I recently heard from the major publisher who have been considering my novel Crucial Evidence that they are not going to publish it because they don’t think it will be a bestseller! Just a reasonable seller would be good enough for me. So it looks like its self publishing.
In furtherance of that route I had already send the book for a full edit and I have also received the editor’s comments on it. Her view is that in places the book lacks pace, and she suggests that I remove quite large sections which give my main character, a barrister called Cassie Hardman, a context. One aspect is her background, which I feel is quite important as she comes from a ‘working class’ family (hate these
descriptions but in the UK they still apply), state schools, red-brick university, whilst the Bar tends to be ‘upper middle class,’ private school and Oxbridge. She feels an outsider in her chosen profession and that is reflected in some of her decisions and attitudes. The other is a sub-plot about her Chambers’ politics, which again shows her reactions away from the courtroom, but still with her colleagues. Without those changes she thinks it is unlikely I will find an agent.
The publishing business uses agents as gatekeepers to monitor the manuscripts they receive and ensure only the best get through to the publishers for their consideration. When it comes to genre fiction, the formats are so fixed that anyone writing something that doesn’t fit precisely within the stereotype is not considered.
Another way of putting it is that for commercial fiction the author must write what the publisher wants, or rather what an agent thinks the publisher wants, and not what the writer wants to write.
So to amend that well known saying Self-publish and be damned.
The recent death of one of my favourite cookery writers, Katie Stewart, has reminded me of the debt I owe her for my own skills in the preparation of meals.
I first became acquainted with her recipes in The Times when I became a Law Student in the 1960s. The Times was compulsory reading for lawyers then as the Times Law Reports could be quoted in Court. I began to read Katie Stewart’s cookery column and when I moved into a flat and cook for myself, I used the recipes she wrote. I soon acquired a reputation as a good cook and an invitation to have dinner with me was highly prized, particularly with the men of my acquaintance. I would turn my desk into a table with a tablecloth, candles and nice white napkins. I would follow the recipes meticulously and always produce a good meal for my friends.
I still have the Times Cookery Book as well as her other books and they are the bedrock of my repertoire. I love the recipes for poached fruit, Lamb Cutlets Shrewsbury and lots more.
Recently I have become a fan of Sophie Grigson, who has inherited her mother’s flair for easy to prepare dishes, using fresh fruit and vegetables. Diane Henry too writes straightforward recipes for busy cooks. Her baked apples with marmalade and almonds are superb.
Anyone else like Katie Stewart or what other cookery writers do you swear by.
For the last seven years, my reading group has organised a Literary Supper. We invite a speaker and ask them to speak for about half an hour, usually about their writing life and then we have supper. One of our number organises a quiz which we distribute round the tables and that gets people talking. So far we have had some wonderful speakers. We started with the crime writer, Francis Fyfield, who I got to know when I was a solicitor in private practice in London and she worked for what was then the Metropolitan Police solicitors.
After that we had Tim Heald, who writes both crime novel and biographies. By then I had begun the creative writing MA at Exeter University so I persuaded Sam North, who was long listed for the Booker Prize for his novel ‘The Unnumbered.’
Philip Hensher was also teaching on the course and he came to speak just after his novel ‘Northern Clemency’ had been shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
It was a bit hard to follow that, but we then had a very unusual speaker. Peter Goodchild was a TV producer with a particular interest in science and scientists and he talked about the Television series on Oppenheimer and how the script was written.
Last year I had been to CrimeFest in Bristol and met Rebecca Tope, another crime write and she came on route to delivering two pigs (she has as small holding as well as writing) to a local farmer. The next one is at the end of this month, and we have invited Helena Drysdale who writes fascinating travel books.
To begin with we did the supper ourselves mainly courtesy of Marks and Spencers, but last year and this we are having it at the Sheldon Centre and they do the supper for us using their home-grown vegetables. Most of the organising is down to me. I invite the speaker, do the publicity, print the tickets, collect the money and then pay the speaker and the caterers. Every year I swear I will not do it again, but it’s so popular that I can sell 50 tickets without much difficulty and everyone says how much they enjoy it and look forward to it. I guess I’m stuck with it. Anyone want to be the guest next year?