Thursday 2 March 2017

Winds of Change


To celebrate this, I would like to welcome Fiona Kennedy to the Pewter Wolf. You might not know of Fiona but she is the publisher of the new Children/YA imprint coming from Head of Zeus, Zephyr.

When this news was announced, I emailed Head of Zeus, curious on Zephyr's first publication, The White Hare by Michael Fishwick. What I got back was a lovely email from Fiona. We chatted and she agreed to write a small guest post for the blog, chatting about Zephyr's creation and what they hope to achieve.

So, before I hand you over to Fiona, I just want to thank her for finding the time to write this. I know she must busy at the moment so thank you. Now, dear readers, am handing it over to Fiona!

It seemed like an opportunity not to be missed when Anthony Cheetham invited me to start a children's list at Head of Zeus: exciting to choose an imprint name, to have books to create, empty pages to fill in an environment where I've been so warmly welcomed by new colleagues. The mood at HoZ is ambitious and energetic. There's a will to succeed and there’s respect and passion for every single book published. I chose the name Zephyr because it reflects the HoZ ethos -  and blowing as it does from the west (my home is in Somerset) – it’s the perfect fit. And a gentle breeze can, of course, turn into a storm - it has no limits, nor will our publishing. 

But a publisher is nothing without its authors and artists, so finding them is the exciting task that lies ahead. One of the things I most enjoy is spotting new writers and artists and helping them fulfil their potential. Long term investment is, to me, key. I've been privileged to launch and work with Marcus Sedgwick, Lauren St John, Liz Kessler, Michelle Paver, Alan Gibbons and Sally Gardner among others -  all of whom have successfully written across the board for all ages and have been encouraged to experiment - to me it's their writing that counts, not pigeon-holing them into a category and asking them to serve up the same thing again and again. Much better to let their imagination take them and their readers where it will - the results are astounding. I was always grateful to the sales team at OPG for embracing author-led publishing with enthusiasm.  

I know that Zephyr too will become a home to true writers and artists, and their pure, clear talent. When it comes to choosing who those authors and artists might be - it can be as little as a sentence that’s the deciding factor! With Lauren’s bestselling White Giraffe, I fell in love with Martine’s first close encounter with the giraffe, its coat ‘shimmering like sunlit snow, patterned all over with patches of silver tinged with cinnamon’ in the moonlight. In Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, it was that moment on the first page where Mal tells Alina she’s not ugly and ’hidden by the deep shadows of the cupboard, she smiled’.  With Marcus Sedgwick and Michelle Paver - atmosphere and flawless plotting, with Sally Gardner - the glorious pictures painted with her words. With all of them it’s important to feel an affinity and understanding of what they're setting out to achieve.  

Likewise with The White Hare by Michael Fishwick which launches the list, encompassing so much of what Zephyr will stand for. I hope it will signpost the list to interested authors, artists and agents and give an indication of the exceptional quality we'll be looking for.  

It was fascinating to work with Michael on his first 12+ novel - to understand how he writes - in short intensive bursts, which explains why his novel is charged with atmosphere and action - there's so much he wanted to say. The White Hare is a story that's been on his mind and in his head for years and it was great to help him shape it. By happy chance, the story is set in Somerset from where Zephyr will operate and Michael has captured the location perfectly, which means I know he's captured other elements just as successfully. Despite its country setting, it’s not so localised that it won't translate - great rights potential always lies in the voice and story. 

That's what Zephyr is all about - finding the authors with the right voice and stories. That may mean a small, hand-picked list, but the trade and readers can feel confident that those few, in a veritable sea of new offerings, will be the best there are. Of course, different tastes mean different publishers choose to publish different things, and that’s as it should be. Zephyr books will have their own distinctive author voices, but together they will compliment one another and give the list its identity. These will be books published to last – our aim is to publish tomorrow’s classics, today - books with longevity.

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