At the start of 2008, with a completed manuscript of The Company of Fellows in hand (well, on a memory stick), I was rootling through the Writers and Artists’ Yearbook when I found a note about a writers’ critiquing site called Youwriteon. And thus began one of my most extraordinary adventures.
Critiquing sites are basically just that – writers giving feedback to writers. In the case of Youwriteon and later in 2008 Authonomy, there is the added carrot of critiques for the most popular books from professional editors.
It was on the forums and critiques of these sites that I made my first real writing friends. I’ve gone on to meet well over a hundred people from the sites, and the Harper Collins employees behind Authonomy even came to the first ever live show I put on at Rough Trade. And it was there I met the people who would become the Year Zero collective.
It was a professional critique through Youwriteon, from a Random House editor, of one of my short that made me take up writing literary fiction for good. In an e-mail correspondence about how I felt I was shoehorning myself into the thriller writing role when I wanted to write more uncommercial stuff the editor said worry not, there is a market for the more literary things I wanted to write.
And so I started to write Songs from the Other Side of the Wall, a story about a teenage girl growing up in Hungary after the fall of the Berlin Wall. And for the first time I felt like I had found my voice.