Sunday, 28 February 2010
Sunday, 21 February 2010
Saturday, 20 February 2010
It was fantastic to meet everyone last week, and goes to show that this is one imprint where there is a definite sense of community and shared experience. There are one or two conversations during the afternoon that I’ll develop later into blog entries, such as expectations of publishing from a debut’s point of view and on the growing recession in publishing and how it’s affecting us all, but for the time being, I’d like to mention a conversation I didn’t have…
In a twittered exchange between myself and Ms Whiteley, we agreed that it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to publish an anthology of Macmillan New Writers based on the fact that many of us congregating here write the short form as well as the long. I was going to approach everyone on Monday with this suggestion but forgot, so I’m doing so now.
The brief is simple: any short story, any length, any subject… as long as were not infringing copyrights (i.e. already sold to another magazine/publisher), and unless there’s anyone here with a burning desire to take on the editing of the collection, then all the short stories must be edited by the writers themselves – their responsibility. I will then approach an e-book publisher after having a chat with our e-book guru, Neil Ayres, and the aim will be to e-publish the collection for free via somewhere like Stanza. So there will be no payments here, folks. It will, in effect, be a sampler to publicise our books/works (each short story will be prefaced by an author biog and short paragraph on the writer’s thoughts on being published under Macmillan New Writing and the community, including a mug-shot if you want). You can also submit two short stories if you wish – after all we’re talking e-books here, so there are no constraints on length or overheads due to the number of pages being printed.
So what do you think? Is this do-able?
What timescales should we look at if it is?
And who here would submit some fiction?
Following on from discussions at our lunch, I wonder whether it might be a helpful if we could produce a kind of e-leaflet for new MNWers. It seems that there is no longer a launch party for new novels, and some writers at least feel they could do with a little more advice about how to publicise their books. This seems to vary from writer to writer, but one author at least felt rather left in the lurch. If we could collect comments, then perhaps someone who is clever at this kind of thing (NOT me!) could do something ingenious with them so that they would be accessible to new writers.
To kick off, things I have found useful have been: local radio (excellent), book signings (obviously), website, business cards with my name and the titles of my books, talks to reading groups, making sure I always have copies of my books to hand (well, that's the theory) and generally being much more pushy than would normally come naturally (I find this comes with practice...). What does anyone else think? And do you have other ideas? And do any new MNWers think this would be helpful?
Thursday, 18 February 2010
Tuesday, 16 February 2010
Wednesday, 10 February 2010
I love writing these very short stories. The discipline and the challenge is exciting (and they make a nice change from the WIP...)
Monday, 8 February 2010
A heartbreaking debut by a striking new voice in Irish fiction.
Hi...Well, it’s set in rural Ireland in the 1940s and is centred around the character Kathleen. It’s mainly from her point of view, but other characters’ voices also help tell the story. The story is concerned with Kathleen’s relationship with her father, which is defined to a major extent by the death of her twin sister a few years before – an event which has affected the whole family. It is about the effect this relationship has on the story of Kathleen’s life and, of course, those surrounding it.
How did you and Macmillan New Writing meet?
I had only decided to try getting the novel published after I’d written it, despite having always wanted to be a writer, and had heard of MNW through a friend and thought I’d give it a go. I was totally amazed (still am!) that Will rang up saying they’d be interested in publishing it. I remember it very clearly as it was a rare snow day (too warm in Dorset for much snow, much to my children’s dismay!) and, living closest to the village school (which had closed early), I had a house full of children camping out till their parents could pick them up...one little boy called Will kept running in and out causing mischief while I was trying to talk to Big Will lol! And I was trying to have a grown up conversation with him while whispering ‘Not now, Will...go downstairs for a minute – Will, don’t touch that!!’ etc. Hehe.
It’s always interesting to hear how an author settles on the milieu for a novel. Yours begins in rural Ireland in the 1940s. What drew you to this setting?
