John Jarrold has taught, taken part in panels and spoken at Swanwick before. He runs the John Jarrold Literary Agency, which specialises entirely in SF, Fantasy and Horror. He has around forty clients – and has turned down over 9,000 submissions to the agency. Alex Davis is author, editor, publisher, creative writing tutor and event organiser based in Derby. Alex, too, has taught at Swanwick before. He's also a short course leader at this year's Summer School.
Among the highlights of the discussion were:
What makes a successful Sci-fi book for young adults?
JJ (John Jarrold): It's impossible to give one valid answer – it's a strong, wide market
AD (Alex Davis): Hard to give a set answer. I'd suggest a young protagonist for sure, and dystopian work seems to be popular. It only takes one book to start a trend in publishing. Think about what you want to do and why. YA is a very popular and fairly new genre, so I'm sure there are many evolutions to come in time.
JJ: In some ways it's a good area. Less hidebound than the adult side can be.
Working with young writers, what advice would you give them to encourage them to look beyond simple gore when writing horror?
JJ: You need to be involved and not just write for the market.
AD: It's vital to have strong characters and believability in horror as much as any genre. Psychology is also key. Gore in itself isn't scary – well developed and built up situations will always be more effective.
JJ: Also be aware that a book one agent or editor loves won't necessarily suit another. Love your story and characters. I've done major deals for books that other publishers hated, there isn't only one way.
AD: Absolutely - as you said, there's a lot comes down to personal opinion from agents and publishers.