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23 January 2020

Highly anticipated alumni debut novels of 2020

by Katie Smart From Our Students

At Curtis Brown Creative we are committed to championing talented writers and helping them to get the best out of their novels. Since the very first CBC course in 2011 over 75 of our students have gone on to get major publishing deals. We’re thrilled to share twelve exciting debut novels from our alumni which are to be published this year …

Rachel Marks Saturdays at Noon, coming February 2020

Rachel Marks, author

‘After the CBC course, I finally had the confidence to go ahead and finish the novel.’ – Rachel Marks

Rachel took our three-month online novel-writing course taught by Lisa O’Donnell back in 2016. Her debut novel was sold to Michael Joseph by Curtis Brown agent Alice Lutyens, who represents more former CBC students than any other literary agent – including Jane Harper, Kate Hamer and Catherine Bennetto.

Saturdays at Noon is a funny, warm-hearted and profound love story. Jake and Emily meet on an anger management course and don’t see eye to eye. But, when Emily meets Jake’s six-year-old autistic son Alfie – and instantly wins him over – they’re forced to put aside their intense dislike of each other for Alfie’s sake.

Read our interview with Rachel and her agent Alice Lutyens.

Clare Pooley The Authenticity Project, coming February 2020

Clare Pooley, author

‘When I started the course, despite having already published non-fiction, I had very little confidence … The support and enthusiasm of my wonderful writing group and my tutors – Charlotte Mendelson and Norah Perkins – made me believe, for the first time, that I really could do it. Without that support, I doubt I would ever have finished the first draft.’ – Clare Pooley

Clare had written a successful non-fiction book, The Sober Diaries, based on her experience of giving up alcohol and overcoming breast cancer before she turned her hand to fiction. She took our three-month novel-writing course in London in 2018, where she worked on her debut novel The Authenticity Project with tutor Charlotte Mendelson. Within months of finishing the course, she gained representation and a major book deal for her debut novel, which was sold to Transworld in the UK and Penguin Random House in the US.

The Authenticity Project is an uplifting novel of friendship and self-acceptance. The narrative follows six strangers all brought together by a green notebook. Julian Jessop, an eccentric, lonely artist believes that most people aren’t really honest with each other. So he writes – in a plain, green journal – the truth about his own life and leaves it in his local café. Before long, others find the green notebook and add truths about their own deepest selves.

Read our interview with Clare Pooley.

Struan Murray Orphans of the Tide, coming February 2020

‘I was still getting support and advice from Anna Davis long after the course ended, and it was in fact she who suggested I send my manuscript to Stephanie…’ – Struan Murray

Struan studied on our novel-writing course in London back in 2013 and gained representation quickly after finishing the course. His debut Orphans of the Tide started life as a YA novel before being reborn as middle grade. He won the Bath Novel Award in 2017 and his agent, Curtis Brown’s very own Stephanie Thwaites, sold the novel to Puffin Books. Excitement is building for this first novel in the series.

Orphans of the Tide is a magical adventure following bright young inventor Ellie who lives in a city half-submerged in water. When Ellie saves a mysterious boy from the stomach of a washed-up whale they are set up for a struggle against the Inquisition who believe him to be The Enemy.

Read our interview with Struan and his agent Stephanie Thwaites.

Eleni Kyriacou She Came to Stay, coming March 2020

Eleni Kyriacou, author

‘My tutor on CBC was the amazing Erin Kelly … She believed in the story and my writing, and seemed confident that I had the makings of a good novel.’ – Eleni Kyriacou

Eleni worked on her historical debut, She Came to Stay on our three-month London-based novel-writing course in 2015, taught by Erin Kelly. She Came to Stay was acquired by Hachette following their first ever open submissions scheme: The Future Bookshelf.

She Came to Stay tells the story of Dina, a Greek Cypriot immigrant newly arrived in London in the 1950s, who is enticed into new dangers while trying to better her life. The novel is partially inspired by Eleni’s parents’ real-life experiences.

Read our interview with Eleni.

