I’ve been waiting to share this news with you for a long time. Since January. Since 2014. Since the day I decided I was going to be a writer. And now, at long last, I can:
My debut YA novel, The Butterfly Assassin, will be published by Simon and Schuster Children’s Books in May 2022.
Here’s the announcement from Book Brunch:
This has been a long journey. The Butterfly Assassin, formerly known as Butterfly of Night, was my fifteenth novel, and the path it took from first draft to agented book was circuitous. We sold the book in January of this year, and I’ve been sitting on the news ever since, which has been torturous — I’m terrible at keeping secrets, which is why I was always useless at being closeted. Even small things, like the fact that we’d changed the title, meant I couldn’t really blog about the editing process at all without giving something away.
But now I can tell you. I can scream it from the rooftops. MY BOOK IS GOING TO BE PUBLISHED. You’re going to be able to read it! (Well, those of you in the UK will. Hoping we’ll sell the foreign rights as well; updates to come.)
We also sold the sequel, which is fabulous. I’ve always conceived of this book as the first in a trilogy: while it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, the story is very much not over, either. Knowing we’ll get the second book is a huge relief. Here’s hoping we get book three, too; the end of book two’s kind of a bummer without it! I know they say you shouldn’t write sequels before you’ve sold the first book, but, well, that’s never advice I’ve followed, lol.
It has been strange and surreal to achieve something I’ve worked towards for so many years and not be able to talk about it, and the secrecy has contributed to the vague sense that none of it was real and it would all be taken away from me at any moment. The fact that so far it does seem to be actually happening should be reassuring, but I guess that’s anxiety for you… I don’t think it’ll feel real until I hold it in my hands.
Some thanks are due to:
- Rory Power, who picked me as her mentee for Author Mentor Match and is the reason this book was good enough to get this far. None of this would have happened if she hadn’t supported me through the process of burning it down and starting over. And of course to Alexa Donne, for setting up AMM in the first place.
- Jessica Hare, my agent, who saw my pitch on #DVPit, who loved and believed in this book, and who is very tolerant of my refusal to stick to any genre or category for more than five minutes. And to Beth Phelan, for founding #DVPit and enabling us to find each other.
- Amina Youssef, my editor, who bought the book! Without her, it wouldn’t be being published. She’s been very tolerant of my extreme pickiness about punctuation… it turns out I have extremely strong opinions about commas.
- The AMM Round 6 group chat, Write Club, for their support and gentle peer pressure over the last couple of years, who’ve put up with me yelling for the past eight months while I waited to announce.
- The Muddle Ages, my medievalist Discord server, ditto.
- All of this book’s many beta readers (there have been so many over the years), everyone who helped me with the science, and everyone who ever asked me hard questions about the worldbuilding so that I actually had to answer them. I promise you’re all named in the acknowledgements; I’m just trying to keep this post to a reasonable length.
And I’m sure many others! Like I said: it’ll all be in the acknowledgements…
What’s the book about?
A traumatised teenage assassin trying and failing to live an ordinary life away from the parents who trained and abused her. And by ‘failing’ I mean she kills somebody in chapter one.
Who’s the target audience?
It’s an upper YA book, so it’s primarily aimed at older teens. It’s probably not suitable for younger teens, though as ever, that kind of thing’s up to the reader’s discretion. As my use of the words ‘traumatised’ and ‘abused’ should suggest, there’s some dark content, though I hope I’ve handled it sensitively and not gratuitously. There’s also a lot of murder. I mean, it’s a book about assassins, so one would expect murder. There’s no sexual content of any sort, but there’s more than enough swearing to disappoint my parents.
Will there be content warnings?
Yes, I’ll add detailed content warnings to my website (here) closer to publication date. I don’t want any readers to be caught out.
Is it fantasy?
No. It’s “speculative” in the sense that it’s set in a fictional city, which exists because the book’s version of our world made some slightly different choices during WW1. That means we have about a century of alternate history going on. It’s set in the near future; most of the tech is realistic if not actually real; and there’s no magic or supernatural happenings.
Is it queer?
Yes. And no. Yes: Isabel is asexual, and several of the other characters are queer. No: these labels are rarely used on-page; Isabel in particular lacks the vocabulary to describe herself in these terms. Some are confirmed by reference to past relationships, and others may become clear in book two. There are no prominent romantic relationships in the book at all, so queerness isn’t a focus of this story, but it’s a lens through which these characters see the world. It’s also something of a queer-norm setup in that homophobia isn’t really a Thing in this setting.
No romance at all?
No. There is, however, a super close ride-or-die friendship, because I believe that platonic relationships can be just as intense and meaningful as romantic ones. Like I said, Isabel’s asexual. I don’t think she’s aromantic, but she hasn’t figured that out yet. It was important to me that her most important relationship here would be a friendship.
Is it coming out in [insert country here]?
At the moment, publication is planned for the UK. We’re going out with foreign rights shortly, though, so hopefully it’ll find a home internationally! I’ll keep you updated, and all the links etc will be on the ‘Books’ page. I think you can buy UK-published books from Book Depository and similar even if they’re not published in your country, so it should be possible to obtain it from further afield.
Will it be paperback or hardback?
Paperback, as far as I’m aware. Most UK YA comes out in paperback only, until you’re a bestseller. I’m cool with this; I mostly buy paperbacks myself, and I want my book to be affordable for as many people as possible, so this seems like a step towards that! (There’ll also be an e-book and I’m hoping for an audiobook as well? I’ll keep you posted.)
How can I pre-order? Should I pre-order?
Yes, please pre-order! It’s great for authors, especially debuts, since it signals to publishers and bookshops that there’s interest. You can find all the links on the Books page, and also a link to Goodreads, if you’d like to add it to your to-read shelf!
How long is it?
Substantially longer than my contract said it was going to be. Close to 95k last time we looked. I have… stopped looking. I won’t know the exact page count until we get closer to it being a real, physical book (!!).
How can I get a proof copy/ARC?
I honestly have no idea at this stage. Drop a note in the comments here if you’re a reviewer or bookstagrammer or booktoker or whatever the term is and you’re interested in getting your hands on a review copy of TBA, and I’ll come back to you when I know more. That way I’ll be able to keep track; if you tell me on Twitter or Instagram, your message will probably get buried, so the blog’s a better bet!
Tell us one thing about the book we can’t guess from the blurb above.
Isabel’s first language is Esperanto, and the language plays a small but significant role throughout the book :)
If I haven’t answered your question, please drop it in the comment section below — I am very happy to answer! I’m trying to anticipate what people will ask, but I’ve never done this before, so I’m just guessing, really.