Hey folks! It’s been a while, but I’m delighted to be back with an interview with my colleague Kay Farrell, the editor of The Cost of Living. I really enjoyed Rachel Ward’s YA series, Numbers, when it came out, so I was delighted to be told I’d be working with her first cosy crime novel when I joined the Sandstone team. Before we get stuck into the questions, here’s the blurb from the back of the book:
After a young woman is brutally attacked on her way home from the local supermarket, checkout girl Bea is determined to find out who’s responsible. She enlists the help of Ant, the seemingly gormless new trainee – but can she really trust him? Customers and colleagues become suspects, secrets are uncovered, and while fear stalks the town, Bea risks losing the people she loves most.”
Could you tell us a bit about how Sandstone Press acquired The Cost of Living?
The Cost of Living was submitted to us by Rachel’s agent, and I immediately took to it. It’s a bright and fun book, with a lot of humour. I put together a case as to why I thought it would be a good one for us, and pitched it to the directors, who liked the sound of it. Then when we made the offer, Rachel asked to speak with me on the phone about what we planned for the novel and I guess she liked what she heard!
The Cost of Living is quite different to other books published by Sandstone Press – what made it stand out to you as a fit for the company?
It’s such a bright, fun book! It’s always nice for me reading submissions which are light and humorous but still have important things to say, like The Cost of Living. The details of the world and characters feel real and there’s a lot of humour alongside the darker elements. It does help that Sandstone already publishes several crime series, though they’re either tartan noir (Lesley Kelly’s Health of Strangers) or in translation (Volker Kutscher’s Babylon Berlin). The idea of a ‘cosy crime’ series fit alongside our existing crime but broadened the potential readership – and Rachel’s book has much to offer even to those who don’t usually pick up this genre!
Your role covers production and editorial – how did being close to the text influence your production decisions?
The book’s editor always has a lot of input into briefing the designer in the first instance, and I was definitely passionate about this one. We work with a range of freelance cover designers, and knowing the tone and content of the book as well as I did, along with the strengths of our designers, helped choose the right cover designer to tackle the project. I think it’s fair to say Rachel likes the end result! On the other hand, I did take a couple of wrong turns in terms of typesetting and we reverted to a simpler design in the end, which is often best: let the story speak for itself!
How did you find working with Rachel?
A dream. To go back a bit: when the manuscript first came in, I liked it a lot but didn’t think it was quite ready for publication, so I sent some feedback saying what we’d loved about it and what needed work. A lot of times, that’s the last we hear of a book but Rachel took it all on board. Six weeks later I had a redraft in which she’d addressed all the points we’d raised, and she’d improved on several other aspects without any prompting. I knew then we could really work together, and sure enough she was a consummate professional all the way through the process. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with her again.
What’s your favourite thing about the book?
This is such a tough question! I think the characters first and foremost. Bea is a great protagonist, really warm and sincere with a lot of tough things on her plate. Ant is funny and tough and vulnerable. My favourite character is Dot, though. I hope I’m that fabulous when I’m in my fifties!
Rachel Ward is a best-selling writer for young adults. Her first book, Numbers, was published in 2009 and shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. An avid reader of detective fiction, The Cost of Living is her first book for adults. Rachel lives in Bath with her husband, and has two grown-up children.
Kay worked in administration for years until a growing desire to follow her passion for books sent her to an MSc in Publishing. She achieved a distinction while undertaking freelance work in editing and proofreading, before going to work for a typesetter on graduation. As Assistant Publisher, a role which draws on her broad experience, she focuses on design and production as well as editing.