Nikki Smith All in Her Head, coming April 2020

‘I learned so much from the courses – they were really invaluable. I started with the six-week online courses after a ‘now or never’ moment … . I realised how much I loved it quite quickly, so signed up for another course and, after that, applied for the longer three-month course.’ – Nikki Smith

Nikki took three Curtis Brown Creative writing courses back in 2017, starting with two of our six-week online ‘How to Write a Novel’ courses before securing a place on our three-month online novel-writing course. Nikki initially ‘met’ her agent – C&W’s Sophie Lambert  during an online agent feedback session on this longer course and decided to send her completed manuscript to Sophie after the course ended. Sophie sold Nikki’s debut novel, All in Her Head to Orion in a two book deal.

All in Her Head is a chilling psychological thriller which follows Alison who is convinced that her ex-husband Jack is following her. She knows she has a good reason to be afraid. She just can’t remember why.

Read our interview with Nikki Smith and her agent Sophie Lambert.

Hazel Barkworth Heatstroke, coming May 2020

‘I loved how the course was a potent mix of the pragmatic and the imaginative.’ – Hazel Barkworth

Hazel’s debut novel started to take shape on our six-month novel-writing course in 2016. She met her agent Lucy Morris at the end-of-course celebration evening after Lucy had already fallen in love with Hazel’s opening pages and what the story had to say about women and ageing. Heatstroke was then sold to Headline by Lucy.

Heatstroke is a dark and compelling narrative about desire, obsession and betrayal. When one hot summer fifteen-year-old Lily doesn’t come home, Rachel – Lily’s teacher and the mother of her best friend Mia – becomes increasingly obsessed with the disappearance.  But, she is keeping her own secrets.

Read our interview with Hazel and her agent Lucy Morris.

Jennifer Pearson The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates, coming May 2020

Jenny Pearson, author

‘I cannot overstate the huge impact the course had on my writing. I learned so much … I started to take my writing way more seriously and dedicated time to it. And I learned the value of seeking out feedback and listening to it.’ – Jennifer Pearson

Jennifer is a former student of our online Writing YA and Children’s Fiction course. Her debut middle-grade novel received an astonishing three-book deal from Usborne (after an eight way auction!).

The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates follows fact-loving eleven-year-old Freddie. After the death of his grandmother Freddie discovers that his biological father might be alive and living in Wales. He embarks on a journey to track him down, bringing his best friends along for the ride.

Read our interview with Jennifer.

Louise McCreesh Cracked, coming May 2020

Louise McCreesh, author

‘When I applied for the CBC scholarship, I had just quit a full-on day job because I could not stop having panic attacks about it and was worrying about my future. I thought I had no chance whatsoever of receiving the scholarship – so when I did, it felt like permission for me to pursue this thing that I had loved for so long.’ – Louise McCreesh

Louise was our 2016 HW Fisher Scholarship student. She was awarded the scholarship for her unique narrative voice. Cracked, the novel she worked on during the course, was sold to Hodder and Stoughton.

Cracked is a gripping murder mystery about seven patients and one dark secret. When Jennifer Nielsen hears her psychiatrist has been brutally murdered – and that she is implicated – she is forced to revisit a dark phase in her past.

Read our interview with Louise.

Kirsty Eyre Cow Girl, coming June 2020

‘I was lucky enough to have a really strong set of fellow writers on my course, who always gave constructive feedback and have brilliant books of their own. We are in touch today and critique each other’s material, which is immensely useful but also support each other.’ – Kirsty Eyre

Kirsty Eyre took our London-based three-month novel-writing course in 2017. Cow Girl, the novel she worked on with us, won the inaugural Comedy Women in Print Unpublished Prize in 2019 and a publishing contract with HarperCollins.

Cow Girl is an LGBTQ love story which follows thirty-something Billie, who gives up London life to run her dad’s dairy farm when he gets ill with a brain tumour. She navigates misogyny, homophobia and romance in order to win over the local farming community.

Read our interview with Kirsty.

