So publication day arrived. I thought about writing a post about how I felt about that, about how excited I was, and how dreams were coming true. But as this isn't a therapy session and you probably don't need me to bare quite so much of my soul, I thought I'd show you instead a little bit about what publication day was actually like. Because I don't know about you, but I have (had, at least) a certain view of what publication day might be like many years ago when I was still searching for an agent. And I'll be honest, it was kind of glitzy, strikingly similar to Carrie's publication day in SATC, and was nothing like what publication day actually turned out like. So here, from beginning to end, is pretty much everything I did minus toilet breaks on the day when My Sister was launched into the world.
00:42 - Realise that it's publication day. Send excited tweet and find awesome pig gif that just about sums up my mood.
07:00 - Alarm goes off and the first thought, obviously, is that the book should be out now. Quickly check Amazon, see that the preorder button has disappeared. See a few new reviews, decide in the interest of having a good day that it's probably best not to read them, you know, just in case.
07:30 - Answer all tweets. Have a quick burst of excitement, cut some shapes David Brent style around the bedroom, generally making a nuisance of myself with my husband who's trying to get ready for work.
07:45 - With breakfast and shower complete I arrive at my desk. Answer some more tweets. Decide to read the Amazon reviews. We're good so far. Finish the blog post that I was supposed to have finished yesterday, realise writing at 11 pm when I'm shattered is a bad idea. Rewrite most of what I wrote the night before. Send it off to my publicist ready for my blog tour next week.
09:15 - Caffeine top-up. Start publication day blog post. Take a couple of phone calls from patients at our clinic.
10:10 - Start working on book three.
10:45 - Flowers arrive! They are from my agents, the people who made all this all possible. Have a little moment of disbelief. Realise that although I started working on book three, I've barely done a thing.
10:55 - Back to working on book three. Interrupt the working when I receive an email from my publisher with a summary of everything that has happened so far, from the first proof copies of the books, to the earliest sales data for trade paperback preorders.
11:35 - More flowers! So pleased to get a second bunch of flowers from my publishers, totally unexpected. Have another moment, take a hayfever tablet, and try and get back on with work.
12:00 - Realise work is a total write off today, so put some music on (Emile Sande) answer more tweets. Get an email from my publicist with information for the blog tour which is starting next Monday. She has attached a banner which is awesome.
12:45 - Settle back down to do some work, and manage to get a whole chapter done. Just as I'm finishing I get an email from my agent with an updated copy of the French cover. Read over the morning's edits, decide the morning wasn't a total write off after all.
14:00 - Break for lunch (fish finger sandwich as I haven't done any shopping in days) and eat that while checking Amazon. Slightly disappointed to see that the books chart position hasn't changed all morning, then realise I'm looking at the paperback numbers. Switch to the Kindle edition and see that the position is 560,000 positions higher than I thought. Happy with that, and two new reviews which have some good things to say. Settle back down to work on book three, but am interrupted a few minutes later.
14:25 - Ikea delivery! Finally bought a sofa for outside, and cannot resist the lure of the boxes. Put on some more music (Creed) and set about making it. Ponder the idea that there is probably a finite amount of Ikea furniture that any one person can build in a lifetime, and that I have undoubtedly surpassed it. Finish just as husband is getting home from work. Very convenient. Find dirty cat footprints on the white cushion five minutes after finishing. Because, of course the cat was always going to sit on it as soon as he'd been in the mud.
17:30 - Head out for a bit of celebratory dinner. Raise our glasses with diet Coke as hubs is oncall. Battery on my phone dies. Have mild panic about absence from twitter.
19:00 - Back home, phone charging. Update twitter, pleased to see some love for My Sister in the shape of independent blogger competitions. Earmark five of my own copies for a giveaway, post that to twitter. Try to finish blog post at the same time as keeping up with twitter replies.
20:00 - Answer last emails and catch up with various social media outlets like Instagram and FB that I've been ignoring all day. Realise I haven't posted to Facebook about the release, and somehow still fail to do so. Do however manage to check Amazon, and find book in the Guardian Bookshop which makes me ridiculously happy because I read that paper every day.
21:30 - Pour some wine when I reach the conclusion that's it for the day, and put my feet up. Decide my growing Amazon obsession is unhealthy and promise myself no more for the rest of the day.
23:10 - Head to bed, read the first chapter of a new book. Check Amazon despite my promises to myself. Realise I still didn't finish this post but my mind flicks to a problem with the first chapter of book three. I fall alseep thinking about that and have the weirdest dream about Teresa May.
It’s just over a week until My Sister will be set loose into the world, and still I haven’t given it a huge amount of thought. The thing is I have so many other things I am focusing on that My Sister feels a bit like a long lost friend, that person that you intend to call, only you never quite get round to doing so because you know they are doing just fine. And with My Sister on autopilot I’ve spent most of the last month writing and editing a new book and waiting on edits for the second. But every now and again I get a little reminder of the impending release that’s looming in nine days time.
