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Freya Sampson: “Drafts are Meant to be Rubbish”

June 22, 2021

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Even after her respectable career as an executive TV producer for BBC, debut author, Freya Samson, struggled with self doubt and confidence to produce a first draft. Freya’s story is all too real and familiar. You want to write and have told stories since childhood, and yet it’s not until you enrol into a course or program that you finally gather the courage to do so. Freya is another author who enrolled into the Faber Academy and gained representation at the end of it. I love stories like this. And her debut novel The Last Library in the UK or The Last Chance Library in the US is all the proof we need that Freya’s determination paid off. Freya reminds us that first drafts are meant to be rubbish! This is something we all too often forget.

I have now interviewed many authors who have signed up to Faber or Curtis Brown and have all secured an agent out of it. I suggest, if you’re feeling like Freya was and just don’t have the courage to get the words down, you should enrol yourself into a space that will encourage you to finally get that first draft written!

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been telling stories since I was a small child – I used to spend hours walking around my parents back garden, making up stories in my head – but I never had the confidence to put them down on paper. Even as an adult, I’d write the first few chapters of an idea and then worry it was rubbish and get disheartened. It wasn’t until 2017, when I was on maternity leave with my second child, that I finally took the plunge and signed up to the Faber Academy ‘How to Write a Novel’ course. That was life-changing for me, not least because it taught me that first drafts are meant to be rubbish, and so I had the confidence to finally push on past those initial few chapters and write a whole draft!

What led to your offer of representation with an agent (or contract with a publisher, if you went that way around first?)

At the end of the Faber Academy course, there’s something called ‘agent’s day’, when they invite agents in to hear each of the students read two minutes from their work in progress. They also publish an anthology with two thousand words of each student’s work in, which gets sent out to lots of agents. After that, I got approached by three agents who had read my excerpt in the anthology and were interested in reading the full manuscript. Unfortunately, I was nowhere near finished at that point, so I replied saying I’d send it to them as soon as it was ready. Seven months later, when I’d got the book as good as I could on my own, I sent the full manuscript to those three agents, plus I sent the standard submission to another four agents via their slush piles.

How long did you have to wait to hear back and was it a partial or full request?

It was all a bit of a whirlwind. I think I emailed the seven agents on a Thursday morning, and by the end of Friday I’d had offers of representation from two of the agents who’d expressed interest after the Faber Academy course, plus another two full manuscript requests. By Monday, I’d had a third offer of representation and the rest had turned it down. It was the most bonkers few days of my life!

Any tips on cover letters/synopsis/pitches?

Research, research and more research! I made sure all my cover letters were really personal to each agent – I tried to read at least one book by an author they represented so I could talk about why I loved their books, and I made sure that all the agents I submitted to actually wanted the kind of book I was writing. There’s loads of brilliant info online about what makes a good cover letter, and it sounds silly but get someone else to check it over for spelling mistakes! Synopses are absolute hell to write, I think I found that harder than writing the novel itself, but I’d recommend you keep it as simple as possible.

Your first reaction when they offered the representation/contract?

I was in absolute shock. I’d prepared myself for months of waiting and rejection, so the fact it all happened so quickly was a lot to take in. I think I was very lucky that once one agent had offered representation so fast, it meant there was a bit of a buzz and the others all read my submission very quickly. The whole experience was wonderful but a little over-whelming!

What’s next for you?

THE LAST LIBRARY will be published on 2nd Sept 2021 in the UK and America, and then the paperback will come out next spring. And I’m currently writing book two, which is due to be published in Autumn 2022.

The wonderful whirlwind that occurred for Freya is the motivation that should inspire us all to keep going. Freya, thank you so much for being on here today and sharing your story with us. Your open, honest and helpful words are all hopeful writers need to hear to keep going, keep writing and keep submitting.

You can learn more about Freya here and preorder her books here.

Thanks for stopping by!

Holly

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