I have strong links with Ireland, both familial and...I guess spiritual, at the risk of sounding really naff. It’s my second home. Although I grew up in London, I think I consider myself more Irish than English - long, happy summers were spent in Cork, deep in the countryside, with no phone or telly, the only toys a beat-up Irish version of Monopoly and lots of badminton rackets (recalling this, I’m wondering why my badminton skills are so abysmal!) I guess it was only natural for Ireland to seep into my writing. Not sure where the 1940s bit came from...I suppose I am quite preoccupied with the past in general, and there was a simplicity that I fell for, of bygone ways to our holidays there, which I have carried with me to adulthood, which I suppose tends to infiltrate my writing.
What is your typical writing day?
I am not generally an organized person, but I’ve found I’ve fallen into a natural pattern with my writing – I tend to do a good couple of hours in the morning in one of my favourite cafes/studies! For some reason I just can’t concentrate at home in the morning. And I find late at night (rather annoyingly) productive...black bags are the curse of nocturnal scribblers!
Do you compose by pen or by keyboard, or what...and why?
Pen. Or most usually pencil, in various notebooks...it’s a bit of a jigsaw fitting everything together at the end. I try not to type anything onto the pc until it’s done because if I do I start to fret and lose my train of thought. I haven’t got a very good relationship with technology!
Which authors do you feel have had the most influence on you as a writer? And which do you most enjoy reading? (Not always the same thing, of course.)
Hmm...tricky question. I don’t know I can answer the first part...I guess any influence would be subliminal. I do adore reading, especially in bed at night, but I find reading while I’m writing too distracting...or it makes me feel guilty that I’m not spending that time writing my own! So, to be honest, I don’t read all that much (a shocking admission for a writer?!) but when I do pick up a book I can’t put it down and I think to myself, This really is the Best thing in the world...
What question would you like to be asked that I haven’t asked here—and what would you answer?
Q: Would you like me to magically give you several more hours in the day?
A: Yes please!!
Can we please have the traditional Four Random Facts about Ciara Hegarty?
I have broken the same toe on my left foot twice – the first time by dropping a plate on it...the second by dropping a jar of Branston’s pickle on it :( Poor toe. I think it is safe to say I am rather accident prone.
There is only one thing I miss about my old London life – Ceroc...if you haven’t tried it, go – it’ll be the most fun you’ve had in ages! (Unless of course any of your toes have recently had an encounter with a jar of Branston’s pickle, in which case you might want to wait a while.)
When I’m not writing (or looking after children/dog/rabbit) I paint.
I am secretly a bit of a geek – geocaching.com (I’m not saying anything else!! Except that if you know what I’m on about our user name is Otti_Toto_Acorn.)
Wednesday, 3 February 2010
While some of us now have agents, most were first published without one, and it's interesting to read the arguments for and against agents, both as readers and writers.
Personally, I think agents are a blessing and a curse. There is no doubt many literary agents can be blamed for the escalation of advances, though publishers are also to blame for caving into them. And literary agents don't always get things right, just as publishers don't. Agents are just part of that filtering process and are quite fallible. An agent needs to make a living as well, and whenever one listens to the pocket rather than instinct, mistakes get made.
That's why the Macmillan New Writing model works so well. And let's face it, while we haven't yet had a bestseller from the imprint, with all the nominations for high-profile awards there's enough evidence to suggest that it's a model that succeeds without that gatekeeper process. Though that's not to say it would work anywhere but Macmillan. Maybe Macmillan have the aptitude for spotting talent where agents fail? Who knows?
Agents do serve a purpose. They nurture young writers and provide good advice. True, there are cowboys in the business and I'm one such writer who has fallen foul of a dodgy agent in the past, but generally agents will look after the welfare of their authors - it's in their best interest to do so. And as Jane says, they do filter out the dross from hitting the desks of editors which is a good thing (there are plenty of deluded writers out there, probably as many as deluded X-factor contestants).
But I still can't shake the feeling that the current process of writer - gatekeeper - publisher does not work that well. There are too many stories of novelists failing at the first hurdle only to be taken on later by a publisher, becoming a best-selling sensation soon after. It occurs too many times for me to be comfortable with it.
But as Jane puts it, these are tough times for publishers and many editors have lost their jobs. With more work being piled onto the surviving editors, there is no easy solution.
Looks like the gatekeeper-situation is here to stay then... At least until the digital revolution occurs and it becomes a publishing free-for-all, that is.