Writing and publishing

I used to stand in bookshops pt 3

Me with my new book The Winter Road

In the last episode…

I had just seen my book for the first time in a bookshop. March 2016.

Over two and a half years on a hell of a lot has changed in my life, good and bad.

Now it’s Saturday morning, two days after the above picture was taken. There’s a lot more salt than pepper compared to 2016, but the new glasses suit me better; I’ve lost weight, but the bald patch asserts itself ever more strongly!

Most importantly I’m a lot more appreciative of how privileged I am to get shelf space and table space next to the amazing books in these photos. It sank in more fully this time around, seeing my new book take its place.

There’s a mountain of people’s patience, love and hard work that made this photo possible.

I found out the other day from a friend that Snakewood is now in a local second-hand bookshop, and that was in its own way just as exciting. On the surface that sounds odd, of course, but then, not all bookshops are ‘new’ bookshops. I’ve got fond memories of finding second-hand bookshops and browsing through hoping to find an author I wanted more from, or a particular book, or just take a chance at 50p or £1 on something I might not have otherwise. I haven’t always had enough money to buy new, but there’s many second-hand books I’ve loved that I bought new in later years for friends and indeed for my own children. It’s amazing to think that having had the pleasure of knowing my books are (not just ‘my book is’!) on the shelves of bookstores and in supermarkets and the like, they’re now also going to be on the shelves of second-hand book stalls, waiting for a reader to take a chance on them and hopefully be entertained for a few hours.

The critical reception to Snakewood was, at this point in time after launch, far more mixed than it’s been for The Winter Road. At the time of writing, Teyr Amondsen’s trials seem to have been well received, her story has really connected emotionally in the way I’d hoped. As any debutant will tell you, one is far less well prepared for the critical reception of one’s first than one’s second. In the intervening year or more I’ve had time to get used to the fact that my precious creation is only really precious to me. I won’t lie to you, the first few days after reviewers and bloggers announced they’d received their ARCs was a time of great fretting and brutalised fingernails. I genuinely didn’t know how it would be received, particularly as I’d taken a big chance with the end of the book, a structural choice that my editors rightly questioned. With their guidance we have an ending that I think helps the book sit with its current and future brethren far better than it might have, but I saw fully the risk I was taking in going there with it. You may see what I mean when you read it :)

I’m now ensconsed in telling the next story in this world and hopefully that’ll end up in bookshops sometime in 2020. None of my writing gets anywhere without the patience and understanding of my wife and family, who see so much less of me than they otherwise might if I wasn’t pursuing these dreams. I look at these young adults telling me the wifi’s too slow and there’s no milk in the fridge and where’s their school tie (isn’t it where you took it off-I don’t remember where I took it off-well I haven’t seen it) and I could have done so much more with them on the weekends I’ve given up. Of course I hope that my getting published has inspired them to pursue their dreams as they coalesce into ambitions in the coming years, and I know too that I’m not yet out of time, I’m not yet too embarrassing to have around. I’ve just learned that what one has to sacrifice in order to achieve anything worthwhile always costs more than one is comfortable paying.

So if you’re writing in your spare time, and you’re holding down a job and family, and Netflix has lots of great shows on, and you’re tired, really tired, and weeks go by without your putting words on the screen, it’s ok. But at some point, one or two of those evenings will be required to push that story/painting/tapdancing/car restoration forward to the finish line. It won’t be because you’re reading this, it’ll be because, like me around thirteen, fourteen years ago, you realise you’re at a point where you can’t stand the thought that you didn’t fail because you didn’t succeed in pursuing your dream to the point you’d hoped you could take it, you failed because you didn’t try.

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