Claire King

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Claire King Edited Choices (10 of 10)

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The Multiverse of a Novel in Edits

Posted on: June 30th, 2015 by Claire - 6 Comments

Everything Love Is, my next novel, found its home at Bloomsbury in December of last year. Since then I’ve been working with my editor on getting it into the right shape for publication next year and I’ve just handed back my revised-redrafted manuscript just in time for the school holidays to come surfing in on the back of a heatwave.

This is my second experience of having a novel edited and it has been so different to the first time around that I thought it was time for a new post on the subject.

Unlike when I was submitting The Night Rainbow, I knew when I submitted this book at the end of last year that I wasn’t entirely happy with it, but after literally years of editing it myself and getting it to the point where it was clear what it was GOING to be, what I needed was an editor. So I plucked up the courage, hoping I hadn’t gone off half-cocked, hoping that everyone would see through the not-right bits to the heart of the story, and hit send. This story has a happy ending.

fistbump

Then…

In the new year, my editor re-read the novel, this time with an editor’s eye rather than a reader’s eye and subsequently spent a long time trying to put her finger on the elements that weren’t working for her and find a way of articulating that*. I got her (7 pages of) notes back in mid-February and we chatted through them. I was SO happy to have this input. I think sometimes when you are so deep in writing a book it becomes impossible to drag yourself back out of it to look at it objectively. Beta readers can be a great help, but even if asked for useful feedback they are still reading as readers, primarily, and if you’re hoping for publication I think at some stage you do need the professional eye of a good editor.

The kinds of things we were looking at in this stage were fundamental to the shape of the book, like the way of introducing the two narrative voices in a way that best helps the reader get to know them and understand where the two perspectives are coming from; plot elements that needed moving around, scenes that needed bringing to life more, and scenes where I’d relied on excessive exposition unnecessarily.

Helen asked all the difficult questions – difficult for me to answer because they really challenged my understanding of the characters, forcing me to think deeply and question myself , but also the flow of the storytelling – the timing of foreshadowing and the placing of clues in the narrative at just the right moment to keep a reader engaged without giving too much away.

* I think it’s an amazing skill to be able to read a novel draft and be able to pull out the questions you need to ask the author in order to help them improve and strengthen their book.

The complexities of writing this particular book had started to feel overwhelming to me and all this input was exactly what I needed to get it to the next level. I spent the next two months working on this, looking at different ways of responding to the challenges that Helen had thrown down. I redrafted the whole thing, handing it back in in mid-May, but not before I tweeted this:

A month later, Helen came back to me with her feedback on the changes I’d made. Most of them were received very positively, but there were some new changes I’d made that she wasn’t sure about, and on top of that she had now gone on to comment on the manuscript in a much greater level of granularity –  73 specific comments and queries throughout the novel. To deal with these we had switched to commenting and tracking changes in Word. By the time we had both done with it it was a very colourful document. I’d love to show you an example page, but I can’t, because SPOILERS! Thankfully wherever Helen suggested I made a change she had also highlighted the other parts of the story that would need revising if I did (as the implications of the change cascaded throughout the rest of the book).

As I said above, I’ve just handed back my reworking on all these comments so we’ll see what Helen makes of this newest iteration. I have to say that I am feeling really positive now about the way the novel has taken shape. I think with Helen’s help and guidance I’ve got to a stage (copy-edits and last minute changes not withstanding) where I feel happy releasing this story out to the world. So thank heavens for editors, three cheers and more.

fistbump2

One extraordinary realisation I had when I was going through this rigorous process was the overwhelming number of choices we face as authors: the decisions we have to take for the story that turn it into what it will ultimately, irrevocably, become.

It reminded me of the theory in physics that says not only is it possible, but that it makes sense that there are multiple universes like our own, each one just a tiny bit different. So we live in an infinite number of parallel universes, essentially in which all the variations that could have happened in our lives are being played out. Best to let someone like Professor Brian Cox explain this scientifically, but I do think that parallels (no pun intended) can be drawn with writing a novel.

In a 90,000 word novel, there are so many potentially different novels, and all of them could be good. How do you choose your story? How do you know which one is the right one? How do you know which is the best one?

Star cluster Omega Centauri by the Hubble Space Telescope

Star cluster Omega Centauri by the Hubble Space Telescope

 

Footnote 1

For more of my archived posts on revising/rewriting/editing pre and post submission, see these:

 

Footnote 2

Please do also have a look at Susan’s blog below, as she charts the process of revising her third novel, and do let me know if there are others I should link to here as well:

Susan Elliot Wright: “Yes, fellow writers and esteemed readers, it was crap with a capital ‘C’. Thing is, there were those ‘not entirely hopeless’ bits, and there was five per cent gold (potentially gold, anyway.)  I knew that somewhere in that draft was a story I definitely wanted to tell, so I virtually started again.”

Why we all need a First Follower

Posted on: June 4th, 2015 by Claire - 4 Comments

I was recently reminded of this short (3 mins) TED talk on starting a movement, and it occurred to me how it’s a great analogy for the word of mouth that grows around a book.

So, when you publish a book, you are basically the dancing man. Out there on your own, enjoying the contents of your own head, wanting to share it with others, taking a risk.

But as Derek Sivers says, The First Follower is what transforms you from being a lone nut. You put it out there and then wait for that first person to stand up and dance with you. Maybe it’s a reviewer, maybe it’s a retailer, but more often than not it’s a reader who really loves your book and wants to tell the world about it. What’s important is they are also taking a risk, letting the world know that they’re part of your movement before they know if it’s going to take off or not. And *thank you* they start trying to get all their friends to join in too.

And you, the dancer, are hoping and praying that they will come and join in, but you can’t make them. You’ve done all you can with your funky dance. All you can do is welcome these people to the party graciously and with gratitude. And keep on dancing.

And very soon it’s not about you any more. You are just one more person in the crowd.

The perfect time to sneak off and write a new book.

 

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Posted on: May 28th, 2015 by Claire - 14 Comments

You have 250 words (the length of this blog post) to describe your novel in the way that describes it accurately, and in the most appealing way. Go.

No, not the dreaded synopsis, but the short description that readers will see alongside Everything Love Is on Bloomsbury’s website, on Amazon and copy-pasted into the beginning of many reviews after publication next year. It sets the readers expectations and hopefully whets their appetite.

My editor has just given me her first draft to review. As the one other person who has read this book several times and put a huge amount of effort into making it as good as it can be, she is brilliantly placed to do this and you can see that in the way she managed to encapsulate the novel in so few words. As with The Night Rainbow, Everything Love Is is not a book that is easy to describe. It’s not “The next” anything. As I joked on twitter – No Girls, No Trains and Nothing Tiny: You Will NOT Believe What Happens Next.

As I ponder how to get this description just right there’s a lot to consider. There’s a temptation to use superlatives (flipped into an actual book title by Dave Eggers – as pinched for the title of this post), or to second-guess what readers might feel as they read it. An option to hint at twists. A need to avoid clichés. What makes a description both believable and enticing? What do you think?

child's drawing

*I wasn’t sure what image to use for this blog post, so this is my 7yo’s drawing of me singing in the shower.

