Mark Charan Newton, author of The Nights of VilljamurMark Charan Newton’s, best known as one of the editors at Solaris Books, is making waves waves these days, but from the other side of the industry this time. Reviews of his debut novel, Nights of Villjamur (REVIEW), have been popping up around the ‘net and all the early buzz is mighty fine. Hell, I loved it, too. From my review:

Nights of Villjamur is being bandied about by reviewers and publicists as a literary fantasy, delving into the underused Dying Earth sub-genre and written to appeal to those looking for something more from their fantasy. While this is certainly true, I was surprised at how much more there was to the novel from the perspective of a Terry Brooks fan. I was worried I would find a dense, overwritten piece of philosophical literature hidden under a fantasy verneer (think Terry Goodkind’s Naked Empire, but not piss-poor), but what I found instead was a tightly plotted novel that worked just as well as a fantasy novel as it did a piece of introspective literature. In short, it would behoove potential readers to drop preconceptions of ‘literary’ fantasy and give Nights of Villjamur a fair shot. With a more than competent debut, Newton seems smartly poised to tackle a wide swathe of readers with Nights of Villjamur, and his future as a writer is bright, indeed.

So, read on, and find out why Newton means as much to the industry as an author as he does as an editor, maybe even more.

The Interview

Let’s get the obvious one out of the way. You’re an editor with Solaris Books and yet your novel is being published by Tor UK. What’s the story behind this?

   Well, I made sure the two remained mutually exclusive. I was writing long before I came anywhere near the world of editorial. (In fact, I have more to do with the backroom mechanics these days, rather than editorial work specifically.) I signed with my agent, John Jarrold, when I was about 22, and it’s taken me this long to get a deal. As far as my writing was concerned, it didn’t matter who I worked for.

   And it’s just not ethical if I submitted anything to Solaris – I mean, that’s like self-publishing, right? I wouldn’t want it. Hell, the guys at work would slap me silly if I wanted to add to their submissions pile. In all honesty, I was conscious of keeping things very, very separate – for my own sake. It just wouldn’t have felt worthwhile. It would be cheating. So even though I work where I do, I worked through the submission process like every other wannabe writer – and that included getting rejection letters…

22? That’s bloody young to be picking up an agent and most authors don’t seem to break in until much later in life. How did you manage to find an agent at such a young age, and what’s it like to work in an industry where, even at 28, you’re still considered a young buck?

   Young?! I don’t feel it. Every time I go in a bar or club I look around and wonder how I became so old so quickly. I groan when I sit in chairs. And that’s 28 at the end of March, young man – as of writing this, I’m clinging on to those last days of 27!

   I found an agent when I heard that John Jarrold was open for submissions, pretty early in his agency career. I simply sent him my work and got an email from him that same night saying he’d like to represent me – hugely exciting at the time, although it’s seemed like forever since then to getting published.

   But actually, being relatively young is intimidating. The older you get, the more wisdom you acquire, but the younger you are the more you think you know. This becomes apparent to many of us. So I wonder what an older person might think when they pick up my book – would they say: “What’s this immature nonsense – he’s too young to know about life, let alone write about it!” Or something like that. I actually think it might count against me to some extent, or maybe that’s just my paranoia.

Working at Solaris and juggling a writing career can’t be easy. How do you squeeze the time in to write and what’s your typical day look like at the office.

   Oh, well a little know fact is I also straddle over the Black Library imprint as well, so I juggle time between working on both. These days I tend to be less hands-on editorial, which is a big big difference – being so close to manuscripts all day and night took its toll. But, it’s an office job much like any other, albeit fun. I’m usually at home writing by 5.30 for a couple of hours – no more. And do that every night, so I have the routine. It’s easy once you get used to it.
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Orbit Books is re-releasing Jeff Somer’s novels, The Electric Church, The Digital Plague in Mass Market Paperback, and decided new covers were in order:

The Electric Church by Jeff Somers The Digital Plague by Jeff Somers

Along with those two is the cover for his third novel, The Eternal Prison, due in Trade Paperback in Fall 2009, with a MMPB version to follow in Spring 2010:

