Hold Your Tongue author Deborah Masson – from Faber Academy to securing a book deal

Deborah Masson
25 November 2019
Article uploaded by
Mo Harber-Lamond

We’re incredibly proud of our students – and when they secure book deals it means we’ve done our job. Here, Faber Academy alumnus and author of Hold Your Tongue Deborah Masson shares her journey from taking our Writing a Novel course to getting published.

Writing a Novel: the first 15,000 online course

22 January 2020
  • Broaden your palette of techniques
  • Master viewpoint, structure, character, dialogue and research
  • Assess your potential for working in long-form fiction
Writing a Novel

As an alumnus of Faber Academy’s online courses Writing a Novel: the first 15,000 and Work in Progress, it’s a dream come true to have secured a two-book deal with my debut crime fiction novel.

Hold Your Tongue was picked up by Transworld UK and also pre-empted by Heyne/Diana in Germany. The eBook version has just been published (20th November 2019), with the paperback release scheduled for Boxing Day. The second book in the series will follow later in the 2020. I’m still in a daze (a very happy one!) Read the announcement made in the The Bookseller here.  

It really wouldn’t have been possible without Faber Academy, my fantastic tutor Tom Bromley, and the support of my fellow students, with a special mention to Katherine Debona.

I can’t recommend the courses highly enough. I learnt so much about the writing process, providing feedback on others’ work, reading new books as a result of extracts from the course material, the publishing process – both via the course and the monthly forum chats with authors – and that’s just to name a few invaluable things that I gained.

I thought it might help current and prospective students to talk a little about how I got from idea to book deal, and to show that the dream is possible – even if I’m still convinced I’m going to wake up any minute. So here goes, and please feel free to get in touch if you’d like to chat about any of it.

Hold Your Tongue started off as a 200-word flash fiction piece. I used to enter a monthly online competition through Writing Magazine’s forum Talkback. You would be given a one-word inspiration, and that particular month it was ‘sharp’. Being rather dark-minded in my reading and writing, it sent me on the trail of ‘tongue so sharp’, and it ended up being a flash piece about someone having their tongue cut out.

At the end of those Faber Academy courses, I had the first draft of Hold Your Tongue. I then opted for a manuscript report from my Faber Academy tutor Tom Bromley, which helped me knock it into shape.

Deborah Masson

The idea of that never really went away and, when I signed up for Professional Writing Academy’s 6-week online Introduction to Crime Writing, I brought it forward. The course asked for a detective, a crime scene with a footprint and an interview scene. As a result, the bare bones of my story were born – although DI Eve Hunter did start off as a man.

I then carried these bones through two Faber Academy courses, including Work in ProgressI think I succeeded in worrying a couple of professionals at the University of Aberdeen when I started asking questions about what would happen if your tongue was cut out, and how long it would take to die.

At the end of those Faber Academy courses, I had the first draft of Hold Your Tongue. I then opted for a manuscript report from my Faber Academy tutor Tom Bromley, which helped me knock it into shape. I wanted it to be dark, gritty and compulsive, and I hope I achieved that.

I was lucky enough to secure my fabulous agent, Oli Munson, on the first round of submissions, and it was whilst making some of his suggested tweaks to the book that I decided I wanted to make my lead a female. Once that decision was made, I felt it strengthened the book, and I was proud to be writing a strong female lead.

It was fantastic to see such positive and complimentary comments about my work, but frustrating that they seemed to be teetering on the fence – so close to taking the leap to take me on, but not quite taking it.

Deborah Masson

Shortly afterwards, Oli sent it out to a first round of publishers, as well as a scout for overseas. When I got the call to say that Heyne/Germany had pre-empted an offer, I was a gibbering wreck on the phone to Oli, and a very excited one when the call finished. After that excitement, I spent the next two to three weeks refreshing my emails constantly, praying for a UK deal too.

Oli was great at keeping me up to date, sending through any feedback that he got from publishers. It was fantastic to see such positive and complimentary comments about my work, but frustrating that they seemed to be teetering on the fence – so close to taking the leap to take me on, but not quite taking it.

It was as we were gearing up to send to a second round of publishers that one of the first publishers came back saying that they hadn’t been able to get the book out of their heads. I was scared to get too excited, to think that it may lead anywhere, so I couldn’t believe it when they went on to make an offer a short time after that.

I can’t thank my editor, Natasha Barsby, at Transworld UK enough for being the one to take that leap of faith. I’m so excited to be working with such great people, and forever grateful to Faber Academy, especially Tom Bromley, for getting me this far.

Deborah Masson

Deborah Masson was born and bred in Aberdeen, Scotland. Always restless and fighting against being a responsible adult, she worked in several jobs including secretarial, marketing, reporting for the city's freebie newspaper and a stint as a postie – to name but a few.

Through it all she always read crime fiction, and when motherhood finally settled her into being an adult (maybe even a responsible one) she turned her hand to writing what she loved. Deborah started with short stories and flash fiction whilst her daughter napped and, when she later welcomed her son into the world, she decided to challenge her writing further through online courses with Professional Writing Academy and Faber Academy.

Her debut novel, Hold Your Tongue, is the result of those courses – eBook available now, paperback Boxing Day 2019

Writing a Novel: the first 15,000 online course

Begins: 22 January 2020