 

Blurby be Kind (2)

Posted on: January 30th, 2015 by Claire - 15 Comments

In the Before Time, when my editor at Bloomsbury was sending The Night Rainbow proofs out to authors with little enthusiastic and hopeful notes, suggesting if they liked it they might consider saying something nice for the jacket, I wrote this post: Blurby be Kind (do have a read and then come back!)

The post talked about how I was feeling, which was anxious, mostly, and how I *would* behave in the future, should I be faced with the same request myself.

Three years on, and I am indeed getting quite a few requests to read novels, usually debuts, with a view to providing quotes for the book jacket or for PR releases.

proof

And when I say quite a few, well, I have read more of these proofs in the last six months than I have read books from my (very tall) to-read pile, because they often come with deadlines whereas my own reading does not. Some have come direct from authors I know personally or on social media. Some have come from my editor and the remainder arrive from other publishers.

In some ways I’m absolutely delighted about this. It’s an opportunity to pay forward some of the kindness I received myself. (An actual author giving up their time to read my book – amazing). But in other ways it is a tricky thing to handle because however much you want to love a book, sometimes you just don’t. And that’s sad, especially when you know the effort and the hope that are bound up in that little proof.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and have come to this conclusion: I’ve been reading for pleasure for decades now, and I tend to know what I like. When I browse books I flick through the first pages and when I find a voice that is going to grab me and delight me I just know it straight away. When I listen to others making personal recommendations, in reviews, on blogs or on twitter, I tend to get a good sense of if a book is for me. That’s how I choose what to read. So I enjoy the books I’ve chosen for myself more often than not.

But with the hopeful books lining up for a bit of cheerleading, there’s none of that. My personal taste in books is not usually a factor, and so many of the books I am sent, just as with many of the books in a bookshop, are simply not my cup of tea, no matter how well written they are or how successful they will go on to be.

Still, when I read one of those books that nevertheless found its way into my hands I get such a sinking feeling. Because I want to be that cheerleader, I do. I carry on with those books long past the point I would normally – either as a reader or as an editor – because I want the magic to happen. But to be honest I already know it won’t. It’s like a blind date with a lovely person that you just don’t fancy. So if you know your book has been sent to me hoping for some blurb-love, please know that I have given it my best attentions, whatever the outcome. And if I don’t fall in love with it, well,  it’s not you, it’s me.

And by the way, isn’t PROOF a weird looking word?

proof

 

 

Book News, or How my Writing Process is like Monty Python.

Posted on: January 1st, 2015 by Claire - 9 Comments

Back in February last year, Science Fiction author Una McCormack tagged me in a blog chain for writers about our current projects. Here’s her post, so do head over there to find out more about her and her new Star Trek novel which will be published this month. Yes that’s right. Star Trek!

In accepting her tag I had four questions to answer: What am I working on?  How does my work differ from others in its genre? (I’m not going to answer that one, by the way) Why do I write what I do? and How does my writing process work?

I didn’t want to reply immediately because I wasn’t ready to talk about the novel I’ve been working on. In fact I’ve discovered in the last three years that in fact being asked about a book I’m writing, especially if it’s tough going, makes me pretty grumpy and defensive.

Effectively, in 2014 I was silenced by this book. I wrote just 9 blog posts in 2014 and only one of them was about writing or editing, the one from January: The Order of Things. Even that was a post about not actually being able to write because, well, life. When I posted that blog I thought I was close to finished. In fact I didn’t finish until nine months later. So many times I thought I was ready to submit it, but then I’d fall into a pothole of confidence and set off again on ‘just one last edit’. So I guess this is the part where I talk about how my writing “process” works:

I spent 2014 wrestling with my own editing process. The more I edited, the further I seemed to be getting from the end. And then suddenly, in autumn, it finally came together. A bit like this:

With hindsight I think a lot of this was to do with the fact that I had no experience at what stage a first draft was good enough to show to an agent or editor. I wanted it to be clear exactly what I was trying to do with the book and for the writing to shine, at least in parts. With your first book you are always told to polish your novel as much as you can before you send it to agents. But with a second one? When is it good enough to share?

Times are still tricky in publishing. Just as getting an agent doesn’t mean the novel she took you on for will get published, so getting that first book published doesn’t automatically mean your publisher will want your second (unless you are contracted for it). And the novel I had chosen to write was pretty ambitious. I felt a huge pressure to get it right.

Funnily enough, by the time I thought it was good to go and finally sent my agent my manuscript in October, I was so drained by the effort of getting to that place that I was starting to wonder if anyone would ever actually love this book that had caused me so much heartache…

But they did (joy!), and because they did I now feel positive and confident about it again myself. Oh the roller-coastering of it all. Now I am really looking forward to (my editor) Helen’s edits this month. I’m convinced that she will be able to illuminate things I can work on that will turn this book into what I want it to be for readers.

Meanwhile, in the last two months I’ve been having a writing break, I needed to read, spend some time with my neglected family and get my writing groove back again. I’m starting 2015 feeling refreshed and raring to go.

 

So what is it I’m are working on?

Firstly, it’s my second novel, Everything Love Is, which is now scheduled for publication in 2016. I’m delighted that it’s no longer just me that’s working on it, but me the team at Bloomsbury too. It’s set in France on the Canal du Midi, and is a love story wrapped up in a mystery, about memory and the happy endings we conceive for ourselves.

I’m also starting the first draft of my next novel. My plan is to use the very early mornings for this, before the rest of the family get up for breakfast, as I find that’s when my brain is at its least polluted and most uninhibited. I’ll save the editing work for later in the day when I’m more analytical.

I also plan to try and squeeze in at least one short story in January/February. It’s a form I’ve neglected lately and I do get a lot out of writing short stories, both creatively and from a satisfaction point of view. And I’ve promised my daughters I will write them a children’s book we’ve been talking about, which is a great fun thing to pick up on difficult days.

It looks as though in January I won’t have much day job work on, which is just as well really, given all the above.

 

Why do I write what I do?

I always seem to struggle to describe my novels in terms that don’t make them sound bleak. The Night Rainbow, I would tell people, is about a little girl whose pregnant mother is too depressed, following the deaths of her husband and a previous baby, to look after her. How gloomy does that sound?!

And Everything Love Is, well it’s about a man who discovers he has early onset dementia just as he meets the love of his life. It doesn’t sound like an uplifting read, put like that (but I promise it will be).

And if I told you about the new book I’m working on (which I won’t, sorry!), the elevator pitch would be similarly jolly.

But the thing is that none of these books are dismal books. For me the common thread in the novels I choose to write is the resilience of the human spirit. The challenges that I throw at my characters are not burning buildings, but burning hearts. I am convinced of our extraordinary capacity for strength of character and hope in the face of struggles and that’s what I want to write about. Those are the stories I want to tell.

 

Who next?

I’m also allowed to tag one or two other writers to write a similar blog post. I am going to tag Alison Wells, a writer who leaps across genres with great skill and tenacity, who writes some of the most beautiful prose, both in her novels and short fiction, and who I hope will soon be snapped up by an agent and a publisher.  No hurry, Alison, obviously!