The Eternal Prison by Jeff Somers

As is their habit, Orbit goes into detail about the creation of the new covers:

For your viewing pleasure, this week I present the brand-spanking-new mass Market versions of THE ELECTRIC CHURCH, THE DIGITAL PLAGUE, and THE ETERNAL PRISON by Jeff Somers. The original trade paperback covers (design by Keith Hayes, art by Jae Lee) are some of my favorite Orbit covers, but we decided to shake it up a bit for the mass market releases. This series is a noir detective story set in an apocalyptic future, and its cyberpunk feel simultaneously reminded me of a William Gibson book, Blade Runner, and some of my favorite video games.

Jeff’s books sold well in trade paperback, but he’s a new author with a great voice, so we’re releasing him again in mass market to give him a chance to pick up new readers who may be willing to take a chance on a new author at a cheaper cover price. Since that’s the case, it only makes sense to redesign the covers — if a reader saw the original covers and really loved them, it’s implied that they picked up the books already, so why not go after the readers you missed? This works well in the case of this series, because the original covers, though gorgeous (in my opinion), were a little quiet. By quiet, I mean, they didn’t tell you just from the cover exactly what you could expect from the book. These books mix Jason Bourne — level action with Matrix-style apocalyptic futurism. Hopefully people who are interested in reading that kind of thing will see these covers and go “oooh, fun” and pick them up.

The original covers can be found HERE. I have to say, thought the originals were nice, these ones knock them out of the water! I’m a big fan of the bold, single colour design.

The shortlist for the first David Gemmell Legend Award has been released:

The David Gemmell Legend Award

After a long fought out epic campaign the David Gemmell Legend Award has come down to the final five. They’re slaughtered, butchered and above all fought heroically for their place in the final five despite some dodgy backroom tactics from alleged fans.

Shortly we’ll get to work on a new area for each author and allot them their own “Guild” which you the reading public can sign up for along with having the chance to show your support for your favourite author as well as letting people know why they should vote for your guy/girl. In short, the “Guild Members” are voting on who should become the Hero/ine of the Awards for its first year.

Now without further ado, the final five in alphabetical order:

ABERCROMBIE, Joe – Last Argument of Kings (Gollancz)
MARILLIER, Juliet – Heir to Sevenwaters (Tor UK)
SANDERSON, Brandon – The Hero of Ages (Tor US)
SAPKOWSKI, Andrzej – Blood of Elves (Gollancz)
WEEKS, Brent – The Way of Shadows (Orbit)

Thank you to everyone who voted and we hope you’ll continue to support your “champion” for this next stage. So get those foam fingers at the ready, wave those pennon’s and above all support your favourite. After all your vote could make all the difference between your author winning or just getting pipped at the post.

Though the road to this point has been a little rocky, it seems like voters have come up with a pretty decent list of novels. I would have liked to have seen The Painted Man (REVIEW) by Peter V. Brett get a nod, though.

What are your thoughts?

Nominated for a Hugo Award, METAtropolis is an audio book anthology, featuring some of the biggest names in Science Fiction (and the blogosphere) today – Tobias Buckell, Jay Lake, John Scalzi, Elizabeth Bear and Karl Schroeder.

From Scalzi’s blog:

The folks at are very excited that METAtropolis has been nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form — it’s that whole “hey, we’re breaking ground by being the first audiobook nominated for a Hugo” thing. The Audible folks are also aware that when you’re an audiobook up against The Dark Knight, Wall*E, Hellboy II and Iron Man, which combined brought in a couple billion in worldwide box office, you’re sort of the underdog, aren’t you.

So Audible decided to help even the odds by offering up METAtropolis for free, for a limited time. Go to the page I just linked to, sign up for Audible if you haven’t already done so, and then get your personal copy of the world that Elizabeth Bear, Toby Buckell, Jay Lake, Karl Schroeder and I have imagined (and which Michael Hogan, Scott Brick, Kandyse McClure, Alessandro Juliani and Stefan Rudnicki perform for you as narrators)


You can download a free copy of METAtropolis HERE. But hurry, it’s only available for a short time. You’ll also need to be a resident of North America and have an audible account (which are also free, so just sign up for one).

