THE WRITING LIFE – publication week and what it’s really like

The long-awaited (by me, anyway) publication of What She Lost was a week ago, so I thought this might be a good time to reflect on what publication day (and week) actually means for an author.

 

A mother whose memory is ravaged by Alzheimer’s, a daughter desperate to discover the truth, a terrible secret that has haunted them both. Can Eleanor reconnect with her mother before it’s too late?

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PUBLICATION DAY AND THE JOYS OF THE SECOND NOVEL

                                                                                                                                                                My second novel, The Secrets We Left Behind was published last week. Hoorah! 

I kicked off publication day with a visit to the dentist (I know how to live the glamorous life, me) then I popped into the local shop for some washing-up liquid and a packet of biscuits. You see, I remember my last Publication Day. There had been a long build-up and I felt a tremendous sense of anticipation, and when the day finally dawned, I suppose I expected some sort of life-changing moment. But the reality of Publication Day for the vast majority of first-time authors is simply that one minute, your book isn’t in the shops, and then the next minute – um, your book isn’t in the shops!

I was pretty naive last time and I’d gone dashing around expecting to see my shiny new novel on lots of shelves. In fact, I only found The Things We Never Said in Tesco, where it was on a special promotion. It soon appeared my local Waterstones, though, and in more and more branches over the next few months, and I’ve been extremely fortunate in that it’s ended up selling very well indeed. But although my first publication day felt very special in some ways – flowers from my publishers, a congratulations card from my agent and lots of lovely messages from fellow authors, it certainly wasn’t what I’d imagined before I was published.

So this time, I was prepared. I would simply enjoy the celebratory nature of the day, eat some cake and maybe have a glass of fizz. And what lovely day it turned out to be! I was overwhelmed by the sheer warmth and number of congratulatory messages from my Twitter and Facebook friends, I received a gorgeous bouquet of flowers from Simon & Schuster, 

and when, despite my best intentions, I couldn’t resist nipping into town to have a nosy around the bookshelves, I’m thrilled to report that I found it in Waterstones, Tesco’s, and WH Smith! So I had another glass of champagne.


During my Read Regional library events, readers have been asking whether the second book was easier to write than the first. I didn’t find it easier, I’m afraid, although I do feel I learned a lot first time round. With the second book, I was much more aware of the process of storytelling; I feel I’ve learned more about how to reveal some things gradually and keep others back in order to increase the tension. I wrote The Secrets We Left Behind in 18 months – much faster than The Things We Never Said. I had a deadline to meet, so I had to make decisions more quickly and stick to them rather than allowing myself the luxury of trying out different things to see if they worked. Overall, I’d say writing the second novel was a different experience, rather than an easier one.

One of the messages I received wished me a ‘Happy Book Birthday’ and talked about my second novel being ‘born’. I suppose writing a novel is a bit like having a baby – you plan it for years but it’s only finally born after a long gestation period and an incredibly difficult and painful period of labour. Then, for some strange reason we forget how hard the whole thing is and we do it all over again!  And I’m reflecting on this now as I struggle with my third novel….

*If you’re in or near to Sheffield on 21st of May, do join me for a glass of wine to celebrate the launch of The Secrets We Left Behind. The event starts at 6.30 at Waterstones, Orchard Square, Sheffield S1