Friday, 25 December 2009

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas everyone, and let's hope that 2010 is a great year for MNW. Good luck to everyone who is having a novel published. Good luck to everyone who has been nominated for an award. Good luck to everyone with their Work in Progress. May the coming year bring you everything you wish for.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Calling all debut MNW authors...

Especially Terence Morgan and Ciara Hegarty, since we know you exist.

We'd like to interview you and do a little publicity thing on all new Macmillan New Writing books when they come out. If you'd like to join in, please get in touch with Tim Stretton or David Isaak (both easiest to do by clicking on the preceding links. For Tim, use the Contact the Author link on his web page. For David, use the "Email" link below his profile.)

That goes for any of you we haven't heard about yet, too. I mean, I know writers are introverted, but c'mon, speak up and let us know where you are...

Friday, 18 December 2009

Farewell to Borders

Apparently all Borders stores will close on 22 December, with the staff being made redundant from Christmas Eve.

They've been (in the main) good to me: friendly when I went in, happy to chat, happy to find books for me to sign.

Good luck to their employees in the future. Thanks for your support. I hope you all quickly find good jobs elsewhere. I will miss your friendly staff in the Oxford branch in particular.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Maggie Dana longlisted

I'm delighted to announce yet another MNW longlisting. Maggie Dana's Beachcombing is on the long list for the Romantic Novelists' Association Romantic Novel of the Year Award. If you scroll down, you'll see her title on the list, which also includes Nicholas Sparks, Santa Montefiore and Louise Bagshawe.

Congratulations, Maggie! Fingers crossed for the next stage: the shortlisting of six titles in February next year.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Writewords Interview

Hello everyone, there is an interview with me on the WriteWords website, which tells about how I ended up in the Macmillan New Writers fold

Just finished the copy edits, (yes I've had to cut out embarrassing numbers of the word "unaccountably" and if I had a pound for every unnecessary comma I'd be rich) but it still seems ages before I'll actually hold my book in my hand. However, I know that there are at least two Macmillan New Writers whose books will be on the shelves before mine. They are Terence Morgan with "The Master of Bruges" and Ciara Hegarty with "The Road to the Sea" and the reason I know is because when I was down in London I picked up one of the Pan Macmillan 2010 New Titles booklets, and their books are listed in it under the MNW imprint. So congratulations to you both if either of you are reading this, and I hope you don't mind me blowing your cover.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Monday 15th. February

For anyone who hasn't been following the discussion on when to have a MNWers gathering, this seems to be the date we've agreed on. So far we have (I think) Alis, Eliza, Len, Matt, Brian (possibly) Aliya, Tim and me, but it would be great if more could come, including (and especially) any new MNWers who may have been hovering round the blog but haven't yet introduced themselves. We haven't yet agreed on a time and place, but maybe it would be an idea to do that soon rather than start this all over again in the new year? So - Lunch? Dinner? Tea? What does everyone think? And where would be a good venue? I guess it will have to be London, but London is a big place... (exit blackboard monitor)

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Stray thoughts on being a published writer of both fiction and academic books.

Will (Atkins) is currently holidaying in India, and early this week he was here in New Delhi en-route to Varanasi and Goa. We spent a lovely evening at India International Centre, and while I introduced Will to the quiddities of an authentic Indian meal and gave him touristy advice, we also discussed MNW and publishing in general. As always Will spoke fondly of the imprint and its authors, taking pride in the discovery of talent despite modest sales and having to cope with down trend in the market. We discussed genres, branding, marketing and that elusive magic formula that brings phenomenal success for some writers. Though I have not been published by MNW since Across the Mystic Shore both he and Mike have continued to show keen interest in my writing, especially my academic work. We got down to talking about my forthcoming book from Palgrave Macmillan (Surviving Bhopal: Dancing Bodies, Written Texts, Oral Testimonials of Women in the Wake of an Industrial Disaster, April 2010). He put an interesting question to me, “How is the experience of being a published fiction writer different from that of an author of an academic book?”

It is different. For one your anxieties are different. Since your academic book has a limited print run, a niche audience and will only be bought for libraries you do not worry about sales or marketability. Somehow the risks do not seem yours. If anything the rigorous editorial process takes into account all the factors that go into preparing your book for scrutiny. It is as if the risks get taken care of in the pre-publication stages, and both you and your publisher know exactly what you are doing. Therefore, every step of the way is more impersonal and yet more reassuring. There is inherent pride in knowing that your book is part of a prestigious imprint (Palgrave Studies in Oral History) and the intrinsic value of the book is therefore taken care of. So you do not worry about reviews, Amazon sales rank or how sales can impact the publication of your next book. Your publication profile is somehow free from any need for branding. A different kind of buzz is created for your book. Institutions/ scholars from related fields know about your work and show keen interest. Therefore, a forthcoming book is anticipated with the right amount of eagerness and academic curiosity. I was telling Will that as a fiction writer you do know that one day your novel will simply cease to sell; the royalty statements will tell you that. It carries its own twinge of disappointment. I have a feeling that an academic book spares you this as well. If anything, the process of building up your reputation is slow but more sure footed. Your publisher knows it and so do you. Your book gets talked about in a limited circle and if it finds its way into other bibliographies then you book is still in demand.

I am wondering why it is not the model for all publications, fiction, non-fiction and specialized books? Will told me that no publisher can anticipate a best seller and somehow intrinsic worth is not the criteria. Then why not have a system that percolates this bit of assurance right down to the author? We need bestseller lists, popular awards and talk shows for marketing books to keep the industry afloat. I agree. But there is a niche market for that as well. Why bring fiction into it? What is it that determines the survival of fictions’ so called midlist?

I will end with a bit of self promotion for my Palgrave book. When I got back the cover proof I felt a quiet sense of satisfaction to see what had been included as promotional material. I am reproducing them below:
“Suroopa Mukherjee's important book tells how Bhopali women from one of the poorest communities on earth have thrown off the veil and led a spirited, inspiring resistance against corruption and injustice by a multinational corporation and its political allies.”—Indra Sinha, Author of Animal’s People, based on the Bhopal tragedy
“This is a captivating read and the work is an admirable example of scholarship and artistry guided by moral principle and passion. Mukherjee designed it to purposefully and forcefully keep the Bhopal gas tragedy in global public discourse – indeed, to reintroduce it. She works diligently and passionately with oral history narratives from women survivors together with vivid accounts of women’s collective participation in activities that continue to press for compensation, justice, respect, and dignity. With poignancy, her brave and timely objective is to ‘pierce the veil of secrecy’ by using indigenous oral traditions to deconstruct corporate and bureaucratic obfuscation that function as a tool of oppression. This work is an outstanding examination of every imaginable dimension of the Bhopal gas tragedy.”--Raymond E. Wiest, Professor Emeritus, Anthropology, University of Manitoba, Canada.