Polly Crosby The Illustrated Child, coming July 2020

Polly Crosby, author

‘Lisa O’Donnell was the perfect tutor for me – she got me and my novel, and she wasn’t scared to push me to my limits. When I started the course, I had written the very basics of the novel, but what the course did was teach me how to turn it from a collection of ideas into a fully stitched together story.’ – Polly Crosby

Polly took our six-week online Write to the End of Your Novel course before joining our six-month online novel-writing course with Lisa O’Donnell in 2018 after being awarded the Yesterday Scholarship (generously funded by author Felicia Yap). After taking the course Polly went on to become a Bridport Prize runner-up and then gained a two-book publishing deal with HarperCollins for her debut novel The Illustrated Child.

The Illustrated Child is a heart-wrenching story that follows Romilly as her eccentric father starts to suffer from early onset dementia. Then she realises that the children’s picture books which made him famous contain a hidden treasure hunt – just for her.

Read our interview with Polly.

Kiare Ladner Nightshift, coming July 2020

Kiare Ladner, author and HW Scholar

‘Charlotte Mendelson’s classes are stimulating and inspiring. Being in a workshop situation with exciting writers is a privilege and a chance to learn. The atmosphere is supportive and the agent-author discussions are full of interest and encouragement.’ – Kiare Ladner

Kiare was a HW Fisher Scholarship student on our London-based novel-writing course in 2018. During her time on the course she landed top Curtis Brown agent Cathryn Summerhayes, who then sold her debut Nightshift to Picador. Later in 2018 Kiare’s short story ‘Van Rensburg’s Card’ made the five-strong shortlist for the BBC National Short Story Award.

Nightshift is a gritty urban tale of same-sex obsession set in the strange world of night shift work.

Read our interview with Kiare.

Frances Quinn The Smallest Man, coming October 2020

‘During the course a group of us started meeting once a month for a writing day, and we still do. My book owes a lot to them – they’ve read countless drafts, and whenever I’ve dug myself into a big black plot hole, it’s been one of them that’s got me out of it.’ – Frances Quinn 

Frances was a student on our six-month novel-writing course in London in 2014 – and at the end of the course Frances gained representation with Curtis Brown’s Alice Lutyens who sold The Smallest Man to Orion.

The Smallest Man is an epic historical novel spanning twenty years and is loosely based on a true story. Told from the unique perspective of the smallest man in England, with the clever and engaging voice of a boy-turned-man yearning for acceptance, this story takes us on an unforgettable journey.

Read our interview with Frances Quinn.

Jack Meggitt-Phillips The Beast and the Bethany, coming autumn 2020

‘We [former course mates] meet every month and shout at each other over mountains of snacks and rivers of wine. Sometimes we even talk about our writing.’ – Jack Meggit-Phillips

Jack took our three-month novel-writing course in London in 2019. Whilst studying with us he was working on a historical satire. After the course he discovered a passion for children’s fiction, finding it to be the perfect genre to express his wit and sense of humour. His debut novel The Beast and the Bethany is the first in a series of middle-grade children’s book set to be published by Egmont.

The Beast and the Bethany is the wickedly magical tale of Ebenezer Tweezer, a youthful 511-year-old. Ebenezer keeps a beast in the attic of his mansion, who he feeds so that it will vomit out potions to keep him young and beautiful. The beast grows greedier and when Ebenezer meets orphan Bethany, he thinks he has found the perfect treat to satiate the beast. But Bethany is not your average orphan.

Read our interview with Jack.

Meet your trusted readers and learn from expert tutors on our upcoming six-month online novel-writing course with Lisa O’Donnell & Andrew Michael Hurley. Applications close Sunday 26 Jan.

Or, if you’re writing for a younger audience, apply for our three-month online Writing YA & Children’s Fiction course taught by Catherine Johnson. 

View all of the creative writing course we currently offer on our courses page.

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Our Courses

Catherine Johnson

Writing YA & Children’s Fiction

24 Jan – 25 Apr

Writing Poetry

17 Feb – 31 Mar

Breakthrough Novel-Writing Course for Writers of Colour

10 Jan – 21 Jan

Writing Your Novel – Six Months

21 Feb – 02 Aug
Jake Arnott, Author

Writing Your Novel – Six Months

24 Feb – 01 Aug