Friday, 13 September 2013

Intern-al Workings of Publishing

In the run-up to the Frankfurt Book Fair, Templar's editorial department recruited brilliantly helpful Andrew to help out. Here are his thoughts...

Starting an internship at Templar felt a lot like the first day of school. Polishing my shoes, combing my hair, not quite knowing what to expect and worrying if the bigger boys would steal my dinner money (they didn’t, they’re all lovely… and I brought a packed lunch just in case. Smart.).

As it turned out, working at Templar is EXACTLY like school, in a good way. So far this week I have cut out shapes, completed crosswords, created collages, checked my times tables and attended ‘show and tell’ – next week I’ll bring my hamster – but all of it is relevant to crafting great books for kids of all ages.

Joining Templar in the lead-up to Frankfurt Book Fair means that ideas have to be tested, lots of proofs need to be read and massive deadlines charge towards us like surprisingly large hippos (which this week – as part of my ‘work’ – I learned can run at 30mph!).

It makes for an exciting time and a great opportunity for me to learn all elements of the publishing world, but most importantly I’ve learned that all those years at primary school REALLY paid off. Not just the boring bits. There are great jobs out there for everyone, no matter what your favourite lesson was.

Frankfurt Book Fair: behind-the-scenes

Team Templar thought it might be time to give you a bit of an insight into what the editorial department do – and where better to start than with the work we do to prepare for a book fair?

Part of my job as Junior Editor is to co-ordinate the editorial push towards each fair, so right now it's all-systems-go for the Frankfurt Book Fair taking place in early October. This is the world's biggest book fair, and it's a valuable opportunity for Templar's sales team and creative director to meet foreign publishers to discuss buying and selling book rights.
Meetings at last year's Frankfurt Book Fair

As such, there's a massive in-house effort to prepare the best possible material for our sales team so they can shout about the brilliant books we're producing – nothing makes us happier than when we know the hard work of our talented authors and illustrators is being enjoyed by children around the world.

Preparation begins months beforehand, as we start to tie down the list of titles that we'll be taking to sell. If the books are already underway, then all that's left to do is to carry on putting it together – but if it's a new project, then development work by authors and illustrators needs to start, editors put together book plans, production controllers start discussing prices with printers and designers start thinking about cover designs.

At the end of August, things really start to hot up. I build a document known as 'Frankfurt in 5 Minutes', in which editors cram their books' specification, content, schedule, RRP, publication date and cover into a tiny entry. About 200 books go to the fair, and we arm our sales team with as much information as possible in just 20 A4 pages.

'Fair in 5' documents going back years...

That document is invaluable to sales team when they're out at the fair, but it's also used in-house during 'Show and Tells'. Here, the creative, production and sales teams all squeeze into the boardroom for day-long meetings in which editors and designers show the sales guys the amazing books we're developing. Hearing about the books straight from the people who are putting them together means that the sales team go away fired with enthusiasm, knowing why we decided each book was so brilliant it needed to be published.

I also ensure the editors are busy producing advance information sheets, known as 'AIs'. These A4 sheets are sent out to prospective foreign publishers, as well as bookshops in the UK, to tell them all about our upcoming programme. They're filled with details about the books, the authors and illustrators, how they can order and what the books look like. Last book fair, we created 208 AIs in four weeks – phew.

Hard at work on AIs

 After hundreds of AIs, tens of file uploads to iPads, 3 Show & Tells, and one lorry filled with our sales material, we wave farewell to the sales team and head to the pub! However, at the moment, that feels like a distant dream. Yesterday was our first Show & Tell for this fair, and it went really well. Still, there are two more to go, 150 AIs left to create and about half of 'Frankfurt in 5 Minutes' still to go. In that case, I best be off...

Monday, 2 September 2013

Author Cate Cain talks about The Great Fire of London and her new novel THE JADE BOY

Today is an anniversary of sorts. Three hundred and forty seven years ago, in the early hours of September 2, a fire began in a bakery in London’s Pudding Lane that would change the face of the City for ever.

I work in the East End. I walk through the City nearly every evening to the station where I catch my train home. It’s an interesting journey - if I look past the gleaming glass pinnacles filled with bankers, traces of old London are all around. It’s there in the winding layout of the streets (a remnant of medieval days). It’s there in the peculiar (sometimes rather crude) names of alleyways and snickets, and it’s there in the plaques on buildings or corners informing passers by that a particular spot is connected with the Great Fire of London.

No one ever seems to pay much attention to those signs. The event haunts the City like a ghost, but only those tuned to its smoky whispers notice.

I should declare an interest here. Quite by coincidence, today, September 2, is the day my book The Jade Boy is published. In it I offer a wildly fantastical theory about how and why the fire came about.

The cover for The Jade Boy was designed by Levi Pinfield, who recently won the Kate Greenaway Award. 

I was inspired to write it after passing St Paul’s Cathedral one snowy winter evening a couple of years ago. The great dome had recently been cleaned and it showed bone-white against the leaden sky. It’s always been one of my favourite London landmarks and as I peered through the snow, I found myself wondering about the old medieval cathedral that once stood in its place.
St Paul's Cathedral in London

The germ of my story was sown at that moment.

Along with having a great deal of fun with my invented citizens of London (Jem, a lowly servant; Tolly, a page; Ann, an orphaned witch girl; Cleo, a monkey; and the horribly evil Count Cazalon) I knew I had to find out more about what really happened.

The basic facts are simple. The fire began in the bakery of Mr Thomas Farriner, a producer of biscuits for King Charles II’s navy. Mr Farriner raked the embers of his oven before going to bed late on September 1, leaving a few flitches of bacon to smoke there overnight.