I know it’s the blurb and part of the marketing but it reads differently, does it not? I also know for sure that it brings the issue centerstage, which pleases me immensely.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009


Interesting post by Matt on his blog.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

February - dates, please

It looks as though our get-together will have to be in February, so it would be good if we could start sorting out a date before everyone gets booked up (I'm beginning to feel like that bossy girl at school who always wanted to be blackboard monitor). Matt - would you like to have the first say? Do you have any preferences/no-gos for February?

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

From The Guardian - "How Waterstones Killed Bookselling"

The rather sensationalist title aside, this piece in today's Guardian is an interesting examination of the book retailing business. It will have resonances for all of us who've had books turned down recently.

Friday, 6 November 2009


With particular reference to Matt's post (below), I wonder whether it might be possible to arrange a get-together/goodbye-to-Matt lunch or dinner, perhaps in the new year (I guess it's probably too short notice for pre-Christmas)? I know that these are hard to arrange, what with day jobs, children, distances to travel etc. But it would be great to meet up if we could. What does anyone else think?

Thursday, 5 November 2009

MFWC has left the building…

Okay, just a short note for those who don’t know yet, but I’m no longer writing for Macmillan. I won’t go into the reasons here, but the parting is amicable and I have no regrets for being involved in one of the most important author initiatives by a major publisher in the last ten years.

However, it will mean less time to blog here as I concentrate more on life after MNW – though I will be visiting from time to time and will certainly not be a stranger to this blog (having spent a huge amount of time here).
For the coming weeks you’ll still find me on the Muskets and Monsters blog, but my permanent home will shift to Wordpress over the new year , and then during next summer my web presence will consolidate at Wordpress under - blog and all.

I leave Macmillan New Writers in the capable hands of David and Tim, who have been fantastic since they took over the admin reins. And of course I leave it in the hands of the MNW gang, who have kept the blog going with their experiences (those highs and lows) and sage advice which has pretty much guided us through the whole adventure of being published that first time.

Finally, a massive thanks to you all for making this experience such a great one for me. One of the strengths of the imprint is this community, the ability to support, console and pimp books to everyone and their uncles. With the new wave of MNWers coming through like Ryan and Deborah, this community will keep going strong, and will hopefully have a top 10 bestseller to hang its hat on soon.

Best wishes


Friday, 30 October 2009

Our Featured Publication: Acts of Violence

Our featured publication in November is a debut novel by Ryan David Jahn, Acts of Violence.

Dark, compelling and powerful . . . a rare and fine talent’ R.J. ELLORY

Katrina Marino is about to become America’s most infamous murder victim.

This is Katrina’s story, and the story of her killer.

It is also the story of Katrina’s neighbours, those who witnessed her murder and did nothing: the terrified Vietnam draftee; the woman who thinks she’s killed a child, and her husband who will risk everything for the truth; the former soldier planning suicide and the man who saves him. And others whose lives are touched by the crime: the elderly teacher whose past is catching up with him; the amateur blackmailer who’s about to find out just what sort of people he’s been threatening; the corrupt cop who believes he is God’s ‘red right hand’.
Shocking and compassionate, angry and gripping, ACTS OF VIOLENCE is a sprawling, cinematic tour-de-force, a terrifying crime novel unlike any other.

Hi, Ryan. Tell us a little about your novel, Acts of Violence.

It's a crime novel set in 1964 and the story is very loosely based on a real event. A woman in Queens, New York, was murdered outside her apartment by a man whose only motive was to kill someone, as he later testified. He attacked her twice, and the combined attacks lasted over thirty-five minutes. There were allegedly thirty-eight witnesses who did nothing to help her. I thought it might be interesting to take the heart of the story and build a novel around it. It spans a three hour period on the morning of the attack, and dives into several subplots which move likes spokes around that central hub.

What was your path to Macmillan New Writing?

I wrote the first draft of Acts of Violence in July and August, 2008, and spent the next several months rewriting it and doing research on the state of the publishing industry (abysmal). In November I read about Macmillan New Writing on an industry blog. After doing some research, I thought they seemed a viable option. And I liked the fact that you could simply submit your completed manuscript, bypassing the whole business of figuring out how best to pitch it to agents. (I'd gone that route with earlier work, which rightly remains unpublished, and disliked the entire process.) On December 8, I emailed the manuscript in to MNW. On December 20, Will Atkins (commissioning editor) emailed me that he liked it, but others would have to read it before any decisions were made. They'd get back to me after the Christmas holiday. On January 8 they did. It was a nice way to start the new year.

You’re in a somewhat-unique position here, as you have a multiple-book deal with Pan Macmillan even before your first novel hit the stores. How did this come about?

I can only assume the decision was made during an office party at Macmillan and everybody was drunk. After the contract came through for Acts of Violence, I went back to work on a second novel I'd begun in October. I had this irrational fear that if I couldn't get it finished before the first book came out, something horrible would happen. I didn't know what, but that vague fear hung over me, threatening that something wretched would fall upon me if I didn't type “the end” soon enough. I finished Low Life mid-May and submitted it. At the end of June, Will emailed me and said he'd like to talk on the phone. If I couldn't talk today, it would have to wait a week, as he was heading out of town. I emailed him back and asked him to call. I expected a nice rejection and an open door. (Though my wife, smarter than me, assured me that nobody ever chooses to break bad news on the phone rather than in email.) Ten minutes later the phone rang. We chatted and I rambled a bit about what I was working on next. He made an offer for Low Life and the follow-up, and we spent the next couple weeks banging out the details for a two-book deal. I sent in my notes on the copyedited typescript last night.

What is your typical writing day?

I don't really have one. I do try to get two or three hours of writing or rewriting in every day, but I could start at seven a.m., or, as last night, eleven p.m. My preference is to work nights, as there are fewer distractions then, and I'm easily distracted, but I wake early no matter what I've done the night before, and lack of sleep makes me cranky.

Do you have a writing mantra?


Do you compose by pen or by keyboard, or what...and why?

Keyboard. If I'm writing longhand I find myself frustrated, as my hand won't move as fast as my mind. I learned to type on a manual typewriter almost twenty years ago, using my index fingers for the letters and my right thumb for the space bar. I still type that way, but on computer now, and last time I checked I managed about 65 words per minute. The only downside to having learned to two-finger type on a manual is that I still pound at the keys as if my fingers were hammers and have destroyed a few keyboards.

Will you share the greatest influences on your writing?