 

 

On not being the most anticipated…

Posted on: December 29th, 2014 by admin - 13 Comments

I was reading my twitter feed this morning, which suddenly seemed to be flooded with links to articles listing the Most Anticipated Debut Novels of 2015! the 10 Authors to watch in 2015! and What’s going to be hot in 2015! and whilst I’m always happy to see authors being bigged-up and their books recognised and given a leg up in the sea of new releases, I couldn’t help but feel for the many debut authors who might be hoping to see their books on those lists and who are now feeling the pangs of disappointment because they are not.

I remember how, as a debut novelist in 2013, at the end of 2012 these lists were coming out and I came to the realisation that even though the launch of my first novel was MY most hotly anticipated moment in 2013, I wasn’t going to be making much of a splash in literary circles. At least not in that way.

I’ve learned a lot in the last couple of years, and I made a comment on twitter to the novelists not on the lists about how it doesn’t really matter at all…and ended up having a lovely (backstage) chat with author Sarah Perry, whose debut novel After Me Comes the Flood was published this year (to much critical acclaim, by the way).

The thing is, MOST new authors go through this. MOST of us are not the most anticipated. But if your pool of debut authors is limited to you and the ones everyone is shouting about on twitter and in the newspapers it’s very easy to feel like the poor relation. It’s very easy to have your perspective skewed and your excitement diminished by things that, quite frankly, don’t really affect you that much at all.

Other people, family and friends, may unwittingly add to this feeling, because they are excited for you and they too don’t see how your book is, in fact, a drop in an ocean. Hopefully you are able to have an honest conversation with your agent and your publishers, because they have done this all before with other debuts before you, and are face to face on a daily basis with the vagaries and the difficulties of the publishing industry.

In 2013 I was lucky enough to have other authors to talk to, like Vanessa Gebbie whose debut The Coward’s Tale had been launched the year before mine, and Kate Worsley whose debut She Rises launched the same time The Night Rainbow did, also with Bloomsbury. But you’ll still need to find a way to manage this yourself.

I was going to say you can’t compare yourself to other people, or compare your book to other books, but of course you can and you probably will, in all these ways and more:

World of buzzwords

The list goes on and on and on and you can let it drive you crazy. In fact you probably have to take a conscious decision *not* to let it drive you crazy, not to diminish the pure unbridled joy of signing that book contract a year or two before (I can hear all the unpublished writers out there yelling, “Seriously? You got published! Be grateful!”).

In the end – in publishing just as in life – the noise and the superlatives and the LISTS and the rankings, they detract from what is important. From what is important to YOU.

Do you really care if you didn’t make a top ten list? Does that spoil it for you? (Because it’s not necessarily an indication of how well your book is going to sell, you know?) Does it truly matter to you if someone else’s book has more buzz around it than yours, or more marketing budget? Would those things have mattered to you when you were pitching your novel for publication? Have your publishers let you down? Have you let yourself down? Has Lady Luck let you down? Or is it, in the end, just buzz and fluff that can be the icing on the cake for those who get on the lists and win the prizes? It’s not as if you still don’t have the cake itself.

For all the debut novelists of 2015, I have three pieces of advice:

1)  Don’t lose perspective of where you are, what you have achieved, the dreams that you have brought to life.

2) Keep on hoping, but focus on the things you can affect: Writing the next book. Reading other people’s books. Improving your work.

3) Talk to other people. Talk to other authors about their experiences, because all of this is the tip of the publishing iceberg and after all this launch business dies down, what you are left with is this – you’re a writer, and somewhere, some readers are already anticipating your next book. You need to sit down and write it.

Happy New Year to you all, and may 2015 be wonderful for you in a myriad of unexpected ways. xxx

How to Squash all the Bookish things into 7 Days

Posted on: November 14th, 2014 by Claire - 5 Comments

I spent last week in the UK, which is something I rarely do, especially on my own. Because of that it became a very condensed seven days doing all the bookish things I would do more often (but in a more spaced out way) if I lived in Britain.

On Thursday evening was my initial reason for the trip: a Newnham College alumnae networking dinner. My old college is great at finding ways to bring people back together, and this dinner was themed around literature. There were 15 of us, including authors, screenwriters, radio producers, journalists, publishers and editors and a fascinating talk was given by Cathy Moore on how she founded and developed Cambridge Word Fest, now Cambridge Literary Festival. I was reminded how lucky I am to be part of this network of accomplished women who have gone on, and continue going on to do diverse and extraordinary things in their lives.

On Friday I called by Bloomsbury to pick up some books they were kindly donating for my school visit on Monday. I have to admit to keeping the very sexy ‘Sleeper and the Spindle’ bag they came in. I also managed to snag an hour with my lovely editor Helen for a catch up, which generally means talking about what books we have read, the state of publishing, life in general and my writing. I was happy to be able to finally tell her that she’d be shortly receiving the MS of my new novel.

London2Coffee in Bloomsbury was followed immediately by lunch in the basement of Pizza Express in Soho. The lovely Gillian Stern had organised a “twunch” (yes, it’s a thing) where a whole load of lovely literary Twitter chums get together and talk writing, publishing, books and just get to know each other a bit better in the flesh. There were more than 30 of us there and of course I didn’t get to chat with with everyone, but I managed to catch up with some familiar faces and meet some new. Just as on twitter, there was a very diverse bunch of people (although Ben, Lloyd, Barry and Alexander had to hold up the side for the men), all with interesting stories and backgrounds and all willing to be open about their writing ups and downs, to offer cheers as well as sympathy and to network in the best sense of the word, sharing experiences and ideas. A really energising and fun do, and here are the last six of us to leave after managing to make a pizza lunch last four hours…@JaneRusbridge, @IsabelCostello, @EmilyBenet, Jackie Buxton (@Jaxbees) and @KnightJennyMrsLondon1

At the twunch, fired up by a glass of prosecco, good humour and dough balls, I started talking about my new book, Everything Love Is as though it was actually a thing. That might sound like a strange thing to say, but after so long writing and editing it, and all the doubts and uncertainties that go along with writing a novel on your own, I’d become very reluctant to discuss it. But since it had already been with my agent a week or so, and now I’d told Helen she’d get it next, it had suddenly begun to seem inevitable, regardless of what fate has in store for it. It was very encouraging that when I told people ‘what it’s about’ they seemed to like the idea (although small voice inside still whispers “maybe they were just being kind”).

Over the weekend I caught up with some of the friends and family I miss so much. It was absolutely lovely to spend time with some of the people I wish I saw more of – the major downside of living over here in France

Then on Monday I was up in South Yorkshire where I grew up, visiting Bawtry Mayflower Primary school where I had a chat with a group of year 6 pupils about reading and story telling. I’d been asked to do this talk because I’m signed up as a volunteer on the Inspiring the Future project – it’s not just for writers, it’s for anyone who’d like to volunteer, offering an hour a year of their time to go and talk at local schools about what they do. The idea is to inspire the children and expand their horizons. I’d encourage you all to please sign up for this if you can.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had no idea what this class of children would like, or be like, so I’ll admit to being a little apprehensive. I was delighted to find a really lovely friendly school, with bright, polite and engaged children, full of questions and enthusiasm for books and reading, which made my job a lot easier.

