In 2004, my first novel Something Beginning With was published by Bloomsbury. It was an unexpected easy ride to publishing that was called by magazines such as Mslexia, a ‘fairy tale’.
What had happened was that a short story, A Girl’s Alphabet, appeared on East of the Web and somehow managed to catch the attention of editors and agents. I got lucky.
Bear with me, there is a reason for this rambling.
Something Beginning With (called The ABCs of Love in America) got picked for the Waterstones 3-for-2 deals, received amazing reviews in women’s magazines and even national newspapers. Marie Claire called it, ‘Charming and darkly funny’, Red said it was, ‘Both hilarious and heart-warming’. ‘A real treat’ said Sainsbury’s Magazine.
But for whatever reason you care to pick, it didn’t sell all that well. I’ve thought long and hard about this. Maybe it was because of my own stupidity. This was how I described the first stages of that publishing process in a blog entry from SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2003
The Bloomsbury catalogue came in the post this morning featuring Something Beginning With. I looked through it twice before finding the right page, despite the fact that it was marked quite clearly. I think in a strange way I hadn’t wanted to see it – if I’m honest, the whole thing makes me feel sick with nerves.
I’m so ashamed of this coyness now. I can’t even understand it. I worked so hard on this book, I’m proud of it, I love it. Why wasn’t I jumping up and down begging people to read it?
So anyway, Something Beginning With should have perhaps just faded away. It had its chance and that was more than most books get. I got dropped by my publishing company in the UK (lovely Random House in the US kept me on however) and dropped by my agent. Hard times.
However something wonderful happened out of the blue.
One of my writing heroes, Neil Gaiman somehow picked up a copy of the book and wrote about it on his blog. Within hours, I’d had several emails from friends as excited as me. I wrote to him to thank him, and – OH MY GOD – he wrote back. Neil Gaiman in my inbox.
And being amazingly generous, he gave me a quote to use. One that I not unsurprisingly treasure. It’s on the cover of the new republished version, and I’m sure helped to bring this book back to life.
Well, if Neil Gaiman liked it….
No writer has to support another writer. The fact that they do, that someone like him should even bother to do this, makes me love writing and writers even more. Because I think that the best writers are above all readers. Despite what might be written about competition, most writers don’t just want to push their books out there to be on their own:
No, they want to encourage other writers so that their books can join in with the glorious party.
I do know just how lucky I am, not least because this was a book that should never really be written. The original story, the one that appeared on the web back in 2003, was just one in a collection and Verity, the heroine of SBW, was only a minor character. But, as you hear many writers say, she wouldn’t stop talking. She carried on talking and telling her story until I’d written the whole novel about her.
And now I can’t help but wonder if she realised that somehow she was missing a good party.
So, she’s getting another chance on the dancefloor, or this time on your kindle, as the novel is republished by The Friday Project with a whole new beautiful dress.
It really was a fairytale the first time round, so this is doubly so. I’m fully aware that not many people get a second chance like this.
And this time I’m going to be jumping up and down begging, because I would love so much for you to read this book, and tell me what you think. And even more, if you do like it, to tell other people to buy a copy. Nah, buy seven, one for every day of the week… It’s my new motto.
If you would like to ask me anything, please do. I want to write more about the process of writing the book, the story behind it, and getting published, and the many hard lessons I learnt along the way. This is a happy ending for me, and I’m now with a new lovely agent.