Scrolling through Facebook, I found a unique opportunity from an author that I follow. Joss Stirling – her real name is Julia Golding – is a YA writer from Epping Forest in Essex. Her books include the Savants series, savants being people with extraordinary mental powers, whose destiny is to seek their soulfinder – their other half. There are six books in this series, published under her pen name, the first being Finding Sky.
Stirling has now written the first book in a new series, called Peril. Peril is about seventeen-year-old Meri Marlowe who is able to see peril – a colour in the UV spectrum – but may be the last of her kind. She is being hunted by mortal enemies who will settle for nothing less than the end of her race. She has been on the run for years and is now hiding out in a climate-changed London. The other main character is Kel Douglas. Kel is one of an ancient people whose skin is covered in peril-coloured patterns when they come of age. By day he is an ordinary student, the rest of the time he is bodyguard to the heir to the throne. That’s until he meets Meri.
There are some gifts you do not want. Mine has marked me out to be hunted.
Joss Stirling announced the title of her book on her Facebook page with the release date for July. She then followed up with a post saying that she wanted some of her fans to read the final draft of Peril before it was officially released. The first 50 people to send her a message, offering their help, would be chosen. Luckily, I saw the post early enough to become involved. So I messaged her, saying I would love to provide some feedback as I liked the Savant series.
This was her reply:
That sounds great, Jess. I’m planning to release the book on 13 July. I can change anything right up to the last moment so if you were able to send me your feedback by then, that would be ideal. A review on whatever platform you use would be fabulous. I’ll also have a very short window (24hr) of a bargain price (99c or 99p) for the early birds so you might want to tell your friends. Now I need your email so I can send a copy to you! I’d prefer not to use the Facebook attachment route.
She emailed me the final draft of Peril in a PDF format, password-protected of course. Stirling named the 50 fans the Peril Super-Team. She gave me a list of specific questions about the book, just some things for me to look out for as I read the book. She gave me an explanation of each question as well, but here are the headings:
- Joss does dystopian?
- Fantasy of colour?
- Who would I like to see in part 2?
I read Peril, only pausing to note some typos. I enjoyed the book, and then answered her questions honestly and as best as I could. I wasn’t sure where to send the feedback so I emailed her and then copied a similar message into her Facebook messages.
Joss Stirling’s reply was:
Dear Jess, Thank you so much for your thoughtful feedback. You’ve even managed to spot two typos no one else has done – it is amazing how many there are and I get blind to them after a while. Please look out for thanks by name in the final – hopefully typo free – version. I’ve changed a few things in response to the feedback which I’ve found really constructive. If you had time to leave a review on line it really helps the visibility of the book. Best wishes.
A really important lesson that I learned whilst doing this was that, even if you think your book/script/etc is finished, it can always be improved. Sharing your work with others will show you ways to improve your work so when you finally submit it (or hopefully publish it) it will do your ideas justice.
Another lesson I learned from this is that besides spelling errors, we should think of questions to ask our readers, and really engage with their views of your characters or plot. I thought when that final draft, after editors have worked their magic, it would be ready to go. But Joss Stirling has made changes to her book based on the feedback of her readers about important aspects to the story, not just the technical makeup of the book.
Furthermore, besides what I have learnt from this opportunity, it was really exciting to see my name printed in a book, especially in Joss’ book as I went through my teenage years reading her series. If you would like to read Peril, or her other series, you can find it on Amazon.co.uk. If you follow her Facebook page, she occasionally reduces her books for 99p only for a limited time. I am grateful to Joss Stirling for giving me this opportunity.
Jess Evans is a third year Creative and Professional Writing student