We all chatted about our favourite books and why we like them (Roald Dahl did really well, but there were some very diverse books discussed and I made a note of some for my 9yo), and then we talked about why human beings tell stories and what reading stories does to your brain.

Then we talked about metaphors in story telling and discussed the idea of G.K. Chesterton that “Fairy tales are more than true – not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”

An interesting question that came out of that discussion was this: Why are children’s stories more fantastical whereas adult stories tend to be set in real life situations, with events that really could take place?

I thought that was a great question. We had the idea that perhaps children have more imagination, or that real problems upset children more than imaginary ones, or that children have very little power and fairytales can imbue child heroes with not only courage but also super human powers. What do you think, why do children’s books lean more to fantasy whereas in adult fiction it’s only one genre of many?

Children holding books

As part of the discussion we used the books donated by the lovely people at Bloomsbury Kids and it was brilliant to see how excited the children’ were about receiving these books for their class.

At the end of the session one of the girls asked about my writing, and when I mentioned The Night Rainbow she said “My mum has that book!” This was followed by a flurry of requests to sign autographs on scraps of paper. I’ve never been asked for an autograph before. I suddenly felt quite the star!

Tuesday and back down in London to meet my agent and find out the verdict on The New Novel. But first, since it was armistice day, I got up early to see the poppies at the tower before it got too busy. Even at 7:30am there were lots of people. London3The installation was stunning, inspiring and an invitation to contemplation, not just about the hundreds of thousands who lost their lives in the UK in the first world war, but about all those other lives lost across the world, then and in subsequent wars. About the families left behind. About the wars which are still raging today, and what is behind them, and how peace still evades our species and why. This is what I think the arts do best: yes, they can be beautiful, entertaining or relaxing, but most importantly they turn the questions back on ourselves and provoke us to think.London4

The previous day, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan had made a speech advising teenagers to steer away from arts and humanities subjects if they wanted a better range of job opportunities. That maths, science, engineering and technology would be more worthwhile. Putting economic arguments aside (but not because I believe for a minute that devaluing the arts wouldn’t harm the economy), how can we reconcile the idea of the arts being less useful with the amazing response to the tower poppies? People flocked to see them, to be moved and reminded and challenged intellectually and emotionally. The arts and the humanities are needed to balance out the STEM subjects. They make the human race human.

Some of you may know that I do also have what I call a “day job” (my day job colleagues consider that I am “also a writer”), and after seeing the poppies I popped into an office in Old Street to catch up with a few people there. And the most beautiful surprise, out of the blue I was given this beautiful leather bound copy of The Night Rainbow as a present. I now feel as though I’ve won the Booker. And it smells so good!London5

Book shopping! One of my highlights of trips to the UK, as I just love browsing in bookshops, but I do read mostly in English not in French, so it’s not as much fun over here. Right by the office I found Camden Lock Books, a gorgeous little shop with books piled high around the base of the shelves and creatively stacked to fit as many in as possible. Obviously I bought some, including a couple of Michael Morpurgo’s I hadn’t heard of for my daughters.Londonz2

Then it was off to Covent Garden to meet my agent…

Hallelujah, she loves the new book. Much rejoicing over fish pie and a cheeky lunchtime glass of wine, followed by the crossing of fingers over coffee.

Then on Wednesday it was back home to autumn sunshine, the first snow on the mountain and best of all, my lovely family. What a whirlwind of a week.

Since Helen is going to need some time to read and consider Everything Love Is, the waiting game starts here. I’ve decided to take a writing break until the new year, to refresh and catch up on reading. I’ve just read The Rosie Project and The Kite Runner, and I’m in a pause midway into The Luminaries, and now reading Carys Bray’s A Song for Issey Bradley. I bought Roald Dahls short stories in London too (it seemed appropriate after his popularity on Monday). I fully intend to gorge on books between now and Christmas.

My other plan is to do lots of “spring” cleaning as the house has suffered rather a lot during the last couple of years of writing, and to get stuck into some of the DIY that’s been waiting around. I find that smacking things with big hammers is great therapy for nerves…

How Publishing a Novel will Change your Life

Posted on: April 13th, 2014 by Claire - 15 Comments

I read a blog post today by the debut novelist Mary Miller: Publishing a novel isn’t going to change your life 

Mary says: “I don’t mean to say that publishing a novel isn’t awesome. It is. In so many ways. But it disheartens me to see my friends talk as though it will solve all of their problems and alter their lives completely when I know it won’t.”

I absolutely agree with the point that for most authors – and in this I include myself – the publication of a debut novel doesn’t lead to a life of Riley. But most writers I know don’t expect this – we do understand the publishing industry to some extent and we also network with other authors on twitter who often share their experiences both amazing and frustrating. You can hope and dream, but you have to keep your expectations realistic.

I wonder if there is a difference in expectations if you are an MFA undergraduate or graduate and are expecting writing fiction to be your career from day one. That’s a big investment in time and money and so perhaps in that situation you do expect a payback?

Or perhaps it’s that I’m older, and I’ve already learned that getting that job, that promotion, that pay rise, that man, that flat…none of those things actually change your life in any meaningful way.

Wish

I recently wrote about a few things I’ve learned after a year of being published, but having read Mary’s post I wanted tell you about three ways in which publishing a novel has changed my life:

#1. (And most importantly) I have discovered that being a writer is what I really want.

You never really know if what you want is really what you want until you get it. Only then do you see if the reality meets your expectations, and even if it doesn’t, is it a reality you want? For me it is, and this has changed my life because holding on to this opportunity, digging in deeper, raising my game – all these things now are based in a better understanding of where disappointments may lie, and the risks I am taking. I am learning as I go, but at least now I see the path clearly.

#2. (The consequences of #1) I’ve discovered where I have even more to give…and where my limitations are.

Sometimes life throws things at us that adds more to our plates and tests our ability to manage it all, our stamina and our good humour. Sometimes we throw this stuff at ourselves, and I think that’s exactly what you are doing if you are trying to get a novel published these days, be it your debut or the second or the nth. You are setting yourself up for rejection, underachievement and disappointment that you could easily do without. And it doesn’t stop after the first novel is published. Writers are continually wracked by doubt and insecurity. And once you have a book out there the pressure on you increases. You have to deliver on the next book whilst promoting the first one and carrying on with your ‘normal’ life without dropping plates. But we do this because we choose to, because we have hope, we are driving ourselves to do something that is not easy and that smacks of character. If you don’t want to write then don’t. (I’m reminded of this post, from writer Kirsty Logan “Writing is not hard.”)

#3. My daughters think I’m awesome.

Yes OK they are too young to know better, and yes I have always had the magic card of ‘Mummy – the best person in the world’, but this is different. They tell everyone they meet about my book, and how I’m a writer. They’re excited by it and proud of me. They see me working hard and they see the exciting things happen. I feel as though I am role modelling something that will serve them well later in life.

