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Firekeeper’s Daughter Wins CrimeFest Award for Best Crime Novel for Young Adults

Firekeeper’s Daughter has won the CrimeFest Award for Best Crime Novel for Young Adults, honouring the best UK books in the crime writing genre.  

The award is given to the best crime novel for young adults (aged 12-16) first published in the United Kingdom in 2021.

The winner receives a commemorative Bristol Blue Glass award.

Adrian Muller, co-host of CrimeFest, said: “The crime genre has dominated the book charts and our TV screens, keeping many of us company, particularly in the past two challenging years. The genre never fails to offer escapism and entertainment, as well as often exploring big issues and emotions. As a genre that also often makes sense of a chaotic world, it’s helped many people and is something we need today more than ever. We’re proud to celebrate the best the genre offers.” 

Rock the Boat signs Middle Grade Debut from Xiran Jay Zhao

Rock the Boat has secured Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor, an action packed middle-grade fantasy novel from Xiran Jay Zhao.  

Commissioning editor Katie Jennings acquired UK and British Commonwealth English language rights, excluding Canada, from Stephanie Voros at Simon & Schuster US. It will be published in July 2022.  

Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor is a hilarious  middle-grade debut, blending Chinese history with modern gaming technology in a fun, fast-paced read. 

As the UK publishers of #1 bestseller Iron Widow we were already massive fans of Xiran’s writing here at Rock the Boat and their MG debut blew us away,” Jennings said. “Xiran tackles a range of social issues as our Chinese Muslim protagonist learns about his cultural heritage while also trying to save the world. A chaotic (in the best way!) mash-up of cutting-edge tech, Chinese history and myth, with some killer one-liners to boot, this is the blockbuster fantasy we’ve all been waiting for.” 

Zhao commented: “Rock the Boat has been such an amazing and supportive home for my debut novel Iron Widow, and I could not be happier to be working with them on Zachary Ying as well!” 


Firekeeper’s Daughter Shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley has been shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for Older Readers.

Every year Waterstones booksellers are called on to vote for the books they believe are the very best in new children’s writing and illustration across three categories.   

The awards sees six books compete to be crowned a £2,000 category winner, with the winners then vying for the overall title of Waterstones Children’s Book of the Year and an extra £3,000. 

Firekeeper’s Daughter is a ground-breaking YA thriller about a Native American teen who must root out the corruption in her community, that was also voted the winner of the YA Fiction Goodreads Choice Awards.

Florentyna Martin, Waterstones head of children’s, said: “At a time when books are increasingly relied on to help us navigate an uncertain world, our booksellers have keenly chosen shortlists that inspire readers. Offering varied perspectives on themes of belonging and identity, the shortlisted books invite young readers to find comfort in familiar communities, discover engaging new worlds, or adventure to the unknown, all while being guided by unique, life-changing and relatable characters. The skill and talent of these writers and illustrators showcases the dynamism of children’s books, and the power of sharing stories.”



Q&A with Kathleen Glasgow, author of You’d Be Home Now

Kathleen Glasgow, bestselling author of Girl in Pieces, answers some burning questions about her new novel, You’d Be Home Now. 


  1. You’d Be Home Now is a story about the impact of addiction, but it’s told from the perspective of Emmy, the ‘good one’ in her family. Why did you choose to narrate the story from Emmy’s perspective rather than that of her addict brother Joey? Addiction affects the person struggling, but also spirals outward: to those in the family, school, neighbourhood. I’ve been on both sides of addiction: I’ve been the person struggling and I have worked to help friends and family. I wanted to focus on Emmy as the narrator to give voice to those who often feel voiceless in the face of addiction, especially a sibling, who might feel overshadowed by the emotional attention given to the person in crisis. That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t rightly focus attention on the person in crisis, but we also need to begin to understand what happens to the mental health of those in the orbit of addiction. They feel alone, invisible, as though their needs don’t matter. And then they feel guilty about that, much like Emmy does. Addiction really does a number on the mental health of those in its path; that’s collateral damage.