The most obvious and exciting of these reminders was the arrival of a ticket from DHL. Knowing I hadn’t ordered anything I convinced myself it was a box of books, and I wasn’t disappointed. Twelve lovely copies all in a row, minus those snaffled by eager family members. Friends sent me screen shots of their Amazon pre-orders too, and I added pre-order buttons to my website. What started off as a vague idea for a book a few years ago has in the last few days become something tangible. It's ready. There's nothing else to do. Whether I’m ready or not is another matter entirely.
But I suppose I am. I’ve been waiting for this moment for years. From about the age of nine years old to be semi-precise, during a time when I also wanted to be a makeup artist in Hollywood and the first female fighter pilot in the RAF. I suppose at that age anything feels possible. But then I picked up my first adult book (Gerald’s Game, by Stephen King) and all other dreams faded; I wanted to be a writer. That was before I had even opened the cover. Why? Because there was this great picture on the front along with the name of the author in embossed gold lettering. The coolest black and white 80’s style author shot on the back. In short, the guy looked cool. I suggested borrowing it which stirred much furor from my folks, a fact which only served to make me all the more enthusiastic.
The thing was it seemed so different to the books I had read up until then. And of course it was, turning out to be a horror story concerning a sadomasochistic weekend gone wrong, but still you get the point. But equal to the book was the conversation that ensued between the grownups of the room about how King must be crackers to write the kind of things he did, which seemed so bizarre to me. I couldn’t understand it. It was just a story, wasn’t it? Make believe? I realised then that some writers could hold a sort of magic over their readers, created by their words alone. They could make you believe things, even to the point that you might question their own sanity. And I wanted in on that. Incidentally I borrowed the book. Loved it. I boxed up my Winnie the Pooh and Roald Dahl books not long after I’d finished it and started visiting different shelves in the library from then on, still wondering why anybody would handcuff another person to a bed in the first place. There were, for obvious reasons, huge plot points lost on me. Still, the book won me over.
And just like when I held that King book in my hand for the first time, holding my own book felt just as magical. Something I had dreamed of, including the embossed lettering. I tore open the box, stroked the cover, turned the pages, read snippets from various chapters. I shared it on Snapchat and Instagram it. Was it mine? Really? Was this my doing? It all seemed a bit unbelievable. But there they were, twelve copies of a book with my name on them. My family read the acknowledgements and seemed pleased they got a mention. My husband Facebooked a picture when he found his name in the back pages, and told everybody prepared to listen how proud he was of me. Somebody happened to give him a bottle of champagne as a thank you for doing a good job, and so we have put that in the fridge and earmarked it for the release date next Thursday. Next Thursday.....so close I can barely believe it. I was talking to my brother and he joked that it would be great if somebody made My Sister into a film. I suppose maybe it would be. But right now, it’s a book. Finally, it’s a book.
So, Mother’s Day happened this Sunday. Although there’s not much of a fuss about it here in Cyprus, I keep a track on UK based radio and more often than not I manage to organize for flowers to be delivered to my Mum on time. At the very latest they might arrive the following day. This year I managed to apologise for missing Mother’s Day in a panic a week ahead of the event, so I was well organised by the time it actually came around. But the celebration of mothers in this way, especially when I am so far from mine, got me thinking. Specifically it got me thinking about being a Mum, something I cannot yet call myself, and the reason why I started writing My Sister in the first place.
You see, when I set out to write My Sister it was with one main aim; to tell the story of a woman who decided to give her child away. And ultimately that’s what My Sister became. Although we are submerged in Irini’s world years after the event, and dealing with her interaction with her destructive sister, Elle, the story is at its most basic, about their mother. By sharing Irini’s journey of discovery we learn the painful truth of her mother's past.
My Sister opens when Irini receives a telephone call from her sister to tell her that their mother has died. For me it was the only way to open, because so often a mother who has been faced with giving her child for adoption carries with her an untold story, their voice lost somewhere along the way. Often information isn’t passed on, or perhaps withheld because of a misguided belief that the truth could be painful. These mothers often have no opportunity to tell their side of the story, either because of social or personal pressures. That’s why it was so important that the story of Irini and Elle’s mother in My Sister reflected this, while at the same time uncovered the truth of Irini’s departure from the family home.
My desire to tell this story comes from a very personal place; I myself am on a similar journey, as my husband and I have been following a path to adoption for the last few years. While we have had some unfortunate and upsetting bumps in our journey, we are hopeful that we are nearing the time when we are able to increase the size of our family. Although there is still a long way to go, and potentially many miles to travel, including to a country we have never even visited, it feels as if we are one step closer to bringing our child home. But that too means that there is already a mother out there who is trying to decide whether she can or cannot raise her child on her own. Whether she has the means to clothe him, feed him, or provide him with shelter. Whether or not she can keep him safe. She is trying to decide whether I am a better option, a woman whom she has never met, and whose name she might never have the opportunity to know. It also means that I am one step closer to the day when my child might ask me about the woman who had to make that choice, and what significance that has on him and his life.
This woman, the first mother of my child, will remain intrinsically linked to my life, my husband’s life, and that of our child for many years to come. I hope that through our own adoption journey I will find a way to give a voice to the woman who chose to entrust her child to me. I do not want to wipe her out of my child’s past, or pretend that my child’s life starts the day we turn up. I hope that we are able to find a way to raise our child with respect for the woman who gave him life, and who had the courage to hope for something better.