A few weeks ago, several agents took part in #queryfail day – a twitter-driven campaign that saw the agents revealing some of the worst queries (book proposals from authors) they had received.

“Like my protagonist, I definitely could be described as overachiever, and I naturally have hair like Lady Godiva.” #queryfail

Diana Fox

Here’s a big #queryfail: Telling me that U need your book to be published in 6 months. Nope. If you need it that quickly, then self-publish

Greg Daniel

And one of the best:

I have been queried via email by a man writing as [redacted], whose email ID says [redacted]–so I’m not really sure who he actually is. He has queried me at least once a month since November for an adult historical novel–the same novel in every query.

In November and December I sent him form rejections, which state clearly that I only represent children’s books and outline my submission policy. After that, I just deleted his inquiries.

I just got another, and this time I sent him a firm reply asking him to remove me from his email list and stating how many times I’d heard from him already.

This is what I got back:

“I know you would like to be left alone. But you are a literary agent, and I have a job to do. And I do apologize for any future queries that you must receive.

“But until [my novel] is published, you will be queried.”

Editorial Anonymous

I thought it was all pretty funny (and a hell of a learning experience for when I finally start querying agents and publishers), but it certainly did seem like the agents weren’t aware that their shit stinks just as much as the rest of us.

Some people, apparently, failed to see the humour in all of it.

[W]hen agent Jessica Faust decided to give writers a forum for their fury, asking for examples of agents failing authors, she was greeted with an outpouring of bile from hundreds of writers that went on for days.

“Take yourselves off the pedastals [sic] you stand on and stop acting like we should feel privileged that you allow us to bow and scrape to gain your attention. Without us, you would have no product to sell, therefore no income. To say it very plainly, without us you are nothing,” posted one frustrated writer (anonymously – it was interesting that, probably fearful their complaints could make it harder to get book deals, almost all of the commentators posted anonymously). “Reply with more than one freaking line via email that says something like, ‘I didn’t really care for the male characters’. I mean, a rejection is OK, but, after all that time (and $$$ in postage for 300 plus pages!!!), I thought I deserved a bit more. i won’t be querying her again,” wrote another.

Writers were most upset by the lack of response from agents (“It takes months if not years to write a novel…and what… a whole twenty seconds to send a rejection form letter?” wrote Evenstarr1); many weren’t asking for a personalised response, just the acknowledgement that their submission had been received, which seems fair enough.

But I couldn’t take seriously the complaints of two writers who were cross about having to write quality query letters (“please stop acting like they are the most important part of a submission. It’s advertising copy – and no guarantee that the author can pen a solid 100,000 word book,” said one, while the other argued that “just because we cant write a good query letter doesn’t mean we cant write a good book”). You’ve spent months, probably years, on your manuscript – it’s worth taking the time to make sure it gets the best chance of being read.


Uh… lighten up, people? Besides, it’s not like they don’t also point out the good stuff. Colleen Lindsay (who spearheaded #queryfail day) recently posted this on her twitter:

A (non-Fineprint) agent colleague just forwarded me an amazing query, and I had to request the manuscript. (Yes, we do all talk about you.)

The other agent knew I’d fall in love with the writing. And she was right!

So, uh, the lesson learned is that, if you’re serious about getting published, don’t write a shitty query. Could the agents have been a bit more tactful? Maybe. But the simple fact is that if you don’t follow the rules, if you’re arrogant, if you’re inarticulate, if you’re trying to completely rip off another author, you’re probably going to get laughed at. If you write a good, honest query about a well-written novel, you’re probably going to be taken seriously. The power’s in the hands on the writer, so what’s all the bellyaching about?

Learn to love #queryfail, because it’ll be your best friend when it’s time to get your own manuscript into the hands of the right people. Now, how about we see a #querywin, a glimpse at some of the best queries out there?