So…

If you’re looking for your first published novel to change your life financially, you probably need to revise your expectations. But don’t think it won’t change your life. One way or another it probably will.

Postscript June 2015: I came across this (beautifully written) article today, on a similar topic. 

A Year on the Shelf

Posted on: February 13th, 2014 by Claire - 22 Comments

It’s one whole year since The Night Rainbow was first published. The UK hardback and ebook were released on February 14th 2013 and the paperback six months later. So to celebrate my ‘Year on the Shelf’ (it’s Valentine’s Day, see what I did there?), here are five things I’ve learned over the course of the last twelve months:

Books coming off the printing press

Hot off the press.

(1) You don’t publish and tell 

There are quite a few things that will surprise a new author as they take this journey for the first time, and you won’t have seen them blogged about or discussed on twitter. I’m not going to talk about them either. Why? It’s the same reason why people who are already parents don’t sit their pregnant friends down and say, “Right, well let us tell you what’s about to happen to you.”  Sometimes it’s better to let people wait and see.

However, what you will need are some people who have been through it before to be there for you once you are finally living that dream. So, when it’s your turn, make sure you find author friends and mentors who will give you the lowdown if you ask.

The gorgeous window

The gorgeous window – Little Ripon Bookshop

(2) Authors are great

Other authors are generally lovely and generous and want you to succeed. Many will encourage and support you, even if they have never heard of you before. It’s a lovely group to be part of. Pass it on.

Jodi_tweet

 

(3) You will be busier than ever

Remember how you managed to squeeze writing a novel – an actual novel! – into your already full life? Well now that novel now needs taking to parties, to readings and events. And people will ask you to write about your book, and write about writing your book. For your own sanity, remember you don’t have to do everything. Decide, along with your publisher, what you want to commit to and learn to say no to the rest.

Also people will immediately start asking you when the next book is due out. It isn’t going to write itself, you know.

Marie-Claire

I was reviewed in Marie-Claire!

(4) We are not the same

Chances are that you will have highs and you will have lows, but your experience will be different from mine. It will depend on your agent, your publisher, your book, timings, the market, luck and so many other variables that there is no way to know how things will pan out for you. All you can do is get an idea of if you are falling somewhere within the spectrum of ‘normal’ –  see (1) – and hope for the best.

Will your book win prizes? Get reviewed in the New York Times? Sell foreign rights? Will Oprah pick it? Will it even get into bookshops so people can buy it? Getting into retail is harder than you think. Once your book is out there in the world, frankly it’s anybody’s guess how it will fare no matter how hard people are championing it on your behalf.

It might be that your book doesn’t get as much recognition as those you have decided to benchmark it against. On the other hand it may do better than other books that you have read and think deserve to win every prize going. You need to stop comparing. Remember you’re at the start of a long road and you need to conserve your energy.

As for sales – everything you have heard is true. Right now the prognosis is pretty shocking. But your publishers have faith, or they wouldn’t have taken your book. If you go off with a bang at launch, brilliant, congratulations! But if sales in the launch period are ‘quieter’ than you’d hoped, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your book is going to die a lonely death. If readers like it, they will spread the word, slowly but surely. Sometimes you need a bit of critical mass and that can take time for a new author. Think about how long it takes you between hearing about a book and actually buying it, and then actually reading it. For me it’s months.

Euston Station

Euston Station, August 2013

(5) Readers above all else

It is so wonderfully rewarding when people you’ve never met take the time to look you up and write to you, just to tell you that they loved your book. That you have given them something special, a story they won’t forget. That, for me, is what writing is all about.

Of course sometimes readers don’t write to you personally, but instead take the time to write a review (thank you, reviewers!). Reviews do matter, but try not to get obsessed by them as they are completely out of your control and will not always make you happy.

Sometimes they will say things like this:

***** “Officially my Book of 2013. Wow… Read it!”

and

***** “This book resonated with me. I will carry Pea with me for a very long time.”

but sometimes they will say this:

** “Ideal for nature lovers seeking a blow-by-blow description of the French countryside without the distraction of a plot line.”

And that’s all OK. Remember that all sorts of people are now reading your book (HURRAY!) and they can’t all be expected to like it.

Also, there will be reviewers who write spoilers, sometimes in the very first line of their write up. Even in national newspapers. But hey, girl, your book got reviewed in a national newspaper.

Portsmouth Fiction Prize Vote

Portsmouth Fiction Prize Vote

If you’re about to head out on the same journey, good luck to you! And for those of you who have played a part in this marvellous, exciting year of mine, a huge thank you from me.

 

Bonus Tip: Social Media

Nothing has changed. Even now you are published, Social Media is not the boss of you.

We Need to Talk about Amazon

Posted on: November 27th, 2013 by Claire - 15 Comments

While my first year being a published author has been going great guns in the UK, things have got off to a fairly quiet start in the USA.

That’s pretty much par for the course for a debut British novel, I’m told, and The Night Rainbow hasn’t done too badly. Considering there was no ‘launch campaign’ as such, around release time in April there was some great coverage in book shops, and I’ve had a modest royalty cheque, so hurray!

Then this week, Amazon.com chose The Night Rainbow for their Kindle Daily Deal. I don’t know how that works, but I am thrilled they did.

As a rule I don’t follow my rankings on Amazon, because

  • a) Frankly, I can’t actually affect them.
  • b) The numbers swing wildly about and it’s pretty unfathomable how they relate to actual books sold.
  • c) They change every hour. Can you imagine how distracting that would be to a writer if you let it?

But yesterday I made an exception, because I was interested in how the promotion – which saw the ebook price fall from around €9 to $2.99 for 24 hours – would go. Looking over the months since launch, sales on Amazon of both the printed and the e-book appear to have been close to non-existent. Yesterday my sales ranking in the Kindle Store shot up by 954,681%  (apparently*). From roughly #250,000 to #25 in the paid kindle store. That’s pretty close to the top of the list.

And at the end of the day I got to see this, which although a fleeting phenomenon, is no less exciting and, most importantly, gets The Night Rainbow noticed by readers who otherwise wouldn’t have ever come across it:

2013-11-27 at 08.40.53

Amazon USA Literary and Contemporary Fiction: #2

And also this:

Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 16.42.31

Amazon Canada Literary and Contemporary Fiction: #6

I don’t know what my sales were for the day exactly (they certainly didn’t increase by a million percent) but they did shoot up quite remarkably and continued for a while after the Deal had finished, when the ebook was back to full price.

The Daily Deal was November 26th 2013, so if you’re interested in seeing how the ebook is ranking now, click here.

I also followed the ‘noise’ around the promotion. And it’s not just Amazon who market it. They publicise the deal onsite and send out emails to Kindle users, but I also noticed that on twitter and on the web in general there are lots of accounts set up to catch these deals and shout them out to their followers and readers, magnifying the effect. *It was one of those accounts that tweeting the amazing 954,681% leap in ranking. It’s a machine that works very effectively.

