Approaching The Launch
Three years ago, I didn’t have an agent, or a novel – just an idea, a handful of characters, and 40,000 words on paper.
Two years ago, I still didn’t have a complete first draft.
One year ago, I’d signed with publishers in five countries, and was going through the notes that my UK and US editors had made on my manuscript.
And at each of these points, publication itself felt like a very long way off: even once I’d signed publishing contracts, the editing process was so all-consuming, so intense, it was hard to see beyond it.
That changed over this summer. Suddenly I had publicists on both sides of the Atlantic, hundreds of review copies had gone out, and the most incredible quotes were coming back. The book felt public in a way it hadn’t before.
Then some of the authors and editors I’d been following on Twitter for years began to follow me back. In September, I met some journalists for breakfast in Soho and did an interview with Alice O’Keefe, Books Editor of The Bookseller. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been quoted in The Observer, Little Deaths has been named Observer ‘Thriller of the Month’ for January and has appeared on lists of books to watch in Stylist Magazine, The Bookseller and the Sunday Express. Picador have begun to get calls and emails about my availability for events in early 2017. Suddenly I feel like I’m in the public eye in a way I’ve never experienced before.
I’m very aware that I’m not famous – but even this small amount of exposure feels odd after a lifetime of complete anonymity. I’ve never been comfortable being the centre of attention.
After her debut novel The Miniaturist became a bestseller, the author Jessie Burton wrote something that resonated with me: “When something you have made in private is mass-consumed, the irony is that the magnifying glass burns even brighter on you as an individual”. It’s strange that we’re all so fascinated with the author and the artist and the actor, rather than being content with the work.
Despite the nerves, I’m trying to relax and enjoy it – after all, I’ll never be a debut author again. I’ll never write a book like Little Deaths again. I hope the next one will be as good, or better – but it will be different.
Somehow it’s now only days until I can do what I’ve wanted to do since I was ten years old: walk into a bookshop and see my novel on the shelves.
Back in autumn 2015, when the publication date was set, January 2017 felt like a lifetime away. And now the night itself is taking shape in my imagination.
Right now, I’m wondering why I didn’t focus more on another gem of wisdom from Jessie Burton, which she tweeted around the time that her debut came out: Note to self. Do not try to grow out a crop haircut at the time of your book launch.
I fear it may be too late for me. To any unpublished novelists reading this, save yourselves.