Claire King

Author

Posts Tagged ‘Debuts’

The Second Star

Posted on: June 2nd, 2016 by Claire - 4 Comments

Why am I feeling so on edge?

When my debut novel The Night Rainbow was published back in 2013 I was a little nervous of course, but I was mostly just massively over-excited: I was absolutely happy with my book, having it published was a dream come true and I was REALLY looking forward to other people being able to read it.

With the publication of Everything Love Is imminent (July 28th), although in some ways I feel much calmer about publication itself because I know much more about what to expect and what not to expect, my anxiety about how it will be received by readers is much greater.

I’ve been trying to work out why that is. Although The Night Rainbow will always hold a special place in my heart, I like this book just as much for different reasons. So, what is it exactly? I’ve come to the conclusion it’s not the reviewers, or the new readers that concern me. If this were my debut I’d be perfectly fine. In fact, I’m worried what readers who loved The Night Rainbow will think. How will this book compare?

Hardback books

When you publish a debut novel your writing is generally critiqued on it’s own merits, and compared (even in readers minds) to other authors, but it cannot be compared to other novels you have written. Most importantly it cannot disappoint a reader who bought this book because they loved your first. But a second novel can.

It’s not really a question of the standard of writing: writers tend to become more accomplished as they go through their careers, unless a book has been hurried along due to an excessively short publication deadline or something has gone awry with the editing process. But until you have published a second novel, your first is a lone star, a single point of reference.

Unless the second is a sequel or part of a series, it will tell a completely different story to the first. The voice will be different, as will the themes and the characters. There will be similarities that mark out the book as a product of the same author, but it will be largely unfamiliar.

star

A second novel encourages direct comparison. A second star alongside the first, their positions are marked in relation to each other. It is only when there is a third star that they start to make up a picture of something more – who the author is, their style, what you can begin to expect of them. When you start to see what ties an authors books together – then they become a constellation.

As I finished writing Everything Love Is – and even more so as I embarked of the first draft of my third novel – it has become clearer to me what shape my own constellation is taking. I understand more about what is important to me as as a writer, what seems to tie together the stories I want to tell and how I want to tell them. This is something of a self-discovery, and feels really exciting. But of course that is getting way ahead of myself and is still overshadowed right now by my pre-launch preoccupation with how Everything Love Is will be received by those readers who are waiting for it in anticipation after having loved The Night Rainbow. Because it’s basically all about the readers.

Meanwhile there are a lot of other authors’ second novels out – and coming out soon – this year that I’m very keen to read. After their cracking debuts I really want to see what their next books will bring. It’s wonderful to discover an author whose work you want to keep going back to. I’m looking forward to seeing which of these will become some of my favourite constellations in my literary universe. Are there any growing in yours?

 

Photo (c) Gary A. Becker at Astronomy.org

Here Comes 2016, Here Come the Books…

Posted on: December 23rd, 2015 by Claire - 13 Comments

I recently read this Glamour Magazine listicle of 11 “female-authored reads” they are looking forward to in 2016. Some of these books I have heard great things about and am looking forward to myself, but the list is very limited, and ends on this note:

“The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

We know almost nothing about this lit debut by Amy, other than that she received a seven-figure advance for the collection of essays. But we are very excited.”

The problem I have with this is that the article, along with several others published over the last couple of weeks, is it reads like a list of recommended reads, but has been written based solely on publishers’ press releases. And can you really recommend a book based on the size of the advance it earned the author?

At the end of this blog post, therefore, I’d like to point you towards three articles from some very well read women who have 2016 books to recommend to you based on their EXTENSIVE reading.

On the other hand I do like preview articles like The Guardian’s 2016 Literary Calendar (and the children’s version here) which don’t pretend to recommend books based on having read them, but set out some highlights of what we can look forward to over the year ahead. And in that spirit, and to redress the balance a little (I’m sure that Amy’s book is going to be witty and entertaining, but there are so many other great books coming out from female authors that deserve a shout out), here are 11 other female authors that you might not read about in the round-ups but who I think you should be looking out for in 2016:

Debuts

Jackie Buxton – Glass Houses (Urbane Publications).  Jackie’s non-fiction Tea And Chemo is wonderful. Next, her debut novel!

Joanna Cannon – The Trouble with Goats & Sheep (Borough Press). There’s already a LOT of buzz online for this debut.

Emma Geen – The Many Selves of Katherine North (Bloomsbury). Look at this beautiful cover:

The Many Selves of Katherine North

Rebecca McKenzie – In a Land of Paper Gods (Tinder Press). I had the luck to read an advance copy, and loved this book.

Fiona Melrose – Midwinter (Corsair/Little Brown)

Catherine Ryan Howard – Distress Signals (Corvus)

Holly Seddon – Try Not To Breathe (Corvus)

 

Second and subsequent novels from writers with amazing debuts:

Carys Bray – I loved A Song for Issey Bradley. Can’t wait to read The Museum of You

Emma Chapman – The Last Photograph (Picador) sounds intriguing. How will it compare to How to be a Good Wife?

Sarah Perry – Following the mesmerising After Me Comes The Flood is The Essex Serpent, out in July (Serpent’s Tail).

Caroline Wallace – The Finding Of Martha Lost (Transworld) I’m a big fan of Caroline’s work under her other name Caroline Smailes, so can’t wait for this.

 

And Many More! 

As promised above, here are three great 2016 previews whose authors have read all the books they are recommending:

Please have a look at Isabel Costello’s amazing Literary Sofa 2016 Hot Picks for some wonderfully diverse selections which I haven’t mentioned here.

And here is a 2016 top ten from the lovely Cathy Retzenbrink in Stylist who also picks out three of the books mentioned in the Glamour piece, but does also highlight The Essex Serpent (and tips Sarah Perry for great things!), the new Maggie O’Farrell and My Name is Leon (see comments below).

Naomi Frisby lists her diverse (first half) female authored recommendations here and tells us why, for her, they have the Wow Factor.

Also, I’ve started compiling a twitter list of authors with novels being published next year, 27 in total (so far all female on my radar!) and of course it doesn’t include non-tweeting authors like Maggie O’Farrell. Let me know of suggested additions.

 

On not being the most anticipated…

Posted on: December 29th, 2014 by admin - 14 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

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