Odd Voice Out
December has been a hectic yet rewarding month for Odd Voice Out with KC and Kell cramming events, readings, sales, interviews, fundraising and awards into a few short wintry weeks. We started on the last day of the Chester Literature Festival, performing readings from Fallow Heart and Shrinking Sinking Land to a crowd gathered on the main floor of the Storyhouse. We presented Odd Voice Out press and a sample of our fiction as part of ‘Litfest Elevenses’, a free morning session for Chester residents to get a taste of the city’s local literary talent. We signed our first paperback releases at this same event before taking the rest of our stock onto the Sustainable Winter Fayre, presented by Friends of the Earth at the Industry in Handbridge. With the focus on ecology, Kell gave another reading followed by a talk on the cli-fi genre and its role in green activism.
December has also been a month of happy surprises and successes. Along with successfully hitting (and exceeding) our very first kickerstarter goal, KC got the good news that her fantasy novel ‘The Book of Shade’ had been selected as a General Fiction first prize winner in Top Shelf magazine’s Indie Book Awards of 2018. Six years after it was originally written for NaNoWrimo, KC was delighted to see ‘The Book of Shade’ still doing so well. This latest accolade is the perfect way to build up excitement for both new editions and the final installment of the epic Shadeborn series. Odd Voice Out will be re-releasing KC’s award-winning saga as part of its summer season for a brand new audience to enjoy!
Kell also received a rather wonderful shock this month as she was contacted by Scott Lankford, a teacher at Foothill College in Silicon Valley, who let her know that he's been teaching her original short story version of 'Shrinking Sinking Land' for the last two years, since its release in the Everything Change climate fiction anthology. Scott described her story as “a perennial student favourite” and invited Kell to take part in a Skype interview with his specialist class studying fictional & factual climate writing. Scott also sent a few sample essays from students who'd analyzed Kell’s story, providing plenty of inspiration for Odd Voice Out as we make plans to embark on school visits and educational workshops in 2019.
As a final bit of online publicity, KC and Kell also conducted detailed interviews with Amy Bernal of My Books - My World. Click the links below to hear KC discussing Fallow Heart and Kell talking about Shrinking Sinking Land. If you ever wanted to learn about the methods behind our madness, now's your chance!
K.C. Finn Interview
Kell Cowley Interview
The hardest thing about starting our own indie press is we have to do everything for ourselves. But the best thing about starting our own press is that we GET to do everything ourselves. In the last few months we’ve had to embrace the heavy workload that comes with full creative control as we worked towards unveiling our press to the local community. On Monday 12th November, the popular music venue the Chester Live Rooms played host to the launch night of Odd Voice Out, our indie literary press for teen and crossover fiction in a colourful range of genres, with casts of diverse young heroes. Together we took to the stage as two writer friends, joining forces and taking their literary careers to the next level.
“Our main goal during this initial year…” K.C. Finn told our launch night audience, “…is to establish Odd Voice Out as a brand, producing and publishing four books within our first twelve months of opening. We hope to create an income baseline that’ll allow us to expand and take on more authors who fit our style and ethos in the future.”
Both of us moved to the city of Chester in the summer of 2015 and met at an audition for A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the local Little Theatre. Since then we have collaborated on everything from original drama showcases to performance poetry nights, whilst at the same time working separately on our own repertoires of teen novels. That all changed in July 2018, when we attended the Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) in London, hoping to find opportunities in traditional publishing for our new ideas. Instead we came away with a shared desire to create our own platform. Not only do we want to bring our own novels to the 2019 con, but we want to showcase a distinctive and diverse teen fiction press of our very own.
“We spent the entire train ride home brainstorming ideas,” Kell recalled. “First we came up with the name and the branding. We call our press OvO for short after, its owlish looking acronym that inspired the bespectacled bird logo. Next came the cover art for each of our novels. Then we were planning websites, social media platforms, business cards, workshops, a Kickstarter campaign. All of it building towards this autumn launch party.”
Our bustling crowd at the Live Rooms launch got a tantalising taster of everything that Odd Voice Out has to offer. The attending audience walked into the candlelit barroom and found the stage set with a huge flat-screen TV, scrolling through a sideshow telling the story of OvO’s conception and journey so far. There were also sample booklets containing the opening chapters of OvO’s winter releases set out on every table, a sales desk to take pre-orders or accept donations to their Kickstarter campaign, and even a ‘bookstagram’ table covered with artsy backgrounds and props that could be used to snap photos of our first edition hardbacks, then get those snaps up on social media.
“We wanted our launch party to be more than the conventional show and tell,” says Kell. “We wanted it to be a visceral, immersive and interactive experience. We encouraged everyone who came to get creative with us. To read our samples, write in suggestions, make collages with our cover art, take part in quizzes and prize draws. We also had a very talented local teen musician, Kathryn Graham, performing during our intervals – our way of keeping powerful young voices at the heart of all that we do.”
The main events of this eclectic launch night were the dramatic readings from each of our books, followed by a Q&A conducted by host and local playwright Andy Hutchings. These showcases focused on our winter novels – the urban fantasy horror ‘Fallow Heart’ by K.C. Finn released on November 30th, and the climate fiction thriller ‘Shrinking Sinking Land’ by Kell Cowley released on December 14th, available in ebook, hardback and paperback editions. These novels are the first titles on our growing bookshelf for offbeat readers. Forthcoming books will represent a variety of genres, from historical to futuristic, surreal to supernatural. But all OvO novels will come with a common theme of diverse and underrepresented voices, touching on issues such as racial and sexual identity, body dysmorphia, disabilities, mental health and political repression.
“Kell and I have both had some experience with agents and publishers trying to restrict and censor parts of our writing, supposedly to make it more marketable,” said K.C. Finn in her interview. “But neither of us are interested in playing by the rules of what timid publishers think you can and can’t do in YA fiction. We want our teen books to be unconventional and challenging and we feel that’s something the readership wants to see too.”
We both bring different strengths to our joint enterprise. K.C. is already established as a best-selling and award-winning indie author, who is also a PhD student and a private coach in English and Creative Writing. Kell meanwhile is a debut novelist, with a degree in Performance Writing and an apprenticeship in fiction, who has worked as an entertainments journalist, a museum tour guide, and currently runs a school library.
“We are both writers first and foremost,” says Kell. “But in terms of running our press we try to play to our individual strengths. Kim has got a better business head than me and a great grasp of social media promotion. I’m more the market researcher. I talk to teen readers every day. It’s part of my job to know all the new releases and latest trends. Between us we have professional experience as writers, readers, reviewers, librarians, teachers, journalists, performers, academics and entrepreneurs. We are also networking with other Cheshire creative types in a variety of mediums. It’s become a real home-grown passion project.”
“The culmination of our first year’s work…” K.C. concludes, “…will be to present Odd Voice Out press and our publications at the Young Adult Literature Convention 2019 at the Olympia, London in July – fully fledged and ready to take on the world!”
“This is just the beginning,” Kell adds. “Anyone who wants to get involved or show their support should follow us across our social media outlets as they will be the first port of call for all our major updates, events and new releases.”