Friday, 29 August 2014

That Crazy Summer

It’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog. Early August was a tide of events, kicking off with Nine Worlds, followed by Fantasy in the Court at Goldsboro Books, then Gollancz Fest at Waterstones Piccadilly. And then the daddy of them all, WorldCon, or LonCon3 as it was also known. It seems conventions are incapable of having a single point of branding.

As a debut author I was keen to get out there and meet the public, hope I won them over in some way, and that they would buy the book. There was always a feeling I wasn’t doing enough, not appearing on enough panels, not rubbing shoulders with the right people. I spent eighth months writing The Boy with the Porcelain Blade, spent another two weeks polishing it before submission to my agent. Then another two weeks refining it for submission to Gollancz. Then there were copy edits and proof reading. And that is relatively quick for a novel in my experience. My prevailing thought was Well I spent all this time on it, it would be a shame if no one read it.

Fortunately people are reading it. Gollancz sold out of copies at WorldCon, which made me feel good. Amazon has steadily tallied up reviews (but feel free to add your own, every little helps and authors live and die by their ‘stars’ in the digital age). Friends send me pictures by text when they see it in shops, which is a fantastic feeling. Waterstones particularly not only stock it but recommend it in a handful of stores, which I’m profoundly grateful for. If I appear blithely ignorant of ‘how it’s going’ then it’s because I am. I don’t look at my own sales figures, that way lies madness I think. There are plenty of things to obsess on in life and sales figures could well unravel my tiny mind. My job should be writing, not fretting, after all.

High points of the summer were moderating the Epic Fantasy panel with Elizabeth Bear, Gaie Sebold, Rebecca Levine and Scott Lynch, who were all amazing. I’ve never moderated before and I’m grateful to the Nine World books track organisers for asking me.

Fantasy in the Court was the most charming boozy street party full of interesting people. I was even asked to sign a couple of copies of Porcelain. Thanks to everyone at Goldsboro Books for all their hard work.

As biased as it sounds, the Gollancz team kicked much ass with their event at Waterstones Piccadilly. It’s quite a thing to be interviewed (along with my fellow debut authors) by Gillian Redfearn, just moments after Sarah Pinborough has interviewed Joe Hill. Forgive me if I sound starstruck.


And finally I’ll sign off by telling you the third draft of book three of The Erebus Sequence. is complete. Thanks to my test readers Matt Lyons and Matt Rowan. Now I send the manuscript to my agent for quality control. Let’s hope she likes it. 


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

An Open Letter to Authors

Dear author,

It is convention month in London for genre writers and there are some things we should admit to ourselves.

Your worth as an author – and indeed as a human being – should not be
measured by the number of panels you are asked to participate in, the
subjects of those panels, or how many parties you’ve been invited to. You
are still awesome. You still worked really hard on your book(s), short
stories and flash fiction. You are still loved by your friends. You’re
still as dazed, confused and overwhelmed as the next author.

We should move at our own pace. Writers spend a lot of time alone, a huge
amount if you’re full time. Don’t feel obliged to be ‘on duty’ 24/7.
Conventions are busy, visually arresting affairs that take place in anodyne
hotels full of people hunting down a good time. Take a time out when you
need it, have a good time on your own terms. Keep an eye on the amount of coffee and booze you’re mainlining if you’re feeling anxious. Try and take some vitamins once in a while.

Not all authors and professionals are going to get along. Genre publishing
is like a very large, dysfunctional family complete with favourite sons and
daughters, weird uncles, snippy aunts and the occasional bastard, to say
nothing of overbearing fathers and passive aggressive mothers. There are
feuds and disagreements, foolishness and disappointments. Art imitates
life, so it stands to reason conventions should too. Spend time with the people you want to spend time with, and don’t feel under pressure to speak to everyone.

Being on panels is stressful. No one wants to put their proverbial foot in
their mouth (or any other foot). Do your homework, prepare ahead of time,
reach out to other people on the panel to sound them out before the day.
You may worry that you’re not terribly interesting, but there will definitely be people in the audience who will want to hear what you have to say.

We are there to have a good time. Conventions are not just for the fans,
they are a chance for authors to unplug and attempt to pass themselves off
as socialised mature adults (some us find this more challenging than
others). Kick back, stop worrying, meet up with old friends and keep your
mind open to meeting new ones.

Conventions are a good way to meet new readers, and they provide a means to solidify your rapport with your fans, but if you find public-speaking hard, or worry that you haven’t been asked to do enough don’t panic – it’s not going to do any harm to your career. Bear this in mind at all times. This is a piss up in a hotel with formalised conversations, so focus on relaxing, and having fun.