Busy doesn’t quite cut it. Last week I delivered a synopsis to my agent, revised a second synopsis that I had delivered the week before, and wrote the first chapter of a new book. This wasn’t the ethereal book three I was supposed to be planning, but another book which arose from a conversation I had with my agent that started something along the lines of, ‘You know what I’d really like to write?’, and ended up with me committing to write two books simultaneously. I also finished the first 45,000 words of the expected third book, which I started editing this morning. So much is happening in the day to day order of things it is easy to forget the things going on in the background without my direct input. I remember only when a third party asks how long away it is until the book comes out. The Book. That’s when I remember. My Sister, now only a month away from being published.
This day has been a long time coming. The book first sold to Headline almost eighteen months ago, and it was picked up (along with me) by my agent months before that. I started looking for an agent about three months before I got signed, and started writing My Sister (which had a different title back then which I’m too embarrassed to commit to print) about a year before that. So what’s that? Three years in the making? And now the day is actually tangible. It’s no longer in a couple of years. It’s not next year, either. It’s next month. It’s actually right around the corner, and to be honest, I can’t quite believe it.
But it's not been at all like how people say things go fast when you are enjoying yourself. It hasn’t gone fast at all. It feels like a long time ago that I started writing My Sister, to the point that it almost feels strange to think about a time when I wasn’t writing it, spending my day with these two sisters who can’t seem to catch a break. Back then writing was still a hobby and while I hate that word, that’s what it was. It never felt like that to me, but I did it when I could, outside of working hours, and it didn’t pay the bills. But now it has become a job. There are people waiting on my work, for me to finish on time, and get it right. The deadlines are no longer self imposed. I remember the first time an agent asked to see my manuscript and I knew it wasn’t quite ready. I put in three long days of fifteen hours each for one last run through and lost my voice from reading the whole thing aloud. I thought that was pretty insane back then. Crazy stuff. Now days like those feel increasingly like the norm.
But it’s not just when it's coming out that people want to know. People ask me how I feel about publication being so close. And in all honesty I don’t know what to tell them. I’m excited, yes, but anxious too. I hear of other authors enjoying release day and the hitting the bestseller lists the next day, and that makes me way more nervous than the thought of the impending reviews. I used to be self published so I’m used to people having something to say about my work. If I’m lucky some people will love this book, but I'm ready for the inevitable fact that others will hate it. That’s OK by me. It better be because it's not like I get a choice about what they think. But what I really don’t want is to let down the people who have trusted me and my work.
I think back to the me I was as a writer a few years ago and how life has changed. So many awesome things have happened since then; an agent who said yes (they exist!) and an editor who called me up to discuss the book she’d just bought. I was like a rabbit in the headlights, and was sure she would hang up and wonder what the hell she had done. Artwork and proof copies and nights out in London to ‘meet people’. To chat with people who work for magazines I read, who have copies of my book on their desks. Seriously, like what? And perhaps more than all of that to know that next month there will be an article in the Guardian written by me, giving me a chance to raise awareness about a subject so close to my heart.
I have no idea how to put what I feel about all of this into words, but I’m pretty excited to see what the next month will bring. Just one month until my biggest childhood dream comes true. The strange thing is that I’m pretty sure it can’t top what’s already happened. Just enjoy it, people tell me. So that's what I'll do, It sounds like great advice.
I was exited at the prospect of the foreign editions from the moment the first offer landed on the table. There is something even more intriguing perhaps about a book you can't even read, that you also know you wrote.
Publication dates are still pending, but I do have a couple of foreign edition covers to share with you. The first is the US edition, which will be published under the title IF YOU KNEW MY SISTER. Secondly the French edition, which will be known as SISTERS.
I love seeing how the different publishing houses treat the same book!
Working with my agent
From the first discussion over the phone to the first meeting during a trip to the UK, Maddy, my agent has been a great support. When you step into an unknown world for the first time you really do need somebody to hold your hand a little bit and explain the things that are going on. I was really lucky that I found an agent who likes to work editorially, and we did a couple of rounds of edits before we even thought about approaching publishers. They walk you through international accounting, liaise with your editor, and generally champion your cause to all who will listen. It’s been great having somebody who is always in my corner! I would say to anybody who is looking for an agent to make sure you find somebody who you trust. I ended up changing my title, adding new chapters to the book, and even got a new name before approaching publishers. They know what they’re doing, and they’ve got your back. Let them weave their magic.
So, I finally got started with my new website. It has been a long time coming so it's great to see it live with a few visitors already stopping by to have a nose around. Thanks Dad! *waves*
It has been a crazy year leading to me starting this site. This time last year I was searching for an agent, mulling over my rather sad looking Excel spreadsheet with its dates and colour codes and depressing not-for-us rejection strikethroughs. Looking back on it now I can barely make sense of the process I was following. But it was worth it, because I received an offer of representation from one of my preferred agents, and that's the only reason I'm here writing this opening blog post. Every day I think about how thankful I am that I decided to send that follow up email to ask if Madeleine had seen my original submission.