Crimson Poison author Susan Saville
The second-to-last time I went to Old Foyles before it moved down the road and became Sexy Foyles (© Caitlin Moran), I was on a blind date. It was pretty exciting and I’d even dressed up specially, before spoiling it and tottering off on my bike rocking the Halfords look.
I rolled in through the side entrance, as I always do (did?) and headed up the stairs and round the bendy corner to the cafe, stumbling slightly on the step down as I always do (did). My date was easy to spot – she was the only one who didn’t have a laptop in front of her and a cup of coffee that she’d been nursing for two hours. And she’d brought her agent with her. This was my first meeting with Susan Saville, author of Crimson Poison, a manuscript I had just read, loved, and was keen to acquire. Clattering over to the table and then dropping my bike helmet probably wasn’t the best way to go about it but old habits die hard.
We had a very enjoyable meeting, and I got to talk to Susan about all the things I’m most interested in – the hows and whys and wherefores of being a writer, why this story and not another, what else did she have up her sleeve and – killer question – how open to editorial meddling was she? Susan, and her agent Jemima Hunt, got to ask me all the things they were curious about – Nosy Crow, the list, the potential look of the book, the marketing plan and – killer question – what kind of editorial meddling was I on about and maybe I should think about calling it something else? We had a good exchange of information and I liked everything that Susan was saying and was hopeful that she’d think we’d be the right home for her books.
And as for the meddling, in actual fact, I really just wanted Susan to make more of everything that was already there. Crimson Poison is a very exciting adventure story for 9+ readers (sorry, can’t bring myself to say ‘middle-grade’) set against a brilliantly realised Hong Kong and starring Nat Walker, a girl who might be called “kick-ass” (but not by me). She’s a great hero – intrepid, determined even when she’s not a little scared, with a sense of humour that makes her highly likeable and convincing. I urge you to read it – it’ll be out in the spring next year, and there’ll be a lot more said about it before then. And afterwards, too, I’m sure.
So the last time I went to Old Foyles I was again dressed by Halfords and again meeting Susan. This time, it was to talk through the latest draft of the manuscript and to chew over book 2. We had another very enjoyable meeting but this time, as I headed over to the treacherous cafe step to go back round the bendy corner and down the stairs to the side exit, Susan quietly pointed to a door that would take me straight on to Charing Cross Road. In all the years of going to Foyles, I had never known about this door, and I took a solemn moment to appreciate how this trading of information seemed to symbolise something about the author/editor relationship. Or maybe just showed that it’s never too late to learn how to get out of a bookshop that’s relocating anyway. Until it is.
Crimson Poison will publish in May 2015 – if you’d like to be kept up to date with news about the book, exclusive offers and competitions, and the first chance to take a look inside, you can sign up to our Books Newsletter here.