Monday, 28 September 2009

Happy Anniversary, Goldsboro Books

David and Daniel, directors of Goldsboro Books, are celebrating the shop's 10th anniversary on Wednesday, and that's a remarkable accomplishment in today's tight economy.

I can't help but think about all the wine poured at Goldsboro Books and about all the toasts made in honor of MNW novels . I'm also thinking about Rachel DuPree's launch in 2008. There were seven of us there, and if that disappointed David and Daniel, they didn't let on. We drank, and I signed copies of the book. We drank, and Len Tyler showed up and bought the first copy. We drank, and then got out our umbrellas and went off to dinner. It was the perfect launch.

Here's to Goldsboro Books. Here's to David and Daniel. Congratulations. Job well done.

Monday, 21 September 2009

I have an agent!

Good news, for a change! I met up today with Broo Doherty of Wade and Doherty, and now all that's left is the signing of the contract. This has come (for me) neatly after David's post (below), in which Emma Darwin makes almost all the points which persuaded me I really do need professional representation. Broo made a particularly good point, I thought, when she said that she was amazed at how many writers don't feel they can phone their agents too often because they 'don't want to bother them.' Her advice to these authors is 'then get another agent.' One of the reasons I want an agent is precisely so that I CAN bother her about all the little niggles and queries which crop up.

The interesting news it that she wants to see my failed novel (no. 3). I'm not sure how I feel about that...

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Emma Darwin Makes Some Points About Agents

A while back, Frances raised the eternal issue of whether or not those of us who are unagented ought to be seeking agents. I responded with a post on my blog giving my perspective.

A couple of days ago, the ever-thoughtful, always-readable Emma Darwin dropped a few paragraphs on my comment trail. Since that post is now ancient history by blogosphere standards, I thought I should reprint it here:

A couple of other reasons:

Editors move on, or out, and faster than ever these days. Your agent is in it for the long term. And divorce is easier, in a sense, than it is with a publisher who's not doing their stuff on your book.

If you do want to change publisher, even when you're published you're liable to hit the problem that the majority of mainstream houses won't consider un-agented adult fiction manuscripts.

Your interests and your publisher's interests are not identical, but, you're right, to work well with an editor you need to get on. If it comes to holding out for a title, or arguing with a cover, it can be enormously helpful if your agent can be bad guy, so you can stay friends with your editor. Or if you are in the negotations, then knowing you have an agent at your back is immensely empowering. On the other hand, your agent may be best placed to explain why it needs to be how your editor wants it to be, in a way which means you can bear it.

Your agent knows much, much more than you do about what your publisher must do for you, what they should do for you, and what they might do for you if you can persuade them it'll pay off. When it comes to sales, marketing and publicity, you're in competition with all the other authors at your publishers for a lot of their time and money. Your agent is probably better than you are at persuading them why it should be steered towards your work.

If you have an agent you're not dependent on your publisher for selling your subsidiary rights. Not only may your agent get better deals, but the money from the deals your agent does comes straight to them and you. The money for the deals your publisher does goes into the pot to pay off your advance. Cashflow problems for writers are awful: sub rights sprinkled through the year can really help.

Food for thought. (Any of you who don't follow Emma's blog--and her novels!--ought to give both a try; her blog is one of the few I feel is indispensible.)

Friday, 18 September 2009

Irish PLR

I apologise for butting in on a perfectly good discussion of sex and violence, but I thought I should remind those of you who are registered for PLR but not members of the Society of Authors about the new arrangements for Ireland. (SoA memebrs will have already received a reminder about this.)

If you are registered for PLR you should have already received an email like this:

"The new Irish PLR system is being run by The Library Council in Dublin. Further information regarding the Scheme is available on their website

The Library Council is now accepting applications directly to its office in Dublin. However, we have agreed to offer those currently registered with UK PLR the opportunity to have their personal and registered book details transferred automatically to the Irish system.

A page will be displayed when you first log into your account to offer the option of transferring your details across to the Irish PLR Scheme."

We have until 23 September to request automatic transfer and the SoA is urging everyone to take advantage of this. It's very easy. It's also worth checking at the same time whether your UK registrations are up to date (e.g. adding new books or recent large print editions).

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Writing about sex

How do you feel about writing about sex (if indeed you write about it at all)? The thought came to me last night, when I came across the following mind-boggling passage in an otherwise highly readable novel: "God help me, Paris," he said raspily. "I just had to be inside you." This joyous coupling ends thus: "He was still kissing her when she came, so that her soft cries were released into this mouth." Hmm.

Why is it that it's so hard to write well about sex? I tend not to do it at all, or very little, simply because I don't particularly want to. How do others feel? And have you come across any similarly odd accounts of sexual congress, or even good ones?

I just thought I'd ask.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Featured Title for September and October

September marks the publication of Faye L. Booth's Trades of the Flesh, her second MNW novel. Read on for a synopsis and a chat with the author.

Every body has a price in Victorian England

Preston, 1888: as the century draws to a close, the prostitute murders in London have made young Lydia Ketch’s ‘trade’ a political issue. Lydia, the tough but optimistic daughter of a former workhouse inmate, has spent a year working in the ‘introduction house’ of Kathleen Tanner, a job that has given her an income few others could match.