I'd like to say Carver, Hammett, and Hemingway, and it's true that they were later influences, but the greatest influences tend to be the earliest, I think, and for me that would be Stephen King, Walter Dean Myers, and Kurt Vonnegut. Those are the guys I was reading when I first got serious about writing, so those are the guys I spent time imitating.

Can we please have the traditional Four Random Facts?

1.I hate telephones.

2.I once jumped off a two-storey roof trailing a bed sheet which I thought would act as a parachute. It didn't.

3.My grandfather self-published his own seventeen-years-in-the-making retranslation of the Bible. The only languages he knew, though, were English and Russian, so I'm not sure exactly how he managed it.

4.I've never been to Spain.

And, the last question: What would you rank as the most ludicrous moment in your life?

I spent some time in the army. The whole experience was ludicrous. But out of that collage of absurdity something does stand out. During the last week of basic training, someone failed to fill their canteen before PT (physical training), so the entire company had to hold their filled canteens in front of them, pinched between their two index fingers (no gripping allowed), while one of the drill sergeant yelled, “Now turn left! You're driving a car and you gotta turn left! Don't drop your steering wheel or you might crash! Beep beep!” Everyone turned left. “Now turn right! Beep beep!”

The formal publication date of Acts of Violence is November 11, but the book is not only available for preorder, but has actually already been shipped by many online sellers. Join me in wishing Ryan the best of luck with this book--and the next two.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Famous for fifteen minutes

You may have to move fast to catch me but I am currently featured as Amazon's "Author in the Spotlight".

Friday, 23 October 2009

Of blogs and blogging

I have been wanting to ask this for some time: why do we blog? Having followed various blogs for some time, I have several theories, and would be interested to know if they're correct. I blog because I love writing, and if the WIP is going badly, or I've finished a chapter, or there's something on my mind, blogging feels like work (although of course it isn't). Currently, I'm waiting for my friendly policeman (he who gives advice on things police-related) to have a spare moment, so I'm writing this. How does anyone else feel about their blogs? And do you mind whether or not anyone responds? And lastly, how on earth do bits of blog get onto Google, apparently within minutes (this last addressed to David or Tim, who know about these things)?

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Flying Off The Shelves

The limited, numbered edition of Ryan Jahn's Acts of Violence was released yesterday at Goldsboro, but if you didn't pre-order, it's too late to get a copy. Two hundred and fifty sold! Congratulations, Ryan.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Yet Another MNW Format Permutation

For a long time, the MNW books were in a single format--hardcovers with black-spined dust jackets. The only change was the logo of the open book, which always looked to me more like a bat in flight; for the first 14 books, it was black on white, and it then switched to white on black. (Though it inexplicably switched back to black on white for my novel.)

Then MNW decided to try the occasional paperback original.

Ryan David Jahn reports on his blog that there's now a third permutation.

I like it, I think...(but, then, my copy hasn't arrived yet, so I haven't seen it ITRW).

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Shorties Rule

This is rubbish reporting, but some guy said last week in an article somewhere that short stories were actually really cool again and publishers liked them once more. I don't know if that's true, but I do know that a good short story is hard to find, and requires the skill and technical ability of a novel.

With that in mind, pop along to my blogmate's new collection of shorties, called, 'The New Goodbye' and enjoy. For free. Oh yes. Not even an instalment plan or a donation needed.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Roger Morris has moved...

Roger Morris has discontinued his long-running Plog and moved it to a new format on his spiffy new website. The link on the sidebar now steers you directly to his new blog, but it's worth a glance around his new site. Very nice indeed.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Congrats to Will!

... who has secured a well-deserved promotion...

Looks like he'll be staying with the crime gang for a bit longer too.

Well done!

Friday, 2 October 2009


Anybody over there heard anything about Macmillan's plans for/and presence at the Frankfurt Book Fair?


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?

Wednesday, 26 August 2009


Hey, folks.

My position at the healthcare system where I was a director of marketing was eliminated last week in a corporate-wide management layoff. I've been advised by an executive recruiter that the social network site,, is a must these days for making connections that may lead to new opportunities. Are any of you currently on LinkedIn. If so, let me know and I'll send an invite your way.



Friday, 21 August 2009

Help. Again.

Because I seem to have taken up more than my share of the main blog recently, I've posted my latest request on my own blog. Please visit and advise if you have a moment.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

The Little Things

I had some fun recently updating my website front page with a list of things that people might expect to find in my writing. I'm not talking about major themes, but the small touches that I find I keep repeating. This can also apply to the writing itself - for instance, a friend of mine commented on the fact that people kept stepping out of things in my books. Stepping out of houses, doors, flower beds etc etc. Needless to say, from then on nobody stepped out of anything.

So what would be on your list? Does everyone eat cottage pie, or sniff when they get angry? Are all your literary curtains pink or are you far too fond of exclamation marks?!!! (ugh)

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Loud Yay

I just wanted to say an officially enormous hoorah to Ryan, with his very exciting news about a two-book deal with Pan Macmillan. Congratulations!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Will Atkins on MNW

Do check out Will on MNW at How Publishing Really Works. It made my day!

Monday, 10 August 2009

Ten Little Herrings

Though no longer strictly speaking an MNW event, I thought I’d just mention the publication of Ten Little Herrings on 7 August. There’s an interview with me on the Macmillan website – see

For those who couldn’t make the launch, there are some photos and a review of the book (and indeed of James McCreet’s book) on

And here are two distinguished guests at Goldsboro Books.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Ryan David Jahn's new look

Those of you who, like me, follow Ryan David Jahn's blog, may have noticed that it has been missing in action for a while. Indeed, clicking on his sidebar link under MNW Writers has been transporting one to a site called, which offers a wide array of web-design services. I wondered if perhaps RDJ had abandoned his scribbling for a new and exciting career in the fast-growing field of information technology (an understandable move given the fact that writing is a pain in the ass/arse).

Mystery solved. Ryan has simply moved to a new web address ( ) and is now set up in a spiffy new three-column format. To continue with the analogy of moving house, he has brought along some, but not all, of the posts from his previous address and stashed them in the new archives.

Drop through and give a glance. And I'm going to add a direct link to one of his posts that will be of interest to all Macmillanites: a note on actual print runs as opposed to what publishers announce. Interesting, yes?

Agent or solo (again)?

I'm back! And thanks again for all the reading suggestions (see comments following my last post).

I have good news. I think. An agent has emailed to say she "would love" to represent me. This is what I wanted, especially since the WIP is barely out of nappies, and so I didn't have much to show her. But now I have cold feet. All that stuff about contracts and VAT (VAT?), plus the risks entailed in someone else being involved in my work. Of course, I wanted someone else, otherwise why bother to approach an agent in the first place? I wanted someone with publishing experience, someone to go over ideas with, and someone with whom I could discuss all the little niggles which are too trivial to bother Will with. But now the prospect seems oddly daunting.

