Genesis of the book

Feb 10, 2024 | Writing | 0 comments

How do they do it? All those authors who produce vast series of books? Some series vaster than others, like those produced apparently effortlessly by the super-prolific Alexander McCall Smith (to date he’s written seven huge bestselling series and umpteen successful stand-alones). Other writers are more modestly prolific, with anything up to ten or more titles under their belt, but hey, who’s counting? I have the greatest of admiration for any writer who can whip up a new book in a matter of months, or weeks, or days, when it has taken me years… and years to complete my meagre offering of two titles.

The first draft of Revealing Philippa popped out in the summer of 1993, in six days of white heat, writing furiously before and after (and during) working hours until I hit 60,000 words and ran dry (the usual cut-off point, apparently, for many a novice novelist). Padding that first draft up to 110,000 words, then boiling the bloat down to 90,000 words took only another 22 years. I self-published Revealing Philippa in 2015.

Becoming Janice is also taking its own sweet time to come to life. I had the idea for this book in 1979 (which is why the story begins in that year) but I only really got started after putting Philippa to bed (so to speak). By 2018, working in fits and starts, I had managed to squeeze out Janice in Action, a novella that subsequently lingered so long in the bottom drawer that I was calling it Janice Inaction. Finally, during the Covid-19 pandemic, I got down to some seriously committed writing, hugely assisted by my wonderful writing coach Corina Onderstijn, and finished a proper book-length draft in 2021. Then followed round after round of constructive feedback from my trusty team of beta readers, after which I finally stopped re-Re-RE-revising and in June 2023 began submitting Janice to trad publishers.

The reality check hit fast despite a GLOWING rejection from the first publishers I tried. Ylva Publishing loved my writing *blush* but they are purveyors of sapphic romances and Janice just didn’t fit their list (see my blog post Flying high). After Ylva, the deadly silence from both sapphic and mainstream publishers spoke volumes. I soon realized that the competition was just too crowded in my field—literary fiction, coming-of-age story, queer characters but not, repeat not, a coming out story or conventional sapphic romance.

I didn’t want to go down the self-publishing route again (too many pitfalls; Philippa taught me that) so I had a good look around at all the hybrid publishing options. In the end, the choice was extremely easy: Iguana Books. See my previous post for why I chose to go with Iguana. Happy reading!

Now it’s your turn. Would you like to tell me about your writing process? The long and the short of it.


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