So far so good. Has anyone got to this point yet without screaming,

  • “Yes! But it’s AMAZON!”
  • “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Franzen etc”,
  • “Bookshops closing!”
  • “Death by ebook!”

Or something similar?

Well, yes. So to the thorny question of Amazon. As a reader, I’m a bookshop girl. I love bookshops. I love choosing books in bookshops and chatting to people who work there. As an author I also love bookshops. I love the warm welcome you get from the dedicated, passionate independent booksellers and from their customers, who they often know by name.

But Amazon have about a 30% market share of books in the USA. Many people now go straight to Amazon when they want to buy a book, and an even greater percentage when they want to buy an ebook. And obviously book shops don’t sell ebooks for Kindle (although Amazon are offering them the chance, which is a whole other debate).

Some people do prefer reading books electronically and the people that took a chance on my book yesterday because of a promotional price point and a big shout out from Amazon are not people who would have bought a paper copy from a book shop. Otherwise they’d have done it sometime in the last 7 months, I’d have thought. They are, however, people who will read it, hopefully be delighted by it, and hopefully tell that to other people.

Sometimes, as authors, it’s suggested that when we ‘self-promote’ we should limit that to encouraging people to go to bookshops. When the question of Amazon, or indeed supermarkets, comes up, even if they’ve helped market and sell actual quantities of our work, we are expected to hum and ha and shuffle our feet nervously. I did tweet several times yesterday to let people know about the offer. And every time I did, I must admit I felt worried that people might judge me for inadvertently ‘supporting’ Amazon.

But in the end, is it we authors who are responsible for the struggles that bookshops face? I don’t think so. Most authors I know would happily do signings at bookshops, support library reading groups etc., even if they find public appearances rather painful (the authors not the reading groups).

Nor are we responsible for where readers choose to shop. We have excruciatingly little influence, quite frankly, over who buys our book and from where. We can tweet our little hearts out, but unless we seriously set about a time-consuming social media campaign, it’s just not our call. The greatest influence we have is in the quality of our writing.

So, if a retailer stocks our books and readers buy them, enabling us to feed our kids and write more books, then we are happy. And if we can give that income a little boost along the way, then generally we will, as best we can.

Yesterday’s Amazon promotion was a great opportunity to boost awareness of The Night Rainbow in the USA and Canada. It’s the kind of novel that thrives on word of mouth recommendations, and as many authors can tell you, it can be frustratingly difficult to kick those off.

I hope the people who picked up the e-book for $2.99 yesterday will love it, and that they’ll consider giving it as a gift (wherever they choose to buy it) or just tell others what they thought.

And also that they will want to buy the next book. Speaking of which I’m off to finish it. Hopefully there’ll be news on that soon.

UPDATE:

Since posting this a couple of good articles have shown up on this topic, so links are here:

New York Times tongue in cheek, what Amazon is to a modern author 

New online retailer opens up in UK to offer online alternative to Amazon (The Bookseller)

 

 

We’re in the Business of Selling Dreams.

Posted on: November 19th, 2013 by Claire - 17 Comments

I want to talk about becoming an author. About publishing a book.

So you’re a writer. You get up early in the morning and you write. You drop the kids off at school and you write instead of doing the hoovering. You commute to work and you write on the bus. You stay up late at night and you write. And your dream is that one day, hopefully very soon, you will see your work published. In a book. A book that you can hold in your hands. If that’s you, I’m talking to you.

If what you dream of is your book being available in ebook format only, I’m not talking to you. Because you know that there are many options now for doing that. And personally I know very little about them, and you too have Google and Twitter. You will find your way.

But back to you, the dreamer, the one who wants to hold the solid block of pages in your hand and see your name on the cover and the printed words inside that you created and pulled together and spun into a story to be told to thousands of readers. You, who wants to be paid for your work, perhaps even for writing to be your actual job. You would like to make a living from it. Yes, well I’m really happy you’re here. Because that’s what I want to talk to you about.

Without money

If you are anything like I was, you’d be delighted to hear that somehow there is a shortcut. That agents can see through a first draft of a manuscript to the dazzling novel you know it eventually will be. Or that publishers right now are trawling the electric interweb for rising stars to pull under their wing and lead through the golden doors of literary fame and fortune. Or how the publishing landscape is changing and that now the gatekeepers have left and you are the most powerful person in the publishing supply chain, if only someone could explain to you how that works. You might even be willing to pay for that advice.

Well, my advice – which is free and you take it as it is – is that as far as I know there are no shortcuts, and you are certainly not the centre of the publishing world. Sorry. It’s not you. If I were to go out on a limb and say who I think does occupy that position, thinking about agents, publishers, bookshops, online retailers, authors, editors, and all the others, I would have to say that the most powerful person is likely to be…the reader. Maybe. But in any case it’s not you.

You are the writer, you are the author, you are the person who will create a story, and you will send it out into the world and you will ache with every rejection and bad review (and later you will soar with the offers and the delight of five fat golden stars). Or maybe you have thick skin or pure genius and that won’t happen at all.

But in the meantime I’ll tell you what you *are*. You are a market. Because of that ache for something that is out of your reach, because of your dream of something that is hard to achieve. Because there is something you really, REALLY want. Because of that, there are people out there ready to sell to you.
They are not there to sell you the magic formula, because if they had it, we’d all have it, and we’d all be hitting the jackpot, riding our fat advances to the top of the Sunday Times best-seller list. Oh but wait…
No. But what they are there for is to sell you back your own dreams.

They will tell you there are no guarantees. They will not promise you a publisher, or an advance, or literary prizes. But they will tell you that by buying something off them, a product or a service, you will be doing the right thing, putting yourself in the best position to publish that book, to be that person, the best-selling prize winning author who can give up their day job and set off on tour, gathering movie and foreign language rights as you go. They may throw in a lavish drinks reception or a star studded evening mingling with agents and publishers. Lovely. But the champagne is on you.

Do they have something that is worth your money? It’s your job to work that out. These people are in business. One of the many businesses that are set up to take advantage of the hungry market of aspiring authors. Legitimately. They are not there to take on the establishment, or create a new publishing paradigm, all for one and one for all. They are there to make money. For some that’s all it is, although of course some, often those run by well established writers, also have the very best of intentions and really want to help you succeed.

So if you are thinking of making money from writing, if that’s one of your goals, then before you pay out anything, *anything* to advance your career as a published author, be that writing courses, editorial services, social media publicists, conference fees, subscriptions to writing websites, publishing services or anything that wants your money, take yourself seriously. Make a business plan.

It doesn’t have to be complicated:
1) How much do you expect to earn?
Do you hope to earn a side-income or to give up the day job entirely? Do some research and find out how much an average debut novel earns, and an average second novel. Look into different genres too. Look at self publishing versus the traditional route. Look at advances and royalties and do some maths. Work out the probabilities.
2) How much are you willing to invest?
Do you have money to spend? If so, where is it best spent? Improving your craft; making new contacts; paying to be published, building an author platform on social media or buying a decent desk chair? Taking some paid leave in order to write, perhaps? What would each of those things give back to you and how would they help you to succeed?