How have other MNWs fared? I'd love to hear the experiences of people who have continued to go it alone, as well as those who have an agent and do/do not recommend having one. I don't have to decide yet - in my present crippled state I can't even get up to London to meet her - but I would be most grateful for any advice. I know I've posted on the subject of agents before, but it's a big step (big steps aren't what I'm good at right now, although I'm down to walking with one stick - yay!), for which apologies. But I want to get it right.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009


Is MNW still publishing a new title each month? I notice on the Web site that there's nothing new in August. Then there's Faye's book in September, but nothing after that until January. Has there been a change of strategy or business model?


Sunday, 26 July 2009


At the risk of seeming self-indulgent, I would like some help, please. I have to have a hip replacement this Friday (31st); such an elderly-sounding operation, and I'm a terrible patient (nurses always are). But with time on my hands (and a nice big Amazon token to spend), I shall have time for lots of reading. What does anyone recommend (MNW writers are taken for granted, of course)? I'd like gripping, easy reads. Nothing too demanding, but absorbing, emotional - in fact anything that has really grabbed anyone recently. I'd be really grateful for ideas.

I'm so sorry that this means I shan't be at the launch of Len's new book, but shall be thinking of him (and anyone else who is planning to go) and I shall toast the new novel in anything I can get hold of.

I would have posted this on my own blog, but have no idea how many people pass by it, and time isn't on my side. So I do hope you'll forgive my taking up MNW blog-space.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

What Kind of Writer Am I?

We're in an oasis of calm here, so anyone whose instinctive response to that question was to shout "A crap one!" can go and stand in the corner.

I've been spending the past few days pondering my options as a writer, and making the mental adjustment that a book that's consumed a year of my life is destined to spend a little longer--indeed, perhaps eternity--on my hard drive. Not only that, the rejection of The Last Free City probably marks the end of my Mondia sequence of novels, given the commercial reasons which drove Macmillan's decision.

I despise the kind of happy-clappy facile positive thinking that views every setback as a blessing in disguise. In this case, though, there's no question that this enforced change in direction is not without its beneficial aspects. Having a novel rejected in a way that undermines the entire series forces a serious re-evaluation of my writing goals; and I've been exploring that topic with Will.

So here are the avenues open to the just-rejected fantasy writer -

Give up

No siree! We don't want none of them potatoes!

Write another, better Mondia novel

This is the easiest option - up until the point where I try to publish ithe result I'm very clear that there's no appetite at Tor to see another Mondia novel. If I can place The Last Free City somewhere else, I can readily enough revisit Mondia in the future. Until that point, another foray into Mondia would be commercially ill-advised in already difficult market.

Start a new fantasy series

This would give me a fresh start in a genre I know I can write. With a better knowledge of the market I might be better placed to write something that will sell.

Migrate to a new genre

Before MNW picked up The Dog of the North, I was resolved that it would be my last attempt at a fantasy novel. I grew up reading fantasy, but these days it forms a smaller and smaller part of my diet. I can see now that this is reflected in my development as a writer: with hindsight, The Last Free City is hardly fantasy at all.

If Macmillan had picked up The Last Free City it's unlikely that I would have gone through the rigorous examination of my strengths and interests as a writer as I did over the weekend. There is a certain kind of story I love to write - it will contain individual dramas played out against backgrounds of political intrigue, with morally ambiguous characters facing difficult choices with real consequences; it will be set in a place exotic to the reader, where nothing is quite as it seems. What I'm talking about here is, in fact, a better fit with historical fiction than fantasy. Have I been a closet hist-fic all along?

In truth, I've suspected as much for a while. Now, driven by necessity, I may need to prove it. Moving genres is a challenge - especially into one as exacting as historical fiction. Will has been very encouraging, and indeed is keener to see my ideas in this area than any other.

Looks like I'm going to need to dust off my research skills....

Saturday, 18 July 2009

The Sword of Damocles falls...

One of the things a writer has to learn is the courage to submit work to publishers, with the consequent risk of rejection. This is not something that gets any easier; indeed, once you establish a relationship with an editor, if anything it becomes more difficult.

Sadly this remark is made with the weight of experience, as Will emailed me yesterday to tell me that Macmillan were turning down The Last Free City. This was hardly unexpected, but even though I was prepared, the moment of rejection is a grim realisation.

Partly from a desire to explore the issues, and partly to suck up some sympathy (that means you, folks...) I thought it would be useful to look in a bit more detail at why Macmillan aren't taking the book on. Will is very tactful in his feedback, but his comments are always honest ones, so I've no reason to disbelieve him when he says:
The Last Free City is the equal of The Dog of the North in terms of plotting, setting and characterisation
particularly as this echoes my own assessment. Why, then, is such a masterpiece not bounding on to greater heights? Those who know the publishing industry will realise that commercial considerations come into play. The sad truth is that The Dog of the North has not sold very well. The Last Free City would not, therefore, be building on a successful "brand". A publisher will be prepared--indeed must, from time to time--gamble on an unknown writer, but to back a second novel where the first has flopped is playing double or quits: never a good business model.

The implications of this simple truth are nonetheless profound. However good The Last Free City may be (and realistically I'd pitch it about the same level as its predecessor) it was doomed from the start because the first book sold so poorly. There was nothing which could have made the book commercially attractive to Macmillan. I didn't help myself by writing a book with fewer crashes and bangs than The Dog of the North, but it's clear that even a more commercially-savvy offering would still have had to overcome the deadweight of its predecessor's performance.

This isn't a whinge (well, only a bit). Writers have to realise that they are operating in a commercial world, in which any artistic satisfaction they get is between them and their muse. I am taking some time to reflect, and to explore with Will what are the most constructive options for me - but one thing's for sure, that list of options does not include giving up writing.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

A little love-in...

It’s odd to think that in a vocation that’s clearly anti-social (are there many professions where you spend most of your career locked away from the rest of humanity?), solidarity for writers is an important thing, which is kind of apt in a week where the likes of Philip Pullman and Anthony Horowitz have been haranguing the Home Office for the quite ludicrous (and callously opportunistic) £64 levy for an increased CRB check for writers visiting schools (something that has pretty much kyboshed any future appearances by me at schools in the near future – though a CRB check is a good thing, I don’t agree with the fee either).

But it’s not just politics that brings a little love. It’s empathy.

