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Justin Somper is an exciting creative talent in children’s book publishing. Beginning his career as a writer/editor for Usborne, he joined Puffin Books as a publicist in 1992 and moved to Random House as Children’s Publicity Director in 1996. In 1998, Justin broke free to become one of the UK’s first specialist children’s book publicists. He has since worked with Anthony Horowitz, Louise Rennison, the Roald Dahl literary estate and the Narnia literary estate amongst others.
Now, Justin has made the transition from leading book publicist to bestselling author with the Vampirates sequence. The first title, Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean debuted in 2005 and has sold over 100,000 copies to date in the UK. Justin was dubbed “The Next Big Thing” by Sunday Times Magazine while, in Waterstone's "Harry Potter Report", the chain’s buyers selected Demons of the Ocean as their top recommendation for fans of Harry Potter. The Sunday Times said Vampirates “promises to be an addictive series”. The Evening Standard welcomed “a vivid and bloodthirsty debut”, whilst The Times acclaimed “a clever combination of two genres that could make it as popular as Pirates of the Caribbean”.
With Demons of the Ocean, Justin won the Birmingham KS3 “Explores” Book Award and the Solihull Children’s Book Award. He was runner-up in the North East Children’s Book Award and short-listed for the prestigious Red House Children’s Book Award. Justin’s work has also won praise from fellow children’s book authors including Darren Shan who calls it, "An intriguing mix of piracy and vampirism. Justin Somper has brought new terrors to the blood-drenched seas - bravo!!!"
Vampirates: Tide of Terror was published in the UK in August 2006. It was book of the month for the Daily Telegraph‘s Family Book Club (with a rave review from Carol Thatcher – “I was swept along by the story… entertaining, relevant, interesting and thoroughly commendable”) and Blue Peter Book of the Month. Tide of Terror instantly became a top 20 children’s books bestseller.
In 2006, Justin made debut appearances at the Hay Festival of Literature, the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Cheltenham Festival of Literature, as well as visiting schools and libraries throughout the UK. Particular highlights included an event on the deck of the Cutty Sark and a very enjoyable return to his old primary school in Hatfield.
2006 saw the release of many of the international editions of Vampirates growing the global phenomenon. The US edition of Demons of the Ocean published in October 2006 and has garnered strong reviews. “This fantastic tale will find many fans,” said School Library Journal. The Spanish edition of Vampiratas: Demonios Del Oceano has sold over 30,000 hardback copies and already been reprinted five times. Vampirates has been promoted on the Warsaw metro and in Brazilian cinemas. The Vampirates books are now available in 23 territories wordwide. Check out some of the international websites:
Vampirates goes Global
World Book Day
In 2007 the Vampirates reached new heights as Justin was invited to write a “£1 book” to mark the 10th World Book Day in March. Vampirates: Dead Deep achieved number 7 in the children’s books bestseller lists and number 11 in general bestsellers.
Blue Peter Star Author
In March the same year, Justin was asked by Blue Peter to be the show’s first online “Star Author”. For this, he wrote a weekly blog on the Blue Peter site for 20 weeks from March to June. During July and August 2007, Justin embarked on his first foreign author tour – in Australia, meeting fans in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. On his return to the UK he appeared again at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Bath Children’s Book Festival and the Windsor Children’s Book Festival.
"Just read it"
The much anticipated third Vampirates novel, Blood Captain was published in September 2007. A Simon Mayo, Five Live Book Club book of the month, it was widely praised. Anthony Horowitz enthused: “It really is an ambitious book - and epic in every sense - from American cowboys to new-age healing to floating Indian palaces to real horror. A majorly impressive achievement.” A 15-year-old reviewer wrote in the Independent on Sunday, “This plot is completely original and you must read it if you like vampires or pirates. Or both. Or neither. Just read it.”
Justin is currently hard at work on the fourth main book in the sequence, Black Heart, which promises to reveal major secrets about the key characters. Black Heart will be published in January 2009. There will be a special extra book in 2009 – a collection of Crossing Stories compiled by Grace Tempest through her conversations with various Vampirate characters.
As well as writing the two new books, Justin has a busy 2008 in prospect with appearances at the Edinburgh International Book Festival (August) and Beverley Literature Festival (October) amongst others. Justin will be visiting schools and libraries throughout the year, supporting the National Year of Reading. He was delighted to spend World Book Day 2008 at the Mary Hare School for profoundly and severely deaf young people in Newbury.
Read an interview with Justin Somper