Skip to main content

BLOG TOUR: Lying about last summer by Sue Wallman

The story centres around a girl called Skye, who is sent to a camp for troubled teenagers after her sister dies in an accident. However, once she is at the camp she starts receiving text messages from someone pretending to be her dead sister.

My thoughts
I really enjoyed Sue Wallman's debut. It kept me guessing throughout with the mystery element as it is slowly unveiled what happened the previous summer. This meant I really struggled to put the book down and read it in one sitting. I loved that the teens are very real within the story and relateable complete with all their character quirks and flaws. I also loved that the book properly captured the feelings of guilt felt by Skye after her sister's death. This is definitely a book I'll be recommending to others.

Guest Post from Sue Wallman: Journey from draft to final printed copy

I started Lying About Last Summer after picking myself up from the hideous disappointment of my previous book not making it through an acquisitions process.

My writing group at the time consisted of four of us, so I had three people reading my chapters  and giving feedback. They were very supportive. I’ll always remember Emma Rea (who wrote Top Dog) telling us that she’d been thinking about writerly despair and she’d come to the conclusion that it was like an athlete with a sports injury. It was part of the job and it was always going to happen from time to time.

About halfway through my first draft, still in quite a bad writerly place, I went on a Bound Bound retreat (there was no time to write – it was more of an intensive bootcamp) and learned how to up my game in terms of editing and understanding plot and character. I also met a great group of writers.
I kept going until the manuscript was ready to send to my agent, Becky Bagnell. She came back with her usual optimism followed by tactful criticisms: “I think there are several places where the story could be strengthened…” I went away and became obsessed with the story, working on it whenever I could. Wherever I went, my laptop or a notebook came with me. 

After Becky decided it was ready to be submitted to a few editors, I won a manuscript critique in a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators raffle. It was with editor Natalie Doherty at Penguin Random House. I wanted her to say she thought it was the best book she’d ever read.
That didn’t happen. Instead she suggested things that she felt would make it better. Quite big things that would take time to fix. Like making Skye and Luisa sisters, rather than cousins. I’d read so many books about sisters and I’d wanted to do something different, but I could see that making them sisters might give the story more of an emotional punch.  I was flattened. But after discussing it with Becky, I knuckled down again. I felt like a character in a film montage, pushing myself to achieve something against the odds – except in a film you know it’s going to work out ok.

But then – A TWO-BOOK  DEAL with Scholastic! A fantastically enthusiastic editorial team. Lucy Rogers and Lena McCauley guided me through more edits – these were relatively minor. I upped the emotion further, made some things clearer and added a lot of rain at the end. 

On 19th March 2016 I saw the printed book in the Scholastic offices. Today – the day I’m writing this blogpost – I’ve seen the book in a bookshop, my local Waterstones, for the first time. In my daydreams I always thought these moments would be shrieky, but for me they weren’t. They were moments of quiet deep-down happiness.