When Lydia meets Henry Shadwell, a young surgeon with a passionate interest in biology, the two develop an instant – and non-professional – bond. And Henry soon enlists Lydia’s help in his underground sidelines; first as a model for pornographic photography; then as an assistant in procuring corpses for medical experimentation.

With the dangers of her own line of work becoming clearer by the day, and her newfound delight in her own sexuality burgeoning, Lydia becomes disillusioned with her life as a prostitute. And it soon become clear that her trade – and Henry’s – are even more dangerous than either had imagined.

Trades of the Flesh is a gripping novel about the body and its desires, from a precocious voice in historical fiction.

Hi, Faye. Tell us a little about your novel, Trades of the Flesh.

Trades, like Mirrors before it, is a Victorian-set historical, although Trades is set later in the century - the 1880s, to be precise. It features pornography, prostitution, dissection of corpses and other savoury things I can't wait for my family to read about.

Your novels are historical fiction, but they have a unique flavor. If your books proved to be the foundation for a new subgenre, what would it be called?

Funnily enough, I have tried before today to come up with a personalised genre label. I think the closest I came was "dysfunctional bodicerippers".

This is your second novel with Macmillan New Writing. How has the experience been different this time around?

I wrote a guest blog about this, but to summarise, it's actually been very similar. I don't think I've managed to really comprehend the fact that my first novel is out there in the world, never mind my second. So in terms of feelings, having my second novel published feels much like having my first one published - humbling, awe-inspiring and more than a little surreal. As far as practical things go, of course the process of working with Will on the edits, checking proofs and looking at drafts of cover designs has been more familiar this time around, although no less enjoyable.

Your writing is historically and culturally accurate, but at the same time the characters and topics you’ve chosen so far don’t fit comfortably with popular stereotypes about the past. Care to comment?

(Note to self: I will not launch into my lengthy tirade on this topic!) I have been known to bore everyone within a five mile radius when this subject comes up, because it's easily one of my pet peeves. When I started writing historical fiction, it was always my intention to present my characters as people and not stereotypes, which is why I'm not pandering to the (false and simplistic) image of the "frigid Victorians". It astounds me how many people just buy into this idea without actually looking at the evidence from the period (which is why I like to post things like racy 19th Century Valentine's cards and smutty verse by Victorian poets in my blog, and write novels in which the characters utilise the spicier floral symbols from the language of flowers), and I can't understand why we have such a double standard where stereotyping is concerned: if an author were to write a contemporary novel populated with cookie-cutter characters taken from lazy stereotypes of groups of people (based on age, sex, race, sexual orientation, nationality or whatever), any decent editor or agent would quite rightly pull them up on it during the edit or reject the book outright, but when the group of people in question are those who lived at a certain time, it's widely accepted and even expected. To say that I'm glad to have found People In Publishing who don't take that view is an understatement.

Who are your favorite writers of historical fiction?

Hmm...well, quite a lot of my unofficial mentor Kim Wilkins' books are timeslip novels, so they're part historical fiction; and I loved Emma Donoghue's Slammerkin and her wonderfully-titled anthology The Woman Who Gave Birth To Rabbits. Oh, and there's The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber, of course, and I like a lot of Philippa Gregory's novels. (My favourite of hers has to be The Wise Woman; partly because it has a Lancashire bad girl as its protagonist and partly because I'm a demented sleaze merchant.)

Okay. Which writers outside the field of historical fiction have most influenced you?

I always have a nightmare trying to define my influences, because I think most artists of all stripes are influenced in one way or another by practically all the art they encounter, whether that influence is positive (I admire the way so-and-so's done that; I wonder if I could do something different?) or negative (that didn't work for me; I'll do things differently in my own work). To give one example from the former category, though, whenever I read anything written by Oscar Wilde I'm always struck by the distinct quality of his voice; both very much 'of his time' and yet so accessibly human as to transcend the barriers of time, and it's something I try to achieve (in my own small way of course - who would dare to compare themselves to dear Oscar?) with my own writing; to create characters who are Victorian but human. That takes us neatly back to the idea of stereotyping again, doesn't it?

Here comes the inevitable: Do you compose by pen or by keyboard, or what...and why?

When I sit down to write, it's always on my laptop. I just find that things flow better, and it saves me having to transcribe it all again later. However, I carry a pen and my diary-cum-notebook with me at all times to record flashes of inspiration too.

Describe your typical writing day (if such exists).

I check my emails and blog comments and the like when I first switch on my computer; it wakes my brain up and gets me into the flow of composing my thoughts and typing. I write whenever 'the itch' starts up - I tend to write my better stuff in the afternoons, but I don't have a set time for writing, really - and when I'm done for the day I update the little online word meter I use to chart my progress. I'm dreadful with numbers, so having a visual representation of work done and yet to do is useful for me.

Cover the Mirrors was quite an accomplished debut, and I’m sure Trades of the Flesh will be just as polished. Do you have any unpublished novels lurking in desk drawers or under sofas, or are your first and second published novels also your first and second novels?

