So. Yesterday was a brilliant day and a bit rubbish day.
As well as some hugely exciting news (below), we found Theodora isn’t on the Orange Prize longlist.
Now, I know writers don’t normally talk about these matters (oh the many many things writers won’t talk about in public!), we don’t want to draw attention to the things that didn’t happen, prefer to concentrate on those that did, but I think it’s useful, to ourselves and others, when we’re honest about our work – the disappointing bits as well as the good.
Of course I was disappointed – at the very least, when State of Happiness and The Room of Lost Things were on the Orange longlists of their years, they were both immediately reprinted in hardback due to the sales spike that comes with longlisting, and they both got a new chunk of juicy attention. That is, much as some of the prize stuff does feel like personal pride in our work, there is also an understandable business interest in prizes, and writers who understand the business of publishing also understand this. But there are at least three other novels I was sure would be on this year’s longlist, by writers much more lauded/awarded, so I’m reminded again that prizes are such an arbitrary thing, very much dependent on the judges of the time, and that when my books ARE on lists I should remember this too!
Which leads me on to this – yay! two shortlistings for Parallel Lies, published by Bywater Books in the US, and by Virago in the UK. LAMBDA Literary (scroll down, it’s a long list) and ForeWord reviews Book of the Year.
I’m delighted about this, both because my books (even the Saz Martin series) have never really garnered much LGBT (or GLBT as the Americans say!) attention, and also because Parallel Lies wasn’t really reviewed as a crime novel in the UK, though that is very much what it is. Literary thriller perhaps, but certainly crime. It also brought the best response I have ever had from any editor at any point in my writing career. When I delivered it, Editor simply emailed back “I fucking love this book!” (There were notes, of course!, but that was how she started the email.) Now, Editor and Agent both firmly believe Theodora is my best book to date (I think I think they’re right) and so it’s gratifying that the US release of PL, some years after the UK release, is getting some nice attention – not least because it reminds me that Editor was very happy with it, confirming her faith in Theodora.
While yesterday was on its ups and downs, another up came along. The beginning of a Very Big Thing for Theodora was finally agreed, and with perfect timing for the UK and US paperback releases later in the year. I’ll save the detail of that news until it goes a little further, but it felt very much like the Sound of Music quote “when God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window”. (Which leads me to think that mansion with many rooms must be extremely drafty.)
So, prize/no prize, listing/no listing, Very Big Things/Not Very Big Thing … where does that leave us? Where it leaves me is a reminder, yet again, that I have to be happy with my own work. That I have to really want to make my work, that I can’t make it with an eye on the prize or the market or the reviewers or the potential readers. (Even when I know that publishing is a business and we writers need to take that seriously, and I’m happy to do so.) That I actually can only – and do only – write the stories I want to write, to work on, to live with for a year or two or three. It is impossible to second guess anything to do with the reception of our work. I’m proud of every piece of work I’ve ever made, even the work I’d make differently now – I’m learning all the time, I hope that in another 30-odd years of writing I’ll know more and be better at it. Like many writers, I’m usually most in love with the piece I’m working on right now, so while I love that Editor and Agent think Theodora is my best yet, I’ve only just given them the Theodora sequel, which is my new love, and I’m very much hoping it becomes their new love too.
Basically : yay, boo, yay, don’t take it too seriously (the good or the bad), and just get on with the work. Which is what I’m doing right now. Hope you are too.