I’m not suggesting at all that writing is all about making money. If you’re like most writers you do this because you love it. Because you can’t not tell stories. And sometimes we can buy things that help us along, even if it’s just a copy of Writers’ Forum or a copy of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. But as soon as the question of handing over your money to other people comes up, and you’re tempted, think about it. And whatever you do, don’t become part of someone else’s business plan just because they talk a good talk.

That’s makes them the salesman, and you the punter.

Paperback Launch and Marketing!

Posted on: August 1st, 2013 by admin - 10 Comments

It’s paperback publication day for The Night Rainbow. I didn’t think I could possibly be as excited as I was in February when the book launched in hardback, but I really am!

Before I forget I want to say a huge thank you to everyone at Bloomsbury who has been working hard on the paperback launch – updating the cover, planning the PR and marketing campaigns (of which more in a second), championing the book so enthusiastically with retailers and basically just crossing their fingers and being so lovely and encouraging to me.

The Night Rainbow Paperback

So, the paperback is out today – a nice small supple book at a lower price than the hardback edition. Perfect for summer holidays, reading in bed etc. There are a lot of exciting things happening, but what is *VERY EXCITING* for me in particular is that there is a marketing campaign running for The Night Rainbow paperback launch, which should get it noticed by more people and help get them into book shops to buy it.

As a debut novelist, having a marketing campaign was thrilling news that I wasn’t expecting it at all, and it all happened quite recently. Thanks to the hard work of Bloomsbury’s sales team, they won really strong advance orders and enthusiasm for the paperback from retailers, including The Night Rainbow being the August Book Club pick at Sainsbury’s; being selected for Tesco’s new New Talent slot; being promoted in WH Smiths high street, train station and airport stores.   I know already there are plenty of amazing independent book shops stocking it and Waterstones too.  So do pop into your local shop – there should be paperbacks aplenty. And of course ebooks are available in all the usual places.

Here are a few places you might spot Pea this summer:

  • At railway stations: There is a huge poster going up around London and South-East England. Here are a few examples. If you keep your eyes peeled over the next few days and send in photos, you could be in with a chance of winning a copy. Follow @BloomsburyBooks and #NightRainbow on twitter for more details, and find Bloomsbury Publishing UK on Facebook.
  • On The Daily Mail online – Takeover of the Books page, it’s worth a look! (I think you can only see this wondrous juxtaposition if you’re in the UK)
  • On Mumsnet  – the giveaway is closed now, but the discussion thread is open. Hopefully spoiler free!
  • At The Reading Agency where reading groups could win copies to review.

I took the opportunity to ask Tess Viljoen, who has been responsible at Bloomsbury for the marketing around The Night Rainbow, including this beautiful book trailer to answer a couple of questions about marketing books in general.

1) Would you say it’s true that publishers expect authors to ‘market’ themselves and their books now more than ever? What does this mean in reality?

The shift towards social media has, brilliantly, put fans directly in touch with the authors they love. It’s a powerful way of communicating with readers and exciting for everyone involved. The downside of this, given it would be disingenuous for a publisher to try and impersonate an author online by running a social media stream on their behalf, is it has shifted that responsibility back on to authors. Social media can be very rewarding but it can also be immensely time consuming and doesn’t appeal to all authors. At Bloomsbury we encourage our authors to have a go, and support them as much as we can from our social media platforms but ultimately, it’s up them if they feel it is a medium they can work in.

2) When I worked in consumer goods marketing (years ago!) there was a sort of ‘chicken and egg’ situation with smaller brands, whereby advertising support was minimal or non-existent until (hopefully) word of mouth took off. This also meant it was harder to get those products stocked in shops and positioned well. Does this apply also in publishing/book retailing? If so what factors help get the ball rolling?

The percentage of books that receive advertising spend is in fact very small and so the majority of books are sold into bookstores without that support which makes it a much more level playing field. We have sales reps that go into bookshops around the country and pitch our titles directly to the booksellers and with word-of-mouth still being the most powerful form of recommendation this gives our books a strong chance to being taken by a bookseller and in turn, recommended to their customers.

3) What is more important in book marketing, the author or the book?

They are entirely inextricable. Obviously an author who is happy to do events, to be active on social media and be widely available for publicity is a strong asset for a book, but we regularly work with authors from foreign countries who for all sorts of reason cannot give us their time or physical presence and we have found ways of working around this and still build strong marketing and publicity campaigns.

Thanks, Tess!

For more information around paperback launches specifically, see this post  for an interview with Trâm Anh Doan, my paperback editor at Bloomsbury, when I talked to her about the launch last year of another Bloomsbury novel, The Cowards Tale.

 

The Night Rainbow Launch, USA & Canada!

Posted on: April 7th, 2013 by Claire - 4 Comments

I’m very excited that this week The Night Rainbow is being published in the USA and Canada.

Here she is, complete with beautiful new cover, about to whizz off to bookshops everywhere Stateside.

The Night Rainbow USA Cover

I feel a little wistful that I can’t whizz over the Atlantic to celebrate, but I have been raising a glass here in France, and lurking on twitter doing US & Canada pub-day high fives!

And look what the lovely Rachael Dunlop just sent me:

The Night Rainbow on store shelf

On the shelves at Barnes & Noble, New York City

I’ve also been busy meeting book bloggers:

  • I answered 11/20 questions at Linus’s Blanket, including what my favourite books are set in my local region of France.
  • What’s in a first line? Find out as I take part in the Friday First Lines series over at Books on the Brain.
  • I have been interviewed by Mariam Kobras over at #amwriting
  • Daria Anne DiGiovanni hosted me on #writestream, with an interview on blog talk radio which you can also find archived here, and a twitter chat – the summary of which is now here.

Thank you…

Thanks already to some of the lovely reviewers and book bloggers who have reviewed early copies:

Ilana Teitelbaum, who says, in her review in Shelf Awareness “King’s story of a young child’s quest for a light in the profound darkness of her life reaches deep into the complexities of human consciousness. As it explores adult grief through a child’s eyes, The Night Rainbow also underscores the need for stability and love ever-present in children’s lives, yet at times nearly impossible to attain.”

Catherine at Gilmore Guide to books who says “The Night Rainbow is soft, sweet, scary and immense.” *****

Nicola at My Good Bookshelf gave it 9/10 and said “I would happily recommend this book to readers interested in contemporary fiction or family dramas; this was a beautifully written tale with a shocker of a twist that I definitely did not anticipate- just brilliantly done.”

Ionia at Readful Things said “Claire King has done such a supreme job of making you want to hug these children and tell them everything is going to be okay, that it is sometimes hard to believe they are not real…I would recommend this elegantly written novel to anyone. Really a beautiful book.”

Shannon at River City Reading – Richmond, VA said “Writing from the perspective of a child, particularly one so young, without relying on cliche phrases or coming off childish is not an easy task. Claire King does it masterfully.”

Patrice Hoffman says “Claire King writes spectacularly from a child’s point of view using vivid imagery with fantastical qualities only imagination can provide.”

and Cayacosta72 calls The Night Rainbow “A story of love, loss and grace.”