  2.  How did the experience of writing Emmy compare to writing Charlie in Girl in Pieces and Tiger in How to Make Friends with the Dark?Writing Emmy was, in some ways, more difficult than writing Charlie and Tiger! She’s coming from a place of extreme privilege. It’s hard to make a person of wealth sympathetic, because a reader might feel like, ‘She has all this money; her brother will be fine. The family can afford rehab and counsellors, etc.’ But in the end, that doesn’t help. Addiction doesn’t care about your postcode or your trust fund. It will consume whatever is in its path. And what’s in its path is what the book is about: the collateral damage of addiction, siblings like Emmy, overlooked, overwhelmed, exhausted, suffering and feeling guilty about that suffering. Like, who doesn’t want to help a family member struggling with addiction? You’d do anything for them, of course. But also…sometimes, at sixteen, you just want to go to a dance. Get kissed. Experience joy. But how can you allow yourself to feel even a tiny bit of happiness when your sibling’s life is literally on the line? Guilt is powerful and damaging. Writing Charlie and Tiger was easier, in a sense, because they are pure emotion. Emmy was different because she’s not even sure what her emotions should be; she’s been in the background to Joey (and Maddie) her whole life. She hasn’t really been allowed to figure out who she is, yet.


  3. You’d Be Home Now is a reimagining of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. What inspired you to do this and how did you go about it?Our Town is one of my very favourite plays, ever. The possibility of reimagining it was broached to me by my editor, and I said yes, enthusiastically. The one thing I knew going into the project was that I didn’t want Emmy to die, because in the play, Emily Webb dies.  The first thing I did was really think about the town of Grover’s Corners from the play. What would that town be like today? How would it have changed or not changed? I imagined it as a place somewhat frozen in time, still adhering to old ideals and unable to accept what’s tearing apart its fabric. And that would be the opioid crisis, which has devastated communities across the US. For me, the play has always been about what it means to be alive on this earth. Our connections, our hopes, our dreams. I like to think of this book not as a retelling of the play, or even a reimagining, but a repositioning, if that makes sense. I can’t top Thornton Wilder! But I do believe, absolutely, that if he were alive today and writing the play, the opioid crisis would be in Grover’s Corners. How could it not be? But it’s hard to write when Thornton Wilder is in the room, so at a certain point, I had to set myself free so that Emmy and Joey and Mill Haven could grow on their own. When writing this book, I thought about the ideas of the play as the framework for the story I want to tell about this girl, and this town. You’d Be Home Now is like a painting and Our Town is the frame in which it hangs.
  4. The book tackles the opioid crisis in the US, but its subject is also of personal significance to you. Why did you feel now was the right time to tell this story? And do you think your own experiences of addiction and recovery have influenced the narrative?As TikTok tells me, I write sad books! This is true. But I don’t write them just to write ‘sad books.’ I write books that are sad because the things in them are true. They happen beyond the pages of my books, to a hell of a lot of people. They have happened to me. They’ve happened to someone you know. They’ve happened to a lot of people you know. Addiction, recovery, depression and self-harm are parts of my life. They are the skin I live in. I own them as me. I write about these things because people should know about them and books can be a safe place to explore what you cannot express in real life, or don’t know how to. My own experiences will always influence the narratives I choose to construct because, well, I live with them on a daily basis. My characters are distinct from me in that their stories belong to them, but little bits of me make their way inside. For instance, in Girl in Pieces, Charlie has my scars, but her story isn’t mine. In You’d Be Home Now, I gave Joey my thoughts about addiction, but again, his story is his own.


  5. The words of Mis Educated give voice and power not just to Liza and Emmy but to the student body as a whole. Why did you feel this was important?I have to say that writing Mis_Educated’s Instagram posts were absolutely a balm to me when writing this book, as sad as they are. If you read the play Our Town, you’re familiar with the character of The Stage Manager, who knows everything about Grover’s Corners and the people in it, and often speaks directly to the reader/audience. I had to figure out how to reimagine that character for this book and that character ended up being Mis_Educated and their Instagram posts. One thing that I love about social media in particular is that it is absolutely used as an immediate public diary for people, especially teens. I used to have a diary with a little lock on it in which I wrote all the things I was too frightened to talk about. Now, social media posts act as a kind of instant diary, viewable immediately. Mis_Educated is anonymous and talks about the hypocrisy of Mill Haven, Heywood High School, the mental health of fellow students, all of it. And this was a great way for me to get other voices in the book, like the teens who respond to her posts with their own pain, their own stories. Those posts are their world, a place they can unload their pain without fear of reprisal from their family. They can be themselves.


