Congratulations to Joanna Barnard, as Precocious, her compelling story of a teacher-pupil affair publishes today in paperback with Ebury Press. Joanna’s novel won the inaugural Bath Novel Award in 2014, and she was swiftly signed by literary agent Juliet Mushens who went on to sell Precocious to Ebury Press in a four way publishing auction. We caught up with Joanna for cocktails during last week’s Independent Bath Literature Festival and asked her what she’s learned about the business of being published…
Thank you! I’m really excited for the paperback edition. Hardbacks are luxurious and lovely objects, especially for a bibliophile like me, but I’ve been looking forward to the paperback ever since my book deal as this is when most people get to buy your book. The Ebury team are going to be leaving paperbacks on London Underground trains early next week and I’m very tempted to go up for the day just to see if I can spot someone picking it up. I can’t wait for the first time I see someone reading a copy.
We’ve loved reading all the great reviews for Precocious. Do you have a favourite?
I still love it that anyone I don’t know reads my book, never mind takes the time to write a review, but there is one on the Waterstones’ website, where a reader talks about how Precocious has affected her in a very personal way, and that’s probably my favourite to date.
“What a great read” by Joolie@midsummer
“I don’t know where to start with this book. The story is great, trips along nicely and keeps you hooked. However I really want to talk about Joanna Barnard’s writing style… This woman tapped into my head. She wrote down my thoughts, my feelings and my emotions. Although I have never had the relationship written about here, I have had a similar one and I can only imagine that Ms Barnard is writing from her own personal experience. I cannot express how much I love her writing. She described little tiny meaningless things that happen from day to day without you realising and captures them perfectly. I read Cujo (Stephen King) when I was about 15 and cried my eyes out. I have not cried at a book since. Until I read Precocious. Read it, you will not be disappointed.”
Have review comments affected how you are writing book two?
Absolutely. I wrote Precocious freely, without any real consciousness of a reader, but with my second novel, I know someone is going to read it and this makes you more self-conscious and aware of storytelling techniques. For example, there is quite a lot of reader wrong-footing in my second novel and I’m much more conscious of how the reader will respond to how I reveal this.
Tell us about your second novel and do you have a title yet?
I don’t have a title yet, but I do have a list. It’s the story of a family whose baby is hurt in unexplained circumstances. The story opens with the baby being taken from hospital into care and is told from three points of view: the mother; the father and a teenage daughter from an earlier marriage. It has a fair few twists.
Have Juliet (Mushens, Joanna’s literary agent) and Gillian [Green, Publishing Director at Ebury Publishing] seen it yet?
Yes and their clear-sighted feedback has been really useful and clear-sighted. I’m at third draft stage, adding to and shaping the storyline. You get so close to your work, too close sometimes. I’ve been writing it for a year so my relationship with the story is intense and it’s hard to take a step back to see what I need to do. But then Gillian or Juliet will say something and I’ll instantly know it’s the right solution. Both of them have suggested ideas I would have struggled to find as quickly on my own. I’m now working on a final draft in readiness for publication in January.
Precocious is perfect Book Group fiction. Have you taken part in any book group discussions yet?
Yes I have. I love chatting with people about the book and hearing their responses. People have been overwhelmingly positive and generous with their feedback and some have asked questions about the book I’ve never even thought about. A few people have wanted definitive answers about what happens to the characters after the book stops. One or two have been cross with Fiona for going back to Henry at the start of the book. I get that. And I’m glad that Fiona’s decision provokes a response. Who doesn’t sometimes make choices they live to regret?
What have you learned about writing a book?
The Bath Novel Award 2016 is open for entries until April 10th 2016