He never tasted that bacon. During the darkest hours when everyone was asleep the bakery began to fill with smoke. Within a short time sparks had risen on a strong east wind and travelled to neighbouring properties, setting their ancient timbers alight.  Houses in Pudding Lane and beyond were evacuated, church bells were rung backwards to call for help and people formed bucket queues to the Thames to douse the flames.

This is a photo of the unobtrusive sign for Pudding Lane today. The actual site where the fire began is buried in the midst of an ugly modern office. If you lay The Monument on it's side, the fiery golden ball on the top would hit the exact spot behind this sign where the fire began!

Living in narrow streets of close-packed wooden buildings, Londoners were used to fires, but this time something went horribly wrong, the blaze seemed to have a sinister life of its own as it leapt hungrily from building to building. Within a day terrified citizens swarmed onto the streets and onto the river, everyone pushing and jostling to get out, and all of them, ‘to the smallest childe’, carrying bundles of possessions. Samuel Pepys wrote: “The streets and highways are crowded with people running and riding and getting carts at any rate to fetch away things.”

This is a portrait of Samuel Pepys - the most famous witness of the fire and 'parmezan' cheese lover

Despite desperate attempts to fight it, the fire burned for four days destroying 373 acres within the old City wall and 63 acres beyond. Flames swept through more than 400 streets and lanes. In total, 13,200 houses, 89 churches and 52 Livery Company halls were consumed.

This is a painting displayed at the museum of London showing a burning gateway to the city. You can see people and their meagre possessions splayed across the ground outside.

We know about the fire in great detail, largely due to the diaries and writings of many Londoners, but most particularly Pepys, John Evelyn and William Taswell, who was a schoolboy at the time. People recorded the epic events of September 1666, but also give us small details that still bring the scene horribly and delicately to life. I collected them like a ghoulish magpie while I was writing The Jade Boy.

These are just a few of my ‘favourites’.
  •       In breweries the beer boiled in the barrels before bursting out and running down the streets.
  •      The exotic spices stored in the cellars of the Royal Exchange let out a pungent stink as they burned – and the smell hung over broken buildings for many days after the fire.
  •       A cloud of jackdaws surrounded St Paul’s gothic spire, as the roof –  six acres of metal - began to hiss and then to liquefy dripping ‘grenadoes’ of molten lead into the nave. The inferno was so intense that the melting roof ran down the walls and flowed out of the rain spouts and into the churchyard before spilling down Ludgate Hill.
  •       The stones of the cathedral and many other city churches exploded in the heat.
  •       Falling masonry broke open ancient tombs in St Paul’s nave – the corpse  of Robert Braybrooke, interred 250 years previously, was exposed ‘intacte, his skin harde and brittle, but his hair stille redde.’
  •        Silks, plasterwork, papers and ash were carried as far as Windsor on the wind.
  •        Pepys watched a pigeon too scared to flee its perch on a timber building. It waited so long before attempting to flee that its wings singed and it plummeted dead to the ground.
  •        Pepys evacuated his own house in Seething Lane, but not before digging a hole in the garden to bury his prized ‘parmezan’ cheese and red wine.

This painting shows how massive and all-consuming the fire must have been. John Evelyn wrote in his diary: "God grant mine eyes never behold the like, who now saw above 10,000 houses all in one flame! The noise and cracking and thunder of the impetuous flames, the shrieking of women and children, the hurry of people, the fall of towers, houses and churches, was like a hideous storm."

Nearly 100,000 people were made homeless. They abandoned their properties and rushed to escape the flames taking refuge on surrounding hills and in the open fields. From here they watched their homes and their livelihoods disappear beneath a pall of smoke. It’s a tribute to the enduring, centuries- old ‘Blitz spirit’ of London that just a decade later, it was business as usual.
This etching shows people watching the city burn from a safe distance

Incredibly, records suggest that fewer than 20 people lost their lives during those four tumultuous days at the end of summer in 1666 - no one knows for certain. My feeling is that it must have been many more, but those who disappeared were not grand or important so their lives didn’t really count. Certainly when the fire was at its height it was not a good time to be a foreigner in London. There are horrible reports of vicious attacks as the mob rounded on anyone considered to be guilty of treason. The king’s own French firework maker was forced to seek refuge in Whitehall Palace when rumours circulated that he was the master arsonist.

This scene shows people escaping the fire in heavily loaded boats on the river Thames

My other suspicion about the Great Fire  – totally unsubstantiated, of course – is that after the terrible plague year 1665, there was an urgent need to clear away the stinking insanitary streets of old London so that a sparkling new city, one to rival the grandest of Europe, could rise in its place. And that’s partly what I wrote about in The Jade Boy. I do love a good conspiracy theory!

I’ll leave you here with the words of William Taswell, who was about the same age as my leading character, Jem Green, when he witnessed the devastation. Like most boys (and me!) young William had a taste for the gory.

As he wandered towards the ruined cathedral after the blaze had burned itself out William describes “the ground so hot as almost to scorch my shoes.” In the churchyard he finds the carcasses of dogs “stiff as a plank, the skins being tough like leather.”  But most shockingly and pitifully of all he comes across the body of a woman curled behind the churchyard wall where she had tried to hide from the flames, “every limb reduced to a coal”.

This old map shows the extent of the destruction

Cate Cain's The Jade Boy is out now in a bookstore near you, and is also available as an e-book. 

Cate Cain, the author of the hotly anticipated new release The Jade Boy