Yes to both - Mirrors and Trades are indeed my first and second novels respectively, but I do have a completed novel stashed away on my hard drive that I'm planning on leaving there for the time being. It was the fourth one I completed, and after looking at it I came to the conclusion that its flaws were evident to me, so they would surely be written in red neon lettering for someone else, so I decided to put it on the back burner for the time being and focus on my WIP and the third book I completed (which I'm currently reworking with my agent before showing it to Will). Edwin (agent) has predicted that The Back Burner Book will emerge again a few years down the line as something "weird and wonderful" - we shall see!

Time to pony up them there Four Random Facts.

1) I feel somehow wrong without nail varnish - natural, nail-coloured nails just don't look right to me. This applies only to my own nails, by the way - I don't go around leaping out at other people with bottle in hand. Your unpainted nails are fine.

2) My fondness for Victorianesque names isn't confined to my writing - my cat is called Lucian and my computer and phone (I had to name them for networking and data-sharing purposes, for one thing) are Quincey and Cornelius.

3) My favourite Cottingley Fairies photo is the one of Frances Griffiths in the fairy ring - she looks so bored to be there.

4) I hate hot weather, and carry a parasol and fan when I have to be out in the hot sun for a considerable length of time. This isn't an affectation (although my black lace parasol is a thing of beauty) - it's a genuine dislike of baking myself.

And one more, semi-random fact. It has come to my attention that most of us mispronounce your surname. Would you like to explain the proper pronunciation?

Ah, well I can tell you one thing - it isn't pronounced in the same way as the guy who shot Lincoln. For ages I struggled to find a way to explain this online (where of course I cannot simply say my name out loud), until a friend solved the problem for me by coming up with this simple guide - it rhymes with 'soothe', not 'tooth'.

Finally, what's next now that you've done your two novels for Macmillan New Writing?

Well, disregarding the aforementioned back burner, I have one completed novel, a WIP and a few ideas for future projects, so that keeps me busy. As for when any of them will emerge into the public eye, time will tell - Edwin and Will met recently for the first time to discuss me and my work (the writer's equivalent of Parents' Evening?), so hopefully we should be able to think about some plans for the future fairly soon.

Trades of the Flesh is published in paperback as of early September, and the striking cover should make it easy to spot in the stores. Good luck to Faye and the book!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Don't Be Afraid to Give a Shout

With things at MNW moving away from the book-per-month model, life is becoming more complex for this blog, and more subject to operator error (i.e. mine. Tim's, too.) In the future, we may have Books of the Month, rather than Book, and this time round Faye's new novel will be Book of the Months, since nothing else is forthcoming in October (which conveniently means she'll still be reigning on the blog on her birthday).

So, give us a hand in keeping our act together. If you are expecting interview questions and don't see them arriving in your Inbox, give us a gentle but firm e-nudge. If that doesn't work, try an e-kick. And if anything needs updating--addresses on the sidebar, or whatever--let us know. I'm sure I speak for Tim as well as myself when I assert that both of us are always glad of any excuse to knock off doing honest work.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Hope for Us Colonials

Hey, fellow Amerikanski Macmillanites. As I explain over on my blog, Barnes and Noble, without any fanfare whatsoever, has started putting the paperback version of Shock and Awe on the shelves of many of its stores. (Face out, what's more. There's glory for you.)

Let's hope it's a trend, right?

Can I be cheeky...

...and ask who's in charge of updating the "this month's publication" box these days? David? Tim?

Saturday, 5 September 2009

"Finding the Debutants"

There is an interview with Will on the Bookseller site on the subject of MNW, with some interesting sales figures (well done Ann and Brian - and Will and Sophie ...)

Friday, 4 September 2009

It's like the first time, only repeated.

Pardon the double-posting, but I just became the first guest poster on Nik Perring's blog as well. This time I'm talking a bit about the Second Novel Experience.

"Are you good-natured, dear?"


More about Trades of the Flesh
Buy from Amazon through my webstore

Goodness, it's here. Trades of the Flesh is officially out in the world, making bookshops and webstores everywhere that little bit seedier. I'm sniffing with pride.

To mark the occasion, I have popped the lovely Melanie's guest blog cherry with a little bit of nattering about "ladybirds", "motts" - Victorian prostitutes to you and me. Melanie is also very kindly hosting a little competition in which you can win a copy of Trades complete with a signed bookplate. The rules are in the post, and you can enter in the comments...if you're in the mood to confess your own shady doings!

By the way, Melanie's blog makes for fascinatingly eclectic reading and is always beautifully illustrated to boot, so if history and art are your cup of tea and you haven't checked her out yet, you should. She has also used blogging as a medium to publish the first part of her Journal of Marie-Antoinette series of novels, which is also terrific reading.

Thanks Melanie!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

The Wilderness Meets L.C. Tyler

My copy of Len's Ten Little Herrings is quite the world traveler. It started in England, flew to Texas, and is now in the wilds of Zion National Park in Utah. I can't help but wonder where all our books have traveled. Has anyone seen his/her books some unexpected place?