The Pin Map!

In celebration and anticipation of meeting lots of new people in the USA and Canada through the launch, even only virtually, I have put together a pin map.

To get it started I’ve added places I have visited in person (the red pins).

I’m going to add new pins on the map for everyone who tells me they’ve read The Night Rainbow, so do please leave a comment or say hi on twitter, telling me where you are, and you’ll get your own purple pin.

Also, if you have a book group that would like me to call in by Skype for a few questions, don’t hesitate to contact me!

Pin Map

The travels of Claire, Margot & Pea

 

 

10 Things People Say to Published Authors

Posted on: March 8th, 2013 by Claire - 35 Comments

Two years ago I wrote the post – 10 Things Children Don’t Say to Writers – where I talked about confidence, and other people’s reactions when you say you’re a writer. It proved to be one of the most popular blog posts on this site.

Mummy is Writing

We can only see the back of your head.

At that time, March 2011, I was newly signed up to Bloomsbury, but The Night Rainbow‘s publication was still two years away.

This last month I have, at last, been enjoying celebrating publication, including launch parties, signings and a lot of chatting to a lot of people, mostly about being a writer. And things have changed. People say different things to me now that I have an actual book available to buy and read.

Broadly, they seem to fall into three categories:

 

Things people say that make me feel proud and happy. E.g.

1) I’m so impressed.

2) What a great achievement.

3) You’ve inspired me to get back into my own writing.

Hearing this is like the clouds clearing and the sun shining right onto my little patch of Earth. When you’re an unpublished writer, you don’t get enough of this food for the soul. The struggle is the thing, and it can be a lonely one.

 

Things people say that make me want to run away and hide. E.g. 

4) When is the film coming out?

5) When is the next book coming out?

6) Have you stopped work altogether now?

There’s nothing really wrong with the questions in this category. They are well-meant and show enthusiasm and a high expectation of success. So I tried to work out why I feel agitated with them rather than flattered. I think it’s that I worry I feel the bar marked ‘Success’ is being set too high and that in the end I am going to disappoint people after all.

Signing a book

Chatting at a book signing

And most notably, a *lot* more questions about my writing. E.g.

7) Have you always wanted to write?

8) Who are your favourite authors? (Note – if you ever put me on the spot with this question, be warned that I’ll expect you to reciprocate with your own list!)

9) What inspired your novel?

10) What else are you writing?

They are the kind of questions that often don’t get asked to unpublished writers. Which interests me because it’s not the same for other artistic pursuits. If someone says they are a painter or a sculptor, even on an amateur level, people seem interested and feel free to ask about it. Why is that?

It’s as if, for some, I have passed through a kind of fine, mysterious membrane that separates writers who are interesting (or approachable?) from writers who are not. But I think that membrane only exists if you believe it does. So I suggest next time you meet someone who says they are a writer, why not take the time and ask them about themselves and their writing? You could be surprised what you find out.

 

Meanwhile, for those who read the 2011 post, what are my children now saying about my writing?

– My mummy wrote that book!

– You’re in a book shop / newspaper / magazine! That’s so cool!

– I’m so proud of you, Mummy. 

…And, after they have spotted the book in the umpteenth bookshop I take them into ‘just to check’…

– Please can we choose a book now?

 

Child's drawing

A child’s eye view of a book launch party

A Launch Party Mingle

Posted on: February 1st, 2013 by Claire - 4 Comments

I’m having (whoopee!) an actual launch party in London on 13th February, on the eve of The Night Rainbow’s official publication date, but not everyone can be there, so I’ll be doing some virtual mingling over the next couple of weeks with some very smashing people indeed.

I’m hoping it will be like being at a party on the web, where you wander around chatting, you meet some new people, ask some questions, have a bit of a laugh. And all this without having to wear heels. So come on in, help yourself to a drink, and I hope you have a good time!

Champagne glasses

Take a glass and mingle

Who I’ve met so far:

Kate at For Books’ Sake, where we talk about the portraying pressures of motherhood and how long a story should be.

Jen at The View From Here literary magazine, who asks me what are the important things, and where did the idea of a night rainbow come from?

Roz Morris, about the Undercover Soundtrack to The Night Rainbow – the songs that were part of its making.

Joe at the Bristol Short Story Prize, the home of my first published short story, who asks “What has it been like?”

Dan at Dog Ear Discs  – who asks about the environment of the novel and the surrounding countryside. “It becomes as important as the characters. Was it based on an actual place?”

Simon Savidge, who pokes around my bookshelves and asks “Are there any guilty pleasures?…”

Jen Campbell – Bookshoppist and author, who I may have made happy-sad.

Caroline Smailes, who wants to know about being a debut author and asks “How has your following your dream influenced your daughters?”

Isabel Costello on her Literary Sofa, where we talk about the pleasures and challenges of writing in a child’s voice.

Waterstones blog, where I talk about the inspiration behind The Night Rainbow

Alison Bacon, who asks about my experience of the publishing process with a top publisher, as well as life on twitter!

Vanessa Gebbie, who asks “How much did you want the novel to explore notions of non-belonging?”

Alison Wells – Who has been running a series of posts exploring ways of keeping our head above water in physical, mental, emotional and creative areas. I talk to her about keeping the joy in writing

Rumjhum Biswas at Flash Fiction Chronicles where I chat about how writing short fiction has influenced my novel, and what I looked for as an editor of a literary magazine

 

Spotted across a crowded room! I’m heading towards…

Chris Mosler  over at Thinly Spread, who has things to say, and a giveaway!

Nik Perring, about getting started and keeping going on a novel and…

… Jonathan Pinnock, who wants to know how I managed to wait out the two years from signing a book contract to publication…

and other people too…I hope there’s enough champagne.

The-Night-Rainbow-front

Paparazzi!

Marie-Claire selected The Night Rainbow as one of their top reads for the month.

Marie Claire Book Review

“An original and beguiling debut.”

Stylist magazine tipped me as one of their 4 soon to be bestsellers (alongside Maya Angelou and Dan Brown!)

You'll be on tenterhooks throughout

You’ll be on tenterhooks throughout

Good To Know magazine have listed The Night Rainbow as one of their 2013 book club picks (alongside Jodi Picoult, Yann Martel and Jojo Moyes!). If you post a review here you could win an e-reader.

 

Overheard…”Have you read it yet?”

Dan at Dog Ear Discs – The picturesque setting of Southern France in the midst of a heat wave is almost hypnotic.”

Nettie Thompson – “Pea and Margot are characters who stay with you, long after the last page is turned “

Teresa Majury – “…a narrator who will grab your heartstrings and never let go”

Tracey Upchurch – “Favourite character? Margot — little sister, voice of reason, bearer of night rainbows.

Laura Vickers at For Books’ Sake – Recommended for… Dreamers, mothers, lovers of the rich landscape of the south of France, and those in need of warming up.”

See more reviews on this page.

I’ll update the page with links as they happen.

For mingling in person, please see my events page here.

Champagne photo (c) Chris Chapman

 

 

 

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