This lunch time I made a fleeting visit to the local Waterstones in Sheffield to meet John Connolly, a lovely guy who will give you all the time in the world if you have it (Brian can confirm this!). Armed with a few books, with Sarah and Baby Daniel in tow, the visit turned into a bit of a whirlwind which meant bombarding John with questions (sorry, John, if you’re reading this!) about the writing, and the experience of writing with everyday pressures of family and social life (something I’m experiencing to the nth degree lately).
But what I got out of the all too short meeting was more a feeling of solidarity, exemplified by John buying a copy of my book and asking me to sign it for him. “Writers should support each other,” he said to me with a broad smile.
And he’s so right. They should.
And I reckon they do. Especially with Macmillan New Writing. I’ve never met such a disparate collection of authors before, writers who are not bound by genre, but by experience. By empathy. It’s a fraternity, a group of wide-eyed and eager writers stepping onto the page for the first time. Like John did today, we buy each other’s books, pimping them to everyone we know (I’ve lost count of the copies of MNW books I’ve bought for people for Christmas and Birthdays) or the times I’ve asked for hardbacks of MNW titles to be ordered in the local bookshops; and when we can, we attend book launches or book signings. And we support each other on the MNW blog, picking each other up when things don’t go right, or congratulating each other when they do.

Although this blog entry is sounding a bit like a love in, I don’t think there’s anything wrong in that. John has shown that you’re never too big, or too successful for solidarity. True, I can think of a few writers who don’t think that way, but with the market-place and writing conditions getting more and more competitive and restrictive (there seems to be mid-list cull at the moment that’s a little scary), it’s good to know there are writers out there who will go that extra mile to help other writers out.

So who’s up for a big group hug?

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

July's Book of the Month

(Interview by Tim Stretton)
July marks another genuine debut, rather than one of the old MNW lags sneaking in a second book: James McCreet, who tells us about The Incendiary's Trail and lets slip some tantalising facts about himself below.

The invention of murder . . .Murder is rampant in Early Victorian London. Detective Inspector Newsome of the new Detective Force decides to recruit a recently apprehended master criminal to help bring the culprits to justice. A polymath with a mysterious past, the man is no eager volunteer.

And when the ghastly murder of conjoined twins galvanizes the city, Newsome blackmails his prisoner – Noah Dyson, as he calls himself –into working with the Force’s finest: Sergeant George Williamson.

Unknown to the policemen, the criminal genius behind the murder shares a dark past with their new associate. It is not justice that is on Dyson’s mind, but retribution. As Williamson and Dyson together close the net, the murder-rate soars and the streets of London begin to burn. Ingeniously plotted and seething with grotesque characters, James McCreet’s striking debut will grip readers from its first dark pages.

Hi James. Tell us a little about your novel, The Incendiary’s Trail.

It’s a Victorian detective thriller suggested by Edgar Allan Poe’s writing, particularly his short piece “The Man of the Crowd”. What started off as an idle interest in Victorian London slowly became a combination of musings on identity and observation in an era before photography. A man was whoever he said he was – and if he said nothing, he was nobody.

How did the book find its way to Macmillan New Writing?

I think it was October 2007 that I sent the manuscript in – emailed from Harrogate public library. I heard nothing back and assumed it had been rejected. But in February 2008 I sent it in again. That’s when I was told the novel had excited some interest back in October but that my contact details had been misplaced. If I hadn’t tried again in February, it might never have happened.

One of the unexpected things about professional publication is working with an editor. How did you find that experience?

I’m a copywriter by trade, and so almost everything I write is adulterated by someone somewhere, whether cut, padded or just changed. At Macmillan, I was pleased to discover that my text was in the hands of experts and I was happy to learn from the process. It has positively influenced my writing since.

You are one of the few Macmillan New Writers to publish under a pseudonym (although quite a few of us hide behind initials). What made you take that path? Given the plot of the book, are you fascinated by games about identity?

There are many ways I could answer this. I always find evasion is the best policy, so I’ll offer a selection and you can choose the one you’d like to be true:

a) I’m not wedded to historical texts and if one day I choose to write something else, I’d like each new direction to have the freedom of another authorial identity.

b) It sometimes seems to me that when I read through my words, they have come from a different place and a different mind. I use words I didn’t even know I knew. Perhaps the pseudonym is that other place, that other mind.

c) James McCreet sounds like the name of a thriller writer; my real name does not.

d) What is my ‘real’ name? My great grandfather was allegedly a senior policeman in Ireland, but changed his name on emigrating to the UK. If he hadn’t done so, I would be McCreet.

e) The author is just a name on a book – it doesn’t really matter whose, as long as the story is good.

f) My writing is a highly personal thing. I am never more truly myself than when I am writing, so it seems good sense not to reveal that hidden self in a name.

What is your typical writing day?

I work full time, so don’t have the luxury of a ‘day’ as such. I write between eight and ten each evening, usually over a sixth month period. When I’m not, I’m researching the next book.

It’s traditional for us to ask our writers to supply Four Random Facts about yourself—and we aren’t letting you off this one!
1. My most embarrassing moment was being caught under the headmaster’s desk. I was a teacher at the time.

2. My TEFL students in Greece called me ‘kondouli’ (shorty). I am 6’ 2”.

3. I am punctual to the point of mania.

4. I love my Chambers dictionary so much that I won’t let anyone else touch it.

Do you have a writing mantra?

No, but it might as well be, “Don’t stop ‘til it’s finished.”

Do you compose by pen or by keyboard, or what …. and why?

Keyboard. Apart from typing being much faster, my job means that I’ve become accustomed to thinking and typing simultaneously. I occasionally write letters by hand and the slowness is agonising.

Who are the writers you most admire? Can you trace their influence in your own writing?

Poe and Kafka for their imaginations – or were they just insane? Umberto Eco for his ideas and the way he blends history, philosophyand literature. James Ellroy for his distinctive voice. Elmore Leonard for his perfect prose. Kurt Vonnegut for the way his personality comes through in his writing. Ian Fleming for his inner boy. Herman Melville for Moby Dick – a book in which the author luxuriates in his writing. Henry Miller, who made being a writer the subject he wrote about. I’m not sure any of them influence my writing in a perceptible sense. They represent standards to aim at.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m researching the third novel in the series that began with The Incendiary’s Trail. Already I have a long list of words I’m desperate to use – almost none of which can be found in modern dictionaries.

James, thanks for your time, and the best of luck with The Incendiary’s Trail.

The book-a-year syndrome

I wonder how many of us have succumbed to the pressure of feeling that we ought to produce a book a year, or every two years, or whatever. I know that having had two books published eighteen months apart, I immediately felt that I should continue in the same way. A book every eighteen montbs, I thought. That should be manageable. After all, I'd done it before. But it didn't work out. With hindsight, I think this is one of the reasons novel no. 3 failed to make the grade. I grabbed at a plot (having floundered hopelesssly for several months) and plunged in, without really giving it enough thought. I have huge admiration for writers such as Len and Brian, who really do seem to manage it, but maybe it's not for everyone. How do other people feel about this?

