There is nothing more exciting for a writer than getting that call that tells you a manuscript has made it through the treacherous fertilization process – the acquisitions meeting at a publishing house. Before that time your dream of a book is just that – a dream. You may have the words down and you may have an interested editor but they have to come together and get the endorsement, the fusion, that only a positive vote in the boardroom can provide. The development and arrival of a new book are often likened to the human birth process. While defying all odds to get there, books keep arriving on the shelves. It seems like a smooth factory, a literary conveyor belt, seamless and ceaseless. But if you were to go deep within the body of the publishing industry you would see just how difficult it is for an embryonic seed of story to become a full-blown book with a cover, spine and lots of leaves. For every one that succeeds, thousands fall by the way side, forgotten, discarded, delegated to that cavernous bottom drawer or Amazon kindle.
When I got that call about my upcoming novel ‘Hexenhaus’ I swore and cried, almost like when I’d found out I’d been pregnant in real life. I was full of hope, great expectations and fear. Would it all be okay, would I like the cover, would anyone read it? Because some books, like kids, become disappointments. I jest. No kid, of course, ever becomes a disappointment. Every single one is adorable in their own way. Adolph Hitler’s mother probably liked him. Charles Manson probably made sweet gurgling noises as he suckled from his beloved mother….Not disappointments so much as …some books just don’t make a lot of friends. You know what I’m saying? But when I got the call that I was going to have a new book, I was ecstatic, relieved and overjoyed.
Nine months is a walk in the park. This gestation will take fifteen months from that phone call to delivery. You get the call, you pop the champagne and then the early boredom sets in while nothing, nothing, nothing seems to happen. It took about six weeks for the contracts to be finalised and signed because one person or another involved in the process went on leave, got sick or spent more time tending to more fertile writers’ needs. No bitterness, none. When I’m selling like J.K. Rowling I’m sure things will move more quickly. High hopes! Then I waited, no belly-swelling except for the endless chocolate biscuits and more champagne. Thumbs twirled until they nearly became unscrewed.
Then a month later I got structural edits….big sweeping changes like the order of stories. My book tells the stories of three young women’s adventures through real-life tortures at the hands of witch-hunters. This is, I am sure, much more painful and terrifying than being pulled apart by the hands of editors. At this point your characters put on more flesh and your words get snipped away so that the narrative doesn’t get lost in the detail. All good. Getting smoother. This is where you hear the words ‘story arc’ a lot.
Three or four months after that I started copy edits. This is a big book with a lot of subject matter (and torture and hedgehogs). It was a daunting copy edit made more difficult by my challenging relationship with technology. My new editor was patient and diligent with a wonderful eye for getting my baby into the best health possible for her upcoming ordeal (exposure to the harsh elements of readership). In many ways an editor is like a fairy godmother, turning bits of pumpkin into crystal.
A cover arrived fresh from the designer and with a tweak here and there, we had Hexenhaus looking good. This is like seeing a 3-D ultrasound photo of your baby. It’s very exciting.
Then came the first pages and the proof-reading. It’s amazing how inept an eye can be and even after multiple reads I would find something I’d missed. Done and dusted and ready for the type-setter….
That’s where I am at now. Awaiting a nice endorsement from a peer/literary idol…that doesn’t say….’what a load of codswollop’. Thinking about book launches (baby showers?) Getting invited to writer’s festivals for next year (that’s exciting…they are like those baby pagents where you parade your baby about in public….hmmm…not really). Starting to tell everyone and anyone that I am having a book…a book…a book….on October 31st. People are getting sick of hearing this but I DON”T CARE!
I am already thinking about her sibling and I already have a name. Victorieux. Instead of a book about three witches, this one will be about three warrior girls. You know you are impatient when you are planning your next child while still awaiting the one in your belly (publisher’s office).
I am bristling with excitement. Hexenhaus is wriggling and writhing and cannot wait to get into the fresh air of bookshops with the smell of lovely, woody untouched pages on her breath. I feel her pulsing with longing to be held by gentle, loving reader’s hands, who fall asleep at night with her resting on their chests.
It is a long, fretful, finicky time, this book-cooking caper. But it is labour of love, a magical and miraculous journey.
Write a book. Find the perfect publishing partner. It’s not easy but neither is true love. Nurture your baby and that moment when you hold her in your hands for the first time will be like no other feeling. I can’t wait to hold Hexenhaus. I feel like crying just thinking about it. Soon, my darling, soon.