The Hard Sell

ARC – Advanced Readers Copies of my debut novel ‘Nailing Jess’ arrived about two weeks ago. Most of time since, has been divided between staring at them, a stupid post sex grin on my face, and stroking the cover, running my fingernails across the title and my name. The other thing I’ve been doing is handpicking influential people I want to read one and approaching them personally, asking them to do so.

So far, so textbook. I’m lucky, I’m on the ground in one of the cultural capitals of the world -Edinburgh. My home for many years, the birth place of my son and the first city that ever showed me kindness. The six degrees of separation rule halves in a city like this and you are never more than an overprised latte away from somebody who knows somebody whose floor Russell Brand crashed on in the early nineties.

I’m also lucky in that I’m an extrovert. I love having conversations with people, especially strangers. When somebody interrupts my reading on a train, to drunkenly tell me why their ex is such a prick, my eyes light up.

With this in mind, I have managed to orchestrate a few meetings with individuals I really want to have a copy of my book, and persuade them to take one.  Persuade is perhaps the wrong verb. In actuality, once you stand square in front of someone, a copy of your debut novel thrust into their space, they have to be harder than Ray Winstone to hand it back to you. The real challenge is getting them to read it.

So far, still text book. Last week, I had the pleasure of handing a lovely lady – hello lovely lady! – who works at the Edinburgh International Book Festival a copy of my book. At a guess, this woman gets handed a half dozen free debuts every week.  The front cover of my debut saysNailing Jess‘ – “The most shocking book you’ll read this year”

‘You must be happy your publishers wrote that,’ the lovely lady observed. Now, you might think I seized this opportunity to give it the hard sell by saying something like ‘Actually, I’m a bit concerned they’re understating it. I wanted them to go with ‘Nailing Jess’ – ”The most shocking book you will ever read” or ‘Nailing Jess’ – “A book so shocking you may never read again”

You might think I would use such a sentence as a chance to dazzle her with my profound intellect and innate authors ability to articulate. Don’t forgot she’s a literary type. I could have replied ‘What they are referring to is the subversive nature of the book’s core premise.  Namely, that the innate maleness – in origins, in concept, in design and delivery of the patriarchal structure mean that any apparent gains of any ideology opposed to it, are in fact an illusion.’ The trouble with this strategy is with every big word you use, you increase the chances of losing your train of thought and inadvertently sounding silly.

To avoid this, you might have think I could have led with with a more conversational approach. Referring to the fact that my book is set in a matriarchy I could have said. ‘It’s only shocking, coz it’s happening to blokes. Everything that happens in my book – well not quite everything – happens in the real world, every day, somewhere to some woman. And we are not shocked by that at all.’

Alas, retrospect and it’s all knowing analysis, have in no place in actual real time. ‘Nailing Jess’ – ‘The most shocking book you’ll read this year’  ‘You must be happy your publishers wrote that,’ says she. I find myself blushing, and mumbling ‘Well, they have to say something don’t they?’

So lovely lady, if you’re reading this, they didn’t have to say that, they choose to market my book with this line because they believe it.

Nailing Jess – Reading is Believing

Nailing Jess published by Cranachan out June 26th 2017.

On Editing.

I’m not particularly religious but I did find myself speeding through a few ‘Hail Mary’s’ last night. Hail Marys are the go to prayer of the catholic under pressure. It doesn’t matter how many years of my adult life have been spent dissing her, there’s still a mind controlled seven year old within who knows if the crisis is big enough only she can sort it. Those of you experiencing real crisis or personal tragedy should look away now ‘coz I am exaggerating for effect. Truth is, I’m just so f**king sick of editing my first novel ‘Nailing Jess’, that I’m reduced to praying it will stop.

This is an a-typical example of a first world problem. How many writers would kill, or at the very least commit some form of criminal infraction, to have their debut novel published?  I was one of those people once, and then I got a publishing deal. Which was wonderful…at the time. Publishing deals are fantastic as concepts go. They validate every drunken declaration you’ve ever made about one day becoming a published writer. They also look great on your C.V. and make you sound more credible when you fill in self-employment forms.

However, like all the best concepts, from ideology to practical application much of the romance gets lost. Publishing deals are f**king hard word. It’s this thing they call editing. Editing, before you’ve been professionally edited sounds like a great plan. ‘I need an editor, I can’t take this idea further without a real editor.’ I could be heard saying, often. I’m not sure what it was I thought an editor might do, but I had no expectation that would deconstruct my book chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, line by line. Trim this…Lengthen that…Cut the other… W.t.f? Am I writing a book or making a dress?  Wait a minute did she say cut? What’s she cutting? Why would she want to take that out? That’s really funny. Doesn’t she get it?  F**k!  What if it’s not funny? What if I’m not funny? What if they realise it and cancel my deal?  Can they do that?  Cue half hour spent searching for publishing deal and another half hour pretending to understand a sixteen page legal document.

But, it hasn’t been all bad. I did what I was told, or most of it. Reluctantly, grudgingly acknowledging that these ideas and revisions were shaping a better story. Eventually, after many days and many nights, writing, thinking, procrastinating, swearing… The edit was over. I had hit the ‘send’ button. I could breathe out and get back to the business of watching netflix and telling everybody I had a book coming out.

Only it wasn’t that simple. After the first edit, there was the second, and after the second…well you get the picture. I started to realise that whoever had come up with the saying ‘The devil’s in the detail’ might not have been speaking metaphorically. Prone to hyperbole, I began to wonder if the bible had taken this long. Religious fervour blended with reality as I came to believe only a female catholic icon could save me from my editors.  Because there are not many female icons in Catholicism, on account of its hatred of women, my desperate mind quickly seized on Mary – virgin and mother.

The cynics among you should stop reading now because what happened next is truly remarkable. Today, as in only hours after last night, I got an e-mail from my editors saying they had uploaded the book to the printers. I know what you are thinking. A book that is on it’s way through cyberspace to a printer is a book that has no more edits required. It is a finished novel.

As the reality of what just happened kicks in, I’m seized by a new and different panic. Was it the prayers that had put an end to this relentless editing business or was the book by then finished? I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that I may never truly know. It’s difficult to imagine a catholic icon with a sackful of more important requests for spiritual intervention might have taken pity on a lazy blasphemer like myself. Yet, we are frequently told, by those with a greater authority than myself on such matters, that God works in mysterious ways.

It’s enough to make me almost regret the profane nature of ‘Nailing Jess’.

‘Nailing Jess’ is being released by Cranachan Publishing on June 26th, 2017.