Someone gave me a push to write a new post here, with my news in a more highlighted fashion. I mentioned it earlier before I left on my trip, but this ‘someone’ I think wants me to make more of it. It’s not my natural inclination to fanfare but here goes.
Some of you will know that I’ve been writing the last few years and had some shorter things published. Also, that a couple of years ago I was offered representation by a literary agent, Virginia Lloyd (formerly of Brooklyn, now resident in Sydney once more). Virginia has been submitting on my behalf to publishers in Australia, and it’s really great that THE SUGAR MEN has been accepted and will be published later this year, in September, by Allen & Unwin.
THE SUGAR MEN is set in Australia and Turkey. It tells the story of two men trying to work out what they want from life, and their separate stories, 75 years apart, meet in a small mountain-top village in Turkey. The book is about what happens when a soldier is accidentally left behind at war, about the strength of women, and about what it means to do the right thing. It’s a novel about Gallipoli, love, bees, carpets and friendship. There’s also lots of Turkish tea, loaded up with sugar.
It’s been quite a long process, the beginning of it (laid down 60,000 words while living in Istanbul in 2000, when my daughter was four years old), the writing of it (developing the ideas and characters, probably losing most of those 60K words, between 2010 and 2014), finishing it, finishing it again five more times at least, and then finding a home for it.
I want to tell people who might be struggling with submissions, whether of novel manuscripts or shorter pieces, story collections, whatever, that it’s important to not give up. I know this seems obvious and clichéd, and that for most of us determined, pig-headed obsessives, giving up is simply not possible. But don’t give up with the submitting. You might think the first rejection means the work is no good. It might not be, but it might still be good but received a no for other reasons. It’s best not to think too much about what those reasons might be. It’s best to keep submitting; take breaks, don’t be in a rush; make sure that you’ve had non-biased, hard readers give you helpful feedback; and if you can, get an agent, it does help in that it will be easier to get the ms in front of the best people in the business and they will consider it fully and more quickly than a slush pile, if they even look at the slush pile, most don’t, it gets filtered by other people, if there even IS a slush pile. This is a really bad way of saying that an agent can get your work into places you can’t, unless you have contacts. But it is hard to get an agent – a good one – some people say it’s harder than getting published and that might be true. It took me a long while to realise – really understand – that when an agent says ‘it’s about finding the right publisher for your manuscript’ what they mean is exactly that. You might think it’s good, they might think it’s good and marketable (they should, otherwise why take you on?) but this doesn’t mean that every publisher who sees it will make an offer. It means nothing close to that.
So, my manuscript has found its way to the right person. And this is where I think a lot of luck comes in. I feel very lucky, and excited, and now scared to wonder what will happen to it when it’s out in the world. There are so many possibilities regarding its future, but far fewer likelihoods. The biggest likelihood I don’t want to even mention here now, but there are lots of questions in my brain at the moment: will it succeed? wtf does ‘success’ mean, how do I measure that, and who gets to decide? will it fail? will people laugh? will they ‘get it’? will I get my next one published? and the one after that? will I get questions about why did I think I could write male point-of-view characters, how could I presume to do that; and how could I dare to write about a culture not my own, isn’t that appropriation? And what would be worse than these questions? People having no interest at all, not asking them. This makes me laugh to think about. Am I launching myself into a no-win situation?
But for now I must enjoy as much as possible. And look forward to what the year will bring. Like what will the cover be? Will they put a photo on the front? A soldier? A girl and a soldier hugging? Will the title remain the same? How will it be marketed? What will I be expected to do re that? How will people be able to reach it on the shelf where it sits toppest leftest in the book store? Is my name a shit author name for shelf reasons and also other syllabic reasons?
And so it turns, and turns again.
* novel’s title has been settled, changed from The Sugar Men to The Secret Son. I can’t wait to see the cover. I get now why authors go nuts waiting for the cover concepts… It’s terrifically exciting and a bit nerve-wracking too.