Why did I buy that book? Jo Fletcher on Gemsigns

Good afternoon, Beloved Reader. Sorry for my unavoidable absence last week; I was felled by flu (your actual too-sick-to-pick-up-a-twenty-pound-note flu, not just the old ‘dull-dull-dull-think-I’ll-stay-in-bed-today-so-let’s-just-say-it’s flu flu). It was doubtless a result of too much fun at Eastercon – that, or the fact it’s April and I can count the number of days in which we have more than a couple of degrees to play with on the fingers of one hand . . .

However, the forsythia and kerria are about to blossom, the pond is heaving with frog spawn, the spunnocks are singing their little feathered hearts out, and during @LitAgentDrury’s final training run before the Brighton Marathon next week* he nearly ran into a woodpecker. So as Spring is making a concerted effort to appear and I’m fed up with not being well I’ve decided to come back to work. I promise this blog is not infectious . . .

It’s actually none too soon, because I have just realised that London Book Fair has snuck up on me – in fact, it’s next week! As this is one of the most important weeks in my calendar, I have to get my game face on and start working out how to present my books in such a way that my European peers will get so excited they will break all their own editorial rules and try to buy rights on the spot . . .

(Well, a publisher can dream. That certainly used to happen at least a couple of times every Fair . . .)

Where was I? Oh yes, presenting books. It’s actually never quite as easy as you might think, even if it’s a nice, compact little story which is enough like X by Y (where X is the most recent Number One book and Y is the consistently bestselling author) to legitimately say, Here is the new Y!

The trouble with the fantasy, SF and horror genre is that the reason one buys a new author is often because the books is nothing like anything you’ve read before . . . But whilst editors might love the idea of publishing something fresh and unusual, trying to explain to their colleagues that they’ve come back from LBF with a fantastic book which isn’t like anything else is unlikely to win them lots of new chums, particularly in sales. I can’t exactly blame them; obviously it’s much easier to say ‘Here is the new Philip K. Dick’ than it is, ‘Here’s this fantastic new series about genetically modified people who are fighting to be seen as human – oh, but everyone’s been genetically modified to some extent . . . Anyway, it’s political SF – but that makes it sound very dull and it’s anything but dull . . . so let’s call it social science fiction – or perhaps not, because now it sounds worthy  – so instead, let’s just call it an SF thriller and hope I can get across the intense emotions and the terrific characterisations and the twisty plot by the way I stand . . .

And there you are: already in trouble because there’s no simple description that explains exactly what this book is to potential readers.

(And, Yes! You at the back with your hand waggling in the air: quite right, I am talking about Stephanie Saulter’s Gemsigns right now. Seventeen brownie points.)

I know why I bought the series: I loved the writing – I always enjoy intelligent, twisted thrillers – and one of the most important reasons of all: I wanted to know what happens next, and there’s no doubt the best way to find that out is by buying the series.

I will also admit to a sneaking little thrill at being able to add another female SF writer to my fast-growing stable (and not just a female, but another Caribbean female writer – how cool is that?) but in case you’re wondering, no, I didn’t buy the series because Stephanie is a woman, just as I didn’t buy Naomi Foyle or Karen Lord because of their gender.

(I’m going to come back to the naming of names another day, because that’s a whole different kettle of fish and I’m already running out of space, but it’s an important topic, and one that shouldn’t be ignored. So watch this space.)

But back to the question at hand: why did I buy Gemsigns and the rest of the ®Evolution trilogy? Because more than anything, I love good, old-fashioned storytelling, and this series has that in spades.

So for the next few days I’m going to hand you over to Stephanie, and you can all get to know another of JFB’s spectacularly wonderful writers.

Stephanie, JFB’s Beloved Reader; Beloved Reader, the awesome Stephanie Saulter . . .




* BTW, if you’re wondering if @LitAgentDrury has lost his marbles, pounding the mean streets of Waltham Forest and the muddy paths of Epping Forest to prepare for the Brighton Marathon, he claims it’s all worth it to raise money for Parkinson’s UK. This time next week (if the time he ran the London Marathon is anything to go by), he’ll be unable to walk, a couple of stone lighter and in possession of some spectacular bruises.  Best get the champagne on ice . . . http://www.justgiving.com/Ian-Drury

And RIP Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady, the first woman elected to lead a major Western power and the longest-serving British PM in the last 150 years: a true political phenomenon, no matter what your political persuasion.


  1. Stephanie Saulter

    Thanks for the awesome intro, Jo. Beloved Readers: Hello! 

  2. Pingback: On Buying Books and Being Published | Talking back to the night

Leave a Reply