Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Lauren Beukes

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

To the chancers

I’ve got a new book deal that’s being announced later today. Two novels: working titles, The Shining Girls and Broken Monsters, due 2013 and 2014. Picked up by amazing publishers in the US, the UK, South Africa, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany.

It’s been a life-changing fortnight, punctuated with much giddy disbelief. Your typical ten-years-in-the-making overnight success.

I’m hugely grateful to my wonderful, hilarious, kick-ass agent, Oli Munson at Blake Friedmann and the inspiring editors I’ve been talking to this week. An auction is brilliant until that torturous moment you have to choose just one, based on a whole host of factors, and Oli was a smart and steadfast guide.

But I wouldn’t be here at all were it not for the awesome people who took a chance on me and my writing in the first place.

Michelle Matthews, who started up a sassy women’s imprint, Oshun, gave me my first break, commissioning me to write a rollicking pop history about rogues and ranconteurs and renegades, Maverick: Extraordinary Women From South Africa’s Past.

She also took a risk on a young designer friend we both knew, Dale Halvorsen aka Joey Hifi, for his first cover design job. He’s gone on to do all my covers since (apart from the vibrantly gorgeous Zoo City US cover by the brilliant John Picacio).

Stephen Watson (who is very sorely missed – I think he made a huge difference to many writers in this country) got me into UCT’s MA programme in Creative Writing without having to complete my BA first, based on the writing I submitted to him.

Moxyland was midwifed first by my MA supervisor André Brink, who was generous with his time and on-the-nail with his critiques.

After a year of trying to sell the manuscript of Moxyland overseas, Maggie Davey from Jacana, South Africa’s most courageous publisher of edgy and interesting new voices, read the manuscript on the plane on the way to the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2007 and by the time she landed, I had a book deal.

Jacana’s mission statement, in a shout-out to Steve Biko, is “We publish what we like”. I feel just very lucky that Maggie did like it and that she saw the potential in me and gave me the freedom to choose my own editor: the brilliant Helen Moffett who beat me – and the manuscript – into shape. And gave me the opportunity to work with a wonderful team including Bridget Impey, Amy Flatau, Russell Clarke and especially Pete van der Woude.

The book was picked up by Marco Gascoigne at Angry Robot, an ambitious brand spanking new imprint focusing on “SF/F and WTF”, as one of their launch titles and as part of a two book deal, brokered by Ron Irwin. I was blown away by the kinds of books Angry Robot publish, smart, intriguing, inventive, exciting crossover stuff that no-one else was doing as coherently. Like Jacana, it felt like a huge privilege to be signing up with their stable and such smart, passionate people.

A project I did with illustrator Simon Villet for iJusi magazine gave me the seedlings for Zoo City and when I pitched the idea to Marco and co-editor Lee Harris, they loved it, and so did Jacana, who snapped it up.

When Zoo City won the Arthur C Clarke Award earlier this year, I was overwhelmed by a mash of emotions, but mostly by an incredible sense of gratitude, to everyone who took a chance on me, from the publishers who took that first leap of faith to every reader who picked up one of my books from the thousands and thousands and thousands on the shelves, and often took the time to tweet me or email me about it, and, not forgetting my friends and family who don’t take any shit (but give me plenty, especially when I need it).

It’s all because of you.

Thank you.

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://davidchislett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">David Chislett</a>
    David Chislett
    October 18th, 2011 @12:12 #
     
    Top

    I seem to recall featuring you in Urban 03 in 2003 as well!
    *grin*

    Bottom
  • <a href="http://www.inotherwordscg.co.za" rel="nofollow">CarynGootkin</a>
    CarynGootkin
    October 18th, 2011 @12:33 #
     
    Top

    And don't forget your columns for The Big Issue SA

    Bottom
  • <a href="http://www.moxyland.com" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    October 18th, 2011 @13:11 #
     
    Top

    All of that too! And my first writing job thanks to Mike Hardaker, doing kids game reviews for SA Computer Magazine. A comprehensive thank you list would run to several thousand names, I suspect.

    Bottom
  • <a href="http://www.sapartridge.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sally</a>
    Sally
    October 18th, 2011 @16:57 #
     
    Top

    It's a fantastically inspiring story that gives us all hope :) Well done Lauren.

    Bottom
  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    October 19th, 2011 @16:27 #
     
    Top

    Am bursting with pride and delight. Even if you seem to have added a new moniker to what I do as an editor: dominatrix.

    Bottom
  • <a href="http://www.moxyland.com" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    October 20th, 2011 @17:55 #
     
    Top

    That EXACTLY describes what you do as an editor. Thando and Siphiwo will back me up here.

    Bottom
  • Maire
    Maire
    November 4th, 2011 @10:15 #
     
    Top

    Just read this - thanks to Ben's newsletter. Such a lovely post, Lauren. Warmed my heart.

    Bottom

Please register or log in to comment

» View comments as a forum thread and add tags in BOOK Chat