As a novelist it’s not surprising that I have a vivid imagination. I also have a handy ability to visualise success even when it is nowhere in sight. So along with the dress I designed years ago in my head for my fantasy book launch, I have often imagined penning this post to share news of my book deal. The announcement in The Bookseller gives something of the story of Paris Mon Amour, why I wrote it and many kind words from Iain Millar, MD of my publishers Canelo, and my agent Diana Beaumont about the novel, me and this blog! It was the moment I realised this was actually happening in real life.
I could not be more thrilled to tell those of you who haven’t heard that my debut novel will be released on 13 June of THIS YEAR by digital publisher Canelo who have acquired UK and Commonwealth (excluding Canada) English language rights. And I am also delighted to go public on the news that it will also be released worldwide as an audiobook with Audible. A doubly amazing start!
The response to my news on social media over the last couple of days has been extraordinary. I am deeply touched by the hundreds of tweets, texts, Facebook messages and emails flooding my way. I know how incredibly lucky I am to have made it to this point and I cannot say enough what a difference it has made to have the support of so many friends and followers and how grateful I am to you all. And as for the instant buzz and anticipation, to hear people say they can’t wait to read my book now they know more about it – that is unbelievably exciting!
A lot of you have asked about my publishers, Canelo, and the route I’m taking, so a bit about that. The moment I heard of their interest I was intrigued. When I found out who was involved and the thinking behind it, together with the astonishing discovery that 47% of adult fiction in the UK is purchased digitally, I knew this was the right move for me. Canelo was founded last year by three people with genuine passion, vision and experience of the book business (Publishing Director Michael Bhaskar has even written two books about it). They are committed to fair treatment of authors – hot topic of the moment – and to a collaborative approach which I am already enjoying.
Oh, and they are crazy about my book and get where I’m coming from. I’ve always believed the reader is free to make what they like of a novel – for me good fiction is about questions, not answers – but a shared understanding of the hinterland amongst those working on it is invaluable. Happily I have that kind of creative partnership with my agent Diana who has worked tirelessly to help me raise my game and get the result we both wanted.
I’m enjoying this moment to the full because I know how important that is. One of the loveliest things about the last couple of years, and this week’s reaction to my news, is the number of writers who have commented on my perseverance and said they felt inspired to keep going themselves. It’s no secret that it hasn’t been easy but I repeat: nothing about the hurdles or setbacks I have faced is remotely unusual except possibly the fact I’ve been willing to talk about them. And knowing that perseverance and resilience are needed at every stage of a writing career, I am going to keep talking about this, and together with a very inspiring collaborator I have plans for a related (non-book) project which I will share in due course.
I wrote this novel fired up, as a kind of fight back to prove to myself that I wasn’t beaten. It came of real conviction because it is about things I feel strongly about. And the recent bullshit about Susan Sarandon’s cleavage and Gillian Anderson’s face (two examples amongst many) makes me even more glad I did. As someone very close in age, I look at her and see a naturally beautiful woman who happens to be 47. Why is that so very hard to believe? Everything about this book has been pretty intense for me. I always knew it would be exposing, given the themes, but if I was embarrassed or uncomfortable writing about sex I wouldn’t have chosen to tell this story in the first place. And if anyone tells me they think it’s hot of course I get a kick out of that!
But – the clue’s in the title – Paris Mon Amour is above all a story about (various kinds of) love. I liked that the decision to publish this very intimate female first person narrative was made by three men, not because I crave men’s approval, obviously, but because I don’t like boxes or pigeonholes and hope it will speak to humans across the board. (Plus two of the three main characters are men.) We’ve all experienced some combination of love, grief, desire, temptation, family dramas, nice trips to Paris…
For all that this is the story of Alexandra, Philippe and Jean-Luc, I didn’t anticipate just how much of myself I would have to draw on in the wider sense to make it work on an emotional level. Some parts I only discovered in the process, due to coincidental overlaps with my own life or issues I was forced to confront precisely because of what I was writing. The result was the current, very-nearly-final draft which I embarked on after a disappointing near-miss and only finished after I’d got this deal. That ‘digging deeper’ was painful, exhilarating and ultimately very liberating.
Seven years ago, also in the depths of winter, I walked out of my first beginner’s creative writing class at City Lit with the strongest feeling my life was about to change and now it’s happening again. Writing for me is about expression but most of all about connection. Thanks for being there on the other side.
MAIN PHOTO: Taken on a glacial January day six years ago, this is one of my favourite views of Paris from the belvedere in the Parc Buttes-Chaumont (SMALL PHOTO) in the north-eastern 19th arrondissement, significant locations in Paris Mon Amour.