With just over a month to go before the book launch for Malcolm Orange Disappears, things are really starting to feel a little hectic round here. It’s been great to have wise advice and encouragement from friends who’ve been through this process before. A number of them have graciously agreed to guest blog over the next few weeks. First up is fellow Liberties Press author, Bethany Dawson, writing about the experience of seeing her debut novel, My Father’s House, journey from fledgling idea to bookshelf. I hope you enjoy and check out Bethany’s blog for some insightful and beautifully written articles on writing and other topics.
Almost seven years ago I stuck a label on a bottle of my father’s champagne that read: ‘Only to be opened upon the publication of Bethany’s novel’. The bottle sat gathering dust in my parents’ utility room for many years as rejection letters from publishers piled up. I believe the bottle spent a brief stint in the fridge when a literary agent took me on, but it was soon relegated to the back room.
The champagne was in waiting for six years, during which I accepted defeat on my first novel and wrote a second, My Father’s House, which was published in April 2013.
The turnaround time from accepted manuscript to book launch was a year. Most of this time was spent pouring over paragraphs with my editor, making sure the story was well paced and that I was being ruthless with adjectives. I was suitably distracted by a new born baby until a month before the book was due to be published and it was time to make all the fun decisions about the cover and what we would drink at the launch.
This was also around the time I found myself picking over the contents of a disused farmhouse outside Dromore as part of a promotional video. The novel came to life as I narrated scenes and the camera panned around the kind of disintegrating living room in which the story could have been set. As I read, my characters settled themselves into the armchairs and I knew it would be impossible to fold them back into the pages of the book and keep them to myself.
When I stood in the Belfast Room of the Ulster Museum in front of the humble crowd gathered to launch my novel, it was the first time I had offered my writing to the general public. Someone gave me the rather sage advice of imagining the audience without any clothes on but I was the one who felt completely exposed, as the words I had written in the privacy of my study became common property.
With each signature that I put on the inside cover of my book I was able to let go and I felt confident that whether people liked it or not, I had worked incredibly hard to make My Father’s House as good a novel as it could be and that was something to be proud of.
It is a year now since the book was launched and apart from a flurry of publicity that immediately followed publication, I have spent most of my time tending to the needs of two tiny people while novel number three brews quietly in the background. My Father’s House has been on its own journey round book clubs in Portadown, in jiffy bags across continents and on the shelves of libraries and friends’ living rooms. I still get a thrill to see it in a book shop and I hope there will be more in its place in the years to come.
Bethany Dawson blogs at http://www.storiesbybethany.blogspot.com Her first novel, My Father’s House is published by Liberties Press, Dublin and is available at http://www.libertiespress.com and at all good book stores. She is currently about to commence teaching a course in creative writing through Seedhead Arts. For more details or to book your place see http://www.seedheadarts.com