Chloe Coles is the author of the sparkling, funny BOOKSHOP GIRL for Young Adults. It will be published in June 2018 by Hot Key. BOOKSHOP GIRL 2 will follow in October.
Originally from Northampton, Chloe studied Illustration at Cambridge School of Art, before moving to London. Now in her twenties, she has worked in bookselling since the age of sixteen, squeezing it in around school and university and other jobs. She works at Foyle’s Charing Cross Road, London as a Children’s Specialist and Assistant Buyer. All of her hair is her own. People ask her about that. A lot. Chloe sings (‘shouts’, to quote her) in a band with her best friend.
Instagram Selfie Queen @chlocoles
Twitter Rookie as @ChloeColes_
When and how did you start writing?
I kept diaries on and off throughout my teen-hood. My best friend would help herself to it whenever she came over to my house for pizza and chips, so I was mostly writing it for her to read. I liked the reaction it got (lols & OMG-I-remember-thats) although I did find myself censoring my work; I couldn't write about any of the things she'd done that really bugged me because I knew she'd see it! On the way home from school, after accidentally-on-purpose bumping into boys we fancied, I'd leg it home and write up a transcript of the stilted road side conversation. I'd add extra, crucial, details about the way his hair fell into his eyes or how strong his shoulders must be to carry a guitar case to and from school.
I didn't really know that I was writing when I kept those diaries...it wasn't until years later, in the bookshop I work at now when I set myself a new year's rezzie to try and write my own book, that I thought 'this feels kind of familiar'. Those old notebooks filled with lusty descriptions of lads and character assassinations of teachers were a huge influence as I started penning a book about teenage girls who are a lot like me and my school friends.
Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?
Jacqueline Wilson forever and ever amen. When I think about her books I think of felt tip pens and stolen scrunchies and novelty shaped birthday cakes. Big sisters snogging boys outside McDonald's. Birthday pressie shopping in WH Smith's. She understands childhood joy and fear and humiliation so well that the stories she writes are painfully (and hilariously) relatable. I once met her at work and dissolved into a puddle of my ten-year-old-fangirl self. She's a superstar.
Can you talk us through the writing of your first book? What were the key moments?
Being surrounded by books in one of London's best loved bookshops is a huge kick up the bum to at least try to make something that might end up on the shelves. It's also provided me with so many great opportunities to meet other authors and book-y people, to able to soak up all of their top tips and advice. I've worked in various bookshops since the tender age of sixteen. I've grown up in them! This book is a product of that really.
Was it hard to get an agent? Can you talk us through the process?
I know it's very hard to get an agent so I feel ever so jammy to have snared Polly Nolan. She was recommended to me by my darling-babe-friend, and best-selling author, Jennifer Bell. I had heard that some writers like to try a scatter gun approach, sending their work to multiple agents, however Polly was the first (and last) agent I sent my manuscript to. Everyone told me being on submission is hard and OMG they were right- a week can feel even longer than double maths followed by double PE. Then one day, behind the till at work, I logged into my emails and was nearly SICK when I saw a message from Polly waiting for me. I held my breath and read the email at least ten times...did she really just offer me representation?! I just knew, from the way she spoke about my book and the direction she thought we could take it in, that she got it, she got me, and that (to paraphrase Robbie Williams) she was The One. Thank God.
Describe your writing day. Where do you write? How do you organize your time? Where do you look for inspiration?
Working full time in the kids’ section at Foyle's, I squash writing sessions into my lunch breaks, quiet bus journeys, or behind the till when I think nobody's watching! I'm pretty much living in the setting of my story so it's constant inspo.
Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers who are looking to get published?
I think it's very useful to share your work, to find a few people you trust who are up for reading and giving you their honest opinion. It means that you get used to thinking about your writing critically, it's massively encouraging when you have a group of cheerleaders willing you to carry on, and it's a constant motivation to finish a chapter when you know you have a friend waiting to read it.
Can you describe three aspects of writing craft that have been most important as you've developed as an author?
Writing a book has been an excellent excuse for treating myself to even more novelty stationery. Struggling with pacing? Better snap up a cute Hello Kitty planner and pencil in my characters' schedule for the duration of the story! Whats that? The editorial notes from your agent have just come through? Good thing you're partial to a Paperchase splurge, the bunny shaped post it notes are calling your name! Kawaii stationery, those big bars of Dairy Milk and regular breaks to catch up on EastEnders have been crucial to my writing craft and I wouldn't want it any other way.