I’m seeking representation for THE SPEAKERS, a YA Own Voices urban fantasy complete at 85k words.

Seventeen-year-old Kaelie might have a missing father, a dead brother, and a temper that gets her into all sorts of trouble, but her wretched life isn’t helping her escape from her suffocating flat and grieving mother.

When Kaelie is wrenched out of her old life and thrown into the mysterious world of Speakers, an obsessively secretive race of humans who have the ability to speak to and change into animals, she discovers she’s special. She’s the first female in Speaker history. But Speakers are under threat. Fathers, brothers, husbands, friends are being abducted from their homes and experimented on by HEX, an organisation hell-bent on unearthing the genetic key to engineering an unstoppable army.

After getting caught up with a misfit group of adolescent Speakers running scared from HEX, at first Kaelie wants nothing to do with them. Life has taught her the importance of survival and fending for herself. But the Speakers need her. With her quicker and more powerful changes, only Kaelie has the ability – and the stubborn, headstrong nature – to save them from HEX. And soon she realises she needs them, and everything that being a Speaker represents: a fresh start and a family.

As HEX closes in, Kaelie is forced to choose: protect herself, or risk everything to save her new-found community.

If THE SPEAKERS had to change into other novels, it would choose to take the shape of Maggie Stiefvater’s THE WOLVES OF MERCY FALLS series and an older, darker form of Matt Haig’s EVIE AND THE ANIMALS.

I’m a journalist and marketer with professional short story and poetry credits. I was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize 2018 and this year I received arts funding to design, market and run a programme of creative writing workshops for organisations such as New Writing North and Seven Stories.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Kind regards,

Florianne Humphrey

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

I let myself in and shut the world out. A knot of dread twists in my stomach at the afternoon ahead of me in a flat full of memories.

I step into the hallway and, before I have time to drop my bag or hang up my coat, a woman gathers me up into her large, strong arms.

“Kaelie, darling, sorry I didn’t hear the door, your mama was having one of her – moments.”

Detective Chief Inspector Janine Williams, known to my family as Auntie Jane. I tense for a few seconds and, when she doesn’t let go, I relax into the soft hug. The knot in my stomach relaxes too.

Auntie Jane places her hands on my shoulders, pushes me back at arm’s length and stares me straight in the eyes.

“Shouldn’t you be at school?” she says.

For someone who’s in and out of detention like it’s a second home you’d think it would be easy for me to come clean, but instead I look down at the floor so I don’t have to see Auntie Jane’s disappointment.

“I was on my last warning with Mrs Takahashi.”

Auntie Jane kisses her teeth as I feign interest in the holes in the carpet.

“And last warning means – ?” says Auntie Jane.

“Kaelie?” says a small voice from inside the flat – soft, lilting, Irish. “Is that you?”

The fact that Mum said my name more than anything else draws me into our living room-come-kitchen like a drowning woman to a lifeboat. I don’t think she’s said my name in weeks. And it’s come at the right time – I’ve bought a few more minutes before I have to face Auntie Jane again.

When I come into the flat, I can see Auntie Jane has left her mark. There are newly cleaned kitchen surfaces and simmering pots filled with what I imagine the Caribbean must smell like. Pillows are plumped, ornaments are straightened, and there’s a bunch of wildly pink flowers bursting from a vase. When Auntie Jane comes round, it feels like a home again. On the waiting days in between, it’s just a flat, whose walls are a too-small skin I’m itching to get out of.

“Kaelie?”

The battered sofa swallows up Mum’s tiny body.  She’s half-hidden by piles of those newly-plumped cushions, socked legs drawn up to her chin, a huge mug of steaming tea in her hands, probably her fourth today.

“Show Kaelie what we bought,” says Auntie Jane, who has followed me in to hover over the pans and tie an apron around her waist. Mum’s cracked lips pull back into a tight smile.  She turns her head slightly to one side to show the rhinestone clip holding together her hair. I try not to notice the ashy threads and wrinkles around her eyes, even though she’s barely forty.  Mum didn’t get the luxury of time leeching her youth. Loss has been a far more destructive parasite.