Friday, 26 June 2009


If you're in the mood for something short and nasty, try my new story up at 3:am.

And, while we're all here mooching about and pretending to write, tell me if you write short stories. And why. Or, indeed, why not.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Maggie's UK Trip Report

My trip home was indescribably wonderful and rather than clog up the web with duplicate stuff, you can read all about it here:

Saturday, 20 June 2009


A chance remark on another blog has led to my offering a copy of my next book to anyone who can answer a simple(ish) question. Anyone wishing to join in the fun can check out:

Wednesday, 17 June 2009


Instead of regularly clogging up other people's blogs, I decided it was time I had one of my own (see sidebar. Thank you, Tim), and would like to invite you all to a cyber blog-warming party. Please bring your favourite drink, favourite snack and favourite partner (real or fictitious; living or not). And please do come. I don't want to be left all on my own!

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Turning Pro

Good plan? Bad plan? I have done it anyway. I have handed in my notice and, from September, writing will be what I do. It would be a much braver move if I were younger or we still had school and university fees to pay. Still, I have to confess to being slightly nervous. At the moment if I have a bad day at the office, I can console myself that I am really a writer. If I’m getting nowhere with my plot I can console myself that I’m really a charity CEO. After September all my eggs will be in one basket. And even after the worst day at the office, at the moment I still get paid for it. Against that I have to ask whether, at the age of twenty, my ambition was to be a charity CEO. Possibly not.

So, wish me luck. I think I’m going to need it. I’ll let you know how it goes. As from September, I’ll have a lot more time to post on this blog ….

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Party at Southbank Centre

What an evening I had at the Orange awards party held at Southbank Centre. It was perfect except for one minor detail. Rachel DuPree didn't win the award for new writers. Francesca Kay's An Equal Stillness won, and it is a beautifully written novel. I can't complain about losing to such a fine writer.

Marilynne Robinson's Home won the Orange Prize. I was disappointed Picador's Scottsboro by Ellen Feldman didn't recieve the award. I really love that book.

The Pan Macmillan team rallied behind me, and that made all the difference. It was also nice that David and Daniel from Goldsboro Bookshop were able to be at the party. And what a party. It was lavish and beautiful and the drinks flowed non-stop. No wonder it's considered THE event for the publishing industry.

I appreciate all of your support and good wishes. It's been a blast, and best of all I survived the reading on Monday evening. Now I can simply enjoy my last two days in London and then it's home to hot, humid Houston.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Good luck , Ann!

Just to say good luck for the Orange Prize tonight (hope I've got the date right!) I'll be keeping my fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

My three favourite books on writing

I just posted a blog entry about my three favourite books on writing. Which three would make your list?

Monday, 1 June 2009

June's Publication

June's publication is another debut novel (and the first deliberately positioned by MNW as a "summer read"), Maggie Dana's Beachcombing.

Sometimes old flames burn the brightest

Jillian Hunter treasures her independence. She’s raised two sons by herself, launched a small business, and restored a tumbledown beach cottage in Connecticut. But when a trip to London reunites her with Colin – an old flame she hasn’t seen in thirty-five years – Jill falls for him all over again.

Love makes Jill reckless. This could be her chance for a new beginning. But Colin isn’t quite the boy she remembers and she ends up risking everything she’s worked for – her business, her home, and her two closest friends – to make a life with him. And when she’s faced with the risk of losing Colin as well, Jill is forced to take an uncomfortably close look at the woman she’s allowed herself to become.

Hi, Maggie. Tell us a little about your novel, Beachcombing.

Here’s how a writer friend described it: Beachcombing is a coming-of-middle-age story about girlfriends when you’re no longer a girl, about growing up when you’re already grown up, and the price you’re willing to pay for the love of your life … which I thought was perfect, so I sent it to Will and they used it on the back cover.

Basically, I wanted to write the sort of book I enjoy reading, a story that would resonate with middle-aged women who’ve moved beyond novels about twentysomethings obsessed with designer footwear and bitchy bosses. I also wanted to explore the dynamics of women’s friendships and the pitfalls of trying to rekindle a teenage romance. People all over are reuniting with old flames, best friends, and former classmates, and I realized there’s an army of readers out there who’d appreciate and identify with a story of new beginnings, of a fierce and unexpected love that hits without warning, and the consequences of that improbable love.

You’re one of the growing band of American writers whose debut novel is published in the UK by Macmillan New Writing. What was the journey that brought it over the pond?

American? Gosh, it feels odd to be called that. Actually, I’m a Brit. I grew up in Uxbridge and moved to the States in my early 20s, but didn’t became a U.S. citizen until a couple of years ago when the 2008 election unearthed a passion for politics I didn’t know I had.

My path to publication is littered with diversions, wrong turns, and numerous potholes. In the 1980s I wrote kids’ books, mid-grade and YA, seven of which actually got published. Then life got in the way and it was 15 years before I fired up my keyboard again. Women’s fiction this time. I’d had no trouble finding a publisher for my kids’ books; how hard would it be to find one for a novel? (Do I hear laughter? Snorts of derision?)

In the 10 years since I began my novel, it has undergone more facelifts than the QE2, including (in no particular order) 2 agents, 3 title changes, and 4 major revisions that chopped its original 180,000 words in half. It has been scrapped and rewritten from the ground up in a different tense and POV, with a brand new plot and enough new characters to fill a phone book. It has come close, but not close enough, with several editors in New York, and it has lived in a box beneath my bed for months on end while I tried to pretend I didn’t care if it ever got published. But thanks to a couple of good friends, it did. First, Carrie Kabak, an English author who lives in Kansas City, suggested I approach U.K. publishers; then Eliza Graham offered to introduce me to Will … and here I am, and delighted to be with MNW. So’s my manuscript. It was getting awfully tired of living amid the dustballs beneath my bed.

Beachcombing is the first MNW title to be published as a paperback original. What was the thinking behind that, and how do you feel about being a pioneer?

Originally the novel was scheduled to appear in April 2009 as a hardcover. Then, last September, I got an email from Will telling me they’d had another think about it and decided it made more sense, given the title and summer-readishness (is that a word?) of the story, for it to come out in June and in trade paper. That was fine with me; a brilliant idea, in fact. And I love being a pioneer. I’m all over the notion of selling more copies at a lower price, which is what marketing probably had in mind when they made the decision to change gears. I suppose it’s a case, now, of ‘wait and see,’ before deciding whether other MNW titles will follow suit.

What is your typical writing day?