  6. Emmy’s poetry reading gives her, quite literally, a moment in the spotlight. Do you see this as the moment she finds her voice? Was it important for you that she had this moment?It’s funny because Emmy’s poem was partly written by Liza, because Emmy had trouble articulating what she wanted to say. She’s never really been asked to speak up about her feelings before. She’s a big reader, she loves words and narrative and getting lost in someone else’s story but being asked to tell her own is terrifying. I did want her to have a moment, though, where she absolutely had to be in front of people and speaking her truth, standing up for herself. One of the central ideas in the book is that adults rarely see teens as they are; instead, they prefer to see them as they what they hope they’ll be: successful, happy, etc. But you know what? The kid in front of you, right now, this moment, is in pain and needs to you to acknowledge that. And accept it. And love them, in all their pain, without judgement. Emmy’s moment, I hope, elucidates that.


  7. You’d Be Home Now does a brilliant job of narrating complex and contradictory characters. Do you feel by the end of the novel that Emmy and Joey have a sense of who they are?I think that Emmy might have a better sense than Joey, at the end. I think she’s realised she needs to figure out boundaries. As Liza tells her, you can’t help someone unless you’re right with yourself first. This means knowing what you can and can’t do; what you will and won’t do, in order to keep yourself safe. Joey is in a kind of stasis at the end: back in rehab, unsure of what will happen. Unsure if he can live in the world. Joey has basically been addicted to drugs since he was twelve. He has no idea how to live without them. Who is he if he isn’t high? I love Joey with all my heart. He has a long road to walk. But he’s taking steps.


  8. In the process of researching your novel, were there any statistics or stories that made a particular impact on you or on the direction of the novel? I listened to a lot of podcasts about addiction and mental health and read blogs and stories by people in active recovery. I researched statistics about drug use and suicide rates. One thing that stuck out to me was the fact that chronic drug users often have their first experience very early, by age twelve. That helped me with Joey’s character quite a bit.
  9.  Who are the writers you most admire? And who has most influenced your writing? I know this book gets a lot of flak, and rightly so, because it’s very much a product of its time, but the first book I ever read where I saw myself was The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. My mother had kept her old copy and I read it when I was thirteen and I nearly disintegrated with a weird, sad joy. Here was a story about a kid who was suicidal, depressed, alone, feeling all the things I felt but didn’t know how to articulate. There’s always a book, especially when you’re young, that kind of blows you apart because it’s the first book in which you’ve seen a version of yourself, and thus, you absolutely know that what you feel is not weird or wrong. You just feel, for lack of a better word, validated. I will always love that book for what it gave me. I admire so many writers and have been influenced by the stories they tell and the way they tell them, like Laurie Halse Anderson. I started my writing life thinking I’d be a poet, so there are a lot of poets that influenced me stylistically and narratively, like Anne Sexton and Ai. I have a lot of go-to writers that I’ll absolutely read anything by, like Liane Moriarty, Gillian Flynn, Kara Thomas, Tiffany D. Jackson, Courtney Summers and Karen McManus.


  10.  What would be your greatest piece of advice to any Emmys or Joeys?I’m hesitant to give any advice because I, too, am a work in progress and that feels like the way it should be! But I think that I would say: you are you, brilliant and messy and beautiful and hurt and confused and a work in progress. Love yourself for that.


You’d Be Home Now is out now in paperback!

image of You'd Be Home Now paperback and quote ‘Kathleen Glasgow expands our hearts and invites in a little more humanity.’ Val Emmich, author of Dear Evan Hansen

Rock the Boat imprint signs new Anthony McGowan Middle Grade Novel

Rock the Boat has landed a “thrilling and heart-wrenching” new middle-grade novel from 2020 Carnegie award-winner Anthony McGowan.

