Due in part to Michael 's post and Aliya’s recently, I’ve forced myself to look at 2007 objectively to see where all my time has been spent, and whether it has been worth it.
But before you read on from here, I should make one thing abundantly clear: three years ago the dream of being published was as distant as the moon. Writers will hope for, wish for, pray for and sacrifice-virgins for a chance to get a publisher to even look at their work, so to have a major publisher take my first novel I feel more than fortunate (I must have been a saint in a former life). Each time I feel low or petulant I remember how lucky I am and it puts everything into perspective.
There are still plenty of writers out there who for one reason or another, have not broken into the publishing world. While being published is not the route to happiness, it certainly is a grail for many of us. So yes, I don’t take much of it for granted, and hopefully that will continue in my writing. (After all, once you become published, the next thing you look for is some measure of success. And after that you want to be a bestseller, and after that you want the movie option sold on your book, and after that… Well, it just goes on and on and on and on, doesn’t it? Why stop at the world when there’s a whole universe to conquer?)
A year of being in print
Despite mixed experiences over the last year, the whole process has been quite positive. Sure expectations were at times unrealised, but other times they were exceeded. Such as publication day, where bugger-all stores seemed to stock The Secret War, and then three weeks later everyone (figuratively) was. Then there was the tortuous wait to learn whether The Horde of Mhorrer was going to be published or not, followed by the sweet ecstasy (and blessed relief) that it would be in Spring 2009...
…The Horde of Mhorrer has been, at times, a hard slog – sometimes frustrating, distracting and time consuming (prompting Sarah to ask me on several occasions if she actually had a husband!) - yet at the end, I felt satisfied, like going on a 12 month trek through the wilderness and coming out the other side a little battered and a little bruised, but elated.
The swings and roundabouts continued with the reviews (both web-based and ink-based) for The Secret War that swung from gushing with praise to being quite hostile on one occasion. But with all these experiences, I’ve been pragmatic – you can do little else, otherwise the hard moments would discourage you completely.
And anyway, any lows have been drowned out by the overwhelming highs… Like recently seeing Wachter der Schatten in print and in bookshops in Vienna. And what about the research trip to Prague? Or the news that The Secret War will be a paperback in the UK in 2009? There’s the publicity side of things too including the interviews on BBC radio, the Bakewell Arts show, interviews for the local papers, my travel piece in the Daily Telegraph and the visit to the school in Surrey (which ranks as one of the biggest surprises so far).
Then there’s The Secret War itself, seeing it in print and selling well, and then going to reprint. There’s also the array of Secret War memorabilia (see right) I’ve amassed: two t-shirts (one for The Secret War, one for Wachter Der Schatten), the engraved broadsword which was given to me on publishing day, the personalised cuff-links (see below) that feature the cover of The Secret War, and the promo cards both from Macmillan and those designed by Mel Jones (who also did a splendid job on the website).
There was also the blog I created with David for all the Macmillan New Writers, which appears to be quite popular, not to mention this blog and the friends I've made via the random and not-so random collection of pixels that haunt your screen.
And finally, there was the surprise private-launch party Sarah organised and the book launch itself held in Waterstones here in Sheffield, which must count as one of the proudest days of my life. Sarah said to me last summer that nothing will compare to that day, regardless of how many books I get published and how successful they are in the future. And I think she’s right. The launch of your first book is something unique, like a first kiss, or perhaps losing one’s virginity (though hardly as private).
Like much of 2007, it’s something that I won’t ever forget.
Happy New Year to you all…