I’m a freelance book designer and typesetter, so I can set my own hours, but my workload is erratic and unpredictable, which makes it impossible to plan my writing. It gets fitted in around the edges, and when I’m motivated and going full tilt, I can write anywhere, amid any sort of chaos, including my daughter’s busy kitchen with kids, dogs, and cats underfoot. Sometimes, I’ll write all day without stopping. On the other hand, I can be alone at home where it’s blissfully quiet with no distractions at all, yet weeks can go by and I won’t have written a single word. But if I had to pick my favourite time to write, it’d be after dark. I’m a nightowl and you’ll often find me still at my keyboard well after midnight.

We’d love to have Four Random Facts about you, and as I’m a Kirk Douglas fan, one of them has to be about him!

1. OK, Kirk comes first. In November 1960, I attended a media bash at Festival Hall where a friendly blond fellow with an intriguing scar on his face chatted me up. He owned a modeling agency and needed half-a-dozen young women with long, dark hair for an upcoming publicity gig. Was I game? Since it involved being paid and getting a free hairdo, I agreed. A week later I found myself dressed as a Roman serving wench and dispensing champagne at the London premiere of SPARTACUS. A bit nervous about my acute clumsiness, I asked the friendly blond fellow what I should do if I dropped my tray or spilled champagne on a guest. “Faint,” he said. “Close your eyes and collapse gracefully.” And I almost did when Kirk Douglas grabbed me, draped his arm around my shoulders, and told me to smile in his gravelly, trademark voice. Then he turned his best side toward the cameras, and our photo made the front pages of the next morning’s papers: Kirk Douglas in full dimple mode; me looking as if I’d just dropped my tray and was waiting for the friendly blond fellow to kill me. Wouldn’t have been too hard, either. He was standing twelve inches from my left elbow, all done up like Spartacus in a leather skirt and holding a thunking great sword.

2. I used to be a bell ringer.

3. I’m a card-carrying arachnophobe. Spiders scare me witless.

4. My children’s great, great, great grandfather (on their father’s side) is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Do you have a writing mantra?

Stop mucking about and get on with it.

Do you compose by pen or by keyboard, or what …. and why?

I’ve been typing so long, it’s the only way I can write. The minute my fingertips hit the keyboard, they turn into 10 tiny brains, which makes it rather inconvenient when I accidentally slice one open with a paring knife.

Who are the writers you most admire? Can you trace their influence in your own writing?

I’d like to say Tennyson and Tolstoy, Coleridge and Keats, but I’ll be honest and own up to loving Trollope. Not Anthony, but Joanna. Then there’s Buchan … not John, but Elizabeth. I admire both these British women authors. They’ve provided me with many hours of reading entertainment to say nothing of inspiration and encouragement for my own writing.

What are you working on at the moment?

Advanced writing avoidance techniques … and mulling over a few ideas for the next novel.

Beachcombing is scheduled for release on June 5th, just in time to pick one up on your way to the shore. Best of luck to Maggie and to the book.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Maggie's launch

Is anyone planning to meet up before Maggie's launch next week, and if so, when and where? I'd really like to make it if I can (still not sure), and it would be great to meet up with some MNWs beforehand.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Bad News...

Last week on Juxtabook’s blog, I wrote an article which talked about getting the email that all writers fantasise about – the offer to publish your work. This week, I find myself writing, on my own blog, about the email that all writers dread, the one that begins with all the things your publisher really liked about your book but whose second paragraph begins with the ominous word ‘However…’. The email that tells you you’ve failed to pull off the difficult second book...

As I've just put up a long post about this and where I'm going from here, I won't duplicate it here but do pop over via the link and have a look if you're interested. It's all, as my mother would observe, part of life's rich pattern. [Actually what my mother said was 'But I really liked it!' Thanks, Mum!]

Meanwhile, I'm hoping to get to Maggie's launch on Thursday next week so hope to see some of you there?



My first guest blog article

I wrote an article about how book design affects readability and it appears today, here:

This is one of my favourite blogs ... the one I read every morning, AFTER I read this one!

Friday, 22 May 2009

From The UK To The States

It's just a little over a week before I come to London to celebrate the Orange Award for New Writers nomination. Last June when I came for the release of Rachel DuPree, I never thought I'd be making a return visit. What a surprise.

I've had another surprise. The Rights Department sold the book to Viking in the States. Viking plans to release it in hardback the summer or fall of 2010, and then another division of Penguin will publish it later in paperback.

I'm thrilled. I'm especially pleased Rachel DuPree follows on the heels of other MNW authors -- Len and Brian -- who have deals in the States. I have no doubt that more of us will crack the market.

We've all come a long way. Here's to each of us.

The Book Business and its Woes

A lengthy, but worthwhile article here by the VP of Farrar, Straus, & Giroux on the current state of book publishing:

Toward the end, see her comments on advances and agents. Should we forward to McCrumble?

ps: How do you make a link 'live'?
pps: I'm sending this link to Will.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Blog URLs

Faye L. BoothThe links list in the right hand sidebar of this community blog is great for keeping tabs on everyone's main websites, but I thought it might be an idea to have a place for everyone to post the addresses of their blogs. For many of us of course our blog is our website (I fall into that category myself these days, although I didn't used to), but there are quite a few MNWers in that link list to the right who only have their domain listed, so it might be nice for us to collect our blog URLs together in one place. That way we can expand our blog reading lists!

If you know of a MNWer past or present who doesn't really monitor this community (and therefore probably won't see this post), you can post their blog address yourself if they don't mind, or poke them into posting it themselves.

So yes - comment to this entry with the URL of your blog - not your domain unless it forwards to your blog, or you have a dedicated blog page there. If you're looking for MNWers to add to your reading list, watch this space and hope they comment with their addresses! I'll add my own as the first comment to get things started.

Interview at BFK Books

Many of you will be familiar with the BFK Books (formerly Book Fiend's Kingdom) site run by Vicky Warren. It has interviews with many writers, including some MNW alumni -- and as of yesterday, me as well.

Pop along here to check it out.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The MNW experience shared...

Hi folks! Just to let you all know that I was asked, recently, to do a piece about the experience of being published by MNW for the Juxtabook blog. If anybody's interested, it's now up here. It would be great if any of you felt like leaving a few words in the comments trail as I'm sure to have left things out and each of us will have a different perspective, obviously. Also, do let me know if you think I've said anything controversial - I've tried not to but one person's innocuous comment is another person's red rag!
Hope everybody's writing is thriving?

Monday, 11 May 2009

Congratulations Ann!

Ann is clearly too modest to mention this but it is on the main Pan Mac site:

We are delighted to announce that The Personal History of Rachel DuPree by Ann Weisgarber has won the prestigious Texas Institute of Letters Award for Debut Fiction. Previous recipients include Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurtry.

