Blog tour: The Goose Road by Rowena House
Hello, and welcome to my stop on The Goose Road blog tour. I’m so excited to be teaming up with Walker Books to welcome Rowena House to The Bumbling Blogger to share her top tips for budding writers and how to get published – but first, let’s take a closer look at The Goose Road, shall we?
In 1916, in France, Angélique is making hay on her family’s farm when the postman delivers news – her father is dead. Angélique is not sorry – he was a cruel, drunkard of a man – but she is deeply relieved her brother, Pascal, is still alive.
She makes a promise – then and there – that the farm will remain exactly the same until her beloved brother returns home. When all goes awry, Angélique sets off with her treasured flock of Toulouse geese to sell them to make enough money to ave her family home and await her brother’s return.
Angélique is a strong female protagonist and her journey through France is gripping, poignant and exciting.
Want to learn more about The Goose Road? Click on the cover above to check it out on Goodreads.
“War is a terrible thing, Angélique. Soldiers see terrible things. They do terrible things. It changes a man.”
The Goose Road is a mature exploration of life in France during World War I. Although called a children’s book and primarily marketed at a younger audience, this book is bound to have universal appeal. It taught me things that I had no idea happened during WWI – primarily the Requisition – but, because Angélique is such an easy character to empathise with, the educational aspects aren’t bland or boring.
The characterisation is superb. All Angélique really wants to do is help her family, but the war, her age and her gender make things difficult for her. Everyone can relate to wanting to help their loved ones during hard times, so there’s no way you can’t root for Angélique on her quest to save her family’s farm. Some of the situations are farfetched, which makes it hard to get fully absorbed into the story, but the more mundane struggles are charming and highly emotive.
The story at the heart of The Goose Road is one of love and loss. I found it difficult to stop myself from shedding tears at multiple points, so if you’re looking for a happy story this might not be the best place for you to come! However, if you’re looking for a book that will make you feel a wide range of emotions and leave you wholly satisfied, Rowena House’s debut novel certainly delivers on those fronts.
Now that you’ve heard my thoughts on The Goose Road, it’s time for me to pass you over to Rowena…
Terry Pratchett was working as a local reporter on the Bucks Free Press when he sent a novel manuscript off to Colin Smythe, a friend in publishing who later became his agent, got a cheque in return and a request for his next story whenever it was ready.
Telling this story to a conference hall packed with wannabe writers – all gaping at him, agog at how it used to be – Sir Terence Pratchett apologized that it had been so simple for him; he knew we were having a tougher time.
Apparently, though, it hadn’t been easy at all.
In an interview with The Guardian I read later, Pratchett – with 75 million books sold – said he’d had to wait 16 years between the publication of that first novel in 1971 and the six-book deal which allowed him to become a full-time writer in 1987.
So don’t despair. You, too, may only need a couple of decades to succeed.
For me, it’s been 11 years to the month since I decided that come-what-may, I would definitely, absolutely, incontrovertibly, become a published novelist one day.
I was on holiday with my family in Croatia at the time, on the blazing white foothills that border Bosnia, when we came across a wooden sign warning us about landmines. They were left over from the 1990s conflicts that tore apart the old Yugoslavia.
Un-cleared landmine in Europe! How?
The story I write in response to that question took four years to complete, got four rejections – three very helpful and one deservedly cursory: the manuscript hadn’t been anywhere near ready for that first submission – and now resides on the hard drive of a PC I no longer use. I have no desire to revisit it, but that apprenticeship manuscript was a vital part of the journey.
For me, the turning point came in 2012 when I was accepted onto the Bath Spa University MA in writing for young people, and started to discover how I, personally, might be able to write convincing fiction.
That may sound daft. You might have excellent storytelling instincts. Mine are rubbish. I’ve had to consciously learn about the sort of writing style I can sustain, and what sort of fiction my style suits.
Next I needed to learn what I can write.
I’ve tried contemporary romance and failed at it twice. I like TV detective dramas, but crime doesn’t appeal as a genre to write. Having discarded my Balkan war story, it didn’t occur to me that I’d chosen the wrong war, rather than the wrong subject, thus I had to wait until a short story competition for MA students brought World War One within view at the end of the first year on the course.
I took another six months to commit to turning this WW1 short story into my MA manuscript, with great support from my tutor, Marie-Louise Jensen. Fifteen months later I signed with my wonderful agent, Jane Willis of United Agents. Six months after that fab Walker editor Mara Bergman got me a development contract, which became a full contract in 2016 after I’d completed full structural edit.
So what advice can I offer aspiring writers that’s not been said a thousand times before? Nothing blindingly original, I’m afraid.
Keep the faith if a traditional publishing deal is what you really, really want. But don’t beat yourself up if you decide to walk away. There are other things in life, and you can always come back.
Write from the heart: edit with your head. With hindsight I’m convinced it was passion for the subject of The Goose Road that kept me going, but crafting it into a publishable shape required objectivity and editorial training.
Research agents. Some are fantastic people; others won’t even bother to acknowledge your submission. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ agents’ party is a good place to start. Conference 1-2-1s are even better.
If and when you get a book deal, listen to your editor very carefully, think deeply about what they’re saying, then work out for yourself how to achieve what they want. Every bit of advice I received from Mara Bergman has made The Goose Road a much better book. But I had to rewrite it my way. Now we’re both proud of it.
Last, but perhaps most important, find your writing tribe.
I know everyone says it but I agree: writing communities keep us going like nothing else. I’ve had massive support from MA friends and tutors, from the Book Bound Retreat and Golden Egg Academy editors’ course teams, and fellow members of the SCBWI. I can’t thank them enough.
So very, very best of luck fulfilling your writing dreams. And if in the meantime anyone tells you that writing for young people is an easy option, please, laugh in their face.
About the author:
Rowena House studied journalism at LSE and spent several years on Fleet Street, reporting for various news agencies. In 2013, Rowena won a competition run by Andersen Press, which published her winning entry, ‘The Marshalling of Angélique’s Geese’ in War Girls. The Goose Road is her novelization of that story.
Once again, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Walker Books for inviting me to get involved in this blog tour, and to Rowena House for writing a brilliant novel and an inspirational guest post. I think I’m going to spend the rest of the day scribbling away in my notebook and finally fleshing out a complete first draft of my novel!
I’m giving away two copies of The Goose Road over on Twitter (to UK readers only, I’m afraid!). All you have to do is retweet this tweet and follow me to be in with the chance of winning – I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.
If you aren’t lucky enough to win a copy, you can order The Goose Road using my Amazon affiliate link, which will give me a few pennies of commission from your purchase.
Thank you for stopping by!