How many drafts does a novel take? It depends on the novel and it depends on the writer. I seem to be an eight draft kind of girl, so far. Here are my eight drafts, each one started in Scrivener, exported to Word and tinkered with there. Most drafts were typed over from scratch with the previous draft at my elbow, as a guide, a ghost, of what had come before. There’s the Jigsaw Draft, which is a scrappy floor plan, unreadable to anyone but me. There are three full drafts before the draft my agent read, then a draft from her notes that I sent out to my first readers, Beta readers, and then the draft that came from the reader’s notes. There in the prettiest ribbon is a clean copy of the draft my editor read and, below, that same draft pulled apart and scrawled over, scavenged and cannibalized to incorporate her notes and thoughts and feelings.
I like to start over. I like to abandon my words and keep looking at the nut of the thing inside them and behind them,coming at it from different angles, again and again, sure I can do better. But, there comes a time when the brain says, Wait – what? Again?
How many drafts will the brain allow? I’m still scratching away at the story I want to tell, digging in, pushing back, so I’m not there yet. But I’m close. I’m almost there. I can feel it.
The Prophet’s Daughters is the title for Amity & Sorrow with French publisher, Presses de la Cite. I’m very excited to share the cover and the first chapters of the book – in French!
And here is a Trompe l’oeil of the book cover – that’s what the cool kids of Presses de la Cite do with their jackets!
I grew up with a love of libraries. Show me a writer who didn’t. I loved the hush of them, whether in the cool and shade of the old, dark wood library of my LA hometown or the heat and dust of the mobile library permanently parked in the car park of the small desert town where I spent every holiday. I loved card catalogues and flipping through their typed entries, the swish and click of the drawers. I loved the pocket that held the ticket for the book, where you could see all the people who had checked out the book before you, or not. I loved the date stamp. Mostly, I loved walking down the shelves and picking a spine at random, convinced the universe had put that book there for me to find at that very moment. I still believe that.
I fell in love with random books found on many a shelf in the children’s section: Andrew Lang’s many colours of fairy books; Witches of Worm + The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder; Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth by E. L. Konigsburg; anything and everything about witches, Indians, the American Revolution, magic doors, dinosaurs, girls who went away to boarding schools. I fell in love in the adult section, too, grateful for librarians who let you check out books too old for you. They know that Jane Eyre is perfect for a twelve year old and that, maybe, The Old Man and the Sea isn’t, but that you’re trying to grow. Before I left LA, they built the most glorious library downtown, filled with art and light and books, before they knew that people would want to be in downtown LA again. The library led the regeneration, as they always have. These are my temples, these libraries.
Release your inner librarian with your own home library kit. A friend on Twitter sent me the link to this and I think it is about the best thing ever, after tea. I particularly like the book they chose to advertise their kit. I don’t know who the makers are, but I love them. Happy stamping!
Here’s Amity & Sorrow, hanging out on the Oprah site. (When you click the link, you might see me. I only get John Lewis and KLM, so that will tell you something about my googling history.) Either way, it’s a fine place for a new paperback to be!
Hurrah for Amity & Sorrow, out now in paperback with Little, Brown. I’ve spotted it on the Barnes and Noble site, Amazon, and even my family’s shop in South Pasadena (that’s my mom in the chair, there). It will be on the shelves at Target next week. If you spot it, do let me know!
In this month of self-loathing and abstinence, I, too, have succumbed to dieting. Digital dieting, to be precise. Pop over to the Booktrust blog to see how Morgan McCarthy and I get on with limiting our internet usage while trying to write through this long, dark month. Can we do it?
So thrilled to receive a copy of the US paperback of Amity & Sorrow, out 4 February from Little, Brown/Back Bay Books. Thank you!
This month, I’m on the Booktrust Blog taking part in a “writing diet” with fellow Tinder Press author, Morgan McCarthy. How are we getting on with our pledge to write 1000 words every day, rain or shine? Why not pop over and see?
What a wonderful book event! If I were King, I’d order one of these for every town and city centre! The Firestation Book Swap takes all of our favourite things (books, readers & cake) and turns them into the loveliest book chat ever – with people pitching books they love to swap and take home. (And did I mention there was cake?) Big, big thanks to organiser Scott Pack and his glamourous assistant for the night, Sarah Franklin. There were lots of friendly faces in the house and the lovely Morgan McCarthy beside me, on the “author sofa”. We were very dainty with the plate of macaroons offered to us – no undignified scrum over the cake plate with us two! The next Firestation Book Swap in Windsor is in January, and you can also “like” them on Facebook or find them on Twitter. Rumour has it, next year will feature Book Swaps in London. Just try to keep me away! (Will there be cake?)
Below, here is a portrait from the evening of Morgan and me, answering readers’ questions from the metal bucket of joy. It was sketched by Cynthia Barlow Marrs and it was a lovely souvenir of a most wonderful evening. Thank you very much!
For the paperback release of Amity & Sorrow, I have been thoroughly spoiled – and I’ve loved every minute of it! Lovely booksellers have gathered their book clubs together for cake feasts in Wallingford, for themed cocktails and canapes in St. Anne’s, and for wine and great chat in Lytham. The lovely librarians of Lancashire and Canterbury have moved all their shelves around and unfolded their chairs to host reading and discussions for their readers. This coming Thursday, the wonderful Firestation Arts Centre in Windsor is hosting a Book Swap with me and Tinder author Morgan McCarthy, an evening of book chats, homemade cakes, and the opportunity to swap books you love with other readers. Again and again, I am delighted and impressed by the creativity and enthusiasm of book people, from the owners of splendid independent shops that are at the very hearts of their communities to libraries, big and small, finding innovative ways to reach readers. The press is full of doom and gloom about books, but I don’t see it. I see rooms full of readers, buzzing about books. I see passion and drive in the people who order books, who sell them and shelve them. I see great initiatives like “Books Are My Bag” – and they sure are mine.
Books are only hunks of paper if they’re not being read – it’s reading that turns them into stories. Special thanks to Storytellers Inc., St. Anne’s; The Wallingford Bookshop, Oxfordshire; Plackitt & Booth, Lytham; Harbour Books, Whitstable; Lancashire County Council and the lovely libraries of Kirkham, Thornton, Ansdall, and Canterbury Council and The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge for inviting me in to meet your readers. I am one grateful and happy writer.