Every time I try and update this site, I get my user name or password wrong. I’m probably going mad. It’s the stress of working at home; listening to birds singing, not having anyone to tell me what to do, no meetings, no office politics, no pre-menstrual colleagues. Just myself, my pc and my sometimes fertile mind. I’ve gone a bit hermit this week because I wanted to get so stuck into something new that I’d forget all about that MS that publishers may or may not want to bite my hand off for. I mix writing up with a bit of light housework and a bit of social media. But I have to get out into the real world soon or I’ll lose the ability to string words together – those that come out of my mouth at any rate – or I’ll regress to my younger self when I was always putting my foot in it. It takes concentration, self-discipline and life experience to overcome that particular personality trait. This next book I’m writing, though not autobiographical by a long stretch, is a little bit cathartic. I had to write a chapter the other day, about a child at Primary School, and the only way I could work it out was to try and remember every little thing that I could about those good times. I found I remembered quite a lot, but the most disconcerting thing to discover, was that I was a truly weird little girl. I was gothic without realising it. A black comedy without the comedy. I’ve worked in a primary school for years, so I know teachers and I know that they would not have liked me. I’m not like that anymore. Really not. I still have a dark side, but I’m a hell of a lot nicer. Childhood is a strange time anyway, when perspective is still evolving. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
This is day one of week one. It’s a good day, as never in my wildest dreams (actually, yes, I did dream) did I expect to get this far (well, I hoped). I have a brilliant agent, Victoria Hobbs, at AM Heath, who loves my book. Out of the dozen agents I submitted to, four wanted to read on, so that was a fantastic hit rate. Previous books have netted a few encouraging rejections and several standard ones. The book is currently called The Watchman, but I’m not convinced that will stick. In previous incarnations it was Play On and Alice’s Lover. Anyway, as I say, this is day one. Yesterday I went online and read as many blogs from agents as I could find on the process of submitting to publishers, so I feel grounded in reality. I don’t have delusions of grandeur and wealth, but I feel reasonably confident, and anyway, I can’t dwell on it because I’m halfway through something else. That’s the best distraction. In particular, this blog by Wendy Keller, was very enlightening : – http://wow-womenonwriting.com/downloads/articles/15-WendyKeller/15-articles-TheBookSellingProcess.html; and this interview of Victoria Hobbs by Tina Bettison :- http://www.tinabettison.com/tag/victoria-hobbs/feed/ . Well worth a listen if you are in the position I am in.
I haven’t posted anything for ages. This is basically because I found an agent in October and then was so desperate not to jinx things by mentioning it, that I couldn’t blog anything at all. Well, I’m six months on, my novel is going to be submitted to publishers in the next week or so. My fingers are crossed.
The book is based on a short story of mine that was shortlisted for Fish and won the Segora Short Story prize. I loved the story, the tale of an imaginery friend who comes back into a woman’s life when she’s an adult. The novel is darker. Romantic, because I like a good love interest and sinister, with an imaginary friend who becomes dangerous when his quest for existence is threatened by Alice’s love for another man. At the moment it’s called The Watchman – a quote from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 61, that I use in the book:-
It is my love that keeps mine eye awake;
Mine own true love that doth my rest defeat
To play the watchman ever for thy sake.
The process of writing, editing, re-editing has taken a couple of years but I have learnt an incredible amount about story-telling and that knowledge is making the writing of number two, not easier, but a less convoluted process.
It’s tough out there, I know, and I’m not counting on making money, but I do need a way of avoiding going back to a desk job! I promised my husband I’d only take a year off, to focus on getting The Watchman off the ground, and then I’d start working again. This must be every writer’s dilemma. Affording to do it, not feeling guilty about not earning while your poor spouse supports your endeavours.
I have five months left of that year.
I am reading The American Senator, by Anthony Trollope – picked it up at a charity shop. He is my literary hero. Where he is really clever, is where he creates a thoroughly unlikeable heroine and persuades us, against everything, to rout for her. I think I began to like Arabella Trefoil by about page 130. She is good looking but not beautiful, completely and shamelessly on the make, treats her nice fiance appallingly while hanging out her lures for someone further up the social scale. She has a monster of a mother too.
These days we are told that our characters have to be sympathetic, ie. thoroughly likeable on page 1 or an agent/publisher won’t read any further. I think this is a great shame, and one of the reasons why I enjoy the classics. You have to have patience. You have to endure several chapters of family history before the story kicks off. But if you do, you are amply rewarded with memorable characters.
I have just read such a wonderful book, published by a small Edinburgh independent, The Linen Press. This morning, on the Today programme it was pointed out that of the Man Booker nominees, three out of five have been published by small publishers, including Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home.
White Lies is set in 1950′s Kenya, leading up to the Mau Mau rebellion and focuses on the lives of Mary, her strait-laced, unsatisfactory husband, David and two little girls, Clara and Eve. I don’t normally want to pick up and cuddle children I read about in books – but I really wanted to with Clara. The tensions between the couple, who are totally unsuited, and between the british and the Mau Mau, take the reader on an exciting and moving journey. I couldn’t put it down.
The Linen Press has been up and running for three years and is beginning to make a real name for itself. I wish it success.