In 2013, Verity Holloway submitted an early draft of her manuscript Pseudotooth to TLC. She was assigned novelist and editor Jane Adams as her reader for a TLC manuscript assessment. Fast-forward three years, and Verity’s book, still under the same name, is being published by Unsung Stories. Here, Verity tells us how it all happened, from first draft eleven years ago, right up to signing a contract with an exciting independent press. We couldn’t be happier for her and can’t wait to see the book hit bookshelves soon.
After eight years of writing Pseudotooth – yes, eight – I just didn’t know where to go with it.
Even filling out the required information for The Literary Consultancy was a fumble. What genre was it? What age group was it for? I was too close to it to see it. So I packaged the thing up, thick as my arm, and sent it off for help.
My TLC reader, Jane, was an author I’d read and respected, so that was a bit of a shock. All the more so because her report arrived en route to the airport, forcing me to digest its contents in the queue for security.
Firstly, Jane told me Pseudotooth wasn’t the straight-up fantasy YA novel I’d half-heartedly said it was. I’d inadvertently been hugely ambitious for a first book, which was a nice way of saying ‘steady on, kid’. The draft was confusing and illogical and would be difficult to sell. But she loved it.
Jane followed all this with practical advice. The novel was magical realism and firmly for adults. (That information saved me a lot of time and heartache.) Jane gave me a list of novels with similar mechanics to mine, and I performed post-mortems on them all. I was relieved, because all my hunches, the ones I’d barely admitted to myself, chimed with Jane’s comments.
Jane urged me to cut thirty pages of flab. I felt free to be ruthless with all the parts I’d secretly doubted, and focused in on the novel’s ‘goal’. As she predicted, it was a hard one to sell. I polished and queried for nearly two years, trying to ignore all those blogs that say, “I was about to give up after my fifth agonising week of querying, but then I got a three book deal and also a Fabergé egg!” I was getting polite form rejections and the occasional “We love it, but can you just change [crucial part]”. These were elements that would completely alter the tone of the book. I chose to decline and keep trying.
Querying Unsung Stories was a completely different experience. George, the editor, immediately saw what I was trying to do. He wrote me the best rejection I could hope to get, full of constructive comments, assuring me he only did so in cases he felt worth it. He noticed how I’d lost my nerve with the ending and encouraged me to trust my initial feelings. Exactly what Jane had said, actually. He invited me to resubmit, and we went through three drafts over the course of a year. I did worry I’d spend all that time working for another eventual ‘no thank you’, but when I looked at the novel afresh, it felt like the book I’d wanted to write all along.
My TLC report gave me the confidence to keep slogging on and find the perfect home for my novel. I’m grateful for Jane’s insight and encouragement, and I’d recommend the experience to anyone who feels as lost as I did.
Verity Holloway was born in Gibraltar in 1986, and grew up following her Navy family around the world. She graduated from Cambridge’s Anglia Ruskin University with a First Class BA in Literature and Creative Writing and went on to earn a Distinction Masters in Literature.
Her short stories and poems have been widely published, with her story ‘Cremating Imelda’ being nominated for the Pushcart Prize. In 2012 she published her first chapbook, Contraindications. Her novella, Beauty Secrets of The Martyrs, was released in 2015. Her first non-fiction book, The Mighty Healer: Thomas Holloway’s Patent Medicine Empire (Pen & Sword), a biography of her Victorian cousin who made his fortune with questionable remedies, was published in 2016. Pseudotooth is due for publication in March 2017. You can keep up with things by signing up to the Unsung Stories newsletter or keeping an eye on Verity’s page on their website here. Verity is on Twitter: @Verity_Holloway
About the book
Pseudotooth is an adult take on ‘portal fantasy’, boldly tackling issues of trauma responses, social difference and our conflicting desires for purity and acceptance. Aisling Selkirk is a young woman beset by unexplained blackouts, pseudo-seizures that have baffled both the doctors and her family. Sent to recuperate in the Suffolk countryside, she seeks solace in the work of William Blake and writing her journal, filling its pages with her visions of Feodor, an East Londoner haunted by his family’s history back in Russia. The discovery of a Tudor priest hole and its disturbed former inhabitant lead Aisling into a meeting with the enigmatic Chase and on to an unfamiliar town where the rule of Our Friend is absolute and those deemed unfit and undesirable have a tendency to disappear into The Quiet…
Verity’s TLC reader, Jane Adams, reads YA, SFF, crime and short stories for TLC. If you feel you might benefit from her professional opinion on your work, you can request her as a reader or mentor by emailing email@example.com. A full list of all our TLC readers and their specialisms can be found here. We’d be happy to advise about the best match. You can call us on 020 7324 2563.