Senior commissioning editor Katie Jennings bought world English-language rights, including audio, from Charlie Campbell at Charlie Campbell Literary Agents. Dogs of the Deadlands will publish as a superlead in hardback next September. The book will be followed by a further middle-grade standalone.


“Both an animal adventure and a human tale of love, tragedy and redemption, inspired by true events, Dogs of the Deadlands takes place in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and tells the story of the dogs left behind when the humans fled. Gradually, nature begins to return to the woods surrounding the nuclear power plant, but the re-wilded forest, with its lynx and bears and wolves, is no place for dogs. What will Zoya, and her pups Misha and Bratan, need to do to survive the deadlands?”

Jennings said: “As soon as I read Dogs of the Deadlands, it felt like an instant classic: a book to capture the imagination of children in much the same way as Watership Down and The Call of the Wild. The book has everything you could want from a wilderness adventure—danger and excitement, tragedy and bloodshed, and a vividly detailed, near apocalyptic setting. But alongside the drama runs a powerful undercurrent of humour, heart and hope.”

McGowan, who won the CILIP Carnegie Medal in 2020 with Lark (Barrington Stoke), added: “Dogs of the Deadlands is the book I’ve been waiting all my life to write. As a young reader I was obsessed with animal adventure stories, from The Call of the Wild to Tarka the Otter and Watership Down, and this is my attempt to live up to those classics. It’s a book that I’ve striven to fill with excitement, danger, sadness and joy, but also one that tries to tell the truth about the natural world. I’m thrilled to be publishing it with Rock the Boat.”


Anna Woltz on Researching for Talking to Alaska

Anna Woltz gives an insight into how she researched assistance dogs for her book Talking to Alaska, a powerful story of two unlikely friends brought together by the love of a dog.

Talking to Alaska is a story about fear, but it’s also very much about courage. There are so many things in the world that might frighten you. So what do you do when you know things could go wrong any moment? Do you just stay in bed, or do you face the world? I always hope there are lots of wonderful things mixed up with the scary bits!

My main characters Sven and Parker are trying to answer the very same question: how to cope with a world that can be scary and uncertain? Parker’s summer has been terrible and she just wants to be invisible, while Sven is desperate to make a big impression on his first day at school. He’s really scared the others will just think of him as ‘that kid with epilepsy’ – and he’s so much more…

So let me tell you how I researched Talking to Alaska. There were many things I could invent, or take from my own life, or imagine, but assistance dog Alaska had to be exactly right, based on facts. And of course, so did Sven’s epilepsy.

It all began with dogs. I happen to love dogs. I am not just rather fond of them, I love them to bits. They don’t even have to make an effort: a wagging tail, a tilted head, a soft coat – and I’m smitten. But then I heard about assistance dogs. These dogs are not just sweet, they change their owner’s life entirely. Assistance dogs are not just indispensable because they dream with four paws up in the air, they really, truly help their owner in all kinds of fantastic ways.

I knew about Seeing Eye Dogs, but I discovered there are many more assistance dogs. Dogs helping children with autism, and people in wheelchairs, and veterans with PTSD. And then I came across assistance dogs for people with epilepsy. The skills of these dogs are truly exceptional, so I decided to write a book about such an extraordinary dog. But before I began writing, I had to find out much more about assistance dogs.

My research began with the Dutch Association for Assistance Dogs; I was shown around their big training centre in Noord-Brabant. All assistance-dogs-to-be are allowed to grow up in a foster home while they’re puppies. Once they’re one year old, they move to this special ‘doggy school’ for a training that takes several months.

