necessarily my favorite female protagonists. So while Calla from Nightshade and Grace from Shiver immediately came to mind, pressing for attention, it was impossible to ignore their many slip ups (especially in the name of love). So the search continued until I came up with one name: Karou from The Daughter of Smoke and Bone. She is edgy; unfazed by the looks she gets for her crazy blue hair and not paying attention to what others think of her. She even lives with creatures (not spoiling) and isn’t weirded out by it! The fact that she is unwavering in her own self-image and self-importance makes her strong. She is just really lively. But what is even more impressive is her ability to put her life into danger to find answers, to push on for those answers even after a boy becomes involved (since so many protagonists seem to loose focus at that point). Plus, if you read and find a little more about her, she can kick some ass. I mean that in the most literal sense possible.

Britta from I Like These Books

Rose from the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead

Rose is a seventeen year old dhampir (half-human, half-moroi). She ran away from St. Vladimir Academy with her vampire Princess/Best Friend Lissa, only to find herself dragged back by a Guardian who would one day end up being her forbidden lover (*cough* Dimitri *cough*). But that is hardly the reason why Rose Hathaway is so frightening and maybe it’s because she died in a car accident with the rest of Princess/ Best Friend Lissa’s family and was then brought back to life by Lissa using the extremely rare element of spirit creating a bond between the two girls. Maybe that’s the reason why…because she has been trained all her life to be able to hunt and kill the Strigoi aka. bad vampires. Plus attacking things is basically second nature for Rose.

Maryann from Chapter by Chapter

Unsurprisingly, however, there was but one winner. Many, many people came back with this name:

Katniss from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I have to say the strongest female protagonist in YA fiction has to be Katniss from The Hunger Games (I’m sure many will agree with me). After reading the books, what stuck with me is Katniss’ love and determination to protect her younger sister, Prim. Regardless of the cost. She was willing to sacrifice herself to keep Prim safe, and to me, that is truly heroic behavior. Katniss knows that she is walking into a nightmare when she volunteers to take Prim’ place in the Games, but she doesn’t hesitate to do it. Once she made her choice, she tapped into the strength of character and bravery that she didn’t know she possessed. I wanted her to succeed so badly, because she was doing everything for all of the right reasons. She loved Prim, and she would do anything for her. That’s what being a hero is all about – putting yourself in harm’s way to protect what you love.

Julie from Manga Maniac Cafe

The way she stood in place for her sister showed courage and how much she adored and wanted to protect her family and the fact that though she came from the poorest District in The Hunger Games Trilogy , she did not care and she fought her way to the top and to come out the winner. She held her head high and did not let herself become caught up in the war and brutal side of the Hunger Games. The fact that she won also showed that she is one kick-ass heroine :)

Paula from The Phantom Paragrapher

Katniss of The Hunger Games has to be the strongest. She goes through being separated from her family and the only life she’s known and has to play a game she wants to part of. She does this to immediately save her sister, but in the long run it’s to save much more than even she realizes. She is smart and strong and doesn’t back down from anyone.

Jessica from Book Sake

Well? What do you think? Do you agree that Katniss is the strongest female protagonist in YA literature? Who is a glaring omission from the above list?