Case study

First book deal for ‘shocked’ graduate Alex

It’s been a year of shocks, surprises and delights for English and Creative Writing graduate Alex Foulkes. Her first book, Rules for Vampires, has been published by Simon and Schuster. It has been been endorsed by some of her literary heroes and it’s currently rating at 4.5 stars out of five on Amazon, with a sequel is on its way.

Breaking into industry

Despite her love for writing and her creative mind, Alex still thought writing professionally and breaking into an industry that is notoriously competitive, was so far beyond her reach. She says every step along the way has been a surprise.

“When I finished my manuscript, when I landed my agent, when I worked with my editors, when we got the book deal – there have been a hundred little shocks," she says. "And then, one day, I just had this book in my hand and couldn’t believe it.

“When I look back at how far I’ve come, it was being at the University of Derby that first gave me that little spark of: I could do this as well. I have potential to be an author if I work hard and I’m lucky. Being at Derby made me want to try. It’s something I’ve carried with me during my years as a graduate.”

student, alex foulkes, author
A colony of bats flying on the inside folio of for Rules for Vampires, by Alex Foulkes, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie

Aspirational push from academics

Alex has worked as a teaching assistant and a school librarian for seven years. She's had the drive to encourage young people in their own reading and learning and loved the library as a space of wonder, creativity and acceptance for everyone. While working with young children, she was asked by one of her students if she would write a vampire story as year seven pupils were reading Darren Shan’s Cirque Du Freak.

“I went home and I had an image in my head: a strange vampire girl running through a deep, dark and dangerous forest," she says. "Six months later, I had the first draft of Rules for Vampires ready to go."

Alex credits her university experience for motivating her. She says: “When you are taught by professional writers and critics, it can also give you that aspirational push – it’s inspiration to jump into this world and give it a go. I used to listen to our lecturers and the guest speakers, and secretly want to be a pro like them.

“If it hadn’t have been for my experience at university, everyone I’ve met, everything I’ve learned – I probably wouldn’t have been brave enough to submit my work to agents. There was a spark about this project that made me feel as though other people might like it too.

"I should say that I am still quite a shy person, if I’m being honest, but being a Derby Uni graduate makes me feel I can stand up and say that, actually, I deserve a shot too. My agent and my publisher both agreed, and here is Rules for Vampires today!”

‘Derby ticked all the boxes’

It was important for Alex to choose a university that would both stretch and support her. She says it was important she found somewhere she would fit in well.

“When I visited Derby Uni on an Open Day, I was impressed by the content of the course, and I liked that I could choose both creative and critical modules. I also had a good instinctual feeling when I visited Kedleston Road campus. The friendly atmosphere made me feel very welcome. Being in the right environment for me was vital, especially at that point in my life, as I was looking to move away from home for the first time. Derby ticked all the boxes for me to be happy and to find success.”

To be continued…

Alex’s book has been so successful that she’s currently writing her next book. And Rules for Vampires is being translated into French, Spanish, Italian and Russian. A number of authors have read and endorse the book – including one of Alex’s writing heroes, Cressida Cowell, and David Walliams. She explains; “Every now and again I get an email that makes me feel a bit faint!”

The second adventure of Leo the Vampire, Rules for Ghosts, is due out in September 2022. Alex says: "I can’t wait to take you all with me on this new rollercoaster story! I’ve really enjoyed writing it and I’m really looking forward to sharing it with everyone.”