Fantastic news Ann - well done and well deserved! Roll on June 3rd...

Friday, 8 May 2009

Irish Book Awards

Well, the IBA dinner was on Wednesday night and Gallows Lane didn't win, but we had a great night anyway. Thanks to all who supported the book by voting.

One of the nicest parts of the evening was meeting the other nominees, Arlene Hunt, Tana French and Alex Barclay who won the award. All three are very charming, very talented ladies. The Irish crime fiction scene is not dissimilar to the MNW family - a group of writers connected by their love of books and glad to be given the chance to write and to be published. It's an honour to be part of both.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

The MFA in Creative Writing Comes to the UK

I just came across an ad in The Writer’s Chronicle that stopped me in my tracks. Kingston University in London is now offering the UK’s first Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.

MFA in Creative Writing programs are the rage in the States and many aspiring writers see the MFA degree as necessary to achieve the dream of publication. The degree doesn’t come cheap with some universities charging over $20,000 a year for a two-year program. Most programs encourage their students to focus on writing short stories (novels take too much time) or poetry. Some also feature non-fiction writing.

MFA programs can offer student writers the chance to work with instructors who are not only talented writers but are gifted teachers. Students have a chance to network with other writers, and agents often do visit campuses to meet students. Some students are offered contracts based on their writing. However, at the end of the day, most MFA students graduate without a literary agent and/or a contract with a publishing house. Many end up in debt and with limited job prospects.

So what do you think? Does the UK need the MFA in Creative Writing program?

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Robert McCrum recants!

Read it here...

On this occasion, however, his revisionism is reserved for the Orange Prize (which of course we all like too since they've recognised Ann's genius). The Benediction of McCrum for which the Macmillan New Writers so yearn must wait for another day.

Piece by Terri in 'The Independent'

Seasoned MNW hands will recognise Sophie's work in lining up this article by Terri. As a stepfather myself a lot of this resonates - a really interesting piece.

Friday, 1 May 2009

May's Publication

This month Macmillan New Writing launches another career with Terri Wiltshire's Carry Me Home.

An exquisite debut novel about love, loyalty and redemption in the Deep South

Lander, Alabama, 1904. When young Emma Scott claims she has been raped by a ‘black hobo’, a chain of events is triggered that will affect generations to come.

In modern-day Lander, Canaan Phillips has fled her abusive husband and returned to Lander and her fierce Southern Baptist grandmother, who brought her up after her mother’s suicide. Canaan’s one friend during her childhood was her grandmother’s simple brother, Luke. Now frail and elderly, Luke is still living in the corncrib shack that has been his home for thirty years.

In early-twentieth-century Lander, Emma Scott has taken an instant and violent dislike to her new child – a white-skinned boy named Luke. Abused and neglected, Luke eventually befriends Squeaky, a black boy whose family farms nearby. When tragedy strikes, Luke takes to the railroad, and as he enters manhood on the rails, we begin to discover the truth behind the events that led to his birth.

In the twentieth century, Canaan, too, is slowly coming to terms with her painful past. And, with the help of her adored Uncle Luke, she is learning to love again.

This is a heart-rending and luminous story about loyalty, hardship, love and friendship. It is also a reminder that goodness can prevail even through the cruellest hardships.

* * *

Hi, Terri. Tell us a little about your novel, Carry Me Home.
It’s a story about coming to terms with who we are and where we come from. It’s also about the affect that a single incident can have on several generations of one family. There are two time lines in the book, alternating with each chapter.

How did you and Macmillan New Writing "meet"?
Carry Me Home first started taking shape in my mid-twenties. For ten years I told everyone I was going to write a novel. Finally, in my late 30’s, I decided I’d done all the “research” I could do and started writing. It took me eighteen months to write, then another twelve years to get it published! Soon after I finished the book, I sold the film option, which tied up the book for seven years. When the option was up I sent it out again but after 30+ refusals I put it away and gave up. A little over a year ago, my partner read an article about Macmillan New Writing and suggested I send it out one more time, so I did. I think I’ll keep him.

What is your typical writing day?
Unloading the dishwasher, putting a load of laundry on, re-grouting the shower…. Oh no wait… did I say that out loud?

Actually when I’m in the flow (getting there is the difficult part!), I’m like a demon possessed and I forget to eat or drink (unless my partner brings me cups of tea) and I couldn’t care less if the bin was overflowing or the front garden needed weeding.

I’m an early riser and my creative energy is at its peak in the morning, so I usually get straight up and straight at it. I’ve never used an alarm clock. I tend to wake up automatically, fully alert and revoltingly cheerful about 6am. My university roommates hated me!

I usually hit a wall about 2pm and the creative side of my brain takes a hike. When I’ve had deadlines to meet, I’ve tried to work in the evening, but I usually end up deleting most of it and starting again the next morning.

Can we please have the traditional Four Random Facts?
- I did three seasons of the TV series “Dallas”. I usually played a waitress (I’m very talented when it comes to pouring coffee and chewing gum at the same time)

- I run a corporate role-play company in South Wales. I have 25 actors who work for me in training and assessment centres all over the country.

- I paid my way through University by singing back-up vocals and commercial jingles for a local recording studio.

- My partner is a Richard Gere look-a-like and we have many friends in the “industry”. Our dinner parties include Pierce Brosnan, Samuel L. Jackson, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Cameron Diaz

Do you have a writing mantra?
Do it right, do it wrong, but DO it!

Do you compose by pen or by keyboard, or what...and why?
Keyboard. I taught myself to ten-finger type when I was in college to save paying someone to type up all my research papers. I’m a very fast typist and when I try to write with a pen 1) my hand can’t keep up with my brain and 2) I can’t read my writing.

There’s also something very freeing about deleting big chunks of text or moving it around the page to find a better rhythm.

Will you share the greatest influences on your writing?
- John Steinbeck for his gritty earthiness and willingness to show ugliness without censorship and still, somehow, creating a sense of dignity.

- Eudora Welty for her sense of humour and eccentric characters.

- Laura Ingalls Wilder for her simple context of time, place and history.

- Stephen King for his ability to make you feel like you’re cosied up around a fire listening to a friend spinning a great yarn.

And, the last question: What would you rank as the most ludicrous moment in your life?
Oh my… so many to choose from-

  • The time I was working as a news presenter for an NBC regional television station and a moth flew into my mouth. I spewed a half-digested bagel and cream cheese onto the news desk during a live broadcast.

  • The time I was playing a seduction scene on stage, accidentally fell into a pickle barrel and got stuck.

Terri, thanks for sharing - especially about the pickle barrel - and good luck with Carry Me Home.