Jeff Norton is an award-winning author, writer-producer, and the founder of Awesome, a UK-based production company. We asked him a few questions about his experience in TV and publishing and the upcoming launch of new imprint Awesome Reads.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and Awesome Media & Entertainment.
Awesome is a creatively driven production company that initially grew out of my own novels. We partner with top talent and big broadcasters to bring books to screen. I’ve been working at the intersection of book and screen for over 15 years. When I moved to the UK, I had the great privilege of managing literary estates such as Enid Blyton’s. My first novel, MetaWars: Fight For The Future, was published in 2012 and I’ve written seven more books since then, mostly in the kids and YA space, but I’m actually working on my first adult novel now, Looking Glass, which is already in development for TV. Awesome creates and develops from ‘pre-school to primetime’.
2. You are about to launch an imprint as part of Awesome. What inspired you to launch it?
We decided to launch Awesome Reads because there’s an exciting opportunity to give readers the most spectacular entertainment experience in the form of the good ol’ novel. I was a very reluctant reader as an adolescent, much more into video games and films, so with Awesome Reads the challenge we set ourselves is how to present books to readers that might ordinarily choose another medium over the book. We’re fortunate to have former Managing Director of Simon & Schuster Children’s UK, Ingrid Selberg, joining us as Director of Publishing. We’ve been working very closely with whitefox, which has been a productive relationship. And of course, as a production company, we will be actively developing Awesome Reads titles for television.
3. As an established children’s/YA author and producer, how would you compare working in the worlds of media/entertainment to book publishing? What do you think publishers can learn from the world of film and TV entertainment?
At the heart of both mediums are three common elements: characters, stories, and worlds. While the tools to bring those creative elements to life differ greatly, the fundamentals are the same. I think publishers could learn from television to put the full welly behind each title. I dare say publishers have a ‘spaghetti on the wall’ strategy and I think it does booksellers, authors, and readers a disservice. By contrast, television puts a lot of effort behind the launch of each and every title. Not everything works, but most titles are given a fair outing.
On the other hand, I think television could learn a great deal from publishing, especially in treating the author as the true auteur of the work. Television is a collaborative medium by nature, which often results in excellence (for example, the ‘writers’ room’ model suggests that many minds are better than one), but sometimes falters with too many cooks in the kitchen. Publishing is designed to support an author’s singular creative vision and other mediums could benefit from that purity of storytelling.
4. What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned since founding Awesome?
It’s been an incredible learning curve and perhaps one day I’ll write a book about it, but there are a couple of things that stand out on a daily basis. The first is to surround yourself with good people who share your vision. I learned this the hard way, but it’s important to have people around you who want to achieve the same dreams. The second is the power of patience. I’m a pretty impatient person (I want that book to pub tomorrow!), but quality takes time and it’s better to be ‘late and great’ than ‘fast and good’.
5. What books should we be on the lookout for this autumn?
We launch Alienated: Grounded At Groom Lake on the first of November. It’s a middle-grade comedy-adventure with a sci-fi twist; the story focuses on Sherman Capote, the only human boy at the school for aliens at Area 51. Think Harry Potter meets Star Wars. It’s a funny yet poignant story about diversity, inclusion, perseverance, friendship… and, well, aliens. At its heart, Alienated is a book for all the misfits out there.
Jeff is on the web at www.jeffnorton.com and tweets as @thejeffnorton.