I watched an enormous poodle being taught how to open a drawer, close the door and help a lady take off her boots. Thirty-five fantastic dogs were in training when I visited, but I wasn’t allowed to pet a single one of them! Total agony for a dog lover, but it’s really crucial: you’re never allowed to distract an assistance dog that is doing its job. The dog must be able to focus entirely on its owner and its important work. And even petting is a distraction…

My next visit was to Corrie and Cisko. Corrie has suffered epileptic seizures for twenty years. Before she had assistance dog Cisko, Corrie was constantly scared she would get hurt during a seizure. Because these seizures are so unpredictable, Connie was injured many times. She lost count of the times she was rushed to hospital in an ambulance… But now Cisko is there. He not only sets off an alarm with his muzzle when Corrie falls, he can do the best thing ever: he has learned to predict her seizures. It is truly miraculous – doctors and devices have no idea whether an epileptic fit is on the way, but some dogs sense it coming. We have no clue how these dogs do it – whether they smell something, or hear or see or feel it… But nowadays, Corrie is never injured. Cisco warns her in time, so she can safely lie down before the seizure begins. Cisco is totally indispensable and Corrie never leaves home without him.

Iris and Bieke showed me what life with an assistance dog means for a child. Iris is wheelchair-bound and she trained golden retriever Bieke herself, helped by the Association Child & Assistance Dog. At home, Bieke fetches and carries stuff for Iris, she pulls off Iris’s socks and can load the washing machine. Bieke also comes along to the shops, where she hands Iris the things she points out on the shelves. People who used to stare at Iris because she sits in a wheelchair now come up to her for a chat; they want to know all about Bieke. Iris hates it when people just stare at her, but she loves telling all about her wonderful dog!

Seventeen year old Manoah explained to me what it is like to have epilepsy in high school. She told me how it began for her, she talked about the way her classmates react when she is ‘gone’ for a moment and she shared her worries about the future with me. Before my book was published, Manoah read the manuscript. I asked her whether the feelings and thoughts of my character Sven rang true – and luckily she loved the story.

Finally I met Melanie and her beautiful assistance dog Snow. He is a white shepherd, just like the dog my parents used to own: Jefta. I still occasionally dream about Jefta, so I was speechless when I saw Snow: it felt like time travelling to a world where Jefta was still alive… Melanie trained Snow together with the Association Bultersmekke and gave me wonderful details about the whole process. She also described what ‘waking up’ from an epileptic seizure feels like.

So. My research was done. I had a notebook full of information and a head full of awe-inspiring stories – and then I had to sort of forget it all and create my own story. And my own characters: thirteen year old Sven. Twelve year old Parker. And Alaska, a snow white golden retriever.


Talking to Alaska is out now in paperback. 


Foyles names The Sellout as Book of the Year 2016

Booker-winning novel picked for special pre-Christmas promotional push

Foyles will have displays of The Sellout, carrying a gold and white Foyles Book of the Year sticker, at till points and front of house across all branches in London, Bristol, Birmingham and Chelmsford. The book will be highlighted on in-store screens, windows, homepage and social media channels.

Simon Heafield, Head of Marketing and Brand at Foyles said: “Paul Beatty’s novel is important, timely and original. From publication day the book has enjoyed a phenomenal reception at Foyles from our booksellers and customers alike, leading us to name it as our Book of the Year for 2016. We fully expect the huge demand we’ve seen at Foyles for this book to continue right up to Christmas, and beyond.”

Heather Baker, senior buyer at Foyles, said: “To say this is a daring, multi-layered, iconoclastic, laugh-out-loud masterpiece is to understate how much I loved it. It made me cry, it made me snort with laughter, and it still makes me furious. Beatty shines a fierce light into places that many would rather remain hidden, and does so with such sharpness, anger and erudition, underpinned with so much love and humour. It is in the truest sense a great American novel.”

Paul Beatty wins the Man Booker Prize for The Sellout

Paul Beatty has become the first US author to win the Man Booker Prize with his racial satire The Sellout.

His novel tells the story of a young black man who tries to reinstate slavery and racial segregation in a suburb of Los Angeles.

Amanda Foreman, chair of the judges, said the book managed “to eviscerate every social taboo”.

Beatty’s win was announced at a ceremony at London’s Guildhall on Tuesday.

Picking up the £50,000 prize from the Duchess of Cornwall, Beatty, 54, was clearly overwhelmed with emotion and struggled for words as he began his acceptance speech.

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