Claire King

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Posts Tagged ‘Second Novels’

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.

 

That Tricky Second Novels

Posted on: July 27th, 2011 by Claire - 38 Comments

I have a confession to make.

As many of you will know, after signing the contract for the publication of my first novel, I was left with a good two years before the launch date (19 months to go and counting!). What to do with all that time? Well write the next novel of course. And if it all goes well get started on the subsequent one. Keep going.

But that’s not exactly what I’m doing. Despite my best efforts, I now find myself writing two new novels at the same time. I am scrivenerally promiscuous.

I started the second one – Novel Two – fully intending to write it, edit it and finish it before moving on. But then another new story began to grow in that special place between heart and head that told me it was a good one. It came with its own momentum, seductively calling me to ‘just jot down a few notes and save them for later’ right at the moment when Novel Two was being wrangly and beligerent. I crept into a corner and wrote down the notes for Novel Three. And then I developed them. And then developed them some more while Novel Two sat in a corner looking at me sullenly. I felt bad for it, I honestly did. But wading through the mud of shaping Novel Two seemed much less fun than splashing in the waves of Novel Three.

But Novel Two has its own pull. I feel passionate about the themes, I see huge potential in the characters. It is only finding the right way to appear them that is tough. They deserve to be written. So once I had captured the immediate energy of Novel Three -several thousand words of it – I returned, abashed, to Novel Two. And Novel Two began to grow. The characters began to take on shape and momentum, as I knew they would. The themes blossomed in tiny little eureka moments sparking new scenes and greater depth. And then I had to stop writing for a week.

Towards the end of that week it was Novel Three that was calling me. At first just a whisper but then louder and louder because there were some ideas for scenes that just had to be captured before I forgot them. It Was Urgent. So I did. Maybe, I thought, Novel Three will be novel two and Novel Two will be novel three? Perhaps that will make most sense. But Novel Three needs quite a lot of research. And of course now Novel Two is calling for my attention again.

So I have decided to accept my fate and let these two novels grow side by side, not so much like twins, but more like a literary three legged race. I have the time for this luxury. But isn’t this all a little…weird?

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